472 UNDER THE WILLOW TREE
At that moment the stepmother came into the room ; and Joanna said quickly,
1 Knud is quite inconsolable because I am going away. Come, be a man,' she continued, and laid her hand upon his shoulder ; and it seemed as if they had been talking of the journey, and nothing else. ' You are a child,' she added ; ' but now you must be good and reasonable, as you used to be under the willow tree, when we were both children.'
But Knud felt as if a piece had gone out of the world, and his thoughts were like a loose thread fluttering to and fro in the wind. He stayed, though he could not remember if she had asked him to stay; and they were kind and good, and Joanna poured out his tea for him, and sang to him. It had not the old tone, and yet it was wonderfully beautiful, and made his heart feel ready to burst. And then they parted. Knud did not offer her his hand, but she seized it, and said,
' Surely you will shake hands with your sister at parting, old playfellow !'
And she smiled through the tears that were rolling over her cheeks, and she repeated the word ' brother '—as if that would help much !—and thus they parted.
She sailed to France, and Knud wandered about the muddy streets of Copenhagen. The other journeymen in the workshop asked him why he went about so gloomily, and told him he should go and amuse himself with them, for he was a young fellow.
And they went with him to the dancing-rooms. He saw many handsome girls there, but certainly not one like Joanna ; and here, where he thought to forget her, she stood more vividly than ever in his thoughts. ' Heaven gives us strength for a great deal, if we only try to do our best,' she had said ; and holy thoughts came into his mind, and he folded his hands. The violins played, and the girls danced round in a circle ; and he was quite startled, for it seemed to him as if he were in a place to which he ought not to have brought Joanna—for she was there with him, in his heart ; and accordingly he went out. He ran through the streets, and passed by the house where she had dwelt ; it was dark there, dark everywhere, and empty,