Life of John Boyle O'Reilly/Chapter 4

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Prison life in Australia—O'Reilly Transferred from Fremantle to Bunbury—Cruel Punishment for a Technical Offense—Daring Plan to Escape—Free at Last under the American Flag.

AT length, the long and dreary voyage ended, and the old Hougoumont dropped anchor in the roadstead of Fremantle at three o'clock in the morning of January 10, 1868. Her passengers could see, high above the little town and the woodland about it, the great white stone prison which represents Fremantle' s reason for existence. It was "The Establishment"; that is to say, the Government; that is to say, the advanced guard of Christian civilization in the wild Bush. The native beauty of the place is marred by the straggling irregularity of the town, as it is blighted by the sight, and defiled by the touch, of the great criminal establishment.

The first official function was the reading of the rules. What struck O'Reilly most in that long code was the startling peroration to the enumeration of so many offenses,—"the penalty of which is Death!"

After this ceremony the prisoners were separated, the sheep from the goats, the criminals going ashore first to swell the population of four or five hundred of their kind already there. Curiously enough, the arrival of the Hougoumont was made the subject of a quasi-religious controversy in the settlement, the Protestants murmuring at the arrival of so many political prisoners. They did not complain so much of the criminal convicts; but their aversion to the Irishmen was reconsidered on better acquaintance.

Father Lynch was the Catholic chaplain of Fremantle prison, and one of the many who took an immediate liking to young O'Reilly. Although the latter, like the other military convicts, had been separated from his fellows and assigned to the gang of criminals, Father Lynch managed to have him detailed as an assistant in the library. The political prisoners who had not been soldiers were sent to Perth, twelve miles away, to work in the road-gangs or quarries.

One day, four weeks thereafter, O'Reilly was summoned by the officer in whose immediate charge he was, who said to him, "You will go down to the vessel (mentioning her name), and deliver the articles named in this bill of lading; read it!"

O'Reilly read it. It called for the delivery, in good order and condition, of three articles; to wit: One convict, No. 9843, one bag, and one hammock or bed. O'Reilly was No. 9843; his destination was the convict settlement of Bunbury, thirty miles along the coast, west of Fremantle.

Arrived there he was assigned to one of the road parties and began the dreary life of a convict, which, however, was relieved from the utter woe of Millbank's solitary days, or the revolting cruelties of Chatham and Dartmoor. Still it was bad enough. Among the criminals with whom he was forced to associate were some of the most degraded of human kind,—murderers, burglars, sinners of every grade and color of vice. They were the poison flower of civilization's corruption, more depraved than the savage, as they were able to misuse the advantages of superior knowledge. They were the overflow of society's cesspool, the irreclaimable victims of sin—too often the wretched fruits of heredity or environment. Happily for the young, generous, clean-minded rebel, who had been doomed to herd with this prison scum, God had given him the instincts of pure humanity; and ill-fortune, instead of blighting, had nourished their growth. He looked upon his fellow-sufferers with eyes of mercy, seeing how many of them were the victims, directly or indirectly, of cruel, selfish, social conditions. In the Australian Bush he saw humanity in two naked aspects: the savage, utterly ignorant of civilized virtues as of civilized vices; and the white convict, stripped of all social hypocrisies, revealing the worst traits of depraved humanity. Both were "naked and not ashamed." For the savages, so-called, he entertained a sincere and abiding admiration. "Why," he said, years afterwards, "I found that those creatures were men and women, just like the rest of us; the difference between those poor black boys and the men of the Somerset Club was only external. I have good friends among those Australian savages, to-day, that I would be as glad to meet as any man I know."

We know from his own "Moondyne," and other works, how tenderly and how charitably he regarded even the lowest of his convict associates. It would be worth much to a student of human nature could we know how they regarded him. How strange a sojourner in their logging-camps and prison cells must have been this young, handsome, daring, generous, kindly poet, who wore their convict's garb, toiled beside them with axe and shovel, and dreamed dreams, while they cursed their hard fate or obscenely mocked at their enemy, Mankind!

