Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/97

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

to save himself as far as possible from the indignities of his condition by paying strict obedience to the prison rules; but he never despaired of effecting his escape, nor neglected any promising opportunity to that end. During his Dartmoor term he made his third break for freedom.

The authorities were accustomed to station sentries at certain elevated points on the moor, to watch the drain-cutting parties of prisoners, and to signal the approach of a fog which they could see rolling in from seaward. Upon the signals being given, the warders would summon the working parties in the drains and gather them all within the prison walls. O'Reilly was working in a gang of drain-diggers in charge of one Captain Hodges. With him was another Fenian ex-soldier, Michael Lavin, who tells an interesting story of his comrade's desperate break for liberty. O'Reilly had secretly made himself a suit of clothes from one of the coarse sheets with which each prisoner was supplied, skillfully arranging his bundle of bedding so that the sheet was not missed. He told Lavin one day that he had made up his mind to escape. Accordingly, on the first appearance of an opportune fog, he hid himself in the drain when his fellow-prisoners obeyed the warders' summons to return to the prison yard. Before his absence was discovered he had made his way well out of the bounds. Search was immediately instituted, but he evaded pursuit during two days and nights.

Once he was so closely followed that he took refuge on the top of an old house, and lay concealed behind the smoke-stack until the guards had gone by. Thence he dropped into a dyke communicating with the river, intending at nightfall to swim the latter in the hope of making his way to the seacoast. For a long time he lay thus hidden, holding to the bank by one hand, while the guards patrolled overhead without perceiving him. An officer stationed some distance off closely watched the place with a field-glass. His suspicions were aroused by perceiving a ripple on the water, and he communicated with the guards, who thereupon discovered the fugitive and brought him back to