فصل 14

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فصل 14

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Chapter fourteen


The domestic staff of the Park Lane Hospital for the Dying consisted of one hundred and sixty-two Deltas divided into two Bokanovsky Groups of eighty-four red-headed female and seventy-eight dark-haired male twins. At six, when their working day was over, the two Groups gathered in the front hall of the Hospital and were served by a higher official with their soma tablets.

From the lift the Savage stepped out into the middle of them. But his mind was elsewhere with death, with grief, with his sadness. Without noticing what he was doing, he began to push his way through the crowd.

‘Who are you pushing? Where do you think you’re going?’

High, low, from a crowd of separate throats, only two voices came. Repeated countless times, as if by a mirror, two faces, one red-headed, the other dark-haired, turned angrily towards him. Their words and, in his chest, sharp digs from their elbows, brought him to his senses. He woke once more to the real world, looked round him, saw the endless crowd of similar beings around him. Twins, twins…Twins had stared, smiling, at the dead Linda. Now, larger, fully-grown, they broke into his grief and his lost hope. He stopped and stared at the light brown crowd in the middle of which, taller than it by a full head, he stood. ‘O brave new world…’ he said sadly to himself.

‘Soma distribution!’ shouted a loud voice. ‘In good order. Hurry up there, please.’

A door had been opened, a table and chair carried into the front hall. The voice was that of a cheerful young Alpha, who had entered carrying a black iron cash box. A low sound of satisfaction went up from the eager twins. They forgot all about the Savage. Their attention was now directed at the black cash box, which the young man had placed on the table and was now unlocking. The lid was lifted.

‘Oh-oh!’ said all the 162 voices in a single cry of joy.

The young man took out a handful of tiny boxes of tablets. ‘Now,’ he commanded, ‘step forward, please. One at a time and no shoving.’

One at a time, with no shoving, the twins stepped forward. First two males, then a female, then another male, then three females, then…

The Savage stood looking on. ‘O brave new world, О brave new world…’ In his mind the singing words seemed to change their tone. They had laughed at him through his sadness and hopelessness. Now, suddenly, they rang out in a call to action. ‘O brave new world!’ Miranda was telling of the possibility of loveliness, the possibility of changing even the life which surrounded him like a bad dream into something fine and noble. ‘O brave new world!’ It was a challenge, a command.

‘No shoving there, now!’ shouted the official angrily. He shut his cash box noisily. ‘I shall stop the distribution unless I get good behaviour.’

The Deltas pushed against one another a little, and then were still. His words had had their effect. Loss of soma - fearful thought!

‘That’s better,’ said the young man, and reopened his cash box.

Linda had been a slave, Linda had died. Others should live in freedom, and the world be made beautiful. And suddenly it was clear to the Savage what he must do.

‘Now,’ said the official.

Another light brown female stepped forward.

‘Stop!’ called the Savage in a loud and ringing voice. ‘Stop!’

He pushed his way to the table. The Deltas stared at him with shock.

‘Ford!’ said the official below his breath. ‘It’s the Savage!’ He felt frightened.

‘Listen, I beg you,’ cried the Savage, ‘Lend me your ears…’

He had never spoken in public before, and found it very difficult to express what he wanted to say. ‘Don’t take that horrible stuff. It’s poison, it’s poison.’

‘I say, Mr Savage,’ said the official, with an uncertain smile, ‘would you mind letting me-‘

‘Poison to soul as well as body.’

‘Yes, but let me get on with my distribution, won’t you? There’s a good fellow.’ With the fear of one stroking an animal that might bite, he touched the Savage’s arm. ‘Just let me-‘

‘Never!’ cried the Savage.

‘But look here, old man-‘

‘Throw it all away, that horrible poison.’

The words ‘Throw it all away’ caught the attention of the stupid Deltas, made them realize what was happening. An angry cry went up from the crowd.

‘I come to bring you freedom,’ said the Savage, turning back towards the twins, ‘I come-‘

The official heard no more. He had slipped out of the hall and was looking for a number in the telephone book.

‘Not in his own rooms,’ Bernard said. ‘Not in mine. Not at the Centre or the College. Where can he have got to?’

Helmholtz didn’t know. They had come back from their work expecting to find the Savage waiting for them at one or other of their usual meeting places, and there was no sign of the fellow. This was upsetting their plans. They had meant to go over to Biarritz in Helmholtz’s four-seater sporticopter. They’d be late for dinner if he didn’t come soon.

‘We’ll give him five more minutes,’ said Helmholtz. If he doesn’t turn up by then, we’ll-‘

The ringing of the telephone bell interrupted him. He picked up the receiver. ‘Hullo. Speaking.’ Then, after a long interval of listening, ‘Oh, Ford!’ he cried. ‘I’ll come at once.’

‘What is it?’ Bernard asked.

‘A fellow I know at the Park Lane Hospital,’ said Helmholtz. ‘The Savage is there. Seems to have gone mad. Anyhow, it’s urgent. Will you come with me?’

Together they hurried along the corridor to the lifts.

