Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle
Part 3, Chapter 8 (annotations forthcoming)

arriving mont roux bellevue sunday
dinnertime adoration sorrow rainbows
Van got this bold cable with his breakfast on Saturday, October
10, 1905, at the Manhattan Palace in Geneva, and that same day
508.05 moved to Mont Roux at the opposite end of the lake. He put
up there at his usual hotel, Les Trois Cygnes. Its small, frail, but
almost mythically ancient concierge had died during Van’s stay
four years earlier, and instead of wizened Julien’s discreet smile
of mysterious complicity that used to shine like a lamp through
508.10 parchment, the round rosy face of a recent bellboy, who now
wore a frockcoat, greeted fat old Van.
“Lucien,” said Dr. Veen, peering over his spectacles, “I may
have—as your predecessor would know—all kinds of queer visi-
tors, magicians, masked ladies, madmen—que sais-je? and I ex-
508.15 pect miracles of secrecy from all three mute swans. Here’s a
prefatory bonus.”
Merci infiniment,” said the concierge, and, as usual, Van
felt infinitely touched by the courteous hyperbole provoking
no dearth of philosophical thought.

[ 508 ]

He engaged two spacious rooms, 509 and 510: an Old World
salon with golden-green furniture, and a charming bed chamber
joined to a square bathroom, evidently converted from an or-
dinary room (around 1875, when the hotel was renovated and
509.05 splendified). With thrilling anticipation, he read the octagonal
cardboard sign on its dainty red string: Do not disturb. Prière
de ne pas déranger. Hang this notice on the doorhandle outside.
Inform Telephone Exchange. Avisez en particulier la télépho-
niste (no emphasis, no limpid-voiced girl in the English version).
509.10 He ordered an orgy of orchids from the rez-de-chaussée
flower shop, and one ham sandwich from Room Service. He
survived a long night (with Alpine Choughs heckling a cloud-
less dawn) in a bed hardly two-thirds the size of the tremendous
one at their unforgettable flat twelve years ago. He breakfasted
509.15 on the balcony—and ignored a reconnoitering gull. He allowed
himself an opulent siesta after a late lunch; took a second bath
to drown time; and with stops at every other bench on the prom-
enade spent a couple of hours strolling over to the new Bellevue
Palace, just half a mile southeast.
509.20 One red boat marred the blue mirror (in Casanova’s days
there would have been hundreds!). The grebes were there for
the winter but the coots had not yet returned.
Ardis, Manhattan, Mont Roux, our little rousse is dead. Vru-
bel’s wonderful picture of Father, those demented diamonds
509.25 staring at me, painted into me.
Mount Russet, the forested hill behind the town, lived up to its
name and autumnal reputation, with a warm glow of curly
chestnut trees; and on the opposite shore of Leman, Leman
meaning Lover, loomed the crest of Sex (Scex) Noir, Black Rock.
509.30 He felt hot and uncomfortable in silk shirt and gray flannels—
one of his older suits that he had chosen because it happened to
make him look slimmer; but he should have omitted its tightish
waistcoat. Nervous as a boy at his first rendezvous! He won-
dered what better to hope for—that her presence should be di-

[ 509 ]

luted at once by that of other people or that she should man-
age to be alone, for the first minutes, at least? Did his glasses
and short black mustache really make him look younger, as
polite whores affirmed?
510.05 When he reached at long last the whitewashed and blue-
shaded Bellevue (patronized by wealthy Estotilanders, Rhein-
landers, and Vinelanders, but not placed in the same superclass
as the old, tawny and gilt, huge, sprawling, lovable Trois Cy-
gnes), Van saw with dismay that his watch still lagged far be-
510.10 hind 7:00 p.m., the earliest dinner hour in local hotels. So he
recrossed the lane and had a double kirsch, with a lump of
sugar, in a pub. A dead and dry hummingbird moth lay on the
window ledge of the lavatory. Thank goodness, symbols did
not exist either in dreams or in the life in between.
510.15 He pushed through the revolving door of the Bellevue,
tripped over a gaudy suitcase, and made his entrée at a ridiculous
run. The concierge snapped at the unfortunate green-aproned
cameriere, who had left the bag there. Yes, they were expect-
ing him in the lounge. A German tourist caught up with him,
510.20 to apologize, effusively, and not without humor, for the offend-
ing object, which, he said, was his.
“If so,” remarked Van, “you should not allow spas to slap
their stickers on your private appendages.”
His reply was inept, and the whole episode had a faint param-
510.25 nesic tang—and next instant Van was shot dead from behind
(such things happen, some tourists are very unbalanced) and
stepped into his next phase of existence.
He stopped on the threshold of the main lounge, but he
had hardly begun to scan the distribution of its scattered human
510.30 contents, than an abrupt flurry occurred in a distant group. Ada,
spurning decorum, was hurrying toward him. Her solitary and
precipitate advance consumed in reverse all the years of their
separation as she changed from a dark-glittering stranger with
the high hair-do in fashion to the pale-armed girl in black who

