Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle
Part 1, Chapter 15 (view annotations)

One afternoon they were climbing the glossy-limbed shattal tree
at the bottom of the garden. Mlle Larivière and little Lucette,
screened by a caprice of the coppice but just within earshot,
were playing grace hoops. One glimpsed now and then, above
94.05 or through foliage, the skimming hoop passing from one unseen
sending stick to another. The first cicada of the season kept try-
ing out its instrument. A silver-and-sable skybab squirrel sat
sampling a cone on the back of a bench.
Van, in blue gym suit, having worked his way up to a fork
94.10 just under his agile playmate (who naturally was better acquain-
ted with the tree's intricate map) but not being able to see her
face, betokened mute communication by taking her ankle be-
tween finger and thumb as she would have a closed butterfly.
Her bare foot slipped, and the two panting youngsters tangled
94.15 ignominiously among the branches, in a shower of drupes and
leaves, clutching at each other, and the next moment, as they
regained a semblance of balance, his expressionless face and
cropped head were between her legs and a last fruit fell with a
thudthe dropped dot of an inverted exclamation point. She
94.20 was wearing his wristwatch and a cotton frock.

[ 94 ]

"Yes, of course, I remember: you kissed me here, on the in-
"And you started to strangle me with those devilish knees of
95.05 yours—"
"I was seeking some sort of support.")
That might have been true, but according to a later (con-
siderably later!) version they were still in the tree, and still
glowing, when Van removed a silk thread of larva web from his
95.10 lip and remarked that such negligence of attire was a form of
"Well," answered Ada, straddling her favorite limb, "as we
all know by now, Mlle La Rivière de Diamants has nothing
against a hysterical little girl's not wearing pantalets during
95.15 l'ardeur de la canicule."
"I refuse to share the ardor of your little canicule with an
apple tree."
"It is really the Tree of Knowledgethis specimen was im-
ported last summer wrapped up in brocade from the Eden Na-
95.20 tional Park where Dr. Krolik's son is a ranger and breeder."
"Let him range and breed by all means," said Van (her na-
tural history had long begun to get on his nerves), "but I swear
no apple trees grow in Iraq."
"Right, but that's not a true apple tree."
95.25 ("Right and wrong," commented Ada, again much later:
"We did discuss the matter, but you could not have permitted
yourself such vulgar repartees then. At a time when the chastest
of chances allowed you to snatch, as they say, a first shy kiss!
Oh, for shame. And besides, there was no National Park in Iraq
95.30 eighty years ago." "True," said Van. "And no caterpillars bred
on that tree in our orchard." "True, my lovely and larveless."
Natural history was past history by that time.)
Both kept diaries. Soon after that foretaste of knowledge, an
amusing thing happened. She was on her way to Krolik's house

[ 95 ]

with a boxful of hatched and chloroformed butterflies and had
just passed through the orchard when she suddenly stopped and
swore (chort!). At the same moment Van, who had set out in
the opposite direction for a bit of shooting practice in a nearby
96.05 pavilion (where there was a bowling alley and other recrea-
tional facilities, once much used by other Veens), also came to
an abrupt standstill. Then, by a nice coincidence, both went
tearing back to the house to hide their diaries which both
thought they had left lying open in their respective rooms. Ada,
96.10 who feared the curiosity of Lucette and Blanche (the governess
presented no threat, being pathologically unobservant), found
out she was wrong—she had put away the album with its latest
entry. Van, who knew that Ada was a little "snoopy," dis-
covered Blanche in his room feigning to make the made bed,
96.15 with the unlocked diary lying on the stool beside it. He slapped
her lightly on the behind and removed the shagreen-bound book
to a safer place. Then Van and Ada met in the passage, and
would have kissed at some earlier stage of the Novel's Evolution
in the History of Literature. It might have been a neat little
96.20 sequel to the Shattal Tree incident. Instead, both resumed their
separate ways—and Blanche, I suppose, went to weep in her

[ 96 ]

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