|Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle
Part 1, Chapter 22 (view annotations)
|My sister, do you still recall
|The blue Ladore and Ardis Hall?
|Don't you remember any more
|That castle bathed by the Ladore?
|Ma soeur, te souvient-il encore
|Du château que baignait la Dore?
|My sister, do you still recall
|The Ladore-washed old castle wall?
|Sestra moya, tï pomnish' goru,
|I dub vïsokiy, i Ladoru?
|My sister, you remember still
|The spreading oak tree and my hill?
|Oh! qui me rendra mon Aline
|Et le grand chêne et ma colline?
|Oh, who will give me back my Jill
|And the big oak tree and my hill?
|Oh! qui me rendra, mon Adèle,
|Et ma montagne et l'hirondelle?
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|Oh! qui me rendra ma Lucile,
|La Dore et l'hirondelle agile?
|Oh, who will render in our tongue
|The tender things he loved and sung?
|They went boating and swimming in Ladore, they fol-
|lowed the bends of its adored river, they tried to find more
|rhymes to it, they walked up the hill to the black ruins of
|Bryant's Castle, with the swifts still flying around its tower.
|They traveled to Kaluga and drank the Kaluga Waters, and saw
|the family dentist. Van, flipping through a magazine, heard
|Ada scream and say "chort" (devil) in the next room, which
|he had never heard her do before. They had tea at a neighbor's,
|Countess de Prey—who tried to sell them, unsuccessfully, a
|lame horse. They visited the fair at Ardisville where they es-
|pecially admired the Chinese tumblers, a German clown, and a
|sword-swallowing hefty Circassian Princess who started with
|a fruit knife, went on to a bejeweled dagger and finally en-
|gulfed, string and all, a tremendous salami sausage.
|They made love—mostly in glens and gullies.
|To the average physiologist, the energy of those two young-
|sters might have seemed abnormal. Their craving for each other
|grew unbearable if within a few hours it was not satisfied several
|times, in sun or shade, on roof or in cellar, anywhere. Despite
|uncommon resources of ardor, young Van could hardly keep
|pace with his pale little amorette (local French slang). Their
|immoderate exploitation of physical joy amounted to madness
|and would have curtailed their young lives had not summer,
|which had appeared in prospect as a boundless flow of green
|glory and freedom, begun to hint hazily at possible failings and
|fadings, at the fatigue of its fugue—the last resort of nature,
|felicitous alliterations (when flowers and flies mime one an-
|other), the coming of a first pause in late August, a first silence
|in early September. The orchards and vineyards were partic-
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|ularly picturesque that year; and Ben Wright was fired after
|letting winds go free while driving Marina and Mlle Larivière
|home from the Vendange Festival at Brantôme near Ladore.
|Which reminds us. Catalogued in the Ardis library under
|"Exot Lubr" was a sumptuous tome (known to Van through
|Miss Vertograd's kind offices) entitled "Forbidden Master-
|pieces: a hundred paintings representing a private part of Nat.
|Gal. (Sp. Sct.), printed for H.R.M. King Victor." This was
|(beautifully photographed in color) the kind of voluptuous
|and tender stuff that Italian masters allowed themselves to
|produce in between too many pious Resurrections during a too
|long and lusty Renaissance. The volume itself had been either
|lost or stolen or lay concealed in the attic among Uncle Ivan's
|effects, some of them pretty bizarre. Van could not recollect
|whose picture it was that he had in mind, but thought it might
|have been attributed to Michelangelo da Caravaggio in his
|youth. It was an oil on unframed canvas depicting two mis-
|behaving nudes, boy and girl, in an ivied or vined grotto or
|near a small waterfall overhung with bronze-tinted and dark
|emerald leaves, and great bunches of translucent grapes, the
|shadows and limpid reflections of fruit and foliage blending
|magically with veined flesh.
|Anyway (this may be purely a stylistic transition), he felt
|himself transferred into that forbidden masterpiece, one after-
|noon, when everybody had gone to Brantôme, and Ada and he
|were sunbathing on the brink of the Cascade in the larch planta-
|tion of Ardis Park, and his nymphet had bent over him and his
|detailed desire. Her long straight hair that seemed of a uniform
|bluish-black in the shade now revealed, in the gem-like sun,
|strains of deep auburn alternating with dark amber in lanky
|strands which clothed her hollowed cheek or were gracefully
|cleft by her raised ivory shoulder. The texture, gloss and odor
|of those brown silks had once inflamed his senses at the very
|beginning of that fatal summer, and continued to act upon him,
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|strongly and poignantly, long after his young excitement had
|found in her other sources of incurable bliss. At ninety, Van
|remembered his first fall from a horse with scarcely less breath-
|lessness of thought than that first time she had bent over him
|and he had possessed her hair. It tickled his legs, it crept
|into his crotch, it spread all over his palpitating belly. Through
|it the student of art could see the summit of the trompe-l'oeil
|school, monumental, multicolored, jutting out of a dark back-
|ground, molded in profile by a concentration of caravagesque
|light. She fondled him; she entwined him: thus a tendril climber
|coils round a column, swathing it tighter and tighter, biting into
|its neck ever sweeter, then dissolving strength in deep crimson
|softness. There was a crescent eaten out of a vine leaf by a
|sphingid larva. There was a well-known microlepidopterist who,
|having run out of Latin and Greek names, created such nomen-
|clatorial items as Marykisme, Adakisme, Ohkisme. She did.
|Whose brush was it now? A titillant Titian? A drunken Palma
|Vecchio? No, she was anything but a Venetian blonde. Dosso
|Dossi, perhaps? Faun Exhausted by Nymph? Swooning Satyr?
|Doesn't that new-filled molar hurt your own tongue? It bruised
|me. I'm joking, my circus Circassian.
|A moment later the Dutch took over: Girl stepping into a
|pool under the little cascade to wash her tresses, and accom-
|panying the immemorial gesture of wringing them out by
|making wringing-out mouths—immemorial too.
|My sister, do you recollect
|That turret, "Of the Moor" yclept?
|My sister, do you still recall
|The castle, the Ladore, and all?
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