Under The Willow Tree
His new workshop was close to one of the old stone bridges, by an ever-foaming, low water mill. The stream roared past it, hemmed in by the houses, whose decayed old balconies looked about to topple into the water. No elder grew here - there was not even a little green plant in a flowerpot - but just opposite stood a grand old willow tree that seemed to cling fast to the house, as if it feared being carried away by the stream. It stretched its branches out over the river, just as the willow at Kjöge spread its arms across the stream by the gardens of home.
Yes, Knud had gone from the Elder Mother to the Willow Father. This tree had something, especially on moonlit evenings, that went straight to his heart, and that something was not of the moonlight but of the old willow tree itself.
He could not remain there. Why not? Ask the willow tree; ask the blossoming elder! And so he bade farewell to his kind master and to Nuremberg and traveled on further.
To no one did he speak of Johanne, but hid his sorrow in his innermost heart; and he thought of the deep meaning of the old story of the gingerbread. Now he understood why the man had a bitter almond for a heart - he himself had felt the bitterness of it. And Johanne, who was always so gentle and smiling, she was only like the honey cake.
The strap of Knud's knapsack seemed so tight across his chest that he could scarcely breathe, but even when he loosened it he was not relieved. He saw only half the world around him; the other half he carried within him. That's how it was!
Not until he was in sight of the high mountains did the world appear freer to him; now his thoughts were turned outward again, and the tears came into his eyes.
The Alps seemed to him like the folded wings of the earth; what if they were to unfold themselves and display their varied pictures of black woods, foaming waters, clouds, and great masses of snow! On the last day, he thought, the world will lift up its mighty wings and mount upward to God, to burst like a soap bubble before the glance of the Highest.