فصل 04

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فصل 04

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Chapter four

Bernard Marx

The lift was crowded with men from the Alpha Changing Rooms, and Lenina was greeted with many nods and smiles as she stepped into it. She was a popular girl and, at one time or another, had spent a night with almost all of them.

In a corner she saw the small, thin body, and the sad face of Bernard Marx.

‘Bernard!’ She moved to his side. ‘I was looking for you.’ Her voice could be clearly heard above the sound of the rising lift. The others looked round. ‘I’d simply love to come with you in July,’ she went on. (There! She was making known publicly that she was going to stop being faithful to Henry. Fanny ought to be pleased, even though it was with Bernard.) ‘That is,’ said Lenina with her warmest smile, ‘if you still want to have me.’

Bernard’s pale face turned red. ‘Why?’ she wondered in surprise, but at the same time touched by this strange proof of her power.

‘Hadn’t we better talk about it somewhere else?’ he said awkwardly, looking terribly uncomfortable.

‘As though I had been saying something shocking,’ thought Lenina. ‘He couldn’t look more upset if I’d made a dirty joke - asked him who his mother was or something like that.’

‘I mean, with all these people about…’ He was covered with confusion.

Lenina laughed out loud with honest amusement. ‘How funny you are!’ she said; and she quite genuinely did think him funny. ‘You’ll give me at least a week’s warning, won’t you?’ she went on in a different voice. ‘I suppose we take the Blue Pacific Rocket? Does it start from the Charing-T Tower? Or is it from Hampstead?’

Before Bernard could answer, the lift stopped.

‘Roof!’ called the Epsilon-Minus liftman in his ugly voice. He opened the gates.

It was warm and sunny on the roof. The summer afternoon was filled with the hum of passing helicopters, and the deeper note of the rocket-planes speeding out of sight through the bright sky 8 or 10 kilometres overhead. Bernard Marx drew a deep breath. He looked up into the sky and round about him and finally down into Lenina’s face.

‘Isn’t it beautiful?’ His voice trembled a little.

She smiled at him with an expression of the most sympathetic understanding. ‘Simply perfect for Obstacle Golf,’ she answered warmly. ‘And now I must fly, Bernard. Henry gets cross if I keep him waiting. Let me know in good time about the date.’ And waving her hand she ran away across the wide flat roof towards the helicopter parks. Bernard stood watching the flash of her white legs, the sunburnt knees bending and unbending, and the soft movement of those well-fitted shorts beneath the bottle-green jacket as she ran lightly over the roof. His face wore an expression of pain.

Henry had had his machine wheeled out of its lock-up and, when Lenina arrived, was already sitting in the pilot’s seat, waiting.

‘Four minutes late,’ was all he said as she climbed in beside him. He started the engines and set the lifting blades in motion. The machine shot straight up into the air. Henry increased the speed and the sound of the blades grew higher and thinner; they were rising at almost 2 kilometres a minute. London grew smaller and smaller beneath them. The huge table-topped buildings became smaller and smaller. In the middle of them the tall finger of the Charing-T Tower lifted towards the sky the shining circle of its landing-platform.

Huge white clouds lay sleepily in the blue air above their heads. Out of one of them suddenly dropped a small bright-red insect.

‘There’s the Red Rocket,’ said Henry, ‘just come in from New York.’ Looking at his watch, he added, ‘Seven minutes behind time.’ He shook his head. ‘These Atlantic services - they’re getting more and more irregular.’

He reduced the speed of the lifting blades and the helicopter stopped rising; he set the forward engine in motion and they moved ahead. When the machine had enough forward speed to fly on its planes, he shut off the power from the lifting blades.

They flew over factory after factory. In one place an army of black and light brown workmen was laying a new surface on the Great West Road. At Brentford the Television Corporation’s factory was like a small town.

‘They must be changing the shift,’ said Lenina. ‘What a horrible colour light brown is,’ she added, unconsciously repeating the sleep-taught lessons of her early years. Gamma girls and the undersized Epsilons crowded round the entrances, or stood in lines to take their places in the trains. Beta-Minuses came and went among the crowd. The roof of the main building was alive with helicopters arriving and departing.

‘My word,’ said Lenina, ‘I’m glad I’m not a Gamma.’

Ten minutes later they had arrived at the golf course and had started their first round of Obstacle Golf.

With eyes lowered to avoid meeting the eyes of his fellow creatures, Bernard hurried across the roof. He felt worried and lonely. Even Lenina was making him suffer, although she meant well. He remembered those weeks during which he had looked and wished and almost given up hope of ever having the courage to ask her. Did he dare risk being shamed by a cruel refusal? But if she were to say yes, what joy! Well, now she had said it and he was still unhappy, unhappy that she should have thought it such a perfect afternoon for Obstacle Golf, that she should have hurried away to join Henry Foster, that she should have found him funny for not wanting to talk of their most private affairs in public. Unhappy, in a word, because she had behaved as any good, healthy English girl ought to behave and not in some other unusual, extraordinary way.

He opened the door of his lock-up and called to a couple of Delta-Minus attendants to come and push his machine out on to the roof. The helicopter park was staffed by a single Bokanovsky group, and the men were twins, small, black and very ugly. Bernard gave his orders in the sharp tone of one who does not feel certain of his authority. Bernard’s height was 8 centimetres short of the standard Alpha height. Contact with members of the lower classes always reminded him painfully of this fault and made him speak to them more roughly than was natural to him.

He climbed into the plane and a minute later was flying south towards the river.

