Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/114

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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