Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle
Part 2, Chapter 8 (annotations forthcoming)
8

Knowing how fond his sisters were of Russian fare and Russian
floor shows, Van took them Saturday night to "Ursus," the best
Franco-Estonian restaurant in Manhattan Major. Both young
ladies wore the very short and open evening gowns that Vass
410.05 "miraged" that season—in the phrase of that season: Ada, a
gauzy black, Lucette, a lustrous cantharid green. Their mouths
"echoed" in tone (but not tint) each other's lipstick; their eyes
were made up in a "surprised bird-of-paradise" style that was
as fashionable in Los as in Lute. Mixed metaphors and double-
410.10 talk became all three Veens, the children of Venus.
The uha, the shashlik, the Ai were facile and familiar suc-
cesses; but the old songs had a peculiar poignancy owing to the
participation of a Lyaskan contralto and a Banff bass, renowned
performers of Russian "romances," with a touch of heart-
410.15 wringing tsiganshchina vibrating through Grigoriev and Glinka.
And there was Flora, a slender, hardly nubile, half-naked music-
hall dancer of uncertain origin (Rumanian? Romany? Ram-
seyan?) whose ravishing services Van had availed himself of
several times in the fall of that year. As a "man of the world,"
410.20 Van glanced with bland (perhaps too bland) unconcern at her

[ 410 ]

talented charms, but they certainly added a secret bonus to the
state of erotic excitement tingling in him from the moment that
his two beauties had been unfurred and placed in the colored
blaze of the feast before him; and that thrill was somehow
411.05 augmented by his awareness (carefully profiled, diaphanely
blinkered) of the furtive, jealous, intuitive suspicion with which
Ada and Lucette watched, unsmilingly, his facial reactions to
the demure look of professional recognition on the part of the
passing and repassing blyadushka (cute whorelet), as our young
411.10 misses referred to (very expensive and altogether delightful)
Flora with ill-feigned indifference. Presently, the long sobs of
the violins began to affect and almost choke Van and Ada: a
juvenile conditioning of romantic appeal, which at one moment
forced tearful Ada to go and "powder her nose" while Van
411.15 stood up with a spasmodic sob, which he cursed but could not
control. He went back to whatever he was eating, and cruelly
stroked Lucette's apricot-bloomed forearm, and she said in
Russian "I'm drunk, and all that, but I adore (obozhayu), I
adore, I adore, I adore more than life you, you (tebya, tebya),
411.20 I ache for you unbearably (ya toskuyu po tebe nevïnosimo)
and, please, don't let me swill (hlestat') champagne any more,
not only because I will jump into Goodson River if I can't hope
to have you, and not only because of the physical red thing—
your heart was almost ripped out, my poor dushen'ka ('dar-
411.25 ling,' more than 'darling'), it looked to me at least eight inches
long—"
"Seven and a half," murmured modest Van, whose hearing the
music impaired.
"—but because you are Van, all Van, and nothing but Van,
411.30 skin and scar, the only truth of our only life, of my accursed
life, Van, Van, Van."
Here Van stood up again, as Ada, black fan in elegant motion,
came back followed by a thousand eyes, while the opening bars
of a romance (on Fet's glorious Siyala noch') started to run

[ 411 ]

over the keys (and the bass coughed à la russe into his fist
before starting).
 
A radiant night, a moon-filled garden. Beams
Lay at our feet. The drawing room, unlit;
412.05 Wide open, the grand piano; and our hearts
Throbbed to your song, as throbbed the strings in it...
 
Then Banoffsky launched into Glinka's great amphibrachs
(Mihail Ivanovich had been a summer guest at Ardis when their
uncle was still alive—a green bench existed where the composer
412.10 was said to have sat under the pseudoacacias especially often,
mopping his ample brow):
 
Subside, agitation of passion!
 
