UNDER THE WILLOW TREE 477
In the street the people crowded' round her carriage, and drew it away in triumph. Knud wag in the foremost row, and gladdest of all; and when the carriage stopped before her brilliantly lighted house, Knud stood close beside the door of the carriage. It was opened, and she stepped out : the light fell upon her dear face, as she smiled, and made a kindly gesture of thanks, and appeared deeply moved. Knud looked straight into her face, and she looked into his, but she did not know him. A man with a star glittering on his breast gave her his arm—and it was whispered about that the two were engaged.
Then Knud went home and packed his knapsack. He was determined to go back to his own home, to the elder and willow trees—ah, under the willow tree !
The old couple begged him to remain, but no words could induce him to stay. It was in vain they told him that winter was coming, and pointed out that snow had already fallen in the mountains ; he said he could march on, with his knapsack on his back, in the wake of the slow-moving carriage, for which they would have to clear a path.
So he went away towards the mountains, and marched up them and down them. His strength was giving way, but still he saw no village, no house ; he marched on towards the north. The stars came out above him, his feet stumbled, and his head grew dizzy. Deep in the valley stars were shining too, and it seemed as if there were another sky below him. He felt he was ill. The stars below him became more and more numerous, and glowed brighter and brighter, and moved to and fro. It was a little town whose lights beamed there ; and when he understood that, he exerted the remains of his strength, and at last reached a humble inn.
That night and the whole of the following day he remained there, for his body required rest and refreshment. It was thawing, and there was rain in the valley. But early on the second morning came a man with an organ, who played a tune of home ; and now Knud could stay no longer. He continued his journey towards the north, marching onward for many days with haste and hurry, as if he were trying to get home before all were dead there ; but to no one did he speak of his longing, for no one would have believed in the