Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle
Part 1, Chapter 39 (view annotations)

Although fairly eclectic in 1888, Ladore fashions were not quite
as free as taken for granted at Ardis.
For the grand picnic on her birthday sixteen-year-old Ada
wore a plain linen blouse, maize-yellow slacks and scuffed
266.05 moccasins. Van had wanted her to let her hair down; she
demurred, saying it was too long for country comfort, but
finally compromised by tying it midway behind with a rumpled
ribbon of black silk. Van's only observance of summer elegancies
consisted of a blue polo jersey, knee-length gray flannel trousers,
266.10 and sport “creepers.”
While the rustic feast was being prepared and distributed
among the sun gouts of the traditional pine glade, the wild girl
and her lover slipped away for a few moments of ravenous
ardor in a ferny ravine where a rill dipped from ledge to ledge
266.15 between tall burnberry bushes. The day was hot and breath-
less. The smallest pine had its cicada.
She said: “Speaking as a character in an old novel, it seems
so long, long ago, davnïm davno, since I used to play word-
games here with Grace and two other lovely girls. 'Insect,
266.20 incest, nicest.'”

[ 266 ]

Speaking as a botanist and a mad woman, she said, the most
extraordinary word in the English language was “husked,” be-
cause it stood for opposite things, covered and uncovered,
tightly husked but easily husked, meaning they peel off quite
267.05 easily, you don't have to tear the waistband, you brute. "Care-
fully husked brute," said Van tenderly. The passage of time
could only enhance his tenderness for the creature he clasped,
this adored creature, whose motion was now more supple, whose
haunches had grown more lyrate, whose hair-ribbon he had un-
267.10 done.
As they crouched on the brink of one of the brook's crystal
shelves, where, before falling, it stopped to have its picture
taken and take pictures itself, Van, at the last throb, saw the
reflection of Ada's gaze in the water flash a warning. Some-
267.15 thing of the sort had happened somewhere before: he did not
have time to identify the recollection that, nonetheless, led him
to identify at once the sound of the stumble behind him.
Among the rugged rocks they found and consoled poor
little Lucette, whose foot had slipped on a granite slab in a
267.20 tangle of bushes. Flushed and flustered, the child rubbed her
thigh in much-overdone agony. Van and Ada gaily grasped
one little hand each and ran Lucette back to the glade, where
she laughed, where she flopped, where she made for her favorite
tarts awaiting her on one of the unfolded tables. There she
267.25 husked out of her sweat shirt, hitched up her green shorts and,
asquat on the russet ground, attacked the food she had collected.
Ada had declined to invite anybody except the Erminin
twins to her picnic; but she had had no intention of inviting the
brother without the sister. The latter, it turned out, could not
267.30 come, having gone to New Cranton to see a young drummer,
her first boy friend, sail off into the sunrise with his regiment.
But Greg had to be asked to come after all: on the previous
day he had called on her bringing a “talisman” from his very
sick father, who wanted Ada to treasure as much as his grandam

[ 267 ]

had a little camel of yellow ivory carved in Kiev, five centuries
ago, in the days of Timur and Nabok.
Van did not err in believing that Ada remained unaffected
by Greg's devotion. He now met him again with pleasure—the
268.05 kind of pleasure, immoral in its very purity, which adds its
icy tang to the friendly feelings a successful rival bears toward
a thoroughly decent fellow.
Greg, who had left his splendid new black Silentium motor-
cycle in the forest ride, observed:
268.10 “We have company.”
“Indeed we do,” assented Van. “Kto sii (who are they)? Do
you have any idea?”
Nobody had. Raincoated, unpainted, morose, Marina came
over and peered through the trees the way Van pointed.
268.15 After reverently inspecting the Silentium, a dozen elderly
townsmen, in dark clothes, shabby and uncouth, walked into
the forest across the road and sat down there to a modest
colazioneof cheese, buns, salami, sardines and Chianti. They
were quite sufficiently far from our picnickers not to bother
268.20 them in any way. They had no mechanical music boxes with
them. Their voices were subdued, their movements could not
have been more discreet. The predominant gesture seemed to
be ritually limited to this or that fist crumpling brown paper or
coarse gazette paper or baker's paper (the very lightweight and
268.25 inefficient sort), and discarding the crumpled bit in quiet, ab-
stract fashion, while other sad apostolic hands unwrapped the
victuals or for some reason or other wrapped them up again, in
the noble shade of the pines, in the humble shade of the false
268.30 “How odd,” said Marina, scratching her sunlit bald patch.
She sent a footman to investigate the situation and tell those
Gipsy politicians, or Calabrian laborers, that Squire Veen
would be furious if he discovered trespassers camping in his