Then other singers took over with sadder and sadder ballads
—"The tender kisses are forgotten," and "The time was early
412.15 in the spring, the grass was barely sprouting," and "Many songs
have I heard in the land of my birth: Some in sorrow were sung,
some in gladness," and the spuriously populist
 
There's a crag on the Ross, overgrown with wild moss
On all sides, from the lowest to highest...
 
412.20 and a series of viatic plaints such as the more modestly
anapestic:
 
In a monotone tinkles the yoke-bell,
And the roadway is dusting a bit...
 
And that obscurely corrupted soldier dit of singular genius
 
412.25 Nadezhda, I shall then be back
When the true batch outboys the riot...
 
and Turgenev's only memorable lyrical poem beginning
 
Morning so nebulous, morning gray-drowning,
Reaped fields so sorrowful under snow coverings

[ 412 ]

and naturally the celebrated pseudo-gipsy guitar piece by
Apollon Grigoriev (another friend of Uncle Ivan's)
 
O you, at least, do talk to me,
My seven-stringed companion,
413.05 Such yearning ache invades my soul,
Such moonlight fills the canyon!
 
"I declare we are satiated with moonlight and strawberry
soufflé—the latter, I fear, has not quite 'risen' to the occasion,"
remarked Ada in her archest, Austen-maidenish manner. "Let's
413.10 all go to bed. You have seen our huge bed, pet? Look, our
cavalier is yawning 'fit to declansh his masher' " (vulgar Ladore
cant).
"How (ascension of Mt Yawn) true," uttered Van, ceasing
to palpate the velvet cheek of his Cupidon peach, which he had
413.15 bruised but not sampled.
The captain, the vinocherpiy, the shashlikman, and a crew
of waiters had been utterly entranced by the amount of
zernistaya ikra and Ai consumed by the vaporous-looking Veens
and were now keeping a multiple eye on the tray that had flown
413.20 back to Van with a load of gold change and bank notes.
"Why," asked Lucette, kissing Ada's cheek as they both
rose (making swimming gestures behind their backs in search
of the furs locked up in the vault or somewhere), "why did the
first song, Uzh gasli v komnatah ogni, and the 'redolent roses,'
413.25 upset you more than your favorite Fet and the other, about the
bugler's sharp elbow?"
"Van, too, was upset," replied Ada cryptically and grazed
with freshly rouged lips tipsy Lucette's fanciest freckle.
Detachedly, merely tactually, as if he had met those two
413.30 slow-moving, hip-swaying graces only that night, Van, while
steering them through a doorway (to meet the sinchilla mantillas
that were being rushed toward them by numerous, new, eager,
unfairly, inexplicably impecunious, humans), place one palm,

[ 413 ]

the left, on Ada's long bare back and the other on Lucette's
spine, quite as naked and long (had she meant the lad or the
ladder? Lapse of the lisping lips?). Detachedly, he sifted and
tasted this sensation, then that. His girl's ensellure was hot
414.05 ivory; Lucette's was downy and damp. He too had had just
about his "last straw" of champagne, namely four out of half
a dozen bottles minus a rizzom (as we said at old Chose) and
now, as he followed their bluish furs, he inhaled like a fool his
right hand before gloving it.
414.10 "I say, Veen," whinnied a voice near him (there were lots of
lechers around), "you don't rally need two, d'you?"
Van veered, ready to cuff the gross speaker—but it was only
Flora, a frightful tease and admirable mimic. He tried to give
her a banknote, but she fled, bracelets and breast stars flashing
414.15 a fond farewell.
As soon as Edmund (not Edmond, who for security reasons
—he knew Ada—had been sent back to Kingston) brought them
home, Ada puffed out her cheeks, making big eyes, and headed
for Van's bathroom. Hers had been turned over to the tottering
414.20 guest. Van, at a geographical point a shade nearer to the elder
girl, stood and used in a sustained stream the amenities of a
little vessie (Canady form of W.C.) next to his dressing room.
He removed his dinner jacket and tie, undid the collar of his
silk shirt and paused in virile hesitation: Ada, beyond their bed-
414.25 room and sitting room, was running her bath; to its gush a guitar
rhythm, recently heard, kept adapting itself aquatically (the
rare moments when he remembered her and her quite rational
speech at her last sanatorium in Agavia).
He licked his lips, cleared his throat and, deciding to kill
414.30 two finches with one fircone, walked to the other, southern,
extremity of the flat through a boudery and manger hall (we
always tend to talk Canady when haut). In the guest bedroom,
Lucette stood with her back to him, in the process of slipping
on her pale green nightdress over her head. Her narrow haunches

