In the Kalugano hospital (where he recovers after his duel with Captain Tapper) Van Veen (the narrator and main character in VN’s novel Ada, 1969) meets Tatiana, a remarkably pretty and proud young nurse, and Dorofey, a beefy-handed male nurse:
For half a minute Van was sure that he still lay in the car, whereas actually he was in the general ward of Lakeview (Lakeview!) Hospital, between two series of variously bandaged, snoring, raving and moaning men. When he understood this, his first reaction was to demand indignantly that he be transferred to the best private palata in the place and that his suitcase and alpenstock be fetched from the Majestic. His next request was that he be told how seriously he was hurt and how long he was expected to remain incapacitated. His third action was to resume what constituted the sole reason of his having to visit Kalugano (visit Kalugano!). His new quarters, where heartbroken kings had tossed in transit, proved to be a replica in white of his hotel apartment — white furniture, white carpet, white sparver. Inset, so to speak, was Tatiana, a remarkably pretty and proud young nurse, with black hair and diaphanous skin (some of her attitudes and gestures, and that harmony between neck and eyes which is the special, scarcely yet investigated secret of feminine grace fantastically and agonizingly reminded him of Ada, and he sought escape from that image in a powerful response to the charms of Tatiana, a torturing angel in her own right. Enforced immobility forbade the chase and grab of common cartoons. He begged her to massage his legs but she tested him with one glance of her grave, dark eyes — and delegated the task to Dorofey, a beefy-handed male nurse, strong enough to lift him bodily out of bed. with the sick child clasping the massive nape. When Van managed once to twiddle her breasts, she warned him she would complain if he ever repeated what she dubbed more aptly than she thought ‘that soft dangle.’ An exhibition of his state with a humble appeal for a healing caress resulted in her drily remarking that distinguished gentlemen in public parks got quite lengthy prison terms for that sort of thing. However, much later, she wrote him a charming and melancholy letter in red ink on pink paper; but other emotions and events had intervened, and he never met her again). His suitcase promptly arrived from the hotel; the stick, however, could not be located (it must be climbing nowadays Wellington Mountain, or perhaps, helping a lady to go ‘brambling’ in Oregon); so the hospital supplied him with the Third Cane, a rather nice, knotty, cherry-dark thing with a crook and a solid black-rubber heel. Dr Fitzbishop congratulated him on having escaped with a superficial muscle wound, the bullet having lightly grooved or, if he might say so, grazed the greater serratus. Doc Fitz commented on Van’s wonderful recuperational power which was already in evidence, and promised to have him out of disinfectants and bandages in ten days or so if for the first three he remained as motionless as a felled tree-trunk. Did Van like music? Sportsmen usually did, didn’t they? Would he care to have a Sonorola by his bed? No, he disliked music, but did the doctor, being a concert-goer, know perhaps where a musician called Rack could be found? ‘Ward Five,’ answered the doctor promptly. Van misunderstood this as the title of some piece of music and repeated his question. Would he find Rack’s address at Harper’s music shop? Well, they used to rent a cottage way down Dorofey Road, near the forest, but now some other people had moved in. Ward Five was where hopeless cases were kept. The poor guy had always had a bad liver and a very indifferent heart, but on top of that a poison had seeped into his system; the local ‘lab’ could not identify it and they were now waiting for a report, on those curiously frog-green faeces, from the Luga people. If Rack had administered it to himself by his own hand, he kept ‘mum’; it was more likely the work of his wife who dabbled in Hindu-Andean voodoo stuff and had just had a complicated miscarriage in the maternity ward. Yes, triplets — how did he guess? Anyway, if Van was so eager to visit his old pal it would have to be as soon as he could be rolled to Ward Five in a wheelchair by Dorofey, so he’d better apply a bit of voodoo, ha-ha, on his own flesh and blood.
That day came soon enough. After a long journey down corridors where pretty little things tripped by, shaking thermometers, and first an ascent and then a descent in two different lifts, the second of which was very capacious with a metal-handled black lid propped against its wall and bits of holly or laurel here and there on the soap-smelling floor, Dorofey, like Onegin’s coachman, said priehali (‘we have arrived’) and gently propelled Van, past two screened beds, toward a third one near the window. There he left Van, while he seated himself at a small table in the door corner and leisurely unfolded the Russian-language newspaper Golos (Logos). (1.42)
In a canceled draft of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (One: LII: 11) Ivan (apparently, Onegin’s coachman) says: Priehali (Here we are)! In Chapter Four (XIV: 5) of EO Onegin, as he speaks to Tatiana, mentions his sovest’ (conscience):
Но я не создан для блаженства;
Ему чужда душа моя;
Напрасны ваши совершенства:
Их вовсе недостоин я.
