Part One, Chapter 16
Throughout the early parts of Ardis the First, the pressure of Van’s love and desire for Ada mounts in a way that he finds half-rapture, and—since he cannot quite foresee fulfilment—half-torment. The tension between rapture and torment reaches its maximum here in I.16, just before the first unequivocal signs that Ada reciprocates his feelings in the “kissing phase” (102) of their love in the next chapter.
This alternation or interfusion of hope and uncertainty will be known to anyone who has fallen in love and not been sure of the other’s feelings, but Nabokov evokes this almost universal human experience in a most singular fashion. Van’s lips had accidentally tumbled onto Ada’s unclothed crotch in the previous chapter, as they clambered up a tree, but now Van cannot keep away from Ada in her quietest moments. So far, so perfectly normal, even in the lyrical descriptions of Van’s repeatedly sneaking up on Ada from behind, bending over to brush her neck with his lips, uncertain whether she is too preoccupied with her painting to sense him or whether she is consciously compliant, and not daring to probe whether there is invitation or inclination on her part, lest he encounter rebuff and reproach. But then Van rushes off, day after day, to release the tension, and to ensure he will not impinge on Ada’s innocence, by masturbating in his room.
Although unusual—especially in a nineteenth-century romance!—Van’s reaction nevertheless reflects both his individual character (his intense physical and sexual energy), and his social context (especially his father’s example of never delaying the satisfaction of desire). These scenes are as psychologically complex as they are psychologically apt, first in Van’s sense of the distance his behavior creates between Ada and him, even as, in bringing himself to orgasm, he mentally evokes their physical proximity just moments before; then, in his retrospective sense of distance from himself as soon as they have moved to their new kissing phase, and in the unease he soon shares with Ada as they reflect back on this stage of their love; and then, in the emotional distance that momentarily arises between the older Van and Ada as Van recounts the situation many decades later in Ada.
But the scenes of mounting tension and release are perhaps most astonishing as sheer literary tour de force, as an echo and perverse parodic updating of “the unsufferable banalities of shy wooing buried in old romances as arch as Arcady” (98-99). Has masturbation ever before been rendered so artfully, so lyrically? And has the grand passion at the heart of a great love story ever been introduced so insistently in terms of masturbation?
The first half of the chapter prepares for the scenes that follow in a reflective and analytic rather than a descriptive and narrative mode. The pictorially luminous second half focuses on the sun-satured situation that allows Van so close to Ada and drives him so wild with desire that he has to retreat and release the sexual tension in masturbation. A generalized sequence of Ada painting orchids in the music room, Van stealing up behind her, lingering there, bending forward to brush her neck with his lips, and then rushing for his room to get rid of his tension there “with savage zeal” before returning “with shaky loins and weak calves” (100), begins with Ada working at, “for instance, an insect-mimicking orchid . . . . and as the sun looked on, the fantastic, black-blue brown-haired child seemed in her turn to mimic the mirror-of-Venus blossom” (99), and settles into a specific scene, as she paints “a blend of Ophrys scolopax and Ophrys veenae” (101) and ends the afternoon series by turning around to Van for a quick kiss that will lead into the kissing phase of the next chapter.
For the reader who knows or suspects it is worth finding out about insect-mimicking orchids or who looks up Ophrys in a good dictionary, it soon becomes clear that these repeated scenes, fictionally convincing settings for the situation evoked, also involve a complex pattern of imitation. If Ada’s art imitates nature, the very nature she imitates already imitates both art and nature, for Ophrys orchids mimic the female of an insect species, with which the deceived male of that species then attempts to copulate, and in so doing picks up the pollen with which he will inadvertently pollinate the next flower he tries to mate with. Van in turn imitates the male insects in repeatedly inducing orgasm not with a real girl he loves, but with a simulacrum, his mental image of her. Biologists refer to the behavior of the insects as pseudo-copulation, and Nabokov makes this process “artfully parallel Van’s own pseudo-copulation before his evoked image of Ada” (Boyd 1985/2001: 136-37).
97.11-12: “Je raffole de tout ce qui rampe”: Cf. 54.24-25. MOTIF: raffole . . . rampe.
97.12-18: he could rely on two or three dreadful dreams . . . expelled from Ardis: MOTIF: dream.