[ 268 ]

The footman returned, shaking his head. They did not speak
English. Van went over:
“Please go away, this is private property,” said Van in Vulgar
Latin, French, Canadian French, Russian, Yukonian Russian,
269.05 very low Latin again: proprieta privata.
He stood looking at them, hardly noticed by them, hardly
shade-touched by the foliage. They were ill-shaven, blue-jowled
men in old Sunday suits. One or two wore no collar but had
kept the thyroid stud. One had a beard and a humid squint.
269.10 Patent boots, with dust in the cracks, or orange-brown shoes
either very square or very pointed had been taken off and
pushed under the burdocks or placed on the old tree stumps
of the rather drab clearing. How odd indeed! When Van re-
peated his request, the intruders started to mutter among them-
269.15 selves in a totally incomprehensible jargon, making small flap-
ping motions in his direction as if half-heartedly chasing away
a gnat.
He asked Marina—did she want him to use force, but sweet,
dear Marina said, patting her hair, one hand on her hip, no, let
269.20 us ignore them—especially as they were now drawing a little
deeper into the trees—look, look—some dragging à reculons the
various parts of their repast upon what resembled an old bed-
spread, which receded like a fishing boat pulled over pebbly
sand, while others politely removed the crumpled wrappings to
269.25 other more distant hiding places in keeping with the general
relocation: a most melancholy and meaningful picture—but
meaning what, what?
Gradually their presence dissolved from Van's mind. Every-
body was now having a wonderful time. Marina threw off the
269.30 pale raincoat or rather 'dustcoat' she had put on for the picnic
(after all, with one thing and another, her domestic gray dress
with the pink fichu was quite gay enough, she declared, for an
old lady) and raising an empty glass she sang, with brio and
very musically, the Green Grass aria: “Replenish, replenish the

[ 269 ]

glasses with wine! Here's a toast to love! To the rapture of
love!” With awe and pity, and no love, Van kept reverting to
that poor bald patch on Traverdiata's poor old head, to the scalp
burnished by her hairdye an awful pine rust color much shinier
270.05 than her dead hair. He attempted, as so many times before, to
squeeze out some fondness for her but as usual failed and as
usual told himself that Ada did not love her mother either, a
vague and cowardly consolation.
Greg, assuming with touching simplicity that Ada would
270.10 notice and approve, showered Mlle Larivière with a thousand
little attentions—helping her out of her mauve jacket, pouring
out for her the milk into Lucette's mug from a thermos bottle,
passing the sandwiches, replenishing, replenishing Mlle Lariv-
ière's wineglass and listening with a rapt grin to her diatribes
270.15 against the English, whom she said she disliked even more than
the Tartars, or the, well, Assyrians.
“England!” she cried, “England! The country where for
every poet, there are ninety-nine sales petits bourgeois, some of
suspect extraction! England dares ape France! I have in that
270.20 hamper there an English novel of high repute in which a lady
is given a perfume—an expensive perfume!—called 'Ombre
Chevalier,'which is really nothing but a fish—a delicious fish,
true, but hardly suitable for scenting one's handkerchief with.
On the very next page, a soi-disant philosopher mentions 'une
270.25 acte gratuite' as if all acts were feminine, and a soi-disant Parisian
hotelkeeper in the story says 'je me regrette' for 'je regrette'!
D'accord,” interjected Van, “but what about such atrocious
bloomers in French translations from the English as for example — ”
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, at that very moment
270.30 Ada emitted a Russian exclamation of utmost annoyance as a
steel-gray convertible glided into the glade. No sooner had it
stopped than it was surrounded by the same group of towns-
men, who now seemed to have multiplied in strange consequence

