Governor of Bras d'Or & instant coffee caprice in Ada

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Tue, 01/18/2022 - 08:54

According to Van Veen (the narrator and main character in VN’s novel Ada, 1969), his maternal grandmother Daria (‘Dolly’) Durmanov was the daughter of Prince Peter Zemski, Governor of Bras d’Or:

 

Van’s maternal grandmother Daria (‘Dolly’) Durmanov was the daughter of Prince Peter Zemski, Governor of Bras d’Or, an American province in the Northeast of our great and variegated country, who had married, in 1824, Mary O’Reilly, an Irish woman of fashion. Dolly, an only child, born in Bras, married in 1840, at the tender and wayward age of fifteen, General Ivan Durmanov, Commander of Yukon Fortress and peaceful country gentleman, with lands in the Severn Tories (Severnïya Territorii), that tesselated protectorate still lovingly called ‘Russian’ Estoty, which commingles, granoblastically and organically, with ‘Russian’ Canady, otherwise ‘French’ Estoty, where not only French, but Macedonian and Bavarian settlers enjoy a halcyon climate under our Stars and Stripes.

The Durmanovs’ favorite domain, however, was Raduga near the burg of that name, beyond Estotiland proper, in the Atlantic panel of the continent between elegant Kaluga, New Cheshire, U.S.A., and no less elegant Ladoga, Mayne, where they had their town house and where their three children were born: a son, who died young and famous, and a pair of difficult female twins. Dolly had inherited her mother’s beauty and temper but also an older ancestral strain of whimsical, and not seldom deplorable, taste, well reflected, for instance, in the names she gave her daughters: Aqua and Marina (‘Why not Tofana?’ wondered the good and sur-royally antlered general with a controlled belly laugh, followed by a small closing cough of feigned detachment — he dreaded his wife’s flares). (1.1)

 

Bras d'Or Lake is an inland sea, or large body of partially fresh/salt water in the centre of Cape Breton Island in the province of Nova Scotia, Canada. "Cold Estotiland" mentioned by Milton in Paradise Lost (Book X, line 686) is an island off Labrador, according to Mercator maps. In J. D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey Zooey Glass in jest tells to his sister Franny that brother Anselmo and he have been offered a new parish in Labrador:

 

Franny awakened with a start--a jolt, really, as though the couch had just gone over a bad bump. She raised up on one arm, and said, "Whew." She squinted at the morning sunlight. "Why's it so sunny?" She only partly took in Zooey's presence. "Why's it so sunny?" she repeated.
Zooey observed her rather narrowly. "I bring the sun wherever I go, buddy," he said.
Franny, still squinting, stared at him. "Why'd you wake me up?" she asked. She was still too heavy with sleep to sound really fractious, but it was apparent that she felt there was some kind of injustice in the air.
"Well... it's like this. Brother Anselmo and I have been offered a new parish. In Labrador, see. And we wondered if you'd give us your blessing before we--"
"Whew!" Franny said again, and put her hand on top of her head. Her hair, cut fashionably short, had survived sleep very well indeed. She wore it--most fortunately for the viewer--parted in the middle. "Oh, I had the most horrible dream," she said. She sat up a bit and, with one hand, closed the lapels of her dressing gown. It was a tailored tie-silk dressing gown, beige, with a pretty pattern of minute pink tea roses.
"Go ahead," Zooey said, dragging on his cigar. "I'll interpret for you."
She shuddered. "It was just horrible. So spidery. I've never had such a spidery nightmare in my entire life."
"Spiders, eh? That's very interesting. Very significant. I had a very interesting case in Zurich, some years back--a young person very much like yourself, as a matter of fact--"
"Be quiet a second, or I'll forget it," Franny said. She stared avidly into space, as nightmare-recallers do. There were half circles under her eyes, and other, subtler signs that mark an acutely troubled young girl, but nonetheless no one could have missed seeing that she was a first-class beauty. Her skin was lovely, and her features were delicate and most distinctive. Her eyes were very nearly the same quite astonishing shade of blue as Zooey's, but were set farther apart, as a sister's eyes no doubt should be--and they were not, so to speak, a day's work to look into, as Zooey's were. Some four years earlier, at her graduation from boarding school, her brother Buddy had morbidly prophesied to himself, as she grinned at him from the graduates' platform, that she would in all probability one day marry a man with a hacking cough. So there was that in her face, too. "Oh, God, I remember it now!" she said. "It was just hideous. I was at a swimming pool somewhere, and a whole bunch of people kept making me dive for a can of Medaglia d'Oro coffee that was on the bottom.