He soon won the respect of the officer under whose immediate charge he was, a man named Woodman, who, appreciating O'Reilly's ability, gladly availed himself of his help in making out his monthly reports and other clerical work. He also appointed him a "constable," as those prisoners were called, who, for good conduct, were detailed as aids to the officer in charge of each working party. The constable wears a red stripe on his sleeve, as a badge of his office; he is employed to carry dispatches from station to station, and is usually sent to conduct to prison any convict on the road-gang who may prove refractory or mutinous. The constables must not be confounded with the ticket-of-leave men. They were under no legal or moral parole; on the contrary, they were held to the strictest account, and punished more severely than ordinary criminals if they failed in their duties. O'Reilly had good reason to know this, as a slight involuntary breach of the rules once brought down upon him a most heartless and inhuman punishment. The story has a double interest, both as showing the opportunities for malicious cruelty possessed by even a subordinate prison officer, and the infinite charity with which O'Reilly was able to forgive an atrocious wrong.

At one of the stations to which he was occasionally sent with messages there was an overseer, warden, or watch-dog of some sort, who chose to be an exception to all human kind, by conceiving, at sight, a bitter dislike to young O'Reilly. On their very first meeting he looked hard at the new-comer, and said:

"Young man, you know what you are here for"; adding, with an oath, "I will help you to know it." From that time on he watched his victim sharply, hoping to catch him in some infraction of the many regulations governing the convict settlement.

At last his time came. O'Reilly, one day, was a few minutes late in making his trip. He found the overseer waiting for him, watch in hand. "You are late,—so many minutes," he said; "you are reported." Among the penalties of being "reported," one was that the offender should not be allowed to send or receive a letter for six months. A few days after this incident, the overseer called O'Reilly into his office. He held in his hand a letter, heavily bordered in black, which he had just perused. O'Reilly knew that his mother, at home in Ireland, had been dangerously ill for some time. The letter probably bore the news of her death, but it might contain tidings of a less bitter loss. Nobody in the place, except the overseer, knew its contents. He said: "O'Reilly, here is a letter for you." The prisoner said, "Thank you," and held out his hand for it. The overseer looked at him for a moment, then, tossing the letter into a drawer, said, "You will get it in six months!"

When at the end of six months he received the letter, he found that it confirmed his worst fears. The mother whom he had loved and idolized was dead.

Listening to this story, years afterwards, from the lips of its victim, I asked him why he had never published the name of the cold-blooded wretch, for the execration of humanity. He smiled and said that he did not bear the fellow any malice; that a man who would do a deed of that kind must be insane and irresponsible,—a being toward whom one could not cherish animosity. To a request that the name might be given to somebody of less magnanimous soul, he replied, "I do not know his name now; I have forgotten it." For that reason the name does not appear in these pages.

But life in the Bush was not all made up of tragedy, or even of misery. To the poet there was consolation, and almost happiness, in the glorious open air, amid the grand primeval trees, and the strange birds and beasts of the antipodes. The land about him lay at the world's threshold. Strange monsters of pre-historic form still peopled the forest, monsters of the vegetable as well as of the animal kingdom.

One incident will illustrate his love of nature, which, curiously enough, found more frequent expression in his prose than in his verse, and was still more a part of his life than of his writings. For, while he passionately loved and keenly enjoyed all the delights of communion with nature, his joy and love were personal pleasures. They formed no part of the sermon which it was his mission to preach. The text of that sermon was Humanity. To that he subordinated every impulse of mere sentiment. This long preface to a short story is excusable, because the criticism has been made, and with justice, that O'Reilly's poetry is strangely wanting in the purely descriptive element. The only long poem to which that criticism least applies is his "King of the Vasse," in which are many wonderfully strong and beautiful pictures of nature.