97.15-17: a gigantic footman (not existing in the house but killable in the dream—punchable with sharp-ringed knuckles, puncturable like a bladder of blood): Cf. Ardis kitchen-hand Kim Beauharnais, “the light-footed, lean lad with the sallow complexion” who by 1892 “had become a dusky colossus, vaguely resembling a janizary in some exotic opera” (396.05-07) and whose attempts to blackmail Ada with photographs of her relations with Van and others end when he is “carried out of his cottage with one eye hanging on a red thread and the other drowned in its blood” (441.21-23) after Van attacks him with an alpenstock (445.31-32).
97.18: expelled from Ardis: Echoes the Biblical expulsion from Paradise (Genesis 3.22-24) and its artistic echoes in Western painting and literature from Masaccio to Milton and Marvell. MOTIF: Ardis; paradise.
97.19-98.02: (In Ada’s hand: . . . that must stay.): MOTIF: Composition: Ada, Van.
98.02: Sorry, puss; that must stay: Not a usual endearment from Van to Ada, this recalls the “Puss Moth” of 55.17-22, just after Ada says for the first time “Je raffole de tout ce qui rampe” (54.24).
98.10-11: between his soft lips and her softer skin: MOTIF: lip.
98.11-12: in that dappled tree: In the Shattal apple tree of I.15 (94.01ff.); hence, pun on “apple tree.” MOTIF: apple; sun-Ardis.
98.12: with only that stray ardilla daintily leavesdropping: W2: “ardilla (är · dēl'yä) n. [Sp.] A squirrel,” presumably dropping leaves ( Kyoto Reading Circle). Here also a play on “Ardis.” Ostensibly refers to the “silver-and-sable skybab squirrel” that “sat sampling a cone” (94.07-08), which, as a Kaibab squirrel (see 94.07n.), comes from Arizona, an area with a strong Spanish presence. But since when Van first arrives at Ardis and sees the first of his young cousins, he assumes “she must be ‘Ardelia’” (36.24), although it is in fact Lucette, the “stray ardilla daintily leavesdropping” is also an allusion to Lucette (“ardilla” and “Ardelia” are homophones), and a confirmation that nosy Lucette, “just within earshot” (94.03) during the Shattal tree incident, had remained listening attentively throughout the scene.
Cf. “That ‘leavesdropper’ is a splendid trouvaille” (247.25-26).
MOTIF: ardilla; Ardis; leavesdrop.
98.14-15: a tactile sensation is a blind spot; we touch in silhouette: Cf. Spenser Muldoon, a blind man who can detect color through touch, even in a box of pencils apparently identical except for their colors: “by stroking the pencils in turn he perceived a gamut of ‘stingles’ . . . ” (469.19-20). Muldoon and this image are in part echoes of Nabokov’s own synesthesia, famously described in chapter 2 of SM. Cf. RLSK 80: “she had touched it with her innocent blind fingers.”
98.17: a secret sign was erected: Pun. As explained at 98.24-32, Van’s arousal seems something he must hide from Ada and get rid of or enjoy in secret.
98.18: a veil drawn between him and her: Cf. 59.17-21: “between him . . . and that precocious, affected, impenetrable child there extended a void of light and a veil of shade that no force could overcome and pierce”; 103.01-02: “some odd pudibund screen cut them off, so to speak, from each other’s raging bodies.”
98.19-20: ( Ada: They are now practically extinct at Ardis. Van: Who? Oh, I see.): Ardillas: cf. 98.12. Cf. 108.05-08: “Chateaubriand’s mosquito . . . . seems to be getting extinct, what with the . . . moronic draining of the lovely rich marshes in the Ladore region.” MOTIF: ardilla; Ardis; Composition--Ada; Composition--Van.
98.22: to the level of a wretched itch: MOTIF: itch.
98.23: (Och, Van!): MOTIF: Composition: Ada.
98.26: avournine . . . bastard French: W2: “avourneen [Ir. a O + muirnīn little darling . . . ] My love; sweetheart; --a term of endearment. Anglo-Ir.” Cf. 518.30 “muirninochka,” which Darkbloom glosses “Hiberno-Russian caressive term.”
98.31: in secret and too sacred: Cf. 409.04: “a sacred secret and creed.”
98.34-99.01: the unsufferable banalities of shy wooing buried in old romances as arch as Arcady: MOTIF: Arcady; novel; romance.
