Front Cover
 Title Page
 Back Cover

Group Title: False key : a tale
Title: The false key
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00065536/00001
 Material Information
Title: The false key a tale
Physical Description: 63, 1 p., 1 leaf of plates : col. ill. ; 12 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Edgeworth, Maria, 1767-1849
George Routledge and Sons ( Publisher )
Savill, Edwards and Co ( Printer )
Dalziel Brothers ( Engraver )
Publisher: George Routledge and Sons
Place of Publication: London ;
New York
Manufacturer: Savill, Edwards and Co.
Publication Date: [186-?]
Edition: New ed.
Subject: Christian life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Truthfulness and falsehood -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Burglary -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Children -- Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Conduct of life -- Juvenile fiction   ( lcsh )
Bldn -- 1865
Genre: novel   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: England -- London
United States -- New York -- New York
Statement of Responsibility: by Maria Edgeworth.
General Note: Date of publication based on dates of other editions.
General Note: Frontispiece engraved by Dalziel and printed in colors.
Funding: Preservation and Access for American and British Children's Literature, 1870-1889 (NEH PA-50860-00).
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00065536
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 002446198
notis - AMF1442
oclc - 71124014

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
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    Title Page
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    Back Cover
        Back Cover 1
        Back Cover 2
Full Text

_/ :1 /





a gale.





MA. SPENCER, a very benevolent and
sensible man, undertook the education
of several poor children. Among the
rest was a boy of the name of Franklin,
whom he had bred up from the time he
was five years old. Franklin had the
misfortune to be the son of a man of
infamous character; and for many ears
this was a disgrace and reproach t3 his
child. When any of the neighbours'
children quarrelled with him, they used
to tell him, he would turn out like his
father. But Mr. Spencer always as-
sured him, that he might make himself
whatever he pleased; that by behaving
well he would certainly, sooner or ater,


secure the esteem and love of all who
knew him, even of those who had the
strongest prejudice against him on his
father's account.
This hope was very delightful to Frank-
lin, and he showed the strongest desire
to learn and to do everything that was
right; so that Mr. Spencer soon grew
fond of him, and took great pains to
instruct him, and to give him all the
good habits and principles which might
make him a useful, respectable, and
happy man.
When he was about thirteen years of
age, Mr. Spencer one day sent for him
into his closet; and as he was folding up
a letter which he had been writing, said
to him, with a very kind look, but in a
graver tone than usual, Franklin, you
are going to leave me." Sir!" said
Franklin. "You are now going to leave
me, and to begin the world for yourself.
You will carry this letter to my sister,


Mrs. Churchill, in Queen's Square-
You know Queen's Square ?" Franklin
bowed. "You must expect," continued
Mr. Spencer, to meet with several
disagreeable things, and a great deal of
rough work, at your first setting out:
but be faithful and obedient to your
mistress, and obliging to your fellow-
servants, and all will go well. Mrs.
Churchill will make you a very good
mistress, if you behave properly; and I
have no doubt but you will." Thank
you, sir." And you will always-I
mean, as long as you deserve it-find a
friend in me." Thank you, sir-I am
sure you are --" There Franklin
stopped short, for the recollection of all
Mr. Spencer's goodness rushed upon him
at once, and he could not say another
word. Bring me a candle to seal this
letter," said his master; and he was
very glad to get out of the room. He
came back with the candle, and, with a



stout neart, stood by whilst the letter
was sealing; and when his master put
it mto his hand, said, in a cheerful
voice, I hope you will let me see you
again, sir, sometimes." Certainly:
whenever your mistress can spare you,
I snail be very glad to see you; and,
remember, if ever you get into any diffi-
culty, don't be afraid to come to me. I
have sometimes spoken harshly to you;
but you will not meet with a more in-
dulgent friend." Franklin at this
turned away with a full heart; and,
after making two or three attempts to
express his gratitude, left the room
without being able to speak.
He got to Queen's Square about
three o'clock. The door was opened by
a large red-faced man in a blue coat and
scarlet waistcoat, to whom he felt afraid
to give his message, lest he should not
be a servant. "Well, what's your busi-
ness, sir ?" said the butler. I have a


letter for Mrs. Churchill, sir," said
Franklin, endeavouring to pronounce
his sir in a tone as respectful as the
butler's was insolent.
The man having examined the direc-
tion, seal, and edges of the letter, car-
ried it upstairs, and in a few minutes
returned, and ordered Franklin to rub
his shoes well and follow him. He was
then shown into a handsome room,
where he found his mistress, an elderly
lady. She asked him a few questions,
examining him attentively as she spoke;
and her severe eye at first, and her gra-
cious smile afterwards, made him feel
that she was a person to be both loved
and feared. I shall give you in
charge," said she, ringing a bell, to my
housekeeper, and I hope she will have no
reason to be displeased with you."
The housekeeper, when she first came
in, appeared with a smiling countenance;
but the moment she cast her eyes on



Franklin, it changed to a look of sur-
prise and suspicion. Her mistress re-
commended him to her protection, say-
ing, Pomfret, I hope you will keep
this boy under your own eye." And
she received him with a cold Very
well, ma'am;" which plainly showed
she was not disposed to like him. In
fact, Mrs. Pomfret was a woman so fond
of power, and so jealous of favour, that
she would have quarrelled with an angel
who had got so near her mistress with-
ort her introduction. She smothered
her displeasure, however, till night;
when, as she attended her mistress's
toilette, she could not refrain from ex-
pressing her sentiments. She began
cautiously: Ma'am, is not this the
boy Mr. Spencer was talking of one day
-that has been brought up by the
Villaintropic Society, I think they call
it ?"-" Philanthropic Society; yes,"
said her mistress; and my brother


gives him a high character; I hope he
will do very well." I'm sure I hope
so too," observed Mrs. Pomfret; "but
I can't say; for my part, I've no great
notion of those low people. They say
all those children are taken from the
very lowest drugs and refugees of the
town, and surely they are like enough,
ma'am, to take after their own fathers
and mothers." But they are not
suffered to be with their parents," re-
joined the lady; "and therefore cannot
be hurt by their example. This little
boy, to be sure, was unfortunate in his
father, but he has had an excellent
education." "Oh, education! to be
sure, ma'am, I know. I don't say but
what education is a great thing. But
then, ma'am education can't change the
natur that's in one, they say; and one
that's born naturally bad and low, they
say, all the education in the world wont
do no good; and, for my part, ma'am,



