فصل 06

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فصل 06

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Chapter six


Odd, odd, odd, was Lenina’s opinion of Bernard Marx. So odd, indeed, that during the next few weeks she wondered more than once whether she shouldn’t change her mind about the New Mexico holiday and go instead to the North Pole with another man. The trouble was that she knew the North Pole. She had been there last summer and, what was more, had found it pretty uncomfortable. Nothing to do and the hotel was terribly old- fashioned with no television in any of the bedrooms. No, certainly she couldn’t face the North Pole again. And she had only been to America once before, and even then, only for a cheap weekend in New York with a man whose name she had forgotten. The idea of flying west again, and for a whole week, was very inviting. Moreover, for three days of that week they would be in the Savage Reservation. Not more than half a dozen people in the whole Centre had ever been inside a Savage Reservation. As an Alpha-Plus psychologist, Bernard was one of the few men she knew who had official permission to go there. It was the chance of a lifetime for Lenina. And yet Bernard was so odd that she had worried about taking it.

She had discussed this anxiously one night with Henry when they were in bed together. ‘Oh,’ said Henry, ‘poor Bernard’s harmless. Some people never really learn through their conditioning what correct behaviour is. Bernard’s one of them. Luckily for him, he’s pretty good at his job. Otherwise the Director would never have kept him. But he’s harmless, you can be sure.’

Harmless perhaps, but also pretty upsetting. That unhealthy determination, to start with, to do things in private. Which meant, in practice, not doing anything at all. For what was there that one could do in private? (Apart, of course, from going to bed: but one couldn’t do that all the time.) Yes, what was there? The first afternoon they went out together was particularly fine. Lenina had suggested a swim at a very popular bathing beach followed by dinner at the newest restaurant, which everybody went to. But Bernard thought there would be too much of a crowd. Then what about a round of Obstacle Golf? But again, no. Bernard thought that Obstacle Golf was a waste of time.

‘Then what’s time for?’ asked Lenina in some surprise.

‘For going for walks in the country. Alone with you, Lenina.’

‘But, Bernard, we shall be alone all night.’

Bernard went red in the face and looked away. ‘I meant alone for talking,’ he said.

‘Talking? But about what?’ Walking and talking; that seemed a very odd way of spending an afternoon.

In the end she persuaded him, much against his will, to fly over to Amsterdam to see the Final of the Women’s World Football Cup.

‘In a crowd,’ he complained,’ as usual.’ Fie remained silent and unhappy the whole afternoon; wouldn’t talk to Lenina’s friends, of whom they met dozens in the ice-cream soma bar at half time; and in spite of his unhappiness absolutely refused the chocolate soma ice that she bought for him to cheer him up.

‘I’d rather be myself,’ he said. ‘Myself and unhappy. Not somebody else, however cheerful.’

On their way back across the Channel, Bernard insisted on stopping the forward movement of his helicopter and letting it hang within a 30 metres of the waves. The weather had turned worse. A south-west wind had sprung up, the sky was cloudy.

‘Look,’ he commanded.

‘But it’s horrible,’ said Lenina, turning her face from the window. She was frightened by the rushing emptiness of the night, by the black water rising and falling endlessly beneath them, by the pale face of the moon among the racing clouds. ‘Let’s turn on the radio. Quick!’ She reached for the switch and turned it on.

‘-skies are blue inside of you,’ sang 16 voices, sweet as sugar, ‘the weathers always-‘

Then silence. Bernard had turned the radio off again.

‘I want to look at the sea in peace,’ he said. ‘One can’t even look with all that awful noise going on.’

‘But it’s lovely. And I don’t want to look.’

‘But I do,’ he answered. ‘It makes me feel as though…’

He stopped, searching for words with which to express himself, ‘As though I were more me, if you see what I mean. More on my own, not so completely a part of something else. Doesn’t it make you feel like that, Lenina?’

But Lenina was crying. ‘It’s horrible, horrible,’ she kept repeating. ‘After all, we’re all part of something else. Everyone works for everyone else. We can’t do without anyone. Even Epsilons…’

‘Yes, I know,’ said Bernard bitterly. ‘Even Epsilons are useful! So am I. And I sometimes wish I weren’t!’

Lenina was shocked by these words. ‘Bernard!’ she said, her eyes filled with tears. ‘How can you think such things?’

‘How can I?’ he repeated, deep in thought. ‘No. The real problem is: How is it that I can’t, or rather - because I know quite well why I can’t - what would it be like if I could, if I were free - not a slave to my conditioning?’

‘But, Bernard, you’re saying the most awful things.’

‘Don’t you wish you were free, Lenina?’

‘I don’t know what you mean. I am free. Free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody’s happy nowadays.’

He laughed. ‘Yes. “Everybody’s happy nowadays.” We begin giving the children that at five. But wouldn’t you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example; not in everybody else’s way.’

‘I don’t know what you mean,’ she repeated. Then, turning to him, ‘Oh, do let’s go back, Bernard,’ she begged. ‘I do so hate it here.’

