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Under The Willow Tree

Such grief is not for the world, for it is not amusing; nor is it for friends. And this man had no friends; a stranger, he wandered through strange lands toward his home in the North. He had received only one letter from home, and it was now years since his parents had written. "You are not really Danish as we here at home. We love our country, but you love only a strange country." Thus his parents had written him - yes, they thought they knew him!

Now it was evening. He was tramping along the public highway. The frost had settled down, and the country had become flatter, with fields and meadows on all sides. And near the road there grew a great willow tree! The whole outlook reminded Knud strongly of home; it looked so Danish, and with a deep sigh he sat down under the tree. He was very tired, his head began to nod, and his eyes closed in slumber, but still he seemed to see the tree stretching its arms above him, and in his wandering fancy the tree seemed to be a mighty old man - the Willow Father himself - carrying his tired son in his arms back to his Danish home, to the bare, bleak shore of Kjöge and the garden of his childhood.

Yes, he dreamed that this was the willow tree of Kjöge that had traveled out into the world in search of him, and at last had found him, and had carried him back into the little garden beside the stream. And there stood Johanne, in all her splendor, with the golden crown on her head, just as he had seen her last, and she called out "Welcome!" to him.

And before him stood two remarkable figures, looking much more human than he remembered them from his childhood. They had changed too, but they were still the two gingerbread cakes, the man and the maiden, that turned their right sides toward him, and looked very handsome.

"We thank you!" both said to Knud. "You have loosened our tongues and taught us that thoughts should be spoken freely or nothing will come of them. And now something has come of them - we are betrothed!"

Then they walked hand in hand through the street s of Kjöge, and looked very respectable even on the wrong side; no one could have found any fault with them.

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