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?
138.05 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,
138.10 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?


138.15 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?

[ 138 ]

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?
139.05 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
139.10 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-
139.15 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.
139.20 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
139.25 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
139.30 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-

[ 139 ]

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
140.05 "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
140.10 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
140.15 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
140.20 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-
140.25 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,
140.30 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,

[ 140 ]

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
141.05 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
141.10 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,
141.15 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?
141.20 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
141.25 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?

[ 141 ]

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