It was past midnight. There was no stately grandfather clock to lazily partition the formlessly speeding night, but a small wristwatch, ticking nervously, already registered 1:30 on it’s inconspicuous face. The owner of the wristwatch, however, didn’t seem in a fit state to register anything. His face was pallid and drawn, his eyes were holding on to the dusty, cobwebbed wall as if for dear life. He was in that nebulous state when those thoughts that inspire righteous horror before dinner mix with the aborted beginnings of dreams and appear in an entirely new and fantastic garb.
For some reason, the curtains on both of the long windows in the room were drawn. It was not very light either, since only one lamp was turned on and it seemed to be at it’s last gasp. Which gasp, though slightly prolonged, soon enough finished in a sharp click, extinguishing the shadows and by dint of concealment, releasing the eyes of our amateur somnambulist. He sprang up, a bit too promptly for the somber time of night, and, muttering under his breath something that sounded distinctly like “cursed nuisance”, stumbled over to the other end of the room and after some clumsy fumbling, succeeded in turning on a second lamp, that sputtered indignantly at being thus ignonimously woken up at such an ungodly hour. The man, who was lanky and of average height, was proceeding back to his place on the faded couch when a knock on the door made him start, and shiver slightly.
Whoever was knocking evidently didn’t see the advantage of waiting politely for some greeting from the other side of the door, for he opened the door quite nonchalantly and walked in without a backward (or forward for that matter) glance. The first thing that struck one about this imposter (besides his lack of manners that is) was his height, or more precisely his lack of that particular feature. He was extraordinarily short--a real dwarf in fact. The man, on seeing the dwarf, evinced no emotion whatever and merely said “oh…you…” in a bored sort of voice. “and I would appreciate, my most estimable dwarf, if you were to keep a better check on your over-boisterous spirits this time…of night that is. I trust you remember the fright you gave my wife the last time you saw fit to dance on the chimney and sing comic songs.” A broad grin spread itself on the dwarf’s genial face, and even our taciturn friend, (who had delivered this pronouncement), could not refrain from twitching his lips slightly. “but my dear James, what is this brooding at…er…” and he looked quickly around the room for some sign of a clock, and, not finding one proceeded tentatively “at this er…hour…a late one by all accounts…” the dwarf was comically crestfallen, and James, consulting his wristw*tch pronounced, almost savagely “a quarter to two, my fine one.” “quite, quite”, said the dwarf pressing down his unruly curls and doing a sort of jig with his stubby, short feet encased in furry green boots. “very well, and what brings you here?” said James slumping onto the couch and glancing at the drawn curtains of the window nearest him. The dwarf shook his head and frowned with feigned indignance “my dear James, is that a way to greet an old friend? What brings me here! Indeed, as if I cannot come of my own accord and must be dragged by something.”
James got up in a resigned sort of way and headed towards the door, “oh very well, I suppose you want tea? Crumpets? Well, out with it…” and he leaned against the wall with difficulty suppressing a smile. “but what a splendid idea” chimed the dwarf, rubbing his hands, “positively topping!” he skipped towards the door and in a voice that was probably supposed to sound paternal, but in fact came across as vaguely consumptive he said, “James my dear boy, wait here on your inviting couch and I will be back with the tea and trumpets and flutes and whatever else in to time at all!” but James grabbed him by his plump hand all the while suppressing muffled laughter and, with mock anger said, “well now! You had better stay here my pet, I do not want to be reminded of what happened the last time you were pleased to brew that honorable beverage”. the dwarf acquiesced with winning grace and let himself be led to the couch, whereupon James walked out of the room for the tea, not forgetting to close the door behind him.
In a few minutes he was back with a tray on which were balanced two smoking cups of tea and a tin of stale biscuits. The dwarf sprang up and ran to James who was trying to place the tray without mishap on a chair that stood awkwardly (as if it had wandered there) in the middle of the room. “silly dwarf! Stop running about, or I will drop the tea onto your thoughtless head!” the dwarf obliged and tiptoed out of the way while James set the tray on the chair and took a cup. The dwarf was eying the tin of biscuits with a pensive air, but after one tentative sniff, curled his nose up and gave them no further thought. His next pronouncement was as unexpected as it was preposterous. “James” he said, and the other didn’t so much as glance at him but continued drinking his tea. “James, it’s the full moon, isn’t it? that’s what’s getting you…” and he glanced at the tightly curtained windows as if they somehow justified his absurd suggestion. “what an idea…” said the disconcerted James making an effort to roll his eyes. “my dear dwarf you are being completely nonsensical as usual. What does the moon, full or not, have to do with me? Me, a sensible, civilized, married man, and you talk about the moon as if it could affect me in any way? Pshaw! I always knew you were a fool but at least you are usually more entertaining…” and James flung himself onto the couch causing the dwarf (who was already sitting there) to pop right up to the ceiling before coming down with the tea splattered all over his curly hair.
