Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle
Part 1, Chapter 42 (view annotations)

Aqua used to say that only a very cruel or very stupid person,
or innocent infants, could be happy on Demonia, our splendid
planet. Van felt that for him to survive on this terrible Antiterra,
in the multicolored and evil world into which he was born, he
301.05 had to destroy, or at least to maim for life, two men. He had
to find them immediately; delay itself might impair his power of
survival. The rapture of their destruction would not mend his
heart, but would certainly rinse his brain. The two men were in
two different spots and neither spot represented an exact loca-
301.10 tion, a definite street number, an identifiable billet. He hoped
to punish them in an honorable way, if Fate helped. He was not
prepared for the comically exaggerated zeal Fate was to display
in leading him on and then muscling in to become an over-
cooperative agent.
301.15 First, he decided to go to Kalugano to settle accounts with
Herr Rack. Out of sheer misery he fell asleep in a corner of a
compartment, full of alien legs and voices, in the crack express
tearing north at a hundred miles per hour. He dozed till noon
and got off at Ladoga, where after an incalculably long wait
301.20 he took another, even more jerky and crowded train. As he was

[ 301 ]

pushing his unsteady way through one corridor after another,
cursing under his breath the window-gazers who did not draw
in their bottoms to let him pass, and hopelessly seeking a com-
fortable nook in one of the first-class cars consisting of four-
302.05 seat compartments, he saw Cordula and her mother facing each
other on the window side. The two other places were occupied
by a stout, elderly gentleman in an old-fashioned brown wig
with a middle parting, and a bespectacled boy in a sailor suit
sitting next to Cordula, who was in the act of offering him one
302.10 half of her chocolate bar. Van entered, moved by a sudden very
bright thought, but Cordula's mother did not recognize him at
once, and the flurry of reintroductions combined with a lurch
of the train caused Van to step on the prunella-shod foot of the
elderly passenger, who uttered a sharp cry and said, indistinctly
302.15 but not impolitely: "Spare my gout (or "take care" or "look
out"), young man!"
"I do not like being addressed as 'young man,'" Van told
the invalid in a completely uncalled-for, brutal burst of voice.
"Has he hurt you, Grandpa?" inquired the little boy.
302.20 "He has," said Grandpa, "but I did not mean to offend any-
by my cry of anguish."
"Even anguish should be civil," continued Van (while the
better Van in him tugged at his sleeve, aghast and ashamed).
"Cordula," said the old actress (with the same apropos with
302.25 which she once picked up and fondled a fireman's cat that had
strayed into Fast Colors in the middle of her best speech), "why
don't you go with this angry young demon to the tea-car? I
think I'll take my thirty-nine winks now."
"What's wrong?" asked Cordula as they settled down in the
302.30 very roomy and rococo "crumpeter," as Kalugano College
students used to call it in the 'Eighties and 'Nineties.
"Everything," replied Van, "but what makes you ask?"
"Well, we know Dr. Platonov slightly, and there was ab-

[ 302 ]

solutely no reason for you to be so abominably rude to the dear
old man."
"I apologize," said Van. "Let us order the traditional tea."
"Another queer thing," said Cordula, "is that you actually
303.05 noticed me today. Two months ago you snubbed me."
"You had changed. You had grown lovely and languorous.
You are even lovelier now. Cordula is no longer a virgin! Tell
me—do you happen to have Percy de Prey's address? I mean we
all know he's invading Tartary—but where could a letter reach
303.10 him? I don't care to ask your snoopy aunt to forward anything.'
"I daresay the Frasers have it, I'll find out. But where is Van
going? Where shall I find Van?"
"At home—5 Park Lane, in a day or two. Just now I'm going
to Kalugano."
303.15 "That's a gruesome place. Girl?"
"Man. Do you know Kalugano? Dentist? Best hotel? Con-
cert hall? My cousin's music teacher?"
She shook her short curls. No—she went there very seldom.
Twice to a concert, in a pine forest. She had not been aware
303.20 that Ada took music lessons. How was Ada?
"Lucette," he said, "Lucette takes or took piano lessons. Okay.
Let's dismiss Kalugano. These crumpets are very poor relatives
of the Chose ones. You're right, j'ai des ennuis.But you can
make me forget them. Tell me something to distract me, though
303.25 you distract me as it is, un petit topinambour as the Teuton
said in the story. Tell me about your affairs of the heart."
She was not a bright little girl. But she was a loquacious and
really quite exciting little girl. He started to caress her under the
table, but she gently removed his hand, whispering "womenses,"
303.30 as whimsically as another girl had done in some other dream.
He cleared his throat loudly and ordered half-a-bottle of cognac,
having the waiter open it in his presence as Demon advised. She
talked on and on, and he lost the thread of her discourse, or

