Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/91

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57
HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

was plenty of humor, and a good deal of wisdom disguised as humor, in the extravagant pictures drawn by the four young authors. George the Fifth had fled from his rebellious subjects and taken refuge in America. The French republic, "over seventy years old," and the commonwealths of Germany, thirty-three years old, the aristocratic republic of Russia, and the other democratic governments of the world were prosperous, as the British republic, also, had been under "0'Donovan Rourke, the first president, and his two famous ministers, Jonathan Sims and Richard Lincoln." Some belated royalists plotted to overthrow the republic and restore the monarchy. Their conspiracy came to naught, and they were sent into penal servitude. O'Reilly thus sketches the fate of the conspirators:

It was part of the policy of Bagshaw's government thus to march them through the streets, a spectacle, like a caravan of caged beasts, for the populace. Geoffrey thought to himself, curiously, of the old triumphs of the Roman emperors he had read about as a school-boy. Then, as now, the people needed bread and loved a show. But the people, even then, had caught something of the dignity of power. Silently they pressed upon the sidewalks and thronged the gardens by the river. Not a voice was raised in mockery of these few men; there is something in the last extremity of misfortune which commands respect, even from the multitude. And, perhaps, even then, the first fruits of freedom might have been marked in their manner; and magnanimity, the first virtue of liberty, kept the London rabble hushed.

The convicts were sent to Dartmoor Prison, which is graphically described by its old inmate. The picture is accurate, barring the slight poetical license appropriate to a fiction of the future:

In the center of its wide waste of barren hills, huge granite outcroppings, and swampy valleys, the gloomy prison of Dartmoor stood wrapped in mist, one dismal morning in the March following the Royalist outbreak. Its two centuries of unloved existence in the midst of a wild land and fitful climate, had seared every wall-tower and gateway with lines and patches of decay and discoloration. Originally built of brown stone, the years had deepened the tint almost to blackness in the larger stretches of outer wall and unwindowed gable.

On this morning the dark walls dripped with the weeping atmosphere, and the voice of the huge prison bell in the main yard sounded distant and strange, like a storm-bell in a fog at sea.