478 UNDER THE WILLOW TREE
sorrow of his heart, the deepest a human heart can feel. Such a grief is not for the world, for it is not amusing ; nor is it even for friends ; and moreover he had no friends— a stranger, he wandered through strange lands towards his home in the North. In the only letter he had received from home, one that his parents had written more than a year before, were the words : ' You are not thoroughly Danish like the rest of us. You are fond only of foreign lands.' His parents could actually write that,—yes, they knew him so well!
It was evening. He was walking on the public high road. The frost began to make itself felt, and the country soon became flatter, containing mere field and meadow. By the roadside grew a great willow tree. Everything reminded him of home, and he sat down under the tree : he felt very tired, his head began to nod, and his eyes closed in slumber, but still he was conscious that the tree lowered its branches towards him ; the tree appeared to be an old, mighty man —it seemed as if the ' Willow-father ' himself had taken up his tired son in his arms, and were carrying him back into the land of home, to the bare bleak shore of Kjoge, to the garden of his childhood. Yes, he dreamed it was the willow tree of Kjoge that had travelled out into the world to seek him, and that now had found him, and had led him back into the little garden by the streamlet, and there stood Joanna, in all her splendour, with the golden crown on her head, as he had seen her last, and she called out ' Welcome ! ' to him.
And before him stood two remarkable shapes, which looked much more human than they did in his childhood : they had changed also, but they were still the two cakes that turned the right side towards him, and looked very well.
' We thank you,' they said to Knud. * You have loosened our tongues, and have taught us that thoughts should be spoken out freely, or nothing will come of them; and now something has indeed come of it—we are betrothed.'
Then they went hand in hand through the streets of Kjoge, and they looked very respectable in every way : there was no fault to find with them. And they went on, straight towards the church, and Knud and Joanna followed them ; they also were walking hand in hand ;