It happened that the road-gang with which he was working, in following the course laid out by the surveyors, came upon a magnificent tree, a giant among its fellows, the growth of centuries, towering aloft to the sky and spreading enormous arms on every side. The wealth of an empire could not buy this peerless work of nature. The word of an unlettered ruler of a convict gang was potent enough for its destruction; for it lay right in the middle of the surveyed road. The order was given to cut it down. O'Reilly argued and pleaded for its preservation, but in vain. All that he could obtain was a reluctantly granted reprieve, and appeal to a higher power. He went—this absurd poet in a striped suit—to the commander of the district, and pleaded for the tree. The official was so amused at his astounding audacity that he told his wife, who, being a woman, had a soul above surveys and rights of way. She insisted on visiting the tree, and the result of her visit was a phenomenon. The imperial road was turned from its course, and a grand work of nature stands in the West Australian forests as a monument to the convict poet.

The scum of civilization amid which O'Reilly was anchored lay just above the depths of primitive savagery; there was no intermediate layer. But there was one immeasurable gulf between the naked savage and the branded outcast of civilization. The savage was free. The white man envied him, as one who drowns may envy him who swims in the dangerous waves. The savage was free, because he could live in the Bush.

There was no need of fetters or warders to prevent the criminal's escape. Nature had provided a wall absolutely impassable in the boundless Bush, in whose thorny depths the fugitive was lost at the first plunge. Could he bury himself in its recesses, and hide his trail from the keen scent of the native trackers, employed as sleuth-hounds by the Government, he would still be almost as helpless as a traveler lost in the desert, or a mariner on a plank in mid-ocean. He had no weapons with which to kill game; he was ignorant of the country and liable to perish of thirst or hunger; above all he had no definite goal in sight. The pathless Bush lay before him, thousands of miles in one direction,—the wide, deserted Indian Ocean in the other. He might eke out a precarious existence for a while in the Bush, living a life lower than that of the lowest savage, whose wood-craft could procure Mm a living; but he had no hope of freedom, near or remote. Of the two alternatives left him (outside that of penal servitude), suicide was rather better than flight to the Bush.

So said the good priest, Father McCabe, when O'Reilly, consumed with the mad passion for liberty, told him his crude plans of escape. Perhaps flight was worse than suicide, in an earthly sense, because its inevitable failure carried with it a penalty, that of enrollment in the chain-gangs. The horrors of this punishment are not to be understood by free men. Something of them may be gleaned from O'Reilly's poem, "The Mutiny of the Chains," in which he says:

Woe to the weak, to the mutineers!
The bolt of their death is driven;
A mercy waits on all other tears,
But the Chains are never forgiven.

He had been a little over a year in the convict settlement before the long-sought opportunity came of breaking his bonds forever. The story of his escape would be deeply interesting had he been nothing more than a mere adventurer like Baron Trenck, or a poor court intriguer like Latude; for the world—we are all only prisoners under a life sentence—is ever stirred by the story of a bondman breaking his fetters; but a warmer sympathy is evoked by the tale of this young hero of a romantic revolutionary movement,—this poet whose whole life was a poem.

The true account was not given to the world for many years, as its premature publication would have entailed serious consequences on some of the agents in Australia through whose devotion and courage the young convict had effected his escape. The first authentic story, as published with his sanction by his brother author and warm friend, Mr. Alexander Young, of Boston, in the Philadelphia Times of June 25, 1881, is as follows:

O'Reilly had made preparations for his escape several months before attempting it. He had told no one of his intention, because he had witnessed so many failures that he decided the safest way was to trust to himself alone. A chance occurrence led him to change his mind. One day while in camp with a convict road party, he had a call from the Rev. Patrick McCabe, a Catholic priest, whose "parish " extended over hundreds of miles of wild Bush country, and whose only parishioners were convicts and ticket-of leave men. This scholarly, accomplished gentleman had at that time passed fifteen years in ministering to the spiritual needs of convicts, upon whom he exerted a very beneficial influence. His days were almost wholly spent in the saddle, riding alone from camp to camp, and the nights found him wrapped in his blanket under the trees. He was kind to all men, whatever their creed, and a sincere Christian worker. O'Reilly, who had found him a warm friend during his stay in the penal colony, thus bears witness to his usefulness: "He was the best influence; indeed, in my time, he was the only good influence, on the convicts in the whole district of Bunbury." O'Reilly told him his plans of escape as they walked together in the Bush. "It is an excellent way to commit suicide," said the thoughtful priest, who refused to talk about or countenance it. He mounted his horse to say good-by, and, leaning from the saddle toward O'Reilly, he said: "Don't think of that again. Let me think out a plan for you. You'll hear from me before long." Weeks and months passed, and O'Reilly never heard from him. It was a weary waiting, but the convict, though tortured by the uncertainty which kept him from working his own plan, and even hindered him from sleep, still had confidence in his absent and silent friend and adviser.