[ 303 ]

rather it got enmeshed in the rapid landscape, which his gaze
followed over her shoulder, with a sudden ravine recording
what Jack said when his wife 'phoned, or a lone tree in a clover
field impersonating abandoned John, or a romantic stream
304.05 running down a cliff and reflecting her brief bright affair with
Marquis Quizz Quisana.
A pine forest fizzled out and factory chimneys replaced it.
The train clattered past a roundhouse, and slowed down, groan-
ing. A hideous station darkened the day.
304.10 "Good Lord," cried Van, "that's my stop."
He put money on the table, kissed Cordula's willing lips
and made for the exit. Upon reaching the vestibule he glanced
back at her with a wave of the glove he held—and crashed into
somebody who had stooped to pick up a bag: "On n'est pas
304.15 goujat à ce point," observed the latter: a burly military man
with a reddish mustache and a staff captain's insignia.
Van brushed past him, and when both had come down on
the platform, glove-slapped him smartly across the face.
The captain picked up his cap and lunged at the white-faced,
304.20 black-haired young fop. Simultaneously Van felt somebody em-
brace him from behind in well-meant but unfair restraint. Not
bothering to turn his head he abolished the invisible busybody
with a light "piston blow" delivered by the left elbow, while
he sent the captain staggering back into his own luggage with
304.25 one crack of the right hand. By now several free-show amateurs
had gathered around them; so, breaking their circle, Van took
his man by the arm and marched him into the waiting room.
A comically gloomy porter with a copiously bleeding nose came
in after them carrying the captain's three bags, one of them
304.30 under his arm. Cubistic labels of remote and fabulous places
color-blotted the newer of the valises. Visiting cards were ex-
changed. "Demon's son?" grunted Captain Tapper, of Wild
Violet Lodge, Kalugano. "Correct," said Van. "I'll put up, I
guess, at the Majestic; if not, a note will be left for your second

[ 304 ]

or seconds. You'll have to get me one, I can't very well ask the
concierge to do it."
While speaking thus, Van chose a twenty dollar piece from
a palmful of gold, and gave it with a grin to the damaged old
305.05 porter. "Yellow cotton," Van added: "Up each nostril. Sorry,
With his hands in his trouser pockets, he crossed the square
to the hotel, causing a motor car to swerve stridently on the
damp asphalt. He left it standing transom-wise in regard to its
305.10 ordained course, and clawed his way through the revolving door
of the hotel, feeling if not happier, at least more buoyant, than
he had within the last twelve hours.
The Majestic, a huge old pile, all grime outside, all leather
inside, engulfed him. He asked for a room with a bath, was
305.15 told all were booked by a convention of contractors, tipped the
desk clerk in the invincible Veen manner, and got a passable
suite of three rooms with a mahogany paneled bathtub, an
ancient rocking chair, a mechanical piano and a purple canopy
over a double bed. After washing his hands, he immediately
305.20 went down to inquire about Rack's whereabouts. The Racks
had no telephone; they probably rented a room in the suburbs;
the concierge looked up at the clock and called some sort of
address bureau or lost person department. It proved closed till
next morning. He suggested Van ask at a music store on Main
305.25 Street.
On the way there he acquired his second walking stick: the
Ardis Hall silver-knobbed one he had left behind in the Maiden-
hair station café. This was a rude, stout article with a convenient
grip and an alpenstockish point capable of gouging out translu-
305.30 cent bulging eyes. In an adjacent store he got a suitcase, and
in the next, shirts, shorts, socks, slacks, pajamas, handkerchiefs,
a lounging robe, a pullover and a pair of saffian bedroom slippers
fetally folded in a leathern envelope. His purchases were put
into the suitcase and sent at once to the hotel. He was about to

[ 305 ]