‘Don’t you like being with me?’

‘Yes, of course, Bernard! But this place is horrible.’

‘I thought we’d be more… more together here, with nothing but the sea and moon. More together than in a crowd, or even in my rooms. Don’t you understand that?’

‘I don’t understand anything,’ she said firmly,’ least of all why you don’t take soma when you have these terrible ideas. You’d forget all about them. And instead of feeling unhappy, you’d be cheerful.’

He looked at her in silence. ‘All right then,’ he said at last in a small, tired voice, ‘we’ll go back.’ He made the machine rise sharply into the sky, then put it into forward movement. They flew in silence for a minute or two. Then, suddenly, Bernard began to laugh. Rather oddly, Lenina thought; but still, it was laughter.

‘Feeling better?’ she asked shyly.

For answer he lifted one hand from the controls and slipped his arm round her waist.

‘Thank Ford,’ she said to herself, ‘he’s all right again.’

Half an hour later they were back in his rooms. Bernard swallowed four tablets of soma, turned on the radio and television and began to undress.

‘Well,’ Lenina asked with a smile when they met next afternoon on the roof, ‘did you think it was fun yesterday?’ Bernard nodded but did not say anything. They climbed into the plane, and off they went.

‘Everybody says I have a nice body,’ said Lenina, stroking her own legs.

‘Very nice.’ But there was an expression of pain in Bernard’s eyes. ‘Like meat,’ he was thinking.

‘But you don’t think I’m too fat, do you?’ She looked up anxiously. He shook his head and thought again, ‘Like so much meat.’

‘You think I’m all right?’ Another nod. ‘In every way?’

‘Perfect,’ he said to her. And thought to himself, ‘She thinks of herself that way. She doesn’t mind being meat.’

Lenina smiled with satisfaction. But she was happy too soon. ‘All the same,’ he went on, after a little pause, ‘I still rather wish it had ended differently.’

‘Differently?’ Were there other endings?

‘I didn’t want it to end with our going to bed,’ he said.

Lenina looked at him in surprise.

‘Not at once, not the first day.’

‘But then what?’

He began to talk a lot of dangerous nonsense that she could hardly understand.

‘I want to know what passion is,’ he said. ‘I want to feel something strongly. We are all grown-up intellectually and during working hours,’ he went on, ‘but we are infants where feeling and desire are concerned.’

‘Our Ford loved infants.’

Bernard went on as though she hadn’t spoken. ‘It suddenly struck me the other day that it might be possible to be an adult all the time.’

‘I don’t understand.’ Lenina’s tone was firm.

‘I know you don’t. And that’s why we went to bed together yesterday - like infants - instead of being grown-up and waiting.’

‘But it was fun,’ Lenina insisted. ‘Wasn’t it?’

‘Oh, the greatest fun,’ he answered, but in a voice so sad, with an expression so thoroughly unhappy, that Lenina wondered if perhaps he had found her too fat after all.

‘I told you so,’ was all that Fanny said when Lenina told her all this. ‘Somebody did make a mistake when he was in his bottle.’

‘All the same,’ Lenina insisted, ‘I do like him. He has such awfully nice hands. And the way he moves his shoulders - that’s very attractive. But I wish he weren’t so odd.’

Pausing for a moment outside the door of the Director’s room, Bernard drew a deep breath and prepared to meet the dislike and disapproval which he was certain of finding inside.

‘A permit for you to sign, Director,’ he said as coolly as possible, and laid the paper on the writing table.

The Director looked at him rather angrily. But the stamp of the World Controller’s office was at the head of the paper and the signature of the World Controller, Mustapha Mond, across the bottom. Everything was perfectly in order. The Director could not refuse. He wrote his initials under it in pencil and was about to give back the paper without comment when his eye was caught by something written in the body of the permit.

‘For the New Mexican Reservation?’ he said, and his tone, the face he lifted to Bernard, expressed a kind of worried surprise.

Surprised by his surprise, Bernard nodded. There was a silence.

The Director leaned back in his chair, deep in thought.

‘How long ago was it?’ he said, speaking more to himself than to Bernard. ‘Twenty years, I suppose. Nearer 25. I must have been your age…’ He shook his head.

Bernard felt extremely uncomfortable. He wondered what the Director would say next.

‘I had the same idea as you,’ the Director went on. ‘Wanted to have a look at the savages. Got a permit for New Mexico and went there for my summer holiday. With the girl I was having at the moment. She was a Beta-Minus, and I think’ (he shut his eyes), ‘I think she had yellow hair. Anyhow, she had a lovely body, a particularly lovely body. I remember that. Well, we went there, and we looked at the savages, and we rode about on horses and all that. And then - it was almost the last day of my holiday, then… well, she got lost. We’d gone riding up one of those horrible mountains, and it was terribly hot, without any wind, and after lunch we went to sleep. Or at least I did. She must have gone for a walk, alone. Whatever she did do, when I woke up she wasn’t there. And the most terrible thunderstorm I’ve ever seen was just bursting on us. And it poured and crashed and flashed. And the horses broke loose and ran away. And I fell down, trying to catch them, and hurt my knee, so that I could hardly walk. Still I searched, and I shouted and I searched. But there was no sign of her. Then I thought she must have gone back to the rest house by herself. So I went down into the valley by the way we had come.