Every time I'd come up, they'd make me go down again. I was crying, and I kept saying to everybody, 'You have your bathing suits on. Why don't you do a little diving, too?,' but they'd all just laugh and make these terribly snide little remarks, and down I'd go again." She gave another shudder. "These two girls that are in my dorm were there. Stephanie Logan, and a girl I hardly even know--somebody, as a matter of fact, I always felt terribly sorry for, because she had such an awful name. Shannon Sherman. They both had a big oar, and they kept trying to hit me with it every time I'd surface." Franny put her hands over her eyes briefly. "Whew!" She shook her head. She reflected. "The only person that made any sense in the dream was Professor Tupper. I mean he was the only person that was there that I know really detests me."
"Detests you, eh? Very interesting." Zooey's cigar was in his mouth. He revolved it slowly between his fingers, like a dream-interpreter who isn't getting all the facts in the case. He looked very contented. "Why does he detest you?" he asked. "Without absolute frankness, you realize, my hands are--"
"He detests me because I'm in this crazy Religion seminar he conducts, and I can never bring myself to smile back at him when he's being charming and Oxfordish. He's on lend-lease or something from Oxford, and he's just a terribly sad old self-satisfied phony with wild and woolly white hair. I think he goes into the men's room and musses it up before he conies to class--I honestly do. He has no enthusiasm whatever for his subject. Ego, yes. Enthusiasm, no. Which would be all right--I mean it wouldn't be anything exactly strange--but he keeps dropping idiotic hints that he's a Realized Man himself and we should be pretty happy kids to have him in this country." Franny grimaced. "The only thing he does with any zing, when he isn't bragging, is correct somebody when they say something's Sanskrit when it's really Pali. He just knows I can't stand him! You should see the faces I make at him when he isn't looking."
"What was he doing at the pool?"
"That's exactly it! Nothing! Absolutely nothing! He was just standing around smiling and watching. He was the worst one there."

 

In Anselmo there is elmo (Italian for “helmet”). Describing the torments of poor mad Aqua, Van mentions the ‘elmo’ that broke into leaf when they carried stone-heavy-dead St Zeus by it through the gradual, gradual shade:

 

She developed a morbid sensitivity to the language of tap water — which echoes sometimes (much as the bloodstream does predormitarily) a fragment of human speech lingering in one’s ears while one washes one’s hands after cocktails with strangers. Upon first noticing this immediate, sustained, and in her case rather eager and mocking but really quite harmless replay of this or that recent discourse, she felt tickled at the thought that she, poor Aqua, had accidentally hit upon such a simple method of recording and transmitting speech, while technologists (the so-called Eggheads) all over the world were trying to make publicly utile and commercially rewarding the extremely elaborate and still very expensive, hydrodynamic telephones and other miserable gadgets that were to replace those that had gone k chertyam sobach’im (Russian ‘to the devil’) with the banning of an unmentionable ‘lammer.’ Soon, however, the rhythmically perfect, but verbally rather blurred volubility of faucets began to acquire too much pertinent sense. The purity of the running water’s enunciation grew in proportion to the nuisance it made of itself. It spoke soon after she had listened, or been exposed, to somebody talking — not necessarily to her — forcibly and expressively, a person with a rapid characteristic voice, and very individual or very foreign phrasal intonations, some compulsive narrator’s patter at a horrible party, or a liquid soliloquy in a tedious play, or Van’s lovely voice, or a bit of poetry heard at a lecture, my lad, my pretty, my love, take pity, but especially the more fluid and flou Italian verse, for instance that ditty recited between knee-knocking and palpebra-lifting, by a half-Russian, half-dotty old doctor, doc, toc, ditty, dotty, ballatetta, deboletta... tu, voce sbigottita... spigotty e diavoletta... de lo cor dolente... con ballatetta va... va... della strutta, destruttamente... mente... mente... stop that record, or the guide will go on demonstrating as he did this very morning in Florence a silly pillar commemorating, he said, the ‘elmo’ that broke into leaf when they carried stone-heavy-dead St Zeus by it through the gradual, gradual shade; or the Arlington harridan talking incessantly to her silent husband as the vineyards sped by, and even in the tunnel (they can’t do this to you, you tell them, Jack Black, you just tell them...). Bathwater (or shower) was too much of a Caliban to speak distinctly — or perhaps was too brutally anxious to emit the hot torrent and get rid of the infernal ardor — to bother about small talk; but the burbly flowlets grew more and more ambitious and odious, and when at her first ‘home’ she heard one of the most hateful of the visiting doctors (the Cavalcanti quoter) garrulously pour hateful instructions in Russian-lapped German into her hateful bidet, she decided to stop turning on tap water altogether. (1.3)

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): ballatetta: fragmentation and distortion of a passage in a ‘little ballad’ by the Italian poet Guido Cavalcanti (1255–1300). The relevant lines are: ‘you frightened and weak little voice that comes weeping from my woeful heart, go with my soul and that ditty, telling of a destroyed mind.’

