UNDER THE WILLOW TREE 471
How kind that was of her ! And on Wednesday at noon he received a sealed paper, with no wards written in it; but the ticket was there, and in the evening Knud went to the theatre for the first time in his life. And what did he see ? He saw Joanna, and how charming and how beautiful she looked ! She was certainly married to a stranger, but that was all in the play—something that was only make-believe, as Knud knew very well. Otherwise, he thought, she would never have had the heart to send him a ticket that he might go and see it. And all the people shouted and applauded, and Knud cried out ' hurrah ! '
Even the King smiled at Joanna, and seemed to delight in her. Ah, how small Knud felt ! but then he loved her so dearly, and thought that she loved him too ; but it was for the man to speak the first word, as the gingerbread maiden had thought; and there was a great deal for him in that story.
So soon as Sunday came, he went again. He felt as if he were going into a church. Joanna was alone, and received him—it could not have happened more fortunately.
' It is well that you are come,' she said. ' I had an idea of sending my father to you, only I felt a presentiment that you would be here this evening ; for I must tell you that I start for France on Friday : I must do that so that I may really come to be something.'
It seemed to Knud as if the whole room turned round and as if his heart would burst; no tear rose to his eyes, but still it was easy to see how sorrowful he was.
Joanna saw it, and came near to crying.
! You honest, faithful soul ! ' she exclaimed.
And these words of hers loosened Knud's tongue. He told her how constantly he loved her, and that she must become his wife ; and as he said this, he saw Joanna turn pale. She let his hand fall, and answered, seriously and mournfully,
1 Knud, do not make yourself and me unhappy. I shall always be a good sister to you, one in whom you may trust, but I shall never be anything more.'
And she drew her white hand over his hot forehead.
' Heaven gives us strength for much,' she said, ' if we only endeavour to do our best.'