Sunday, 9 July 2017

Sunday, 14th January 1838

It seems that we are indeed in the middle of an outbreak of crime here in the colony. At the Race Meeting at the beginning of the year there was a degree of thievery. A watch, a lady's purse, a wallet containing one man's winnings from the betting ring were all stolen, while a gold bangle set with topaz and coral was removed by Mrs Stevenson from her wrist and placed on a table. She turned away for barely a few seconds before turning back and discovered it gone.

This week three houses were broken into. In point of fact it is a nice legal point whether houses made largely of canvas, sticks and clay can actually be broken into when they are fairly well broken already, but for the sake of argument we will agree that they can be. Having so easily gained access the thief had plenty of energy left to rifle through the contents of the dwellings, throwing them about and stealing any valuables they found.

Naturally, in a town so lawful and lacking in incident as Adelaide has been for the past year an outbreak of crime has sent a shock through the place. I have heard people on the street speaking of being afraid that they might be the next victim and the general opinion is that precautions need to be taken and doors need to be locked. This is made difficult by the unfortunately circumstance that most of the houses in the town do not have locks on their doors. Some really don't have doors and canvas curtains are difficult to secure.

As a result I have decided to set Samuel Smart loose on the town. As Sheriff he is, Heaven help us, the closest thing we have to a Guardian of the Law and he might as well start earning his keep. 

I interviewed him in my office during the week. I placed what was known before him and charged him with discovering and apprehending the criminal. He immediately warmed to the task. 

"Well now", he said "This is a problem that will agitate my little grey cells quite adequately."

I asked him if he thought it possible that he might solve the problem of the culprit's identity and bring him to justice.

He laughed and assured me: "Once all the facts are placed before me, a solution becomes inevitable. Whether it is true is not for me to say."

I assured him that I had given him all the facts in the matter I possessed and he nodded. "They will be adequate for me to start with. But I shall need to delve deep in the murky underbelly of the colony and bring the hidden to the light."

"Do you have any inkling of where you might being your search?"

A slow smile played about his lips. "Everyone has something to conceal. At present I rule out no-one."

He stood. "I shall take my leave of you, Your Excellency. There's game afoot!"

He walked slowly to the door, obvious hoping to strike an impressive figure, an ambition that was, sadly, punctured as Mrs Hindmarsh entered the room to inform me that lunch was ready. She peered at Mr Smart in the way she might have peered at a cockroach and then tried an unexpected conversational gambit

"Who are you sir? You're not very tall are you?"

Poor Sam mustered as much dignity as he could and answered:  "Well, I, uh, I try to be." and then slunk out the door as quickly as possible.

By Gad, Samuel Smart is a character. There is never any telling what he will say or do next, except that it's bound to be something astonishing.

Last Monday I received the report from Bingham Hutchinson and Strangways regarding their explorations at the Murray Lakes. I did ask them to ensure that I had it by the end of December, but the eighth of January is probably about as much as I could hope for. I noticed that they dated it "Jan 1st, 1838", the cheeky monkeys, so as to give the impression that they were only a day late placing it on my desk.

They did not know, it seems, that Johnny had already written to me with his report and I know which of the two I will more readily believe.

There are a number of points about their report I notice.

They say in the report
We succeeded in bringing a bullock cart, although, drawn but by two bullocks, the whole way; but the hills were so rugged and precipitous and the ravines so deep at the southern extremity of the Mount Lofty range that we were sometimes obliged to unload the cart, and all of us by a tether rope fastened to the pole to assist the bullocks in dragging up the empty cart, which we only effected by a few yards at a time, and then afterwards carry up our provisions, &c., ourselves. This explanation of the bullock cart we deem necessary to show your Excellency the difficulty of passing that range. 
I happen to know from Strangways that the only reason they took the bullock cart was because Morphett does not like sleeping on the ground and had a feather mattress on the floor of the cart and was a comfortable at night as if he were at home. All this talk of heroically struggling up "precipitous ravines" and manfully carrying their equipment is hogwash. They could have left the cart home if it hadn't been for Morphett's exquisite ways.

They write:
Captain Blenkinsop had promised us the loan of a whale boat, which we intended to transport over-land in the cart ... A frame had been constructed on the cart on which the boat was to be laid
What nonsense! A frame constructed on the cart to carry the boat? The boat never got near the cart! The frame was there to put a tarpaulin over so that Morphett would not suffer from the morning dew as he lay on his feather mattress!

They write
We had not proceeded more than five minutes down the creek when the boat was stove by running against a sunken tree and filled so rapidly that had she been one hundred yards from the shore she could not have reached it. However we banked her up, stopped up the holes with pieces of flannel besmeared with the grease of two tallow candles, and, having covered the whole with a piece of kangaroo skin, nailed on with brass studs which formed the initials on a box in the boat, in forty minutes she was again proceeding on her voyage. 
What sort of damned incompetent fools do not think of placing a man at the bow to watch out for obstructions and take constant soundings in difficult and uncertain waters? And having struck this sunken tree they are there with their bits of flannel and kangaroo skin and their candles bodging up a repair. These are men who should not be allowed within a hundred yards of a child's Noah's Ark let alone a whale boat.

They have the nerve to "beg your Excellency's permission to name the island, which appeared to be about fifteen miles long and six wide, " Hindmarsh Island." " as though they discovered and named it, when Johnny has already told me that Blenkinsop did so, and as though they are naming it after me, when Johnny has already told me that Blenkinsop named it after him. But of course, Blenkinsop is drowned and these three hop o' my thumbs are trying to make themselves look grand at his expense.

They skate pretty lightly over the drowning of Blenkinsop and the Judge and then have the nerve to say: It appeared afterwards that the boat's crew had concealed from Captain Blenkinsop the danger and difficulty they met with on entering, a knowledge of which might have prevented this melancholy catastrophe.

Did it just? Johnny made it pretty clear that the boat's crew had told them all about the "danger and difficulty" and that they chose to ignore it, with disastrous consequences. But "Oh, no! No-one told us anything. If only we'd known!" Do they think I came down in the last shower to be fooled by this blatherskite? If they do then they will discover that they are to be greatly disappointed!

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