There was no one at dinner that first evening, but Mr Armstrong, and the family circle; and the parson certainly felt it dull enough. Fanny, naturally, was rather silent; Lady Selina did not talk a great deal; the countess reiterated, twenty times, the pleasure she had in seeing him at Grey Abbey, and asked one or two questions as to the quantity of flannel it took to make petticoats for the old women in his parish; but, to make up the rest, Lord Cashel talked incessantly. He wished to show every attention to his guest, and he crammed him with ecclesiastical conversation, till Mr Armstrong felt that, poor as he was, and much as his family wanted the sun of lordly favour, he would not give up his little living down in Connaught, where, at any rate, he could do as he pleased, to be domestic chaplain to Lord Cashel, with a salary of a thousand a-year.
The next morning was worse, and the whole of the long day was insufferable, lie endeavoured to escape from his noble friend into the demesne, where he might have explored the fox coverts, and ascertained something of the sporting capabilities of the country; but Lord Cashel would not leave him alone for an instant; and he had not only to endure the earl’s tediousness, but also had to assume a demeanour which was not at all congenial to his feelings. Lord Cashel would talk Church and ultra-Protestantism to him, and descanted on the abominations of the National system, and the glories of Sunday-schools. Now, Mr Armstrong had no leaning to popery, and had nothing to say against Sunday schools; but he had not one in his own parish, in which, by the bye, he was the father of all the Protestant children to be found there without the slightest slur upon his reputation be it said. Lord Cashel totally mistook his character, and Mr Armstrong did not know how to set him right; and at five o’clock he went to dress, more tired than he ever had been after hunting all day, and then riding home twelve miles on a wet, dark night, with a lame horse.
To do honour to her guest Lady Cashel asked Mr O’Joscelyn, the rector, together with his wife and daughters, to dine there on the second day; and Mr Armstrong, though somewhat afraid of brother clergymen, was delighted to hear that they were coming. Anything was better than another tˆte-…-tˆte with the ponderous earl. There were no other neighbours near enough to Grey Abbey to be asked on so short a notice; but the rector, his wife, and their daughters, entered the dining-room punctually at half-past six.
The character and feelings of Mr O’Joscelyn were exactly those which the earl had attributed to Mr Armstrong. He had been an Orangeman, and was a most ultra and even furious Protestant. He was, by principle, a charitable man to his neighbours; but he hated popery, and he carried the feeling to such a length, that he almost hated Papists. He had not, generally speaking, a bad opinion of human nature; but he would not have considered his life or property safe in the hands of any Roman Catholic. He pitied the ignorance of the heathen, the credulity of the Mahommedan, the desolateness of the Jew, even the infidelity of the atheist; but he execrated, abhorred, and abominated the Church of Rome. ‘Anathema Maranatha; get thee from me, thou child of Satan go out into utter darkness, thou worker of iniquity into everlasting lakes of fiery brimstone, thou doer of the devil’s work thou false prophet thou ravenous wolf!’ Such was the language of his soul, at the sight of a priest; such would have been the language of his tongue, had not, as he thought, evil legislators given a licence to falsehood in his unhappy country, and rendered it impossible for a true Churchman openly to declare the whole truth.
But though Mr O’Joscelyn did not absolutely give utterance to such imprecations as these against the wolves who, as he thought, destroyed the lambs of his flock or rather, turned his sheep into foxes yet he by no means concealed his opinion, or hid his light under a bushel. He spent his life an eager, anxious, hard-working life, in denouncing the scarlet woman of Babylon and all her abominations; and he did so in season and out of season: in town and in country; in public and in private; from his own pulpit, and at other people’s tables; in highways and byways; both to friends who only partly agreed with him, and to strangers, who did not agree with him at all. He totally disregarded the feelings of his auditors; he would make use of the same language to persons who might in all probability be Romanists, as he did to those whom he knew to be Protestants. He was a most zealous and conscientious, but a most indiscreet servant of his Master, he made many enemies, but few converts. He rarely convinced his opponents, but often disgusted his own party. He had been a constant speaker at public meetings; an orator at the Rotunda, and, on one occasion, at Exeter Hall. But even his own friends, the ultra Protestants, found that he did the cause more harm than good, and his public exhibitions had been as much as possible discouraged. Apart from his fanatical enthusiasm, he was a good man, of pure life, and simple habits; and rejoiced exceedingly, that, in the midst of the laxity in religious opinions which so generally disfigured the age, his wife and his children were equally eager and equally zealous with himself in the service of their Great Master.