I know you knows best; but I should
be afraid to let any of those Yillaintropic
folks get into my house; for nobody
can tell the natur of them aforehand.
I declare it frights me." Pomfret, I
thought you had better sense; how
would this poor boy earn his bread?
he would be forced to starve or steal, if
everybody had such prejudices."
Pomfret, who really was a good
woman, was softened at this idea, and
said;* God forbid he should starve or
steal, and God forbid I should say any-
thing/ .- -'. *..'. of the boy; for there
may be no harm in him."
"Well," said Mrs. Churchill, chang-
ing her tone, but Pomfret, if we don't
like the boy at the end of a month,
we have done with him ; for I have only
promised Mr. Spencer to keep him a
month upon trial: there is no harm done."
" Dear, no, ma'm, to be sure; and
cook must put up with her disappoint-


ment, that's all." "What disappoint-
ment?" About her nephew, ma'am ;
the boy she and I was speaking to you
for." "When ?" "The day you called
her up about the almond pudding,
ma'am. If you remember, you said
you should have no objections to try the
boy; and upon that cook bought him
new shirts; but they are to the good,
as I tell her." But I did not promise
to take her nephew." O no, ma'am,
not at all; she does not think to say
that, else I should be very angry; but
the poor woman never let fall a word,
any more than frets that the boy should
miss such a good place." Well, but
since I did say that I should have no
objection to try him, I shall keep my
word; let him come to-morrow. Let
them both have a fair trial, and at the
end of the month I can decide which I
like best, and which we had better


Dismissed with these orders, Mrs.
Pomfret hastened to report all that had
passed to the cook, like a favourite
minister, proud to display the extent of
her secret influence. In the morning
Felix, the cook's nephew, arrived; and,
the moment he came into the kitchen,
every eye, even the scullion's, was fixed
upon him with approbation, and after-
wards glanced upon Franklin with con-
tempt-contempt which Franklin could
not endure without some confusion,
though quite unconscious of having de-
served it; nor, upon the most impartial
and cool self-examination, could he com-
prehend the justice of his judges. He
perceived indeed-for the comparisons
were minutely made in audible and
scornful whispers-that Felix was a
much handsomer, or as the kitchen-
maid expressed it, a much more gen-
teeler gentlemanly-looking like sort of
person than he was; and he was made


to understand, that he wanted a frill to
his shirt, a cravat, a pair of thin shoes,
and, above all, shoe-strings, besides other
nameless advantages, which justly made
his rival the admiration of the kitchen.
However, upon calling to mind all that
his friend Mr. Spencer had ever said to
him, he could not recollect his having
warned him that shoe-strings were indis-
pensable requisites to the character of a
good servant; so that he could only
comfort himself with resolving, if pos-
sible, to make amends for these deficien-
cies, and to dissipate the prejudices
which he saw were formed against him,
by the strictest adherence to all that
his tutor had taught him to be his duty.
He hoped to secure the approbation of
his mistress by scrupulous obedience to
all her commands, and faithful care of
all that belonged to. her. At the same
time he flattered himself he should win
the goodwill of his fellow-servants by



showing a constant desire to oblige
them. He pursued this plan of conduct
steadily for nearly three weeks, and
found that he succeeded beyond his ex-
pectations in pleasing his mistress; but
unfortunately he found it more difficult
to please his fellow-servants, and he
sometimes offended when he least ex-
pected it. He had made great progress
in the affections of Corkscrew the but-
ler, by working indeed very hard for
him, and doing every day at least half
his business. But one unfortunate
night the butler was gone out; the bell
rang; he went upstairs; and his mis-
tress asking where Corkscrew was, he
answered that he was gone out. Where
to ?" said his mistress. I don't
know," answered Franklin. And, as he
had told exactly the truth, and meant
to do no harm, he was surprised, at the
butler's return, when he repeated to him
what had passed, at receiving a sudden


box on the ear, and the appellation of a
mischievous, impertinent, mean-spirited
"Mischievous, impertinent, mean!"
repeated Franklin to himself; but, look-
ing in the butler's face, which was of a
deeper scarlet than usual, he judged that
he was far from sober, and did not doubt
but that the next morning, when he
came to the use of his reason, he would
be sensible of his injustice, and apologize
for this box of the ear. But no apology
coming all day, Franklin at last ventured
to request an explanation, or rather to
ask what he had best do on the next
occasion. Why," said Corkscrew,
" when mistress asked for me, how came
you to say I was gone out ?" Because
you know I saw you go out." "And
when she asked you where I was gone,
how came you to say that you did not
know?" Because indeed I did not."
" You are a stupid blockhead: could not


you say I was gone to the washer-
woman's ?" But were you ?" said
Franklin. "Was I!" cried Corkscrew,
and looked as if he would have struck
him again; how dare you give me the
lie, Mr. Hypocrite ? You would be
ready enough, I'll be bound, to make
excuses for yourself. Why are not mis-
tress's clog's cleaned ? Go along and
blacken 'em this minute, and send Felix
to me."
From this time forward Felix alone
was privileged to enter the butler's
pantry. Felix became the favourite of
Corkscrew; and, though Franklin by no
means sought to pry into the mysteries
of their private conferences, nor ever
entered without knocking at the door,
yet it was his fate once to be sent of a
message at an unlucky time ; and, as the
door was half-open, he could not avoid see-
ing Felix drinking a bumper of redliquer,
which he could not help suspecting to be


