Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/90

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

endured by them. McCarthy and Chambers underwent twelve years of torture in this and other prisons. They were released in 1878; the former to die in the arms of his friends within a few days; the latter, less fortunate, to drag out eleven years of broken health and unceasing pain. Both had been typical specimens of manly strength when they exchanged the British uniform for the convict's garb. O'Reilly, little given to talk of his own sufferings, could not restrain his indignation when speaking of the studied brutality inflicted upon his comrades. Writing of Chambers's death, which occurred on December 2, 1888, he thus recalls the Dartmoor days:

Here they were set to work on the marsh, digging deep drains, and carrying the wet peat in their arms, stacking it near the roadways for removal. For months they toiled in the drains, which were only two feet wide, and sunk ten feet in the morass. It was a labor too hard for brutes, the half-starved men, weakened by long confinement, standing in water from a foot to two feet deep, and spading the heavy peat out of the narrow cutting over their heads. Here it was that Chambers and McCarthy contracted the rheumatic and heart diseases which followed them to the end. McCarthy had left a wife and children out in the world, whose woes and wanderings through all the years had racked his heart even more than disease had his limbs, When at last the cell door was opened, and he was told that he was free, the unfortunate man, reaching toward his weeping wife, and his children grown out of his recollection, fell dead almost at the threshold of the prison. Chambers lingered till Sunday morning, his body a mass of aches and diseases that agonized every moment and defied and puzzled all the skill of the doctors. "They don't know what is the matter with me," he said with a smile, a few days ago, to a friend who called at the hospital to see him, "but I can tell them. They never saw a man before who was suffering from the drains of Dartmoor."

O'Reilly paints the same dark picture again in a fictitious work, whose most striking feature is the truthful sketch of prison life contributed by the ex-convict.

In 1884, in conjunction with Robert Grant, Fred. J. Stimson ("J. S. Dale"), and John T. Wheelwright, he wrote the clever, prophetical novel entitled, "The King's men: a Tale of To-morrow." It was a story of the reign of George the Fifth," and of the coming century. There