O'Reilly was exempt from the hardships of labor with the criminal gang on the roads, but had charge of their stores and carried the warden's weekly report to the Bunbury depot. While trudging along with this report one day he reached a plain called the "Race Course."

As he was crossing it he heard a "coo-ee," or bush-cry. Looking wistfully in the direction of the sound, he saw a stalwart man coming toward him with an axe on his shoulder. There was a pleasant smile on his handsome face as he approached O'Reilly and said: "My name is Maguire; I'm a friend of Father Mac's, and he's been speaking about you." Having learned the importance of distrusting strangers in convict land, O'Reilly said but a few words and those such as could not reveal his relations with the priest. Observing his hesitation, the stranger took a card from his wallet on which was a message addressed to O'Reilly in the handwriting of Father McCabe. This set at rest all doubts and fears of the man's intentions. O'Reilly eagerly listened to what he had to say, for he had come to carry out the good priest's plan of escape. He said he was clearing the race course, and would be at work there for a month. In February—it was then December—American whalers would touch at Bunbury for water, and he should arrange with one of them to secrete O'Reilly on board and take him out of danger. This was cheering news, but, during the week which passed before he again saw Maguire, O'Reilly could hardly sleep for fear that the man would shrink, when the time came, from the danger to his own life of helping him to escape. But Maguire's hearty and confident manner when he next saw him helped to dispel these fears. "You'll be a free man in February," he said, "as sure as my name is Maguire."

December and January passed away, and a wood-cutter chancing to go to the convict-road camp mentioned the fact that three American whaling barks had put into Bunbury. The news made O'Reilly terribly anxious lest the plan for his escape should fall through. He determined to venture out by himself if he heard nothing from his friends. On returning from the depot, to which he had carried his weekly report, as usual, O'Reilly found Maguire waiting for him at the race course. "Are you ready?" were the faithful fellow's first words. He then said that one of the whalers, the bark Vigilant, of New Bedford, was to sail in four days and that Captain Baker had agreed to take O'Reilly on board if he fell in with him outside Australian waters, and had even promised to cruise for two or three days and keep a lookout for him. Maguire had arranged all the details of the escape. O'Reilly was to leave his hut at eight o'clock in the evening of February 18, and take a cut through the Bush on a line which was likely to mislead the native trackers. He had obtained a pair of freeman's shoes, as the mark left by the convict's boot could be easily traced. After leaving the camp he was to push on through the Bush in a straight course toward a convict station on the Vasse road. There he was to lie till he heard some one on the road whistle the first bars of "Patrick's Day."

The plan was gone over carefully between Maguire and O'Reilly, every point being repeated till there could be no doubt of their mutual agreement. The two men then separated.

On the evening of February 18 O'Reilly wrote a letter to his father about his intended escape that night, and his purpose, if successful, to go to the United States. Two months afterwards this letter found its way into the Dublin newspapers. At seven o'clock that evening the warden of the convict party went his rounds and looked in upon all the criminals. He saw O'Reilly sitting in his hut as he passed on his return. Soon after a convict came to the hut to borrow some tobacco and remained so long that the host became very nervous. Fortunately the convict went away before eight. As soon as he had gone O'Reilly changed his boots, put out the light, and started on his desperate venture through the Bush.

