Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/105

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CHAPTER IV.


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