‘But do you like being slaves?’ the Savage was saying as they entered the Hospital. His face was red, his eyes bright with passion and anger. ‘Do you like being babies? Yes, babies. Stupid babies all your lives?’ he added, driven by their animal stupidity into throwing insults at those he had come to save. The insults fell off their thick skins; they stared at him with a blank expression in their eyes. ‘Yes, stupid!’ he shouted. Grief and hopelessness, pity and duty, all were forgotten now and, as it were, melted into an uncontrollable hatred of these less than human beings. ‘Don’t you want to be free men? Don’t you even understand what it is to be a man and free? Don’t you?’ he repeated, but got no answer to his question. ‘Very well, then, I’ll teach you. I’ll make you free whether you want to or not.’ And pushing open the window that looked on to the inner court of the Hospital, he began to throw the little boxes of soma tablets out of it in handfuls.

For a moment the light brown crowd was silent, frozen with amazement and horror at the sight of this fearful crime.

‘He’s mad,’ whispered Bernard, staring with wide-open eyes. They’ll kill him. They’ll-‘

A great shout suddenly went up from the crowd; a wave of movement drove it, threatening, towards the Savage. ‘Ford help him!’ said Bernard, and turned his eyes away.

‘Ford helps those who help themselves.’ And with a laugh, actually a laugh of joy, Helmholtz Watson pushed his way through the crowd.

‘Free, free!’ the Savage shouted, and with one hand continued to throw the soma into the courtyard while, with the other, he hit out at the indistinguishable faces of his attackers. ‘Free!’ And suddenly there was Helmholtz at his side - ‘Good old Helmholtz!’ - also hitting out. ‘Men at last!’ Helmholtz cried and threw the poison out by handfuls through the open window. ‘Yes, men! men! men!’ and there was no more poison left. He picked up the cash box and showed them its black emptiness. ‘You’re free!’

Screaming with anger, the Deltas charged.

‘They’re done for,’ said Bernard and, with a sudden urge to help them, ran forward; then decided not to and stopped; then, ashamed, stepped forward again; then decided against it once more, and was standing there ashamed of his own fear - thinking that they might be killed if he didn’t help them, and that he might be killed if he did - when (Ford be praised!) in ran the police, pig-faced in their gas masks.

Bernard rushed to meet them. He waved his arms; and it was action, he was doing something. He shouted ‘Help!’ several times more and more loudly so as to persuade himself that he was helping. ‘Help! Help! HELP!’

The policemen pushed him out of the way and got on with their work. Three men with machines on their shoulders pumped thick clouds of soma gas into the air. Two more were busy with an Artificial Music Box. Carrying water guns loaded with a powerful sleeping gas, four others had pushed their way into the crowd and were steadily putting out of action the stronger of the fighters.

‘Quick, quick!’ screamed Bernard, ‘They’ll be killed if you don’t hurry. They’ll… Oh!’ Tired of his shouting, one of the policemen had given him a shot from his water gun. Bernard stood for a second or two on his shaky legs, then fell onto the floor.

Suddenly, from out of the Artificial Music Box, a Voice began to speak. The Voice of Reason, the Voice of Good Feeling. The soundtrack roll was unwinding itself in Artificial Crowd-Control Speech Number Two (Average Strength). Straight from the depths of a heart that had never existed, ‘My friends, my friends,’ said the Voice, with a note of such gentle sorrow that, behind their gas masks, even the policemen’s eyes were for a moment filled with tears, ‘what is the meaning of this? Why aren’t you all being happy and good together? Happy and good,’ the Voice repeated. It trembled, sank into a whisper and for a moment died away. ‘Oh, I do want you to be happy,’ it began again, ‘I do so want you to be good! Please, please be good and…’

Two minutes later the Voice and the soma gas had produced their effect. In tears, the Deltas were kissing and throwing their arms round one another; half a dozen twins held each other at a time. Even Helmholtz and the Savage were almost crying. A fresh supply of tablets was brought in from the Hospital stores; the soma was quickly given out and, to the sound of loving goodbyes from the Voice, the twins departed, crying as though their hearts would break.

‘Goodbye, my dearest, dearest friends, Ford keep you! Goodbye, my dearest, dearest friends, Ford keep you! Goodbye, my dearest, dearest

When the last of the Deltas had gone the policeman turned off the current. The heavenly Voice fell silent.

‘Will you come quietly?’ asked the Sergeant, ‘or must we put you to sleep?’ He pointed his water gun.

‘Oh, we’ll come quietly,’ the Savage answered, wiping a cut lip and a bitten left hand.

Still keeping his hand to his bleeding nose, Helmholtz nodded in agreement.

Awake, and able to stand up again, Bernard had chosen this moment to move as quietly as he could towards the door.

‘Hi, you there,’ called the Sergeant, and a gas-masked policeman hurried across the room and laid a hand on the young man’s shoulder.

Bernard turned with an expression of surprise. Escaping? He hadn’t dreamed of such a thing. ‘Though what on earth you want me for,’ he said to the Sergeant, ‘I really can’t imagine.’

‘You’re a friend of the prisoners, aren’t you?’

‘Well,’ said Bernard, and thought. No, he really couldn’t deny it. ‘Why shouldn’t I be?’ he asked.

‘Come on, then,’ said the Sergeant, and led the way towards the door and the waiting police car.

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