Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/98

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prison. For this offense he was given twenty-eight days in the punishment cells, his only nourishment being bread and water, save on every fourth day, when full rations were served. During all the time of his flight he had not eaten an ounce of food.

Four months were spent by O'Reilly in this dismal prison-house. Then came the welcome order of transfer to Portland, preparatory to transportation beyond the seas. While any change from the living hell of Dartmoor could not but be welcome to its inmates, the decree of transportation did not apply to all of the Irish convicts. McCarthy and Chambers were doomed to fret their souls away under the great and petty tortures of their English dungeons. For O'Reilly there was the boon of banishment to the furthest end of the earth, an inhospitable wilderness; and separation, probably forever, from the land of his birth and love, from the comrades whom a community of suffering had endeared to him. But it was a boon, for it was a change, and any change was welcome to one in such a plight as his. In an interview, published a few years ago, he thus told of how the good news came to him:

In October, '67, there were in Dartmoor prison six convicts, who, to judge from their treatment, must have been infinitely darker criminals than even the murderous-looking wretches around them. These men were distinguished by being allotted an extra amount of work, hunger, cold, and curses, together with the thousand bitter aids that are brought to bear in the enforcement of English prison discipline. At the time I now recall, three of those men were down in the social depths— indeed, with one exception, they were in prison for life,; and even in prison were considered as the most guilty and degraded there. This unusually hard course was the result of a dream they had been dreaming for years,— dreaming as they wheeled the heavy brick cars, dreaming as they hewed the frozen granite, dreaming as they breathed on their cold fingers in the dark penal cells, dreaming in the deep swamp-drain, dreaming awake and asleep, always dreaming of Liberty! That thought had never left them. They had attempted to realize it, and had failed. But the wild, stealthy thought would come back into their hearts and be cherished there. This was the result hunger, cold, and curses. The excitement was dead. There was nought left now but patience and submission. I have said that the excitement,