99.05-06: he stood indecently close behind her: MOTIF: behind.
99.06-07: with his burning breath and gliding lips: MOTIF: lip.
99.11-101.20: On those relentlessly hot July afternoons . . . . back to her hideous flower): Cf. this scene of Ada’s copying and combining orchids with: Lucette in 1888 “under Ada’s direction . . . trying to learn to draw flowers,” 288.10; Lucette’s copying erotic pictures, 376.04-05; Kim’s photo of Ada “drawing one of her favorite flowers, a Ladore satyrion, silky-haired, fleshy, erect. . . . ‘my flower opens only at dusk.’ The one she was moistly mauving,” 401.30-402.02; Ada as gitanilla in Don Juan’s Last Fling bending “over the live table of Leporello’s servile back to trace on a scrap of parchment a rough map . . . no longer another man’s Dolores, but a little girl twisting an aquarelle brush in the paint of Van’s blood, and Donna Anna’s castle is now a bog flower,” 489.17-23.
For a meticulous analysis of this passage, amid a longer discussion of all Ada’s orchids, see Liana Marie Arangi Ashenden, “Mimicry, Mimesis and Desire in Nabokov’s Ada” (unpublished MA Thesis, University of Auckland, 2000), 78-85.
MOTIF: artificial flowers; art-life; flower drawing-painting; flowers; mimicry; orchids.
99.11-13: to sit on a cool piano stool . . . in the sunny music room: Cf. 43.27-28: “the music room with its little-used piano.”
99.13-14: her favorite botanical atlas open before her: Cf. Van’s first tour of Ardis, which Ada begins in the library: “In a slant of scholarly sunlight a botanical atlas upon a reading desk lay open on a colored plate of orchids” (41.11-13).
99.17-18: combined one species with another (unrecorded but possible): As Nabokov does himself, as it were, in Ada’s flora and fauna and geography and history. Cf. 106.20-21: “ Ada, who liked crossing orchids.”
Ashenden 70 notes: “Orchids are hybridized easily by cross-fertilization to create new species and varieties, not only between species but also between genera. The ease of hybridization is an unusual characteristic and makes orchids unique. ‘In none of the other plant families do so many viable bastards occur between so-called distant species’ (van der Cingel 3).”
99.19-20: The long beam slanting in from the french window: Cf. 41.11-12: “In a slant of scholarly sunlight a botanical atlas. . . . ”
99.22: while she delicately painted an eyespot: Cf. SO 234: “the figure of speech is the main, sacred quiddity and eyespot of a poet’s genius.” MOTIF: eyespot.
99.22-23: or the lobes of a lip: MOTIF: lip.
99.24: as the sun looked on: Cf. 89.07: “glared at the sun that glared back.”
99.25-26: child seemed in her turn to mimic the mirror-of-Venus blossom: Ardeur 85: “l’ophrys miroir de Vénus.”
Not “Venus’s looking-glass” (W2: “any plant of the genus Specularia, esp. S. speculum-veneris”) but, as identified by Liana Ashenden, the “Mirror of Venus” or Mirror Orchid, Ophrys speculum Link. “Taking its name from the large mirror-like area on the mid-lobe of the labellum, the Ophrys speculum flower has brown petals and a russet colored lip ‘with a glossy deep-blue speculum with a yellow or brown margin’ ([Helmut] Bechtel[, Phillip Cribb and Edmund Launert, The Manual of Cultivated Orchid Species, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1980,] 344). Speculum means ‘a mirror or reflector of glass or metal.’ . . . Venus, the Roman goddess of love, was often represented with the mirror as her symbol. . . . The brightest celestial object after the sun and moon and frequently appearing as the evening or morning star, the planet Venus has a mirror-like appearance due to its reflective clouds of sulfuric acid. . . . The Ophrys speculum flower is strikingly similar to the female of its wasp pollinator, Campsoscolia ciliata. The hairs on the labellum of the orchid mimic the long hairs of the female wasp, the scent contains a species-specific substance and the large hairless speculum mimics the female wings. The males emerge before the females and are attracted to the mimetic Ophrys speculum flowers, where they land and take up a position with their abdomen to the hairy side of the labellum. The male wasps ‘bite with their mandibles in the two lengthy swellings in front of the column simultaneously making violent movements with the abdomen, the genital apparatus stretched out’ ([N.A.] van der Cingel[, An Atlas of Orchid Pollination: European Orchids, Rotterdam: A.A. Balkema, 1995,] 127). The pollinia become attached between the eyes of the male wasps. Wasps are particularly excited by visual stimuli and Ophrys speculum seems to stimulate super-normally” (Ashenden 81-82).
