Thirty-first Evening

“It occurred in a little provincial town,” said the Moon; “it was last year that I saw it, but that doesn’t matter, for I saw it very clearly. Tonight I read about it in the newspaper, but there it was not nearly so clearly told. The owner of a dancing bear was tied up behind the woodpile in the yard – the poor bear that looked so fierce, but did nobody any harm. Up in the attic room three small children were playing by the light of my rays; the oldest was perhaps six, the youngest not more than two. Tramp, tramp! There was somebody coming up the stairs; who could it be? The floor flew open – it was the bear! the huge, shaggy bear. He had tired of waiting so long out in the yard and had found his way up the stairs. I saw it all,” said the Moon.

“The children were terribly frightened of the great, shaggy animal, and each ran to hide himself in a corner. The bear found all three of them and put his snuffling muzzle up to them, but didn’t harm them. ‘This must be a big dog,’ thought the children, and then began to pet him. The bear stretched out at full length on the floor. The youngest boy rolled over him, and putting his curly head in the beast’s shaggy black fur, began to play hide and seek. Then the eldest boy brought his drum, and thumped away on it with might and main; where upon the bear promptly stood erect on his hind legs and began to dance. What a charming sight! Each boy shouldered a musket, and of course the bear had to have one too, which he held onto firmly. What a playmate they had found! And away they marched – one, two, one, two!

“Suddenly the door opened, and the children’s mother appeared. You should have seen her, speechless with horror, her face white as a sheet, her mouth half open, her eyes glassy with terror. But the smallest boy nodded to her with a look of great delight, and cried out childishly, ‘Mamma, we’re only playing soldier!’

“And then the bear’s owner appeared.”



Original Danish title: “Een og tredivte Aften” translated by Jean Hersholt.