Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle
Part 1, Chapter 38 ( view annotations)
38

In mid-July Uncle Dan took Lucette to Kaluga where she was
to stay, with Belle and French, for five days. The Lyaskan
Ballet and a German circus were in town, and no child would
want to miss the schoolgirls’ field-hockey and swimming
236.05 matches which old Dan, a child at heart, attended religiously at
that time of the year; moreover she had to undergo a series of
"tests" at the Tarus Hospital to settle what caused her weight
and temperature to fluctuate so abnormally despite her eating
so heartily and feeling so well.
236.10 On the Friday afternoon when her father planned to return
with her, he also expected to bring a Kaluga lawyer to Ardis
where Demon was to come too, an unusual occurrence. The
business to be discussed was the sale of some "blue" (peat-bog)
land which belonged to both cousins and which both, for dif-
236.15 ferent reasons, were anxious to get rid of. As usually happened
with Dan’s most carefully worked-out plans, something mis-
fired, the lawyer could not promise to come till late in the
evening, and just before Demon arrived, his cousin aerogrammed
a message asking Marina to "dine Demon" without waiting for
236.20 Dan and Miller.

[ 236 ]

That kontretan (Marina’s humorous term for a not necessarily
nasty surprise) greatly pleased Van. He had seen little of his
father that year. He loved him with light-hearted devotion, had
worshipped him in boyhood, and respected him staunchly now
237.05 in his tolerant but better informed youth. Still later a tinge of
repulsion (the same repulsion he felt in regard to his own im-
morality) became admixed to the love and the esteem; but, on
the other hand, the older he grew the more firmly he felt that
he would give his life for his father, at a moment’s notice, with
237.10 pride and pleasure, in any circumstance imaginable. When
Marina, in the late Eighteen-Nineties, in her miserable dotage,
used to ramble on, with embarrassing and disgusting details,
about dead Demon’s "crimes," he felt pity for him and her, but
his indifference to Marina and his adoration for his father re-
237.15 mained unchanged—to endure thus even now, in the chrono-
logically hardly believable Nineteen-Sixties. No accursed gen-
eralizer, with a half-penny mind and dry-fig heart, would be
able to explain (and this is my sweetest revenge for all the
detractions my lifework has met with) the individual vagaries
237.20 evolved in those and similar matters. No art and no genius would
exist without such vagaries, and this is a final pronouncement,
damning all clowns and clods,
When had Demon visited Ardis in recent years? April 23,
1884 (the day Van’s first summer stay there had been suggested,
237.25 planned, promised). Twice in the summer of 1885 (while Van
was climbing mountains in the Western states, and the Veen
girls were in Europe). A dinner in 1886, in June or July (where
was Van?). In 1887 for a few days in May (Ada was botanizing
with a German woman in Estotia or California. Van was whor-
237.30 ing in Chose).
Taking advantage of Larivière’s and Lucette’s absence, Van
had long dallied with Ada in the comfortable nursery, and was
now hanging from the wrong window, which did not give a
clear view of the drive, when he heard the rich purr of his

[ 237 ]

father’s motorcar. He dashed downstairs—the speed of his de-
scent causing the heat of the banisters to burn the palm of his
hand in a merry way remindful of similar occasions in his boy-
hood. There was nobody in the hall. Demon had entered the
238.05 house from a side gallery and was now settled in the sun-dusted
music room, wiping his monocle with a special zamshinka
("shammy") as he awaited his "prebrandial" brandy (an ancient
quip). His hair was dyed a raven black, his teeth were hound-
white. His smooth glossy brown face with its trimly clipped
238.10 black mustache and humid dark eyes beamed at his son, ex-
pressing the radiant love which Van reciprocated, and which
both vainly tried to camouflage with habitual pleasantry.
"Hullo, Dad."
"Oh, hullo, Van."
238.15 Très Américain. Schoolyard. There he slams the car door,
there he comes through the snow. Always gloves, no overcoat
ever. Want to go to the "bathroom," Father? My land, sweet
land.
"D’you want to go to the 'bathroom'?" asked Van, with a
238.20 twinkle.
"No thanks, I had my bath this morning." (Quick sigh ac-
knowledging the passage of time: he, too, remembered every
detail of those father-and-son dinners at Riverlane, the imme-
diate dutiful offer of the W.C., the hearty masters, the ignoble
238.25 meal, creamed hash, God save America, embarrassed sons, vulgar
fathers, titled Britisher and Greek grandee matching yachts, and
yacs, and yoickfests in the Bahamudas. May I transfer incon-
spicuously this delicious pink-frosted synthesis from my plate
to yours, son? "You don’t like it, Dad!" (acting horribly hurt).
238.30 God save their poor little American tastebuds.
"Your new car sounds wonderful," said Van.
"Doesn’t it? Yes." (Ask Van about that gornishon—Franco-
Russian slang of the meanest grade for a cute kameristochka).
"And how is everything, my dear boy? I saw you last the day

[ 238 ]

you returned from Chose. We waste life in separations! We
are the fools of fate! Oh let’s spend a month together in Paris
or London before the Michaelmas term!"
Demon shed his monocle and wiped his eyes with the modish
239.05 lace-frilled handkerchief that lodged in the heart pocket of his
dinner jacket. His tear glands were facile in action when no
real sorrow made him control himself.
"You look quite satanically fit, Dad. Especially with that
fresh oeillet in your lapel eye. I suppose you have not been
239.10 much in Manhattan lately—where did you get its last syllable?"
Homespun pun in the Veenish vein.
"I offered myself en effet a trip to Akapulkovo," answered
Demon, needlessly and unwillingly recollecting (with that spe-
cial concussion of instant detail that also plagued his children)
239.15 a violet-and-black-striped fish in a bowl, a similarly striped
couch, the subtropical sun bringing out the veins of an onyx
ashtray astray on the stone floor, a batch of old, orange-juice-
stained Povesa (playboy) magazines, the jewels he had brought,
the phonograph singing in a dreamy girl’s voice "Petit nègre, au
239.20 champ qui fleuronne," and the admirable abdomen of a very
expensive, and very faithless and altogether adorable young
Créole.
"Did what’s-her-name go with you?"
"Well, my boy, frankly, the nomenclature is getting more
239.25 and more confused every year. Let us speak of plainer things.
Where are the drinks? They were promised me by a passing
angel."
(Passing angel?)
Van pulled a green bell-cord which sent a melodious message
239.30 pantryward and caused the old-fashioned, bronze-framed little
aquarium, with its lone convict cichlid, to bubble antiphonally
in a corner of the music room (an eerie, perhaps self-aerating
reaction, which only Kim Beauharnais, the kitchen boy, under-
stood). "Should he ring her up after dinner," wondered Demon.