wine; and as the decanter, which usually
went upstairs after dinner, was at this
time in the butler's grasp, without any
stopper in it, he was involuntarily forced
to suspect they were drinking his mis-
tress's wine.
Nor were the bumpers of port the
only unlawful rewards which Felix re-
ceived: his aunt, the cook, had occasion
for his assistance, and she had many de-
licious douceurs in her gift. Many a
handful of currants, many a half-custard,
many a triangular remnant of pie, be-
sides the choice of his own meal at
breakfast, dinner, and supper, fell to the
bare of the favourite Felix; whilst
Franklin was neglected, though he took
S the utmost pains to please the cook in
all honourable service, and, when she was
hot, angry, or hurried, he was always at
hand to help her; and in the hour of
adversity, when the clock struck five,
and no dinner was dished, and no kitchen-


maid with twenty pair of hands was to
be had, Franklin would answer to her
call, with flowers to garnish her dishes,
and presence of mind to know, in the
midst of the commotion, where every-
thing that was wanting was to be found;
so that, quick as lightning,-all difficul-
ties vanished before him. Yet when the
danger was over, and the hour of adver-
sity passed, the ungrateful cook would
forget her benefactor, and, when it came
to be his supper-time, would throw him,
with a carelessness which touched him
sensibly, anything which the other ser-
vants were too nice to eat. All this
Franklin bore with fortitude; nor did
he envy Felix the dainties which he ate,
sometimes close beside him: "For," said
he to himself, I have a clear conscience,
and that is more than Felix can have.
I know how he wins cook's favour too
well, and I fancy I know how I have
offended her; for, since the day I saw


the basket, she has done nothing but
huff me."
The history of the basket was this.
Mrs. Pomfret, the housekeeper, had
several times, directly and indirectly,
given the world below to understand
that she and her mistress thought there
was a prodigious quantity of meat eaten
of late. Now when she spoke, it was
usually at dinner-time; she always
looked, or Franklin imagined that she
looked, suspiciously at him. Other
people looked still more maliciously;
but, as he felt himself perfectly in-
nocent, he went on eating his dinner
in silence.
But at length it was time to explain.
One Sunday there appeared a handsome
sirloin of beef, which before noon on
Monday had shrunk almost to the bare
bone, and presented such a deplorable
spectacle to the opening eyes of Mrs.
Pomfret, that her long-smothered indig.


nation burst forth, and she boldly de-
clared she was now certain there had
been foul play, and she would have
the beef found, or she would know why.
She spoke, but no beef appeared, till
Franklin, with a look of sudden recol-
lection, cried, "Did not I see something
like a piece of beef in a basket in the
dairy-I think---"
The cook, as if somebody had smote
her a deadly blow, grew pale; but sud-
denly recovering the use of her speech,
turned upon Franklin, and, with a voice
of thunder, gave him the lie direct; and
forthwith, taking Mrs. Pomfret by the
ruffle, led the way to the dairy, declaring
she could defy the world-" that so she
could, and .would." "There, ma'am,"
said she, kicking an empty basket which
lay on the floor-" there's malice for
you. Ask him why he don't show you
the beef in the basket." I thought I
saw-" poor Franklin began. You


thought you saw!" cried the cook,
coming close up to him with kimboed
arms, and looking like a dragon; and
pray, sir, what business has such a one
as you to think you see? And pray,
ma'am, will you be pleased to speak-
perhaps, ma'am, he'll condescend to obey
you-ma'am, will you be pleased to for-
bid him my dairy; for here he comes
prying and spying about; and how,
ma'am, am I to answer for my butter
and cream, or anything at all? I'm
sure it's what I can't pretend to, unless
you do me the justice to forbid him my
Mrs.Pomfret, whose eyes were blinded
by her prejudices against the folks of the
Villaintropic Society, and also by her
secret jealousy of a boy whom she
deemed to be a growing favourite of
her mistress's, took part with the cook,
and ended, as she began, with a firm
persuasion that Franklin was the guilty



person. Let him alone, let him alone!"
said she; "he has as many turns and
windings as a hare; but we shall catch
him yet, I'll be bound, in some of his
doublings. I knew the nature of him
well enough, from the first time I ever
set my eyes upon him; but mistress
shall have her own way, and see the end
of it."
These words, and the bitter sense of
injustice, drew tears at length fast down
the proud cheek of Franklin,which might
possibly have touched Mrs. Pomfret, if
Felix, with a sneer, had not called them
crocodile tears. Felix, too !" thought
he; "this is too much." In fact, Felix
had till now professed himself his firm
ally, and had on his part received from
Franklin unequivocal proofs of friend-
ship; for it must be told that every
other morning, when it was Felix's turn
to get breakfast, Felix never was up in
decent time, and must inevitably have


come to public disgrace if Franklin had
not got all the breakfast-things ready
for him, the bread-and-butter spread,
and the toast toasted; and had not,
moreover, regularly, when the clock
struck eight, and Mrs. Pomfret's foot
was heard overhead, run to call the
sleeping Felix, and helped him con-
stantly through the hurry of getting
dressed one instant before the house-
keeper came downstairs. All this could
not but be present to his inemory; but,
scorning to reproach him,Franklin wiped
away his crocodile tears, and preserved
a magnanimous silence.
The hour of retribution was, however,
not so far off as Felix imagined. Cun-
ning people may go on cleverly in their
devices for some time; but though they
may escape once, twice, perhaps ninety-
nine times, what does that signify,-for
the hundredth they come to shame,
and lose all their character. Grown bold


by frequent success, Felix became more
careless in his operations; andithappened
that one day he met his mistress full in
the passage, as he was going on one of
the cook's secret errands. Where are
you going, Felix?" said his mistress.
" To the washerwoman's, ma'am," an-
swered he, with his usual effrontery.
" Very well," said she. Call at the
bookseller's in-stay, I must write down
the direction. Pomfret," said she, open-
ing the housekeeper's room-door, have
you a bit of paper ?" Pomfret came
with the writing-paper, and looked very
angry to see that Felix was going out
without her knowledge; so, while Mrs.
Churchill was writing the direction, she
stood talking to him about it; whilst
he, in the greatest terror imaginable,
looked up in her face as she spoke; but
was all the time intent upon parrying on
the other side the attacks of a little
French dog of his mistress's, which, un-


