the box with eager fingers. To my horror he rooted out a small yellow
topaz, put it into his mouth and swallowed it. He thought I'd been
offering him candies. I watched him anxiously for days after, afraid
that he would die and that I should be accused of murdering him! But he
was a very tough boy and never seemed to notice the difference.
was Kainz who led the great sugar-beet raid. He was the leader of a
wild gang to which, as I rarely had a chance of being in the streets
alone after dark, I did not normally belong; and he had discovered that
at certain times of the year barges laden to the gunwale with
sugar-beet from Upper Austria were being tied up to the banks of the
Little Danube just beyond our schoolhouse. Just as it happened, I met
this precious gang, a dozen strong, walking in Indian file in the dusk,
when I was on my way in my best suit to a party. Each boy had a long
stick, into the end of which were driven two sharp nails making it a
kind of fork.
"Come and join the fun," shouted Kainz.
are you going to fight the Stadlers?" I demanded (the Stadlers being
our deadly enemies, the boys who lived on the other side of the Danube
we're going to have a feed of sugar-beets," said he, and before I knew
it I was one of the horde—party, best clothes and respectability all
forgotten. Soon we reached the water-front where the flat-bottomed
boats were moored. From some of these a series of long narrow planks
ran to the shore for the use of the stevedores. All work had stopped
for the day and few people were about.