Ada strolled up. 'My hero,' she said, hardly looking at him, with that inscrutable air she had that let one guess whether she expressed sarcasm or ecstasy, or a parody of one or the other.
Lucette, swinging her mushroom basket, chanted:
'He screwed off a nipple,
He left him a cripple...'
'Lucy Veen, stop that!' shouted Ada at the imp; and Van with a show of great indignation, shook the little wrist he held, while twinkling drolly at Ada on his other side. (1.39)
Pecy de Prey, Ada's lover whom Van "left a cripple" in a scuffle, is associated with Malbrook (the hero of a once popular song). In Aldanov's Klyuch ("The Key") Fedosiev, as he speaks to Braun, compares the Russian government and public to the two ballet dancers who might be helpless cripples merrily playing Malbrooks:
"Правительство наше и наша общественность напоминают мне ту фигуру балета, когда два танцовщика, изображая удалых молодцов, с этаким задорным видом, с самой хитрой победоносной улыбкой то наскакивают друг на друга, то вновь отскакивают, подняв ручку и этак замысловато семеня ножками. Меня эта фигура и в балете всегда очень смешила. Ну, а если подумать, что здесь не удалые молодцы, а беспомощные калеки так весело изображают ухарей!.. Скоро Мальбруки сойдутся, будет «сильно комическая, тысяча метров, гомерический хохот в зале»… Кровавый водевиль, но водевиль." (Part Two, chapter XIII)
In 'Ursus' (the best Franco-Estotian restaurant in Manhattan Major) both young ladies wore the very short and open evening gowns that Vass 'miraged' that season - in the phrase of that season: Ada, a gauzy black, Lucette, a lustrous cantharid green. (2.8)
Cantharis (Spanish fly) is a common European blister beetle, Cantharis (Lytta) vesicatoria. As he speaks to Fedosiev (the head of Tsar's secret police who ends up as a Catholic monk in emigration), Braun (a distinguished chemist) mentions cantharidin, a poison about which little is known:
"Есть яды, которые веселящимися людьми употребляются с особой целью. Тогда ваше возражение падает. Вполне возможно и правдоподобно, что, отправляясь на ту квартиру, Фишер принял одно из таких средств. Да вот кантаридин. Есть такой яд особого назначения, ангидрид кантаридиновой кислоты… Он вообще мало изучен, и немногочисленные исследователи чрезвычайно расходятся насчёт того, какова смертельная доза этого вещества. Яд этот должен был бы дать при вскрытии приблизительно те же симптомы, что и «белладонна»." ("The Key," Part Two, Chapter XV)
Braun compares cantharidin to the belladonna.
According to Dr Fitzbishop, Philip Rack (Lucette's music teacher and another lover of Ada) was poisoned by his wife Elsie who "dabbled in Hindoo-Andean voodoo stuff" (1.42). While Rack's name hints at the Spanish inquisition, his profession brings to mind Beethoven, the hero of Aldanov's tale Desyataya Simfoniya ("The Tenth Symphony," 1931). Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 (1805) is also known as "Heroic Symphony" (cf. Ada's "my hero"). Elsie = Elise. For Elise (Bagatelle No. 25 A minor for solo piano) is one of Ludwig van Beethoven's most popular compositions.
Lucette's cantharid green dress brings to mind the rare green garnet in the bracelet that in Kuprin's novella "The Garnet Bracelet" (1911) Zhelkov gives to Vera Nikolaevna.
The name Zheltkov comes from zheltok (yolk), and zheltok comes from zhyoltyi (yellow). When Van revists Ardis, he notices three girls (one of them is Cordula de Prey) wearing yellow-blue Vass frocks:
Three young ladies in yellow-blue Vass frocks with fashionable rainbow sashes surrounded a stoutish, foppish, baldish young man [Percy de Prey] who stood, a flute of champagne in his hand, glancing down from the drawing-room terrace at a girl in black with bare arms: an old runabout, shivering at every jerk, was being cranked up by a hoary chauffeur in front of the porch, and those bare arms, stretched wide, were holding outspread the white cape of Baroness von Skull, a grand-aunt of hers. (1.31)
Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Yellow-blue Vass: the phrase is consonant with ya lyublyu vas ('I love you' in Russian).
Kuprin's novella has the following epigraph:
L. van Beethoven. 2 Son. (ор. 2, N 2).
Largo Appassionato
In his review of Aldanov's Peshchera ("The Cave") VN speaks of the refined muzykal'nost' (musical charm, melodiousness) of the author's thought:
Думaю, что не всякий, проглотив этот второй том "Пещеры" (Алдaновым библиофaг питaется неряшливо и торопливо), оценит полностью очaровaтельную прaвильность строения, изыскaнную музыкaльность aвторской мысли.