luckily for him, had followed her into
the passage. Manchon was extremely
fond of Felix, who, by way of pleasing
his mistress, had paid most assiduous
court to her dog; yet now his caresses
were rather troublesome. Manchon
leaped up, and was not to be rebuffed.
"Poor fellow, poor fellow-down! down!
poor fellow!" cried Felix, and put him
away. But Manchon leaped up again,
and began smelling near the fatal pocket
in a most alarming manner. "You will
see by this direction where you are to
go," said his mistress. Manchon,
come here-and you will be so good as
to bring me-down! down! Manchon,
be quiet !" But Manchon knew better
-he had now got his head into Felix's
pocket, and would not be quiet till he
had drawn from thence, rustling out of
its brown paper, half a cold turkey, which
had been missing since morning. My
cold turkey, as I am alive 1" exclaimed


the housekeeper, darting upon it with
horror and amazement. "What is all
this ?" said Mrs. Churchill, in a com-
posed voice. I don't know, ma'am,"
answered Felix, so confused that he knew
not what to say; "but--" "But
what ?" cried Mrs. Pomfret, indignation
flashing from her eyes. "But what ?"
repeated his mistress, waiting for his
reply with a calm air of attention, which
still more disconcerted Felix; for, though
with an angry person he might have
some chance of escape, he knew that he
could not invent any excuse in such cir-
cumstances which could stand the exami-
nation of a person in her sober senses. He
was struck dumb. "Speak," said Mrs.
Churchill, in a still lower tone; I am
ready to hear all you have to say. In
my house everybody shall have justice;
speak-but what ?" But," stammered
Felix; and, after in vain attempting to
equivocate, confessed that he was going


to take the turkey to his cousin's; but
he threw all the blame upon his aunt,
the cook, who, he said, had ordered him
upon this expedition.
The cook was now summoned; but
she totally denied all knowledge of the
affair, with the same violence with which
she had lately confounded Franklin about
the beef in the basket; not entirely,
however, with the same success; for
Felix, perceiving by his mistress's eye
that she was upon the point of desiring
him to leave the house immediately ; and
not being very willing to leave a place
in which he had lived so well with the
butler, did not hesitate to confront his
aunt with assurance equal to her own.
He knew how to bring his charge home
to her. He produced a note in her own
handwriting, the purport of which was
to request her cousin's acceptance of
" some delicate cold turkey," and to
beg she would send her, by the return


of the bearer, a little of her cherry-
Mrs. Churchill coolly wrote upon the
back of the note her cook's discharge,
and informed Felix she had no further
occasion for his services ; but, upon his
pleading with many tears, which Frank-
lin did not call crocodile tears, that
he was so young, and that he was under
the dominion of his aunt, he touched
Mrs. Pomfret's compassion, and she
obtained for him permission to stay
till the end of the month, to give
him yet a chance of redeeming his
Mrs. Pomfret, now seeing how far
she had been imposed upon, resolved for
the future to be more upon her guard
with Felix, and felt that she had treated
Franklin with great injustice, when she
accused him of malpractices about the
sirloin of beef.
Good people, when they are made


sensible that they have treated any one
with injustice, are impatient to have an
opportunity to rectify their mistake;
and Mrs. Pomfret was now prepared to
see everything which Franklin did in
the most favourable point of view ; espe-
cially as the next day she discovered
that it was he who every morning boiled
the water for her tea, and buttered her
toast--ervices for which she had always
thought she was indebted to Felix. Be-
sides, she had rated Felix's abilities very
highly, because he made up her weekly
accounts for her; but unluckily once,
when Franklin was out of the way, and
she brought a bill in a hurry to her fa-
vourite to cast up, she discovered that
he did not know how to cast up pounds,
shillings, and pence, and he was obliged
to confess that he must wait till Frank-
lin came home.
But, passing over a number of small
incidents which gradually unfolded the


character of the two boys, we must pro-
ceed to a more serious affair.
Corkscrew frequently, after he had
finished taking away supper, and after
the housekeeper was gone to bed, sallied
forth to a neighboring alehouse todrink
with his friends. The alehouse was kept
by that cousin of Felix's who was so fond
of delicate cold turkey," and who had
such choice cherry-brandy. Corkscrew
kept the key of the house-door, so that
he could return home at what hour he
thought proper; and, if he should by
accident be called for by his mistress
after supper, Felix knew where to find
him, and did not scruple to make any of
those excuses which poor Franklin had
too much integrity to use.
All these precautions taken, the butler
was at liberty to indulge his favourite
passion, which so increased with indul-
gence, that his wages were by no means
sufficient to support him in this way of


life. Every day he felt less resolution
to break through his bad habits; for
every day drinking became more neces-
sary to him. His health was ruined.
With a red, pimpled, bloated face, ema-
ciated legs, and a swelled, diseased body,
he appeared the victim of intoxication.
In the morning when he got up, his
hands trembled, his spirits flagged, he
could do nothing till he had taken a
dram-an operation which he was ob-
liged to repeat several times in the course
of the day, as all those wretched people
must who once acquire this habit.
He had run up a long bill at the ale-
house which he frequented; and the
landlord, who grew urgent for his money,
refused to give him further credit.
One night, when Corkscrew had drunk
enough only to make him fretful, he
leaned with his elbow surlily upon the
table, began to quarrel with the land-
lord, and swore that he had not of late


treated him like a gentleman. To
which the landlord coolly replied, That
as long as he had paid like a gentleman,
he had been treated like one, and that
was as much as any one could expect, or,
at any rate, as much as any one would
meet with, in this world." For the
truth of this assertion he appealed,
laughing, to a party of men who were
drinking in the room. The men, how-
ever, took part with Corkscrew, and,
drawing him over to their table, made
him sit down with them. They were in
high good-humour, and the butler soon
grew so intimate with them, that, in the
openness of his heart, he soon commu-
nicated to them, not only all his own
affairs, but all that he knew, and more
than all that he knew, of his mistress's.
His new friends were by no means
uninterested in his conversation, and
encouraged him as much as possible to
talk; for they had secret views, which


