A young boy, wandering the streets of Kensington, comes to a green door in a white wall with a red Virginia creeper. He plucks up the courage to try the door, and finds himself in a magical garden. There are panthers who nuzzle him like friendly cats, and new friends who play the best games. “Playmates I found there. That was very much to me, because I was a lonely little boy. They played delightful games in a grass-covered court where there was a sun-dial set about with flowers. And as one played one loved.”
A wise woman shows him a book that contains his life. “It was a story about myself, and in it were all the things that had happened to me ever since I was born. It was wonderful to me, because the pages of that book were not pictures, you see, but realities….People moved and things came and went in them.” And then “at last I came to myself hovering and hesitating outside the green door in the long white wall, and felt again the conflict and the fear.” Back in the world outside the green door, he is a little boy weeping on a long gray street in West Kensington at the hour the lamps are lit.
He always longs to return. Strangely, he cannot remember the games he played, only the joy of them. He makes the mistake of confiding in a schoolmate and is mocked and bullied by those with no imagination. We know feedback felons of his type in our own lives, people who have lost their own dreams and encourage us to give up on ours.
As the boy grows into manhood and then an important place in the world, he feels that “some thin tarnish had spread itself over my world” . Nearing forty, he finds “the keen brightness that makes effort easy has gone out of things”. He sees the green door in the white wall again, and again – three times in one year, in different locations in the city – but he is now too busy and too set in adult agendas to pause and try to go through again.
So he remains with an aching hole in himself, the place where his “child of wonder” once lived, until his death. He dies when he falls down a shaft opened by railway construction – did he mistake it for the green door in the white wall, walking home? The story speaks of soul loss, of how we lose the beautiful bright dreamer in us when we turn our back on his or her dreams.