Though the woods were dark the stars shone brightly overhead. Before he had gone two hundred yards he was startled by discovering that a man was following him. It was a moment of terrible strain for O'Reilly, but with admirable nerve he coolly waited for the fellow to come up. He proved to be a mahogany sawyer named Kelly, whose saw-pit was close to the fugitive's hut. He was a criminal who had been transported for life. "Are you off?" he whispered hoarsely. "I knew you meant it. I saw you talking to Maguire a month ago, and I knew it all." These words filled O'Reilly with astonishment and alarm, so that he could not speak. He felt that he was in the man's power. He might have already put the police on his track, or he could do so the next day. But the criminal showed a manly sympathy with the youth who had risked so much for freedom. Holding out his hand to O'Reilly he gave him a strong grip, saying, with a quivering, husky voice:

"God speed you. I'll put them on the wrong scent to-morrow." The fugitive could not speak the gratitude he felt, so, silently pressing the manly hand, he pushed on again through the woods.

It was eleven o'clock when he reached the old convict station and lay down beneath a great gum tree at the roadside. From his dusky hiding-place he kept an anxious lookout for friends or foes. In about half an hour two men rode by. They seemed to be farmers, but they may have been a patrol of mounted police. Soon after, the sound of horses coming at a sharp trot was heard by the fugitive. They stopped near his resting place, and he heard "Patrick's Day" whistled in low but clear tones. In an instant O'Reilly ran up to the horsemen, who proved to be Maguire and another friend, M——. They had another horse with them, which O'Reilly mounted, and then, without saying a word, the three started off at a gallop for the woods. They rode on in silence for several hours. At last, Maguire, who led the way, reined in his horse, dismounted, and whistled. He was answered by another whistle. In a few minutes three men came up, two of whom turned out to be cousins of Maguire. The third man took the horses and galloped off, but not till he had given O'Reilly a warm shake of the hand, expressive of his good wishes. The three men then formed in Indian file and, to prevent the discovery of their number, the two behind covered the footprints of the leader. After walking for about an hour they reached a dry swamp near the sea.

O'Reilly remained at this place with M——, while the other men went on. He was told that Bunbury was near by and that they had gone for the boat. After waiting half an hour in anxiety lest the plan of escape had been thwarted at the last moment, a light was seen about half a mile away. This disappeared, only to flash out three more times. It was the signal for O'Reilly and his companion to go forward. They went along the road till they came to a bridge where Maguire was waiting for them. The boat was all ready, but the tide being out they had to wade knee-deep through the mud to reach the water. Maguire, who led the way, was soon aboard with O'Reilly. M—— meanwhile remained on the shore, and, when appealed to by Maguire in a whisper to "come on," answered in a trembling voice: "No, I promised my wife not to go in the boat." This led one of Maguire's cousins, who had come aboard before the others, to answer back in a sneering tone: "All right, go home to your wife." Yet M—— did not deserve this taunt of cowardice. He was brave enough when duty called him, as he afterwards showed.

The four men in the boat were careful to pull quietly till there was no danger of their being overheard. Then they bent vigorously to the oars, as if rowing for life. Little was said, but thoughts of what they had at stake were all the deeper for not finding vent in words. By sunrise the boat had got almost out of sight of land, only the tops of the high sand-hills being visible. The course was a straight line of forty miles across Geographe Bay. It had been arranged to lie in wait for the Vigilant on the further shore, and row toward her as she passed the northern head of the bay. After pulling strongly till near noon the men began to feel the need of food and drink, which from some reason or other had not been provided for their cruise. O'Reilly, who had eaten nothing for twenty-four hours, suffered dreadfully from thirst. Accordingly the boat was run ashore through the surf and pulled high and dry on the beach. The drenching which the men got in doing this gave them temporary relief from thirst. But this soon became so intense that they wandered for hours through the dried swamps in search of water. Hundreds of paper-bark trees were examined for the wished for drink, but not a drop could be found. O'Reilly became alarmed at the burning pain in his chest, which seemed, as if its whole inner surface were covered with a blister. As night was coming on they came to a cattle-track, which led to a shallow and muddy pool. But the water was too foul to drink, so they had to content themselves with cooling their faces in it.

