Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/417

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Early Traits of Character—Letters from Prison—His Religious Nature Exemplified—An Ideal Comrade—Love of Nature and of Art—His First Poem—His Lavish Charity and Kindness—A Child's Tribute—The End.

KINDNESS was the fruit, courtesy the flower, of John Boyle O'Reilly's character. Its seed was that "sacrificial seed" of which he sings so often and so earnestly. While absolutely free from personal vanity or pride of intellect, no man could be more dignified on occasion than was this rare combination of bodily beauty and mental greatness. His courtly manners were neither the product of culture nor the garb of policy. They were born with him.

Even when a little child he was noted for his winning qualities. "His smile was irresistible," writes his sister, "but I think his greatest charm was in his manner. From earliest childhood he was a favorite with everybody, and yet the wildest boy in Dowth. If any mischievous act was committed in the neighborhood, John was blamed, yet everybody loved him and would hide him from my father when in disgrace."

The same was true of his life in barracks and in prison. The magnetism of the boyish soldier won more converts to treason than his fervid eloquence. Even the uncompromising loyalty and Protestantism of an Orangeman from the "black North" succumbed to his fascination and did not recover from the spell until the Fenian malgré lui found himself a life convict and wondered how it had come about. From a dozen letters written by O'Reilly to his heart--