[ 239 ]

What time would it be there? Not much use, bad for the heart.
"I don’t know if you know," said Van, resuming his perch on
the fat arm of his father’s chair. "Uncle Dan will be here with
the lawyer and Lucette only after dinner."
240.05 "Capital," said Demon.
"Marina and Ada should be down in a minute—ce sera un
dîner à quatre."
"Capital," he repeated. "You look splendid, my dear, dear
fellow—and I don’t have to exaggerate compliments as some do
240.10 in regard to an aging man with shoe-shined hair. Your dinner
jacket is very nice—or, rather, it’s very nice recognizing one’s
old tailor in one’s son’s clotheslike catching oneself repeating
an ancestral mannerism—for example, this (wagging his left
forefinger three times at the height of his temple), which my
240.15 mother did in casual, pacific denial; that gene missed you, but
I’ve seen it in my hairdresser’s looking-glass when refusing to
have him put Crêmlin on my bald spot; and you know who
had it too—my aunt Kitty, who married the banker Bolenski
after divorcing that dreadful old wencher Lyovka Tolstoy, the
240.20 writer."
Demon preferred Walter Scott to Dickens, and did not think
highly of Russian novelists. As usual, Van considered it fit to
make a corrective comment:
"A fantastically artistic writer, Dad."
240.25 "You are a fantastically charming boy," said Demon, shed-
ding another sweet-water tear. He pressed to his cheek Van’s
strong shapely hand. Van kissed his father’s hairy fist which
was already holding a not yet visible glass of liquor. Despite
the manly impact of their Irishness, all Veens who had Russian
240.30 blood revealed much tenderness in ritual overflows of affection
while remaining somewhat inept in its verbal expression.
"I say," exclaimed Demon, "what’s happened—your shaft-
ment is that of a carpenter’s. Show me your other hand. Good
gracious" (muttering:) "Hump of Venus disfigured, Line of

[ 240 ]

Life scarred but monstrously long ..." (switching to a gipsy
chant:) "You’ll live to reach Terra, and come back a wiser and
merrier man" (reverting to his ordinary voice:) "What puzzles
me as a palmist is the strange condition of the Sister of your Life.
241.05 And the roughness!"
"Mascodagama," whispered Van, raising his eyebrows.
"Ah, of course, how blunt (dumb) of me. Now tell me—
you like Ardis Hall?"
"I adore it," said Van. "It’s for me the château que baignait la
241.10 Dore. I would gladly spend all my scarred and strange life here.
But that’s a hopeless fancy."
"Hopeless? I wonder. I know Dan wants to leave it to Lucile,
but Dan is greedy, and my affairs are such that I can satisfy
great greed. When I was your age I thought that the sweetest
241.15 word in the language rhymes with 'billiard,' and now I know
I was right. If you’re really keen, son, on having this property,
I might try to buy it. I can exert a certain pressure upon my
Marina. She sighs like a hassock when you sit upon her, so to
speak. Damn it, the servants here are not Mercuries. Pull that
241.20 cord again. Yes, maybe Dan could be made to sell."
"That’s very black of you, Dad," said pleased Van, using a
slang phrase he had learned from his tender young nurse, Ruby,
who was born in the Mississippi region where most magistrates,
public benefactors, high priests of various so-called "denomina-
241.25 tions," and other honorable and generous men, had the dark or
darkish skin of their West-African ancestors, who had been
the first navigators to reach the Gulf of Mexico.
"I wonder," Demon mused. "It would cost hardly more than
a couple of millions minus what Cousin Dan owes me, minus
241.30 also the Ladore pastures, which are utterly mucked up and
should be got rid of gradually, if the local squires don’t blow
up that new kerosene distillery, the stïd i sram (shame) of our
county. I am not particularly fond of Ardis, but I have nothing
against it, though I detest its environs. Ladore Town has become

[ 241 ]

very honky-tonky, and the gaming is not what it used to be.
You have all sorts of rather odd neighbors. Poor Lord Erminin
is practically insane. At the races, the other day, I was talking
to a woman I preyed upon years ago, oh long before Moses de
242.05 Vere cuckolded her husband in my absence and shot him dead
in my presencean epigram you’ve heard before, no doubt
from these very lips—"
(The next thing will be "paternal repetitiousness.")
"—but a good son should put up with a little paternal repe-
242.10 titiousness—Well, she tells me her boy and Ada see a lot of
each other, et cetera. Is that true?"
"Not really," said Van. "They meet now and then—at the
usual parties. Both like horses, and races, but that’s all. There is
no et cetera, that’s out of the question."
242.15 "Good! Ah, the portentous footfall is approaching, I hear.
Prascovie de Prey has the worst fault of a snob: overstatement.
Bonsoir, Bouteillan. You look as ruddy as your native vine
but we are not getting any younger, as the amerlocks say, and
that pretty messenger of mine must have been waylaid by some
242.20 younger and more fortunate suitor."
"Proshu, papochka (please, Dad)," murmured Van, who al-
ways feared that his father’s recondite jests might offend a
menial—while sinning himself by being sometimes too curt.
But—to use a hoary narrational turnthe old Frenchman
242.25 knew his former master too well to be bothered by gentlemanly
humor. His hand still tingled nicely from slapping Blanche’s
compact young bottom for having garbled Mr. Veen’s simple
request and broken a flower vase. After placing his tray on a
low table he retreated a few steps, his fingers remaining curved
242.30 in the tray-carrying position, and only then acknowledged
Demon’s welcome with a fond bow. Was Monsieur’s health
always good? Indeed it was.
"I’ll want," said Demon, "a bottle of your Château Latour
d’Estoc for dinner"; and when the butler, having removed en