[ 414 ]

were bare, and our wretched rake could not help being moved
by the ideal symmetry of the exquisite twin dimples that only
very perfect young bodies have above the buttocks in the sacral
belt of beauty. Oh, they were even more perfect than Ada's!
415.05 Fortunately, she turned around, smoothing her tumbled red
curls while her hem dropped to knee level.
"My dear," said Van, "do help me. She told me about her
Valentian estanciero but now the name escapes me and I hate
bothering her."
415.10 "Only she never told you," said loyal Lucette, "so nothing
could escape. Nope. I can't do that to your sweetheart and
mine, because we know you could hit that keyhole with a pistol."
"Please, little vixen! I'll reward you with a very special kiss."
"Oh, Van," she said over a deep sigh. "You promise you
415.15 won't tell her I told you?"
"I promise. No, no, no," he went on, assuming a Russian
accent, as she, with the abandon of mindless love, was about
to press her abdomen to his. 'Nikak-s net: no lips, no philtrum,
no nosetip, no swimming eye. Little vixen's axilla, just that—
415.20 unless"—(drawing back in mock uncertainty)—"you shave
there."
"I stink worse when I do," confided simple Lucette and
obediently bared one shoulder.
"Arm up! Point at Paradise! Terra! Venus!" commanded
415.25 Van, and for a few synchronized heartbeats, fitted his working
mouth to the hot, humid, perilous hollow.
She sat down with a bump on a chair, pressing one hand to
her brow.
"Turn off the footlights," said Van. "I want the name of
415.30 that fellow."
"Vinelander," she answered.
He heard Ada Vinelander's voice calling for her Glass bed
slippers (which, as in Cordulenka's princessdom too, he found
hard to distinguish from dance footwear), and a minute later,

[ 415 ]

without the least interruption in the established tension, Van
found himself, in a drunken dream, making violent love to Rose
– no, to Ada, but in the rosacean fashion, on a kind of lowboy.
She complained he hurt her "like a Tiger Turk." He went to
416.05 bed and was about to doze off for good when she left his side.
Where was she going? Pet wanted to see the album.
"I'll be back in a rubby," she said (tribadic schoolgirl slang),
"so keep awake. From now on by the way, it's going to be
Chère-amie-fait-morata"—(play on the generic and specific
416.10 names of the famous fly)—"until further notice."
"But no sapphic vorschmacks," mumbled Van into his pillow.
"Oh, Van," she said, turning to shake her head, one hand on
the opal doorknob at the end of an endless room. "We've been
through that so many times! You admit yourself that I am only
416.15 a pale wild girl with gipsy hair in a deathless ballad, in a
nulliverse, in Rattner's 'menald world' where the only principle
is random variation. You cannot demand," she continued—
somewhere between the cheeks of his pillow (for Ada had
long vanished with her blood-brown book)—"you cannot
416.20 demand pudicity on the part of a delphinet! You know that I
really love only males and, alas, only one man."
There was always something colorfully impressionistic, but
also infantile, about Ada's allusions to her affairs of the flesh,
reminding one of baffle painting, or little glass labyrinths with
416.25 two peas, or the Ardis throwing-trap—you remember?—which
tossed up clay pigeons and pine cones to be shot at, or cocka-
maroo (Russian "biks"), played with a toy cue on the billiard
cloth of an oblong board with holes and hoops, bells and pins
among which the ping-pong-sized eburnean ball zigzagged with
416.30 bix-pix concussions.
Tropes are the dreams of speech. Through the boxwood
maze and bagatelle arches of Ardis, Van passed into sleep. When
he reopened his eyes it was nine A.M. She lay curved away from
him, with nothing beyond the opened parenthesis, its contents