‘My knee was very painful, and I’d lost my soma. It took me hours. I didn’t get back to the rest house till after midnight. And she wasn’t there; she wasn’t there,’ the Director repeated. There was a silence. ‘Well,’ he went on at last, ‘the next day there was a search. But we couldn’t find her. She must have fallen down a crack in the rocks somewhere, or been eaten by a mountain lion. Ford knows. Anyhow it was horrible. It upset me very much at the time. More than it ought to have done.’

‘You must have had a terrible shock,’ said Bernard.

At the sound of his voice the Director looked sharply at him and handed him the permit. Angry with himself at having told Bernard this secret from his past, he directed his anger at Bernard. ‘And I should like to take this opportunity, Mr Marx,’ he went on,’ of saying that I’m not at all pleased with reports of your behaviour outside working hours. You may say that this is not my business. But it is. I have the good name of the Centre to think of. My workers must be beyond criticism, particularly those of the highest classes. And so, Mr Marx, I give you fair warning. If I ever have any complaint again about your failure to submit to our rules for social behaviour, I shall ask for you to be moved to a Sub-Centre, perhaps to Iceland. Good morning.’ And turning away, he picked up his pen and began to write.

‘That’ll teach him,’ he said to himself. But he was mistaken. For Bernard left the room with a joyful feeling that he stood alone against the whole of the social order, with the sense of his individual importance. He was not even frightened by the Director’s threats. He felt strong enough to resist severe treatment, strong enough to face even Iceland. And in any case he didn’t believe that he would be called upon to face anything at all. People weren’t moved for things like that. Iceland was just a threat. Walking along the passage, he actually whistled.

The journey was quite uneventful. The Blue Pacific Rocket was two and a half minutes early at New Orleans, lost four minutes in a storm over Texas, but then flew into a favourable air current and was able to land at Santa Fe less than forty seconds behind the official time.

‘Forty seconds on a six and a half hour flight. Not so bad,’ said Lenina.

They slept that night at Santa Fe. Lenina found all the comforts that she could have wished for.

‘There won’t be anything like this in the Reservation,’ Bernard warned her. ‘No television, no hot water even. You mustn’t come to the Reservation unless you really want to.’

‘But I do want to.’

‘Very well, then,’ said Bernard.

Their permit required the signature of the Director of the Reservation, to whose office they went next morning. He was full of useless information and unasked - for good advice. Once started, he went on and on in the same loud, boring voice.

‘…five hundred and sixty thousand square kilometres, divided into four distinct Sub-reservations, each surrounded by an electric fence. There is no escape. Those who are born in the Reservation - and remember, dear young lady, that in the Reservation children still are born, yes, actually born, disgusting though that may seem - must spend their whole lives there and die there. There are about 60,000 Indians and people of mixed blood… absolute savages… our inspectors occasionally visit… otherwise, no contact with the civilized world… still preserve their shameful habits and customs… marriage if you know what that is, my dear young lady; families… no conditioning… Christianity and awful old belief systems like that… dead languages such as Spanish… savage wild animals… infectious diseases… priests… poisonous snakes..

They got away at last. A message was sent to them at the hotel that, on the Director’s orders, a Reservation Guard had come round with a plane and was waiting on the roof. They went up at once.

They took their seats in the plane and set off. Ten minutes later they were crossing the border that separated civilization from savagery. Uphill and down, across the deserts of salt or sand, through forests, down into deep valleys, over wide plains and tall mountain tops, the fence marched on and on. And at its foot, here and there, a pattern of white bones, a body on the ground, marked the place where a wild animal had gone too close to the deadly wires.

‘They never learn,’ said the pilot, pointing down at the bones on the ground below them. ‘And they never will learn,’ he said, laughing as if at a joke.

Bernard, having taken two grams of soma, went to sleep and woke at last to find the machine standing on the ground, Lenina carrying the suitcases into a small square house, and the pilot talking in some language that he could not understand with a young Indian.

‘Malpais,’ explained the pilot, as Bernard stepped out. ‘This is the rest house. And there’s a dance this afternoon at the village.

‘He’ll take you there.’ He pointed to the young savage, who appeared unwilling. ‘It’ll be funny, I expect. Everything they do is funny.’ And with that he climbed into the plane and started up the engines. ‘Back tomorrow. And remember,’ he added for Lenina’s benefit, ‘they’re perfectly all right. Savages won’t do you any harm. They’ve got enough experience of gas bombs to know that they mustn’t play tricks.’ Still laughing, he moved the controls, rose into the air and was gone.

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