(She was nothing part 1). The boy drew the bottle from his pocket, and the mother put it to her lips, and drank a little.
“Ah, how much good that does, and how it warms me,” she said; “it is as good as a hot meal, and not so dear. Drink a little, my boy; you look quite pale; you are shivering in your thin clothes, and autumn has really come. Oh, how cold the water is! I hope I shall not be ill. But no, I must not be afraid of that. Give me a little more, and you may have a sip too, but only a sip; you must not get used to it, my poor, dear child.” She stepped up to the bridge on which the boy stood as she spoke, and came on shore. The water dripped from the straw mat which she had bound round her body, and from her gown. “I work hard and suffer pain with my poor hands,” said she, “but I do it willingly, that I may be able to bring you up honestly and truthfully, my dear boy.”
At the same moment, a woman, rather older than herself, came towards them. She was a miserable-looking object, lame of one leg, and with a large false curl hanging down over one of her eyes, which was blind. This curl was intended to conceal the blind eye, but it made the defect only more visible. She was a friend of the laundress, and was called, among the neighbors, “Lame Martha, with the curl.” “Oh, you poor thing; how you do work, standing there in the water!” she exclaimed. “You really do need something to give you a little warmth, and yet spiteful people cry out about the few drops you take.” And then Martha repeated to the laundress, in a very few minutes, all that the mayor had said to her boy, which she had overheard; and she felt very angry that any man could speak, as he had done, of a mother to her own child, about the few drops she had taken; and she was still more angry because, on that very day, the mayor was going to have a dinner-party, at which there would be wine, strong, rich wine, drunk by the bottle. “Many will take more than they ought, but they don’t call that drinking! They are all right, you are good for nothing indeed!” cried Martha indignantly.
“And so he spoke to you in that way, did he, my child?” said the washer-woman, and her lips trembled as she spoke. “He you have a mother who is good for nothing. Well, perhaps he is right, but he should not have said it to my child. How much has happened to me from that house!”
“Yes,” said Martha; “I remember you were in service there, and lived in the house when the mayor’s parents were alive; how many years ago that is. Bushels of salt have been eaten since then, and people may well be thirsty,” and Martha smiled. “The mayor’s great dinner-party to-day ought to have been put off, but the news came too late. The footman told me the dinner was already cooked, when a letter came to say that the mayor’s younger brother in Copenhagen is dead.” …… (she was good for nothing part 3)