A beneficed clergyman from the most benighted, that is, most Papistical portion of Connaught, would be sure, thought Mr O’Joscelyn, to have a fellow-feeling with him; to sympathise with his wailings, and to have similar woes to communicate.
‘How many Protestants have you?’ said he to Mr Armstrong, in the drawing-room, a few minutes after they had been introduced to each other. ‘I had two hundred and seventy in the parish on New Year’s day; and since that we’ve had two births, and a very proper Church of England police-serjeant has been sent here, in place of a horrid Papist. We’ve a great gain in Serjeant Woody, my lord.’
‘In one way we certainly have, Mr O’Joscelyn,’ said the earl. ‘I wish all the police force were Protestants; I think they would be much more effective. But Serjeant Carroll was a very good man; you know he was removed from hence on his promotion.’
‘I know he was, my lord just to please the priests just because he was a Papist. Do you think there was a single thing done, or a word said at Petty Sessions, but what Father Flannery knew all about it? Yes, every word. When did the police ever take any of Father Flannery’s own people?’
‘Didn’t Serjeant Carroll take that horrible man Leary, that robbed the old widow that lived under the bridge?’ said the countess.
‘True, my lady, he did,’ said Mr O’Joscelyn; ‘but you’ll find, if you inquire, that Leary hadn’t paid the priest his dues, nor yet his brother. How a Protestant government can reconcile it to their conscience how they can sleep at night, after pandering to the priests as they daily do, I cannot conceive. How many Protestants did you say you have, Mr Armstrong?’
‘We’re not very strong down in the West, Mr O’Joscelyn,’ said the other parson. ‘There are usually two or three in the Kelly’s Court pew. The vicarage pew musters pretty well, for Mrs Armstrong and five of the children are always there. Then there are usually two policemen, and the clerk; though, by the bye, he doesn’t belong to the parish. I borrowed him from Claremorris.’
Mr O’Joscelyn gave a look of horror and astonishment.
‘I can, however, make a boast, which perhaps you cannot, Mr Joscelyn: all my parishioners are usually to be seen in church, and if one is absent I’m able to miss him.’
‘It must paralyse your efforts, preaching to such a congregation,’ said the other. ‘Do not disparage my congregation,’ said Mr Armstrong, laughing; ‘they are friendly and neighbourly, if not important in point of numbers; and, if I wanted to fill my church, the Roman Catholics think so well of me, that they’d flock in crowds there if I asked them; and the priest would show them the way for any special occasion, I mean; if the bishop came to see me, or anything of that kind.’
Mr O’Joscelyn was struck dumb; and, indeed, he would have had no time to answer if the power of speech had been left to him, for the servant announced dinner.
The conversation was a little more general during dinner-time, but after dinner the parish clergyman returned to another branch of his favourite subject. Perhaps, he thought that Mr Armstrong was himself not very orthodox; or, perhaps, that it was useless to enlarge on the abominations of Babylon to a Protestant peer and a Protestant parson; but, on this occasion, he occupied himself with the temporal iniquities of the Roman Catholics. The trial of O’Connell and his fellow-prisoners had come to an end, and he and they, with one exception, had just. commenced their period of imprisonment. The one exception was a clergyman, who had been acquitted. He had in some way been connected with Mr O’Joscelyn’s parish; and, as tile parish priest and most of his flock were hot Repealers, there was a good deal of excitement on tile occasion — rejoicings at the priest’s acquittal, and howlings, yellings, and murmurings at the condemnation of the others.
‘We’ve fallen on frightful days, Mr Armstrong,’ said Mr O’Joscelyn: ‘frightful, lawless, dangerous days.’
‘We must take them as we find them, Mr O’Joscelyn.’
‘Doubtless, Mr Armstrong, doubtless; and I acknowledge His infinite wisdom, who, for His own purposes, now allows sedition to rear her head unchecked, and falsehood to sit in the high places. They are indeed dangerous days, when the sympathy of government is always with the evil doers, and the religion of the state is deserted by the crown.’
‘Why, God bless me! Mr O’Joscelyn! the queen hasn’t turned Papist, and the Repealers are all in prison, or soon will he there.’