Поверьте (совесть в том порукой),
Супружество нам будет мукой.
Я, сколько ни любил бы вас,
Привыкнув, разлюблю тотчас;
Начнёте плакать: ваши слёзы
Не тронут сердца моего,
А будут лишь бесить его.
Судите ж вы, какие розы
Нам заготовит Гименей
И, может быть, на много дней.
“But I'm not made for bliss;
my soul is strange to it;
in vain are your perfections:
I'm not at all worthy of them.
Believe me (conscience is thereof the pledge),
wedlock to us would be a torment.
However much I loved you,
having grown used, I'd cease to love at once;
you would begin to weep; your tears
would fail to touch my heart —
they merely would exasperate it.
Judge, then, what roses
Hymen would lay in store for us —
and, possibly, for many days!” (Four: XIV)
In Kurochkin’s fable Vorchun Dorofey (“The Grumbler Dorofey,” 1860) Dorofey is the name of the author’s conscience:
Иногда я тайком
«Всё бы ладно: житьё!
Только совесть... её
Мне Башуцкий помог.
Млад и стар,
Веселись - Фео - бог,
Дорос - дар;
Значит: совесть людей -
Имя рек -
Божий дар - Дорофей -
Я сошёлся с таким
Усмирил я врага
В моем доме слуга -
Совесть редко молчит;
Дорофей мой ворчит;
Дерзость сделает он
(Мой лакей!) -
Я сейчас: «Пошёл вон,
Я украл адамант.
«Стыдно вам! -
Заворчал мой педант!.. -
Бог и кара людей
- «Дорофей, Дорофей!
Я для бедных сбирал...
В свой карман;
«Жить нельзя!.. Ты злодей!
- «Дорофей, Дорофей!
Стал книжонки в народ;
«Ты морочишь людей,
- «Дорофей, Дорофей!
Местом он дорожит:
Он же выпить сердит -
И - что хочешь - готов
Будь покорен судьбе,
И бери - вот тебе -
Станет стыдно подчас,
Знай, что совесть у нас -
In his poem Kurochkin mentions kapital (the capital) and points out that the name Dorofey comes from Theo (God) and doros (gift). In VN’s novel Dar (“The Gift,” 1937) Fyodor (whose name also means “God’s gift”) quotes Goethe (who said, pointing with his cane at the starry sky: “there is my conscience”) and mentions his soul’s oborotnyi kapital (working capital):
Если в те дни ему пришлось бы отвечать перед каким-нибудь сверхчувственным судом (помните, как Гёте говаривал, показывая тростью на звёздное небо: "Вот моя совесть!"), то вряд ли бы он решился сказать, что любит её, -- ибо давно догадывался, что никому и ничему всецело отдать душу неспособен: оборотный капитал ему был слишком нужен для своих частных дел; но зато, глядя на нее, он сразу добирался (чтобы через минуту скатиться опять) до таких высот нежности, страсти и жалости, до которых редкая любовь доходит.
If, during those days, he had had to answer before some pretersensuous court (remember how Goethe said, pointing with his cane at the starry sky: “There is my conscience!”) he would scarcely have decided to say that he loved her—for he had long since realized that he was incapable of giving his entire soul to anyone or anything: its working capital was too necessary to him for his own private affairs; but on the other hand, when he looked at her he immediately reached (in order to fall off again a minute later) such heights of tenderness, passion and pity as are reached by few loves. (Chapter Three)
Among the minor writers mentioned by Fyodor in Chapter Four (“The Life of Chernyshevski”) of “The Gift” is Kurochkin:
Чернышевский приходил, садился за столик и пристукивая ладьей (которую называл "пушкой"), рассказывал невинные анекдоты. Приходил Серно-Соловьевич (тургеневское тире) и в уединённом углу заводил с кем-нибудь беседу. Было довольно пусто. Пьющая братия -- Помяловский, Курочкин, Кроль -- горланила в буфете. Первый, впрочем, кое-что проповедовал и своё: идею общинного литературного труда, -- организовать, мол, общество писателей-труженников для исследования разных сторон нашего общественного быта, как то: нищие, мелочные лавки, фонарщики, пожарные -- и все добытые сведения помещать в особом журнале. Чернышевский его высмеял, и пошёл вздорный слух, что Помяловский "бил ему морду". "Это враньё, я слишком вас уважаю для этого",-- писал к нему Помяловский.
