Simultaneously, a tall splendid creature with trim ankles and repulsively fleshy thighs, stalked past the Veens, all but treading on Lucette's emerald-studded cigarette case. Except for a golden ribbon and a bleached mane, her long, ripply, beige back was bare all the way down to the tops of her slowly and lusciously rolling buttocks, which divulged, in alternate motion, their nether bulges from under the lamé loincloth. Just before disappearing behind a rounded white corner, the Titianesque Titaness half-turned her brown face and greeted Van with a loud 'hullo!'
Lucette wanted to know: kto siya pava? (who's that stately dame?)
'I thought she addressed you,' answered Van, 'I did not distinguish her face and do not remember that bottom.'
'She gave you a big jungle smile,' said Lucette, readjusting her green helmet, with touchingly graceful movements of her raised wings, and touchingly flashing the russet feathering of her armpits.
'There's that waiter coming. What shall we have - Honoloolers?'
'You'll have them with Miss Condor' (nasalizing the first syllable) 'when I go to dress. For the moment I want only tea. Mustn't mix drugs and drinks. Have to take the famous Robinson pill sometime tonight. Sometime tonight.'
'Two teas, please.'
'And lots of sandwiches, George. Foie gras, ham, anything.'
'It's very bad manners,' remarked Van, 'to invent a name for a poor chap who can't answer: "Yes, Mademoiselle Condor." Best Franco-English pun I've ever heard, incidentally.'
'But his name is George. He was awfully kind to me yesterday when I threw up in the middle of the tearoom.'
'For the sweet all is sweet,' murmured Van.
A moment later, as if having spied on his solitude the pava (peahen) reappeared - this time with an apology.
Polite Van, scrambling up to his feet and browing his spectacles, started to apologize in his turn (for misleading her innocently) but his little speech petered out in stupefaction as he looked at her face and saw in it a gross and grotesque caricature of unforgettable features. That mulatto skin, that silver-blond hair, those fat purple lips, reinacted in coarse negative her ivory, her raven, her pale pout.
'Whom did she look like?' asked Lucette. 'En laid et en lard?'
'I don't know,' he lied. 'Whom?'
'Skip it,' she said. 'You're mine tonight. Mine, mine, mine!'
She was quoting Kipling - the same phrase that Ada used to address to Dack. He cast around for a straw of Procrustean procrastination. (3.5)
Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): en laid et en lard: in an ugly and fleshy version.
"Miss Condor" (as Lucette dubbed that mulatto girl) looked like Ada. "Condor" (1921) is a poem by Bryusov. In Marina Tsvetaev's memoir essay Geroy truda ("The Hero of Toil," 1925) Alya (Marina Tsvetaev's eight-year-old daughter Ariadna Efron) compares Bryusov to Shere Khan (the tiger in Kipling's Jungle Book) and Bryusov's mistress Adalis, to a young wolf from Shere Khan's retinue:
Москва, начало декабря 1920 г.
Несколько дней спустя, читая "Джунгли".
— Марина! Вы знаете — кто Шер-Хан? — Брюсов! — Тоже хромой и одинокий, и у него там тоже Адалис. (Приводит:) «А старый Шер-Хан ходил и открыто принимал лесть»… Я так в этом узнала Брюсова! А Адалис — приблуда, из молодых волков.
While Ada seems to refer to Adalis, Lucette brings to mind Lucia, the eponymous tigress in a story (1916) by Kuprin. It is Lucia who kills Zenida, the Jewish animal-tamer in a provincial circus:
Однако через несколько месяцев я услышал, что тигрица Люция растерзала Зениду не то в Саратове, не то в Самаре.
Впрочем, так почти все укротители и укротительницы оканчивают свою жизнь.
According to the narrator (who is in love with Mlle Zenida), Zenida weighs nearly 100 kg:
В то время там гастролировала m-lle Зенида, венгерская еврейка, женщина весом около шести пудов. Она безвкусно одевалась в мужской костюм венгерского драгуна.
Zenida and the narrator drink champagne in a cage with Lucia and the lions:
И вот однажды, в свой бенефис, она предложила мне войти с нею в клетку со зверями и там выпить с нею бокал шампанского за здоровье почтеннейшей публики. Должен откровенно сознаться, что сначала мне хотелось отделаться от этого искушения болезнью или переломом ноги, но потом мужество или, может быть, любовь заставили меня пойти на эту сделку.
A wonderful imitatrix, Lucette is afraid of lions:
'Lucette affirmed,' he said, 'that she (Ada) imitated mountain lions.'
He was omniscient. Better say, omni-incest.
'That's right,' said the other total-recaller...
'You do the puma,' he said, 'but she does - to perfection! - my favorite viola sardina. She's a wonderful imitatrix, by the way, and if you are even better -'
'We'll speak about my talents and tricks some other time,' said Ada. 'It's a painful subject.' (2.6)
The famous Robinson pill ("Quietus") was given to Lucette by the Robinsons, an elderly couple with whom Van and Lucette watch in the Tobakoff cinema hall Don Juan's Last Fling, the movie in which Ada plays the gitanilla.
Honolulu (cf. "Honoloolers") is the capital of Hawaii. The author of My vse - Robinzony ("We All are Robinson Crusoes," 1921), Bryusov mentions the green slopes of Hawaii in another poem, Segodnya ("Today," 1922):
На пёстрых площадях Занзибара,
По зелёным склонам Гавайи,
Распахиваются приветливо бары...
Aujourd'hui (Fr., today) is the first word in Aqua's last note: Aujourd'hui (heute-toity!) I, this eye-rolling toy, have earned the psykitsch right to enjoy a landparty with Herr Doktor Sig, Nurse Joan the Terrible, and several 'patients,' in the neighboring bor (piney wood) where I noticed exactly the same skunk-like squirrels, Van, that your Darkblue ancestor imported to Ardis Park, where you will ramble one day, no doubt. (1.3)
He espied their half-sister on the forecastle deck, looking perilously pretty in a low-cut, brightly flowered, wind-worried frock, talking to the bronzed but greatly aged Robinsons. She turned toward him, brushing back the flying hair from her face with a mixture of triumph and embarrassment in her expression, and presently they took leave of Rachel and Robert who beamed after them, waving similarly raised hands to her, to him, to life, to death, to the happy old days when Demon paid all the gambling debts of their son, just before he was killed in a head-on car collision...
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. (3.5)
In VN's story Spring in Fialta (1936) Nina perishes in a car crash near Fialta:
...the yellow car I had seen under the plane trees had suffered a crash beyond Fialta, having run at full speed into the truck of a traveling circus entering the town, a crash from which Ferdinand and his friend, those invulnerable rogues, those salamanders of fate, those basilisks of good fortune, had escaped with local and temporary injury to their scales, while Nina, in spite of her long-standing, faithful imitation of them, had turned out after all to be mortal.
Nina had turned put after all mortal.
A circus billboard in Fialta depicts a red hussar and an orange tiger of sorts (in his effort to make the beast as ferocious as possible, the artist had gone so far that he had come back from the other side, for the tiger's face looked positively human).
Lucette's emerald-studded cigarette case brings to mind Izumrud (Emerald), the eponymous race horse in a story (1907) by Kuprin.
"It is as if a naturalist, in describing the equine genus, started to jaw about saddles of Mme. de V." (he named a well-known literary hostess who indeed strongly resembled a horse)...
"...rather like Wouwerman's white horse," said Ferdinand, in regard to something he was discussing with Segur.
"Tu es tres hippique ce matin," remarked the latter. (Spring in Fialta)
Lucette's gaze escorted to a good-riddance exit the indolent motion of those gluteal lobes and folds.
'You deceived me, Van. It is, it is one of your gruesome girls!'
'I swear,' said Van, 'that's she's a perfect stranger. I wouldn't deceive you.'
'You deceived me many, many times when I was a little girl. If you're doing it now tu sais que j'en vais mourir.' (3.5)

