Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/95

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.
the stones are more brittle and the coffee better, I have seen none. I cannot say that I have been comforted by the tracts, but I have been interested by them, and I spend the brief hours of leisure which are vouchsafed to me in annotating my editions.

Few who read this light and good-humored complaint of the imaginary royalist conspirator can have conceived any idea of the horrors actually endured and silently forgiven by its victim. I would gladly dismiss the painful story, but other pens have told it all; and the world that knew John Boyle O'Reilly as the refined, courtly gentleman and the magnanimous Christian, should know also in what a rough school he learned to be gentle—through what cruel tortures he learned to be merciful.

If Dartmoor had been deliberately chosen and systematically conducted as an engine of torture, it could not have better served its purpose of breaking body and mind, heart and soul. The prison cells were of iron, seven feet long by four feet wide, and a little over seven feet high: ventilated by an opening of two or three inches at the bottom of the door, some of them having a few holes for the escape of foul air at the top of the cell walls. They were oppressively warm in summer, and dismally cold in winter.

"Fresh" air came from the corridors, whence also came the only light enjoyed by the inmates, through a pane of thick, semi-opaque glass.

The food was so bad that only starving men, such as they were, could stomach it. It was often too filthy even for their appetites. "It was quite a common occurrence in Dartmoor," says Michael Davitt, "for men to be reported and punished for eating candles, boot-oil, and other repulsive, articles; but, notwithstanding that a highly offensive smell is purposely given to prison candles to prevent their being eaten instead of burnt, men are driven by a system of half-starvation into animal-like voracity, and anything that a dog could eat is nowise repugnant to their taste. I have even seen men eating—" but the heart sickens at the relation of what Mr. Davitt has seen, and we cannot but think with horror of such a degradation being set before