As the whaler would not put to sea till morning or, perhaps, the following evening, O'Reilly was in sore need of sustenance to keep up his strength. Fortunately there was a man living in a log house a few miles away whom the Maguires knew and thought well of. He was an Englishman named Johnson, and lived on this lonely expanse of coast with no neighbor nearer than forty miles, as keeper of a large herd of buffalo cows. The three men started for his house, leaving O'Reilly in the Bush for safety, but promising that one should return with food and drink as soon as he could get away unobserved. The poor sufferer whom they left behind watched them winding in and out among the sand-hills till they were lost to view. Then he lay down on the sand in a shady spot and tried to sleep. But the terrible blistering pain in his chest made it impossible for him to remain in a reclining position, and he was obliged to get up and walk about. Hours passed and his friends did not return. O'Reilly's sufferings at this time were the worst he ever experienced. In his desperate straits his knowledge and judgment of woodcraft served him in good stead. Recollecting that the natives lived on freshly killed meat when they could get no water, he sought for a tree with possum marks. This he soon found and on climbing it secured a large possum by pulling it out of its hole by the tail and striking its head against the tree. He then learned what his subsequent experience confirmed, that this meat was the very best substitute for water. Maguire returned at nightfall, bringing food and a bottle of water. He remained but a short time, thinking it best to go back to the Englishman's house to avoid exciting suspicion. Soon after his departure, O'Reilly made a bed with boughs and leaves on the sand, using the young branches of the peppermint tree in order to keep away ants, snakes, and centipedes. He soon fell into a sound sleep and did not awake till his friends called him the next morning. Yet all this time he was in danger of being tracked by the police.

The party soon started for the beach, which was reached at about nine o'clock. One of the men was sent with a strong glass, which Maguire had brought, to the top of a high hill to keep a lookout for the Vigilant. At about one o'clock he came running down with the welcome news that the vessel was steering north, with all sails spread. As no time was to be lost the boat was quickly run out through the surf. The men pulled cheerily toward the headland, for they were confident of reaching it before the bark passed. They had rowed about a couple of hours when she was seen steering straight toward the boat. The men therefore stopped pulling and waited for her to come up. To their intense disappointment she changed her course slightly when within two miles of the boat, as if to avoid them. The men looked on amazed. Maguire repeatedly said that Captain Baker had pledged his word to take them on board, and he could not believe him mean enough to break it. To settle the question one of the men stood up in the boat and hailed the vessel loudly enough to be heard on board. There was no answer. Again the man hailed her, his companions joining in the shout. No sound came back, and the Vigilant seemed to be moving a little further off. At last she brought up abreast of the boat, at about three miles distant. As a last resort, Maguire fixed a white shirt on the top of an oar and the men all shouted again. But the Vigilant passed on, leaving the boat to its fate.

As the bark gradually receded in the distance, the bitterness of O'Reilly's disappointment was increased by the sense of danger. What could now be done to save him was the thought of every one in the boat, as she was put about and pulled slowly for the shore. Maguire proposed that the boat should be hauled on to the beach and then O'Reilly should be left in the Bush, as before, while the others went on to Johnson's. It was necessary to trust the Englishman with the secret and let him know the hiding-place of the fugitive, for his friends were obliged to go home and arrange for his escape by one of the other whale-ships. This plan was agreed to by the whole party as the best way out of the difficulty. It was evening when they reached the shore. As his three friends left O'Reilly in the secluded sand valley they shook him by the hand and told him to keep up a good heart. They promised that one of them would come from Bunbury in the course of a week to tell him when the whalers would sail. They also said that they should communicate with old Johnson and ask him to bring food and water to the sand valley, which the old man did.

In his nervous desire to get away as soon as possible from the penal colony, O'Reilly brooded over Captain Baker's promise to cruise for his boat if it was not sighted when the Vigilant came out. He thought that the captain might not have seen the boat and might be still cruising along the coast on the lookout for it. This idea made him eager to row out again and take the chance of falling in with the vessel. But the boat in which he had ventured before was too heavy for one person to set afloat or row. He asked Johnson's boy, who came the third night, in place of the old man, if his father had a boat. The lad said there was an old dory at the horse range further up the coast, buried in the sand. When the boy had gone O'Reilly walked along the beach for six or seven miles, and at last found the boat. The heat and dry weather had warped her badly, but O'Reilly pulled her carefully into the water and fastened her by a rope of paper bark to a stake driven into the sand, and went back to his hiding-place for the night.