I held a platform ticket crumpled beyond recognition, while a song of the last century (connected, it has been rumored, with some Parisian drama of love) kept ringing and ringing in my head, having emerged, God knows why, from the music box of memory, a sobbing ballad which often used to be sung by an old maiden aunt of mine, with a face as yellow as Russian church wax, but whom nature had given such a powerful, ecstatically full voice that it seemed to swallow her up in the glory of a fiery cloud as soon as she would begin:


On dit que tu te maries,

tu sais que j'en vais mourir


and that melody, the pain, the offense, the link between hymen and death evoked by the rhythm, and the voice itself of the dead singer, which accompanied the recollection as the sole owner of the song, gave me no rest for several hours after Nina's departure and even later arose at increasing intervals like the last flat little waves sent to the beach by a passing ship, lapping ever more infrequently and dreamily, or like the bronze agony of a vibrating belfry after the bell ringer has already reseated himself in the cheerful circle of his family. (Spring in Fialta)


George (the waiter who was awfully kind to Lucette when she threw up in the middle of the tearoom) brings to mind Mount St. George in Spring in Fialta. Fialta hints at Yalta:


I am fond of Fialta; I am fond of it because I feel in the hollow of those violaceous syllables the sweet dark dampness of the most rumpled of small flowers, and because the altolike name of a lovely Crimean town is echoed by its viola; and also because there is something in the very somnolence of its humid Lent that especially anoints one’s soul. (Spring in Fialta)


Yalta is the city where Chekhov lived in his last years and where Kuprin visited him. Dr Chekhov's Quina and Brom were the grandparents of Box II, the Nabokovs' final dachshund that followed them into exile (Speak, Memory, p. 40). En laid et en lard is the phrase that Ada used to address to Dack, the dachshund (dackel) at Ardis. Yalta is mentioned in Ada:


