486 SHE WAS GOOD FOR NOTHING
of the poor washerwoman, who was just going past the house ; and he pulled off his cap respectfully. The peak of the said cap was broken in the middle, for the cap was arranged so that it could be rolled up and crammed into his pocket. In his poor, but clean and well-mended attire, with heavy wooden shoes on his feet, the boy stood there, as humble as if he stood before the King himself.
1 You're a good boy,' said Mr. Mayor. ' You're a civil boy. I suppose your mother is rinsing clothes down in the river ? I suppose you are to carry that thing to your mother that you have in your pocket ? It's a bad affair with your mother. How much have you got there ? '
* Half a quartern,' stammered the boy, in a frightened voice.
' And this morning she had just as much,' the mayor continued.
1 No,' replied the boy, ' it was yesterday.'
' Two halves make a whole. She 's good for nothing ! It's a sad thing with that class of people ! Tell your mother that she ought to be ashamed of herseK ; and mind you don't become a drunkardóbut you will become one, though. Poor childóthere, go ! '
And the boy went. He kept his cap in his hand, and the wind played with his yellow hair, so that great locks of it stood up straight. He turned down by the street corner, into the little lane that led to the river, where his mother stood by the washing bench, beating the heavy linen with the mallet. The water rolled quickly along, for the flood≠gates at the mill had been drawn up, and the sheets were caught by the stream, and threatened to overturn the bench. The washerwoman was obliged to lean against the bench to support it.
*' I was very near sailing away,' she said. ' It is a good thing that you are come, for I need to recruit my strength a little. It is cold out here in the water, and I have been standing here for six hours. Have you brought anything for me ?'
The boy produced the bottle, and the mother put it to her mouth, and took a little.
' Ah, how that revives one ! ' said she : ' how it warms ! It is as good as a hot meal, and not so dear. And you, my