 

Describing his journey with Lucette (Van's and Ada's half-sister) on Admiral Tobakoff, Van mentions the Helmeted Angel of the Yukonsk Ikon:

 

To most of the Tobakoff’s first-class passengers the afternoon of June 4, 1901, in the Atlantic, on the meridian of Iceland and the latitude of Ardis, seemed little conducive to open air frolics: the fervor of its cobalt sky kept being cut by glacial gusts, and the wash of an old-fashioned swimming pool rhythmically flushed the green tiles, but Lucette was a hardy girl used to bracing winds no less than to the detestable sun. Spring in Fialta and a torrid May on Minataor, the famous artificial island, had given a nectarine hue to her limbs, which looked lacquered with it when wet, but re-evolved their natural bloom as the breeze dried her skin. With glowing cheekbones and that glint of copper showing from under her tight rubber cap on nape and forehead, she evoked the Helmeted Angel of the Yukonsk Ikon whose magic effect was said to change anemic blond maidens into konskie deti, freckled red-haired lads, children of the Sun Horse. (3.5)

 

A can of Medaglia d'Oro coffee in Franny Glass’s nightmare brings to mind not only Bras d’Or (btw., Hennessey Bras d’Or is a cognac), but also “an idealistic President’s instant-coffee caprice” mentioned by Van when he describes Demon’s sword duel with Baron d’Onsky:

 

Upon being questioned in Demon’s dungeon, Marina, laughing trillingly, wove a picturesque tissue of lies; then broke down, and confessed. She swore that all was over; that the Baron, a physical wreck and a spiritual Samurai, had gone to Japan forever. From a more reliable source Demon learned that the Samurai’s real destination was smart little Vatican, a Roman spa, whence he was to return to Aardvark, Massa, in a week or so. Since prudent Veen preferred killing his man in Europe (decrepit but indestructible Gamaliel was said to be doing his best to forbid duels in the Western Hemisphere — a canard or an idealistic President’s instant-coffee caprice, for nothing was to come of it after all), Demon rented the fastest petroloplane available, overtook the Baron (looking very fit) in Nice, saw him enter Gunter’s Bookshop, went in after him, and in the presence of the imperturbable and rather bored English shopkeeper, back-slapped the astonished Baron across the face with a lavender glove. The challenge was accepted; two native seconds were chosen; the Baron plumped for swords; and after a certain amount of good blood (Polish and Irish — a kind of American ‘Gory Mary’ in barroom parlance) had bespattered two hairy torsoes, the whitewashed terrace, the flight of steps leading backward to the walled garden in an amusing Douglas d’Artagnan arrangement, the apron of a quite accidental milkmaid, and the shirtsleeves of both seconds, charming Monsieur de Pastrouil and Colonel St Alin, a scoundrel, the latter gentlemen separated the panting combatants, and Skonky died, not ‘of his wounds’ (as it was viciously rumored) but of a gangrenous afterthought on the part of the least of them, possibly self-inflicted, a sting in the groin, which caused circulatory trouble, notwithstanding quite a few surgical interventions during two or three years of protracted stays at the Aardvark Hospital in Boston — a city where, incidentally, he married in 1869 our friend the Bohemian lady, now keeper of Glass Biota at the local museum. (1.2)

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): Aardvark: apparently, a university town in New England.

Gamaliel: a much more fortunate statesman than our W.G. Harding.

 

In Salinger’s Franny and Zooey Franny Glass uses the phrase “go bohemian:”

 

“It's everybody, I mean. Everything everybody does is so — I don't know — not wrong, or even mean, or even stupid necessarily. But just so tiny and meaningless and — sad-making. And the worst part is, if you go bohemian or something crazy like that, you're conforming just as much only in a different way.”

 

Professor Tupper in Franny Glass’s nightmare reminds one of Captain Tapper, of Wild Violet Lodge, Van’s adversary in a pistol duel:

 

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 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, black-haired young fop. Simultaneously Van felt somebody embrace 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 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 under his arm. Cubistic labels of remote and fabulous places color-blotted the newer of the valises. Visiting cards were exchanged. ‘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 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 porter. ‘Yellow cotton,’ Van added: ‘Up each nostril. Sorry, chum.’