[ 510 ]

had always belonged to him. At that particular twist of time
they happened to be the only people conspicuously erect and
active in the huge room, and heads turned and eyes peered when
the two met in the middle of it as on a stage; but what should
511.05 have been, in culmination of her headlong motion, of the ec-
stasy in her eyes and fiery jewels, a great explosion of voluble
love, was marked by incongruous silence; he raised to his un-
bending lips and kissed her cygneous hand, and then they stood
still, staring at each other, he playing with coins in his trouser
511.10 pockets under his “humped” jacket, she fingering her necklace,
each reflecting, as it were, the uncertain light to which all that
radiance of mutual welcome had catastrophically decreased. She
was more Ada than ever, but a dash of new elegancy had been
added to her shy, wild charm. Her still blacker hair was drawn
511.15 back and up into a glossy chignon, and the Lucette line of her
exposed neck, slender and straight, came as a heartrending sur-
prise. He was trying to form a succinct sentence (to warn her
about the device he planned for securing a rendezvous), but
she interrupted his throat clearing with a muttered injunction:
511.20 Sbrit’ usï! (that mustache must go) and turned away to lead
him to the far corner from which she had taken so many years
to reach him.
The first person whom she introduced him to, at that island
of fauteuils and androids, now getting up from around a low
511.25 table with a copper ashbowl for hub, was the promised belle-
sœur, a short plumpish lady in governess gray, very oval-faced,
with bobbed auburn hair, a sallowish complexion, smoke-blue
unsmiling eyes, and a fleshy little excrescence, resembling a ripe
maize kernel, at the side of one nostril, added to its hypercritical
511.30 curve by an afterthought of nature as not seldom happens when
a Russian’s face is mass-produced. The next outstretched hand
belonged to a handsome, tall, remarkably substantial and cordial
nobleman who could be none other than the Prince Gremin of
the preposterous libretto, and whose strong honest clasp made

[ 511 ]

Van crave for a disinfecting fluid to wash off contact with any
of her husband’s public parts. But as Ada, beaming again, made
fluttery introductions with an invisible wand, the person Van
had grossly mistaken for Andrey Vinelander was transformed
512.05 into Yuzlik, the gifted director of the ill-fated Don Juan pic-
ture. “Vasco de Gama, I presume,” Yuzlik murmured. Beside
him, ignored by him, unknown by name to Ada, and now long
dead of dreary anonymous ailments, stood in servile attitudes
the two agents of Lemorio, the flamboyant comedian (a bearded
512.10 boor of exceptional, and now also forgotten, genius, whom
Yuzlik passionately wanted for his next picture). Lemorio had
stood him up twice before, in Rome and San Remo, each time
sending him for “preliminary contact” those two seedy, incom-
petent, virtually insane, people with whom by now Yuzlik had
512.15 nothing more to discuss, having exhausted everything, topical
gossip, Lemorio’s sex life, Hoole’s hooliganism, as well as the
hobbies of his, Yuzlik’s, three sons and those of their, the agents’,
adopted child, a lovely Eurasian lad, who had recently been
slain in a night-club fracas—which closed that subject. Ada had
512.20 welcomed Yuzlik’s unexpected reality in the lounge of the Belle-
vue not only as a counterpoise to the embarrassment and the
deceit, but also because she hoped to sidle into What Daisy
Knew; however, besides having no spells left in the turmoil of
her spirit for business blandishments, she soon understood that
512.25 if Lemorio were finally engaged, he would want her part for
one of his mistresses.
Finally Van reached Ada’s husband.
Van had murdered good Andrey Andreevich Vinelander so
often, so thoroughly, at all the dark crossroads of the mind,
512.30 that now the poor chap, dressed in a hideous, funereal, double-
breasted suit, with those dough-soft features slapped together
anyhow, and those sad-hound baggy eyes, and the dotted lines
of sweat on his brow, presented all the depressing features of
an unnecessary resurrection. Through a not-too-odd oversight

[ 512 ]

(or rather “undersight”) Ada omitted to introduce the two
men. Her husband enunciated his name, patronymic, and sur-
name with the didactic intonations of a Russian educational-film
narrator. “Obnimemsya, dorogoy” (let us embrace, old boy), he
513.05 added in a more vibrant voice but with his mournful expression
unchanged (oddly remindful of that of Kosygin, the mayor of
Yukonsk, receiving a girl scout’s bouquet or inspecting the
damage caused by an earthquake). His breath carried the odor
of what Van recognized with astonishment as a strong tran-
513.10 quilizer on a neocodein base, prescribed in the case of psycho-
pathic pseudo bronchitis. As Andrey’s crumpled forlorn face
came closer, one could distinguish various wartlets and lumps,
none of them, however, placed in the one-sided jaunty position
of his kid sister’s naric codicil. He kept his dun-colored hair as
513.15 short as a soldier’s by means of his own clippers. He had the
korrektnïy and neat appearance of the one-bath-per-week Es-
totian hobereau.
We all flocked to the dining room. Van brushed against the
past as he shot an arm out to forestall a door-opening waiter,
513.20 and the past (still fingering his necklace) recompensed him with
a sidelong “Dolores” glance.
Chance looked after the seating arrangement.
Lemorio’s agents, an elderly couple, unwed but having lived
as man and man for a sufficiently long period to warrant a
513.25 silver-screen anniversary, remained unsplit at table between
Yuzlik, who never once spoke to them, and Van, who was
being tortured by Dorothy. As to Andrey (who made a thready
“sign of the cross” over his un-unbuttonable abdomen before
necking in his napkin), he found himself seated between sister
513.30 and wife. He demanded the “cart de van” (affording the real
Van mild amusement), but, being a hard-liquor man, cast only
a stunned look at the “Swiss White” page of the wine list be-
fore “passing the buck” to Ada who promptly ordered cham-
pagne. He was to inform her early next morning that her

[ 513 ]

