Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/49

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15
HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

tor's cup at last, and the awful hour comes when the informer cowers like a cur at the feet of the Shaughraun, and gasps in terror at the cries of the country people coming down the hillside in pursuit. Here stands out the rigid line that subtends the character of laughter-loving, but now terrible Conn. The drollery dies out of his face and the light freezes in his eye. Seizing the kneeling wretch by the throat, he laughs in his agonized face, as pitiless as Fate.

"'Listen to them,' he cries, pointing to the hillside; 'look at them! They are coming for you! Do you see that old man with the spade? That's Andy Donovan, whose son you sent to prison. And that old woman with the hatchet? That's Bridget Madigan, whose boys you sent across the sea. Pity! you dog! I'll have pity on you, as you had pity on them.'"

On the one side was pitted the might, and money, and influence of a great Empire; on the other, the reckless courage and uncalculating patriotism of the few and friendless, but generous-hearted dreamers like Boyle O'Reilly.

John Devoy, the indefatigable agent of the revolutionary party, tells how he first met the young Hussar who was to play such a prominent part in the after history of his country:

"I met him first in October, 1865, and the circumstances were characteristic of that troubled period of Irish history. The Tenth was quartered at Island Bridge Barracks, in the western outskirts of Dublin. There was a warrant for my arrest as a Fenian at the time, and I could not go home or attend to business. I had some acquaintance with the army, through living near the Curragh camp, and, when all the 'organizers' for the army had been arrested or forced to remain ' on their keeping,' James Stephens, the chief executive of the Irish republic that was to be, appointed me 'chief organizer' for the British army. The position involved some risks, but I undertook it, and in a few months laid up sufficient evidence to procure myself a sentence of fifteen years' penal servitude.