Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle
Part 1, Chapter 34 (view annotations)

That frolic under the sealyham cedar proved to be a mistake.
Whenever not supervised by her schizophrenic governess, when-
ever not being read to, or walked, or put to bed, Lucette was
now a pest. At nightfall—if Marina was not around, drinking,
211.05 say, with her guests under the golden globes of the new garden
lamps that glowed here and there in the sudden greenery, and
mingled their kerosene reek with the breath of heliotrope and
jasmine—the lovers could steal out into the deeper darkness and
stay there until the nocturna—a keen midnight breeze—came
211.10 tumbling the foliage "troussant la raimée," as Sore, the ribald
night watchman, expressed it. Once, with his emerald lantern,
he had stumbled upon them and several times a phantom Blanche
had crept past them, laughing softly, to mate in some humbler
nook with the robust and securely bribed old glowworm. But
211.15 waiting all day for a propitious night was too much for our
impatient lovers. More often than not they had worn them-
selves out well before dinnertime, just as they used to in the
past; Lucette, however, seemed to lurk behind every screen, to
peep out of every mirror.
211.20 They tried the attic, but noticed, just in time, a rent in its

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floor through which one glimpsed a corner of the mangle room
where French, the second maid, could be seen in her corset and
petticoat, passing to and fro. They looked around—and could
not understand how they had ever been able to make tender
212.05 love among splintered boxes and projecting nails, or wriggle
through the skylight onto the roof, which any green imp with
coppery limbs could easily keep under surveillance from a
fork of the giant elm.
There still was the shooting gallery, with its Orientally
212.10 draped recess under the sloping roof. But it crawled now with
bedbugs, reeked of stale beer, and was so grimy and greasy that
one could not dream of undressing or using the little divan. All
Van saw there of his new Ada were her ivorine thighs and
haunches, and the very first time he clasped them she bade him,
212.15 in the midst of his vigorous joy, to glance across her shoulder
over the window ledge, which her hands were still clutching
in the ebbing throbs of her own response, and note that Lucette
was approaching—skipping rope, along a path in the shrubbery.
Those intrusions were repeated on the next two or three occa-
212.20 sions. Lucette would come ever nearer, now picking a chante-
relle and feigning to eat it raw, then crouching to capture a
grasshopper or at least going through the natural motions of
idle play and carefree pursuit. She would advance up to the
center of the weedy playground in front of the forbidden
212.25 pavilion, and there, with an air of dreamy innocence, start to
jiggle the board of an old swing that hung from the long and
lofty limb of Baldy, a partly leafless but still healthy old oak
(which appeared—oh, I remember, Van!in a century-old
lithograph of Ardis, by Peter de Rast, as a young colossus
212.30 protecting four cows and a lad in rags, one shoulder bare).
When our lovers (you like the authorial possessive, don't you,
Van?) happened to look out again, Lucette was rocking the
glum dackel, or looking up at an imaginary woodpecker, or
with various pretty contortions unhurriedly mounting the gray-

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looped board and swinging gently and gingerly as if never hav-
ing done it yet, while idiot Dack barked at the locked pavilion
door. She increased her momentum so cannily that Ada and her
cavalier, in the pardonable blindness of ascending bliss, never
213.05 once witnessed the instant when the round rosy face with all
its freckles aglow swooped up and two green eyes leveled at
the astounding tandem.
Lucette, the shadow, followed them from lawn to loft, from
gatehouse to stable, from a modern shower booth near the pool
213.10 to the ancient bathroom upstairs. Lucette-in-the-Box came out
of a trunk. Lucette desired they take her for walks. Lucette in-
sisted on their playing "leaptoad" with her—and Ada and Van
exchanged dark looks.
Ada thought up a plan that was not simple, was not clever,
213.15 and moreover worked the wrong way. Perhaps she did it on
purpose. (Strike out, strike out, please, Van.) The idea was to
have Van fool Lucette by petting her in Ada's presence, while
kissing Ada at the same time, and by caressing and kissing
Lucette when Ada was away in the woods ("in the woods,"
213.20 "botanizing"). This, Ada affirmed, would achieve two ends—
assuage the pubescent child's jealousy and act as an alibi in
case she caught them in the middle of a more ambiguous romp.
The three of them cuddled and cosseted so frequently and
so thoroughly that at last one afternoon on the long-suffering
213.25 black divan he and Ada could no longer restrain their amorous
excitement, and under the absurd pretext of a hide-and-seek
game they locked up Lucette in a closet used for storing bound
volumes of The Kaluga Waters and The Lugano Sun, and
frantically made love, while the child knocked and called and
213.30 kicked until the key fell out and the keyhole turned an angry
More objectionable yet than those fits of vile temper were,
to Ada's mind, the look of stricken ecstasy that Lucette's face
expressed when she would tightly cling to Van with arms,

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and knees, and prehensile tail, as if he were a tree trunk, even
an ambulating tree trunk, and could not be pried off him un-
less smartly slapped by big sister.
"I have to admit," said Ada to Van as they floated down
214.05 stream in a red boat, toward a drape of willows on a Ladore
islet, "I have to admit with shame and sorrow, Van, that the
splendid plan is a foozle. I think the brat has a dirty mind. I
think she is criminally in love with you. I think I shall tell her
you are her uterine brother and that it is illegal and altogether
214.10 abominable to flirt with uterine brothers. Ugly dark words
scare her, I know; they scared me when I was four; but she is
essentially a dumb child, and should be protected from night-
mares and stallions. If she still does not desist, I can always
complain to Marina, saying she disturbs us in our meditations
214.15 and studies. But perhaps you don't mind? Perhaps she excites
you? Yes? She excites you, confess?"
"This summer is so much sadder than the other," said Van

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