The stranger walked slowly into the inner office and sat in a chair opposite the doctor. “What seems to be the problem, my friend with the pocket of gold coins,” asked the doctor kindly. The stranger lifted his head and struggled to speak. “Lately I have been beset by an unceasing melancholy. Nothing gives me joy. All seems pointless. I don’t know what to do. They say that you are a doctor of the mind and you are my last hope.” The doctor smiled widely. “You have nothing to worry about friend. For you have come at exactly the right moment. For, you see, the circus has just arrived in Vienna and they perform this very night. I myself plan to attend. As must you. You see, in this circus is the funniest man in the world. He has the saddest face of any clown that has ever lived – he never smiles. But it is said that when you see him perform you forget all your worries and know only laughter. His name is Grimaldi and he is your cure.” The stranger looked even more sad, if that was possible and he said, “Then there I no cure for me kind sir. For I am Grimaldi.”
The doctor nodded slowly. “I see. I see. Then there is only one thing you can do.” The stranger looked up hopefully. “Tonight,” said the doctor, “you must kill yourself.” “Then it is true,” said Grimaldi. “There is no cure and I must end my life. I will not hesitate. I will do it this very night.” “No, no,” said the doctor smiling. “You must kill yourself this evening, at the circus, for all to see.” Grimaldi looked at the doctor and slowly a slight smile crept onto his face. “Thank-you,” he said to the doctor and left a handful of gold coins on the desk as he left.
That night Grimaldi set about to kill himself before the sold-out audience. He first tried to cut his throat with an overlarge knife. But the blade, made of rubber, cut and cut and made no mark. Then he tried to shoot himself but the gun shot out nothing but smoke and paper. He tried to hang himself but the rope broke and he tumbled to the circus floor with the crowd roaring all the while. Finally he climbed a tall ladder to throw himself to his death. He leapt from the ladder and everyone screamed. But Grimaldi’s suspenders were caught and he was pulled back to the ladder. No circus crowd had ever laughed so loud.And they say that that was the only night in his career that Grimaldi himself could not help but laugh. He laughed and laughed until the tears flowed.