‘I don’t mean the queen. I believe she is very good. I believe she is a sincere Protestant, God bless her;’ and Mr O’Joscelyn, in his loyalty, drank a glass of port wine; ‘but I mean her advisers. They do not dare protect the Protestant faith: they do not dare secure the tranquillity of the country.’
‘Are not O’Connell and the whole set under conviction at this moment? I’m no politician myself, but the only question seems to be, whether they haven’t gone a step too far?’
‘Why did they let that priest escape them?’ said Mr O’Joscelyn.
‘I suppose he was not guilty;’ said Mr Armstrong; ‘at any rate, you had a staunch Protestant jury.’
‘I tell you the priests are at the head of it all. O’Connell would be nothing without them; he is only their creature. The truth is, the government did not dare to frame an indictment that would really lead to the punishment of a priest. The government is truckling to the false hierarchy of Rome. Look at Oxford a Jesuitical seminary, devoted to the secret propagation of Romish falsehood. Go into the churches of England, and watch their bowings, their genuflexions, their crosses and their candles; see the demeanour of their apostate clergy; look into their private oratories; see their red-lettered prayer-books, their crucifixes, and images; and then, can you doubt that the most dreadful of all prophecies is about to be accomplished?’
‘But I have not been into their closets, Mr O’Joscelyn, nor yet into their churches lately, and therefore I have riot seen these things; nor have I seen anybody who has. Have you seen crucifixes in the rooms of Church of England clergymen? or candles on the altar-steps of English churches?’
‘God forbid that I should willingly go where such things are to be seen; but of the fearful fact there is, unfortunately, no doubt. And then, as to the state of the country, we have nothing round us but anarchy and misrule: my life, Mr Armstrong, has not been safe any day this week past.’
‘Good Heaven, Mr O’Joscelyn your life not safe! I thought you were as quiet here, in Kildare, as we are in Mayo.’
‘Wait till I tell you, Mr Armstrong: you know this priest, whom they have let loose to utter more sedition? He was coadjutor to the priest in this parish.’
‘Was he? The people are not attacking you, I suppose, because he’s let loose?’
‘Wait till I tell you. No; the people are mad because O’Connell and his myrmidons are to be locked up; and, mingled with their fury on this head are their insane rejoicings at the escape of this priest. They are, therefore or were, till Saturday last, howling for joy and for grief at the same time. Oh! such horrid howls, Mr Armstrong. I declare, Mr Armstrong, I have trembled for my children this week past.’
The earl, who well knew Mr O’Joscelyn, and the nature of his grievances, had heard all these atrocities before; and, not being very excited by their interest, had continued sipping his claret in silence till he began to doze; and, by the time the worthy parson had got to the climax of his misery, the nobleman was fast asleep.
‘You don’t mean that the people made any attack on the parsonage?’ said Mr Armstrong.
‘Wait till I tell you, Mr Armstrong,’ replied the other. ‘On Thursday morning last they all heard that O’Connell was a convicted felon.’
‘Conspirator, I believe? Mr O’Joscelyn.’
‘Conspiracy is felony, Mr Armstrong and that their priest had been let loose. It was soon evident that no work was to be done that day. They assembled about the roads in groups; at the chapel-door; at Priest Flannery’s house; at the teetotal reading-room as they call it, where the people drink cordial made of whiskey, and disturb the neighbourhood with cracked horns; and we heard that a public demonstration was to be made.’
‘Was it a demonstration of joy or of grief?’
‘Both, Mr Armstrong! it was mixed. They were to shout and dance for joy about Father Tyrrel; and howl and curse for grief about O’Connell; and they did shout and howl with a vengeance. All Thursday, you would have thought that a legion of devils had been let loose into Kilcullen.’
‘But did they commit any personal outrages, Mr O’Joscelyn?’
‘Wait till I tell you. I soon saw how the case was going to be, and I determined to be prepared. I armed myself, Mr Armstrong; and so did Mrs O’Joscelyn. Mrs O’Joscelyn is a most determined woman a woman of great spirit; we were resolved to protect our daughters and our infants from ill-usage, as long as God should leave us the power to do so. We both armed ourselves with pistols, and I can assure you that, as far as ammunition goes, we were prepared to give them a hot reception.’