[ 416 ]

not yet ready to be enclosed, and the beloved, beautiful, treach-
erous, blue-black-bronze hair smelt of Ardis, but also of Lu-
cette's "Oh-de-grâce."
Had she cabled him? Cancelled or Postponed? Mrs Viner—
417.05 no, Vingolfer, no, Vinelander—first Russki to taste the labruska
grape.
"Mne snitsa saPERnik SHCHASTLEEVOY!" (Mihail Ivan-
ovich arcating the sand with his cane, humped on his bench
under the creamy racemes).
417.10 "I dream of a fortunate rival!"
In the meantime it's Dr. Hangover for me, and his strongest
Kaffeina pill.
Ada, being at twenty a long morning sleeper, his usual prac-
tice, ever since their new life together had started, was to
417.15 shower before she awoke and, while shaving, ring from the
bathroom for their breakfast to be brought by Valerio, who
would roll in the laid table out of the lift into the sitting room
next to their bedroom. But on this particular Sunday, not know-
ing what Lucette might like (he remembered her old craving
417.20 for cocoa) and being anxious to have an engagement with Ada
before the day began, even if it meant intruding upon her warm
sleep, Van sped up his ablutions, robustly dried himself, pow-
dered his groin, and without bothering to put anything on re-
entered the bedroom in full pride, only to find a tousled and
417.25 sulky Lucette, still in her willow green nightie, sitting on the
far edge of the concubital bed, while fat-nippled Ada, already
wearing, for ritual and fatidic reasons, his river of diamonds,
was inhaling her first smoke of the day and trying to make her
little sister decide whether she would like to try the Monaco's
417.30 pancakes with Potomac syrup, or, perhaps, their incomparable
amber-and-ruby bacon. Upon seeing Van, who without a flinch
in his imposing deportment proceeded to place a rightful knee
on the near side of the tremendous bed (Mississippi Rose had
once brought there, for progressive visual-education purposes,

[ 417 ]

her two small toffee-brown sisters, and a doll almost their size
but white), Lucette shrugged her shoulders and made as if to
leave, but Ada's avid hand restrained her.
"Pop in, pet (it all started with the little one letting wee
418.05 winds go free at table, circa 1882). And you, Garden God,
ring up room service—three coffees, half a dozen soft-boiled
eggs, lots of buttered toast, loads of—"
"Oh no!" interrupted Van. "Two coffees, four eggs, et cetera.
I refuse to let the staff know that I have two girls in my bed,
418.10 one (teste Flora) is enough for my little needs."
"Little needs!" snorted Lucette. "Let me go, Ada. I need a
bath, and he needs you."
"Pet stays right here," cried audacious Ada, and with one
graceful swoop plucked her sister's nightdress off. Involuntarily
418.15 Lucette bent her head and frail spine; then she lay back on the
outer half of Ada's pillow in a martyr's pudibund swoon, her
locks spreading their orange blaze against the black velvet of
the padded headboard.
"Uncross your arms, silly," ordered Ada and kicked off the
418.20 top sheet that partly covered six legs. Simultaneously, without
turning her head, she slapped furtive Van away from her rear,
and with her other hand made magic passes over the small but
very pretty breasts, gemmed with sweat, and along the flat
palpitating belly of a seasand nymph, down to the firebird seen
418.25 by Van once, fully fledged now, and as fascinating in its own
way as his favorite's blue raven. Enchantress! Acrasia!
What we have now is not so much a Casanovanic situation
(that double-wencher had a definitely monochromatic pencil—
in keeping with the memoirs of his dingy era) as a much earlier
418.30 canvas, of the Venetian (sensu largo) school, reproduced (in
"Forbidden Masterpieces") expertly enough to stand the scru-
tiny of a borders vue d'oiseau.
Thus seen from above, as if reflected in the ciel mirror that