enter the music shop when he remembered with a start that
he had not left any message for Tapper's seconds, so he re-
traced his steps.
He found them sitting in the lounge and requested them to
306.05 settle matters rapidly—had more important business than
that. "Ne grubit' sekundantam" (never be rude to seconds),
said Demon's voice in his mind. Arwin Birdfoot, a lieutenant
in the Guards, was blond and flabby, with moist pink lips and
a foot-long cigarette holder. Johnny Rafin, Esq., was small,
306.10 dark and dapper and wore blue suede shoes with a dreadful tan
suit. Birdfoot soon disappeared, leaving Van to work out details
with Johnny, who, though loyally eager to assist Van, could
not conceal that his heart belonged to Van's adversary.
The Captain was a first-rate shot, Johnny said, and member
306.15 of the Do-Re-La country club. Bloodthirsty brutishness did
not come with his Britishness, but his military and academic
standing demanded he defend his honor. He was an expert on
maps, horses, horticulture. He was a wealthy landlord. The
merest adumbration of an apology on Baron Veen's part would
306.20 clinch the matter with a token of gracious finality.
"If," said Van, "the good Captain expects that, he can go and
stick his pistol up his gracious anality."
"That is not a nice way of speaking," said Johnny, wincing.
"My friend would not approve of it. We must remember he is
306.25 a very refined person."
Was Johnny Van's second, or the Captain's?
"I'm yours," said Johnny with a languid look.
Did he or the refined Captain know a German-born pianist,
Philip Rack, married, with three babies (probably)?
306.30 "I'm afraid," said Johnny, with a note of disdain, "that I
don't know many people with babies in Kalugano."
Was there a good whorehouse in the vicinity?
With increasing disdain Johnny answered he was a confirmed

[ 306 ]

"Well, all right," said Van."I have now to go out again be-
fore the shops close. Shall I acquire a brace of dueling pistols
or will the Captain lend me an army 'bruger'?"
"We can supply the weapons," said Johnny.
307.05 When Van arrived in front of the music shop, he found it
locked. He stared for a moment at the harps and the guitars
and the flowers in silver vases on consoles receding in the dusk
of looking-glasses, and recalled the schoolgirl whom he had
longed for so keenly half a dozen years ago—Rose? Roza?
307.10 Was that her name? Would he have been happier with her
than with his pale fatal sister?
He walked for a while along Main Street—one of a million
Main Streets—and then, with a surge of healthy hunger, entered
a passably attractive restaurant. He ordered a beefsteak with
307.15 roast potatoes, apple pie and claret. At the far end of the room,
on one of the red stools of the burning bar, a graceful harlot
in black—tight bodice, wide skirt, long black gloves, black-
velvet picture hat—was sucking a golden drink through a straw.
In the mirror behind the bar, amid colored glints, he caught a
307.20 blurred glimpse of her russety blond beauty; he thought he
might sample her later on, but when he glanced again she had
He ate, drank, schemed.
He looked forward to the encounter with keen exhilaration.
307.25 Nothing more invigorating could have been imagined. Shoot-
ing it out with that incidental clown furnished unhoped-for
relief, particularly since Rack would no doubt accept a plain
thrashing in lieu of combat. Designing and re-designing various
contingencies pertaining to that little duel might be compared
307.30 to those helpful hobbies which polio patients, lunatics and con-
victs are taught by generous institutions, by enlightened ad-
ministrators, by ingenious psychiatrists—such as bookbinding,
or putting blue beads into the orbits of dolls made by other
criminals, cripples and madmen.

[ 307 ]

At first he toyed with the idea of killing his adversary: quan-
titively, it would afford him the greatest sense of release;
qualitatively, it suggested all sorts of moral and legal com-
plications. Inflicting a wound seemed an inept half-measure. He
308.05 decided to do something artistic and tricky, such as shooting the
pistol out of the fellow's hand, or parting for him his thick
brushy hair in the middle.
On his way back to the gloomy Majestic he acquired various
trifles: three round cakes of soap in an elongated box, shaving
308.10 cream in its cold resilient tube, ten safety-razor blades, a large
sponge, a smaller soaping sponge of rubber, hair lotion, a comb,
Skinner's Balsam, a toothbrush in a plastic container, tooth-
paste, scissors, a fountain pen, a pocket diarywhat else?—yes,
a small alarm clock—whose comforting presence, however,
308.15 did not prevent him from telling the concierge to have him
called at five a.m.
It was only nine p.m. in late summer; he would not have
been surprised if told it was midnight in October. He had had an
unbelievably long day. The mind could hardly grasp the fact
308.20 that this very morning, at dawn, a fey character out of some
Dormilona novel for servant maids had spoken to him, half-
naked and shivering, in the toolroom of Ardis Hall. He won-
dered if the other girl still stood, arrow straight, adored and
abhorred, heartless and heartbroken, against the trunk of a mur-
308.25 muring tree. He wondered if in view of tomorrow's partie de
de plaisir he should not prepare for her a when-you-receive-this
note, flippant, cruel, as sharp as an icicle. No. Better write to

Dear Dad,
308.30 in consequence of a trivial altercation with a Captain
Tapper, of Wild Violet Lodge, whom I happened to step
upon in the corridor of a train, I had a pistol duel this
morning in the woods near Kalugano and am now no

