488 SHE WAS GOOD FOR NOTHING
in the water ! ' cried the visitor. ' You really require something to warm you ; and yet malicious folks cry out about the few drops you take !'
And in a few minutes' time the mayor's late speech was reported to the laundress ; for Martha had heard it all, and she had been angry that a man could speak as he had done to a woman's own child, about the few drops the mother took; and she was the more angry, because the mayor on that very day was giving a great feast, at which wine was drunk by the bottle—good wine, strong wine.
' A good many will take more than they need—but that's not called drinking. They are good ; but you are good for nothing ! ' cried Martha, indignantly.
* Ah, so he spoke to you, my child ? ' said the washerwoman ; and her lips trembled as she spoke. ' So he says you have a mother who is good for nothing ? Well, perhaps he 's right, but he should not have said it to my child. Still, I have had much misfortune from that house.'
1 You were in service there when the mayor's parents were alive, and lived in that house. That is many years ago : many bushels of salt have been eaten since then, and we may well be thirsty ; ' and Martha smiled. ' The mayor has a great dinner-party to-day. The guests were to have been put off, but it was too late, and the dinner was already cooked. The footman told me about it. A letter came a little while ago, to say that the younger brother had died in Copenhagen.'
' Died % ' repeated the laundress—and she became pale as death.
' Yes, certainly,' said Martha. ' Do you take that so much to heart ? Well, you must have known him years ago, when you were in service in the house.'
' Is he dead ? He was such a good, worthy man ! There are not many like him.' And the tears rolled down her cheeks. ' Good gracious ! everything is whirling around me—it was too much for me. I feel quite ill.' And she leaned against the plank.
6 Good gracious, you are ill indeed ! ' exclaimed the other woman. ' Come, come, it will pass over presently.