[ 242 ]

passant a crumpled little handkerchief from the piano top, had
left the room with another salute: "How do you get along
with Ada? She’s what—almost sixteen now? Very musical
and romantic?"
243.05 "We are close friends," said Van (who had carefully pre-
pared his answer to a question he had expected to come in one
form or another). "We have really more things in common
than, for instance, ordinary lovers or cousins or siblings. I
mean, we are really inseparable. We read a lot, she is spectacu-
243.10 larly self-educated, thanks to her granddad’s library. She knows
the names of all the flowers and finches in the neighborhood.
She is altogether a very amusing girl."
"Van ..., began Demon, but stopped—as he had begun and
stopped a number of times before in the course of the last years.
243.15 Some day it would have to be said, but this was not the right
moment. He inserted his monocle and examined the bottles:
"By the way, son, do you crave any of these aperitifs? My
father allowed me Lilletovka and that Illinois Brat—awful bilge,
antranou svadi, as Marina would say. I suspect your uncle has
243.20 a cache behind the solanders in his study and keeps there a finer
whisky than this usque ad Russkum. Well, let us have the co-
gnac, as planned, unless you are a filius aquae?"
(No pun intended, but one gets carried away and goofs.)
"Oh, I prefer claret. I’ll concentrate (nalyagu) on the Latour
243.25 later on. No, I’m certainly no T-totaler, and besides the Ardis
tap water is not recommended!"
"I must warn Marina," said Demon after a gum-rinse and a
slow swallow, "that her husband should stop swilling tittery,
and stick to French and Califrench wines—after that little
243.30 stroke he had. I met him in town recently, near Mad Avenue,
saw him walking toward me quite normally, but then as he
caught sight of me, a block away, the clockwork began slowing
down and he stopped—oh, helplessly!—before he reached me.
That’s hardly normal. Okay. Let our sweethearts never meet,

[ 243 ]

as we used to say, up at Chose. Only Yukonians think cognac
is bad for the liver, because they have nothing but vodka. Well,
I’m glad you get along so well with Ada. That’s fine. A moment
ago, in that gallery, I ran into a remarkably pretty soubrette.
244.05 She never once raised her lashes and answered in French when
I—Please, my boy, move that screen a little, that’s right, the
stab of a sunset, especially from under a thunderhead, is not for
my poor eyes. Or poor ventricles. Do you like the type, Van—
the bowed little head, the bare neck, the high heels, the trot,
244.10 the wiggle, you do, don’t you?"
"Well, sir—"
(Tell him I’m the youngest Venutian? Does he belong, too?
Show the sign? Better not. Invent.)
"—Well, I’m resting after my torrid affair, in London, with
244.15 my tango-partner whom you saw me dance with when you flew
over for that last show—remember?"
"Indeed, I do. Curious, you calling it that."
"I think, sir, you’ve had enough brandy."
"Sure, sure," said Demon, wrestling with a subtle question
244.20 which only the ineptitude of a kindred conjecture had crowded
out of Marina’s mind, granted it could have entered by some
back door; for ineptitude is always synonymous with multitude,
and nothing is fuller than an empty mind.
"Naturally," continued Demon, "there is a good deal to be
244.25 said for a restful summer in the country ..."
"Open-air life and all that," said Van.
"It is incredible that a young boy should control his father’s
liquor intake," remarked Demon, pouring himself a fourth shal-
low. "On the other hand," he went on, nursing the thin-
244.30 stemmed, gold-rimmed cup, "open-air life may be pretty bleak
without a summer romance, and not many decent girls haunt
the neighborhood, I agree. There was that lovely Erminin girl,
une petite juive très aristocratique, but I understand she’s en-
gaged. By the way, the de Prey woman tells me her son has

[ 244 ]

enlisted and will soon be taking part in that deplorable business
abroad which our country should have ignored. I wonder if he
leaves any rivals behind?"
"Goodness no," replied honest Van. "Ada is a serious young
245.05 lady. She has no beaux—except me, ça va seins durs. Now who,
who, who, Dad, who said that for 'sans dire'?"
"Oh! King Wing! When I wanted to know how he liked
his French wife. Well, that’s fine news about Ada. She likes
horses, you say?"
245.10 "She likes," said Van, "what all our belles like—balls, orchids,
and The Cherry Orchard."
Here Ada herself came running into the room. Yes-yes-yes-
yes, here I come. Beaming!
Old Demon, iridescent wings humped, half rose but sank
245.15 back again, enveloping Ada with one arm, holding his glass
in the other hand, kissing the girl in the neck, in the hair, bur-
rowing in her sweetness with more than an uncle’s fervor.
"Gosh," she exclaimed (with an outbreak of nursery slang that
affected Van with even more umilenie, attendrissement, melting
245.20 ravishment, than his father seemed to experience). "How lovely
to see you! Clawing your way through the clouds! Swooping
down on Tamara’s castle!"
(Lermontov paraphrased by Lowden).
"The last time I enjoyed you," said Demon "was in April
245.25 when you wore a raincoat with a white and black scarf and
simply reeked of some arsenic stuff after seeing your dentist.
Dr. Pearlman has married his receptionist, you’ll be glad to
know. Now to business, my darling. I accept your dress" (the
sleeveless black sheath), "I tolerate your romantic hairdo, I don’t
245.30 care much for your pumps na bosu nogu (on bare feet), your
Beau Masque perfume—passe encore, but, my precious, I abhor
and reject your livid lipstick. It may be the fashion in good old
Ladore. It is not done in Man or London."
"Ladno(Okay)," said Ada and, baring her big teeth, fiercely

[ 245 ]

rubbed her lips with a tiny handkerchief produced from her
bosom.
"That’s also provincial. You should carry a black silk purse.
And now I’ll show what a diviner I am: your dream is to be a
246.05 concert pianist!"
"It is not," said Van indignantly. "What perfect nonsense.
She can’t play a note!"
"Well, no matter," said Demon. "Observation is not always
the mother of deduction. However, there is nothing improper
246.10 about a hanky dumped on a Bechstein. You don’t have, my love,
to blush so warmly. Let me quote for comic relief
 
"Lorsque son fi-ancé fut parti pour la guerre
Irène de Grandfief, la pauvre et noble enfant
Ferma son pi-ano . . . vendit son éléphant
   
246.15 "The gobble enfant is genuine, but the elephant is mine."
"You don’t say so," laughed Ada.
"Our great Coppée," said Van, "is awful, of course, yet he
has one very fetching little piece which Ada de Grandfief here
has twisted into English several times, more or less successfully."
246.20 "Oh, Van!" interjected Ada with unusual archness, and
scooped up a handful of salted almonds.
"Let’s hear it, let’s hear it," cried Demon as he borrowed a
nut from her cupped hand.
The neat interplay of harmonious motions, the candid gayety
246.25 of family reunions, the never-entangling marionette strings—
all this is easier described than imagined.
"Old storytelling devices," said Van, "may be parodied only
by very great and inhuman artists, but only close relatives can
be forgiven for paraphrasing illustrious poems. Let me preface
246.30 the effort of a cousin—anybody’s cousinby a snatch of
Pushkin, for the sake of rhyme—"
"For the snake of rhyme!" cried Ada. "A paraphrase, even

[ 246 ]

my paraphrase, is like the corruption of 'snakeroot' into 'snagrel'
—all that remains of a delicate little birthwort."
"Which is amply sufficient," said Demon, "for my little needs,
and those of my little friends."
247.05 "So here goes," continued Van (ignoring what he felt was
an indecent allusion, since the unfortunate plant used to be
considered by the ancient inhabitants of the Ladore region not
so much as a remedy for the bite of a reptile, as the token of a
very young woman’s easy delivery; but no matter). "By chance
247.10 preserved has been the poem. In fact, I have it. Here it is: Leur
chute est lente and one can know ‘em . . ."
"Oh, I know ‘em," interrupted Demon:
   
"Leur chute est lente. On peut les suivre
Du regard en reconnaissant
247.15 Le chêne à sa feuille de cuivre
L’érable à sa feuille de sang
   
"Grand stuff!"
"Yes, that was Coppée and now comes the cousin," said Van, and
he recited:
   
247.20 "Their fall is gentle. The leavesdropper
Can follow each of them and know
The oak tree by its leaf of copper,
The maple by its blood-red glow."
   