Chernyshevski would come and sit at a table, tapping upon it with a rook (which he called a “castle”), and relate innocuous anecdotes. The radical Serno—Solovievich would arrive—(this is a Turgenevian dash) and strike up a conversation with someone in a secluded corner. It was fairly empty. The drinking fraternity—the minor writers Pomyalovski, Kurochkin, Krol—would vociferate in the bar. The first, by the way, did a little preaching of his own, promoting the idea of communal literary work—“Let’s organize,” he said, “a society of writer-laborers for investigating various aspects of our social life, such as: beggars, haberdashers, lamplighters, firemen—and pool in a special magazine all the material we get.” Chernyshevski derided him and a silly rumor went around to the effect that Pomyalovski had “bashed his mug in.” “It’s all lies, I respect you too much for that,” wrote Pomyalovski to him.
The starry sky mentioned by Goethe brings to mind “an underground observatory,” Van’s definition of artist:
‘I say, Dick, ever met a gambler in the States called Plunkett? Bald gray chap when I knew him.’
‘Plunkett? Plunkett? Must have been before my time. Was he the one who turned priest or something? Why?’
‘One of my father’s pals. Great artist.’
‘Yes, artist. I’m an artist. I suppose you think you’re an artist. Many people do.’
‘What on earth is an artist?’
‘An underground observatory,’ replied Van promptly.
‘That’s out of some modem novel,’ said Dick, discarding his cigarette after a few avid inhales.
‘That’s out of Van Veen,’ said Van Veen. (1.28)
Dick is a cardsharp who plays poker with Van and the French twins at Chose (Van’s English University) and who offers Van an introduction to the Venus Villa Club. Before accepting Dick’s offer, Van tussles with his slightly overweight conscience:
Van fumed and fretted the rest of the morning, and after a long soak in a hot bath (the best adviser, and prompter and inspirer in the world, except, of course, the W.C. seat) decided to pen — pen is the word — a note of apology to the cheated cheater. As he was dressing, a messenger brought him a note from Lord C. (he was a cousin of one of Van’s Riverlane schoolmates), in which generous Dick proposed to substitute for his debt an introduction to the Venus Villa Club to which his whole clan belonged. Such a bounty no boy of eighteen could hope to obtain. It was a ticket to paradise. Van tussled with his slightly overweight conscience (both grinning like old pals in their old gymnasium) — and accepted Dick’s offer. (ibid.)
Five or six years later, when Van meets Dick in Monte Carlo, Dick mentions a microscopic point of euphorion, a precious metal:
He did not ‘twinkle’ long after that. Five or six years later, in Monte Carlo, Van was passing by an open-air café when a hand grabbed him by the elbow, and a radiant, ruddy, comparatively respectable Dick C. leaned toward him over the petunias of the latticed balustrade:
‘Van,’ he cried, ‘I’ve given up all that looking-glass dung, congratulate me! Listen: the only safe way is to mark ‘em! Wait, that’s not all, can you imagine, they’ve invented a microscopic — and I mean microscopic — point of euphorion, a precious metal, to insert under your thumbnail, you can’t see it with the naked eye, but one minuscule section of your monocle is made to magnify the mark you make with it, like killing a flea, on one card after another, as they come along in the game, that’s the beauty of it, no preparations, no props, nothing! Mark ‘em! Mark ‘em!’ good Dick was still shouting, as Van walked away. (ibid.)
In Part Two of Goethe’s Faust Euphorion is Faust’s son. “Mark ‘em!” (Dick’s advice) seems to hint at Mark Aldanov. In Aldanov’s novel Bred (“Delirium,” 1955) the Soviet colonel calls the Brits asei (pl. of asey, “I say” in Russian spelling). According to Fyodor, in his predsmertnyi bred (deathbed delirium) Chernyshevski mentioned mikroskopicheskaya chastichka gnoya (a microscopic part of pus):
Так он бредил долго, от воображаемого Вебера перескакивая на какие-то воображаемые свои мемуары, кропотливо рассуждая о том, что "самая маленькая судьба этого человека решена, ему нет спасения... В его крови найдена хоть микроскопическая частичка гноя, судьба его решена...". О себе ли он говорил, в себе ли почувствовал эту частичку, тайно испортившую всё то, что он за жизнь свою сделал и испытал? Мыслитель, труженик, светлый ум, населявший свои утопии армией стенографистов, - он теперь дождался того, что его бред записал секретарь. В ночь на 17-ое с ним был удар, - чувствовал, что язык во рту какой-то толстый; после чего вскоре скончался. Последними его словами (в 3 часа утра, 16-го) было: "Странное дело: в этой книге ни разу не упоминается о Боге". Жаль, что мы не знаем, какую именно книгу он про себя читал.