[ 270 ]

of having shed coats and waistcoats. Thrusting his way through
their circle, with every sign of wrath and contempt, young
Percy de Prey, frilled-shirted and white-trousered, strode up to
Marina's deckchair. He was invited to join the party despite
271.05 Ada's trying to stop her silly mother with an admonishing stare
and a private small shake of the head.
“I dared not hope ... Oh, I accept with great pleasure,”
answered Percy, whereupon—very much whereupon—the
seemingly forgetful but in reality calculating bland bandit
271.10 marched back to his car (near which a last wonderstruck ad-
mirer lingered) to fetch a bouquet of longstemmed roses stored
in the boot.
What a shame that I should loathe roses,” said Ada, accept-
ing them gingerly.
271.15 The muscat wine was uncorked. Ada's and Ida's healths
drunk. “The conversation became general,” as Monparnasse
liked to write.
Count Percy de Prey turned to Ivan Demianovich Veen:
I'm told you like abnormal positions?
271.20 The half-question was half-mockingly put. Van looked
through his raised lunel at the honeyed sun.
“Meaning what?” he enquired.
“Well—that walking-on-your-hands trick. One of your aunt's
servants is the sister of one of our servants and two pretty gos-
271.25 sips form a dangerous team” (laughing). “The legend has it that
you do it all day long, in every corner, congratulations!” (bow-
Van replied: “The legend makes too much of my specialty.
Actually, I practice it for a few minutes every other night, don't
271.30 I, Ada?” (looking around for her). “May I give you, Count,
some more of the mouse-and-cat—a poor pun, but mine.”
“Vahn dear,” said Marina, who was listening with delight to
the handsome young men's vivacious and carefree prattle, “tell
him about your success in London. Zhe tampri (please)!

[ 271 ]

“Yes,” said Van, “it all started as a rag, you know, up at
Chose, but then—”
“Van!” called Ada shrilly. “I want to say something to you,
Van, come here.”
272.05 Dorn (flipping through a literary review, to Trigorin):
“Here, a couple of months ago, a certain article was printed ...
a Letter from America, and I wanted to ask you, incidentally
(taking Trigorin by the waist and leading him to the front of
the stage), “because I'm very much interested in that ques-
272.10 tion ...”
Ada stood with her back against the trunk of a tree, like a
beautiful spy who has just rejected the blindfold.
“I wanted to ask you, incidentally, Van” (continuing in a
whisper, with an angry flick of the wrist)—“stop playing the
272.15 perfect idiot host; he came drunk as a welt, can't you see?”
The execution was interrupted by the arrival of Uncle Dan.
He had a remarkably reckless way of driving, as happens so
often, goodness knows why, in the case of many dour, dreary
men. Weaving rapidly between the pines, he brought the little
272.20 red runabout to an abrupt stop in front of Ada and presented
her with the perfect gift, a big box of mints, white, pink and,
oh boy, green! He had also an aerogram for her, he said, wink-
Ada tore it open—and saw it was not for her from dismal
272.25 Kalugano, as she had feared, but for her mother from Los
Angeles, a much gayer place. Marina's face gradually assumed
an expression of quite indecent youthful beatitude as she scanned
the message. Triumphantly, she showed it to Larivière-Mon-
parnasse, who read it twice and tilted her head with a smile of
272.30 indulgent disapproval. Positively stamping her feet with joy:
“Pedro is coming again,” cried (gurgled, rippled) Marina to
her calm daughter.
“And, I suppose, he'll stay till the end of the summer,” re-
marked Ada—and sat down with Greg and Lucette, for a game

[ 272 ]