"Pah!" uttered the versionist.
247.25 "Not at all!" cried Demon."‘That 'leavesdropper' is a splendid
trouvaille, girl." He pulled the girl to him, she landing on the
arm of his Klubsessel, and he glued himself with thick moist
lips to her hot red ear through the rich black strands. Van felt
a shiver of delight.
247.30 It was now Marina’s turn to make her entrée, which she did
in excellent chiaroscuro circumstances, wearing a spangled dress,

[ 247 ]

her face in the soft focus sought by ripe stars, holding out both
arms and followed by Jones, who carried two flambeaux and
kept trying to keep within the limits of decorum the odd little
go-away kicks he was aiming backwards at a brown flurry in
248.05 the shadows.
"Marina!" cried Demon with perfunctory enthusiasm, and
patted her hand as he joined her on a settee.
Puffing rhythmically, Jones set one of his beautiful dragon-
entwined flambeaux on the low-boy with the gleaming drinks
248.10 and was about to bring over its fellow to the spot where Demon
and Marina were winding up affable preliminaries but was
quickly motioned by Marina to a pedestal near the striped fish.
Puffing, he drew the curtains, for nothing but picturesque ruins
remained of the day. Jones was new, very efficient, solemn and
248.15 slow, and one had to get used gradually to his ways and wheeze.
Years later he rendered me a service that I will never forget.
"She’s a jeune fille fatale, a pale, heart-breaking beauty,"
Demon confided to his former mistress without bothering to
discover whether the subject of his praise could hear him (she
248.20 did) from the other end of the room where she was helping Van
to corner the dogand showing much too much leg in the
process. Our old friend, being quite as excited as the rest of the
reunited family, had scampered in after Marina with an old
miniver-furred slipper in his merry mouth. The slipper belonged
248.25 to Blanche, who had been told to whisk Dack to her room but,
as usual, had not incarcerated him properly. Both children
experienced a chill of déjà-vu (a twofold déjà-vu, in fact, when
contemplated in artistic retrospect).
"Pozhalsta bez glupostey (please, no silly things), especially
248.30 devant les gens," said deeply flattered Marina (sounding the
final "s" as her granddams had done); and when the slow fish-
mouthed footman had gone carrying away, supine, high-chested
Dack and his poor plaything, she continued: "Really, in com-

[ 248 ]

parison to the local girls, to Grace Erminin, for example, or
Cordula de Prey, Ada is a Turgenevian maiden or even a Jane
Austen miss."
"I’m Fanny Price, actually," commented Ada.
249.05 "In the staircase scene," added Van.
"Let’s not bother about their private jokes," said Marina to
Demon. "I never can understand their games and little secrets.
Mlle Larivière, however, has written a wonderful screenplay
about mysterious children doing strange things in old parks—
249.10 but don’t let her start talking of her literary successes tonight,
that would be fatal."
"I hope your husband won’t be too late," said Demon. "He
is not at his best after eight P.M., summertime, you know. By
the way, how’s Lucette?"
249.15 At this moment both battants of the door were flung open
by Bouteillan in the grand manner, and Demon offered kala-
chikom (in the form of a Russian crescent loaf) his arm to
Marina. Van, who in his father’s presence was prone to lapse
into a rather dismal sort of playfulness, proposed taking Ada in,
249.20 but she slapped his wrist away with a sisterly sans-gêne, of
which Fanny Price might not have approved.
Another Price, a typical, too typical, old retainer whom
Marina (and G. A. Vronsky, during their brief romance) had
dubbed, for unknown reasons, "Grib," placed an onyx ashtray
249.25 at the head of the table for Demon, who liked to smoke between
courses—a puff of Russian ancestry. A side table supported, also
in the Russian fashion, a collection of red, black, gray, beige
hors-d’oeuvres, with the serviette caviar (salfetochnaya ikra)
separated from the pot of Graybead (ikra svezhaya) by the
249.30 succulent pomp of preserved boletes, "white," and "subbetu-
line," while the pink of smoked salmon vied with the incarnadine
of Westphalian ham. The variously flavored vodochki glittered,
on a separate tray. The French cuisine had contributed its

[ 249 ]

chaudfroids and foie gras. A window was open, and the crickets
were stridulating at an ominous speed in the black motionless
foliage.
It was—to continue the novelistic structure—a long, joyful,
250.05 delicious dinner, and although the talk consisted mainly of
family quips and bright banalities, that reunion was to remain
suspended in one’s memory as a strangely significant, not wholly
pleasant, experience. One treasured it in the same way as when
falling in love with a picture in a pinacoteca or remembering a
250.10 dream style, the dream detail, the meaningful richness of color
and contour in an otherwise meaningless vision. It should be
observed that nobody, not even the reader, not even Bouteillan
(who crumbled, alas, a precious cork), was at his or her best at
that particular party. A faint element of farce and falsity flawed
250.15 it, preventing an angel—if angels could visit Ardis—from being
completely at ease; and yet it was a marvelous show which no
artist would have wanted to miss.
The tablecloth and the candle blaze attracted timorous or
impetuous moths among which Ada, with a ghost pointing them
250.20 out to her, could not help recognizing many old "flutterfriends."
Pale intruders, anxious only to spread out their delicate wings
on some lustrous surface; ceiling-bumpers in guildman furs;
thick-set rake-hells with bushy antennae; and party-crashing
hawkmoths with red black-belted bellies, sailed or shot, silent
250.25 or humming, into the dining room out of the black hot humid
night.
It was a black hot humid night in mid-July, 1888, at Ardis, in
Ladore county, let us not forget, let us never forget, with a
family of four seated around an oval dinner table, bright with
250.30 flowers and crystal—not a scene in a play, as might have seemed
— nay, must have seemed—to a spectator (with a camera or a
program) placed in the velvet pit of the garden. Sixteen years
had elapsed from the end of Marina’s three-year affair with
Demon. Intermissions of various length—a break of two months