[ 308 ]

more. Though the manner of my end can be regarded
as a kind of easy suicide, the encounter and the ineffable
Captain are in no way connected with the Sorrows of
Young Veen. In 1884, during my first summer at Ardis,
309.05 I seduced your daughter, who was then twelve. Our
torrid affair lasted till my return to Riverlane; it was
resumed last June, four years later. That happiness has
been the greatest event in my life, and I have no regrets.
Yesterday, though, I discovered she had been unfaithful
309.10 to me, so we parted. Tapper, I think, may be the chap
who was thrown out of one of your gaming clubs for
attempting oral intercourse with the washroom atten-
dant, a toothless old cripple, veteran of the first Crimean
War. Lots of flowers, please!
309.15 Your loving son, Van

He carefully reread his letter—and carefully tore it up. The
note he finally placed in his coat pocket was much briefer.

I had a trivial quarrel with a stranger whose face I
309.20 slapped and who killed me in a duel near Kalugano.

Van was roused by the night porter who put a cup of
coffee with a local "eggbun" on his bedside table, and ex-
309.25 pertly palmed the expected chervonetz.He resembled somewhat
Bouteillan as the latter had been ten years ago and as he had
appeared in a dream, which Van now retrostructed as far as it
would go: in it Demon's former valet explained to Van that the
"dor" in the name of an adored river equaled the corruption of
309.30 hydro in "dorophone." Van often had word dreams.
He shaved, disposed of two blood-stained safety blades by
leaving them in a massive bronze ashtray, had a structurally

[ 309 ]

perfect stool, took a quick bath, briskly dressed, left his bag
with the concierge, paid his bill and at six punctually squeezed
himself next to blue-chinned and malodorous Johnny into the
latter's Paradox, a cheap "semi-racer." For two or three miles
310.05 they skirted the dismal bank of the lake—coal piles, shacks, boat-
houses, a long strip of black pebbly mud and, in the distance,
over the curving bank of autumnally misted water, the tawny
fumes of tremendous factories.
"Where are we now, Johnny dear?" asked Van as they swung
310.10 out of the lake's orbit and sped along a suburban avenue with
clapboard cottages among laundry-lined pines.
"Dorofey Road," cried the driver above the din of the motor.
"It abuts at the forest."
It abutted. Van felt a faint twinge in his knee where he had
310.15 hit it against a stone when attacked from behind a week ago, in
another wood. At the moment his foot touched the pine-
needle strewn earth of the forest road, a transparent white
butterfly floated past, and with utter certainty Van knew that
he had only a few minutes to live.
310.20 He turned to his second and said:
"This stamped letter, in this handsome Majestic Hotel en-
velope, is addressed, as you see, to my father. I am transferring
it to the back pocket of my pants. Please post it at once if the
Captain, who I see has arrived in a rather funerary-looking
310.25 limousine, accidentally slaughters me."
They found a convenient clearing, and the principals, pistol
in hand, faced each other at a distance of some thirty paces, in
the kind of single combat described by most Russian novelists
and by practically all Russian novelists of gentle birth. As Arwin
310.30 clapped his hands, informally signaling the permission to fire at
will, Van noticed a speckled movement on his right: two little
spectators—a fat girl and a boy in a sailorsuit, wearing glasses,
with a basket of mushrooms between them. It was not the
chocolate-muncher in Cordula's compartment, but a boy very

[ 310 ]

much like him, and as this flashed through Van's mind he felt
the jolt of the bullet ripping off, or so it felt, the entire left side
of his torso. He swayed, but regained his balance, and with
nice dignity discharged his pistol in the sun-hazy air.
311.05 His heart beat steadily, his spit was clear, his lungs felt in-
tact, but a fire of pain raged somewhere in his left armpit. Blood
oozed through his clothes and trickled down his trouserleg. He
sat down, slowly, cautiously, and leaned on his right arm. He
dreaded losing consciousness, but, maybe, did faint briefly,
311.10 because next moment he became aware that Johnny had re-
lieved him of the letter and was in the act of pocketing it.
"Tear it up, you idiot," said Van with an involuntary groan.
The Captain strolled up and muttered rather gloomily: "I
bet you are in no condition to continue, are you?"
311.15 "I bet you can't wait—" began Van: he intended to say:
'you can't wait to have me slap you again,' but happened to
laugh on 'wait' and the muscles of mirth reacted so ex-
cruciatingly that he stopped in mid-sentence and bowed his
sweating brow.
311.20 Meanwhile, the limousine was being transformed into an
ambulance by Arwin. Newspapers were dismembered to pro-
tect the upholstery, and the fussy Captain added to them what
looked like a potato bag or something rotting in a locker, and
then after rummaging again in the car trunk and muttering
311.25 about the "bloody mess" (quite a literal statement) decided to
sacrifice the ancient and filthy macintosh on which a decrepit
dear dog had once died on the way to the veterinary.
For half a minute Van was sure that he still lay in the car,
whereas actually he was in the general ward of Lakeview (Lake-
311.30 view!) Hospital, between two series of variously bandaged,
snoring, raving and moaning men. When he understood this,
his first reaction was to demand indignantly that he be trans-
ferred to the best private palata in the place and that his suit-
case and alpenstock be fetched from the Majestic. His next