Kuzen proizvodit (produces) udivitel’no simpatichnoe vpechat-
lenie (a remarkably sympathetic, in the sense of ‘fetching,’
impression),” The dear fellow’s verbal apparatus consisted al-
most exclusively of remarkably sympathetic Russian common-
514.05 places of language, but—not liking to speak of himself—he
spoke little, especially since his sister’s sonorous soliloquy (lap-
ping at Van’s rock) mesmerized and childishly engrossed him.
Dorothy preambled her long-delayed report on her pet night-
mare with a humble complaint (“Of course, I know that for
514.10 your patients to have bad dreams is a zhidovskaya prerogativa”),
but her reluctant analyst’s attention every time it returned to
her from his plate fixed itself so insistently on the Greek cross
of almost ecclesiastical size shining on her otherwise unremark-
able chest that she thought fit to interrupt her narrative (which
514.15 had to do with the eruption of a dream volcano) to say: “I
gather from your writings that you are a terrible cynic. Oh, I
quite agree with Simone Traser that a dash of cynicism adorns
a real man; yet I’d like to warn you that I object to anti-Or-
thodox jokes in case you intend making one.”
514.20 By now Van had more than enough of his mad, but not in-
terestingly mad, convive. He just managed to steady his glass,
which a gesture he made to attract Ada’s attention had almost
knocked down, and said, without further ado, in what Ada
termed afterwards a mordant, ominous and altogether inadmis-
514.25 sible tone:
“Tomorrow morning, je veux vous accaparer, ma chère. As
my lawyer, or yours, or both, have, perhaps, informed you,
Lucette’s accounts in several Swiss banks—” and he trotted out
a prepared version of a state of affairs invented in toto. “I sug-
514.30 gest,” he added, “that if you have no other engagements”—
(sending a questioning glance that avoided the Vinelanders by
leaping across and around the three cinematists, all of whom
nodded in idiotic approval)—“you and I go to see Maître
Jorat, or Raton, name escapes me, my adviser, enfin, in Luzon,

[ 514 ]

half an hour drive from here—who has given me certain papers
which I have at my hotel and which I must have you sigh—I
mean sign with a sigh—the matter is tedious. All right? All right.”
“But, Ada,” clarioned Dora, “you forget that tomorrow morn-
515.05 ing we wanted to visit the Institute of Floral Harmony in the
Château Piron!”
“You’ll do it after tomorrow, or Tuesday, or Tuesday week,”
said Van. “I’d gladly drive all three of you to that fascinating
lieu de méditation but my fast little Unseretti seats only one
515.10 passenger, and that business of untraceable deposits is terribly
urgent, I think.”
Yuzlik was dying to say something. Van yielded to the well-
meaning automaton.
“I’m delighted and honored to dine with Vasco de Gama,”
515.15 said Yuzlik holding up his glass in front of his handsome facial
The same garbling—and this gave Van a clue to Yuzlik’s
source of recondite information—occurred in The Chimes of
Chose (a memoir by a former chum of Van’s, now Lord Chose,
515.20 which had climbed, and still clung to, the “best seller” trellis—
mainly because of several indecent but very funny references
to the Villa Venus in Ranton Brooks). While he munched the
marrow of an adequate answer, with a mouthful of sharlott
(not the charlatan “charlotte russe” served in most restaurants,
515.25 but the hot toasty crust, with apple filling, of the authentic
castle pie made by Takomin, the hotel’s head cook, who hailed
from California’s Rose Bay), two urges were cleaving Van
asunder: one to insult Yuzlik for having placed his hand on
Ada’s when asking her to pass him the butter two or three
515.30 courses ago (he was incomparably more jealous of that liquid-
eyed male than of Andrey and remembered with a shiver of
pride and hate how on New Year’s Eve, 1893, he had lashed
out at a relative of his, foppish Van Zemski, who had permitted
himself a similar caress when visiting their restaurant table, and

[ 515 ]

whose jaw he had broken later, under some pretext or other,
at the young prince’s club); and the other—to tell Yuzlik how
much he had admired Don Juan’s Last Fling. Not being able,
for obvious reasons, to satisfy urge number one he dismissed
516.05 number two as secretly smacking of a poltroon’s politeness and
contented himself with replying, after swallowing his amber-
soaked mash:
“Jack Chose’s book is certainly most entertaining—especially
that bit about apples and diarrhea, and the excerpts from the
516.10 Venus Shell Album”—(Yuzlik’s eyes darted aside in specious
recollection; whereupon he bowed in effusive tribute to a com-
mon memory)—“but the rascal should have neither divulged
my name nor botched my thespionym.”
During that dismal dinner (enlivened only by the sharlott
516.15 and five bottles of Moët, out of which Van consumed more
than three), he avoided looking at that part of Ada which is
called “the face”—a vivid, divine, mysteriously shocking part,
which, in that essential form, is rarely met with among human
beings (pasty and warty marks do not count). Ada, on the
516.20 other hand, could not help her dark eyes from turning to him
every other moment, as if, with each glance, she regained her
balance; but when the company went back to the lounge and
finished their coffee there, difficulties of focalization began to
beset Van, whose points de repère disastrously decreased after
516.25 the three cinematists had left.
andrey: Adochka, dushka (darling), razskazhi zhe pro
rancho, pro skot (tell about the ranch, the cattle), emu
zhe lyubopïtno (it cannot fail to interest him).
ada (as if coming out of a trance): O chyom tï (you
516.30 were saying something)?
andrey: Ya govoryu, razskazhi emu pro tvoyo zhit’yo
bït’yo (I was saying, tell him about your daily life, your

