THE mayor stood at the open window. He looked smart, for his shirt-frill, in which he had stuck a breast-pin, and his ruffles, were very fine. He had shaved his chin uncommonly smooth, although he had cut himself slightly, and had stuck a piece of newspaper over the place. “Hark ‘ee, youngster!” cried he.
The boy to whom he spoke was no other than the son of a poor washer-woman, who was just going past the house. He stopped, and respectfully took off his cap. The peak of this cap was broken in the middle, so that he could easily roll it up and put it in his pocket. He stood before the mayor in his poor but clean and well-mended clothes, with heavy wooden shoes on his feet, looking as humble as if it had been the king himself.
“You are a good and civil boy,” said the mayor. “I suppose your mother is busy washing the clothes down by the river, and you are going to carry that thing to her that you have in your pocket. It is very bad for your mother. How much have you got in it?”
“Only half a quartern,” stammered the boy in a frightened voice.
“And she has had just as much this morning already?”
“No, it was yesterday,” replied the boy.
“Two halves make a whole,” said the mayor. “She’s good for nothing. What a sad thing it is with these people. Tell your mother she ought to be ashamed of herself. Don’t you become a drunkard, but I expect you will though. Poor child! there, go now.”
The boy went on his way with his cap in his hand, while the wind fluttered his golden hair till the locks stood up straight. He turned round the corner of the street into the little lane that led to the river, where his mother stood in the water by her washing bench, beating the linen with a heavy wooden bar. The floodgates at the mill had been drawn up, and as the water rolled rapidly on, the sheets were dragged along by the stream, and nearly overturned the bench, so that the washer-woman was obliged to lean against it to keep it steady. “I have been very nearly carried away,” she said; “it is a good thing that you are come, for I want something to strengthen me. It is cold in the water, and I have stood here six hours. Have you brought anything for me?” ( she was good for nothing part 2 | H.C Andersen)