I had occasion to speak with Charlie Howard during the week and it seems he is to take on the mantle of author once again.
"An author, Reverend?" I said. "What, a three volume novel?"
He looked at me severely.
"Do not speak slightingly of the three volume novel, Your Excellency. I read one myself in younger, more frivolous days."
I was unaware that Charlie had ever had any younger, more frivolous days and said so.
"I put both the days and the novels behind me once I found religion. One must choose in life, Your Excellency, choose to be good or bad. The good end happily, the bad unhappily. That is what religion means."
These pleasantries aside, Charlie told me what he had come for. He was, it seems, concerned with the lack of quality in the hymn singing at Sunday services. It was, he said, "dreary". Well, I could have told him the reason for its dreariness. His insistence that the hymn be sung immediately after the sermon meant that the choir and the people were expected to sing lustfully when they had only just woken up.
Charlie, however, seems to be of the opinion that the hymns are the problem. He proposes to collect a selection of hymns and publish them "for the benefit of the people". I let that slide.
He reminded me that his collection of sermons entitled, if memory serves, "Climbing the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire", was published as a result of public subscription by a grateful parish, a story to which I have always found it difficult give aught credence.
And then it dawned on me what he was edging around. He was after some money. He wanted the public purse to foot the bills. "Printed by Vice-Regal Patronage" was his dream. Well, sod that for a game of soldiers! If Charlie thinks I'm taking the blame for inflicting what will, no doubt, be a collection of threnodies and dirges on an unsuspecting public then he can think again.
I nodded sympathetically, wished him well, gave him five pounds and hustled him out the door.
The next to stroll in was Sammy Smart with news of his investigations. He has, it seems several new lines of enquiry to follow. His current thinking is that the culprits are recent arrivals from Van Dieman's land - Vandemoniuns, as they are known around the town.
He became pensive and then spoke. "It seems to be a series of quite clever crimes," he said. "But every clever crime is founded ultimately on some one quite simple fact—some fact that may seem in itself mysterious. But the mystification comes in the attempts to discover what the fact is, when men's thoughts look everywhere but directly at it."
I admit I had no idea what he was talking about, but in all fairness I do not think he did either.
He stood and walked thoughtfully about the room. "Some cases are simple and some are complicated," he said. "But all are of interest because all, you understand, rest solely on what you have heard about town regarding the character of the participant."
"And what have you heard?" I asked.
A sad, sly smile played about his lips.
"This is just a dirty little village in the middle of nowhere. Nothing that happens here is really important. But one does see so much evil in a village,' murmured Mr Smart in an explanatory voice.
"And what is your plan from here Mr Smart?" I asked.
"I shall retire to consider the facts I have gathered," he said. "I shall sieve, I shall discard. And when I have eliminated the laughable, whatever remains, however impossible, must be the truth."
And with that he left. I was grateful for small mercies.
Of course, it was the work of moments for word to get about that there were convicts from other colonies loose in the town creating havoc. By Friday we had what I can describe as Vandemoniun Pandemonium. People clearly decided that any person they saw in the streets who was not immediately recognisable must be held in suspicion of being criminal. Now, in a town with as small a population as ours you would think it difficult not to know every blessed soul in the place, but in fact all that we seem to have proven is that most people barely even glance at their fellows until they need to and then, when they do, they are mystified.
Two German settlers, over from the island for a short while on business, found themselves the brunt of much disdain. Since absolutely no-one had ever laid eyes on them ever before, poor Christian and Maria Wallschlager (for such were their names) found themselves surrounded by a crowd of people all accusing them of being thieves and had to be rescued by Morphett, who happened to be passing. To mollify them, I had them up to Government House and offered them tea and scones and (since they were German) a glass of my beer and sent them back to Kingscote with, I imagine, many stories to tell about the insanity of the English.
Susan and Mary have been helping at Howard's Sunday School and have heard of the Rev's plans for his hymn book. They presented me with some hymns that they have written with the plea to use my influence to have them included in Howard's collection.
I append them here without comment, but in the certain knowledge that they are destined only for the fireplace.
Hymns by Susan and Mary Hindmarsh
I'll ride my pony for Jesus
I'll sit straight in the saddle for Him.
Let the Lord hold the reins
And I'll jump Satan's chains
And clear all the fences of sin.
Pretty little dapple pony
Who made you so dear?
Jesus made you lovely
To remind me he is near.
Pretty little chestnut pony
Who made you run free?
Jesus made you beautiful
To tell me He loves me.
Pretty little light bay pony
Who made you run and win?
Jesus made you gallop
To keep me far from sin
I'll ride my pony on the highway of life
Through thickets, over hedges, through swards
And when I die
I shall ride him on high
And Jesus will present me with my Heav'nly reward
Give me my heavenly trophy dear Jesus
Give me your ribbon of blue
Engrave my name on your heavenly honour board
Let me ride in God's Pony Club
Riding with You