The Green Door – Pre-Intermediate Level
Imagine you were walking down Broadway after dinner. You have given yourself ten minutes to enjoy a cigar while deciding between going to the theatre or a show with music, dancing and laughter. Someone suddenly puts a hand on your arm. You turn to look into the exciting eyes of a beautiful, richly dressed woman. She quickly puts a very hot buttered bread roll into your hand, takes out some tiny scissors, and cuts off the second button of your coat. She then says a strange word as if it has a special meaning and quickly runs down a side street, looking back fearfully over her shoulder.
That would be a real adventure. Would you accept it? Not you. You would think that it was a silly joke and your face would turn red. You would drop the roll and continue down Broadway, feeling around uncertainly for the missing button. That is what you would do. Unless you are one of the lucky few in whom the real spirit of adventure is not dead.
There have never been enough true adventurers. Those who are written about have mostly been business men who have come up with some new product or way of doing things. They have been out looking for things they wanted – riches, fame, kingdoms, a beautiful woman. These are not true adventurers. The true adventurer goes into the world to meet his or her unknown fate without a set plan or reason.
There have been many brave and wonderful men and women who are half adventurers. Thousands of stories have been written about them, some real and some imagined. But each of these people had a plan or reason for their actions. So they were not true followers of adventure.
In the big city the spirits Romance and Adventure are always out and about looking for people trying to find them. They watch from hidden places as we walk the street and leave signs for those who they think are good enough to follow them.
Without knowing why, we look up and see someone in a window who we know will always have a special place in our heart. In a quiet street we hear a frightened cry coming from an empty and closed up house. A taxi driver stops in front of the wrong house, out of which someone comes and, with a smile, asks us to come inside. A small piece of paper, with something written on it, falls at our feet from a tall building. In a single moment we see looks of hate, liking and fear on the faces of people quickly walking past us in the street. In a sudden shower of rain our umbrella may be shared with a mysterious stranger. At every corner handkerchiefs drop, fingers signal, and eyes ask questions. The ever changing calls to adventure come to us. But few of us are willing to follow them. We are too fixed in trying to live a normal life like everyone else. Time passes and some day we come, at the end of life, to look back and see that our romance has been a boring, colorless thing.
THE GREEN DOOR
Rudolf Steiner was a true adventurer. Almost every evening, he would set out from his room in search of the unexpected and the unusual. The most interesting thing in life seemed to him to be what might lie just around the next corner. Sometimes this got him into trouble. Twice he had spent the night at a police station. Again and again he had found himself tricked out of his watch or money by dishonest people. But this did not stop him. He happily followed up every sign that might lead to the next adventure.
The young adventurer was a pleasant man. He liked to dress well, and worked in a piano store during the day. Once had written a letter to a magazine to say that the book ‘Junie’s Love Test’, by Miss Libbey, had changed his life.
One evening Rudolf was walking slowly down a street that lead across the older, central part of the city. Two streams of people filled the sidewalks – those on the way home, and those who leave home every night for the false welcome of the bright lights of a restaurant. He walked along calmly, looking as always for something interesting.
During his walk he heard an unusual sound coming from a glass case on the sidewalk outside a restaurant. Inside the case he saw a set of teeth that were quickly opening and closing. His first thought was that this was a very strange way to try to get people to eat at a restaurant. However, on looking again he saw the electric letters of a dentist’s sign high above the next door. A giant African man, brightly dressed in a red coat, yellow trousers and army cap, was handing out cards to the people passing who agreed to take them.
This form of advertising was common in the city. Usually Rudolf passed the person handing out cards without taking one. But the African managed to get one into his hand so cleverly that he kept it there, smiling a little at how well it was done.
When he had walked a little further he looked down at the card. Surprised, he turned it over and looked again with interest. There was nothing written on one side. On the other side were three handwritten words: “The Green Door”. Rudolf saw, three steps in front of him, a man drop the card the African had given him on the ground. He picked it up. It was printed with the dentist’s name and address and the usual list of dental services offered.
Rudolf stopped at the corner and thought. He crossed the street and walked back until he had gone past where the giant African was handing out cards. Then he crossed back to the other side and began again to walk towards him. Without looking at the African as he passed the second time, he took the card that was handed him. Ten steps away he looked at it. “The Green Door” was written upon it in the same handwriting that appeared on the first card. Three or four cards had been thrown on the ground by people walking both before and after him. These fell with the side with nothing written on it up. Rudolf turned them over. On every one was the normal dentist’s information.
The spirit of Adventure did not often need to call twice to Rudolf Steiner, its true follower. But it had called twice this time, and the search was on.
Rudolf walked slowly back to where the giant African stood by the case of noisy teeth. Even though he was wearing such silly looking clothing, the big man looked quite important as he stood, offering the cards pleasantly to some, allowing others to pass without giving them one.
Rudolf did not get a card as he passed this time. Even worse, it seemed to Rudolf that the African looked at him in a way that said he had failed some kind of test. The look hurt Rudolf. Whatever the mysterious words written on the cards might mean, the African had chosen him twice from the people walking past. Now, he seemed to have decided that the young man was not clever enough or brave enough to continue with the adventure.
Rudolf moved out of the way of the people walking by and had a quick look at the building. It was five stories high. Some steps led down to a small restaurant. The first floor, now closed, seemed to house shops that sold women’s hats and coats. The second floor, with the electric sign, was the dentist’s. Outside the floor above were signs for other businesses. There were so many these in different languages that it was hard to read them all. Still higher up, thick curtains and white milk bottles on the edges of windows showed where people were living.