[ 418 ]

Eric had naively thought up in his Cyprian dreams (actually
all is shadowy up there, for the blinds are still drawn, shutting
out the gray morning), we have the large island of the bed
illumined from our left (Lucette's right) by a lamp burning
419.05 with a murmuring incandescence on the west-side bedtable.
The top sheet and quilt are tumbled at the footboardless south
of the island where the newly landed eye starts on its northern
trip, up the younger Miss Veen's pried-open legs. A dewdrop
on russet moss eventually finds a stylistic response in the aqua-
419.10 marine tear on her flaming cheekbone. Another trip from the
port to the interior reveals the central girl's long white left
thigh; we visit souvenir stalls: Ada's red-lacquered talons, which
lead a man's reasonably recalcitrant, pardonably yielding wrist
out of the dim east to the bright russet west, and the sparkle
419.15 of her diamond necklace, which, for the nonce, is not much
more valuable than the aquamarines on the other (west) side
of Novelty Novel lane. The scarred male nude on the island's
east coast is half-shaded, and, on the whole, less interesting,
though considerably more aroused than is good for him or a
419.20 certain type of tourist. The recently repapered wall immedi-
ately west of the now louder-murmuring (et pour cause) doro-
cene lamp is ornamented in the central girl's honor with Peru-
vian "honeysuckle" being visited (not only for its nectar, I'm
afraid, but for the animalcules stuck in it) by marvelous Lod-
419.25 digesia Hummingbirds, while the bedtable on that side bears a
lowly box of matches, a karavanchik of cigarettes, a Monaco
ashtray, a copy of Voltemand's poor thriller, and a Lurid
Oncidium Orchid in an amethystine vaselet. The companion
piece on Van's side supports a similar superstrong but unlit
419.30 lamp, a dorophone, a box of Wipex, a reading loupe, the re-
turned Ardis album, and a separatum "Soft music as cause of
brain tumors," by Dr Anbury (young Rattner's waggish pen-
name). Sounds have colors, colors have smells. The fire of

[ 419 ]

Lucette's amber runs through the night of Ada's odor and
ardor, and stops at the threshold of Van's lavender goat. Ten
eager, evil, loving, long fingers belonging to two different young
demons caress their helpless bed pet. Ada's loose black hair ac-
420.05 cidentally tickles the local curio she holds in her left fist, mag-
nanimously demonstrating her acquisition. Unsigned and un-
framed.
That about summed it up (for the magical gewgaw liquefied
all at once, and Lucette, snatching up her nightdress, escaped
420.10 to her room). It was only the sort of shop where the jeweler's
fingertips have a tender way of enhancing the preciousness of
a trinket by something akin to a rubbing of hindwings on the
part of a settled lycaenid or to the frottage of a conjurer's thumb
dissolving a coin; but just in such a shop the anonymous picture
420.15 attributed to Grillo or Obieto, caprice or purpose, ober- or
unterart, is found by the ferreting artist.
"She's terribly nervous, the poor kid," remarked Ada stretch-
ing across Van toward the Wipex. "You can order that break-
fast now—unless...Oh, what a good sight! Orchids. I've
420.20 never seen a man make such a speedy recovery."
"Hundreds of whores and scores of cuties more experienced
than the future Mrs Vinelander have told me that,"
"I may not be as bright as I used to be," sadly said Ada, "but
I know somebody who is not simply a cat, but a polecat, and
420.25 that's Cordula Tobacco alias Madame Perwitsky. I read in this
morning's paper that in France ninety percent of cats die of
cancer. I don't know what the situation is in Poland."
After a while he adored [sic! Ed.] the pancakes. No Lucette,
however, turned up, and when Ada, still wearing her diamonds
420.30 (in sign of at least one more caro Van and a Camel before her
morning bath) looked into the guest room, she found the white
valise and blue furs gone. A note scrawled in Arlen Eyelid
Green was pinned to the pillow.

