فصل 10

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فصل 10

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Chapter ten

New Lives

After the scene in the Fertilizing Room, all upper-class London was anxious to see this funny creature who had fallen on his knees before the Director of Hatching and Conditioning - or rather the ex-Director, for the poor man had resigned immediately afterwards and never set foot inside the Centre again - had fallen on his knees and called him (the joke was almost too good to be true!) ‘my father’. Linda, on the other hand, was of no interest at all to them. Nobody had the smallest desire to see Linda. To say one was a mother - that was no joke, it was disgusting. Moreover, she wasn’t a real savage. She had come out of a bottle and been conditioned like anyone else, so she couldn’t have any unusual ideas. Lastly - and this was by far the strongest reason for people’s not wanting to see poor Linda - there was her appearance. Fat, having lost her youth, with a discoloured skin, bad teeth and that figure (Ford!) - you simply couldn’t look at her without feeling sick, yes, really sick. So the best people were quite determined not to see Linda. And Linda, for her part, had no desire to see them. The return to civilization was for her the return to soma, the possibility of lying in bed and taking holiday after holiday, without ever having to come back to a headache or sickness, without ever being made to feel as you always felt after mescal, as though you’d done something so shameful that you could never hold up your head again. Soma played none of these unpleasant tricks. The holiday it gave was perfect, and if waking up from it was unpleasant, it was so not in itself but only by comparison with the joys of the holiday. The answer was to make the holiday continuous. She demanded larger and more frequent amounts of soma. Dr Shaw was at first unwilling, then he let her have what she wanted. She took as much as 20 grams a day, many times more than the usual quantity.

‘Which will finish her off in a month or two,’ the doctor told Bernard in confidence. ‘One day she will just stop breathing. Finished. And a good thing too. We can’t make her young again.’ Surprisingly, as everyone thought (for on a serna-holiday Linda was most conveniently out of the way), John objected to this treatment.

‘But aren’t you shortening her life by giving her so much?’

‘In one sense, yes,’ Dr Shaw admitted. ‘But in another we’re actually lengthening it.’

The young man stared at him questioningly.

‘Soma may make you lose a few years in time,’ the doctor went on. ‘But think of the enormous periods it can give you out of time. And as she hasn’t got any serious work to do…’

‘All the same,’ John argued, ‘I don’t believe it’s right.’

The doctor waved his hand impatiently. ‘Well, of course, if you’d rather have her crying and shouting for it all the time…’

In the end John was forced to give in. Linda got her soma. From then on she remained in her little room on the thirty- seventh floor of Bernard’s apartment house, with the radio and television on and the soma tablets within reach of her hand.

It was John, then, that they all wanted to meet. And as it was only through Bernard that John could be seen, Bernard became popular for the first time in his life. Everybody tried to get invitations to his parties to meet the Savage, and, as he told his friend Helmholtz, he could have as many girls as he liked just for the favour of asking them round to his apartment.

‘Lighter than air,’ said Bernard, pointing upwards.

In the sky, high, high above them, the Weather Department’s balloon shone pink in the sunshine.

‘…the Savage,’ so said Bernard’s instructions, ‘is to be shown civilized life in all its aspects.’

He was being shown a bird’s-eye view of it at present, a bird’s- eye view from the platform of the Charing-T Tower. The Station Master and the station’s Chief Weather Expert were acting as guides. But it was Bernard who did most of the talking. Filled with his new importance, he was behaving as though, at the very least, he were a visiting World Controller. Lighter than air.

The Bombay Green Rocket dropped out of the sky. The passengers stepped out of the machine. Eight dark-skinned twins in light brown looked out of the eight windows - the stewards.

‘Twelve hundred and fifty kilometres an hour,’ said the Station Master proudly. ‘What do you think of that, Mr Savage?’

John thought it very nice. ‘Still,’ he said, ‘Ariel could fly round the earth in 40 minutes.’

‘The Savage,’ wrote Bernard in his report to Mustapha Mond, ‘shows little surprise for or admiration of civilized inventions. This is partly due, no doubt, to the fact that he has heard them talked about by the woman Linda, his m-‘

(Mustapha Mond made a face. ‘Does the silly man think I should be shocked by the word written out in full?’)

‘His interest is centred on what he calls “the soul”, which he regards as something entirely independent of the body, although, as I tried to point out to him…’

The Controller glanced quickly over the next sentences and was just about to turn the page in search of something more definite and more interesting, when his eye was caught by a series of quite extraordinary phrases…

.. though I must admit,’ he read, ‘that I agree with the Savage in finding civilized infantility too easy or, as he puts it, not expensive enough; and I would like to take this opportunity of drawing your hardship’s attention to..

Mustapha Mond’s anger gave place almost at once to amusement. The idea of this creature trying to teach him - him - about the social order was really too ridiculous. The man must have gone mad. ‘I ought to give him a lesson,’ he said to himself, and laughed out loud. The lesson would be given later.

