Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle
Part 3, Chapter 2 (annotations forthcoming)

On a bleak morning between the spring and summer of 1901,
in Paris, as Van, black-hatted, one hand playing with the warm
loose change in his topcoat pocket and the other, fawn-gloved,
upswinging a furled English umbrella, strode past a particularly
453.05 unattractive sidewalk café among the many lining the Avenue
Guillaume Pitt, a chubby bald man in a rumpled brown suit
with a watch-chained waistcoat stood up and hailed him.
Van considered for a moment those red round cheeks, that
black goatee.
453.10 Ne uznayosh’ (You don’t recognize me)?”
“Greg! Grigoriy Akimovich!” cried Van tearing off his glove.
“I grew a regular vollbart last summer. You’d never have
known me then. Beer? Wonder what you do to look so boyish,
453.15 “Diet of champagne, not beer,” said Professor Veen, putting
on his spectacles and signaling to a waiter with the crook of his
“umber.” “Hardly stops one adding weight, but keeps the
scrotum crisp.”
“I’m also very fat, yes?”

[ 453 ]

“What about Grace, I can’t imagine her getting fat?”
“Once twins, always twins. My wife is pretty portly, too.”
Tak tï zhenat (so you are married)? Didn’t know it. How
454.05 “About two years.”
“To whom?”
“Maude Sween.”
“The daughter of the poet?”
“No, no, her mother is a Brougham.”
454.10 Might have replied “Ada Veen,” had Mr. Vinelander not
been a quicker suitor. I think I met a Broom somewhere. Drop
the subject. Probably a dreary union: hefty, high-handed wife,
he more of a bore than ever.
“I last saw you thirteen years ago, riding a black pony—no,
454.15 a black Silentium. Bozhe moy!
“Yes—Bozhe moy, you can well say that. Those lovely,
lovely agonies in lovely Ardis! Oh, I was absolyutno bezumno
(madly) in love with your cousin!”
“You mean Miss Veen? I did not know it. How long—”
454.20 “Neither did she. I was terribly—”
“How long are you staying—”
“—terribly shy, because, of course, I realized that I could not
compete with her numerous boy friends.”
Numerous? Two? Three? Is it possible he never heard about
454.25 the main one? All the rose hedges knew, all the maids knew, in
all three manors. The noble reticence of our bed makers.
“How long will you be staying in Lute? No, Greg, I
ordered it. You pay for the next bottle. Tell me—”
“So odd to recall! It was frenzy, it was fantasy, it was reality
454.30 in the x degree. I’d have consented to be beheaded by a Tartar,
I declare, if in exchange I could have kissed her instep. You
were her cousin, almost a brother, you can’t understand that
obsession. Ah, those picnics! And Percy de Prey who boasted to
me about her, and drove me crazy with envy and pity, and

[ 454 ]

Dr. Krolik, who, they said, also loved her, and Phil Rack, a
composer of genius—dead, dead, all dead!”
“I really know very little about music but it was a great pleasure
to make your chum howl. I have an appointment in a few
455.05 minutes, alas. Za tvoyo zdorovie, Grigoriy Akimovich.”
“Arkadievich,” said Greg, who had let it pass once but now
mechanically corrected Van.
Ach yes! Stupid slip of the slovenly tongue. How is Arkadiy
455.10 “He died. He died just before your aunt. I thought the papers
paid a very handsome tribute to her talent. And where is
Adelaida Danilovna? Did she marry Christopher Vinelander or
his brother?”
“In California or Arizona. Andrey’s the name, I gather. Per-
455.15 haps I’m mistaken. In fact, I never knew my cousin very well:
I visited Ardis only twice, after all, for a few weeks each time,
years ago.”
“Somebody told me she’s a movie actress.”
“I’ve no idea, I’ve never seen her on the screen.”
455.20 “Oh, that would be terrible, I declare—to switch on the
dorotelly, and suddenly see her. Like a drowning man seeing
his whole past, and the trees, and the flowers, and the wreathed
dachshund. She must have been terribly affected by her mother’s
terrible death.”
455.25 Likes the word “terrible,” I declare, A terrible suit of clothes,
a terrible tumor. Why must I stand it? Revolting—and yet
fascinating in a weird way: my babbling shadow, my burlesque
Van was about to leave when a smartly uniformed chauffeur
455.30 came up to inform “my lord” that his lady was parked at the
corner of rue Saïgon and was summoning him to appear.
“Aha,” said Van, “I see you are using your British title. Your
father preferred to pass for a Chekhovian colonel.”
“Maude is Anglo-Scottish and, well, likes it that way. Thinks