[ 516 ]

habitual existence). Avos’ zaglyanet k nam (maybe he’d
look us up).
ada: Ostav’, chto tam interesnago (what’s so
interesting about it)?
517.05 dasha (turning to Ivan): Don’t listen to her. Massa in-
teresnago (heaps of interesting stuff). Delo brata og-
romnoe, volnuyushchee delo, trebuyushchee ne men’she
truda, chem uchyonaya dissertatsiya (his business is a
big thing, quite as demanding as a scholar’s). Nashi
517.10 sel’skohozyaystvennïya mashinï i ih teni (our agricultural
machines and their shadows)—eto tselaya kollektsiya
predmetov modernoy skul’pturï i zhivopisi (is a veritable
collection of modern art) which I suspect you adore as
I do.
517.15 ivan (to Andrey): I know nothing about farming but
thanks all the same.
(A pause.)
ivan (not quite knowing what to add): Yes, I would
certainly like to see your machinery some day. Those
517.20 things always remind me of long-necked prehistoric mon-
sters, sort of grazing here and there, you know, or just
brooding over the sorrows of extinction—but perhaps
I’m thinking of excavators—
dorothy: Andrey’s machinery is anything but prehis-
517.25 toric! (laughs cheerlessly).
andrey: Slovom, milosti prosim (anyway, you are most
welcome). Budete zharit’ verhom s kuzinoy (you’ll have
a rollicking time riding on horseback with your cousin).
517.30 ivan (to Ada): Half-past nine tomorrow morning won’t
be too early for you? I’m at the Trois Cygnes. I’ll come

[ 517 ]

to fetch you in my tiny car—not on horseback (smiles
like a corpse at Andrey).
dasha: Dovol’no skuchno (rather a pity) that Ada’s
visit to lovely Lake Leman need be spoiled by sessions
518.05 with lawyers and bankers. I’m sure you can satisfy
most of those needs by having her come a few times
chez vous and not to Luzon or Geneva.
The madhouse babble reverted to Lucette’s bank accounts,
Ivan Dementievich explained that she had been mislaying one
518.10 checkbook after another, and nobody knew exactly in how
many different banks she had dumped considerable amounts of
money. Presently, Andrey who now looked like the livid Yu-
konsk mayor after opening the Catkin Week Fair or fighting
a Forest Fire with a new type of extinguisher, grunted out of
518.15 his chair, excused himself for going to bed so early, and shook
hands with Van as if they were parting forever (which, indeed,
they were). Van remained with the two ladies in the cold and
deserted lounge where a thrifty subtraction of faraday-light had
imperceptibly taken place.
518.20 “How did you like my brother?” asked Dorothy. “On red-
chayshiy chelovek (he’s, a most rare human being). I can’t tell
you how profoundly affected he was by the terrible death of
your father, and, of course, by Lucette’s bizarre end. Even he,
the kindest of men, could not help disapproving of her Parisian
518.25 sans-gêne, but he greatly admired her looks—as I think you
also did—no, no, do not negate it!—because, as I have always said,
her prettiness seemed to complement Ada’s, the two halves form-
ing together something like perfect beauty, in the Platonic sense”
(that cheerless smile again). “Ada is certainly a ‘perfect beauty,’
518.30 a real muirninochka—even when she winces like that—but she
is beautiful only in our little human terms, within the quotes of
our social esthetics—right, Professor?—in the way a meal or a
marriage or a little French tramp can be called perfect.”

[ 518 ]

“Drop her a curtsey,” gloomily remarked Van to Ada.
“Oh, my Adochka knows how devoted I am to her”—(open-
ing her palm in the wake of Ada’s retreating hand). “I’ve shared
all her troubles. How many podzharïh (tight-crotched) cow-
519.05 boys we’ve had to fire because they delali ey glazki (ogled her)!
And how many bereavements we’ve gone through since the new
century started! Her mother and my mother; the Archbishop of
Ivankover and Dr. Swissair of Lumbago (where mother and I
reverently visited him in 1888); three distinguished uncles
519.10 (whom, fortunately, I hardly knew); and your father, who,
I’ve always maintained, resembled a Russian aristocrat much
more than he did an Irish Baron. Incidentally, in her deathbed
delirium—you don’t mind, Ada, if I divulge to him ces potins
de famille?—our splendid Marina was obsessed by two delu-
519.15 sions, which mutually excluded each other—that you were mar-
ried to Ada and that you and she were brother and sister, and
the clash between those two ideas caused her intense mental
anguish. How does your school of psychiatry explain that kind
of conflict?”
519.20 “I don’t attend school any longer,” said Van, stifling a yawn;
“and, furthermore, in my works, I try not to ‘explain’ anything,
I merely describe.”
“Still, you cannot deny that certain insights—”
It went on and on like that for more than an hour and Van’s
519.25 clenched jaws began to ache. Finally, Ada got up, and Dorothy
followed suit but continued to speak standing:
“Tomorrow dear Aunt Beloskunski-Belokonski is coming to
dinner, a delightful old spinster, who lives in a villa above Val-
vey. Terriblement grande dame et tout ça. Elle aime taquiner
519.30 Andryusha en disant qu’un simple cultivateur comme lui n’aurait
pas dû épouser la fille d’une actrice et d’un marchand de tableaux.
Would you care to join us—Jean?”
Jean replied: “Alas, no, dear Daria Andrevna: Je dois ‘surveiller
les kilos.’ Besides, I have a business dinner tomorrow.”

[ 519 ]

