WHAT OLD JOHANNA TOLD
The wind moans in the old willow tree !
It is as if one heard a song ; the wind sings it, the tree tells it. If you don't understand it, theii'ask Johanna in the almshouse ; she knows, she was born here in the district.
Years ago, when the highway still lay here, the tree was already big and remarkable. It stood where it yet stands, outside the tailor's whitened framework house, close to the pool, which at that time was so big that the cattle were watered there, and there in the warm summer the little children ran about naked and splashed about in the water. Close up under the tree was a milestone; it has fallen down now, and bramble branches grow over it.
On the other side of the rich squire's farm the new high road was made, the old road became the field road, the pool a puddle, overgrown with duck-weed ; when a frog jumped down, the green was separated and one saw the black water ; round about it grew, and still grow, the buck-bean and gold irises.
The tailor's house became old and crooked, the roof a hot-bed for moss and house-leek ; the dove-cote fell in and the starlings built there, the swallows hung nest after nest on the gable of the house and under the roof, just as if it was a lucky dwelling-place. That was here at one time; now it has become lonely and silent. Alone and weak-willed, ' Poor Rasmus ', as they called him, lived here ; he had been born here, he had played here, he had sprung over the fields and the hedges, splashed as a little child in the open pool, clambered up in the old tree.
It lifted its great branches with pomp and beauty, as it lifts them still, but the storm had already twisted the trunk a little, and time had given it a crack; now wind and weather have laid earth in the crack, where grass and green things grow, yes, even a little rowan tree has planted itself there.
When the swallows came in the spring, they flew about the tree and the roof, they plastered and mended their old nests, but poor Rasmus let his nest stand and fall as it
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