A small map of the European part of the British Commonwealth - say, from Scoto-Scandinavia to the Riviera, Altar and Palermontovia - as well as most of the U.S.A., from Estoty and Canady to Argentina, might be quite thickly prickled with enameled red-cross-flag pins, marking, in her War of the Worlds, Aqua's bivouacs. She had plans at one time to seek a modicum of health ('just a little grayishness, please, instead of the solid black') in such Anglo-American protectorates as the Balkans and Indias, and might even have tried the two Southern Continents that thrive under our joint dominion. Of course, Tartary, an independent inferno, which at the time spread from the Baltic and Black seas to the Pacific Ocean, was touristically unavailable, though Yalta and Altyn Tagh sounded strangely attractive... (1.3)
"The most rumpled of small flowers" is fialka (violet). Ada calls Violet Knox (old Van's typist) "Fialochka" (fialochka is a diminutive of fialka; 5.4). Violet's surname is pronounced like nox (Lat., night). Describing Lucette's suicide, Van mentions Oceanus Nox:
The sky was also heartless and dark, and her body, her head, and particularly those damned thirsty trousers, felt clogged with Oceanus Nox, n,o,x. (3.5)
The last thing Lucette sees in her life is a dackel in a half-torn wreath:
She saw a pair of new vair-furred bedroom slippers, which Brigitte had forgotten to pack; she saw Van wiping his mouth before answering, and then, still withholding the answer, throwing his napkin on the table as they both got up; and she saw a girl with long black hair quickly bend in passing to clap her hands over a dackel in a half-torn wreath. (ibid.)
Dack must be a grandson of the dog that accompanies Marina and Aqua in the hall of Demon's favorite hotel:
Next day Demon was having tea at his favorite hotel with a Bohemian lady whom he had never seen before and was never to see again (she desired his recommendation for a job in the Glass Fish-and-Flower department in a Boston museum) when she interrupted her voluble self to indicate Marina and Aqua, blankly slinking across the hall in modish sullenness and bluish furs with Dan Veen and a dackel behind, and said:
'Curious how that appalling actress resembles "Eve on the Clepsydrophone" in Parmigianino's famous picture.'
'It is anything but famous,' said Demon quietly, 'and you can't have seen it. I don't envy you,' he added; 'the naive stranger who realizes that he or she has stepped into the mud of an alien life must experience a pretty sickening feeling. Did you get that small-talk information directly from a fellow named d'Onsky or through a friend of a friend of his?'
'Friend of his,' replied the hapless Bohemian lady.
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. (1.2)
D'Onsky's name and nickname (Skonky, anagram of konsky, "of a horse") seem to hint at Onegin's Don stallion (donskoy zherebets) in Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. Onegin is another race horse in Kuprin's Izumrud. The hero of Kuprin's story Staff-Captain Rybnikov (1906) is a courageous Japanese spy in St. Petersburg. His name comes from ryba (fish).
Describing the family dinner in "Ardis the Second," Van mentions a scratch that his father received in a sword duel with d'Onsky, the Tigris-Euphrates valley and Dack's grandsire:
The alcohol his [Demon's] vigorous system had already imbibed was instrumental, as usual, in reopening what he gallicistically called condemned doors, and now as he gaped involuntarily as all men do while spreading a napkin, he considered Marina's pretentious ciel-étoilé hairdress and tried to realize (in the rare full sense of the word), tried to possess the reality of a fact by forcing it into the sensuous center, that here was a woman whom he had intolerably loved, who had loved him hysterically and skittishly, who insisted they make love on rugs and cushions laid on the floor ('as respectable people do in the Tigris-Euphrates valley'), who would woosh down fluffy slopes on a bobsleigh a fortnight after parturition, or arrive by the Orient Express with five trunks, Dack's grandsire, and a maid, to Dr Stella Ospenko's ospedale where he was recovering from a scratch received in a sword duel (and still visible as a white weal under his eighth rib after a lapse of nearly seventeen years). (1.38)
"The Tigris-Euphrates valley" brings to mind Mesopotamian history mentioned by Marina:
'When I was a little girl,' said Marina crossly, 'Mesopotamian history was taught practically in the nursery.'
'Not all little girls can learn what they are taught,' observed Ada.
'Are we Mesopotamians?' asked Lucette.
'We are Hippopotamians,' said Van. 'Come,' he added, 'we have not yet ploughed today.'
A day or two before, Lucette had demanded that she be taught to hand-walk. Van gripped her by her ankles while she slowly progressed on her little red palms, sometimes falling with a grunt on her face or pausing to nibble a daisy. Dack barked in strident protest. (1.14)
In Kuprin's story Belyi pudel' ("The White Poodle," 1904) Sergey (a young acrobat) performs before the audience walking on his hands. The (false) name of Sergey's old partner (the organ-grinder), Lodyzhkin, comes from lodyzhka (ankle). The action in the story takes place in the Crimea, near Yalta. Btw., in Chekhov's story Dama s sobachkoy ("The Lady with the Little Dog," 1899) Gurov first meets Anna Sergeevna in Yalta.
Alexey Sklyarenko
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