The Complete Fairy Tales & Other Stories
By Hans Christian Andersen - online book

Oxford Complete Illustrated Edition all his stories written between 1835 and 1872.

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1080                         THE DOOR-KEY
and a basket with eatables. \ Take the door-key ! ' said the wife, ' so that we can slip in ourselves when we come back ; you know they lock up at dusk, and the bell-wire was broken yesterday ! We shall be late in coming home ! After we leave Fredericksberg we shall go to the theatre to see the pantomime.'
And so they went to Fredericksberg, heard the music, saw the royal boat with the waving flag, saw the old king, and the white swans. After they had had a good tea, they hurried off, but did not come in time to the theatre.
The rope-dance was over and the stilt-dance was past and the pantomime begun: they were too late, as usual, and it was the chamberlain's fault; every minute he stood and talked to some acquaintance on the way ; in the theatre he also found good friends, and when the performance was over, he and his wife must necessarily go in with a family, to enjoy a glass of punch : it would only take about ten minutes, but they dragged on to an hour. They talked and talked. Particularly entertaining was a Swedish Baron, or was he a German % the chamberlain did not exactly remember, but on the contrary, the trick he taught him with the key he remembered for all time. It was extraordinarily interesting ! he could get the key to answer everything he asked it about, even the most secret things.
The chamberlain's key was peculiarly fitted for this, it was heavy in the wards, and it must hang down. The Baron let the handle of the key rest on the first finger of his right hand. Loose and easy it hung there, every pulse-beat in the finger point could set it in motion, so that it turned, and if that did not happen, then the Baron knew how to make it turn as he wished without being noticed.
Every turning was a letter, from A, and as far down the alphabet as one wished. When the first letter was found, the key turned to the opposite side, and then one sought for the next letter, and so one got the whole word, then whole sentences ; the answer to the question. It was all fabrication, but always entertaining. That was also the chamberlain's first idea, but he did not stick to it.
' Man ! Man !' shouted his wife. ' The west gate is shut at twelve o'clock ! we will not get in, we have only a quarter of an hour/