Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle
Part 3, Chapter 6 (annotations forthcoming)

enclosed is a self-explanatory letter which, please, read
and, if unobjectionable in your opinion, forward to Mrs.
Vinelander, whose address I don’t know. For your own
496.05 edification—although it hardly matters at this stage—
Lucette never was my mistress, as an obscene ass, whom
I cannot trace, implies in the “write-up” of the tragedy.
I’m told you’ll be back East next month. Have your
current secretary ring me up at Kingston, if you care to
496.10 see me.
I wish to correct and amplify the accounts of her death
published here even before I arrived. We were not “trav-
eling together.” We embarked at two different ports and
496.15 I did not know that she was aboard. Our relationship re-
mained what it had always been. I spent the next day
(June 4) entirely with her, except for a couple of hours
before dinner. We basked in the sun. She enjoyed the
brisk breeze and the bright brine of the pool. She was

[ 496 ]

doing her best to appear carefree but I saw how wrong
things were. The romantic attachment she had formed,
the infatuation she cultivated, could not be severed by
logic. On top of that, somebody she could not compete
497.05 with entered the picture. The Robinsons, Robert and
Rachel, who, I know, planned to write to you through
my father, were the penultimate people to talk to her
that night. The last was a bartender. He was worried by
her behavior, followed her up to the open deck and wit-
497.10 nessed but could not stop her jump.
I suppose it is inevitable that after such a loss one
should treasure its every detail, every string that snapped,
every fringe that frayed, in the immediate precession. I
had sat with her through the greater part of a movie,
497.15 Castles in Spain (or some title like that), and its liberal
villain was being directed to the last of them, when I
decided to abandon her to the auspices of the Robinsons,
who had joined us in the ship’s theater. I went to bed—
and was called around 1 a.m. mariTime, a few moments
497.20 after she had jumped overboard. Attempts to rescue her
were made on a reasonable scale, but, finally, the awful
decision to resume the voyage, after an hour of confusion
and hope, had to be taken by the Captain. Had I found
him bribable, we would still be circling today the fatal
497.25 spot.
As a psychologist, I know the unsoundness of specula-
tions as to whether Ophelia would not hove drowned
herself after all, without the help of a treacherous sliver,
even if she had married her Voltemand. Impersonally I
497.30 believe she would have died in her bed, gray and serene,
had V. loved her; but since he did not really love the
wretched little virgin, and since no amount of carnal
tenderness could or can pass for true love, and since,
above all, the fatal Andalusian wench who had come, I

[ 497 ]

repeat, into the picture, was unforgettable, I am bound
to arrive, dear Ada and dear Andrey, at the conclusion
that whatever the miserable man could have thought up,
she would have pokonchila soboy (“put an end to her-
498.05 self”) all the same. In other more deeply moral worlds
than this pellet of muck, there might exist restraints, prin-
ciples, transcendental consolations, and even a certain
pride in making happy someone one does not really love;
but on this planet Lucettes are doomed.
498.10 Some poor little things belonging to her—a cigarette
case, a tulle evening frock, a book dog’s-eared at a French
picnic—have had to be destroyed, because they stared at
me. I remain your obedient servant.
498.15 I have followed your instructions, anent that letter, to
the letter. Your epistolary style is so involute that I should
suspect the presence of a code, had I not known you be-
longed to the Decadent School of writing, in company
of naughty old Leo and consumptive Anton. I do not
498.20 give a damn whether you slept or not with Lucette; but
I know from Dorothy Vinelander that the child had
been in love with you. The film you saw was, no doubt,
Don Juan’s Last Fling in which Ada, indeed, imperson-
ates (very beautifully) a Spanish girl. A jinx has been
498.25 cast on our poor girl’s career. Howard Hool argued after
the release that he had been made to play an impossible
cross between two Dons; that initially Yuzlik (the direc-
tor) had meant to base his “fantasy” on Cervantes’s crude
romance; that some scraps of the basic script stuck like
498.30 dirty wool to the final theme; and that if you followed
closely the sound track you could hear a fellow reveler
in the tavern scene address Hool twice as “Quicks.” Hool
managed to buy up and destroy a number of copies while