of Snap, on a laprobe spread over the little ants and dry pine
“Oh no, da net zhe, only for a fortnight” (girlishly giggling).
“After that we shall go to Houssaie, Gollivud-tozh” (Marina was
273.05 really in great form)—“yes, we shall all go, the author, and the
children, and Van—if he wishes.”
I wish but I can't,” said Percy (sample of his humor).
In the meantime, Uncle Dan, very dapper in cherry-striped
blazer and variety-comic straw hat, feeling considerably in-
273.10 trigued by the presence of the adjacent picnickers, walked over
to them with his glass of Hero wine in one hand and a caviar
canapé in the other.
The Accursed Children,” said Marina in answer to some-
thing Percy wanted to know.
273.15 Percy, you were to die very soon—and not from that pellet
in your fat leg, on the turf of a Crimean ravine, but a couple of
minutes later when you opened your eyes and felt relieved and
secure in the shelter of the macchie; you were to die very soon,
Percy; but that July day in Ladore County, lolling under the
273.20 pines, royally drunk after some earlier festivity, with lust in
your heart and a sticky glass in your strong blond-haired hand,
listening to a literary bore, chatting with an aging actress and
ogling her sullen daughter, you reveled in the spicy situation,
old sport, chin-chin, and no wonder. Burly, handsome, indolent
273.25 and ferocious, a crack Rugger player, a cracker of country
girls, you combined the charm of the off-duty athlete with the
engaging drawl of a fashionable ass. I think what I hated most
about your handsome moon face was that baby complexion, the
smooth-skinned jaws of the easy shaver. I had begun to bleed
273.30 every time, and was going to do so for seven decades.
In a birdhouse fixed to that pine trunk,” said Marina to her
young admirer, “there was once a 'telephone.' How I'd welcome
its presence right now! Ah, here he is, enfin!
Her husband, minus the glass and the canapé, strolled back

[ 273 ]

bringing wonderful news. They were an “exquisitely polite
group.” He had recognized at least a dozen Italian words. It
was, he understood, a collation of shepherds. They thought,
he thought, he was a shepherd too. A canvas from Cardinal
274.05 Carlo de Medici's collection, author unknown, may have been
at the base of that copy. Excitedly, overexcitedly, the little man
said he insisted the servants take viands and wine to his excellent
new friends; he got busy himself, seizing an empty bottle and a
hamper that contained knitting equipment, an English novel by
274.10 Quigley and a roll of toilet paper. Marina explained, however,
that professional obligations demanded she call up California
without delay; and, forgetting his project, he readily consented
to drive her home.
Mists have long since hidden the links and loops of consecu-
274.15 tive events, but—approximately while that departure took place,
or soon after—Van found himself standing on the brink of the
brook (which had reflected two pairs of superposed eyes earlier
in the afternoon) and chucking pebbles with Percy and Greg
at the remnants of an old, rusty, indecipherable signboard on the
274.20 other side.
“Okh, nado (I must) passati!” exclaimed Percy in the Slavic
slang he affected, blowing out his cheeks and fumbling fran-
tically at his fly. In all his life, said stolid Greg to Van, he had
never seen such an ugly engine, surgically circumcised, ter-
274.25 rifically oversized and high-colored, with such a phenomenal
cœur de bœuf; nor had either of the fascinated, fastidious boys
ever witnessed the like of its sustained, strongly arched, prac-
tically everlasting stream. “Phoeh!” uttered the young man with
relief, and repacked.
274.30 How did the scuffle start? Did all three cross the brook
stepping on slimy stones? Did Percy push Greg? Did Van jog
Percy? Was there something—a stick? Twisted out of a fist?
A wrist gripped and freed?

[ 274 ]

“Oho,” said Percy, “you are playful, my lad!”
Greg, one bag of his plus-fours soaked, watched them help-
lessly—he was fond of both—as they grappled on the brink of
the brook.
275.05 Percy was three years older, and a score of kilograms heavier
than Van, but the latter had handled even burlier brutes with
ease. Almost at once the Count's bursting face was trapped in
the crook of Van's arm. The grunting Count toured the turf in
a hunched-up stagger. He freed one scarlet ear, was retrapped,
275.10 was tripped and collapsed under Van, who instantly put him
“on his omoplates,” na lopatki, as King Wing used to say in his
carpet jargon. Percy lay panting like a dying gladiator, both
shoulder blades pressed to the ground by his tormentor, whose
thumbs now started to manipulate horribly that heaving thorax.
275.15 Percy with a sudden bellow of pain intimated he had had
enough. Van requested a more articulate expression of sur-
render, and got it. Greg, fearing Van had not caught the mut-
tered plea for mercy, repeated it in the third person interpreta-
tive. Van released the unfortunate Count, whereupon he sat up,
275.20 spitting, palpating his throat, rearranging the rumpled shirt
around his husky torso and asking Greg in a husky voice to
find a missing cufflink.
Van washed his hands in a lower shelf-pool of the brook and
recognized, with amused embarrassment, the transparent, tubular
275.25 thing, not unlike a sea-squirt, that had got caught in its down-
stream course in a fringe of forget-me-nots, good name, too.
He had started to walk back to the picnic glade when a
mountain fell upon him from behind. With one violent heave
he swung his attacker over his head. Percy crashed and lay
275.30 supine for a moment or two. Van, his crab claws on the ready,
contemplated him, hoping for a pretext to inflict a certain
special device of exotic torture that he had not yet had the
opportunity to use in a real fight.