[ 250 ]

in the spring of 1870, another, of almost four, in the middle of
1871—had at the time only increased the tenderness and the
torture. Her singularly coarsened features, her attire, that se-
quin-spangled dress, the glittering net over her strawberry-
251.05 blond dyed hair, her red sunburnt chest and melodramatic
make-up, with too much ochre and maroon in it, did not even
vaguely remind the man, who had loved her more keenly than
any other woman in his philanderings, of the dash, the glamour,
the lyricism of Marina Durmanov’s beauty. It aggrieved him—
251.10 that complete collapse of the past, the dispersal of its itinerant
court and music-makers, the logical impossibility to relate the
dubious reality of the present to the unquestionable one of re-
membrance. Even these hors-d’oeuvres on the zakusochnïy stol
of Ardis Manor and its painted dining room did not link up with
251.15 their petits soupers, although, God knows, the triple staple to
start with was always much the same—pickled young boletes
in their tight-fitting glossy fawn helmets, the gray beads of fresh
caviar, the goose liver paste, pique-aced with Perigord
truffles.
251.20 Demon popped into his mouth a last morsel of black bread
with elastic samlet, gulped down a last pony of vodka and took
his place at the table with Marina facing him across its oblong
length, beyond the great bronze bowl with carved-looking
Calville apples and elongated Persty grapes. The alcohol his
251.25 vigorous system had already imbibed was instrumental, as usual,
in reopening what he gallicistically called condemned doors,
and now as he gaped involuntarily as all men do while spread-
ing a napkin, he considered Marina’s pretentious ciel-étoilé hair-
dress and tried to realize (in the rare full sense of the word),
251.30 tried to possess the reality of a fact by forcing it into the
sensuous center, that here was a woman whom he had intoler-
ably loved, who had loved him hysterically and skittishly, who
insisted they make love on rugs and cushions laid on the floor
("as respectable people do in the Tigris-Euphrates valley"),

[ 251 ]

who would woosh down fluffy slopes on a bobsleigh a fortnight
after parturition, or arrive by the Orient Express with five
trunks, Dack’s grandsire, and a maid, to Dr. Stella Ospenko’s
ospedale where he was recovering from a scratch received in a
252.05 sword duel (and still visible as a white weal under his eighth
rib after a lapse of nearly seventeen years). How strange that
when one met after a long separation a chum or fat aunt whom
one had been fond of as a child the unimpaired human warmth
of the friendship was rediscovered at once, but with an old
252.10 mistress this never happened—the human part of one’s affection
seemed to be swept away with the dust of the inhuman passion,
in a wholesale operation of demolishment. He looked at her and
acknowledged the perfection of the potage, but she, this rather
thick-set woman, goodhearted, no doubt, but restive and sour-
252.15 faced, glazed over, nose, forehead and all, with a sort of brown-
ish oil that she considered to be more "juvenizing" than powder,
was more of a stranger to him than Bouteillan who had once
carried her in his arms, in a feigned faint, out of a Ladore villa
and into a cab, after a final, quite final row, on the eve of her
252.20 wedding.
Marina, essentially a dummy in human disguise, experienced
no such qualms, lacking as she did that third sight (individual,
magically detailed imagination) which many otherwise ordinary
and conformant people may also possess, but without which
252.25 memory (even that of a profound "thinker" or technician of
genius) is, let us face it, a stereotype or a tear-sheet. We do not
wish to be too hard on Marina; after all, her blood throbs in
our wrists and temples, and many of our megrims are hers, not
his. Yet we cannot condone the grossness of her soul. The man
252.30 sitting at the head of the table and joined to her by a pair of
cheerful youngsters, the "juvenile" (in movie parlance) on her
right, the "ingénue" on her left, differed in no way from the
same Demon in much the same black jacket (minus perhaps
the carnation he had evidently purloined from a vase Blanche

[ 252 ]

had been told to bring from the gallery) who sat next to her
at the Praslin’s last Christmas. The dizzy chasm he felt every
time he met her, that awful "wonder of life" with its extrava-
gant jumble of geological faults, could not be bridged by what
253.05 she accepted as a dotted line of humdrum encounters: "poor
old" Demon (all her pillow mates being retired with that title)
appeared before her like a harmless ghost, in the foyers of
theaters "between mirror and fan," or in the drawing rooms of
common friends, or once in Lincoln Park, indicating an indigo-
253.10 buttocked ape with his cane and not saluting her, according to
the rules of the beau monde, because he was with a courtesan.
Somewhere, further back, much further back, safely trans-
formed by her screen-corrupted mind into a stale melodrama
was her three-year-long period of hectically spaced love-meet-
253.15 ings with Demon, A Torrid Affair(the title of her only cin-
ema hit), passion in palaces, the palms and larches, his Utter
Devotion, his impossible temper, separations, reconciliations,
Blue Trains, tears, treachery, terror, an insane sister’s threats,
helpless, no doubt, but leaving their tiger-marks on the drapery
253.20 of dreams, especially when dampness and dark affect one with
fever. And the shadow of retribution on the backwall (with
ridiculous legal innuendos). All this was mere scenery, easily
packed, labeled "Hell" and freighted away; and only very
infrequently some reminder would come—say, in the trick-
253.25 work close-up of two left hands belonging to different sexes—
doing what? Marina could no longer recall (though only four
years had elapsed!)—playing à quatre mains?no, neither took
piano lessons—casting bunny-shadows on a wall?—closer,
warmer, but still wrong; measuring something? But what?
253.30 Climbing a tree? The polished trunk of a tree? But where,
when? Someday, she mused, one’s past must be put in order.
Retouched, retaken. Certain "wipes" and "inserts" will have to
be made in the picture; certain telltale abrasions in the emulsion
will have to be corrected; "dissolves" in the sequence discreetly

