UNDER THE WILLOW TREE 467
as with a rich carpet. Here they* stood the two cake figures up in the sunshine among the green leaves, and told the story to a group of other children ; they told them of the silent love which led to nothing. It was called love because the story was so lovely, on that they all agreed. But when they turned to look again at the gingerbread pair, a big boy, out of mischief, had eaten up the broken maiden. The children cried about this, and afterwards— probably that the poor lover might not be left in the world lonely and desolate—they ate him up too ; but they never forgot the story.
The children were always together by the elder tree and under the willow, and the little girl sang the most beautiful songs with a voice that was clear as a bell. Knud, on the other hand, had not a note of music in him, but he knew the words of the songs, and that is always something. The people of Kjoge, even to the rich wife of the ironmonger, stood still and listened when Joanna sang. ' She has a very sweet voice, that little girl,' she said.
Those were glorious days, but they could not last for ever. The neighbours were neighbours no longer. The little maiden's mother was dead, and the father intended to marry again, in the capital, where he had been promised a living as a messenger, which was to be a very lucrative office. And the neighbours separated regretfully, the children weeping heartily, but the parents promised that they should at least write to one another once a year.
And Knud was bound apprentice to a shoemaker, for the big boy could not be allowed to run wild any longer ; and moreover he was confirmed.
Ah, how gladly on that day of celebration would he have been in Copenhagen, with little Joanna ! but he remained in Kjoge, and had never yet been to Copenhagen, though the little town is only five Danish miles distant from the capital; but far across the bay, when the sky was clear, Knud had seen the towers in the distance, and on the day of his confirmation he could distinctly see the golden cross on the principal church glittering in the sun.
Ah, how often his thoughts were with Joanna ! Did she think of him ? Yes. Towards Christmas there came a letter from her father to the parents of Knud, to say that