There was an uncomfortable pause. James abruptly jerked his head to see why the dwarf wasn’t saying anything. And caught his breath slightly: the dwarf was crying. He had never, in all the years they had known each other, seen the dwarf cry. James made an effort and said in his most placating voice “you see dwarf, I didn’t mean--” but the dwarf’s eyes widened with surprise at the tone he was taking, and he put his hand to his face (which was soaked with tears). Comprehension dawned on him and he burst in on James, “don’t worry yourself! Ha! You must have thought I was crying…how ridiculous! it’s the tea you see, leaking down my face from my unruly curls”, and he burst into raucous peels of laughter. James reddened slightly and put down his tea with a clatter, “that’s enough, you clown! How dare you--” but he himself couldn’t keep from laughing either.
Suddenly the dwarf sprang up, and hopped towards the window. As soon as he had reached it, James, with a wry smile of comprehension, shot after him. But the dwarf was altogether too quick, he had deftly pulled back the curtains and opened the window before he felt James’s hand on his shoulder. He felt it jerk him at first, to the accompaniment of “what-do-you-think-you--” and then it went strangely rigid. The dwarf looked around slowly and saw a very peculiar expression on James’s face. The dwarf took one look and after shaking his head began muttering to himself good-naturedly, “but I do hate when he pulls these faces on me! Whatever am I supposed to make of this one?” and he began ticking off on his chubby fingers, “not fear, not anger, not horror, not sadness, not happiness, not--but I daresay a bit of all of these…deuce take it!” and, whipping off his furry green boots he began to juggle them together with a solid-looking night cap which he had produced from his coat pocket. We can only speculate as to the motives behind this peculiar display, but frustration was undoubtedly a primary factor. James slowly stepped away from the window, and leaned, almost limply, against the wall near it.
The moments that followed would have been distinctly cozy, (what with the cheery sound of furry boots being juggled and the wistfully sad expression on James’s face) but for the jarringly cold air that flowed in through the half-open window, and the frost-edged moon that floated among the shadowy clouds.
The dwarf let the boots fall, (and bounce slightly on the carpet), after which he went over to the window and closed it tightly not forgetting to pull the curtains over it. He chuckled and ruffled his hair, “it was rather stifling in here, wasn’t it James? I rather thought some fresh air might be in order. I didn’t expect you to take offense at the old orb,--if that is what you took of course…”he was now proceeding to put his boots back on, and casting longing glances at the biscuit tin, continued, “but after all, how could the moon possibly affect you? A sensible, fanciful, distinctly enhansable, positively--” but James interrupted him with a moody wave of his hand, and burst in “but dwarf, tell me now, we both know that the moon is, shall we say, an object. Yes, an inanimate, rocky, inhospitable, in short, there can be no argument here to speak of or be silent about as things go. And yet--are you listening dwarf?--yet, incomprehensible, or rather foolish, as it may sound, I had the impression, no, I entertained the certitude that it, bluntly speaking, was looking at me, looking, you understand, as you are looking at me now--that is, no, not as you are looking at me now” he hastily corrected himself, on seeing that the dwarf had just taken his night cap off (since he had put it on backwards during the initial stages of the discourse) and his hair was now plastered to his face, it having come off with a terrific “pop” of static electricity, leaving him blind and furiously fumbling with his hair for some moments. James wrung his hands impatiently, “dwarf”, he started what promised to be another disconcerting remark, not noticing that the dwarf was engaged in the last and delicate stages of extrication from the clutches of the curtains, which, attracted by his electrically charged curls, had positively wound themselves around his head. “dwarf, have I ever done anything wrong in my life?” the dwarf, emerging triumphant, answered without hesitation “my dear James, why, the stale biscuits alone will be several years in the infernal regions, not to mention--” James flung himself onto the couch and cut in “you silly dwarf, I am talking of serious offenses, things that could potentially weigh on my conscience, you know. And another question--is there perhaps something I haven’t done, something of incalculable importance, something that is completely obvious, but that I have neglected to do? The moon you see, it--it…it accuses me, do you see how it stares? These last few days it has driven all the sanity I posses out of the door. But no, I am being unfair, it does not accuse, it merely stares, so cold and aloof in the starry firmament, and my stomach lurches, and I accuse myself, I cannot take it any longer,” and he took his face in his hands. The dwarf, who had plopped onto the couch meanwhile, looked genuinely sympathetic.
They fetched tea five more times that night, and by morning they were both sleeping soundly on the couch, as the sun rose splendidly behind the curtained windows.