“At least”—(smiling)—“you could call me Dasha.”
“I do it for Andrey,” explained Ada, “actually the grand’
dame in question is a vulgar old skunk.”
“Ada!” uttered Dasha with a look of gentle reproof.
520.05 Before the two ladies proceeded toward the lift, Ada glanced
at Van—and he—no fool in amorous strategy—refrained to
comment on her “forgetting” her tiny black silk handbag on
the seat of her chair. He did not accompany them beyond the
passage leading liftward and, clutching the token, awaited her
520.10 planned return behind a pillar of hotel-hall mongrel design,
knowing that in a moment she would say to her accursed com-
panion (by now revising, no doubt, her views on the “beau
ténébreux”) as the lift’s eye turned red under a quick thumb:
Akh, sumochku zabïla (forgot my bag)!”—and instantly flit-
520.15 ting back, like Vere’s Ninon, she would be in his arms.
Their open mouths met in tender fury, and then he pounced
upon her new, young, divine, Japanese neck which he had been
coveting like a veritable Jupiter Olorinus throughout the eve-
520.20 “We’ll vroom straight to my place as soon as you wake up,
don’t bother to bathe, jump into your lenclose—” and, with
the burning sap brimming, he again devoured her, until (Doro-
thy must have reached the sky!) she danced three fingers on
his wet lips—and escaped.
520.25 “Wipe your neck!” he called after her in a rapid whisper
(who, and wherein this tale, in this life, had also attempted a
whispered cry?)
That night, in a post-Moët dream, he sat on the talc of a
tropical beach full of sun-baskers, and one moment was rubbing
520.30 the red, irritated shaft of a writhing boy, and the next was look-
ing through dark glasses at the symmetrical shading on either
side of a shining spine with fainter shading between the ribs
belonging to Lucette or Ada sitting on a towel at some distance
from him. Presently, she turned and lay prone, and she, too, wore

[ 520 ]

sunglasses, and neither he nor she could perceive the exact di-
rection of each other’s gaze through the black amber, yet he
knew by the dimple of a faint smile that she was looking at his
(it had been his all the time) raw scarlet. Somebody said, wheel-
521.05 ing a table nearby: “It’s one of the Vane sisters,” and he awoke
murmuring with professional appreciation the oneiric word-play
combining his name and surname, and plucked out the wax
plugs, and, in a marvelous act of rehabilitation and link-up, the
breakfast table clanked from the corridor across the threshold
521.10 of the adjacent room, and, already munching and honey-
crumbed, Ada entered his bedchamber. It was only a quarter
to eight!
“Smart girl!” said Van; “but first of all I must go to the
petit endroit (W.C.).”
521.15 That meeting, and the nine that followed, constituted the
highest ridge of their twenty-one-year-old love: its complicated,
dangerous, ineffably radiant coming of age. The somewhat Ital-
ianate style of the apartment, its elaborate wall lamps with orna-
ments of pale caramel glass, its white knobbles that produced
521.20 indiscriminately light or maids, the slat-eyes, veiled, heavily
curtained windows which made the morning as difficult to dis-
robe as a crinolined prude, the convex sliding doors of the huge
white “Nuremberg Virgin”-like closet in the hallway of their
suite, and even the tinted engraving by Randon of a rather
521.25 stark three-mast ship on the zigzag green waves of Marseilles
Harbor—in a word, the alberghian atmosphere of those new
trysts added a novelistic touch (Aleksey and Anna may have
asterisked here!) which Ada welcomed as a frame, as a form,
something supporting and guarding life, otherwise unprovi-
521.30 denced on Desdemonia, where artists are the only gods. When
after three or four hours of frenetic love Van and Mrs. Vine-
lander would abandon their sumptuous retreat for the blue
haze of an extraordinary October which kept dreamy and warm
throughout the duration of adultery, they had the feeling of

[ 521 ]

still being under the protection of those painted Priapi that the
Romans once used to set up in the arbors of Rufomonticulus.
“I shall walk you home—we have just returned from a con-
ference with the Luzon bankers and I’m walking you back to
522.05 your hotel from mine”—this was the phrase consacrée that Van
invariably uttered to inform the fates of the situation. One little
precaution they took from the start was to strictly avoid equiv-
ocal exposure on their lakeside balcony which was visible to
every yellow or mauve flowerhead on the platbands of the
522.10 promenade.
They used a back exit to leave the hotel.
A boxwood-lined path, presided over by a nostalgic-looking
sempervirent sequoia (which American visitors mistook for a
“Lebanese cedar”—if they remarked it at all) took them to the
522.15 absurdly misnamed rue du Mûrier, where a princely paulownia
(“mulberry tree!” snorted Ada), standing in state on its incon-
gruous terrace above a public W.C., was shedding generously
its heart-shaped dark green leaves, but retained enough foliage
to cast arabesques of shadow onto the south side of its trunk.
522.20 A ginkgo (of a much more luminous greenish gold than its
neighbor, a dingily yellowing local birch) marked the corner
of a cobbled lane leading down to the quay. They followed
southward the famous Fillietaz Promenade which went along
the Swiss side of the lake from Valvey to the Château de By-
522.25 ron (or “She Yawns Castle”). The fashionable season had ended,
and wintering birds, as well as a number of knickerbockered
Central Europeans, had replaced the English families as well as
the Russian noblemen from Nipissing and Nipigon.
“My upper-lip space feels indecently naked.” (He had shaved
522.30 his mustache off with howls of pain in her presence). “And I
cannot keep sucking in my belly all the time.”
“Oh, I like you better with that nice overweight—there’s
more of you. It’s the maternal gene, I suppose, because Demon
grew leaner and leaner. He looked positively Quixotic when I

[ 522 ]