Having looked the building over from the street, Rudolf walked quickly up the stone steps and went inside. He continued up the carpeted stairway to the fourth floor and stopped to look around. The hall was poorly lighted. There was one pale gas lamp far to his right and another nearer, to his left. He looked toward the nearer light and saw, in its small circle of light, a green door. For one moment he did not move. Then he thought again of the last look on the face of the African who was handing out cards downstairs. He walked straight to the green door and knocked on it.
As he waited for the knock to be answered, he wondered what might be behind the green door. People playing cards for money? Dishonest men getting ready to trick him? A beautiful woman in need of help? Danger, death, love, failure, to be laughed at… any of these might answer to his brave knock.
He heard the noise of someone moving quietly inside, and the door slowly opened. A girl not yet twenty stood there. Her face was white and her body moved weakly from side to side. She let go of the door, and looked as if she was about to fall. Rudolf caught her and laid her on an old sofa that stood against the wall. Then he closed the door and looked quickly around the room. It was clean and well kept, but told a story of someone who had no money.
The girl lay still, as if in a faint. He began to fan her with his hat. This was successful; he hit her nose with its hard edge and she opened her eyes. And as soon as the young man saw her face he knew that she was someone who would always have a special place in his heart. The honest, grey eyes; the little nose, turning a little outward; the curly, reddish, golden brown hair. This seemed the right end and reward for all of his wonderful adventures. But the face was terribly thin and pale.
The girl looked at him calmly, and then smiled.
“Fainted, didn’t I?” she asked, weakly. “Well, who wouldn’t? You try going without anything to eat for three days and see!”
“Goodness!” cried Rudolf, jumping up. “Wait till I come back.”
He ran out the green door and down the stairs. In twenty minutes he was back again, kicking at the door with his toe for her to open it. In both arms he carried bags of food and drink from the restaurant below and a corner store. He laid them on the table. There was bread and butter, cold meats, cakes, pies, pickles, sea food, a roasted chicken, a bottle of milk and a bottle of spiced tea.
“This is silly,” said Rudolf in a strong, serious voice, “to go without eating. You must stop doing dangerous things like this. Dinner is ready.” He helped her to a chair at the table and asked: “Is there a cup for the tea?”
“On the shelf by the window,” she answered. When he turned again with the cup he saw her, with eyes shining happily, beginning to eat a huge pickle. She had found, as only a woman could, the one thing among all the food in the paper bags that was not good to eat on an empty stomach.
He took it from her, laughing, and gave her a cup of milk. “Drink that first” he ordered, “and then you shall have some tea, and then a chicken wing. If you are very good you shall have a pickle tomorrow. And now, if you’ll allow me to sit with you, we’ll eat.”
He pulled up the other chair. The tea brightened the girl’s eyes and brought back some of her colour. She began to eat like a hungry wild animal. She acted as if Rudolf and the help he had given her were natural things. It wasn’t as though she was not thankful. It was simply that she had to put her human needs first. But little by little, as the girl began to feel stronger and better, she saw that the right thing to do was to tell him a little about herself.
She began to tell him her story. Thousands like this take place in the city every day. But to Rudolf her story sounded as big as the one in ‘Junie’s Love Test.’ It was a shop girl’s story. Of being paid too little to live on, and having some of that kept by the store for things they unfairly say you have done wrong. Of time lost through illness, and then of lost jobs and lost hope. And then – the knock of the adventurer upon the green door.
“To think of you going through all that,” he said.
“It was terrible,” said the girl, in a serious voice.
“And you have no family or friends in the city?”
“I am all alone in the world, too,” said Rudolf.
“I am pleased about that,” said the girl quickly, and somehow it pleased Rudolf to hear that she was happy to hear this.
Very suddenly her eyes closed and she took a deep breath.
“I’m very sleepy,” she said, “and I feel so good.”
Rudolf stood up and took his hat. “I’ll say goodnight then. A long night’s sleep will be good for you.”
He held out his hand, and she took it and said “goodnight.” But her eyes asked a question so clearly, so honestly and sadly that he answered it with words.
“Oh, I’m coming back tomorrow to see how you are getting on. You won’t get me out of your life so easily.”
“How did you come to knock at my door?” she asked as he opened the door.
He looked at her for a moment, remembering the cards. Suddenly felt a little jealous. What if they had fallen into another adventurer’s hands? Quickly he decided that she must never know the truth. He would not tell her that he had got one of her cards from the African downstairs. He saw that she had to try to find someone who would help her, and did not want her to feel bad about it.
“One of our staff lives in this building,” he said. “I knocked at your door thinking it was his.”
The last thing he saw in the room before the green door closed was her smile.
He stopped for a moment at the top of the stairway and looked about him. And then he went along the hall to its other end. Coming back, he went up to the floor above and continued to look around. Every door that he found in the building was painted green.
Wondering, he went down the stairs to the sidewalk. The strange African was still there. Rudolf stood in front of him with his two cards in his hand.
“Will you tell me why you gave me these cards and what they mean?” he asked.
The African gave him a wide, friendly smile that was a wonderful example of the dentist’s work. “There it is, sir,” he said, pointing down the street. “But I think you are a little late for the first act.”
Looking the way he pointed, Rudolf saw above the entrance to a theatre the bright electric sign of its new play, “The Green Door.”
“I’m informed that it’s a very good show, sir,” said the African. “The ticket agent gave me a dollar, sir, to give out a few of his cards along with the dentist’s. May I offer you one of the dentist’s cards, sir?”
Rudolf stopped for a glass of beer and another cigar at the corner of the street in which he lived. When he came out he buttoned his coat, pushed back his hat and said, seriously, to the lamp post on the corner:
“All the same, I believe it was the hand of Fate that found the way for me to find her.”
This decision, given what happened, certainly makes Rudolf Steiner one of the true followers of Romance and Adventure.