Cf. 542.11-12: “the delightful Venus sign ♀”. MOTIF: Veen; Venus.
99.28: her prominent scapulae: Cf. Lucette’s “thin bare shoulders, so mobile and tensile that one wondered if she could not cross them in front of her like stylized angel wings,” 485.16-18.
99.31: wiped a strand of hair off her temple: Cf. 52.12, 62.23-24.
99.32: ensellure: The small of the back.
99.33: as far as her coccyx: Cf. Van with Lucette, “rubbing her coccyx to make pussy purr,” 481.16.
100.01-02: half a dozen ten-dollar gold pieces: MOTIF: gold dollars; riches.
100.02-15: he bent over her, as she bent over her work. . . . let his parched lips travel down her warm hair and hot nape. . . . The vivid crimsoning of an exposed ear and the gradual torpor invading her paintbrush were the only signs . . . of her feeling the increased pressure of his caress: Cf. ch. 9, “Something Like First Love” (“Chto-to vrode pervoy lyubvi”), of Tolstoy’s Detstvo (Childhood), a work alluded to in the opening paragraph of Ada (see 3.07-08n). As the children, including the narrator at the age of ten, investigate a caterpillar, twelve-year-old Katen’ka twitches her shoulders to bring her low-necked frock back into place, as she “bent over the caterpillar, . . . and at the same time the wind lifted the kerchief from her little white neck. As she moved, her little shoulder was two fingers from my lips. I was no longer looking at the caterpillar but looking and looking at Katen’ka’s shoulder, and I kissed it as hard as I could. She didn’t turn around, but I saw that her neck and ears had turned red” (“Nagnuvshis’ nad chervyakom, Katen’ka sdelala eto samoe dvizhenie, i v to zhe vremya veter podnyal kosynochu s eyo belen’koy sheyki. Plechiko vo vremya etogo dvizheniya bylo na dva pal’tsa ot moikh gub. Ya smotrel uzhe ne na chervyaka, smotrel-smotrel i izo vsekh sil potseloval plecho Katen’ki. Ona ne obernulas’, no ya zametil, chto sheyka eyo i ushi pokrasneli”).
100.03: his parched lips: Cf. 58.17: “her parched lips.” MOTIF: lip.
100.06: his sordid venery of the past winter: His sessions with the “fubsy pig-pink whorelet” at the corner shop near Riverlane (33.17). Play on “venereal disease,” in view of Van’s anxiety that he may have contracted one from her, 33.32-34. MOTIF: Veen; Venus.
100.12-13: The vivid crimsoning of an exposed ear: Cf. 126.32-34: “Van had never seen a girl . . . blush so substantially and habitually.”
100.14-20: her paintbrush. . . . Silently he would slink away . . . and call forth the image he had just left behind . . . after which, drained for a while, with shaky loins and weak calves: Cf., in 1901, Van’s masturbating to get rid “of the prurient pressure as he had done the last time seventeen years ago [in these 1884 scenes] . . . the picture projected upon the screen of his paroxysm . . . was not the recent and pertinent image of Lucette, but the indelible vision of a bent bare neck and a divided flow of black hair and a purple-tipped paint brush” (490.27-34).
100.16-19: call forth the image he had just left behind, an image still as safe and bright as a hand-cupped flame—carried into the dark, only to be got rid of there with savage zeal: Cf. 66.02-06: “who adored à neuf ans . . . Gilberte Swann . . . (and who had learned, all by himself, to release the adoration as soon as the kerosene lamp had left the mobile bedroom in his black nurse’s fist).”
100.20: with shaky loins and weak calves: Cf. 393.20-21: “our two lovers, now weak-legged and decently robed.”
100.22-24: the marvelous flower that simulated a bright moth that in turn simulated a scarab: Ashenden 78: “Nabokov creates five layers of imitation shimmering between artistic illusion and mimetic deception, and between mimesis and mimicry. Ada seems to mimic her painting of the flamboyant orchid simulating a moth simulating the ancient Egyptian gem carved in imitation of the dung beetle.” Cf. 158.10-15: “vanessian . . . mimicking . . . not the Monarch butterfly directly, but the Monarch through the Viceroy, one of the Monarch’s best known imitators.”