[ 275 ]

“You've broken my shoulder,” grumbled Percy, half-rising
and rubbing his thick arm. “A little more self-control, young
“Stand up!” said Van. “Come on, stand up! Would you like
276.05 more of the same or shall we join the ladies? The ladies? All
right. But, if you please, walk in front of me now.”
As he and his captive drew near the glade Van cursed himself
for feeling rattled by that unexpected additional round; he was
secretly out of breath, his every nerve twanged, he caught him-
276.10 self limping and correcting the limp—while Percy de Prey, in
his magically immaculate white trousers and casually ruffled
shirt, marched, buoyantly exercising his arms and shoulders,
and seemed quite serene and in fact rather cheerful.
Presently Greg overtook them, bringing the cufflink—a little
276.15 triumph of meticulous detection, and with a trite “Attaboy!”
Percy closed his silk cuff, thus completing his insolent restora-
Their dutiful companion, still running, got first to the site of
the finished feast; he saw Ada, facing him with two stipple-
276.20 stemmed red boletes in one hand and three in the other; and,
mistaking her look of surprise at the sound of his thudding
hooves for one of concern, good Sir Greg hastened to cry out
from afar: “He's all right! He's all right, Miss Veen”—blind
compassion preventing the young knight from realizing that
276.25 she could not possibly have known yet what a clash had oc-
curred between the beau and the beast.
“Indeed I am,” said the former, taking from her a couple of
her toadstools, the girl's favorite delicacy, and stroking their
smooth caps. “And why shouldn't I be? Your cousin has treated
276.30 Greg and your humble servant to a most bracing exhibition of
Oriental Skrotomoff or whatever the name may be.
He called for wine—but the remaining bottles had been given
to the mysterious pastors whose patronage the adjacent clearing
had already lost: they might have dispatched and buried one of

[ 276 ]

their comrades, if the stiff collar and reptilian tie left hanging
from a locust branch were his. Gone also was the bouquet of
roses which Ada had ordered to be put back into the boot of
the Count's car—better than waste them on her, let him give
277.05 them, she said, to Blanche's lovely sister.
And now Mlle Larivière clapped her hands to rouse from
their siesta, Kim, the driver of her gig, and Trofim, the chil-
dren's fair-bearded coachman. Ada reclenched her boletes and
all Percy could find for his Handkuss was a cold fist.
277.10 “Jolly nice to have seen you, old boy,” he said, tapping Van
lightly on the shoulder, a forbidden gesture in their milieu.
“Hope to play with you again soon. I wonder,” he added in a
lower voice, “if you shoot as straight as you wrestle.”
Van followed him to the convertible.
277.15 “Van, Van come here, Greg wants to say good-bye,” cried
Ada, but he did not turn.
“Is that a challenge, me faites-vous un duel? inquired Van.
Percy, at the wheel, smiled, slit his eyes, bent toward the
dashboard, smiled again, but said nothing. Click-click went the
277.20 motor, then broke into thunder and Percy drew on his gloves.
Quand tu voudras, mon gars,” said Van, slapping the fender
and using the terrible second person singular of duelists in old
The car leapt forward and disappeared.
277.25 Van returned to the picnic ground, his heart stupidly thump-
ing; he waved in passing to Greg who was talking to Ada a
little way off on the road.
“Really, I assure you,” Greg was saying to her, “your cousin
is not to blame. Percy started it—and was defeated in a clean
277.30 match of Korotom wrestling, as used in Teristan and Sorokat
my father, I'm sure, could tell you all about it.
“You're a dear,” answered Ada, “but I don't think your brain
works too well.
“It never does in your presence,” remarked Greg, and

