|Newspaper Title||The Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 - 1918)|
|Trove Title||The Devil's Own. An Australian Story|
"I sigh and with a piece of Scripture Tell them that God bids us do good for evil: And thus clothe my naked villainy With old odd ends stolen forth of Holy
Writ: And seem a saint when most I play the devil.” SHAKESPEARE. Built on an eminence, with the River Snag winding along serpentine fashion at its foot, is Hauteville—the prettiest suburb of Goldsborough, plutocratic in the extreme — composed mostly of palatial residences standing in their own grounds as Robins of olden times would have described them. The wealthy denizens of this Hauteville
were a very curious collection, and not a few of them could have revealed many a incident of stockade life from past experience. No one ever dived into pedigree or dared to enquire into the antecedents of its inhabitants—a heterogenous assortment of merchant princes squatter princes, draper princes, crockery princes, publican princes, etc., etc., resting on their golden oars—after a hard life of toil, economy and penury—to experience now the reverse side of life, the sunny side of it, to eat drink and be merry, to try and bury the past if possible, with its drudgery and its privations and build up a future of enjoy- ment and pleasure seeking. Wealth and ignorance combined generally make a man purse proud. Such was the ease at Haute- ville. Wealth was the passport to the society there; the inhabitants of that district having the greatest contempt for any one possessing a pedigree without a cheque book, education and talent without an estate. Hauteville was not as its name implies— French in any way. There was no upper or lower town, nor were there any ramparts or anything foreign, a smattering of German Jews perhaps, but not even a small sprink- ling of Frenchmen; au contraire it was Caledonian in the extreme. Sandies and Dugalds were as thick as blackberries in the English hedges on an October morning. The Reverend Mathias Chasuble was wont to date his letters the Parsonage, Ben Nevis, with true consistency The Scotch part of the community were Presbyterians, ergo strict Sabbatarians ac- cording to their own code, i.e., having out their carriages, horses, and servants once if not twice on the Sunday to drive some miles to their pet minister at Goldsborough (the Reverend Septimus Smart), a minister popu- lar amongst many of them for his moderate views on some points, and happy disposition; and in hot water too often with the rest for not being bigoted enough to encourage “religious contention," devil’s harvest as Fontaigne too truly describes it, instead of quietly walking a few yards to their parish church or Presbyterian tabernacle so close to their own domain. “We dinna cook on the Sabbawth,”said one of these exalted Christians (in his own estima- tion) to a visitor on Sunday night, who had dropped in for a chat after church, not for upper (heaven defend me from Sunday night suppers at Hauteville), accompanied with three chapters of Job or Daniel drawled out in nasal drone, only second to bagpipes in torture, said the friend to himself, as he politely declined, though the Sabbatarian forgot to mention how all his servants had worked like niggers all Saturday preparing for the Sunday’s feast until late at night, when almost fagged out they had almost gone to bed with their clothes on, rather than the trouble of undressing in their tired state; for Hauteville lived well, and the Caledonian community in particular never spared their bawbees in these latter days when eat- ing and drinking were concerned, however abstemious, temperate, economical, saving, or whatever you may like to call it, they might have been in their earlier and more cautious days when porridge and potatoes were their chief nutriment, relieved occa- sionally by a lump of corn beef, though they had always maintained their true faith in Glen Isla or Lorne or Athol brose, etc. The Reverend Mathias Chasuble was a popular man amongst them in spite of these bigoted notions and calvanistic ideas, " the meenister’ (as Sandy Mactavish called the rector) being a very sensible man and meenister, not in- clined to quarrel with anyone or his own bread and butter. He liked a good dinner, and he deserved it; he preached a good ser- mon, and, unlike some of his colonial brethren he was, and looked a credit to the cloth, making the best of his time in preaching anti talking charity on earth and good will towards men, rewarded thereby for his kind hearted and charitable labours with a pleasant welcome from every wealthy or im- pecunious inmate of the mansion or cottage in that lofty, much to be envied suburb. If now and then the Hauteville church fees had diminished, or the pew rents slackened it was not the Reverend Chasuble’s fault, but a squabble in the choir; perhaps some vanity stricken tenor with a better voice than reputation had not been allowed to be major domo and rule the choristers, or perchance some small-minded fossils of the congregation objected to the little white night-gowned boys wearing clean white robes and dapper little cross shaped ties, instead of badly shaped greasy looking Sunday-go-to-meeting costumes, with no ties at all. “It was impossible to please everybody," said the Reverend Mathias, he had tried hard to do so, like in the fable of the old man and his ass, but eventually had given it up and let things take their course to the ap- probation all concerned, and himself in particular. Great men for social reform were the mushroom princes of Hauteville. They would argue for hours together on local option or Sunday trading, and talk the hind leg of a wheel barrow off, as the saying is, in laying down the law, particularly on sub- ject of Sunday amusements, such as picture galleries, libraries, etc., forgetting poor de- mented beings, that simple recreations were not only harmless, pleasant, and beneficial to the masses, but improving their minds and making them contented and happy for some hours, and in weaning them from that tempt- ing resource of the uneducated—the public house. Human nature is the same whether it be found in the mansions of the rich or the cottages of the poor, the difference only lies in the manner of gratifying the taste, and this is simply brought about by education and association. The rich indulge in their luxuries on Sunday at home; the poor having little or no attraction at their homes, seek their pleasure outside, too often in the grog shop, but, I venture to say that were the pub- lic libraries and picture galleries thrown open on Sunday, thousands would attend and find in them a wealth of innocent amusement re- sultant of higher thoughts and bettor aspira- tion. In a democratic country it is bo all means essential to educate and refine the tastes of the people. There are good and bad in all sorts and conditions of men. Not the least amongst those exalted Chris- tians—in their own estimation—was the Honorable James McGrab (not a peerage honorable, oh dear no, don’t mistake me) ; a long lantern jawed, cadaverous-looking man of the rattlesnake species as to bones and general skinnyness, but a ranter of the first water on Scotch church christianity and in Presbyterian wrangling; a demi semi god amongst the salvation and blue ribbon people of war, and a great gun at the meetings of the young men’s Christian Association, where he would hold forth, at a furious rate of Scotch elocution in his thin nasal Edinburgh drawl on his great subject of temperance. I do not myself believe in any merchant or man of business being a preacher or lecturer, or leader of Christianity, for the busy un- scrupulous life of a man eagerly in quest of fortune is so totally at variance with the strict observance of the rule of life laid down by the Great Teacher. James McGrab was a business man to his heart’s core, and although out of office hours he devoted much time in talking himself into notoriety amongst the numerous members of certain leagues and societies in office hours he would with beams of satisfaction have supplied you with rivers of brandy, whisky or any other alcoholic or malt beverage at an hour’s notice. Nor did he carry his War Cry badge within the precincts of his warehouse, or even little tracts scattered about, or radiant colored illuminated temperance texts, such as “strong drinks are an abomination to the Lord,” etc., etc., au contraire; the only wall decorations were highly embellished cards of Martell’s brandy, So-and-So’s whisky, Old Poet’s Prime ales, etc., etc., as supplied by the highly respectable firm of which this king of the blue and red warrior was a member, I will not say favorite, being too rabid too please either his own partner Moneypenny Law, or tbe inhabitants of Hauteville. Good reader! don’t run away with the idea that I run down Scotchmen—by no means. The best and kindest people I have known have been Scotch, and the meanest and most contemptible men I have ever met have been English, but there are Scotchmen and Scotch- men, and the Caledonians of Hauteville were that very peculiar body of Lowlanders, gifted in many ways—amongst other gifts the bumps of caution, bigotry, and pigheaded ignorance—men who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.