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 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 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 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 Street. (1.42)

 

Philip Rack (Lucette’s music teacher who was poisoned by his jealous wife Elsie and who dies in Ward Five of the Kalugano hospital) brings to mind the free Christian Science literature rack mentioned by J. D. Salinger at the beginning of Franny and Zooey:

 

Though brilliantly sunny, Saturday morning was overcoat weather again, not just topcoat weather, as it had been all week and as everyone had hoped it would stay for the big weekend - the weekend for the Yale game. Of the twenty-some young men who were waiting at the station for their dates to arrive on the ten-fifty-two, no more than six or seven were out on the cold, open platform. The rest were standing around in hatless, smoky little groups of twos and threes and fours inside the heated waiting room, talking in voices that, almost without exception, sounded collegiately dogmatic, as though each young man, in his strident, conversational turn, was clearing up, once and for all, some highly controversial issue, one that the outside, non-matriculating world had been bungling, provocatively or not, for centuries.

Lane Coutell, in a Burberry raincoat that apparently had a wool liner buttoned into it, was one of the six or seven boys out on the open platform. Or, rather, he was and he wasn't one of them. For ten minutes or more, he had deliberately been standing just out of conversation range of the other boys, his back against the free Christian Science literature rack, his ungloved hands in his coat pockets. He was wearing a maroon cashmere muffler which had hiked up on his neck, giving him next to no protection against the cold. Abruptly, and rather absently, he took his right hand out of his coat pocket and started to adjust the muffler, but before it was adjusted, he changed his mind and used the same hand to reach inside his coat and take out a letter from the inside pocket of his jacket. He began to read it immediately, with his mouth not quite closed.

 

Describing the patio party in “Ardis the Second,” Van mentions Rack, his pregnant wife and the swimming pool:

 

The shooting script was now ready. Marina, in dorean robe and coolie hat, reclined reading in a long-chair on the patio. Her director, G.A. Vronsky, elderly, baldheaded, with a spread of grizzled fur on his fat chest, was alternately sipping his vodka-and-tonic and feeding Marina typewritten pages from a folder. On her other side, crosslegged on a mat, sat Pedro (surname unknown, stagename forgotten), a repulsively handsome, practically naked young actor, with satyr ears, slanty eyes, and lynx nostrils, whom she had brought from Mexico and was keeping at a hotel in Ladore.

Ada, lying on the edge of the swimming pool, was doing her best to make the shy dackel face the camera in a reasonably upright and decent position, while Philip Rack, an insignificant but on the whole likable young musician who in his baggy trunks looked even more dejected and awkward than in the green velvet suit he thought fit to wear for the piano lessons he gave Lucette, was trying to take a picture of the recalcitrant chop-licking animal and of the girl’s parted breasts which her half-prone position helped to disclose in the opening of her bathing suit.

If one dollied now to another group standing a few paces away under the purple garlands of the patio arch, one might take a medium shot of the young maestro’s pregnant wife in a polka-dotted dress replenishing goblets with salted almonds, and of our distinguished lady novelist resplendent in mauve flounces, mauve hat, mauve shoes, pressing a zebra vest on Lucette, who kept rejecting it with rude remarks, learned from a maid but uttered in a tone of voice just beyond deafish Mlle Larivière’s field of hearing.

Lucette remained topless. Her tight smooth skin was the color of thick peach syrup, her little crupper in willow-green shorts rolled drolly, the sun lay sleek on her russet bob and plumpish torso: it showed but a faint circumlocation of femininity, and Van, in a scowling mood, recalled with mixed feelings how much more developed her sister had been at not quite twelve years of age.

He had spent most of the day fast asleep in his room, and a long, rambling, dreary dream had repeated, in a kind of pointless parody, his strenuous ‘Casanovanic’ night with Ada and that somehow ominous morning talk with her. Now that I am writing this, after so many hollows and heights of time, I find it not easy to separate our conversation, as set down in an inevitably stylized form, and the drone of complaints, turning on sordid betrayals that obsessed young Van in his dull nightmare. Or was he dreaming now that he had been dreaming? Had a grotesque governess really written a novel entitled Les Enfants Maudits? To be filmed by frivolous dummies, now discussing its adaptation? To be made even triter than the original Book of the Fortnight, and its gurgling blurbs? Did he detest Ada as he had in his dreams? He did.

