Under The Willow Tree
The country around the town of Kjöge is very bare. The town itself lies by the seashore, which is always beautiful, although it might be more beautiful than it is, because all around are flat fields, and a forest a long way off. But one always finds something beautiful in the spot that is one's own home, something for which one longs, even when one is in the most wonderful spot in the world.
And we must admit that the outer edge of Kjöge, where small, humble gardens line the little stream that flows into the sea, could be very pretty in the summertime. This was the opinion of the two small children, Knud and Johanne, who were playing there, crawling under the gooseberry bushes to reach each other.
In one of the gardens there stood an elder tree, in the other an old willow, and under the latter the children were especially fond of playing. Although the tree stood close beside the stream and they might easily have fallen into the water, they were allowed to play there, for the eye of God watches over little ones. Otherwise they would be very badly off indeed. Besides, these two were careful about the water; in fact, the boy was so afraid of it that in the summer he could not be lured into the sea, where the other children were fond of splashing about. As a result, he had to bear the teasing of the others as best he could.
But once Johanne, the little girl, dreamed she was out in a boat, and Knud waded out to join her, with the water rising until it closed over his head. And from the moment little Knud heard of this dream he could no longer bear to be called a coward. He might really go into the water now, he said, since Johanne had dreamed it. He never carried that idea into practice, but for all that the dream remained his great pride.
Their poor parents often came together, while Knud and Johanne played in the gardens or on the highroad, where a long row of willows had been planted along the ditch. These trees with their polled tops certainly did not look very beautiful, but they were there for use rather than for ornament.