[ 311 ]

request was that he be told how seriously he was hurt and how
long he was expected to remain incapacitated. His third action
was to resume what constituted the sole reason of his having to
visit Kalugano (visit Kalugano!). His new quarters, where
312.05 heartbroken kings had tossed in transit, proved to be a replica
in white of his hotel apartment—white furniture, white carpet,
white sparver. Inset, so to speak, was Tatiana, a remarkably
pretty and proud young nurse, with black hair and diaphanous
skin (some of her attitudes and gestures, and that harmony be-
312.10 tween neck and eyes which is the special, scarcely yet investi-
gated secret of feminine grace fantastically and agonizingly
reminded him of Ada, and he sought escape from that image in
a powerful response to the charms of Tatiana, a torturing angel
in her own right. Enforced immobility forbade the chase and
312.15 grab of common cartoons. He begged her to massage his legs
but she tested him with one glance of her grave, dark eyes—and
delegated the task to Dorofey, a beefy-handed male nurse, strong
enough to lift him bodily out of bed, with the sick child clasping
the massive nape. When Van managed once to twiddle her
312.20 breasts, she warned him she would complain if he ever repeated
what she dubbed more aptly than she thought "that soft dangle."
An exhibition of his state with a humble appeal for a healing
caress resulted in her drily remarking that distinguished gentle-
men in public parks got quite lengthy prison terms for that
312.25 sort of thing. However, much later, she wrote him a charming
and melancholy letter in red ink on pink paper; but other emo-
tions and events had intervened, and he never met her again).
His suitcase promptly arrived from the hotel; the stick, how-
ever, could not be located (it must be climbing nowadays
312.30 Wellington Mountain, or perhaps, helping a lady to go "bram-
bling" in Oregon); so the hospital supplied him with the Third
Cane, a rather nice, knotty, cherry-dark thing with a crook
and a solid black-rubber heel. Dr Fitzbishop congratulated him
on having escaped with a superficial muscle wound, the bullet

[ 312 ]

having lightly grooved or, if he might say so, grazed the greater
serratus. Doc Fitz commented on Van's wonderful recupera-
tional power which was already in evidence, and promised to
have him out of disinfectants and bandages in ten days or so
313.05 if for the first three he remained as motionless as a felled tree-
trunk. Did Van like music? Sportsmen usually did, didn't they?
Would he care to have a Sonorola by his bed? No, he disliked
music, but did the doctor, being a concert-goer, know perhaps
where a musician called Rack could be found? "Ward Five,"
313.10 answered the doctor promptly. Van misunderstood this as the
title of some piece of music and repeated his question. Would
he find Rack's address at Harper's music shop? Well, they used
to rent a cottage way down Dorofey Road, near the forest, but
now some other people had moved in. Ward Five was where
313.15 hopeless cases were kept. The poor guy had always had a bad
liver and a very indifferent heart, but on top of that a poison
had seeped into his system; the local "lab" could not identify
it and they were now waiting for a report, on those curiously
frog-green faeces, from the Luga people. If Rack had ad-
313.20 ministered it to himself by his own hand, he kept "mum"; it
was more likely the work of his wife who dabbled in Hindu-
Andean voodoo stuff and had just had a complicated miscarriage
in the maternity ward. Yes, triplets—how did he guess? Any-
way, if Van was so eager to visit his old pal it would have to
313.25 be as soon as he could be rolled to Ward Five in a wheelchair
by Dorofey, so he'd better apply a bit of voodoo, ha-ha, on
his own flesh and blood.
That day came soon enough. After a long journey down
corridors where pretty little things tripped by, shaking ther-
313.30 mometers, and first an ascent and then a descent in two different
lifts, the second of which was very capacious with a metal-
handled black lid propped against its wall and bits of holly or
laurel here and there on the soap-smelling floor, Dorofey, like
Onegin's coachman, said priehali ("we have arrived") and

