Long, long ago there lived a worthy lord who had an only son. And as he came to lie on his death bed, he sent for the lad and said: “My son, too well I know that when I am dead and gone, you will waste; the money and the land that 1 shall leave you, and one day you will come to poverty.”
The Heir of Linne, as the youth was called, began to say that he would be careful, and do all that he could to obey the wishes of his father, whom he loved so dearly but the old man told him not to make promises which he might be tempted to break, but only to assure him of one thing.
“Faraway in the borders of our land,” he said, “stands a deserted cottage known as the Lonesome Lodge, Promise that if you sell all else you have in the world, you will never part with this. Take the key, and hang it round your neck, and remember mat when all your friends turn their backs upon you, and you have no place to go to, it is my desire that you should go to the Lonesome Lodge, and there you will find a friend in need.”
This seemed a very strange saying to the young man, but to satisfy his father, he hung the key round his neck, and soon after the old man died. The Heir of Linne was now quite alone in the world, for his mother had died long since. For a time he lived very quietly and sadly, but after a while his friends began to visit him again, and they brought others with them, so that the Heir began to lead a very gay life. He wasted his money right and left. He bought everything he wanted for himself, and for-his friends.
But money cannot last forever, and after a time his servant told him there was no more left. Moreover, even the house itself did not belong to him any longer. The servant recommended the young man to sell the Lonesome Lodge. The Heir was about to accept the offer when he felt the little key grow heavy as it lay on his heart and he remembered his father’s words and the promises he made and he refused to part
So the Heir hastened to leave his father’s house, and went away with empty pockets, but he did not trouble himself very much about that, for he had many friends who had lived at his house for months at a time and had borrowed his money. But now that he was no longer the Lord of Linne, he found a striking change in their attitude towards him. Some, indeed, appeared to give him a welcome at first, but after a few days got tired of him and showed it him so openly that he was only too glad to go away. Others made lame excuses as to why they could not receive him. Some, when he called on them, were never at home, and all of them declared that they had either; repaid the money they had formerly borrowed, or never borrowed it at all. At last,, when his clothes had grown very shabby, one of his former friends pretended to take him for a beggar, sent a sixpence out to him, and begged him to go away. So the day came when he was forced to say to himself that he had not a true friend in all the
World; and then he remembered his father’s words about the Lonesome Lodge, where he was one day to find a friend in need.
The Lonesome Lodge lay far away across a wild moorland. Very gloomy it looked in the dark of an autumn day, when the young man came in sight of it. The walls were of dull grey stone, and the roof was green with moss.
“This is a cold comfort,” said the Heir of Linne, as he turned the key in the lock and entered the gloomy chamber. It was perfectly bare and nearly dark; and the only furniture was a three-legged stool on which the unhappy youth took his seat, and looked sadly down at the empty fireplace.