the butler was by no means sufficiently
sober to discover.
Mrs. Churchill had some fine old
family plate; and these men belonged
to a gang of housebreakers. Before they
parted with Corkscrew, they engaged him
to meet them again the next night; their
intimacy was still more closely cemented.
One of the men actually offered to lend
Corkscrew three guineas towards the
payment of his debt, and hinted that, if
he thought proper, he could easily get
the whole cleared off. Upon this hint,
Corkscrew became all attention, till,
after some hesitation on their part, and
repeated promises of secrecy on his, they
at length disclosed their plans to him.
They gave him to understand, that if he
would assist in letting them into his
mistress's house, they would let him
have an ample share in the booty. The
butler, who had the reputation of being
an honest man, and indeed whose in-



tegrity had hitherto been proof against
everything but his mistress's port,
turned pale, and trembled at this pro-
posal; drank two or three bumpers to
drown thought; and promised to give
an answer the next day.
He went home more than half in-
toxicated. His mind was so full of
what had passed, that he could not help
bragging to Felix, whom he found awake
at his return, that he could have his
bill paid off at the alehouse whenever he
pleased; dropping, besides, some hints,
which were not lost upon Felix.
In the morning Felix reminded him
of the things which he had said; and
Corkscrew, alarmed, endeavoured to
evade his questions, by saying that he
was not in his senses when he talked in
that manner. Nothing, however, that
he could urge made any impression upon
Felix, whose recollection on the subject
was perfectly distinct, and who had


too much cunning himself, and too little
confidence in his companion, to be the
dupe of his dissimulation. The butler
knew not what to do when he saw that
Felix was absolutely determined either
to betray their scheme, or to become a
sharer in the booty.
The next night came, and he was now
to make a final decision; either to de-
termine on breaking off entirely with
his new acquaintance, or taking Felix
with him to join in the plot.
His debt, his love of drinking, the
impossibility of indulging it without a
fresh supply of money, all came into
his mind at once, and conquered his
remaining scruples. It is said by those
whose fatal experience gives them a
right to be believed, that a drunkard
will sacrifice anything, everything,
sooner than the pleasure of habitual
How much easier is it never to begin


a bad custom, than to break through it
when once formed!
The hour of rendezvous came, and
Corkscrew went to the alehouse, where
he found the housebreakers waiting for
him, and a glass of brandy ready poured
out. He sighed-drank-hesitated-
drank again-heard the landlord talk of
his bill-saw the money produced which
would pay it in a moment-drank again
-cursed himself, and, giving his hand
to the villain who was whispering in his
car, swore that he could not help it, and
must do as they would have him. They
required of him to give up the key of
the house-door, that they might get
another made by it. He had left it
with Felix, and was now obliged to
explain the new difficulty which had
arisen. Felix knew enough to ruin
them, and must therefore be won over.
This was no very difficult task; he had
a strong desire to have some worked


cravats, and the butler knew enough of
him to believe that this would be a suffi-
cient bribe. The cravats were bought
and shown to Felix. He thought them
the only things wanting to make him a
complete fine gentleman; and to go
without them, especially when he had
once seen himself in the glass with one
tied on in a splendid bow, appeared im-
possible. Even this paltry temptation,
working upon his vanity, at length pre-
vailed with a boy whose integrity had
long been corrupted by the habits of
petty pilfering and daily falsehood. It
was agreed that, the first time his mis-
tress sent him out on a message, he
should carry the key of the house door
to his cousin's, and deliver it into the
hands of one of the gang, who were
there in waiting for it. Such was the
Felix, the night after all this had
been planned, went to bed and fell


fast asleep; but the butler, who had not
yet stifled the voice of conscience, felt,
in the silence of the night, so insup-
portably miserable, that, instead of
going to rest, he stole softly into the
pantry for a bottle of his mistress's
wine, and there drinking glass after
glass, he stayed till he became so far
intoxicated, that, though he contrived
to find his way back to bed, he could
by no means undress himself. Without
any power of recollection he flung him-
self upon the bed, leaving his candle
half hanging out of the candlestick be-
side him. Franklin slept in the next
room to him, and presently awaking,
thought he perceived a strong smell of
something burning. He jumped up,
and seeing a light under the butler's
door, gently opened it, and to his asto-
nishment beheld one of the bed-curtains
in flames. He immediately ran to the
butler, and pulled him with all his


force, to rouse him from his lethargy.
He came to his senses at length, but
was so terrified, and so helpless, that, if
it had not been for Franklin, the whole
house would soon inevitably have been
on fire. Felix, trembling and cowardly,
knew not what to do; and it was curi-
ous to see him obeying Franklin, whose
turn it was now to command. Frank-
lin ran upstairs to awaken Mrs. Pom-
fret, whose terror of fire was so great
that she came from her room almost
out of her senses, whilst he, with the
greatest presence of mind, recollected
where he had seen two large tubs of
water, which the maids had prepared
the night before for their washing, and
seizing the wet linen which had been
left to soak, he threw them upon the
flames. He exerted himself with so
much good sense, that the fire was pre-
sently extinguished.
Everything was now once more safe



and quiet. Mrs. Pomfret, recovering
from her fright, postponed all inquiries
till the morning, and rejoiced that her
mistress had not been awakened, whilst
Corkscrew flattered himself that he
should be able to conceal the true cause
of the accident.
"Don't you tell Mrs. Pomfret where
you found the candle when you came
into the room," said he to Franklin.
" If she asks me, you know I must tell
the truth," replied he. Must!" re-
peated Felix, sneeringly; "what, you
Siztstbe atell-tale!" "No, I never told
any tales of anybody, and I should be
very sorry to get any one into a scrape;
but for all that I shall not tell a lie,
either for myself or anybody else, let
you call me what names you will."
"But if I were to give you something
that you would like," said Corkscrew,
-" something that I know you would
like !" repeated Felix. "Nothing you


