“It was early Spring, and the river was in flood; they were going to Regensburg to unload there, take fresh cargo, and back to Linz. As soon as the mist began to clear, the bargeman hid me in the straw. At Passau was the frontier; they lay there for the night, but nothing happened, and I slept in the straw. The next day I lay out on the barge deck; there was no mist, but I was free—the sun shone gold on the straw and the green sacking; the water seemed to dance, and I laughed—I laughed all the time, and the barge man laughed with me. A fine fellow he was! At Regensburg I helped them to unload; for more than a week we worked; they nicknamed me baldhead, and when it was all over I gave the money I earned for the unloading to the big bargeman. We kissed each other at parting. I had still three of the gulden that Luigi gave me, and I went to a house-painter and got work with him. For six months I stayed there to save money; then I wrote to my mother’s cousin in Vienna, and told him I was going to London. He gave me an introduction to some friends there. I went to Hamburg, and from there to London in a cargo steamer, and I’ve never been back till now.”
After a minute’s silence Christian said in a startled voice: “They could arrest you then!”
“If they knew; but it’s seven years ago.”
“Why did you come here, when it’s so dangerous?”
“I had been working too hard, I wanted to see my country—after seven years, and when it’s forbidden! But I’m ready to go back now.” He looked down at her, frowning.
“Had you a hard time in London, too?”
“Harder, at first—I couldn’t speak the language. In my profession it’s hard work to get recognised, it’s hard work to make a living. There are too many whose interest it is to keep you down—I shan’t forget them.”
“But every one is not like that?”
“No; there are fine fellows, too. I shan’t forget them either. I can sell my pictures now; I’m no longer weak, and I promise you I shan’t forget. If in the future I have power, and I shall have power—I shan’t forget.”
A shower of fine gravel came rattling on the wall. Dawney was standing below them with an amused expression on his upturned face.