Death and Venice
... but the Basilica San Marco was too insanely everything that trade, in its strenuous irrelevance to dream, could never admit.
Whatever doubt the reader may have had as to whether Kit had seen Foley Walker in Göttingen, way back on pg. 619, is cleared up (indeed he did) in the opening sentence here.
Foley is traveling with Vibe, while the plutocrat tours northern Italy on a Renaissance Art buying spree, a trip which includes a visit to the bottom of the Venice lagoon, with Vibe in a diving suit, to consider a sunken mural, The Sack of Rome, yet another one of the novel's apparently flat graphic representations of the world which can tremble without warning into three dimensions.
Up on the dive boat, Foley's hands, with a certain Strangelovian will of their own, threaten to plug his boss' air intake, while Kit and Reef watch, unaware, with a pair of binoculars from the shore. They are looking to gauge an opportunity to kill Vibe, but even so bicker over intent.
Meanwhile, Dally Rideout has settled comfortably into the Ca' Spongiatosta (In growing accustomed to life there, we learn a couple pages further on, Dally has witnessed the comings and goings of the princess' many and varied lovers, as well as the mysterious departures and arrivals of the prince, who has some kind of working relationship with Derrick Theign.) Dally's now doing some cooking and marketing for the household, in the course of which one day she runs into Kit and Reef who are, she twigs, up to something. Rebuffed when she asks the boys what that might be, she stalks off.
Later the same day, out strolling with Hunter Penhallow, Dally again runs into Reef, now in the company of Ruperta Chirpingdon-Groin, who herself apparently shares an intimate history with Penhallow (which by the next evening seems to have been resumed.) Dally meets the Traverses yet again that marketing day, and now hears of their intention to, somehow, bump off Vibe, which she's long suspected has been on Kit's mind. Once the deed is done, Kit says, his immediate destination will be Inner Asia (and see ya later, Miss Rideout.)
Cazzo, cazzo. . . she thinks.
The princess advises her to forget him. There is a ball the next night at the Palazzo Angulozor (Ass sore, perhaps?). The princess will lend her a gown, introduce her to some rich guys.
By the next noon, Ruperta departs for Marienbad, Reef replaced with Penhallow. Dally and the Traverses go over firearms and tactics for killing Vibe. She advises gut shooting him, then takes the brothers to meet the local anarchist cell of Tancredi and his pals, Mascaregna and Pugliese, who already have Vibe in their sights, looking to call him to account for his many deep sins.
Turns out that Vibe is expected at the Angulozor bash, and that next afternoon the three Americans drink grappa and plot, as an ill wind blows outside.
That night as Vibe appears under the electric lights at the party's canal landing, he is rapidly approached by an apparently empty-handed Tancredi, who, because he refuses a command to stop, is immediately shot down by a cadre of hired gunmen, to the immense delight of Vibe who, after telling his guards to deface the corpse, sees Kit in the crowd watching him, and smirks.
Later on Vibe encounters Foley dancing wildly with three local girls, grateful, Foley says, that Vibe was spared - though, we are led to see, for what might indeed be a more personal future reckoning.
In preparing to blow town in separate directions, Reef and Kit argue as only brothers can, and part ways with no small ill will, born of jealousy and class.
The section finishes as Dally sees Kit off on the night steamer to Trieste, another poignant embarkation for parts unknown in a novel chock full of them.
Some things to consider:
Venice is yet another of our author's V locations, that is, a place where his characters seem to tumble one on top of another, as if directed down a funnel to the same point. Though supposed to have been built on trade (732:13), the city has an extravagant mystery and illogic, glimpsed already at several junctures in the book, at odds with the new machines of 20th century capital.
It is an element of this strange power, perhaps, with which Tancredi seeks to confront Vibe, an infernal machine which Tancredi alone could sense (742:28). We may parse the meanings in that very dense paragraph on pg. 742, though in so many words, I think, Tancredi's invisible weapon is a sort of holy anger which, fatally, blinds him to the reach of the victorious Vibe's worldly power.
And what to make of that old veteran of a war that nobody knew about (576:38), Hunter Penhollow? We learn, maybe, that he had disappeared from England years before during a cricket match, along with the rest of his team (his batting total was 87 and he was still at the crease when play was called for lack of light), and he decamps once again without a word. Demmed elusive cove, if you ask me.
Before departing, though, he warns Dally, and all within earshot, of mistaking confusion for depth. Like a canvas that gives the illusion of an extra dimension, yet each layer taken by itself is almost transparently shallow. (731:19-21)