saw him at Mother’s funeral. It was all very strange. He wore
blue mourning. D’Onsky’s son, a person with only one arm,
threw his remaining one around Demon and both wept comme
des jontaines. Then a robed person who looked like an extra in
523.05 a technicolor incarnation of Vishnu made an incomprehensible
sermon. Then she went up in smoke. He said to me, sobbing:
I will not cheat the poor grubs!’ Practically a couple of hours
after he broke that promise we had sudden visitors at the ranch
—an incredibly graceful moppet of eight, black-veiled, and a
523.10 kind of duenna, also in black, with two bodyguards. The hag
demanded certain fantastic sums—which Demon, she said, had
not had time to pay, for ‘popping the hymen’—whereupon I
had one of our strongest boys throw out vsyu (the entire)
523.15 “Extraordinary,” said Van, “they had been growing younger
and younger—I mean the girls, not the strong silent boys. His
old Rosalind had a ten-year-old niece, a primed chickabiddy.
Soon he would have been poaching them from the hatching
523.20 “You never loved your father,” said Ada sadly.
“Oh, I did and do—tenderly, reverently, understandingly, be-
cause, after all, that minor poetry of the flesh is something not
unfamiliar to me. But as far as we are concerned, I mean you
and I, he was buried on the same day as our uncle Dan.”
523.25 “I know, I know. It’s pitiful! And what use was it? Perhaps
I oughtn’t to tell you, but his visits to Agavia kept getting rarer
and shorter every year. Yes, it was pitiful to hear him and
Andrey talking. I mean, Andrey n’a pas le verbe facile, though
he greatly appreciated—without quite understanding it—De-
523.30 mon’s wild flow of fancy and fantastic fact, and would often
exclaim, with his Russian ‘tssk-tssk’ and a shake of the head—
complimentary and all that—‘what a balagur (wag) you are!’—
And then, one day, Demon warned me that he would not come
any more if he heard again poor Andrey’s poor joke (Nu i bala-

[ 523 ]

gur-zhe vï, Dementiy Labirintovich) or what Dorothy, l’im-
payable (‘priceless for impudence and absurdity’) Dorothy,
thought of my camping out in the mountains with only Mayo,
a cowhand, to protect me from lions.”
524.05 “Could one hear more about that?” asked Van.
“Well, nobody did. All this happened at a time when I was
not on speaking terms with my husband and sister-in-law, and
so could not control the situation. Anyhow, Demon did not
come even when he was only two hundred miles away and
524.10 simply mailed instead, from some gaming house, your lovely,
lovely letter about Lucette and my picture.”
“One would also like to know some details of the actual cov-
erture—frequence of intercourse, pet names for secret warts,
favorite smells—”
524.15 Platok momental’no (handkerchief quick)! Your right nostril
is full of damp jade,” said Ada, and then pointed to a lawn-
side circular sign, rimmed with red, saying: Chiens interdits and
depicting an impossible black mongrel with a white ribbon
around its neck: Why, she wondered, should the Swiss magis-
524.20 trates forbid one to cross highland terriers with poodles?
The last butterflies of 1905, indolent Peacocks and Red Ad-
mirables, one Queen of Spain and one Clouded Yellow, were
making the most of the modest blossoms. A tram on their
left passed close to the promenade, where they rested and
524.25 cautiously kissed when the whine of wheels had subsided. The
rails hit by the sun acquired a beautiful cobalt sheen—the re-
flection of noon in terms of bright metal.
“Let’s have cheese and white wine under that pergola,” sug-
gested Van. “The Vinelanders will lunch à deux today.”
524.30 Some kind of musical gadget played jungle jingles; the open
bags of a Tirolese couple stood unpleasantly near—and Van
bribed the waiter to carry their table out, onto the boards of an
unused pier. Ada admired the waterfowl population: Tufted

[ 524 ]

Ducks, black with contrasty white flanks making them look like
shoppers (this and the other comparisons are all Ada’s) carrying
away an elongated flat carton (new tie? gloves?) under each
arm, while the black tuft recalled Van’s head when he was four-
525.05 teen and wet, having just taken a dip in the brook. Coots (which
had returned after all), swimming with an odd pumping move-
ment of the neck, the way horses walk. Small grebes and big
ones, with crests, holding their heads erect, with something
heraldic in their demeanor. They had, she said, wonderful
525.10 nuptial rituals, closely facing each other—so (putting up her
index fingers bracketwise)—rather like two bookends and no
books between, and, shaking their heads in turn, with flashes of
“I asked you about Andrey’s rituals.”
525.15 “Ach, Andrey is so excited to see all those European birds!
He’s a great sportsman and knows our Western game remark-
ably well. We have in the West a very cute little grebe with a
black ribbon around its fat white bill. Andrey calls it pestro-
klyuvaya chomga. And that big chomga there is hohlushka, he
525.20 says. If you scowl like that once again, when I say something
innocent and on the whole rather entertaining, I’m going to kiss
you on the tip of the nose, in front of everybody.”
Just a tiny mite artificial, not in her best Veen. But she re-
covered instantly:
525.25 “Oh, look at those sea gulls playing chicken.”
Several rieuses, a few of which were still wearing their tight
black summer bonnets, had settled on the vermilion railing along
the lakeside, with their tails to the path and watched which of
them would stay staunchly perched at the approach of the
525.30 next passerby. The majority flapped waterward as Ada and Van
neared; one twitched its tail feathers and made a movement
analogous to “bending one’s knees” but saw it through and re-
mained on the railing.

[ 525 ]

“I think we noticed that species only once in Arizona—at a
place called Saltsink—a kind of man-made lake. Our common
ones have quite different wing tips.”
A Crested Grebe, afloat some way off, slowly, very slowly
526.05 started to sink, then abruptly executed a jumping fish plunge,
showing its glossy white underside, and vanished.
“Why on earth,” asked Van, “didn’t you let her know, in
one way or another, that you were not angry with her? Your
phoney letter made her most unhappy!”
526.10 “Pah!” uttered Ada. “She put me in a most embarrassing situ-
ation. I can quite understand her being mad at Dorothy (who
meant well, poor stupid thing—stupid enough to warn me
against possible ‘infections’ such as ‘labial lesbianitis.’ Labial
lesbianitis!) but that was no reason for Lucette to look up
526.15 Andrey in town and tell him she was great friends with the man
I had loved before my marriage. He didn’t dare annoy me with
his revived curiosity, but he complained to Dorothy of Lucette’s
neopravdannaya zhestokost’ (unjustified cruelty).”
“Ada, Ada,” groaned Van, “I want you to get rid of that
526.20 husband of yours, and his sister, right now!
“Give me a fortnight,” she said, “I have to go back to the
ranch. I can’t bear the thought of her poking among my things.”
At first everything seemed to proceed according to the instruc-
tions of some friendly genius.
526.25 Much to Van’s amusement (the tasteless display of which his
mistress neither condoned nor condemned), Andrey was laid up
with a cold for most of the week. Dorothy, a born nurser, con-
siderably surpassed Ada (who, never being ill herself, could not
stand the sight of an ailing stranger) in readiness of sickbed at-
526.30 tendance, such as reading to the sweating and suffocating patient
old issues of the Golos Feniksa; but on Friday the hotel doctor
bundled him off to the nearby American Hospital, where even
his sister was not allowed to Visit him “because of the constant

