Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle
Part 1, Chapter 43 (annotations forthcoming)
43

Van spent a medicinal month in Cordula’s Manhattan flat on
Alexis Avenue. She dutifully visited her mother at their Mal-
brook castle two or three times a week, unescorted by Van
either there or to the numerous social "flits" she attended in
322.05 town, being a frivolous fun-loving little thing; but some parties
she canceled, and resolutely avoided seeing her latest lover (the
fashionable psychotechnician Dr. F. S. Fraser, a cousin of the
late P. de P.’s fortunate fellow soldier). Several times Van
talked on the dorophone with his father (who pursued an
322.10 extensive study of Mexican spas and spices) and did several
errands for him in town. He often took Cordula to French
restaurants, English movies, and Varangian tragedies, all of
which was most satisfying, for she relished every morsel, every
sip, every jest, every sob, and he found ravishing the velvety
322.15 rose of her cheeks, and the azure-pure iris of her festively painted
eyes to which indigo-black thick lashes, lengthening and up-
curving at the outer canthus, added what fashion called the
"harlequin slant."
One Sunday, while Cordula was still lolling in her perfumed

[ 322 ]

bath (a lovely, oddly unfamiliar sight, which he delighted in
twice a day), Van, "in the nude" (as his new sweetheart drolly
genteelized "naked"), attempted for the first time after a
month's abstinence to walk on his hands. He felt strong, and
323.05 fit, and blithely turned over to the "first position" in the middle
of the sun-drenched terrace. Next moment he was sprawling on
his back. He tried again and lost his balance at once. He had
the terrifying, albeit illusionary, feeling that his left arm was
now shorter than his right, and Van wondered wrily if he ever
323.10 would be able to dance on his hands again. King Wing had
warned him that two or three months without practice might
result in an irretrievable loss of the rare art. On the same day
(the two nasty little incidents thus remained linked up in his
mind forever) Van happened to answer the 'phone—a deep
323.15 hollow voice which he thought was a man’s wanted Cordula, but
the caller turned out to be an old schoolmate, and Cordula
feigned limpid delight, while making big eyes at Van over the

receiver, and invented a number of unconvincing engagements.

"It’s a gruesome girl!" she cried after the melodious adieux.
323.20 "Her name is Vanda Broom, and I learned only recently what
I never suspected at school—she’s a regular tribadka—poor
Grace Erminin tells me Vanda used to make constant passes at
her and at—at another girl. There’s her picture here," continued
Cordula with a quick change of tone, producing a daintily
323.25 bound and prettily printed graduation album of Spring, 1887,
which Van had seen at Ardis, but in which he had not noticed
the somber beetle-browed unhappy face of that particular girl,
and now it did not matter any more, and Cordula quickly
popped the book back into a drawer; but he remembered very
323.30 well that among the various more or less coy contributions it
contained a clever pastiche by Ada Veen mimicking Tolstoy’s
paragraph rhythm and chapter closings; he saw clearly in mind
her prim photo under which she had added one of her charac-
teristic jingles:

[ 323 ]

   
In the old manor, I’ve parodied
Every veranda and room,
And jacarandas at Arrowhead
In supernatural bloom.
   
324.05 It did not matter, it did not matter. Destroy and forget! But
a butterfly in the Park, an orchid in a shop window, would

revive everything with a dazzling inward shock of despair.

His main industry consisted of research at the great granite-
pillared Public Library, that admirable and formidable palace
324.10 a few blocks from Cordula’s cosy flat. One is irresistibly tempted
to compare the strange longings and nauseous qualms that enter
into the complicated ecstasies accompanying the making of a
young writer’s first book with childbearing. Van had only
reached the bridal stage; then, to develop the metaphor, would
324.15 come the sleeping car of messy defloration; then the first bal-
cony of honeymoon breakfasts, with the first wasp. In no sense
could Cordula be compared to a writer’s muse but the evening
stroll back to her apartment was pleasantly saturated with the
afterglow and afterthought of the accomplished task and the
324.20 expectation of her caresses; he especially looked forward to those
nights when they had an elaborate repast sent up from "Mon-
aco," a good restaurant in the entresol of the tall building
crowned by her penthouse and its spacious terrace. The sweet
banality of their little ménage sustained him much more securely
324.25 than the company of his constantly agitated and fiery father did
at their rare meetings in town or was to do during a fortnight
in Paris before the next term at Chose. Except gossip—gos-
samer gossip—Cordula had no conversation and that also helped.
She had instinctively realized very soon that she should never
324.30 mention Ada or Ardis. He, on his part, accepted the evident fact
that she did not really love him. Her small, clear, soft, well-
padded and rounded body was delicious to stroke, and her frank
amazement at the variety and vigor of his love-making anointed

[ 324 ]

what still remained of poor Van’s crude virile pride. She would
doze off between two kisses. When he could not sleep, as now
often happened, he retired to the sitting room and sat there
annotating his authors or else he would walk up and down the
325.05 open terrace, under a haze of stars, in severely restricted medi-
tation, till the first tramcar jangled and screeched in the dawn-

ing abyss of the city.

When in early September Van Veen left Manhattan for
Lute, he was pregnant.





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