[ 420 ]

Would go mad if remained one more night shall ski at
Verma with other poor woolly worms for three weeks
or so miserable
Pour Elle
 
421.05 Van walked over to a monastic lectern that he had acquired
for writing in the vertical position of vertebrate thought and
wrote what follows:
 
Poor L.
We are sorry you left so soon. We are even sorrier to
421.10 have inveigled our Esmeralda and mermaid in a naughty
prank. That sort of game will never be played again with
you, darling firebird. We apollo [apologize]. Remem-
brance, embers and membranes of beauty make artists
and morons lose all self-control. Pilots of tremendous air-
421.15 ships and even coarse, smelly coachmen are known to
have been driven insane by a pair of green eyes and a
copper curl. We wished to admire and amuse you, BOP
(bird of paradise). We went too far. I, Van, went too
far. We regret that shameful, though basically innocent
421.20 scene. These are times of emotional stress and recondi-
tioning. Destroy and forget.
Tenderly yours A & V.
(in alphabetic order).
 
"I call this pompous, puritanical rot," said Ada upon scanning
421.25 Van's letter. "Why should we apollo for her having experienced
a delicious spazmochka? I love her and would never allow you
to harm her. It's curious—you know, something in the tone of
your note makes me really jealous for the first time in my fire
[thus in the manuscript, for 'life.' Ed.] Van, Van, somewhere,
421.30 some day, after a sunbath or dance, you will sleep with her,
Van!"

[ 421 ]

"Unless you run out of love potions. Do you allow me to
send her these lines?"
"I do, but want to add a few words."
Her P.S. read:
 
422.05 The above declaration is Van's composition which I sign
reluctantly. It is pompous and puritanical. I adore you,
mon petit, and would never allow him to hurt you, no
matter how gently or madly. When you're sick of Queen,
why not fly over to Holland or Italy?
422.10 A.
 
"Now let's go out for a breath of crisp air," suggested Van.
"I'll order Pardus and Peg to be saddled."
"Last night two men recognized me," she said. "Two separate
Californians, but they didn't dare bow—with that silk-tuxedoed
422.15 bretteur of mine glaring around. One was Anskar, the producer,
and the other, with a cocotte, Paul Whinnier, one of your
father's London pals. I sort of hoped we'd go back to bed."
"We shall now go for a ride in the park," said Van firmly,
and rang, first of all, for a Sunday messenger to take the letter
422.20 to Lucette's hotel – or to the Verma resort, if she had already
left.
"I suppose you know what you're doing?" observed Ada.
"Yes," he answered.
"You are breaking her heart," said Ada.
422.25 "Ada girl, adored girl," cried Van, "I'm a radiant void. I'm
convalescing after a long and dreadful illness. You cried over
my unseemly scar, but now life is going to be nothing but love
and laughter, and corn in cans. I cannot brood over broken
hearts, mine is too recently mended. You shall wear a blue veil,
422.30 and I the false mustache that makes me look like Pierre Legrand,
my fencing master."
"Au fond," said Ada, "first cousins have a perfect right to
ride together. And even dance or skate, if they want. After

[ 422 ]

all, first cousins are almost brother and sister. It's a blue, icy,
breathless day."
She was soon ready, and they kissed tenderly in their hall-
way, between lift and stairs, before separating for a few
423.05 minutes.
"Tower," she murmured in reply to his questioning glance,
just as she used to do on those honeyed mornings in the past,
when checking up on happiness: "And you?"
"A regular ziggurat."


[ 423 ]

(back to Part Two, Chapter 7)
(forward to Part Two, Chapter 9)

(This page is part of ADAonline, which depends on frames for navigation. If you have been referred to this page without the surrounding frameset, follow this link.)