100.24: scarab: W2: “A dung beetle; esp. Scarabeus sacer.”
100.25: the relief, any relief, of a lad’s ardor: MOTIF: ardor.
100.30-32: only a dead end, because unshared; because horribly hidden; because not liable to melt into any . . . greater rapture: Cf. 110.10-18: “her first physiological reactions to them she demurely dismissed as related to childish practices which she had indulged in before and which had little to do with the glory and tang of individual happiness. Van . . . stressed philosophic and moral distinctions between the shattering force of self-abuse and the overwhelming softness of avowed and shared love.”
100.31-33: not liable to melt into any subsequent phase of incomparably greater rapture which, like a misty summit beyond the fierce mountain pass: Cf. 549.20-22: “Now blows the wind of the Present at the top of the Past—at the top of the passes I have been proud to reach in my life, the Umbrail, the Fluela, the Furka, of my clearest consciousness!”
101.01-06: those daily butterfly kisses . . . even farther removed from her than he had been on the eve of the day when his mouth had . . . come into contact with an inch of her skin . . . in the maze of the shattal tree: Cf. 94.12-18: “betokened mute communication by taking her ankle between finger and thumb as she would have a closed butterfly. Her bare foot slipped, and the two panting youngsters tangled ignominiously . . . his expressionless face and cropped head were between her legs.” Cf. also, in view of Ada’s orchid-painting, 589.04-05: “butterfly orchids in the margin of the romance.” MOTIF: butterflies; Shattal.
101.07: nature is motion and growth: Cf. the poem “Pale Fire,” ll. 567-72: “Time means succession, and succession, change. . . . Time means growth.”
101.10-20: pressed her lips to his in a fresh-rose kiss . . . . anointed his flushed forehead with her paintbrush in the semblance of an ancient Estotian ‘sign of the cross’ . . . “ . . . Marina wants Kim to take our picture . . . ”: Cf. 401.30-402.27, for a sequence of three photographs, of Ada on the balcony drawing a flower, Ada and Van as formally posed at Marina’s request, and Ada reading with Van inclining his head above her and looking at the book, especially 402.07-08: “Both recalled the time (between the first tiny cross and a whole graveyard of kisses).” MOTIF: Kim’s photography.
101.10: pressed her lips to his: MOTIF: lip.
101.10-11: fresh-rose kiss: Cf. 32.07-09: “he touched a half-opened rose and was cheated of the sterile texture his fingertips had expected when cool life kissed them with pouting lips.” MOTIF: rose.
101.12: quick, quick, I’m busy: MOTIF: quick-quick.
101.13-15: Not the more familiar “sign of the cross” when praying: (W3: “a gesture of the hand forming a cross: esp.: such a motion from one’s forehead to the breast and from the left to the right shoulder in the Roman Catholic Church or from the right to the left shoulder in the Eastern Orthodox Church”), but the priest’s anointing the foreheads of each member of his congregation with the sign of the cross using a small brush dipped in a cup of aromatic oil or myrrh, an action known as the миропомазание (miropomazanie, "spreading the myrrh"), as part of a church service (Dmitry Kirsanov, personal communication). Gennady Kramer (personal communication), explains the ritual context: “A festival (or a Sunday) itself is celebrated of course with a Liturgy. But on the eve there is a Vigil - Всенощное бдение (Vsenoshchnoe bdenie, all-night vigil), which usually starts at 5 or 6 PM and consists of 3 parts: Evening, Morning and the First Hour services - Вечерня, Утреня и Первый час. . . . What interests us is Утреня (Utrenya, Morning). It begins with 6 penitential psalms (always the same) called Шестопсалмие (Shestopsalmie). Then, after a daily psalmody comes the most festive part – Полиелей (Polieley), at the end of which a Gospel is read by the priest (or, in a cathedral, the bishop) standing in the center of the church. After that (while the choir sings and the reader reads a Canon of the holiday) the priest remains in the centre with a sort of small brush and a cup of aromatic oil or myrrh. The congregation comes up to him one by one, first kissing the icon of the day or the Gospel placed on the аналой (analoy, lectern) nearby, whereupon the priest dips the brush in myrrh and makes the sign of the cross on everyone's forehead.”