Thus he rambled on for a long time, jumping from an imaginary Weber to some imaginary memoirs of his own, laboriously discoursing about the fact that “the smallest fate of this man has been decided, there is no salvation for him… Although microscopic, a tiny particle of pus has been found in his blood, his fate has been decided …” Was he talking about himself, was it in himself that he felt this tiny particle that had kept mysteriously impairing all he did and experienced in life? A thinker, a toiler, a lucid mind, populating his utopias with an army of stenographers—he had now lived to see his delirium taken down by a secretary. On the night of the 16th he had a stroke—he felt the tongue in his mouth to be somehow thick; after which he soon died. His last words (at 3 A.M. on the 17th) were: “A strange business: in this book there is not a single mention of God.” It is a pity that we do not know precisely which book he was reading to himself. (“The Gift,” Chapter Four)
Describing his novel Letters from Terra, Van mentions the pus of a Mr Nekto’s ripe boil newly lanced in Nektor or Neckton:
There were good reasons to disregard the technological details involved in delineating intercommunication between Terra the Fair and our terrible Antiterra. His knowledge of physics, mechanicalism and that sort of stuff had remained limited to the scratch of a prep-school blackboard. He consoled himself with the thought that no censor in America or Great Britain would pass the slightest reference to ‘magnetic’ gewgaws. Quietly, he borrowed what his greatest forerunners (Counterstone, for example) had imagined in the way of a manned capsule’s propulsion, including the clever idea of an initial speed of a few thousand miles per hour increasing, under the influence of a Counterstonian type of intermediate environment between sibling galaxies, to several trillions of light-years per second, before dwindling harmlessly to a parachute’s indolent descent. Elaborating anew, in irrational fabrications, all that Cyraniana and ‘physics fiction’ would have been not only a bore but an absurdity, for nobody knew how far Terra, or other innumerable planets with cottages and cows, might be situated in outer or inner space: ‘inner,’ because why not assume their microcosmic presence in the golden globules ascending quick-quick in this flute of Moët or in the corpuscles of my, Van Veen’s —
(or my, Ada Veen’s)
— bloodstream, or in the pus of a Mr Nekto’s ripe boil newly lanced in Nektor or Neckton. (2.2)
In Chapter Four (XLV: 1-2) of EO Pushkin mentions of Veuve Cliquot or of Moët the blesséd wine:
Вдовы Клико или Моэта
В бутылке мёрзлой для поэта
На стол тотчас принесено.
Оно сверкает Ипокреной; 25
Оно своей игрой и пеной
Меня пленяло: за него
Последний бедный лепт, бывало,
Давал я. Помните ль, друзья?
Его волшебная струя
Рождала глупостей не мало,
А сколько шуток и стихов,
И споров, и весёлых снов!
Of Veuve Clicquot or of Moët
the blesséd wine
in a chilled bottle for the poet
is brought at once upon the table.
It sparkles Hippocrenelike;25
with its briskness and froth
(a simile of this and that)
it used to captivate me: for its sake
my last poor lepton I was wont
to give away — remember, friends?
Its magic stream engendered
no dearth of foolishness,
but also lots of jokes, and verses,
and arguments, and merry dreams!
In note 25 Pushkin quotes his poem in which poeticheskiy ai (the poetical Ay) is mentioned:
В лета красные мои
Нравился мне пеной шумной,
Сим подобием любви
Или юности безумной, и проч.
(Послание к Л. П.)
In my rosy years
the poetical Ay
pleased me with its noisy foam,
with this simile of love,
or of frantic youth…
(“Epistle to L. P.”)
Ai is the champagne that Van, Ada and Lucette drink at ‘Ursus:’
Knowing how fond his sisters were of Russian fare and Russian floor shows, Van took them Saturday night to ‘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. Their mouths ‘echoed’ in tone (but not tint) each other’s lipstick; their eyes were made up in a ‘surprised bird-of-paradise’ style that was as fashionable in Los as in Lute. Mixed metaphors and double-talk became all three Veens, the children of Venus.