can give me will.do," answered Frank-
lin, steadily; "so it is useless to say
any more about it-I hope I shall not
be questioned." In this hope he was
mistaken; for the first thing Mrs. Pom-
fret did in the morning was to come
into the butler's room to examine and
deplore the burnt curtains, whilst Cork-
screw stood by endeavouring to excul-
pate himself by all the excuses he could
Mrs. Pomfret, however, though some-
times blinded by her prejudices, was no
fool; and it was absolutely impossible
to make her believe that a candle which
had been left on the hearth, where
Corkscrew protested he had left it, could
have set curtains on fire which were at
least six feet distant. Turning short
round to Franklin, she desired that he
would show her where he found the
candle when he came into the room.
He begged not to be questioned; but


she insisted. He took up the candle-
stick; but the moment the housekeeper
cast her eye upon it, she snatched it
from his hands; How did this candle-
stick come here? This was not the
candlestick you found here last night,"
cried she. "Yes, indeed it was," an-
swered Franklin. "That is impossible,"
retorted she, vehemently, "for I left
this candlestick with my own hands, last
night, in the hall, the last thing I did,
after you," said she, turning to the but-
ler, was gone to bed-I'm sure of it-
Nay, don't you recollect my taking this
japanned candlestick out of your hand,
and making you go up to bed with the
brass one, and I bolted the door at the
stair-head after you ?"
This was all very true; but Cork.
screw had afterwards gone down from
his room by a back-staircase, unbolted
that door, and, upon his return from
the alehouse, had taken the japanned


candlestick by mistake upstairs, and had
left the brass one in its stead upon the
hall table.
"Oh, ma'am," said Felix, "indeed
you forget; for Mr. Corkscrew came
into my room to desire me to call him
betimes in the morning, and I happened
to take particular notice, and he had
the japanned candlestick in his hand,
and that was just as I heard you bolt-
ing the door. Indeed, ma'am, you for-
get." "Indeed, sir," retorted Mrs.
Pomfret, rising in anger, "I do not
forget; I'm not come to be supperan-
nuated yet, I hope. How do you dare
to tell me I forget ?" Oh, ma'am,"
cried Felix, I beg your pardon, I did
not-I did not mean to say you forgot;
but only I thought, perhaps, you might
not particularly remember; for if you
please to recollect-" I won't please
to recollect just whatever you please,
sir! Hold your tongue; why should


you poke yourself into this scrape; what
have you to do with it, I should be glad
to know ?" "Nothing in the world,
oh, nothing in the world; I'm sure I
beg your pardon, ma'am;" answered
Felix in a soft tone; and, sneaking off,
left his friend Corkscrew to fight his
own battle, secretly resolving to desert
in good time, if he saw any danger of
the alehouse transactions coming to
Corkscrew could make but very blun-
dering excuses for himself; and, con-
scious of guilt, he turned pale, and ap-
peared so much more terrified than but-
lers usually appear when detected in a
lie, that Mrs. Pomfret resolved, as she
said, to sift the matter to the bottom.
Impatiently did she wait till the clock
struck nine, and her mistress's bell rang,
the signal for her attendance at her
levee.-" How do you find yourself this
morning, ma'am F" said she, undrawing



the curtains. Very sleepy, indeed,"
answered her mistress, in a drowsy
voice; "I think I must sleep half an
hour longer-shut the curtains." "As
you please, ma'am; but I suppose I had
better open a little of the window-shut-
ter, for it's past nine." "But just
struck." Oh dear, ma'am, it struck
before I came upstairs, and you know
we are twenty minutes slow-Lord bless
us!" exclaimed Mrs. Pomfret, as she
let fall the bar of the window, which
roused her mistress-" I'm sure I beg
pardon a thousand times-it's only the
bar-because I had this great key in
my hand." "Put down the key, then,
or you'll knock something else down;
and you may open the shutters now, for
I'm quite awake." "Dear me! I'm so
sorry to think of disturbing you," cried
Mrs. Pomfret, at the same time throw-
ing the shutters wide open; but, to be
sure, ma'am, I have something to tell


you, which wont let you sleep again in
a hurry. I brought up this here key of
the house-door for reasons of my own,
which I'm sure you'll approve of; but
I'm not come to that part of my story
yet. I hope you were not disturbed
by the noise in the house last night,
ma'am." "I heard no noise." "I am
surprised at that, though," continued
Mrs. Pomfret, and now proceeded to give
a most ample account of the fire, of her
fears, and her suspicions.-" To be sure,
ma'am, what I say is, that, without the
spirit of prophecy, one can noways ac-
count for what has passed. I'm quite
clear in my own judgment, that Mr.
Corkscrew must have been out last night
after I went to bed; for, besides the
japanned candlestick, which of itself I'm
sure is strong enough to hang a man,
there's another circumstance, ma'am,
that certifies it to me-though I have
not mentioned it, ma'am, to no one yet,"


lowering her voice-" Franklin, when I
questioned him, told me, that he left the
lantern in the outside porch in the court
last night, and this morning it was on
the kitchen table. Now, ma'am, that
lantern could not come without hands;
and I could not forget about that, you
know; for Franklin says, he's sure he
left the lantern out." "And do you be-
lieve him ?" inquired her mistress. "To
be sure, ma'am-how can I help be-
lieving him? I never found him out in the
least symptom of a lie since ever he came
into the house; so one can't help be-
lieving in him, like him or not." With-
out meaning to tell a falsehood,however,"
said the lady, he might make a mis-
take." "No, ma'am, he never makes
mistakes; it is not his way to go gossip-
ing and tattling; he never tells anything
till he's asked, and then it's fit he should.
About the sirloin of beef, and all, he
was right in the end, I found, to