[ 313 ]

gently propelled Van, past two screened beds, toward a third
one near the window. There he left Van, while he seated him-
self at a small table in the door corner and leisurely unfolded
the Russian-language newspaper Golos (Logos).
314.05 "I am Van Veen—in case you are no longer lucid enough to
recognize somebody you have seen only twice. Hospital records
put your age at thirty; I thought you were younger, but even
so that is a very early age for a person to die—whatever he be
tvoyu mat'—half-baked genius or full-fledged scoundrel, or
314.10 both. As you may guess by the plain but thoughtful trappings
of this quiet room, you are an incurable case in one lingo, a
rotting rat in another. No oxygen gadget can help you to
eschew the "agony of agony"Professor Lamort's felicitous
pleonasm. The physical torments you will be, or indeed are,
314.15 experiencing must be prodigious, but are nothing in comparison
to those of a probable hereafter. The mind of man, by nature a
monist, cannot accept two nothings; he knows there has been
one nothing, his biological inexistence in the infinite past, for
his memory is utterly blank, and that nothingness, being, as it
314.20 were, past, is not too hard to endure. But a second nothingness—
which perhaps might not be so hard to bear either—is logically
unacceptable. When speaking of space we can imagine a live
speck in the limitless oneness of space; but there is no analogy
in such a concept with our brief life in time, because however
314.25 brief (a thirty-year span is really obscenely brief!), our aware-
ness of being is not a dot in eternity, but a slit, a fissure, a chasm
running along the entire breadth of metaphysical time, bisecting
it and shining—no matter how narrowly—between the back
panel and fore panel. Therefore, Mr Rack, we can speak of
314.30 past time, and in a vaguer, but familiar sense, of future time, but
we simply cannot expect a second nothing, a second void, a
second blank. Oblivion is a one-night performance; we have
been to it once, there will be no repeat. We must face therefore
the possibility of some prolonged form of disorganized con-

[ 314 ]

sciousness and this brings me to my main point, Mr Rack.
Eternal Rack, infinite 'Rackness' may not be much but one
thing is certain: the only consciousness that persists in the here-
after is the consciousness of pain. The little Rack of today is
315.05 the infinite rack of tomorrowich bin ein unverbesserlicher
Witzbold. We can imagine—I think we should imagine—tiny
clusters of particles still retaining Rack's personality, gathering
here and there in the here-and-there-after, clinging to each
other, somehow, somewhere, a web of Rack's toothaches here,
315.10 a bundle of Rack's nightmares there—rather like tiny groups
of obscure refugees from some obliterated country huddling
together for a little smelly warmth, for dingy charities or
shared recollections of nameless tortures' in Tartar camps. For
an old man one special little torture must be to wait in a long
315.15 long queue before a remote urinal. Well, Herr Rack, I submit
that the surviving cells of aging Rackness will form such lines
of torment, never, never reaching the coveted filth hole in the
panic and pain of infinite night. You may answer, of course, if
you are versed in contemporary novelistics, and if you fancy
315.20 the jargon of English writers, that a 'lower-middle-class' piano
tuner who falls in love with a fast 'upper-class' girl, thereby
destroying his own family, is not committing a crime deserving
the castigation which a chance intruder—"
With a not unfamiliar gesture, Van tore up his prepared
315.25 speech and said:
"Mr Rack, open your eyes. I'm Van Veen. A visitor."
The hollow-cheeked, long-jawed face, wax-pale, with a fat-
tish nose and a small round chin, remained expressionless
for a moment; but the beautiful, amber, liquid, eloquent eyes
315.30 with pathetically long lashes had opened. Then a faint smile
glimmered about his mouth parts, and he stretched one hand,
without raising his head from the oil-cloth-covered pillow
(why oil-cloth?).
Van, from his chair, extended the end of his cane, which the

[ 315 ]

weak hand took, and palpated politely, thinking it was a well-
meant offer of support. "No, I am not yet able to walk a few
steps," Rack said quite distinctly, with the German accent
which would probably constitute his most durable group of
316.05 ghost cells.
Van drew in his useless weapon. Controlling himself, he
thumped it against the footboard of his wheelchair. Dorofey
glanced up from his paper, then went back to the article that
engrossed him—"A Clever Piggy (from the memoirs of an
316.10 animal trainer)," or else "The Crimean War: Tartar Guerillas
Help Chinese Troops." A diminutive nurse simultaneously
stepped out from behind the farther screen and disappeared
Will he ask me to transmit a message? Shall I refuse? Shall I
316.15 consent—and not transmit it?
"Have they all gone to Hollywood already? Please, tell me,
Baron von Wien."
"I don't know," answered Van. "They probably have. I
316.20 "Because I sent my last flute melody, and a letter for all the
family, and no answer has come. I must vomit now. I ring my-
The diminutive nurse on tremendously high white heels pulled
forward the screen of Rack's bed, separating him from the
316.25 melancholy, lightly wounded, stitched-up, clean-shaven young
dandy; who was rolled out and away by efficient Dorofey.
Upon returning to his cool bright room, with the rain and the
sun mingling in the half-open window, Van walked on rather
ephemeral feet to the looking-glass, smiled to himself in wel-
316.30 come, and without Dorofey's assistance went back to bed.
Lovely Tatiana glided in, and asked if he wanted some tea.
"My darling," he said, "I want you. Look at this tower of

