IN VINO VERITAS (THE BANQUET)
It was on one of the last days in July, at ten o'clock in the evening, when the participants in that banquet assembled together. Date and year I have forgotten; indeed this would be interesting only to one's memory of details: and not to one's recollection of the contents of what experience. The "spirit of the occasion" and whatever impressions are recorded inone's mind under that heading, concerns only one's recollections; and just as generous wine gains in flavor by passing the Equator, because of the evaporation of its watery particles, likewise does recollection gain by getting rid of the watery particles of memory; and yet recollection becomes as little a mere figment of the imagination by this process as does the generous wine.
The participantswere five in number: John, with the epithet of the Seducer, Victor Eremita, Constantin Constantius, and yet two others whose names I have not exactly forgotten‑-which would be a matter of small importance-but whose names I did not learn. It was as if these two had no proper names, for they were constantly addressed by some epithet. The one was called the Young Person. Nor was he more than twentyand some years, of slender and delicate build, and of a very dark complexion. His face was thoughtful; but more pleasing even was its lovable and engaging expression which betokened a purity of soul harmonizing perfectly with the soft charm, almost feminine, and the transparency of his whole presence. This external beauty of appearance was lost sight of, however, in one's next impression of him;or, one kept it only in mind whilst regarding a youth nurtured or-to use a still tenderer expression-‑petted into being, by thought, and nourished by the contents of his own soul-a youth who as yet had had nothing to do with the world, had been neither aroused and fired, nor disquieted and disturbed. Like a sleep‑walker he bore the law of his actions within himself, and the amiable, kindlyexpression of his countenance concerned no one, but only mirrored the disposition of his soul.
The other person they called the Dressmaker, and that was his occupation. Of him it was impossible toget a consistent impression. He was dressed according to the very latest fashion, with his hair curled and perfumed, fragrant with eau‑de‑cologne. One moment his carriage did not lack self-possession, whereasin the next it assumed a certain festive air, a certain hovering motion which, however was kept in rather definite bounds by the robustness of his figure. Even when he was most malicious in his speech his voice ever had a touch of the smooth‑tonguedness of the the shop, the suaveness of the dealer in fancy‑goods, Which evidently was utterly disgusting to himself and only satisfied his spirit ofdefiance. As I think of him now I understand him better, to be sure, than when I first saw him step out of his carriage and I involuntarily laughed. At the same time there is some contradiction left still. He had transformed or bewitched himself, had by the magic of his own will assumed the appearance of one almost halfwitted, but had not thereby entirely satisfied himself; and this is why hisreflectiveness now and then peered forth from beneath his disguise.
As I think of it now it seems rather absurd that five such persons should get a banquet arranged. Nor would anything have come of it, I suppose, if Constantin had not been one of us. In a retired room of a confectioner's shop where they met at times, the matter had been broached once before, but had been dropped immediately when thequestion arose as to who was to head the undertaking. The Young Person was declared unfit for that task, the Dressmaker affirmed himself to be too busy. Victor Eremita did not beg to be excused because "he had married a wife or bought yoke of oxen which he needed to prove",11 but, he said, even if he should make an exception, for once, and come to the banquet, yet he would decline the courtesy...