[ 526 ]

necessity of routine tests”—or rather because the poor fellow
wished to confront disaster in manly solitude.
During the next few days, Dorothy used her leisure to spy upon
Ada. The woman was sure of three things: that Ada had a
527.05 lover in Switzerland; that Van was her brother; and that he was
arranging for his irresistible sister secret trysts with the person
she had loved before her marriage. The delightful phenomenon
of all three terms being true, but making nonsense when hashed,
provided Van with another source of amusement.
527.10 The Three Swans overwinged a bastion. Anyone who called,
flesh or voice, was told by the concierge or his acolytes that Van
was out, that Madame André Vinelander was unknown, and that
all they could do was to take a message. His car, parked in a
secluded bosquet, could not betray his presence. In the fore-
527.15 noon he regularly used the service lift that communicated
directly with the backyard. Lucien, something of a wit, soon
learned to recognize Dorothy’s contralto: “La voix cuivrée a
téléphoné,” “La Trompette n’était pas contente ce matin,”
et cetera. Then the friendly Fates took a day off.
527.20 Andrey had had a first copious hemorrhage while on a busi-
ness trip to Phoenix sometime in August. A stubborn, indepen-
dent, not overbright optimist, he had ascribed it to a nosebleed
having gone the wrong way and concealed it from everybody so
as to avoid “stupid talks.” He had had for years a two-pack
527.25 smoker’s fruity cough, but when a few days after that first
“postnasal blood drip” he spat a scarlet gob into his washbasin, he
resolved to cut down on cigarettes and limit himself to tsigarki
(cigarillos). The next contretemps occurred in Ada’s presence,
just before they left for Europe; he managed to dispose of his
527.30 bloodstained handkerchief before she saw it, but she remembered
him saying “Vot te na” (well, that’s odd) in a bothered voice.
Believing with most other Estotians that the best doctors were to
be found in Central Europe, he told himself he would see a

[ 527 ]

Zurich specialist whose name he got from a member of his
“lodge” (meeting place of brotherly moneymakers), if he again
coughed up blood. The American hospital in Valvey, next to the
Russian church built by Vladimir Chevalier, his granduncle,
528.05 proved to be good enough for diagnosing advanced tuberculosis
of the left lung.
On Wednesday, October 22, in the early afternoon, Dorothy,
“frantically” trying to “locate” Ada (who after her usual visit
to the Three Swans was spending a couple of profitable hours at
528.10 Paphia’s “Hair and Beauty” Salon) left a message for Van, who
got it only late at night when he returned from a trip to Sorcière,
in the Valais, about one hundred miles east, where he bought a
villa for himself et ma cousine, and had supper with the former
owner, a banker’s widow, amiable Mme Scarlet and her blond,
528.15 pimply but pretty, daughter Eveline, both of whom seemed
erotically moved by the rapidity of the deal.
He was still calm and confident; after carefully studying
Dorothy’s hysterical report, he still believed that nothing threat-
ened their destiny; that at best Andrey would die right now,
528.20 sparing Ada the bother of a divorce; and that at worst the man
would be packed off to a mountain sanatorium in a novel to
linger there through a few last pages of epilogical mopping up
far away from the reality of their united lives. Friday morning,
at nine o’clock—as bespoken on the eve—he drove over to the
528.25 Bellevue, with the pleasant plan of motoring to Sorcière to show
her the house.
At night a thunderstorm had rather patly broken the back of
the miraculous summer. Even more patly the sudden onset of
her flow had curtailed yesterday’s caresses. It was raining when
528.30 he slammed the door of his car, hitched up his velveteen slacks,
and, stepping across puddles, passed between an ambulance and
a large black Yak, waiting one behind the other before the hotel.
All the wings of the Yak were spread open, two bellboys had
started to pile in luggage under the chauffeur’s supervision, and

[ 528 ]

various parts of the old hackney car were responding with dis-
creet creaks to the grunts of the loaders.
He suddenly became aware of the rain’s reptile cold on his
balding head and was about to enter the glass revolvo, when it
529.05 produced Ada, somewhat in the manner of those carved-wood
barometers whose doors yield either a male puppet or a female
one. Her attire—that mackintosh over a high-necked dress, the
fichu on her upswept hair, the crocodile bag slung across her
shoulder—formed a faintly old-fashioned and even provincial
529.10 ensemble. “On her there was no face,” as Russians say to describe
an expression of utter dejection.
She led him around the hotel to an ugly rotunda, out of the
miserable drizzle, and there she attempted to embrace him but he
evaded her lips. She was leaving in a few minutes. Heroic, help-
529.15 less Andrey had been brought back to the hotel in an ambulance.
Dorothy had managed to obtain three seats on the Geneva-
Phoenix plane. The two cars were taking him, her and the heroic
sister straight to the helpless airport.
She asked for a handkerchief, and he pulled out a blue one
529.20 from his windjacket pocket, but her tears had started to roll and
she shaded her eyes, while he stood before her with outstretched
“Part of the act?” he inquired coldly.
She shook her head, took the handkerchief with a childish
529.25 merci,” blew her nose and gasped, and swallowed, and spoke,
and next moment all, all was lost.
She could not tell her husband while he was ill. Van would
have to wait until Andrey was sufficiently well to bear the news
and that might take some time. Of course, she would have to do
529.30 everything to have him completely cured, there was a wonder-
maker in Arizona—
“Sort of patching up a bloke before hanging him,” said Van.
“And to think,” cried Ada with a kind of square shake of stiff
hands as if dropping a lid or a tray, “to think that he dutifully