[ 498 ]

others have been locked up by the lawyer of the writer
Osberg, who claims the gitanilla sequence was stolen
from one of his own concoctions. In result it is impos-
sible to purchase a reel of the picture which will vanish
499.05 like the proverbial smoke once it has fizzled out on pro-
vincial screens. Come and have dinner with me on July
10. Evening dress.
Cher ami,
Nous fûmes, mon mari et moi, profondément boule-
499.10 versés par l’effroyable nouvelle. C’est à moi—et je m’en
souviendrai toujours!—que presqu’à la veille de sa mort
cette pauvre fille s’est adressée pour arranger les choses
sur le Tobakoff qui est toujours bondé, et que désormais
je ne prendrai plus, par un peu de superstition et beau-
499.15 coup de sympathie pour la douce, la tendre Lucette.
J’étais si heureuse de faire mon possible, car quelqu’un
m’avait dit que vous aussi y seriez; d’ailleurs, elle m’en a
parlé elle-même: elle semblait tellement joyeuse de passer
quelques jours sur le “pont des gaillards” avec son cher
499.20 cousin! La psychologie du suicide est un mystère que nul
savant ne peut expliquer.
Je n’ai jamais versé tant de larmes, la plume m’en tombe
des doigts. Nous revenons à Malbrook vers la mi-août.
Bien à vous,
499.25 Cordula de Prey-Tobak

Andrey and I were deeply moved by the additional
data you provide in your dear (i.e., insufficiently
stamped!) letter. We had already received, through Mr.
499.30 Grombchevski, a note from the Robinsons, who cannot
forgive themselves, poor well-meaning friends, for giving
her that seasickness medicine, an overdose of which,

[ 499 ]

topped by liquor, must have impaired her capacity to
survive—if she changed her mind in the cold dark water.
I cannot express, dear Van, how unhappy I am, the more
so as we never learned in the arbors of Ardis that such
500.05 unhappiness could exist.
My only love:
This letter will never be posted. It will lie in a steel
box buried under a cypress in the garden of Villa Armina,
and when it turns up by chance half a millennium hence,
500.10 nobody will know who wrote it and for whom it was
meant. It would not have been written at all if your last
line, your cry of unhappiness, were not my cry of
triumph. The burden of that excitement must be...
[The rest of the sentence was found to be obliterated by
500.15 a rusty stain when the box was dug up in 1928. The let-
ter continues as follows]: ...back in the States, I
started upon a singular quest. In Manhattan, in Kingston,
in Ladore, in dozens of other towns, I kept pursuing the
picture which I had not [badly discolored] on the boat,
500.20 from cinema to cinema, every time discovering a new
item of glorious torture, a new convulsion of beauty in
your performance. That [illegible] is a complete refuta-
tion of odious Kim’s odious stills. Artistically, and ardis-
iacally, the best moment is one of the last—when you
500.25 follow barefoot the Don who walks down a marble gal-
lery to his doom, to the scaffold of Dona Anna’s black-
curtained bed, around which you flutter, my Zegris but-
terfly, straightening a comically drooping candle, whis-
pering delightful but futile instructions into the frowning
500.30 lady’s ear, and then peering over that mauresque screen
and suddenly dissolving in such natural laughter, helpless
and lovely, that one wonders if any art could do without
that erotic gasp of schoolgirl mirth. And to think, Span-

[ 500 ]

ish orange-tip, that all in all your magic gambol lasted
but eleven minutes of stopwatch time in patches of two-
or three-minute scenes!
Alas, there came a night, in a dismal district of work-
501.05 shops and bleary shebeens, when for the very last time,
and only halfway, because at the seduction scene the film
black-winked and shriveled, I managed to catch [the en-
tire end of the letter is damaged].

[ 501 ]

(back to Part Three, Chapter 5)
(forward to Part Three, Chapter 7)

(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.)