[ 455 ]

a title gets one better service abroad. By the way, somebody told
me—yes, Tobak!—that Lucette is at the Alphonse Four. I
haven’t asked you about your father? He’s in good health?”
(Van bowed.) “And how is the guvernantka belletristka?
456.05 “Her last novel is called L‘ami Luc. She just got the Lebon
Academy Prize for her copious rubbish.”
They parted laughing.
A moment later, as happens so often in farces and foreign
cities, Van ran into another friend. With a surge of delight he
456.10 saw Cordula in a tight scarlet skirt bending with baby words of
comfort over two unhappy poodlets attached to the waiting-
post of a sausage shop. Van stroked her with his fingertips, and
as she straightened up indignantly and turned around (indigna-
tion instantly replaced by gay recognition), he quoted the stale
456.15 but appropriate lines he had known since the days his school-
mates annoyed him with them:
The Veens speak only to Tobaks
But Tobaks speak only to dogs.
The passage of years had but polished her prettiness and
456.20 though many fashions had come and gone since 1889, he
happened upon her at a season when hairdos and skirtlines had
reverted briefly (another much more elegant lady was already
ahead of her) to the style of a dozen years ago, abolishing the
interruption of remembered approval and pleasure. She plunged
456.25 into a torrent of polite questions—but he had a more important
matter to settle at once—while the flame still flickered.
“Let’s not squander,” he said, “the tumescence of retrieved
time on the gush of small talk. I’m bursting with energy, if that’s
what you want to know. Now look; it may sound silly and
456.30 insolent but I have an urgent request. Will you cooperate with
me in cornuting your husband? It’s a must!”
“Really, Van!” exclaimed angry Cordula. “You go a bit far.
I’m a happy wife. My Tobachok adores me. We’d have ten

[ 456 ]

children by now if I’d not been careful with him and others.”
“You’ll be glad to learn that this other has been found utterly
“Well, I’m anything but. I guess I’d cause a mule to foal by
457.05 just looking on. Moreover, I’m lunching today with the Goals.”
C’est bizarre, an exciting little girl like you who can be so
tender with poodles and yet turns down a poor paunchy stiff
old Veen.”
“The Veens are much too gay as dogs go.”
457.10 “Since you collect adages,” persisted Van, “let me quote an
Arabian one. Paradise is only one assbaa south of a pretty girl’s
sash. Eh bien?
“You are impossible. Where and when?”
“Where? In that drab little hotel across the street. When?
457.15 Right now. I’ve never seen you on a hobbyhorse yet, because
that’s what tout confort promises—and not much else.”
“I must be home not later than eleven-thirty, it’s almost eleven
“It will take five minutes. Please!”
457.20 Astraddle, she resembled a child braving her first merry-go-
round. She made a rectangular moue as she used that vulgar
contraption. Sad, sullen streetwalkers do it with expressionless
faces, lips tightly closed. She rode it twice. Their brisk nub
and its repetition lasted fifteen minutes in all, not five. Very
457.25 pleased with himself, Van walked with her for a stretch through
the brown and green Bois de Belleau in the direction of her
osobnyachyok (small mansion).
“That reminds me,” he said, “I no longer use our Alexis
apartment. I’ve had some poor people live there these last seven
457.30 or eight years—the family of a police officer who used to be a
footman at Uncle Dan’s place in the country. My policeman is
dead now and his widow and three boys have gone back to
Ladore. I want to relinquish that flat. Would you like to accept
it as a belated wedding present from an admirer? Good. We

[ 457 ]

shall do it again some day. Tomorrow I have to be in London
and on the third my favorite liner, Admiral Tobakoff, will
take me to Manhattan. Au revoir. Tell him to look out for low
lintels. Antlers can be very sensitive when new. Greg Erminin
458.05 tells me that Lucette is at the Alphonse Four?”
“That’s right. And where’s the other?”
“I think we’ll part here. It’s twenty minutes to twelve. You’d
better toddle along.”
Au revoir. You’re a very bad boy and I’m a very bad girl.
458.10 But it was fun—even though you’ve been speaking to me not as
you would to a lady friend but as you probably do to little
whores. Wait. Here’s a top secret address where you can al-
ways”—(fumbling in her handbag)—“reach me”—(finding a
card with her husband’s crest and scribbling a postal crypto-
458.15 graph)—“at Malbrook, Mayne, where I spend every August.”
She looked around, rose on her toes like a ballerina, and kissed
him on the mouth. Sweet Cordula!

[ 458 ]

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(forward to Part Three, Chapter 3)

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