The uha, the shashlik, the Ai were facile and familiar successes; but the old songs had a peculiar poignancy owing to the participation of a Lyaskan contralto and a Banff bass, renowned performers of Russian ‘romances,’ with a touch of heart-wringing tsiganshchina vibrating through Grigoriev and Glinka. And there was Flora, a slender, hardly nubile, half-naked music-hall dancer of uncertain origin (Rumanian? Romany? Ramseyan?) whose ravishing services Van had availed himself of several times in the fall of that year. (2.8)
Ursus is a character in Victor Hugo’s novel L’Homme qui rit (“The Man who Laughs,” 1869). In Chapter Four of “The Gift” Fyodor mentions Kostomarov’s translations from Hugo:
У нас есть три точки: Ч, К, П. Проводится один катет, ЧК. К Чернышевскому власти подобрали отставного уланского корнета Владислава Дмитриевича Костомарова, ещё в августе прошлого года, в Москве, за тайное печатание возмутительных изданий разжалованного в рядовые, – человека с безуминкой, с печоринкой, при этом стихотворца: он оставил в литературе сколопендровый след, как переводчик иностранных поэтов. Проводится другой катет, КП. Писарев в «Русском Слове» пишет об этих переводах, браня автора за «драгоценная тиара занялась на нём как фара» («из Гюго») хваля за «простую и сердечную» передачу куплетов Бернса («прежде всего, прежде всего да будут все честны… Молитесь все… чтоб человеку человек был брат прежде всего»), а по поводу того, что Костомаров доносит читателю, что Гейне умер нераскаянным грешником, критик ехидно советует «грозному обличителю» «полюбоваться на собственную общественную деятельность». Ненормальность Костомарова сказывалась в витиеватой графомании, в бессмысленном, лунатическом (даром, что на заказ) составлении подложных писем с нанизанными французскими фразами; наконец, в застеночной игривости: свои донесения Путилину (сыщику) он подписывал: «Феофан Отченашенко» или «Венцеслав Лютый». Да и был он действительно лют в своей молчаливой мрачности, фатален и лжив, хвастлив и придавлен. Наделенный курьезными способностями, он умел писать женским почерком, – сам объясняя это тем, что в нем «в полнолуние гащивает душа царицы Тамары». Множественность почерков в придачу к тому обстоятельству (еще одна шутка судьбы!), что его обычная рука напоминала руку Чернышевского, значительно повышала цену этого сонного предателя. Для косвенного подтверждения того, что воззвание «К барским крестьянам» написано Чернышевским, Костомарову было задано во-первых изготовить записочку, будто бы от Чернышевского, содержащую просьбу изменить одно слово в этом воззвании; а во-вторых – письмо (к «Алексею Николаевичу»), в котором находилось бы доказательство деятельного участия Чернышевского в революционном движении. То и другое Костомаров и состряпал. Подделка почерка совершенно очевидна: в начале она ещё старательна, но потом фальсификатору работа как бы надоела, и он торопится кончить: взять хотя бы слово «я», которое в подлинных рукописях Чернышевского кончается отводной чертой прямой и твёрдой, – даже слегка загибающейся в правую сторону, – а тут, в подложном письме, эта черта с какой-то странной лихостью загибается влево, к голове, словно буква козыряет.
