Under The Willow Tree
And everybody shouted and applauded, and Knud cried out, "Hurrah!"
Even the King was there, smiling at Johanne, and he seemed to delight in her loveliness. How small Knud felt then! Still he loved her dearly, and felt that she loved him, too; but he knew it was up to the man to speak the first word, as the gingerbread maiden in the story had taught him. Indeed, there was a great deal of truth in that story.
So, as soon as Sunday came, he went to see her again, feeling as solemn as if he were going into a church. Johanne was at home alone; it could not have happened more fortunately.
"I'm glad you came," she said. "I almost sent Father after you, but I felt in my heart that you would be here this evening. I have to tell you that I am leaving for France on Friday; I must study there if I am to become a great artiste!"
At those words it seemed to Knud as if the whole room were whirling round and round with him. He felt as if his heart would break; there were no tears in his eyes, but Johanne could not fail to see how stricken he was .
"You honest, faithful soul!" she said.
And her tenderness loosened his tongue. He told her how much he loved her and begged her to become his little wife. Then he saw Johanne turn pale as she dropped his hand and said seriously and sadly, "Dear Knud, don't make us both unhappy. I shall always be a loving sister to you, one in whom you may trust, but I shall never be anything more."
Gently she placed her soft hand on his hot forehead. "God gives us the strength for much," she said, "if only we try to do our best." At that moment her stepmother entered the room, and Johanne said, "Knud is quite heartbroken because I'm going away! Come, be a man," and she laid her hand on his shoulder; it seemed as if they had been talking only of her journey. "You're a child," she laughed, "but now you must be good and reasonable, as you used to be under the willow tree when we were both children!"
Knud felt as if the whole world were out of joint, and his thoughts were like a loose thread fluttering in the wind.