The Banquet of the Supreme Being
One day the Supreme Being took it into his head to give a great banquet in his palace of azure.
All the virtues were invited. Only the virtues . . . men he did not ask . . . only ladies.
There were a great many of them, great and small. The lesser virtues were more agreeable and genial than the great ones; but they all appeared in good humour, and chatted amiably together, as was only becoming for near relations and friends.
But the Supreme Being noticed two charming ladies who seemed to be totally unacquainted.
The Host gave one of the ladies his arm and led her up to the other.
"Beneficence!" he said, indicating the first.
"Gratitude!" he added, indicating the second.
Both the virtues were amazed beyond expression; ever since the world had stood, and it had been standing a long time, this was the first time they had met.
A sumptuous, brilliantly lighted hall; a number of ladies and gentlemen.
All the faces are animated, the talk is lively . . . A noisy conversation is being carried on about a famous singer. They call her divine, immortal . . . O, how finely yesterday she rendered her last trill!
And suddenly—as by the wave of an enchanter's wand—from every head and from every face, slipped off the delicate covering of skin, and instantaneously exposed the deadly whiteness of skulls, with here and there the leaden shimmer of bare jaws and gums.
With horror I beheld the movements of those jaws and gums; the turning, the glistening in the light of the lamps and candles, of those lumpy bony balls, and the rolling in them of other smaller balls, the balls of the meaningless eyes.
I dared not touch my own face, dared not glance at myself in the glass.
And the skulls turned from side to side as before . . . And with their former noise, peeping like little red rags out of the grinning teeth, rapid tongues lisped how marvellously, how inimitably the immortal . . . yes, immortal . . . singer had rendered that last trill!
Ivan Turgenev was a Russian novelist, playwright, and short-story writer, most well-known for his novel Fathers & Sons. Dream Tales and Prose Poems, one of his final published works, was translated into English by Constance Garnett in 1916.