فصل 12

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فصل 12

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متن انگلیسی فصل

CHAPTER TWELVE

The Registry was managed by a strict-looking Swiss woman, who wore glasses and had an unattractive hair style. ‘Ah,’ she said when they arrived, ‘you’ve brought Mrs Betterton.’ As Hilary sat down, the woman took out a lot of forms and started to write. Tom Betterton said awkwardly, ‘I’ll leave you, Olive,’ and shut the door behind him.

‘Now then,’ said the woman seriously, ‘Tell me your full name, please. Age. Where you were born. Parent’s names. Any serious illnesses. Hobbies. List of any jobs held. Degrees from any university. What you like to eat and drink.’ The questions went on and on. Hilary answered almost without thinking, glad that she was so well prepared about Olive’s life.

When they finally finished, Hilary was given a thorough medical examination. And then she saw Dr Rubec, a tall, sad-looking Swiss man of about forty, for intelligence and personality tests.

Hilary was nervous about the tests, but they seemed to be routine. When they were over, Dr Rubec said, ‘Please do not think I am being rude, Madame, when I say that it is a pleasure to deal with someone who is not a genius.’

Hilary laughed. ‘Oh, I’m certainly not a genius,’ she said.

‘You are fortunate,’ said Dr Rubec. ‘It will make your life here much easier. I mostly see very sensitive intellectual people here - but they are not always emotionally stable. Real scientists are not cool and calm, like they are in books. You would not believe the arguments and the jealousies that I have to deal with here!’

Next Hilary was taken to the dress department, which was run by Mademoiselle La Roche. The Frenchwoman was not what Hilary was expecting - she used to work in a famous Paris fashion house where rich women bought their clothes, and was interested in purely feminine things.

‘I am delighted to meet you, Madame,’ she said to Hilary. ‘I’m sure you are tired after your journey, so perhaps today you should just select a few essential items.’

‘I’d like that,’ said Hilary. ‘All I own now is a toothbrush.’ Mademoiselle La Roche laughed and took Hilary into a large room with many cupboards filled with clothes of every different size and style. There were also endless underclothes, shoes, makeup and toiletries. Hilary chose a few things from the huge selection, and one of the assistants was told to take everything to her apartment.

‘It will be a pleasure to help you choose some more clothes later, when you are more rested,’ said Mademoiselle La Roche. ‘You are not like scientific ladies - they do not care what they wear or what they look like! Ah, here is Miss Jennson.’

A thin girl with dark hair and glasses had entered the dress department. After she had introduced herself, Miss Jennson said, ‘If you’ve finished here now, Mrs Betterton, I will take you back to Dr Van Heidem. He is the Deputy Director, in charge of managing the Unit.’ Hilary followed Miss Jennson to Van Heidem’s office.

‘So, Mrs Betterton,’ said Van Heidem, when Hilary arrived. ‘I’m sure you are glad to see your husband again. I hope you’ll be very happy here.’

‘Thank you.’ Hilary sat down.

‘Do you want to ask me any questions?’ the doctor said. Hilary laughed. ‘I have so many questions to ask that I don’t know where to begin.’

‘Oh, I understand,’ he said. ‘But my advice is not to ask anything. Just take some time to adapt and see what happens. That’s the best thing to do.’

‘But I know so little,’ said Hilary. ‘It’s all so - so unexpected.’

‘Yes,’ Van Heidem laughed. ‘Our desert home is quite a surprise to most people. We don’t tell anyone about it before they get here. But we do our best to make everyone comfortable. And if there’s anything you need - any particular books or music, for example - just ask.’

After a pause, he continued, ‘It usually takes people a few weeks to get used to living here - especially wives. Sometimes wives take time to make new friends.’

‘And do we stay here? Or do we move on to somewhere else?’ Van Heidem became rather vague. ‘There are possibilities,’ he said. ‘It depends on your husband. But let’s not talk about that now.’

‘Can I go out at all?’ asked Hilary. ‘I mean, go outside the gates?’

‘I am often asked that question,’ said Van Heidem. His voice was kind. ‘But our Unit is a world in itself - it has everything you need. And outside there is only desert.’ He smiled. ‘After a while, Mrs Betterton, you won’t want to go out. You won’t want to go back to the bad old world you have left behind.’

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