Now, at fifteen, she was an irritating and hopeless beauty; a rather unkempt one, too; only twelve hours ago, in the dim toolroom he had whispered a riddle in her ear: what begins with a ‘de’ and rhymes more or less with a Silesian river ant? She was eccentric in habits and clothing. She cared nothing for sunbathing, and not a tinge of the tan that had californized Lucette could be traced on the shameless white of Ada’s long limbs and scrawny shoulder blades.

A remote cousin, no longer René’s sister, not even his half-sister (so lyrically anathematized by Monparnasse), she stepped over him as over a log and returned the embarrassed dog to Marina. The actor, who quite likely would run into some body’s fist in a forthcoming scene, made a filthy remark in broken French.

‘Du sollst nicht zuhören,’ murmured Ada to German Dack before putting him back in Marina’s lap under the ‘accursed children.’ ‘On ne parle pas comme ça devant un chien,’ added Ada, not deigning to glance at Pedro, who nevertheless got up, reconstructed his crotch, and beat her to the pool with a Nurjinski leap.

Was she really beautiful? Was she at least what they call attractive? She was exasperation, she was torture. The silly girl had heaped her hair under a rubber cap, and this gave an unfamiliar, vaguely clinical look to her neck, with its odd dark wisps and strags, as if she had obtained a nurse’s job and would never dance again. Her faded, bluish-gray, one-piece swimsuit had a spot of grease and a hole above one hip — nibbled through, one might conjecture, by a tallow-starved larva — and seemed much too short for careless comfort. She smelled of damp cotton, axillary tufts, and nenuphars, like mad Ophelia. None of those minor matters would have annoyed Van, had she and he been alone together; but the presence of the all-male actor made everything obscene, drab and insupportable. We move back to the lip of the pool.

Our young man, being exceptionally brezgliv (squeamish, easily disgusted), had no desire to share a few cubic meters of chlorinated celestino (‘blues your bath’) with two other fellows. He was emphatically not Japanese. He always remembered, with — shudders of revulsion, the indoor pool of his prep school, the running noses, the pimpled chests, the chance contacts with odious male flesh, the suspicious bubble bursting like a small stink bomb, and especially, especially, the bland, sly, triumphant and absolutely revolting wretch who stood in shoulder-high water and secretly urinated (and, God, how he had beaten him up, though that Vere de Vere was three years older than he).

He now kept carefully out of reach of any possible splash as Pedro and Phil snorted and fooled in their foul bath. Presently the pianist, floating up and showing his awful gums in a servile grin, tried to draw Ada into the pool from her outstretched position on the tiled margin, but she evaded the grab of his despair by embracing the big orange ball she had just fished out and, pushing him away with that shield, she then threw it toward Van, who slapped it aside, refusing the gambit, ignoring the gambol, scorning the gambler. (1.32)

 

Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Du sollst nicht zuhören: “Germ., you must not listen.”

 

On the other hand, Franny Glass's dream about a swimming pool brings to mind Dorothy Vinelander's pet nightmare:

 

Lemorio’s agents, an elderly couple, unwed but having lived as man and man for a sufficiently long period to warrant a 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 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 before ‘passing the buck’ to Ada who promptly ordered champagne. He was to inform her early next morning that her ‘Kuzen proizvodit (produces) udivitel’no simpatichnoe vpechatlenie (a remarkably sympathetic, in the sense of "fetching," impression),’ The dear fellow’s verbal apparatus consisted almost exclusively of remarkably sympathetic Russian common-places of language, but — not liking to speak of himself — he spoke little, especially since his sister’s sonorous soliloquy (lapping at Van’s rock) mesmerized and childishly engrossed him. Dorothy preambled her long-delayed report on her pet nightmare with a humble complaint (‘Of course, I know that for 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 unremarkable chest that she thought fit to interrupt her narrative (which 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-Orthodox jokes in case you intend making one.’ (3.8)

 

Ada's sister-in-law, Dorothy (Dasha) Vinelander eventually marries a Mr Brod or Bred:

 

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 doing fine by the spring of nineteen six or seven, with a comfortably collapsed lung and a straw-colored beard (nothing like facial vegetation to keep a patient busy). Life forked and reforked. Yes, she told him. He insulted Van on the mauve-painted porch of a Douglas hotel where van was awaiting his 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 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 (here the forking swims in the mist). Actually it was all much duller.

So she did write as she had promised? Oh, yes, yes! In seventeen 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 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 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 passionate, dark and handsome, who traveled in eucharistials and other sacramental objects throughout the Severnïya Territorii and who 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 matrimony is another question.

Steadily but very slowly Andrey’s condition kept deteriorating. 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 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. (ibid.)