The various Departments of Propaganda and the College of Emotional Engineering were housed in a single sixty-floor building in Fleet Street. On the lower floors were the presses and offices of the three great London newspapers - The Hourly Radio, an upper-class sheet, the pale-green Gamma Gazette, and, on light brown paper and in very short words, The Delta Mirror. Then came the Departments of Propaganda by Television and by Artificial Voice and Music - 22 floors of them. Above were the research laboratories and the studio rooms in which the Sound Track Writers and Artificial Music Writers did their delicate work. The top 18 floors were occupied by the College of Emotional Engineering.

Bernard landed on the roof of Propaganda House and stepped out.

‘Ring down to Mr Helmholtz Watson,’ he ordered the Gamma-Plus attendant, ‘and tell him that Mr Bernard Marx is waiting on the roof.’

He sat down and lit a cigarette.

Helmholtz Watson was writing when the message came down.

‘Tell him I’m coming at once,’ he said and replaced the receiver. Then, turning to his secretary, ‘I’ll leave you to put my things away,’ he went on in the same official tone; and, taking no notice of her inviting smile, got up and walked quickly to the door.

He was a powerfully built man with a deep chest and broad shoulders, yet quick in his movements. In a masterful way he was attractive and looked, as his secretary was never tired of repeating, every centimetre an Alpha-Plus. By profession he was a lecturer at the College of Emotional Engineering (Department of Writing) and, in the intervals of his educational activities, a working Emotional Engineer. He wrote regularly for The Hourly Radio and had a great gift for writing mottos and easily remembered phrases.

‘Able,’ was the opinion of those above him. ‘Perhaps’ (and they would shake their heads and lower their voices) ‘a little too able.’

Yes, a little too able. They were right. Too much intelligence had produced in Helmholtz Watson effects very like those which, in Bernard Marx, were the result of a body not sufficiently developed. Too little bone and muscle had set Bernard apart from his fellow men. That which had made Helmholtz feel so uncomfortably alone was too much ability. But although Bernard had suffered all his life from this feeling, it was only recently that Helmholtz had become aware of it. A first-class sportsman, an untiring lover, an excellent committee man and very popular socially, he had nevertheless realized quite suddenly that sport, women, professional and social activities were not, so far as he was concerned, the most important things in life. Really, deep down, he was interested in something else. But in what? That was the problem which Bernard had come to discuss with him - or rather, since it was always Helmholtz who did all the talking, to listen to his friend discussing, once again.

Three lovely girls from the Department of Propaganda by Artificial Voice took hold of his arm as he stepped out of the lift.

‘Oh, Helmholtz darling, do come and have a day out with us on Exmoor.’ They hung on to his arm in their efforts to persuade him.

He shook his head and pushed his way through them. ‘No, no.’

‘We’re not inviting any other man.’

But Helmholtz was not moved even by this pleasant promise. ‘No,’ he repeated, ‘I’m busy.’ And he walked firmly on. The girls followed him. It was not until he had actually climbed into Bernard’s plane and shut the door that they gave up following him. They were offended by his refusal.

‘These women!’ he said as the machine rose into the air. ‘These women!’ And he shook his head in his annoyance.

‘Too awful.’ Bernard pretended to agree, although he silently wished that he could have as many girls as Helmholtz did, and with as little trouble. He was seized with a sudden urgent need to talk about his own success. ‘I’m taking Lenina Crowne to New Mexico with me,’ he said, trying to keep the pride out of his voice.

‘Are you?’ said Helmholtz with no show of interest at all. The rest of the short flight passed in silence. When they had arrived and were comfortably seated in Bernards room, Helmholtz began to speak.

‘Did you ever feel,’ he asked slowly, ‘as though you had something inside you that was only waiting for you to give it the chance to come out? Some sort of extra power that you could be using if you knew how?’

‘You mean all the emotions one might be feeling if things were different?’

Helmholtz shook his head. ‘Not quite. I’m thinking of a strange feeling I sometimes get, a feeling that I’ve got something important to say and the power to say it - only I don’t know what it is, and I can’t make any use of the power. If there was some different way of writing… Or else something different to write about. I’m pretty good at inventing phrases that seem new and exciting even if they’re about something completely obvious. But that doesn’t seem enough. It’s not enough for the phrases to be good; what you make with them ought to be good too.’

‘But your things are good, Helmholtz.’

‘Oh, as far as they go. But they go such a little way. They aren’t important enough, somehow. I feel I could do something much more important. Yes, and more forceful, more violent. But what? What is there more important to say? Words are the most powerful of weapons if you use them properly - they’ll cut through anything. But what’s the good of that if the things you write about have no power in them? Can you say something about nothing? That’s my problem. I try and I try…’

‘Quiet!’ said Bernard suddenly, lifting a warning finger; they listened. ‘I believe there’s somebody at the door,’ he whispered.

Helmholtz got up, moved silently across the room, and with a sharp quick movement threw the door wide open. There was, of course, nobody there.

‘I’m sorry,’ said Bernard, feeling and looking uncomfortably silly. ‘I suppose I’ve let things worry me a bit. I think people are talking about me all the time.’

He passed his hand across his eyes and breathed deeply. ‘You don’t know the trouble I’ve had recently,’ he said, almost tearfully. He was filled with a sudden wave of self-pity. ‘You just don’t know.’

Helmholtz Watson listened with a certain sense of discomfort. ‘Poor little Bernard,’ he said to himself. But at the same time he felt rather ashamed for his friend. He wished Bernard would show a little more pride.

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