Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/431

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

liberal. He hated to discharge anybody, and seldom or never did so until he had secured him a new situation. "I'd give So-and-so five hundred dollars," he once said, "if he would only tender his resignation; but he wont," he added, in whimsically sorrowful tone, "and of course I can't tell him to go."

When he had a serious literary task to do, such as the preparation of a great poem or speech, he would engage a room in a hotel in which he would shut himself up, and say to himself: "Boyle O'Reilly, you have got this task before you, and you shall not play, you shall not see your dear wife and children, you shall not go to your home until it is finished; you shall stay right here, in this room, until you have done it." And sometimes days would go by, while he would subject himself to this strain, doing nothing in this room where he had immured himself but waiting for the inspiration to come to him. When the task was finished he would come forth looking like a man who had suffered a week's severe illness, and would ask his friends for their criticism, not their eulogy, of his work.

Mr. Moseley has noticed a peculiarity which, as he shrewdly guessed, was the result of O'Reilly's prison life.

When walking abstractedly and mechanically, he always walked a short distance and then retraced his steps, no matter how wide a stretch he had before him. It was always three paces forward, turn, and three paces back, exactly like the restless turning of a lion in a cage. One day I asked him, "Boyle, what was the length of your cell when you were in prison? How many paces?" He said, "Three; why do you ask?" "Because," I replied, "when you are absentminded you always walk three paces forward, and then retrace your steps."

It was literally the only outward and visible legacy of that sad experience,—an experience which had chastened and molded the whole soul of the man. In twenty years of acquaintance and more than seven years of close personal intimacy, in the abandon of the club or the café I have never heard fall from his lips a word which might