In 'Ursus' the music makes Van and Ada weep and Lucette give way to her feelings:
Presently, the long sobs of the violins began to affect and almost choke Van and Ada: a juvenile conditioning of romantic appeal, which at one moment forced tearful Ada to go and 'powder her nose' while Van stood up with a spasmodic sob, which he cursed but could not control. He went back to whatever he was eating, and cruelly stroked Lucette's apricot-bloomed forearm, and she said in Russian 'I'm drunk, and all that, but I adore (obozhayu), I adore, I adore, I adore more than life you, you (tebya, tebya), I ache for you unbearably (ya toskuyu po tebe nevïnosimo), and, please, don't let me swill (hlestat') champagne any more, not only because I will jump into Goodson River if I can't hope to have you, and not only because of the physical red thing - your heart was almost ripped out, my poor dushen'ka ('darling,' more than 'darling'), it looked to me at least eight inches long -'
'Seven and a half,' murmured modest Van, whose hearing the music impaired.
'- but because you are Van, all Van, and nothing but Van, skin and scar, the only truth of our only life, of my accursed life, Van, Van, Van.' (2.8)
According to "Miss Condor," Van resembles her friend Vivian Vale, the couturier:
'I was told,' she explained, 'that a great friend of mine, Vivian Vale, the cootooriay - voozavay entendue? - had shaved his beard, in which case he'd look rather like you, right?'
'Logically, no, ma'am,' replied Van.
She hesitated for the flirt of a second, licking her lips, not knowing whether he was being rude or ready - and here Lucette returned for her Rosepetals.
'See you aprey,' said Miss Condor. (3.5)
In the second part of Aldanov's trilogy, Begstvo ("The Escape," 1932), Musya Kremenetsky marries Vivian Clareville, an English officer (major) in St. Petersburg.
Cordula is the daughter of an obscure Major de Prey obscurely related to Percy de Prey's father.
Demon to Van: 'My suggestion is, come with me to a cocktail party today. It is given by the excellent widow of an obscure Major de Prey - obscurely related to our late neighbor, a fine shot but the light was bad on the Common, and a meddlesome garbage collector hollered at the wrong moment. Well, that excellent and influential lady who wishes to help a friend of mine' (clearing his throat) 'has, I'm told, a daughter of fifteen summers, called Cordula, who is sure to recompense you for playing Blindman's Buff all summer with the babes of Ardis Wood.' (1.27)
Percy's father was killed in a pistol duel with Moses de Vere (Demon Veen was one of the seconds).
Demon to Van: 'At the races, the other day, I was talking to a woman I preyed upon years ago, oh long before Moses de Vere cuckolded her husband in my absence and shot him dead in my presence - an epigram you've heard before, no doubt from these very lips -'
(The next thing will be 'paternal repetitiousness.')
'- but a good son should put up with a little paternal repetitiousness - Well, she tells me her boy and Ada see a lot of each other, et cetera. Is that true?' (1.38)
According to Van, his mother was a dancing girl in India "long before Moses or anybody was born in the lotus swamp:"
Now Lucette demanded her mother's attention.
'What are Jews?' she asked.
'Dissident Christians,' answered Marina.
'Why is Greg a Jew?' asked Lucette.
'Why-why!' said Marina; 'because his parents are Jews.'
'And his grandparents? His arrière grandparents?'
'I really wouldn't know, my dear. Were your ancestors Jews, Greg?'
'Well, I'm not sure,' said Greg. 'Hebrews, yes - but not Jews in quotes - I mean, not comic characters or Christian businessmen. They came from Tartary to England five centuries ago. My mother's grandfather, though, was a French marquis who, I know, belonged to the Roman faith and was crazy about banks and stocks and jewels, so I imagine people may have called him un juif.'
'It's not a very old religion, anyway, as religions go, is it?' said Marina (turning to Van and vaguely planning to steer the chat to India where she had been a dancing girl long before Moses or anybody was born in the lotus swamp). (1.14)
Mark Landau (Aldanov's real name) was Jewish. He was born in Kiev in 1886.
Ada had declined to invite anybody except the Erminin twins to her picnic; but she had had no intention of inviting the brother without the sister. The latter, it turned out, could not come, having gone to New Cranton to see a young drummer, her first boy friend, sail off into the sunrise with his regiment. But Greg had to be asked to come after all: on the previous day he had called on her bringing a 'talisman' from his very sick father, who wanted Ada to treasure as much as his grandam had a little camel of yellow ivory carved in Kiev, five centuries ago, in the days of Timur and Nabok. (1.39)
Grace Erminin marries a Wellington (2.6). Erminia was the nickname of Kutuzov's daughter Eliza Hitrovo (who was hopelessly in love with Pushkin). Kutuzov and Wellington fighted against Napoleon. Aldanov is the author of novels about the Napoleonic wars.
Praskovia de Prey (Percy's mother) was born Lanskoy (1.40). Pushkin's widow Natalia Nikolaevna (whose sister Ekaterina had married d'Anthès, Pushkin's adversary in his fatal duel) married Colonel Peter Lanskoy.  
Alexey Sklyarenko
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