do him justice; and I'm sure he's
right now about the lantern he's
always right."
Mrs. Churchill could not help smiling.
"If you had seen him, ma'am, last
night in the midst of the fire-I'm sure
we may thank him that we were not
burned alive in our beds-and I shall
never forget his coming to call me. Poor
fellow! he that I was always scolding
and scolding, enough to make him hate
me. But he's too good to hate anybody;
and I'll be bound I'll make it up to him
now." "Take care that you don't go
from one extreme into another, Pomfret;
don't spoil the boy." "No, ma'am,
there's no danger of that; but I'm sure
if you had seen him last night yourself,
you would think he deserved to be re-
warded." And so he shall be rewarded,"
said Mrs. Churchill; but I will try him
more fully yet." "There's no occasion,
I think, for trying him anymore, ma'am,"


said Mrs. Pomfret, who was as violent
in her likings as in her dislikes. "Pray
desire," continued her mistress, "that he
will bring up breakfast this morning;
and leave the key of the house-doer,
Pomfret, with me."
When Franklin brought the urn into
the breakfast-parlour, his mistress was
standing by the fire with the key in her
hand. She spoke to him of his last
night's exertions in terms of much
approbation. "How long have you
lived with me?" said she, pausing:
"three weeks, I think ?" Three weeks
and four days, madam." That is but
a short time: yet you have conducted
yourself so as to make me think I may
depend upon you. You know this key ?"
" I believe, madam, it is the key of the
house-door." It is: I shall trust it in
your care. It is a great trust for so
young a person as you are." Franklin
stood silent, with a firm but modest



look. "If you take the charge of this
key," continued his mistress, "remem-
ber it is upon condition that you never
give it out of your own hands. In the
daytime it must not be left in the door.
You must not tell anybody where you
keep it at night; and the house-door
must not be unlocked after eleven o'clock
at night, unless by my orders.' Will
you take charge of the key upon these
conditions ?" "I will, madam, do any-
thing you order me," said Franklin, and
received the key from her hands.
When Mrs. Churchill's orders were
made known, they caused many secret
marvellings and murmurings. Cork-
screw and Felix .were disconcerted,
and dared not openly avow their dis-
content; and they treated Franklin
with the greatest seeming kindness and
Everything went on smoothly for
three days. The butler never attempted


his usual midnight visits to the alehouse,
but went to bed in proper time, and
paid particular court to Mrs. Pomfret,
in order to dispel her suspicions. She
had never had any idea of the real fact,
that he and Felix were joined in a plot
with housebreakers to rob the house,
but thought he only went out at
irregular hours to indulge himself in his
passion for drinking.
Thus stood affairs the night before
Mrs. Churchill's birthday. Corkscrew,
by the housekeeper's means, ventured to
present a petition that he might go to
the play the next day, and his request
was granted. Franklin came into the
kitchen just when all the servants had
gathered round the butler, who, with
great importance, was reading aloud the
play-bill. Everybody present soon be-
gan to speak at once, and with great
enthusiasm talked of the playhouse, the
actors, and actresses; and then Felix,


in the first pause, turned to Franklin,
and said, Lord, you know nothing of
all this! you never went to a play, did
you ?" Never," said Franklin, and
felt, he did not know why, a little
ashamed; and he longed extremely to
go to one. "How should you like to
go to the play with me to-morrow ?"
said Corkscrew. Oh," exclaimed
Franklin, I should like it exceed-
ingly." And do you think mistress
would let you, if I asked ?" I think
-maybe she would, if Mrs. Pomfret
asked her." But then you have no
money, have you ?" No," said Frank-
lin, sighing. "But stay," said Cork-
screw, "what I am thinking of is, that
if mistress will let you go, I'll treat
you myself, rather than that you should
be disappointed."
Delight, surprise, and gratitude ap-
peared in Franklin's face at these words.
Corkscrew rejoiced to see that now, at


least, he had found a most powerful
temptation. Well, then, I'll go just
now and ask her. In the mean time
lend me the key of the house-door for a
minute or two." The key !" answered
Franklin, starting; I'm sorry, but I
can't do that, for I've promised my
mistress never to let it out of my own
hands." But how will she know
anything of the matter ?-Run, run,
-and get it for us." "No, I cannot,"
replied Franklin, resisting the push
which the butler gave his shoulder.
" You can't ?" cried Corkscrew, chang-
ing his tone; then, sir, I can't take
you to the play." Very well, sir,"
said Franklin, sorrowfully, but with
steadiness. Very well, sir," said
Felix, mimicking him, you need not
look so important, nor fancy yourself
such a great man, because you're mas-
ter of a key."
Say no more to him," interrupted



Corkscrew; let him alone to take his
own way-Felix, you would have no ob-
jection, I suppose, to going to the play
with me ?" Oh, I should like it of
all things, if I did not come between
anybody else. But come, come," added
the hypocrite, assuming a tone of
friendly persuasion, you wont be such
a blockhead, Franklin, as to lose going
to the play for nothing; it's only just
obstinacy: what harm can it do to lend
Mr. Corkscrew the key for five minutes;
he'll give it to you back again safe and
sound." I don't doubt that," an-
swered Franklin. Then it must be
all because you don't wish to oblige Mr.
Corkscrew." "No; but I can't oblige
him in this: for, as I told you before,
my mistress trusted me; I promised
never to let the4ey out of my own hands;
and you would not have me break my
trust: Mr. Spencer told me that was
worse than robbing."


At the word robbing both Corkscrew
and Felix involuntarily cast down their
eyes, and turned the conversation imme-
diately, saying, that he did very right;
that they did not really want the key,
and had only asked for it just to try if
he would keep his word. Shake hands,"
said Corkscrew, "I am glad to find you
out to be an honest fellow!" "I'm
sorry you did not think me one before,
Mr. Corkscrew," said Franklin, giving
his hand rather proudly; and he walked
We shall make no hand of this prig,"
said Corkscrew. "But we'll have the
key from him in spite of all his obsti-
nacy," said Felix; "and let him make
his story good as he can afterwards. He
shall repent of these airs. To-night I'll
watch him, and find out where he hides
the key: and when he's asleep we'll get
it without thanking him."
This plan Felix put in execution.


