Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/113

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

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