Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/117

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

O'Reilly should be left in the Bush, as before, while the others went on to Johnson's. It was necessary to trust the Englishman with the secret and let him know the hiding-place of the fugitive, for his friends were obliged to go home and arrange for his escape by one of the other whale-ships. This plan was agreed to by the whole party as the best way out of the difficulty. It was evening when they reached the shore. As his three friends left O'Reilly in the secluded sand valley they shook him by the hand and told him to keep up a good heart. They promised that one of them would come from Bunbury in the course of a week to tell him when the whalers would sail. They also said that they should communicate with old Johnson and ask him to bring food and water to the sand valley, which the old man did.

In his nervous desire to get away as soon as possible from the penal colony, O'Reilly brooded over Captain Baker's promise to cruise for his boat if it was not sighted when the Vigilant came out. He thought that the captain might not have seen the boat and might be still cruising along the coast on the lookout for it. This idea made him eager to row out again and take the chance of falling in with the vessel. But the boat in which he had ventured before was too heavy for one person to set afloat or row. He asked Johnson's boy, who came the third night, in place of the old man, if his father had a boat. The lad said there was an old dory at the horse range further up the coast, buried in the sand. When the boy had gone O'Reilly walked along the beach for six or seven miles, and at last found the boat. The heat and dry weather had warped her badly, but O'Reilly pulled her carefully into the water and fastened her by a rope of paper bark to a stake driven into the sand, and went back to his hiding-place for the night.

Next morning he ventured out to sea in this frail craft, which he had made water tight by the use of paper bark. In order to keep his stock of meat from spoiling in the hot sun he let it float in the water, fastened by a rope of paper bark to the stern of the boat. The light craft went rapidly forward under his vigorous rowing, and before night had passed the headland and was on the Indian Ocean.

That night on an unknown sea in a mere shell had a strange, weird interest, heightened by the anxious expectations of the seeker for liberty. O'Reilly ceased rowing the next morning, trusting to the northward current to bring him within view of the whale-ship. He suffered a good deal from the blazing rays of the sun and their scorching reflection from the water. To add to his troubles, the meat towing in the water was becoming putrid, and he found that some of the possums and kangaroo rats had been taken by sharks in the night. Toward noon he saw a vessel under sail which he knew must be the Vigilant and his hopes ran high, as she drew so near to the boat that he could hear voices on her deck. He saw a man aloft on the lookout;