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Under The Willow Tree

His thoughts were far more extravagant, which is just like a man. He dreamed that he was a street urchin, and that he had four pennies all his own, and that he bought the maiden and ate her up.

"So they lay on the counter for days and weeks, and grew dry, but the thoughts of the maiden remained still gentle and womanly.

" 'It's enough for me that I have lived on the same table with him, ' thought the maiden, and then she broke in two.

" 'If only she had known of my love she would have held together a little longer,' thought he.

"So that's the story, and here they are, both of them," said the baker. "They're remarkable for their strange history and for their silent love, which never came to anything. And now they're both for you!" With that he gave Johanne the man, who was still in one piece, and Knud got the broken maiden; but the children had been so touched by the story that they couldn't be so bold as to eat up the lovers.

Next day they took them out to the Kjöge churchyard, where, winter and summer, lovely ivy covers the church wall like a rich carpet. They stood the two cake figures up among the green leaves in the bright sunshine and told a group of other children the story of the silent love that was useless; that is to say, the love was, for the story was charming, they all found.

But when they looked again at the gingerbread couple they found that a mischievous big boy had eaten up the broken maiden. The children cried about that and later - probably so that the poor lover might not be left alone in the world - they ate him up, too. But they never forgot the story. The two children were always together by the elder tree or under the willow, and little Johanne sang the most beautiful songs in a voice as clear as a silver bell. Knud had not a note of music in him, but at least he knew the words of the songs, and that was something. But the people of Kjöge, even the wife of the hardware merchant, stopped and listened when Johanne sang. "She has a very sweet voice, that little girl," she said.

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