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The Gate Key

He thanked him for this and for any future contribution to the revelation of the incomparable worth and significance of keys; next he confided to the Councilor that, apart from his activities as an apothecary, he was writing a great key novel in which all the characters were keys and keys alone. A gate key naturally was the central character and - patterned after the Councilor's gate key - was gifted with prophetic vision and second sight; around this all the other keys had to revolve - the old chamberlain's key, experienced in the splendor and festivity of the court; the watch key, small, refined, and distinguished, but worth only a few pennies at the ironmonger's; the key to the church pew, which counted itself among the clergy, and which, from remaining one night in its keyhole in the church, could see ghosts; the larder key, the wine-cellar key, and the coal-cellar key all appeared, and bowed before, and turned around, the gate key. The sunbeams brightened it into silver, and the wind, that spirit of the earth, entered its body and made it whistle!

It was the key of all keys; it was the Councilor's gate key. It was now the key of the heavenly gate itself; it was the papal key; it was infallible!

"Wickedness!" said the Councilor. "Great wickedness!"

He and the Pharmacist never saw each other again - except once, and that was at the funeral of the Councilor's wife.

She was the first to die. There were sorrow an emptiness in the house. Even the slips of cherry which had thrown out fresh roots and flowers seemed to mourn and fade away; they stood forgotten, for she was not there to tend them.

The Councilor and the Pharmacist walked behind her coffin, side by side, as the two nearest relations of the departed. This was not the time, nor were they in the mood, for quarreling. Lotte-Lene tied the mourning crape around the Councilor's hat. She was living in the house again, having long since returned without victory and luck in her career. Yet that still might come; Lotte-Lene had a future before her; the key had said so, and the Councilor had said so.

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