THE wind moans in the old willow tree!
It is as if one heard a song;the wind sings it,thetree tells it.If you don't understand it,then ask Johannain the almshouse;she knows,she was born here in thedistrict.
Years ago,when the highway still lay here,the treewas already big and remarkable.It stood where it yetstands,outside the tailor's whitened framework house, close to the pool,which at that time was so big that thecattle were watered there,and there in the warm summerthe little children ran about naked and splashed about inthe water.Close up under the tree was a milestone;it hasfallen down now,and bramble branches grow over it.
On the other side of the rich squire's farm the newhigh road was made,the old road became the field road, the pool a puddle,over-grown with duck-weed;when afrog jumped down,the green was separated and one sawthe black water;round about it grew,and still grow,thebuck-bean and gold irises.
The tailor's house became old and crooked,the roofa hot-bed for moss and house-leek;the dove-cote fell inand the starlings built there,the swallows hung nest afternest on the gable of the house and under the roof,just as ifit 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;hehad been born here,he had played here,he had sprungover the fields and the hedges,splashed as a little child inthe open pool,clambered up in the old tree.
It lifted its great branches with pomp and beauty,asit lifts them still,but the storm had already twisted thetrunk a little,and time had given it a crack;now wind andweather have laid earth in the crack,where grass and greenthings grow,yes,even a little rowan tree has planted itselfthere.
When the swallows came in the spring,they flewabout the tree and the roof,they plastered and mendedtheir old nests,but poor Rasmus let his nest stand andfall as it liked;he neither mended nor propped it."Whatis the use!"was his adage,and it was also his father's.
He remained in his home,the swallows flew awayfrom it,but they came again,the faithful creatures.Thestarling flew away,but it came again and whistled itssong;once Rasmus knew how to whistle in competitionwith it;now he neither whistled nor sang.
The wind moaned in the old willow tree—it stillmoans,it is as if one heard a song;the wind sings it,thetree tells it;if you do not understand it,then ask old Jo-hanna in the almshouse;she knows,she is wise in old af- fairs,she is like a chronicle book,with legends and oldmemories.
When the house was new and good,the village tailorIvar Olse moved into it with his wife Maren;respectable, industrious people,both of them.Old Johanna was at thattime a child,she was the daughter of the maker of wood-en shoes,one of the poorest in the neighbourhood.Manya nice piece of bread and butter she got from Maren,whohad no lack of food.Maren stood well with the squire'swife;she was always laughing and glad,she never al-lowed herself to be disheartened,she used her tongue, but also her hands;she wielded her needle as well as hertongue,and looked after her house and her children; there were eleven of them.
"Poor people have always a nest full of youngones!"grumbled the squire;"if one could drown themlike kittens,and only keep one or two of the strongest,there would be less misfortune!"
"God bless me!"said the tailor's wife,"childrenare a blessing of God;they are a joy in the house,eachchild is another Lord's Prayer!if things are straitened,and one has many mouths to feed,then one strives all theharder,finds ways and means in all respectability.OurFather does not let go,if we do not let go!"
The squire's lady gave her her countenance,bowedin a friendly way,and patted Maren on the cheek:shehad done that many times,even kissed her,but that waswhen she was little,and Maren her nurse-maid.Theyhad thought much of each other,and still did so.
Every year at Christmas,came winter supplies fromthe big house to the tailor's house;a barrel of milk,apig,two geese,a stone of butter,cheese and apples.Itwas a help to the larder.Ivar Olse looked quite contentedthen,but soon came his old adage,"what is the use!"
Everything was clean and neat in the house,curtainsat the windows,and flowers,both carnations and balsams. A sampler hung in a picture frame,and close beside it acomposition in rhyme:Maren Olse herself had composed it; she knew how rhymes ought to go.She was almost a littleproud of the family name"Olse".It was the only word inthe Danish language that rhymed with"Polse"(sausage)."That is always something in which one is superior to otherpeople,"she said,and laughed.She always kept her goodhumour,and never said like her husband,"What is theuse!"Her adage was,"Hold to yourself and our Father!"She did that,and it kept everything together.The childrenthrove,grew too big for the nest,went far,and behavedthemselves well.Rasmus was the youngest;he was such alovely child,and one of the great artists in the town bor-rowed him for a model,and that as naked as when he cameinto this world.The picture hung now in the king'spalace,where the squire's lady had seen it and recognizedlittle Rasmus,although he had no clothes on.