Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/106

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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 vir-