1082 THE DOOR-KEY
to the windows. 'Where is the fire ? Where is the disturbance ?' they asked, and were still asking when the chamberlain was already in his room; there he took his coat off, and in it lay the door-key—not in the pocket, but in the lining ; it had slipped down through a hole, which should not have been in the pocket.
From that evening the door-key had a particularly great significance, not only when they went out in the evening, but when they sat at home, and the chamberlain showed his cleverness and let the key give answers to questions. He himself thought of the most likely answer, and so he let the key give it, till at last he believed in it himself; but the apothecary—a young man closely related to the chamberlain—did not believe. The apothecary had a good critical head; he had, from his schooldays, written criticisms on books and theatres, but without signing his name, that does so much. He was what one calls a wit, but did not believe in spirits, and least of all in key-spirits.
' Yes, I believe, I believe,' said he, ' dear chamberlain, I believe in the door-key and all key-spirits, as firmly as I believe in the new science which is beginning to be known, table-turning and spirits in old and new furniture. Have you heard about it ? I have ! I have doubted, you know I am a sceptic, but I have become converted by reading in a quite trustworthy foreign paper, a terrible story. Can you imagine, chamberlain—I give you the story as I have it. Two clever children had seen their parents waken the spirit in a big dining-table. The little ones were alone and would now try in the same way to rub life into an old bureau. The life came, the spirit awoke, but it would not tolerate the command of the children ; it raised itself, a crash sounded, it shot out its drawers and laid each of the children in a drawer and ran with them out of the open door, down the stair and into the street, along to the canal, into which it rushed and drowned both of them. The little ones were buried in Christian ground, but the bureau was brought into the council room, tried for child murder, and burnt alive in the market.
' I have read it!' said the apothecary,' read it in a foreign paper, it is not something that I have invented myself. It is, the key take me, true ! now I swear a solemn oath ! '