[ 277 ]

mounted his black silent steed, hating it, and himself, and the
two bullies.
He adjusted his goggles and glided away. Mlle Larivière, in
her turn, got into her gig and was borne off through the
278.05 speckled vista of the forest ride.
Lucette ran up to Van and, almost kneeling, cosily embraced
her big cousin around the hips, and clung to him for a moment,
“Come along,” said Van, lifting her, “don't forget your jersey,
you can't go naked.”
278.10 Ada strolled up. “My hero,” she said, hardly looking at him,
with that inscrutable air she had that let one guess whether she
expressed sarcasm or ecstasy, or a parody of one or the other.
Lucette, swinging her mushroom basket, chanted:
“He screwed off a nipple,
278.15 He left him a cripple ...”
“Lucy Veen, stop that!” shouted Ada at the imp; and Van
with a show of great indignation, shook the little wrist he held,
while twinkling drolly at Ada on his other side.
Thus, a carefree-looking young trio, they moved toward the
278.20 waiting victoria. Slapping his thighs in dismay, the coachman
stood berating a tousled foot boy who had appeared from under
a bush. He had concealed himself there to enjoy in peace a
tattered copy of Tattersalia with pictures of tremendous, fabu-
lously elongated race horses, and had been left behind by the
278.25 charabanc which had carried away the dirty dishes and the
drowsy servants.
He climbed onto the box, beside Trofim, who directed a
vibrating “tpprr” at the backing bays, while Lucette considered
with darkening green eyes the occupation of her habitual perch.
278.30 “You'll have to take her on your half-brotherly knee,” said
Ada in a neutral aparte.
“But won't La maudite rivière object,” he said absently, try-
ing to catch by its tail the sensation of fate's rerun.

[ 278 ]

Larivière can go and” (and Ada's sweet pale lips repeated
Gavronski's crude crack) ... “That goes for Lucette too,” she
Vos ‘vyragences' sont assez lestes,” remarked Van. “Are you
279.05 very mad at me?”
“Oh Van, I'm not! In fact, I'm delighted you won. But I'm
sixteen today. Sixteen! Older than grandmother at the time of
her first divorce. It's my last picnic, I guess. Childhood is
scrapped. I love you. You love me. Greg loves me. Everybody
279.10 loves me. I'm glutted with love. Hurry up or she'll pull that
cock off—Lucette, leave him alone at once!”
Finally the carriage started on its pleasant homeward journey.
“Ouch!” grunted Van as he received the rounded load—ex-
plaining wrily that he had hit his right patella against a rock.
279.15 Of course, if one goes in for horseplay ...” murmured Ada
—and opened, at its emerald ribbon, the small brown, gold-
tooled book (a great success with the passing sun flecks) that
she had been already reading during the ride to the picnic.
“I do fancy a little horseplay,” said Van. “It has left me with
279.20 quite a tingle, for more reasons than one.”
“I saw you—horseplaying,” said Lucette, turning her head.
“Sh-sh,” uttered Van.
“I mean you and him.”
“We are not interested in your impressions, girl. And don't
279.25 look back all the time. You know you get carriage-sick when
the road—”
“Coincidence: 'Jean qui tâchait de lui tourner la tête ...'”
surfaced Ada briefly.
—when the road 'runs out of you,' as your sister once said
279.30 when she was your age.”
“True,” mused Lucette tunefully.
She had been prevailed upon to clothe her honey-brown
body. Her white jersey had filched a lot from its recent back-
ground—pine needles, a bit of moss, a cake crumb, a baby

[ 279 ]

caterpillar. Her remarkably well-filled green shorts were stained
with burnberry purple. Her ember-bright hair flew into his face
and smelt of a past summer. Family smell; yes, coincidence: a
set of coincidences slightly displaced; the artistry of asymmetry.
280.05 She sat in his lap, heavily, dreamily, full of foie gras and peach
punch, with the backs of her brown iridescent bare arms almost
touching his face—touching it when he glanced down, right
and left, to check if the mushrooms had been taken. They had.
The little footboy was reading and picking his nose—judging
280.10 by the movements of his elbow. Lucette's compact bottom and
cool thighs seemed to sink deeper and deeper in the quicksand
of the dream-like, dream-rephrased, legend-distorted past. Ada,
sitting next to him, turning her smaller pages quicker than the
boy on the box, was, of course, enchanting, obsessive, eternal
280.15 and lovelier, more somberly ardent than four summers ago—
but it was that other picnic which he now relived and it was
Ada's soft haunches which he now held as if she were present
in duplicate, in two different color prints.
Through strands of coppery silk he looked aslant at Ada,
280.20 who puckered her lips at him in the semblance of a transmitted
kiss (pardoning him at last for his part in that brawl!) and
presently went back to her vellum-bound little volume, Ombres
et couleurs, an 1820 edition of Chateaubriand's short stories
with hand-painted vignettes and the flat mummy of a pressed
280.25 anemone. The gouts and glooms of the woodland passed across
her book, her face and Lucette's right arm, on which he could
not help kissing a mosquito bite in pure tribute to the duplica-
tion. Poor Lucette stole a languorous look at him and looked
away again—at the red neck of the coachman—of that other
280.30 coachman who for several months had haunted her dreams.
We do not care to follow the thoughts troubling Ada, whose
attention to her book was far shallower than might seem; we
will not, nay, cannot follow them with any success, for thoughts
are much more faintly remembered than shadows or colors, or

