EVERY key has its story,and there are many keys;the chamberlain's key,the clock-key,St.Peter's key; we could tell about all the keys,but now we shall only tellabout the chamberlain's door-key.
It came into being at a locksmith's,but it could wellbelieve that it was at a blacksmith's,it was hammered andfiled so much.It was too big for the trousers pocket,so ithad to be carried in the coat pocket.Here it lay for themost part in the dark,but it also had its appointed placeon the wall,by the side of the chamberlain's portrait fromchildhood's days,in which he looked like a force-meatball with a frill on.
They say that every person has in his character andconduct something of the constellation he was born under,the bull,the virgin,or the scorpion,as they are called inthe almanac.The chamberlain's wife named none of these,but said her husband was born under the"sign of thewheelbarrow",because he had always to be shoved for-ward.
His father pushed him into an office,his motherpushed him into marriage,and his wife pushed him up tobe chamberlain,but she did not say so,she was an excel-lent discreet woman,who was silent in the right place,andtalked and pushed in the right place.
Now he was up in years,"well proportioned,"as hesaid himself,a man with education,good humour,and aknowledge of keys as well,something which we shall un-derstand better presently.
He was always in a good humour,every one thoughtmuch of him and liked to talk with him.If he went into thetown,it was difficult to get him home again if mother wasnot with him to push him along.He must talk with everyacquaintance he met.He had many acquaintances,andthe result was bad for the dinner.
His wife watched from the window."Now he iscoming!"said she to the servant,"put on the pot!Nowhe is stopping to talk to some one,so take off the pot,orthe food will be cooked too much!Now he is coming!Yes,put the pot on again!"But he did not come for allthat.
He would stand right under the window and nod upto her,but if an acquaintance came past,then he couldnot help it,he must say a word or two to him;if anotherone came past while he talked with the first,he held thefirst one by the button-hole and seized the other one bythe hand,whilst he shouted to another one who was pass-ing.
It was a trial of patience for his wife."Chamber-lain!Chamberlain!"she shouted then."Yes,the man isborn under the sign of the wheelbarrow,he cannot comeaway unless he is pushed!"
He liked very much to go into the book shops,tolook at the books and papers.He gave the bookseller alittle present,to be allowed to take the new books hometo read—that is to say,to have leave to cut the books upthe long way,but not along the top,because then theycould not be sold as new.He was a living journal of eti-quette,knew everything about engagements,weddings,funerals,literary talk and town gossip;he threw out mys-terious allusions about knowing things which nobodyknew.He got it from the door-key.
As young newly married people the chamberlain andhis wife had lived on their own estate,and from that timethey had the same door-key,but then they did not knowits wonderful power—they only got to know that later on.
It was in the time of Frederick Ⅵ.Copenhagen atthat time had no gas;it had oil lamps;it had no Tivolior Casino,no tramways and no railways.There were notmany amusements compared to what there are now.OnSunday people went out of the town on an excursion to thechurchyard,read the inscriptions on the graves,sat in thegrass and ate and drank,or they went to Fredericksberg,where the band played before the castle,and many peoplewatched the royal family rowing about on the little,narrowcanals where the old king steered the boat,and he and thequeen bowed to all the people without making any distinc-tions.Prosperous families came out there from the town anddrank their evening tea.They could get hot water at apeasant's little house,outside the garden,but they had tobring the other things with them.