Next morning he ventured out to sea in this frail craft, which he had made water tight by the use of paper bark. In order to keep his stock of meat from spoiling in the hot sun he let it float in the water, fastened by a rope of paper bark to the stern of the boat. The light craft went rapidly forward under his vigorous rowing, and before night had passed the headland and was on the Indian Ocean.

That night on an unknown sea in a mere shell had a strange, weird interest, heightened by the anxious expectations of the seeker for liberty. O'Reilly ceased rowing the next morning, trusting to the northward current to bring him within view of the whale-ship. He suffered a good deal from the blazing rays of the sun and their scorching reflection from the water. To add to his troubles, the meat towing in the water was becoming putrid, and he found that some of the possums and kangaroo rats had been taken by sharks in the night. Toward noon he saw a vessel under sail which he knew must be the Vigilant and his hopes ran high, as she drew so near to the boat that he could hear voices on her deck. He saw a man aloft on the lookout; but there was no answer to the cry from the boat, and the vessel again sailed off, leaving O'Reilly to sadly watch her fade away into the night. He afterward heard from Captain Baker that, strangely enough, the boat was not seen from the ship.

Being refreshed by the dew and the cool night air, O'Reilly bent to the work of rowing back to shore. There was nothing to do but to get to his hiding-place and await Maguire's return. He tugged at the oars pretty steadily through the night, and when morning came he was within sight of the sand-hills on the headland of Geographe Bay. He reached land by noon and then walked on wearily to Johnson's, where he arrived the same night. The fatigue and anxiety which he had gone through had thoroughly exhausted him. He cared for nothing but sleep, and this he could have without stint in the secluded sand valley. There he remained for five days, when he was cheered by the arrival of Maguire and M——, who said that they had come to see him through. This time Maguire brought a brief letter from Father McCabe, asking O'Reilly to remember him. He had arranged with Captain Gifford, of the bark Gazelle, of New Bedford, one of the whalers that were to sail next day, to take O'Reilly on board. In order to insure the fulfillment of this agreement the good Father had paid the captain ten pounds to carry his friend as far as Java. Unfortunately there was one serious danger ahead. This was the presence of a criminal convict, one of the worst characters in the penal colony, Martin Bowman, or Beaumont, a ticket-of-leave man. This fellow had discovered O'Reilly's plan of escape and had threatened to reveal the whole affair to the police if Maguire did not take him on board the whale-ship also. As it was unsafe to refuse this demand, Bowman was unwillingly included in the party.

Soon after daybreak the next morning the men went down to the beach. Old Johnson and his boy were there to see them off. They got afloat without delay, and rowed vigorously toward the headland, according to Captain Gifford's directions. By noon they saw the two whale-ships under full headway. Toward evening they were hailed by one of the vessels, and a voice shouted O'Reilly's name and cried out:

"Come on board!" The men were delighted at this call. They pulled alongside and O'Reilly was helped out of the boat by the strong arms of Henry C. Hathaway, the third mate. He was warmly welcomed by Captain Gifford, who gave him accommodations in his cabin. Martin Bowman, the escaped criminal, was quartered in the forecastle with the crew. As the boat pushed off from the ship, Maguire stood up and cried: "God bless you; don't forget us, and don't mention our names till you know it's all over." M——, also, who had so well proved his courage, shouted a kind farewell, which moved the grateful O'Reilly to tears.
The official narrative is briefer. It is found in the Police Gazette of the District of Western Australia in the form of the following advertisement:


20—John B. O'Reilly, registered No. 9843, imperial convict; arrived in the colony per convict ship Hougoumont in 1868; sentenced to twenty years, 9th July, 1866. Description—Healthy appearance; present age 25 years; 5 feet 7½ inches high, black hair, brown eyes, oval visage, dark complexion: an Irishman. Absconded from Convict Road Party, Bunbury, on the 18th of February, 1869.