She Was Good for Nothing
That evening she appeared again in the washerwoman's miserable room. She had begged from the Mayor's cook a couple of roasted potatoes and a fine fat piece of ham for the sick woman. Maren and the boy feasted on these, but the patient was satisfied with the smell, "For that was very nourishing," she said.
The boy was put to bed, in the same one in which his mother slept, lying crosswise at his mother's feet, with a blanket of old blue and red carpet ends sewed together.
The laundress felt a little better now; the warm ale had given her strength, and the smell of the good food had been nourishing.
"Thank you, my kind friend," she said to Maren, "I'll tell you all about it, while the boy is asleep. He's sleeping already; see how sweet he looks with his eyes closed. He doesn't think of his mother's sufferings; may our Lord never let him feel their equal! Well, I was in service at the Councilor's, the Mayor' parents, when their youngest son came home from his studies. I was a carefree young girl then, but honest-I must say that before heaven. And the student was so pleasant and jolly; every drop of blood in his veins was honest and true; a better young man never lived. He was a son of the house, and I was only a servant, but we became sweethearts-all honorably; a kiss is no sin, after all, if people really love each other. And he told his mother that he loved me. She was an angel in his eyes, wise and kind and loving. And when he went away again he put his gold ring on my finger.
"After he had gone my mistress called me in to speak to me; she looked so grave and yet so kind, and spoke as wisely as an angel indeed. She pointed out to me the gulf of difference, both mentally and materially, that lay between her son and me. 'Now he is attracted by your good looks, but that will fade in time. You haven't received his education; intellectually you can never rise to his level. I honor the poor,' she continued, ' and I know that there is many a poor man who will sit in a higher seat in the kingdom of heaven than many a rich man; but that is no reason for crossing the barrier in this world.