The Door in the Wall and Other Stories
A Moonlight Fable
There was once a little man whose mother made him a beautiful suit of clothes. It was
green and gold and woven so that I cannot describe how delicate and fine it was, and
there was a tie of orange fluffiness that tied up under his chin. And the buttons in their
newness shone like stars. He was proud and pleased by his suit beyond measure, and
stood before the long looking-glass when first he put it on, so astonished and delighted
with it that he could hardly turn himself away.
He wanted to wear it everywhere and show it to all sorts of people. He thought over all
the places he had ever visited and all the scenes he had ever heard described, and tried to
imagine what the feel of it would be if he were to go now to those scenes and places
wearing his shining suit, and he wanted to go out forthwith into the long grass and the hot
sunshine of the meadow wearing it. Just to wear it! But his mother told him, "No." She
told him he must take great care of his suit, for never would he have another nearly so
fine; he must save it and save it and only wear it on rare and great occasions. It was his
wedding suit, she said. And she took his buttons and twisted them up with tissue paper
for fear their bright newness should be tarnished, and she tacked little guards over the
cuffs and elbows and wherever the suit was most likely to come to harm. He hated and
resisted these things, but what could he do? And at last her warnings and persuasions had
effect and he consented to take off his beautiful suit and fold it into its proper creases and
put it away. It was almost as though he gave it up again. But he was always thinking of
wearing it and of the supreme occasion when some day it might be worn without the
guards, without the tissue paper on the buttons, utterly and delightfully, never caring,
beautiful beyond measure.
One night when he was dreaming of it, after his habit, he dreamed he took the tissue
paper from one of the buttons and found its brightness a little faded, and that distressed
him mightily in his dream. He polished the poor faded button and polished it, and if
anything it grew duller. He woke up and lay awake thinking of the brightness a little
dulled and wondering how he would feel if perhaps when the great occasion (whatever it
might be) should arrive, one button should chance to be ever so little short of its first
glittering freshness, and for days and days that thought remained with him, distressingly.
And when next his mother let him wear his suit, he was tempted and nearly gave way to
the temptation just to fumble off one little bit of tissue paper and see if indeed the buttons
were keeping as bright as ever.
He went trimly along on his way to church full of this wild desire. For you must know his
mother did, with repeated and careful warnings, let him wear his suit at times, on
Sundays, for example, to and fro from church, when there was no threatening of rain, no
dust nor anything to injure it, with its buttons covered and its protections tacked upon it
and a sunshade in his hand to shadow it if there seemed too strong a sunlight for its
colours. And always, after such occasions, he brushed it over and folded it exquisitely as
she had taught him, and put it away again.