Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/212

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CHAPTER X.


Death of John O'Mahony—O'Reilly's Tribute to the Head-Center-Prison Sufferings of Corporal Chambers—He is Set Free at Last—O'Reilly on Denis Kearney—"Moondyne," and its Critics—"Number 406."


THE Catalpa rescue was as gallant and chivalrous a deed as ever loyal knights had dared for suffering comrades. There was not a taint of sordid or selfish purpose in it, from beginning to end. Any nation might be proud of the sons who had so boldly conceived and so shrewdly carried it to success; but the world has no laurels for the heroes of a defeated cause. Fenianism in Ireland had been a tragedy: in America it was a wretched farce. And the world looking at the stricken gladiator, turned its thumbs downward.

Among the men whom disaster had crushed and saddened was John O'Mahony, the once famous Head-Center. He came of revolutionary stock, his ancestors having been concerned in every rising against the English for generations. His father and uncle were rebels in '98; he himself had to fly the country on the failure of the insurrection of '48. He organized the Fenian Brotherhood in 1860. Although hundreds of thousands of dollars had passed through his hands, he died absolutely poor, on the 7th of February, 1877. When the news of his mortal illness in New York became known, O'Reilly paid this just tribute to the dying enthusiast, who had suffered that bitterest penalty of failure, unjust reproach and undeserved distrust.

John O'Mahony was the first "Head-Center" of the Fenian movement in America, and he is the Head-Center still in its decadence. He watched beside its cradle; he rose with it in its sudden strength; he