[ 253 ]

combined with the trimming out of unwanted, embarrassing
"footage," and definite guarantees obtained; yes, someday—
before death with its clap-stick closes the scene.
Tonight she contented herself with the automatic ceremony
254.05 of giving him what she remembered, more or less correctly,
when planning the menu, as being his favorite food—zelyonïya
shchi, a velvety green sorrel-and-spinach soup, containing
slippery hard-boiled eggs and served with finger-burning, irre-
sistibly soft, meat-filled or carrot-filled or cabbage-filled pirozhki
254.10 peer-rush-KEY, thus pronounced, thus celebrated here, for
ever and ever. After that, she had decided, there would be
bread-crumbed sander (sudak) with boiled potatoes, hazel-hen
(ryabchiki)and that special asparagus (bezukhanka) which does
not produce Proust’s After-effect, as cookbooks say.
254.15 "Marina," murmured Demon at the close of the first course.
"Marina," he repeated louder. "Far from me" (a locution he
favored) "to criticize Dan’s taste in white wines or the manners
de vos domestiques.You know me, I’m above all that rot,
I’m ..." (gesture); "but, my dear," he continued, switching to
254.20 Russian, "the chelovekwho brought me the pirozhki—the new
man, the plumpish one with the eyes (s glazami)—"
"Everybody has eyes," remarked Marina drily.
"Well, his look as if they were about to octopus the food he
serves. But that’s not the point. He pants, Marina! He suffers
254.25 from some kind of odïshka (shortness of breath). He should see
Dr. Krolik. It’s depressing. It’s a rhythmic pumping pant. It
made my soup ripple."
"Look, Dad," said Van, "Dr. Krolik can’t do much, because,
as you know quite well, he’s dead, and Marina can’t tell her
254.30 servants not to breathe, because, as you also know, they’re
alive."
"The Veen wit, the Veen wit," murmured Demon.
"Exactly," said Marina. "I simply refuse to do anything about
it. Besides poor Jones is not at all asthmatic, but only nervously

[ 254 ]

eager to please. He’s as healthy as a bull and has rowed me from
Ardisville to Ladore and back, and enjoyed it, many times this
summer. You are cruel, Demon. I can’t tell him 'ne pïkhtite,' as
I can’t tell Kim, the kitchen boy, not to take photographs on
255.05 the sly—he’s a regular snap-shooting fiend, that Kim, though
otherwise an adorable, gentle, honest boy; nor can I tell my little
French maid to stop getting invitations, as she somehow suc-
ceeds in doing, to the most exclusive bals masquésin Ladore."
"That’s interesting," observed Demon.
255.10 "He’s a dirty old man!" cried Van cheerfully.
"Van!" said Ada.
"I’m a dirty young man," sighed Demon.
"Tell me, Bouteillan," asked Marina, "what other good white
wine do we have—what can you recommend?" The butler
255.15 smiled and whispered a fabulous name.
"Yes, oh, yes," said Demon. "Ah, my dear, you should not
think up dinners all by yourself. Now about rowing—you
mentioned rowing ... Do you know that moi, qui vous parle,
was a Rowing Blue in 1858? Van prefers football, but he’s
255.20 only a College Blue, aren’t you Van? I’m also better than he at
tennis—not lawn tennis, of course, a game for parsons, but
'court tennis' as they say in Manhattan. What else, Van?"
"You still beat me at fencing, but I’m the better shot. That’s
not real sudak, papa, though it’s tops, I assure you."
255.25 (Marina, having failed to obtain the European product
in time for the dinner, had chosen the nearest thing, wall-eyed
pike, or "dory," with Tartar sauce and boiled young pota-
toes.)
"Ah!" said Demon, tasting Lord Byron’s Hock. "This redeems
255.30 Our Lady’s Tears."
"I was telling Van a moment ago," he continued, raising his
voice (he labored under the delusion that Marina had grown
rather deaf), "about your husband. My dear, he overdoes the
juniper vodka stuff, he’s getting, in fact, a mite fuzzy and odd.

[ 255 ]

The other day I chanced to walk through Pat Lane on the
Fourth Avenue side, and there he was coming, at quite a spin,
in his horrid town car, that primordial petrol two-seater he’s
got, with the tiller. Well, he saw me, from quite a distance, and
256.05 waved, and the whole contraption began to shake down, and
finally stopped half a block away, and there he sat trying to
budge it with little jerks of his haunches, you know, like a
child who can’t get his tricycle unstuck, and as I walked up to
him I had the definite impression that it was his mechanism
256.10 that had stalled, not the Hardpan’s." But what Demon, in the
goodness of his crooked heart, omitted to tell Marina was that
the imbecile, in secret from his art adviser, Mr. Aix, had acquired
for a few thousand dollars from a gaming friend of Demon’s,
and with Demon’s blessings, a couple of fake Correggios—only
256.15 to resell them by some unforgivable fluke to an equally imbecile
collector, for half a million which Demon considered hence-
forth as a loan his cousin should certainly refund him if sanity
counted for something on this gemel planet. And, conversely,
Marina refrained from telling Demon about the young hospital
256.20 nurse Dan had been monkeying with ever since his last illness
(it was, by the way, she, busybody Bess, whom Dan had asked
on a memorable occasion to help him get "something nice for a
half-Russian child interested in biology").
"Vous me comblez," said Demon in reference to the bur-
256.25 gundy, "though, pravda, my maternal grandfather would have
left the table rather than see me drinking red wine instead of
champagne with gelinotte. Superb, my dear (blowing a kiss
through the vista of flame and silver)."
The roast hazel-hen (or rather its New World representative,
256.30 locally called "mountain grouse") was accompanied by pre-
served lingonberries (locally called "mountain cranberries").
An especially succulent morsel of one of those brown little fowls
yielded a globule of birdshot between Demon’s red tongue and
strong canine: "La fève de Diane," he remarked, placing it

[ 256 ]

carefully on the edge of his plate. "How is the car situation,
Van?"
"Vague. I ordered a Roseley like yours but it won’t be
delivered before Christmas. I tried to find a Silentium with a
257.05 side car and could not, because of the war, though what con-
nection exists between wars and motorcycles is a mystery. But
we manage, Ada and I, we manage, we ride, we bike, we even
jikker."
"I wonder," said sly Demon, "why I’m reminded all at once
257.10 of our great Canadian’s lovely lines about blushing Irène:
   
"Le feu si délicat de la virginité
Qui something sur son front ...
   
"All right. You can ship mine to England, provided—"
"By the way, Demon," interrupted Marina, "where and how
257.15 can I obtain the kind of old roomy limousine with an old pro-
fessional chauffeur that Praskovia, for instance, has had for
years?"
"Impossible, my dear, they are all in heaven or on Terra. But
what would Ada like, what would my silent love like for her
257.20 birthday? It’s next Saturday, po razschyotu po moemu (by my
reckoning), isn’t it? Une rivière de diamants?"
"Protestuyu!" cried Marina. "Yes, I’m speaking seriozno.
I object to your giving her kvaka sesva (quoi que ce soit), Dan
and I will take care of all that."
257.25 "Besides you’ll forget," said Ada laughing, and very deftly
showed the tip of her tongue to Van who had been on the
look-out for her conditional reaction to "diamonds."
Van asked: "Provided what?"
"Provided you don’t have one waiting already for you in
257.30 George’s Garage, Ranta Road."
"Ada, you’ll be jikkering alone soon," he continued, "I’m
going to have Mascodagama round out his vacation in Paris.
Qui something sur son front, en accuse la beauté!"