[ 280 ]

the throbs of young lust, or a green snake in a dark paradise.
Therefore we find ourselves more comfortably sitting within
Van while his Ada sits within Lucette, and both sit within Van
(and all three in me, adds Ada).
281.05 He remembered with a pang of pleasure the indulgent skirt
Ada had been wearing then, so swoony-baloony as the Chose
young things said, and he regretted (smiling) that Lucette had
those chaste shorts on today, and Ada, husked-corn (laughing)
trousers. In the fatal course of the most painful ailments, some-
281.10 times (nodding gravely), sometimes there occur sweet morn-
ings of perfect repose—and that not owing to some blessed pill
or potion (indicating the bedside clutter) or at least without
our knowing that the loving hand of despair slipped us the drug.
Van closed his eyes in order better to concentrate on the
281.15 golden flood of swelling joy. Many, oh, many, many years later
he recollected with wonder (how could one have endured such
rapture?) that moment of total happiness, the complete eclipse
of the piercing and preying ache, the logic of intoxication, the
circular argument to the effect that the most eccentric girl can-
281.20 not help being faithful if she loves one as one loves her. He
watched Ada's bracelet flash in rhythm with the swaying of
the victoria and her full lips, parted slightly in profile, show in
the sun the red pollen of a remnant of salve drying in the trans-
versal thumbnail lines of their texture. He opened his eyes: the
281.25 bracelet was indeed flashing but her lips had lost all trace of
rouge, and the certainty that in another moment he would
touch their hot pale pulp threatened to touch off a private
crisis under the solemn load of another child. But the little
proxy's neck, glistening with sweat, was pathetic, her trustful
281.30 immobility, sobering, and after all no furtive fiction could
compete with what awaited him in Ada's bower. A twinge in
his kneecap also came to the rescue, and honest Van chided
himself for having attempted to use a little pauper instead of
the princess in the fairy tale—“whose precious flesh must not

[ 281 ]

blush with the impression of a chastising hand,” says Pierrot in
Peterson's version.
With the fading of that fugitive flame his mood changed.
Something should be said, a command should be given, the
282.05 matter was serious or might become serious. They were now
about to enter Gamlet, the little Russian village, from which a
birch-lined road led quickly to Ardis. A small procession of
kerchiefed peasant nymphs, unwashed, no doubt, but adorably
pretty with naked shiny shoulders and high-divided plump
282.10 breasts tuliped up by their corsets, walked past through a cop-
pice, singing an old ditty in their touching English:
Thorns and nettles
For silly girls:
Ah, torn the petals,
282.15 Ah, spilled the pearls!
You have a little pencil in your back pocket,” said Van to
Lucette. “May I borrow it, I want to write down that song.”
“If you don't tickle me there,” said the child.
Van reached for Ada's book and wrote on the fly leaf, as
282.20 she watched him with odd wary eyes:
I don't wish to see him again.
It's serious.
Tell M. not to receive him or I leave.
No answer required.
282.25 She read it, and slowly, silently erased the lines with the top
of the pencil which she passed back to Van, who replaced it
where it had been.
You're awfully fidgety,” Lucette observed without turning.
“Next time,” she added, “I won't have him dislodge me.”
282.30 They now swept up to the porch, and Trofim had to cuff
the tiny blue-coated reader in order to have him lay his book
aside and jump down to hand Ada out of the carriage.

[ 282 ]

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