Complete Project Gutenberg John Galsworthy Works eBook

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he looked in the mist, like a big bird flapping its wings; there was a good smell of coffee, and I sneezed.  How the fellow started!  But presently he took a pitchfork and prodded the straw.  Then I stood up.  I couldn’t help laughing, he was so surprised—­a huge, dark man, with a great black beard.  I pointed to the fire and said ‘Give me some, brother!’ He pulled me out of the straw; I was so stiff, I couldn’t move.  I sat by the fire, and ate black bread and turnips, and drank coffee; while he stood by, watching me and muttering.  I couldn’t understand him well—­he spoke a dialect from Hungary.  He asked me:  How I got there—­who I was—­where I was from?  I looked up in his face, and he looked down at me, sucking his pipe.  He was a big man, he lived alone on the river, and I was tired of telling lies, so I told him the whole thing.  When I had done he just grunted.  I can see him now standing over me, with the mist hanging in his beard, and his great naked arms.  He drew me some water, and I washed and showed him my wig and moustache, and threw them overboard.  All that day we lay out on the barge in the mist, with our feet to the fire, smoking; now and then he would spit into the ashes and mutter into his beard.  I shall never forget that day.  The steamer was like a monster with fiery nostrils, and the other barges were dumb creatures with eyes, where the fires were; we couldn’t see the bank, but now and then a bluff and high trees, or a castle, showed in the mist.  If I had only had paint and canvas that day!” He sighed.

“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.”

XI

After a minute’s silence Christian said in a startled voice:  “They could arrest you then!”

Harz laughed.

“If they knew; but it’s seven years ago.”

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Complete Project Gutenberg John Galsworthy Works from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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