[ 257 ]

So the trivial patter went. Who does not harbor in the darkest
gulf of his mind such bright recollections? Who has not
squirmed and covered his face with his hands as the dazzling
past leered at him? Who, in the terror and solitude of a long
258.05 night—
"What was that?" exclaimed Marina, whom certicle storms
terrified even more than they did the Antiamberians of Ladore
County.
"Sheet lightning," suggested Van.
258.10 "If you ask me," said Demon, turning on his chair to con-
sider the billowing drapery, "I’d guess it was a photographer’s
flash. After all, we have here a famous actress and a sensational
acrobat."
Ada ran to the window. From under the anxious magnolias
258.15 a white-faced boy flanked by two gaping handmaids stood
aiming a camera at the harmless, gay family group. But it was
only a nocturnal mirage, not unusual in July. Nobody was tak-
ing pictures except Perun, the unmentionable god of thunder.
In expectation of the rumble, Marina started to count under
258.20 her breath, as if she were praying or checking the pulse of a
very sick person. One heartbeat was supposed to span one mile
of black night between the living heart and a doomed herdsman,
felled somewhere—oh, very far—on the top of a mountain.
The rumble came—but sounded rather subdued. A second
258.25 flash revealed the structure of the French window.
Ada returned to her seat. Van picked up her napkin from
under her chair and in the course of his brief plunge and ascent
brushed the side of her knee with his temple.
"Might I have another helping of Peterson’s Grouse, Tetrastes
258.30 bonasia windriverensis?" asked Ada loftily.
Marina jangled a diminutive cowbell of bronze. Demon placed
his palm on the back of Ada’s hand and asked her to pass him
the oddly evocative object. She did so in a staccato arc. Demon
inserted his monocle and, muffling the tongue of memory, ex-

[ 258 ]

amined the bell; but it was not the one that had once stood on
a bed-tray in a dim room of Dr. Lapiner’s chalet; was not even
of Swiss make; was merely one of those sweet-sounding transla-
tions which reveal a paraphrast’s crass counterfeit as soon as you
259.05 look up the original.
Alas, the bird had not survived "the honor one had made to
it," and after a brief consultation with Bouteillan a somewhat
incongruous but highly palatable bit of saucisson d’Arles added
itself to the young lady’s fare of asperges en branchesthat
259.10 everybody was now enjoying. It almost awed one to see the
pleasure with which she and Demon distorted their shiny-lipped
mouths in exactly the same way to introduce orally from some
heavenly height the voluptuous ally of the prim lily of the
valley, holding the shaft with an identical bunching of the
259.15 fingers, not unlike the reformed "sign of the cross" for protest-
ing against which (a ridiculous little schism measuring an inch
or so from thumb to index) so many Russians had been burnt
by other Russians only two centuries earlier on the banks of
the Great Lake of Slaves. Van remembered that his tutor’s
259.20 great friend, the learned but prudish Semyon Afanasievich
Vengerov, then a young associate professor but already a cele-
brated Pushkinist (1855-1954), used to say that the only vulgar
passage in his author’s work was the cannibal joy of young
gourmets tearing "plump and live" oysters out of their "clois-
259.25 ters" in an unfinished canto of Eugene Onegin. But then "every-
one has his own taste," as the British writer Richard Leonard
Churchill mistranslates a trite French phrase (chacun à son goût)
twice in the course of his novel about a certain Crimean Khan
once popular with reporters and politicians, "A Great Good
259.30 Man"—according, of course, to the cattish and prejudiced
Guillaume Monparnasse about whose new celebrity Ada, while
dipping the reversed corolla of one hand in a bowl, was now
telling Demon, who was performing the same rite in the same
graceful fashion.

[ 259 ]

Marina helped herself to an Albany from a crystal box
of Turkish cigarettes tipped with red rose petal and passed the
box on to Demon. Ada, somewhat self-consciously, lit up too.
"You know quite well," said Marina, "that your father dis-
260.05 approves of your smoking at table."
"Oh, it’s all right," murmured Demon.
"I had Dan in view," explained Marina heavily. "He’s very
prissy on that score."
"Well, and I’m not," answered Demon.
260.10 Ada and Van could not help laughing. All that was banter—
not of a high order, but still banter.
A moment later, however, Van remarked: "I think I’ll take
an Alibi—I mean an Albany—myself."
"Please note, everybody," said Ada, "how voulu that slip
260.15 was! I like a smoke when I go mushrooming, but when I’m back,
this horrid tease insists I smell of some romantic Turk or Al-
banian met in the woods."
"Well," said Demon, "Van’s quite right to look after your
morals."
260.20 The real profitrol’ (very soft "l") of the Russians, as first
made by their cooks in Gavana before 1700, consists of larger
puffs coated with creamier chocolate than the dark and puny
"profit rolls" served in European restaurants. Our friends had
finished that rich sweetmeat flooded with chocolat-au-lait sauce,
260.25 and were ready for some fruit, when Bout followed by his
father and floundering Jones made a sensational entry.
All the toilets and waterpipes in the house had been suddenly
seized with borborygmic convulsions. This always signified, and
introduced, a long-distance call. Marina, who had been await-
260.30 ing for several days a certain message from California in response
to a torrid letter, could now hardly contain her passionate im-
patience and had been on the point of running to the dorophone
in the hall at the first bubbling spasm, when young Bout hur-
ried in dragging the long green cord (visibly palpitating in a

[ 260 ]

series of swells and contractions rather like a serpent ingesting
a field mouse) of the ornate, brass-and-nacre receiver, which
Marina with a wild "A l’eau!" pressed to her ear. It was, how-
ever, only fussy old Dan ringing her up to inform everybody
261.05 that Miller could not make it that night after all and would
accompany him to Ardis bright and early on the following
morning.
"Early but hardly bright," observed Demon, who was now
glutted with family joys and slightly annoyed he had missed
261.10 the first half of a gambling night in Ladore for the sake of all
that well-meant but not quite first-rate food.
"We’ll have coffee in the yellow drawing room," said Marina
as sadly as if she were evoking a place of dreary exile. "Jones,
please, don’t walk on that phonecord. You have no idea, Demon,
261.15 how I dread meeting again, after all those years, that dislikable
Norbert von Miller, who has probably become even more ar-
rogant and obsequious, and moreover does not realize, I’m
sure, that Dan’s wife is me. He’s a Baltic Russian" (turning to
Van) "but really echt deutsch, though his mother was born
261.20 Ivanov or Romanov, or something, who owned a calico factory
in Finland or Denmark. I can’t imagine how he got his barony;
when I knew him twenty years ago he was plain Mr. Miller."
"He is still that," said Demon drily, "because you’ve got
two Millers mixed up. The lawyer who works for Dan is my
261.25 old friend Norman Miller of the Fainley, Fehler and Miller law
firm and physically bears a striking resemblance to Wilfrid
Laurier. Norbert, on the other hand, has, I remember, a head
like a kegelkugel, lives in Switzerland, knows perfectly well
whom you married and is an unmentionable blackguard."
261.30 After a quick cup of coffee and a drop of cherry liqueur
Demon got up.
"Partir c’est mourir un peu, et mourir c’est partir un peu trop.
Do tell Dan and Norman I can give them tea-and-cake any time
tomorrow at the Bryant. By the way, how’s Lucette?"

