Nineteenth Evening

“I looked down into a large theater,” said the Moon. “The audience filled the house, for a new actor was making his first appearance. My rays glided through a small window in the wall, and I saw a painted face with the forehead pressed against the pane – it was the hero of the evening. The knightly beard curled around his chin, but there were tears in his eyes, for he had been hissed from the stage, and for a good reason. Poor fellow! But incompetence cannot be tolerated in the world of art. He had deep feeling, and loved his art with a fervor, but art did not love him.

“The prompter’s bell tinkled. In his part was written, ‘Boldly and valiantly the hero advances’ – and he had to appear before an audience which ridiculed him.

“When the play was ended I saw a man, muffled in a cloak, sneak down the stairs; it was he, the crushed hero of the evening. The stagehands whispered to each other. I followed the poor fellow to his room. Hanging oneself is an unsightly death, and poison is not always at hand. I know he was thinking of both.

“I saw him look at his pale face in the mirror, and peep through half-closed eyes to decide whether he would look well as a corpse. A man may be very unhappy and at the same time very affected. He thought of death, of suicide, and I believe he pitied himself. He wept bitterly, and when a man has wept until no more tears can come he no longer thinks of suicide.

“A year had passed since then, and again a play was produced, but in a little theater, by a company of poor wandering players. I again saw that familiar face with the curled beard, the painted cheeks. Again he looked up at me and smiled – and yet he had again been hissed from the stage, only a minute before, hissed from a miserable stage, hissed by a miserable audience!

“That same evening a shabby hearse drove out of the gate of the town, with no one following. It was a suicide – our painted and hissed hero. The only attendant was the driver of the hearse, and none but the Moon followed it. The suicide lies buried in a corner by the churchyard wall. Nettles will soon grow over his grave, and the gravedigger will fling over it the weeds and thorns he roots from the other graves.”



Original Danish title: “Nittende Aften” translated by Jean Hersholt.