[ 316 ]

"If you knew," she said, over her shoulder, "how many
prurient patients have insulted me—exactly that way."
He wrote Cordula a short letter, saying he had met with a
little accident, was in the suite for fallen princes in Lakeview
317.05 Hospital, Kalugano, and would be at her feet on Tuesday. He
also wrote an even shorter letter to Marina, in French, thanking
her for a lovely summer. This, on second thought, he decided
to send from Manhattan to the Pisang Palace Hotel in Los
Angeles. A third letter he addressed to Bernard Rattner, his
317.10 closest friend at Chose, the great Rattner's nephew. 'Your
uncle has most honest standards,' he wrote, in part, 'but I am
going to demolish him soon.'
On Monday around noon he was allowed to sit in a deck-
chair, on the lawn, which he had avidly gazed at for some days
317.15 from his window. Dr Fitzbishop had said, rubbing his hands,
that the Luga laboratory said it was the not always lethal
"arethusoides" but it had no practical importance now, because
the unfortunate music teacher, and composer, was not expected
to spend another night on Demonia, and would be on Terra,
317.20 ha-ha, in time for evensong. Doc Fitz was what Russians call a
poshlyak ("pretentious vulgarian") and in some obscure counter-
fashion Van was relieved not to be able to gloat over the
wretched Rack's martyrdom.
A large pine tree cast its shadow upon him and his book. He
317.25 had borrowed it from a shelf holding a medley of medical man-
uals, tattered mystery tales, the Rivière de Diamants collection
of Monparnasse stories, and this odd volume of the Journal of
Modern Science with a difficult essay by Ripley, "The Structure
of Space." He had been wrestling with its phoney formulas and
317.30 diagrams for several days now and saw he would not be able to
assimilate it completely before his release from Lakeview Hos-
pital on the morrow.
A hot sunfleck reached him, and tossing the red volume aside,

[ 317 ]

he got up from his chair. With the return of health the image
of Ada kept rising within him like a bitter and brilliant wave,
ready to swallow him. His bandages had been removed; noth-
ing but a special vest-like affair of flannel enveloped his torso,
318.05 and though it was tight and thick it did not protect him any
longer from the poisoned point of Ardis. Arrowhead Manor.
Le Château de la Flèche, Flesh Hall.
He strolled on the shade-streaked lawn feeling much too
warm in his black pajamas and dark-red dressing gown. A brick
318.10 wall separated his part of the garden from the street and a little
way off an open gateway allowed an asphalt drive to curve
toward the main entrance of the long hospital building. He
was on the point of returning to his deckchair when a smart,
pale-gray four-door sedan glided in and stopped before him.
318.15 The door flew open, before the chauffeur, an elderly man in
tunic and breeches, had time to hand out Cordula, who now
ran like a ballerina toward Van. He hugged her in a frenzy of
welcome, kissing her rosy hot face and kneading her soft cat-
like body through her black silk dress: what a delicious surprise!
318.20 She had come all the way from Manhattan, at a hundred
kilometers an hour, fearing he might have already left, though
he said it would be tomorrow.
"Idea!" he cried. "Take me back with you, right away. Yes,
just as I am!"
318.25 "Okay," she said, "come and stay at my flat, there's a beauty-
ful guest room for you."
She was a good sport—little Cordula de Prey. Next moment
he was sitting beside her in the car, which was backing gateward.
Two nurses came running and gesturing toward them, and the
318.30 chauffeur asked in French if the Countess wished him to stop.
"Non, non, non!" cried Van in high glee and they sped away.
Panting, Cordula said:
"My mother rang me up from Malorukino" (their country
estate at Malbrook, Mayne): "the local papers said you had