[ 261 ]

Marina knitted her brows and shook her head acting the
fond, worried mother though, in point of fact, she bore her
daughters even less affection than she had for cute Dack and
pathetic Dan.
262.05 "Oh, we had quite a scare," she replied finally, "quite a
nasty scare. But now, apparently—"
"Van," said his father, "be a good scout. I did not have a hat
but I did have gloves. Ask Bouteillan to look in the gallery, I
may have dropped them there. No. Stay! It’s all right. I left
262.10 them in the car, because I recall the cold of this flower, which I
took from a vase in passing ..."
He now threw it away, discarding with it the shadow of his
fugitive urge to plunge both hands in a soft bosom.
"I had hoped you’d sleep here," said Marina (not really caring
262.15 one way or another). "What is your room number at the hotel
—not 222 by any chance?"
She liked romantic coincidences. Demon consulted the tag
on his key: 221—which was good enough, fatidically and anec-
dotically speaking. Naughty Ada, of course, stole a glance at
262.20 Van, who tensed up the wings of his nose in a grimace that
mimicked the slant of Pedro’s narrow, beautiful nostrils.
"They make fun of an old woman," said Marina, not with-
out coquetry, and in the Russian manner kissed her guest on
his inclined brow as he lifted her hand to his lips: "You’ll for-
262.25 give me," she added, "for not going out on the terrace, I’ve
grown allergic to damp and darkness; I’m sure my temperature
has already gone up to thirty-seven and seven, at least."
Demon tapped the barometer next to the door. It had been
tapped too often to react in any intelligible way and remained
262.30 standing at a quarter past three.
Van and Ada saw him off. The night was very warm and
dripping with what Ladore farmers called green rain. Demon’s
black sedan glinted elegantly among the varnished laurels in
the moth-flaked porchlight. He tenderly kissed the children,

[ 262 ]

the girl on one cheek, the boy on the other, then Ada again—in
the hollow of the white arm that clasped his neck. Nobody paid
much attention to Marina, who waved from a tangelo-colored
oriel window a spangled shawl although all she could see was
263.05 the sheen of the car’s bonnet and the rain slanting in the light
of its lamps.
Demon pulled on his gloves and sped away with a great growl
of damp gravel.
"That last kiss went a little too far," remarked Van, laughing.
263.10 "Oh well—his lips sort of slipped," laughed Ada and, laugh-
ing, they embraced in the dark as they skirted the wing of the
house.
They stopped for a moment under the shelter of an indulgent
tree, where many a cigar-smoking guest had stopped after
263.15 dinner. Tranquilly, innocently, side by side in their separately
ordained attitudes, they added a trickle and a gush to the more
professional sounds of the rain in the night, and then lingered,
hand in hand, in a corner of the latticed gallery waiting for the
lights in the windows to go out.
263.20 "What was faintly off-key, ne tak, about the whole even-
ing?" asked Van softly. "You noticed?"
"Of course, I did. And yet I adore him. I think he’s quite
crazy, and with no place or occupation in life, and far from
happy, and philosophically irresponsible—and there is absolutely
263.25 nobody like him."
"But what went wrong tonight? You were tongue-tied, and
everything we said was fal’shivo. I wonder if some inner nose
in him smelled you in me, and me in you. He tried to ask me ...
Oh it was not a nice family reunion. What exactly went wrong
263.30 at dinner?"
"My love, my love, as if you don’t know! We’ll manage,
perhaps, to wear our masks always, till dee do us part, but we
shall never be able to marry—while they’re both alive. We
simply can’t swing it, because he’s more conventional in his own

[ 263 ]

way than even the law and the social lice. One can’t bribe one’s
parents, and waiting forty, fifty years for them to die is too
horrible to imagine—I mean the mere thought of anybody
waiting for such a thing is not in our nature, is mean and
264.05 monstrous!"
He kissed her half-closed lips, gently and "morally" as they
defined moments of depth to distinguish them from the despair
of passion.
"Anyway," he said, "it’s fun to be two secret agents in an
264.10 alien country. Marina has gone upstairs. Your hair is wet."
"Spies from Terra? You believe, you believe in the existence
of Terra? Oh, you do! You accept it. I know you!"
"I accept it as a state of mind. That’s not quite the same
thing."
264.15 "Yes, but you want to prove it is the same thing."
He brushed her lips with another religious kiss. Its edge,
however, was beginning to catch fire.
"One of these days," he said, "I will ask you for a repeat
performance. You will sit as you did four years ago, at the same
264.20 table, in the same light, drawing the same flower, and I shall go
through the same scene with such joy, such pride, such—I don’t
know—gratitude! Look, all the windows are dark now. I, too,
can translate when I simply have to. Listen to this:
   
Lights in the rooms were going out.
264.25 Breathed fragrantly the rozï.
We sat together in the shade
Of a wide-branched beryozï."
   
"Yes, 'birch' is what leaves the translator in the 'lurch,'
doesn’t it? That’s a terrible little poem by Konstantin Romanov,
264.30 right? Just elected president of the Lyascan Academy of Liter-
ature, right? Wretched poet and happy husband. Happy
husband!"

[ 264 ]

 

"You know," said Van, "I really think you should wear
something underneath on formal occasions."
"Your hands are cold. Why formal? You said yourself it
was a family affair."
265.05 "Even so. You were in peril whenever you bent or sprawled."
"I never sprawl!"
"I’m quite sure it’s not hygienic, or perhaps it’s a kind of
jealousy on my part. Memoirs of a Happy Chair. Oh, my
darling."
"At least," whispered Ada, "it pays off now, doesn’t it?
Croquet room? Ou comme ça?"
"Comme ça, for once," said Van.







[ 265 ]

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