Cf. 378.01-15: “it means ‘little cross’ in Russian. . . . the stigmata between the eyebrows of pure sickly young nuns whom priests had over-anointed there and elsewhere with cross-like strokes of the myrrherabol brush.” MOTIF: sign of the cross.
101.16: violet-purple-soaked: MOTIF: violet.
101.16-17: a blend of Ophrys scolopax and Ophrys veenae: Cf. 99.17: “Or else she combined one species with another (unrecorded but possible).”
“Ophrys, a genus of orchids, family Orchidaceae, that contains approximately 30 species of plants native to Eurasia and North Africa. All have metallic-colored, hairy flowers that resemble insects. Each plant is less than 30 centimeters (1 foot) tall and bears several flowers on a single spike. Male insects attempt to copulate with the flowers, which resemble females of their own species. During this process, pollen sacs become attached to the insect’s body and are transferred to the next flower visited.” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1974 edition, VII, 550)
Ashenden 84: “ Ada’s hybrid orchid combines Ophrys veenae, a species invented by Nabokov, and Ophrys scolopax, an orchid that closely mimics females of pollinating Eucera bee species. The Ophrys scolopax labellum has a convex abdomen shape with fine hairs that mimic the bristles of the female’s wings and longer hairs mimicking the haircoat of female bee abdomens in the dorsal area between the wings. ‘The hairs of the fringe of the lateral lobes could correspond to the longer hairs of the hind legs, abdomen and thorax of the female’ (van der Cingel 129). Ada’s interest in hybridizing Ophrys species is scientifically apt and reflects the ease of hybridization within the Ophrys genus. Her ‘unrecorded but possible’ (99) orchids accurately reflect the historical context of orchid cultivation. Ophrys hybrids had not yet been produced in 1884, but landmark developments in orchid hybridization were taking place throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century. By 1900, thirteen Ophrys hybrids had been described. At the time Nabokov researched and wrote Ada, Ophrys scolopax was a synonym of Ophrys speculum, an orchid that hybridizes easily and more often than most Ophrys species.” Ashenden explains the synonymy further in a note: “Bechtel, Cribb and Launert list Ophrys scolopax and O. speculum as synonyms (344, 449). N.A. van der Cingel, however, describes O. speculum and O. scolopax as separate complexes or groups of species, and discusses the reclassification of species within the O. speculum complex by Baumann and Künkele in the late 1980s, and by Karl Butler in 1986 (125, 129).”
Since veen in Dutch means “peat, bog,” Ophrys veenae is—although since it is invented, we do not know the etymology of its name!—presumably a bog orchid (a likelihood strengthened when Van sees Ada in Don Juan’s Last Fling and reacts: “It is no longer another man’s Dolores, but a little girl twisting an aquarelle brush in the paint of Van’s blood, and Donna Anna’s castle is now a bog flower,” 489.20-23). In the Scrabble game in Ardis the Second, Van advises Lucette of a word she can place with the letters she has: “ ‘Go through her ORHIDEYa.’ ‘Through her silly orchid,’ said Lucette. ‘And now,’ said Ada, ‘Adochka is going to do something even sillier. . . . Ada, with a deep sigh of pleasure, composed the adjective TORFYaNUYu” (227.21-27), which, as she explains in response to Lucette’s challenge, “means ‘peaty’” (228.13-14).
MOTIF: peat, bog; Veen.
101.17-20: “in a minute we must dress up because Marina wants Kim to take our picture—holding hands and grinning” (grinning, and then turning back to her hideous flower)”: Cf. 402.03-07: “A formal photograph, on a separate page: Adochka, pretty and impure in her flimsy, and Vanichka in gray-flannel suit, with slant-striped school tie, facing the kimera (chimera, camera) side by side, at attention, he with the shadow of a forced grin, she, expressionless. . . . Another photograph was taken in the same circumstances . . . . Ada sat reading. . . . A very rare, radiant, seemingly uncalled-for smile shone on her practically Moorish lips.”
101.18-20: “holding hands and grinning” (grinning, and then turning back to her hideous flower)”: Pun on orchideous (or “orchidaceous”), of or like an orchid. Cf. 51.27-30: “ . . . looked up and then down). Looking down . . . ”
Afternote to Part One, Chapter 16