Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/112

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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