‘Dear me! This must have been very unpleasant to Mrs O’Joscelyn.’
‘Oh, she’s a woman of great nerve, Mr Armstrong. Mary is a woman of very great nerve. I can assure you we shall never forget that Thursday night. About seven in the evening it got darkish, but the horrid yells of the wild creatures had never ceased for one half-hour; and, a little after seven, twenty different bonfires illuminated the parish. There were bonfires on every side of us: huge masses of blazing turf were to be seen scattered through the whole country.’
‘Did they burn any thing except the turf, Mr O’Joscelyn?’
‘Wait till I tell you, Mr Armstrong. I shall never forget that night; we neither of us once lay down; no, not for a moment. About eight, the children were put to bed; but with their clothes and shoes on, for there was no knowing at what moment and in how sudden a way the poor innocents might be called up. My daughters behaved admirably; they remained quite quiet in the drawing-room till about eleven, when we had evening worship, and then they retired to rest. Their mother, however, insisted that they should not take off their petticoats or stockings. At about one, we went to the hall-door: it was then bright moonlight but the flames of the surrounding turf overpowered the moon. The whole horizon was one glare of light.’
‘But were not the police about, Mr O’Joscelyn?’
‘Oh, they were about, to be sure, poor men; but what could they do? The government now licenses every outrage.’
‘But what did the people do? said Mr Armstrong.
‘Wait till I tell you. They remained up all night; and so did we, you may be sure. Mary did not rise from her chair once that night without a pistol in her hand. We heard the sounds of their voices continually, close to the parsonage gate; we could see them in the road, from the windows crowds of them men, women and children; and still they continued shouting. The next morning they were a little more quiet, but still the parish was disturbed: nobody was at work, and men and women stood collected together in the roads. But as soon as it was dusk, the shoutings and the bonfires began again; and again did I and Mrs O’Joscelyn prepare for a night of anxious watching. We sat up all Friday night, Mr Armstrong.’
‘With the pistols again?’
‘Indeed we did; and lucky for us that we did so. Had they not known that we were prepared, I am convinced the house would have been attacked. Our daughters sat with us this night, and we were so far used to the state of disturbance, that we were able to have a little supper.’
‘You must have wanted that, I think.’
‘Indeed we did. About four in the morning, I dropped asleep on the sofa; but Mary never closed her eyes.’
‘Did they come into the garden at all, or near the house?’
‘No, they did not. And I am very thankful they refrained from doing so, for I determined to act promptly, Mr Armstrong, and so was Mary that is, Mrs O’Joscelyn. We were both determined to fire, if we found our premises invaded. Thank God the miscreants did not come within the gate.’
‘You did not suffer much, then, except the anxiety, Mr O’Joscelyn?’
‘God was very merciful, and protected us; but who can feel safe, living in such times, and among such a people? And it all springs from Rome; the scarlet woman is now in her full power, and in her full deformity. She was smitten down for a while, but has now risen again. For a while the right foot of truth was on her neck; for a while she lay prostrated before the strength of those, who by God’s grace, had prevailed against her. But the latter prophecies which had been revealed to us, are now about to be accomplished. It is well for those who comprehend the signs of the coming time.’
‘Suppose we join the ladies,’ said the earl, awakened by the sudden lull in Mr O’Joscelyn’s voice. ‘But won’t you take a glass of Madeira first, Mr Armstrong?’
Mr Armstrong took his glass of Madeira, and then went to the ladies; and the next morning, left Grey Abbey, for his own parish. Well; thought he to himself, as he was driven through the park, in the earl’s gig, I’m very glad I came here, for Frank’s sake. I’ve smoothed his way to matrimony and a fortune. But I don’t know anything which would induce me to stay a week at Grey Abbey. The earl is bad nearly unbearable; but the parson! I’d sooner by half be a Roman myself, than think so badly of my neighbours as he does. Many a time since has he told in Connaught, how Mr O’Joscelyn. and Mary, his wife, sat up two nights running, armed to the teeth, to protect themselves from the noisy Repealers of Kilcullen.
Mr Armstrong arrived safely at his parsonage, and the next morning he rode over to Kelly’s Court. But Lord Ballindine was not there. He had started for Grey Abbey almost immediately on receiving the two letters which we have given, and he and his friend had passed each other on the road.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14