Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/93

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59
HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

unfortunate Frenchmen. In 1813 the young republic of America went to war with England, and hundreds of American captives were added to the Frenchmen. During the years of their confinement scores of these poor fellows died, and one day the Americans mutinied, and then other scores were shot down in the main yard. This field was the graveyard of those prisoners, and here the strangers slept for over half a century, till their bones were washed out of the hillside by the rainstorms. There happened to be in Dartmoor at that time a party of Irish rebels, and they asked permission to collect the bones and bury them securely. The Irishmen raised this cairn and obelisk to the Americans and Frenchmen, and now, after another hundred years, we are sent to repair their loving testimonial."

"It is an interesting story," said Featherstone.

"A sad story for old men," said the Duke.

"A brave story for boys," said Mr. Sydney; "I could lift this obelisk itself for sympathy."

They went on, working and chatting in low tones, till an exclamation from Sydney made them look up. Sydney was on top of the cairn, scraping the lichens from the obelisk. The moss was hard to cut, and had formed a crust, layer on layer, half an inch in thickness.

"What is it, my dear Sydney? " asked the Duke.

"An inscription!" cried Sydney, scraping away. "An inscription nearly a hundred years old. I have uncovered the year—see, 1867."

"Ay," said Geoffrey, "that was the year the Irish were here."

Featherstone had gone to Sydney's assistance, and with the aid of a sharp flint soon uncovered the whole inscription. It ran thus:


Sacred to the Memory of the

FRENCH AND AMERICAN PRISONERS
OF WAR,

Who died in Dartmoor Prison during the
Years 1811-16.


Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.


Underneath were the words, "Erected 1867."

There is no fiction in this last incident. O'Reilly and his fellow-prisoners actually erected such a cairn over the bones of the massacred Americans, which the prison pigs were rooting up.