She Was Good for Nothing
It's just as good as hot food, and it isn't as expensive! Drink, my boy! You look so pale, and you're freezing in your thin clothes. Remember it is autumn. Ooh, the water is cold! If only I don't get ill! But I won't. Give me a little more, and drink some yourself, but only a little drop, for you mustn't get used to it, my poor dear child!"
And she walked out of the water and up onto the bridge where the boy stood. The water dripped from the straw mat that she had tied around her waist and from her petticoat.
"I work and slave till the blood runs out at my fingernails, but I do it gladly if I can bring you up honestly, my sweet child!"
Just then came an elderly woman, poorly clad, lame in one leg, and with an enormously large, false curl hanging down over one of her eyes, which was blind. This curl was supposed to hide the eye, but it only made the defect the more conspicuous. The neighbors called her "limping Maren with the curl," and she was an old friend of the washerwoman's.
"You poor thing," she cried, "slaving and toiling in the cold water! You certainly need something to warm you a little, and yet the gossips cry about the few drops you take!" And soon all that the Mayor had said to the boy was repeated to his mother, for Maren had overheard it, and it had angered her to hear him talk so to the child about his own mother and the few drops she took, because on that same day the Mayor was having a big dinner party with many bottles of wine.
"Good wine, strong wine! Many will drink more than they should, but they don't call that drinking. They are all right, but you are good for nothing!"
"What! Did the Mayor really say that, child?" asked the laundress, her lips quivering. "So you have a mother who is good for nothing! Perhaps he's right, though he shouldn't say so to a child. But I mustn't complain; good things have come to me from that house."
"Why, yes, you were in service there, when the Mayor's parents were alive. That was many years ago. Many bushels of salt have been eaten since then, so people may well be thirsty!