Martin's house, he added, "Better go round by the woods, where you won't meet ANY ONE." He liked his little protege ever since that unfortunate child a waif from a Chinese wash-house was impounded by some indignant miners for bringing home a highly imperfect and insufficient washing, and kept as hostage for a more proper return of the garments.
The upper floor was, as usual, appropriated to the bedrooms; on the lower, the two smaller rooms were now used only as a wash-house and a lumber-room; while one of the larger was fitted up as a kitchen, and furnished with dressers, on which the metal utensils for cookery shone clean and polished as silver.
To take merely the Rue de la Goutte-d'Or, she no longer dared pass in front of the grocer's, nor the charcoal-dealer's, nor the greengrocer's; and this obliged her, whenever she required to be at the wash-house, to go round by the Rue des Poissonniers, which was quite ten minutes out of her way. The tradespeople came and treated her as a swindler.
Again she tried the door; it were not locked, but summat heavy lay agen it. She pushed hard, and got it a bit open. She just saw summat as looked like a woman's dress. Then she shrieked out, and fell down in a faint. The neighbours came running up. They went in by the wash-house door, and found Ruth Canters lying dead agen the house door inside, and the baby smothered under her.
But the words died on her lips, and she ambled off to the wash-house without speaking. The atmosphere cleared when Hervey mounted his horse and rode off. His mother looked after him, sighed and shrugged; then she went on with her work with a touch of her old cheerful manner about her.
He realized that Hugh must be playing some sort of a game, and yet strange to say he was unable to fathom it. Arriving at the old cabin used partly as a wash-house, and with the rear devoted to Brutus' "playthings," they entered. Sarah held the lamp while Hugh started to scan the floor earnestly, moving around as he looked. All at once he stooped and picked something up.
For, they said, if he died at the wash-house, he would come back there; and then all the Chinamen would leave, or they would have to move the house. His grandmother, the boy said, came back in a blue flame, and asked for something to eat, and they had to move the house; then she came back to where the house stood before, but could not get any farther.
There was a small yard outside, roughly paved with cobbles, but clean, and bordered here and there with bright clusters of flowers, and in one particularly sunny corner where the warmth from the skies had made the cobbles quite hot, a tiny white kitten rolled on its back, making the most absurd efforts to catch its own tail between its forepaws, and a promising brood of fowls were clucking contentedly round some scattered grain lately flung out from the window of the "Trusty Man's" wash-house for their delectation.
The child sitting playing in the ring of warm firelight in the adjoining room heard that last cry, and startled, dropped his toys, looking with round eyes to the blackness beyond the open door. He listened with one tiny finger in his mouth for many minutes, but no further sound came to disturb him from the wash-house, and he went on playing.
No, even this gives no true idea of that worst of domestic afflictions a poor man can suffer house-cleaning. The washing is confined to the kitchen or wash-house, and the effect visible in the dining-room is in cold or badly cooked meals; with a few other matters not necessary to mention here. But in the house-cleaning oh, dear!