[ 318 ]

fought a duel. You look a tower of health, I'm so glad. I knew
something nasty must have happened because little Russel, Dr.
Platonov's grandson—remember?—saw you from his side of the
train beating up an officer on the station platform. But, first of
319.05 all, Van, net, pozhaluysta, on nas vidit (no, please, he sees us),
I have some very bad news for you. Young Fraser, who has
just been flown back from Yalta, saw Percy killed on the second
day of the invasion, less than a week after they had left Good-
son airport. He will tell you the whole story himself, it accumu-
319.10 lates more and more dreadful details with every telling, Fraser
does not seem to have shined in the confusion, that's why, I
suppose, he keeps straightening things out."
(Bill Fraser, the son of Judge Fraser, of Wellington, wit-
nessed Lieutenant de Prey's end from a blessed ditch overgrown
319.15 with cornel and medlar, but, of course, could do nothing to
help the leader of his platoon and this for a number of reasons
which he conscientiously listed in his report but which it would
be much too tedious and embarrassing to itemize here. Percy
had been shot in the thigh during a skirmish with Khazar
319.20 guerillas in a ravine near Chew-Foot-Calais, as the American
troops pronounced 'Chufutkale,' the name of a fortified rock.
He had, immediately assured himself, with the odd relief of the
doomed, that he had got away with a flesh wound. Loss of blood
caused him to faint, as we fainted, too, as soon as he started to
319.25 crawl or rather squirm toward the shelter of the oak scrub and
spiny bushes, where another casualty was resting comfortably.
When a couple of minutes later, Percy—still Count Percy de
Prey—regained consciousness he was no longer alone on his
rough bed of gravel and grass. A smiling old Tartar, incon-
319.30 gruously but somehow assuagingly wearing American blue-jeans
with his beshmet, was squatting by his side. "Bednïy, bednïy"
(you poor, poor fellow), muttered the good soul, shaking his
shaven head and clucking: "Bol'no (it hurts)?" Percy answered
in his equally primitive Russian that he did not feel too badly

[ 319 ]

wounded: "Karasho, karasho ne bol'no (good, good)," said the
kindly old man and, picking up the automatic pistol which
Percy had dropped, he examined it with naive pleasure and then
shot him in the temple. (One wonders, one always wonders,
320.05 what had been the executed individual's brief, rapid series of
impressions, as preserved somewhere, somehow, in some vast
library of microfilmed last thoughts, between two moments:
between, in the present case, our friend's becoming aware of
those nice, quasi-Red Indian little wrinkles beaming at him out
320.10 of a serene sky not much different from Ladore's, and then
feeling the mouth of steel violently push through tender skin
and exploding bone. One supposes it might have been a kind of
suite for flute, a series of 'movements' such as, say: I'm alive
—who's that?—civilian—sympathy—thirsty—daughter with
320.15 pitcher—that's my damned gun—don' cetera or rather no
cetera...while Broken-Arm Bill prayed his Roman deity in a
frenzy of fear for the Tartar to finish his job and go. But, of
course, an invaluable detail in that strip of thought would have
been—perhaps, next to the pitcher peria glint, a shadow, a
320.20 stab of Ardis.)
"How strange, how strange," murmured Van when Cordula
had finished her much less elaborate version of the report Van
later got from Bill Fraser.
What a strange coincidence! Either Ada's lethal shafts were
320.25 at work, or he, Van, had somehow managed to dispatch her
two wretched lovers in a duel with a dummy.
Strange, too, that he felt nothing special, except, perhaps, a
kind of neutral wonder, as he listened to little Cordula. A one-
track man in matters of soft passion, strange Van, strange
320.30 Demon's son, was at the moment much more anxious to enjoy
Cordula as soon as humanly and humanely possible, as soon as
satanically and viatically feasible, than to keep deploring the
fate of a fellow he hardly knew; and although Cordula's blue
eyes flashed with tears once or twice, he knew perfectly well

[ 320 ]

that she had never seen much of her second cousin and, in point
of fact, had rather disliked him.
Cordula told Edmond: "Arrêtez près de what's-it-called, yes,
Albion, le store pour messieurs, in Luga"; and as peeved Van
321.05 remonstrated: "You can't go back to civilization in pajamas,"
she said firmly. "I shall buy you some clothes, while Edmond
has a mug of coffee."
She bought him a pair of trousers, and a raincoat. He had
been waiting impatiently in the parked car and now under the
321.10 pretext of changing into his new clothes asked her to drive him
to some secluded spot, while Edmond, wherever he was, had
another mug.
As soon as they reached a suitable area he transferred Cordula
to his lap and had her very comfortably, with such howls of
321.15 enjoyment that she felt touched and flattered.
"Reckless Cordula," observed reckless Cordula cheerfully;
"this will probably mean another abortionencore un petit
enfantôme, as my poor aunt's maid used to wail every time it
happened to her. Did I say anything wrong?"
321.20 "Nothing wrong," said Van, kissing her tenderly; and they
drove back to the diner.

[ 321 ]

(back to Part One, Chapter 41)
(forward to Part One, Chapter 43)

(This page is part of ADAonline, which depends on frames for navigation. If you have been referred to this page without the surrounding frameset, follow this link.)