We have three points: C, K, P. A cathetus is drawn, CK. To offset Chernyshevski, the authorities picked out a retired Uhlan cornet, Vladislav Dmitrievich Kostomarov, who the previous August in Moscow had been reduced to the ranks for printing seditious publications—a man with a touch of madness and a pinch of Pechorinism about him, and also a verse-maker: he left a scolopendrine trace in literature as the translator of foreign poets. Another cathetus is drawn, KP. The critic Pisarev in the periodical The Russian Word writes about these translations, scolding the author for “The magnificent tiara’s Coruscation like a pharos” [from Hugo], praising his “simple and heartfelt” rendering of some lines by Burns (which came out as “And first of all, and first of all / Let all men honest be / Let’s pray that man be to each man / A brother first of all… etc.), and in connection with Kostomarov’s report to his readers that Heine died an unrepentant sinner, the critic roguishly advises the “grim denouncer” to “take a good look at his own public activities.” Kostomarov’s derangement was evidenced in his florid graphomania, in the senseless somnambulistic (even though made-to-order) composition of counterfeit letters studded with French phrases; and finally in his macabre playfulness: he signed his reports to Putilin (a detective): Feofan Otchenashenko (Theophanus Ourfatherson) or Ventseslav Lyutyy (Wenceslaus the Fiend). And, indeed, he was fiendish in his taciturnity, funest and false, boastful and cringing. Endowed with curious abilities, he could write in a feminine hand—explaining this himself by the fact that he was “visited at the full moon by the spirit of Queen Tamara.” The plurality of hands he could imitate in addition to the circumstance (yet one more of destiny’s jokes) that his normal handwriting recalled that of Chernyshevski considerably heightened the value of this hypnotic betrayer. For indirect evidence that the appeal proclamation “To the Serfs of Landowners” had been written by Chernyshevski, Kostomarov was given, first, the task of fabricating a note, allegedly from Chernyshevski, containing a request to alter one word in the appeal; and, secondly, of preparing a letter (to “Aleksey Nikolaevich”) that would furnish proof of Chernyshevski’s active participation in the revolutionary movement. Both the one and the other were then and there concocted by Kostomarov. The forgery of the handwriting is quite evident: at the beginning the forger still took pains but then he seems to have grown bored by the work and to be in a hurry to get it over: to take but the word “I,” ya (formed in Russian script somewhat like a proofreader’s dele). In Chernyshevski’s genuine manuscripts it ends with an outgoing stroke which is straight and strong—and even curves a little to the right—while here, in the forgery, this stroke curves with a kind of queer jauntiness to the left, toward the head, as if the ya were saluting.
The characters of “The Gift” include the poet Koncheyev. His name brings to mind the Russian word for “infinity,” beskonechnost’. In a letter to Van Ada mentions Marina’s new director of artistic conscience who defines Infinity as the farthest point from the camera which is still in fair focus:
Marina’s new director of artistic conscience defines Infinity as the farthest point from the camera which is still in fair focus. She has been cast as the deaf nun Varvara (who, in some ways, is the most interesting of Chekhov’s Four Sisters). She sticks to Stan’s principle of having lore and rôle overflow into everyday life, insists on keeping it up at the hotel restaurant, drinks tea v prikusku (‘biting sugar between sips’), and feigns to misunderstand every question in Varvara’s quaint way of feigning stupidity — a double imbroglio, which annoys strangers but which somehow makes me feel I’m her daughter much more distinctly than in the Ardis era. (2.1)
In Chekhov ‘s story O zhenshchinakh (“On Women,” 1886) the eloquent misogynist mentions the department watchman Dorofey:
Логика женщины вошла в поговорку. Когда какой-нибудь надворный советник Анафемский или департаментский сторож Дорофей заводят речь о Бисмарке или о пользе наук, то любо послушать их: приятно и умилительно; когда же чья-нибудь супруга, за неимением других тем, начинает говорить о детях или пьянстве мужа, то какой супруг воздержится, чтобы не воскликнуть: «Затарантила таранта! Ну, да и логика же, господи, прости ты меня грешного!»
Describing the family dinner in Ardis the Second, Van mentions the soft focus sought by ripe stars, Marina’s pretentious ciel-etoil hairdress and Dr Stella Ospenko’s ospedale:
It was now Marina’s turn to make her entrée, which she did in excellent chiaroscuro circumstances, wearing a spangled dress, her face in the soft focus sought by ripe stars, holding out both arms and followed by Jones, who carried two flambeaux and kept trying to keep within the limits of decorum the odd little go-away kicks he was aiming backwards at a brown flurry in the shadows. (1.38)
Demon popped into his mouth a last morsel of black bread with elastic samlet, gulped down a last pony of vodka and took his place at the table with Marina facing him across its oblong length, beyond the great bronze bowl with carved-looking Calville apples and elongated Persty grapes. The alcohol his 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). How strange that when one met after a long separation a chum or fat aunt whom one had been fond of as a child the unimpaired human warmth of the friendship was rediscovered at once, but with an old mistress this never happened — the human part of one’s affection seemed to be swept away with the dust of the inhuman passion, in a wholesale operation of demolishment. He looked at her and acknowledged the perfection of the potage, but she, this rather thick-set woman, goodhearted, no doubt, but restive and sour-faced, glazed over, nose, forehead and all, with a sort of brownish oil that she considered to be more ‘juvenizing’ than powder, was more of a stranger to him than Bouteillan who had once carried her in his arms, in a feigned faint, out of a Ladore villa and into a cab, after a final, quite final row, on the eve of her wedding. (ibid.)