[ 529 ]

concealed everything! Oh, of course, I can’t leave him now!”
“Yes, the old story—the flute player whose impotence has to
be treated, the reckless ensign who may never return from a
distant war!”
530.05 Ne ricane pas!” exclaimed Ada. “The poor, poor little man!
How dare you sneer?”
As had been peculiar to his nature even in the days of his
youth, Van was apt to relieve a passion of anger and disappoint-
ment by means of bombastic and arcane utterances which hurt
530.10 like a jagged fingernail caught in satin, the lining of Hell.
“Castle True, Castle Bright!” he now cried, “Helen of Troy,
Ada of Ardis! You have betrayed the Tree and the Moth!”
Perestagne (stop, cesse)!”
“Ardis the First, Ardis the Second, Tanned Man in a Hat, and
530.15 now Mount Russet—”
Perestagne!” repeated Ada (like a fool dealing with an
Oh! Qui me rendra mon Hélène—”
“Ach, perestagne!
530.20 “—et le phalène.”
Je t’emplie (‘prie’ and ‘supplie’), stop, Van. Tu sais que j’en
vais mourir.”
“But, but, but”—(slapping every time his forehead)—“to be
on the very brink of, of, of—and then have that idiot turn
530.25 Keats!”
Bozhe moy, I must be going. Say something to me, my
darling, my only one, something that might help!”
There was a narrow chasm of silence broken only by the
rain drumming on the eaves.
530.30 “Stay with me, girl,” said Van, forgetting everything—pride,
rage, the convention of everyday pity.
For an instant she seemed to waver—or at least to consider
wavering; but a resonant voice reached them from the drive and

[ 530 ]

there stood Dorothy, gray-caped and mannish-hatted, energeti-
cally beckoning with her unfurled umbrella.
“I can’t, I can’t, I’ll write you,” murmured my poor love in
531.05 Van kissed her leaf-cold hand and, letting the Bellevue worry
about his car, letting all Swans worry about his effects and Mme
Scarlet worry about Eveline’s skin trouble, he walked some ten
kilometers along soggy roads to Rennaz and thence flew to Nice,
Biskra, the Cape, Nairobi, the Basset range—
And oe’r the summits of the Basset
Would she write? Oh, she did! Oh, every old thing turned out
superfine! Fancy raced fact in never-ending rivalry and girl
giggles. Andrey lived only a few months longer, po pal’tzam
(finger counting) one, two, three, four—say, five. Andrey was
531.15 doing fine by the spring of nineteen six or seven, with a com-
fortably collapsed lung and a straw-colored beard (nothing like
facial vegetation to keep a patient busy). Life forked and re-
forked. Yes, she told him. He insulted Van on the mauve-
painted porch of a Douglas hotel where van was awaiting his
531.20 Ada in a final version of Les Enfants Maudits. Monsieur de
Tobak (an earlier cuckold) and Lord Erminin (a second-time
second) witnessed the duel in the company of a few tall yuccas
and short cactuses. Vinelander wore a cutaway (he would);
Van, a white suit. Neither man wished to take any chances, and
531.25 both fired simultaneously. Both fell. Mr. Cutaway’s bullet struck
the outsole of Van’s left shoe (white, black-heeled), tripping
him and causing a slight fourmillement (excited ants) in his foot
—that was all. Van got his adversary plunk in the underbelly—
a serious wound from which he recovered in due time, if at all
531.30 (here the forking swims in the mist). Actually it was all much
So she did write as she had promised? Oh, yes, yes! In seven-

[ 531 ]

teen years he received from her around a hundred brief notes,
each containing around one hundred words, making around
thirty printed pages of insignificant stuff—mainly about her
husband’s health and the local fauna. After helping her to nurse
532.05 Andrey at Agavia Ranch through a couple of acrimonious years
(she begrudged Ada every poor little hour devoted to collecting,
mounting, and rearing!), and then taking exception to Ada’s
choosing the famous and excellent Grotonovich Clinic (for her
husband’s endless periods of treatment) instead of Princess
532.10 Alashin’s select sanatorium, Dorothy Vinelander retired to a
subarctic monastery town (Ilemna, now Novostabia) where
eventually she married a Mr. Brod or Bred, tender and passion-
ate, dark and handsome, who traveled in eucharistials and other
sacramental objects throughout the Severnïya Territorii and who
532.15 subsequently was to direct, and still may be directing half a
century later, archeological reconstructions at Goreloe (the
“Lyaskan Herculanum”); what treasures he dug up in matri-
mony is another question.
Steadily but very slowly Andrey’s condition kept deteriorat-
532.20 ing. During his last two or three years of idle existence on various
articulated couches, whose every plane could be altered in
hundreds of ways, he lost the power of speech, though still able
to nod or shake his head, frown in concentration, or faintly
smile when inhaling the smell of food (the origin, indeed, of our
532.25 first beatitudes). He died one spring night, alone in a hospital
room, and that same summer (1922) his widow donated her
collections to a National Park museum and traveled by air to
Switzerland for an “exploratory interview” with fifty-two-year-
old Van Veen.

[ 532 ]

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

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