Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/53

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

who held out longest would suffer the worst, were arguments strong enough to weaken many a man who would not have wavered if ordered to charge a battery. The warden who had immediate charge of O'Reilly was an old soldier and an Englishman. As a loyal subject he hated treason; but, as a soldier, he bore no love for a traitor to his fellows. As in duty bound he officially countenanced the efforts of the authorities to secure evidence by any and all means. One day, just before that fixed for the trial, another official labored for the last time long and earnestly to extort a confession from O'Reilly, assuring him that others had owned up and that it would be suicidal folly in him to remain silent when he could secure pardon by telling all he knew. The warden, who was present, threw in an occasional perfunctory remark to the same effect. As the prisoner continued obdurate, the official took his leave, with a parting warning of the dread consequences. The warden accompanied him to the door, adding his word of advice: "Yes, you'd better do as he says, O'Reilly. It will be better for you to save your own neck, my boy."

Then closing the door on the visitor and wheeling sharply round, "And, damme! I'd like to choke you with my own hands if you do!"

Another interesting story of this period attaches to one of the very few of his early poems which he judged worthy of preservation in his collected work—"The Old School Clock." The manuscripts of that and some other verses were discovered hidden in the ventilator of the cell occupied by a fellow-prisoner, after his trial and deportation to England. It fell into the hands of Mr. Vere Foster, the celebrated philanthropist, who sent copies to the young poet's family, and took such an especial liking to "The Old School Clock," that he printed it, with a picture of the old and the new clocks, as described in the poem, on the back of the National School copy-books, which were manufactured by him. The original clock was one which hung on the wall of the Netterville schoolroom. On revisiting home, while serving in the Tenth Hussars, O'Reilly missed the old