They discovered the place where Frank-
lin kept the key at night, stole it
whilst he slept, took off the impression
in wax, and carefully replaced it in
Franklin's trunk, exactly where they
found it.
Probably our young readers cannot
guess what use they could mean to make
of this impression of the key in wax.
Knowing how to do mischief is very
different from wishing to do it; and the
most innocent persons are generally the
least ignorant. By means of the im-
pression, which they had thus obtained,
Corkscrew and Felix proposed to get a
false key made by Picklock, a smith
who belonged to their gang of house-
breakers; and with this false key they
knew they could open the door whenever
they pleased.
Little suspecting what had happened,
Franklin the next morning went to un-
lock the house-door as usual; but find-


ing the key entangled in the lock, he
took it out to examine it, and perceived
a lump of wax sticking in one of the
wards. Struck with this circumstance,
it brought to his mind all that had
passed the preceding evening, and, being
sure that he had no wax near the key,
he began to suspect what had happened;
and he could not help recollecting what
he had once heard Felix say, that "give
him but a halfpenny-worth of wax, and
he could open the strongest lock that
ever was made by hands."
All these things considered, Franklin
resolved to take the key just as it was,
with the wax sticking in it, to his
"I was not mistaken when I thought
I might trust you with this key," said
Mrs. Churchill, after she had heard his
story. My brother will be here to-day,
and I shall consult him. In the mean
time say nothing of what has passed."



Evening came; and after tea Mr.
Spencer sent for Franklin upstairs. So,
Mr. Franklin," said he, "I'm glad to
find you are in such high trust in this
family." Franklin bowed, But you
have lost, I understand, the pleasure of
going to the play to-night." "I don't
think anything-much, I mean, of that,
sir," answered Franklin, smiling. "Are
Corkscrew and Felix gone to the play ?"
"Yes; half an hour ago, sir." "Then
I shall look into his room, and examine
the pantry and the plate that is under
his care."
When Mr. Spencer came to examine
the pantry, he found the large salvers
and cups in a basket behind the door,
and the other things placed so as to be
easily carried off. Nothing at first ap-
peared in Corkscrew's bedchamber to
strengthen their suspicions, till, just as
they were going to leave the room, Mrs.
Pomfret exclaimed, "Why, if there is


not Mr. Corkscrew's dress-coat hanging
up there! and if here isn't Felix's fine
cravat that he wanted in such a hurry
to go to the play Why, sir, they can't
be gone to the play. Look at the
cravat. Ha! upon my word, I am
afraid they are not at the play. No,
sir, no! you may be sure that they are
plotting with their barbarous-gang at
the alehouse; and they'll certainly
break into the house to-night. We shall
all be murdered in our beds, as sure as I
am a living woman, sir; but if you'll
only take my advice --" Pray, good
Mrs. Pomfret," Mr. Spencer observed,
"don't be alarmed." Nay, sir, but I
wont pretend to sleep in the house, if
Franklin isn't to have a blunderbuss,
and I a bagqonet." You shall have
both, indeed, Mrs. Pomfret; but don't
make such a noise, for everybody will
hear you."
The love of mystery was the only


thing which could have conquered Mrs.
Pomfret's love of talking. She was
silent; and contented herself the rest
of the evening with making signs,
looking ominous, and stalking about
the house like one possessed with a
Escaped from Mrs. Pomfret's fears
and advice, Mr. Spencer went to a shop
within a few doors of the alehouse,
which he heard Corkscrew frequented,
and sent to beg to speak to the landlord.
He came: and, when Mr. Spencer ques-
tioned him, confessed that Corkscrew
and Felix were actually drinking in his
house, with two men of suspicious ap-
pearance;--that, as he passed through
the passage, he heard them disputing
about a key; and that one of them
said, Since we've got the key, we'll go
about it to-night. This was sufficient
information. Mr. Spencer, lest the land-
lord should give them information of


what was going forwards, took him along
with him to Bow-street.
A. constable and proper assistance was
sent to Mrs. Churchill's. They stationed
themselves in a back parlkur, which
opened on a passage leading -to the
butler's pantry, where the plate was
kept. A little after midnight they
heard the hall-door open. Corkscrew
and his accomplices went directly to the
pantry; and there Mr. Spencer and the
constable immediately secured them, as
they were carrying off their booty.
Mrs. Churchill and Pomfret had spent
the night at the house of an acquaint-
ance in the same street. "Well, ma'am,"
said Mrs. Pomfret, who had heard all
the news in the morning, "the villains
are all safe, thank God. I was afraidto
go to the window th"morning; but it
was my luck to see them all go by to
gaol. They looked so shocking! I am
sure I never shall forget Felix's look to



my dying day! But poor Franklin!
ma'am; that boy has the best heart in
the world. I could not get him to give
Sa second look at them as they passed.
Poor fellow! I thought he would have
dropped; and he was so modest, ma'am,
when Mr. Spencer spoke to him, and
told him he had done his duty." "And
did my brother tell him what reward I
intend for him ?" No, ma'am, and
I'm sure Franklin thinks no more of
reward than I do." I intend," con-
tinued Mrs. Churchill, "to sell some of
my old useless plate, and to lay it out
in an annuity for Franklin's life." La,
ma'am !" exclaimed Mrs. Pomfret with
unfeigned joy, "' lm sure you are very
good; and I'm very glad of it." "And,"
continued Mrs. Churchill, "here are
some tickets for A play, which-I shall
beg you, Pomfret, to give him, alid to
take him with you."
"I am very much obliged to you,


indeed, ma'am; and I'll go with him
with all my heart, and choose such plays
as wont do no prejudice to his morality.
And ma'am," continued Mrs. Pomfret,
" the night after the fire I left him my
great bible, and my watch, in my will;
for I never was more mistaken at the
first in any boy in my born days; but
lie has won me by his own deserts, and
I shall from this time forth love all the
Villaintropic folks ior n;4' ske,"




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