Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/94

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Again he recalls his Dartmoor life in the letter from "James Sydney," one of the royalist prisoners, who remains behind in Dartmoor after his comrades have escaped. The letter reads:

Since your escape I have been under the strictest surveillance, and as I have recovered from my gout I have been set to work upon the ignoble task of breaking stones into small bits with a hammer. I am known as No. 5, and am called by no other name. Imagine me, who found it so difficult to look out for Number One, having to care for No. 5. Indeed, I should find it well-nigh impossible were it not for the assistance which I have from the warders and turnkeys, who look after me with a touching solicitude. No physician could have kept me to a regimen so suitable for my health as strictly as they. You remember how I used to enjoy lying abed in the morning. What a pleasure it was to wake up, to feel that the busy world was astir around you, and lie half awake, half asleep, stretching your toes into cool recesses of a soft, luxurious bed. But it made me idle, very idle. But now I must be off my hard cot, be dressed and have my cot made up by half-past five; then I breakfast off a piece of bread, washed down with a pint of unsweetened rye coffee, innocent of milk, drunk au naturel out of a tin pail. And how I wish for my after-breakfast cigar and the Times, as I put my hands upon a fellow-convict's shoulder and march in slow procession to my task. The work of breaking a large piece of stone into smaller bits with a hammer is not an intellectual one; but it has got me into tolerable training; I have lost twenty pounds already, and am, as we used to say at the university, as "hard as nails." I am afraid that my old trousers, which my tailor used to let out year by year, would be a world too large for my shrunk shanks now. I dine at noon, as you remember, and for the first time in my life I do not dress for dinner; indeed, a white cravat and a dress coat would be inappropriate when one sits down to bean porridge and boiled beef served in the same tin plate. But I have a good appetite after my pulverizing of the morning, and I am not compelled to set the table in a roar under duress. I am surprised what good things I think of now that I am not expected to and have no one to whom to say them. Jawkins would double my salary could he get me out. Rye coffee is a poor substitute for Chambertin, but it does not aggravate my gout. After dinner I return to my stone-breaking, and feel with delight my growing biceps muscle, and after my supper, which is monotonously like my breakfast, I tackle the tracts which are left with me by kindly souls. They are of a class of literature which I have neglected since childhood, having, as you may remember, a leaning toward "facetiæ." In fact, since my great-aunt's withdrawal to another world, where it may be hoped that