(She was Good for nothing part 2). “Dead!” cried the laundress, turning pale as death.
“Yes, certainly,” replied Martha; “but why do you take it so much to heart? I suppose you knew him years ago, when you were in service there?”
“Is he dead?” she exclaimed. “Oh, he was such a kind, good-hearted man, there are not many like him,” and the tears rolled down her cheeks as she spoke. Then she cried, “Oh, dear me; I feel quite ill: everything is going round me, I cannot bear it. Is the bottle empty?” and she leaned against the plank.
“Dear me, you are ill indeed,” said the other woman. “Come, cheer up; perhaps it will pass off. No, indeed, I see you are really ill; the best thing for me to do is to lead you home.”
“But my washing yonder?”
“I will take care of that. Come, give me your arm. The boy can stay here and take care of the linen, and I’ll come back and finish the washing; it is but a trifle.”
The limbs of the laundress shook under her, and she said, “I have stood too long in the cold water, and I have had nothing to eat the whole day since the morning. O kind Heaven, help me to get home; I am in a burning fever. Oh, my poor child,” and she burst into tears. And he, poor boy, wept also, as he sat alone by the river, near to and watching the damp linen.
The two women walked very slowly. The laundress slipped and tottered through the lane, and round the corner, into the street where the mayor lived; and just as she reached the front of his house, she sank down upon the pavement. Many persons came round her, and Lame Martha ran into the house for help. The mayor and his guests came to the window.
“Oh, it is the laundress,” said he; “she has had a little drop too much. She is good for nothing. It is a sad thing for her pretty little son. I like the boy very well; but the mother is good for nothing.”
After a while the laundress recovered herself, and they led her to her poor dwelling, and put her to bed. Kind Martha warmed a mug of beer for her, with butter and sugar– she considered this the best medicine- and then hastened to the river, washed and rinsed, badly enough, to be sure, but she did her best. Then she drew the linen ashore, wet as it was, and laid it in a basket. Before evening, she was sitting in the poor little room with the laundress. The mayor’s cook had given her some roasted potatoes and a beautiful piece of fat for the sick woman. Martha and the boy enjoyed these good things very much; but the sick woman could only say that the smell was very nourishing, she thought. By-and-by the boy was put to bed, in the same bed as the one in which his mother lay; but he slept at her feet, covered with an old quilt made of blue and white patchwork. The laundress felt a little better by this time. The warm beer had strengthened her, and the smell of the good food had been pleasant to her… (She was Good for Nothing part 4)