‘The Savage,’ wrote Bernard, ‘refuses to take soma, and seems very upset because the woman Linda, his m- remains permanently on holiday. It is worth noting that, in spite of the weak mental state of his m- and the extreme ugliness of her appearance, the Savage frequently goes to see her and appears to be much attached to her - an interesting example of the way in which early conditioning can be made to change and even run against natural responses (in this case, the natural response to draw back from an unpleasant object).’

Lenina came singing into the Changing Room.

‘You seem very pleased with yourself,’ said Fanny.

‘I am pleased,’ she answered. ‘Bernard telephoned half an hour ago. He has an unexpected engagement and he asked me to take the Savage to the cinema this evening. I must hurry.’ She ran off towards the bathroom.

‘She’s a lucky girl,’ said Fanny to herself as she watched Lenina go.

Sunk in their deep, comfortable armchairs, Lenina and the Savage listened to the music of the electric organ. Soon the lights went down and the film began, with the figures on the screen in lifelike colours but many times larger than life-size.

The story of the film was extremely simple. It was called Three Weeks in a Helicopter. A young black man fell out of a helicopter on to his head, went mad, and lost control of his feelings. He developed a passion for a lovely golden-haired young Beta-Plus girl. She refused to listen to him or to have anything to do with him. He seized her and, in spite of her struggles, threw her into his helicopter and flew up with her into the sky where he kept her for three weeks, trying to make her give in to his passion. Finally, after a whole series of adventures including some exciting scenes in the air, three good-looking young Alphas succeeded in saving her. The black man was sent off to a Reconditioning Centre and the film ended in a proper and conventional manner, with the Beta girl going to bed with all her three heroes one after the other. The picture died away, the lights came on and the music filled the cinema again. It was the end of the performance.

But for Lenina it was not quite the end. As they moved slowly along with the crowd towards the lifts she still felt emotions that the film had woken in her. Her cheeks were red, her eyes were bright and she breathed deeply. She caught hold of the Savage’s arm and pressed it against her side. He looked down at her for a moment, pale, pained, desiring and ashamed of his desire. He was not good enough, not… Their eyes for a moment met. What wonders hers promised! Passion shone in them. He looked away quickly, freed his arm from her hold. He was frightened by a feeling that he could not fully understand. He felt somehow that she might cease to be someone that he could look up to as being too good for him, and he did not want this to happen.

‘I don’t think you ought to see things like that,’ he said.

‘Like what, John?’

‘Like that horrible film.’

‘Horrible?’ Lenina was surprised. ‘But I thought it was lovely.’

‘It was shameful,’ he said angrily, ‘it was disgusting.’

She shook her head. ‘I don’t know what you mean.’ Why was he always so strange? Why did he always go and spoil things?

In the taxicopter he hardly looked at her. Bound by strong promises that had never been spoken, obedient to laws that had long since ceased to have any force, he sat in silence, with his head turned away from her.

The taxicopter landed on the roof of Lenina’s apartment house. ‘At last,’ she thought joyfully as she stepped out. At last - even though he had been so strange just now. Standing under a lamp, she looked into her hand-mirror. At last. Yes, her nose did need powdering. She shook the loose powder from her powder case. While he was paying the taximan there would just be time. She rubbed at the shine on her nose, thinking, ‘He’s very good-looking. No need for him to be shy like Bernard. And yet… Any other man would have done it long ago. Well, now at last.’ The bit of her face that she could see in the little round mirror suddenly smiled at her, ‘Good night,’ said a voice behind her in a whisper full of fear. Lenina turned round sharply. He was standing inside the door of the taxicopter, his eyes fixed, staring. He had evidently been staring all this time while she was powdering her nose, waiting - but what for? Trying to make up his mind, and all the time thinking, thinking - she could not imagine what extraordinary thoughts. ‘Good night, Lenina,’ he repeated, and made a strange, desperate effort to smile.

‘But, John… I thought you were… I mean, aren’t you… ?’

He shut the door and bent down to say something to the driver. The machine rose quickly into the air.

Looking down through the window in the floor, the Savage could see Lenina’s upturned face, pale in the light of the lamps. Her mouth was open, she was calling. Her figure rushed away from him. The square of the roof grew smaller and smaller as it fell away below him into the darkness.

Five minutes later he was back in his room. From its hiding place he took out his old, worn book and, carefully turning its torn and discoloured pages, he began to read Othello. Othello, he remembered, was like the main character of Three Weeks in a Helicopter - a black man.

Drying her eyes, Lenina walked across the roof to the lift. On her way down to the twenty-seventh floor she pulled out her soma bottle. One gram, she decided, would not be enough. Her unpleasant experience had been more than one-gram suffering. But if she took two grams she ran the risk of not waking up in time tomorrow morning. She decided to avoid both extremes, and into the hollow of her left hand she shook three half-gram tablets of soma.

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