Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/195

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157
HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

defeat had not sufficed to make these forlorn men forgotten by their comrades. John Devoy, the whilom organizer of treason in the British army; John Breslin, the rescuer of James Stephens from Richmond Prison, and several other bold spirits on both sides of the Atlantic, remembered the men in bondage, held clandestine communication with them, and patiently awaited the chance of proving their devotion in the most practical way. O'Reilly was not a member of the Clan; but the Clan trusted him, as everybody did.

To him in due time came John Devoy with a scheme so audacious and romantic as to seem wildly impossible. Not only was the plan extravagant in its conception, but for its execution it needed the confidence and assistance of thousands of men belonging to a race who are said to be unable to keep a secret, and incapable of conspiring without betraying. Nevertheless, five thousand men of the Clan-na-Gael were taken into the confidence of the plotters. A large amount of money was needed, and it had to be raised by the contributions of these thousands. The plot was known to them for more than a twelvemonth, yet never a whisper of it reached any but friendly ears.

The plan, in brief, was to buy a ship, man her with hardy fellows who did not fear the consequences, and, sailing to Western Australia, rescue the life prisoners from their captivity. It meant, at the least calculation, an outlay of twenty thousand dollars, a voyage of thirty thousand miles, a forlorn hope, and a possible gibbet at the end.

O'Reilly proposed an amendment and it was adopted. It was to buy a whaling vessel, and send her ostensibly on a whaling cruise, thus averting the suspicion which would be sure to attach to a ship of any other description cruising in Western Australian waters. There was one man in all the world best fitted to give counsel and aid in such an enterprise, O'Reilly's old-time benefactor and friend. Captain Henry C. Hathaway, of New Bedford, Mass. He had retired from the perilous adventures of his youth, and, giving hostages to Fortune, had begun to receive the favors of