The Child-Who-Was-Tired

She was just beginning to walk along a little white road with tall black trees on either side, a little road that led to nowhere, and where nobody walked at all, when a hand gripped her shoulder, shook her, slapped her ear.

“Oh, oh, don’t stop me,” cried the Child-Who-Was-Tired. “Let me go.”

“Get up, you good-for-nothing brat,” said a voice; “get up and light the oven or I’ll shake every bone out of your body.”

With an immense effort she opened her eyes, and saw the Frau standing by, the baby bundled under one arm. The three other children who shared the same bed with the Child-Who-Was-Tired, accustomed to brawls, slept on peacefully. In a corner of the room the Man was fastening his braces.

“What do you mean by sleeping like this the whole night through—like a sack of potatoes? You’ve let the baby wet his bed twice.”

She did not answer, but tied her petticoat string, and buttoned on her plaid frock with cold, shaking fingers.

“There, that’s enough. Take the baby into the kitchen with you, and heat that cold coffee on the spirit lamp for the master, and give him the loaf of black bread out of the table drawer. Don’t guzzle it yourself or I’ll know.”

The Frau staggered across the room, flung herself on to her bed, drawing the pink bolster round her shoulders.

It was almost dark in the kitchen. She laid the baby on the wooden settle, covering him with a shawl, then poured the coffee from the earthenware jug into the saucepan, and set it on the spirit lamp to boil.

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