Aldous Huxley (1894–1963)
LENINA felt herself entitled, after this day of queerness and horror, to a complete and absolute holiday. As soon as they got back to the rest-house, she swallowed six half-gramme tablets of soma, lay down on her bed, and within ten minutes had embarked for lunar eternity. It would be eighteen hours at the least before she was in time again.
Bernard meanwhile lay pensive and wide-eyed in the dark. It was long after midnight before he fell asleep. Long after midnight; but his insomnia had not been fruitless; he had a plan.
Punctually, on the following morning, at ten o’clock, the green-uniformed octoroon stepped out of his helicopter. Bernard was waiting for him among the agaves.
“Miss Crowne’s gone on soma-holiday,” he explained. “Can hardly be back before five. Which leaves us seven hours.”
He could fly to Santa Fé, do all the business he had to do, and be in Malpais again long before she woke up.
“She’ll be quite safe here by herself?”
“Safe as helicopters,” the octoroon assured him.
They climbed into the machine and started off at once. At ten thirty-four they landed on the roof of the Santa Fé Post Office; at ten thirty-seven Bernard had got through to the World Controller’s Office in Whitehall; at ten thirty-seven he was speaking to his fordship’s fourth personal secretary; at ten forty-four he was repeating his story to the first secretary, and at ten forty-seven and a half it was the deep, resonant voice of Mustapha Mond himself that sounded in his ears.
“I ventured to think,” stammered Bernard, “that your fordship might find the matter of sufficient scientific interest …”
“Yes, I do find it of sufficient scientific interest,” said the deep voice. “Bring these two individuals back to London with you.”
“Your fordship is aware that I shall need a special permit …”
“The necessary orders,” said Mustapha Mond, “are being sent to the Warden of the Reservation at this moment. You will proceed at once to the Warden’s Office. Good-morning, Mr. Marx.”
There was silence. Bernard hung up the receiver and hurried up to the roof.
“Warden’s Office,” he said to the Gamma-green octoroon. At ten fifty-four Bernard was shaking hands with the Warden.
“Delighted, Mr. Marx, delighted.” His boom was deferential. “We have just received special orders …”
“I know,” said Bernard, interrupting him. “I was talking to his fordship on the phone a moment ago.” His bored tone implied that he was in the habit of talking to his fordship every day of the week. He dropped into a chair. “If you’ll kindly take all the necessary steps as soon as possible. As soon as possible,” he emphatically repeated. He was thoroughly enjoying himself.
At eleven three he had all the necessary papers in his pocket. “So long,” he said patronizingly to the Warden, who had accompanied him as far as the lift gates. “So long.”
He walked across to the hotel, had a bath, a vibro-vac massage, and an electrolytic shave, listened in to the morning’s news, looked in for half an hour on the televisor, ate a leisured luncheon, and at half-past two flew back with the octoroon to Malpais.
The young man stood outside the rest-house. “Bernard,” he called. “Bernard!” There was no answer.
Noiseless on his deerksin moccasins, he ran up the steps and tried the door. The door was locked.
They were gone! Gone! It was the most terrible thing that had ever happened to him. She had asked him to come and see them, and now they were gone. He sat down on the steps and cried.
Half an hour later it occurred to him to look through the window. The first thing he saw was a green suit-case, with the initials L.C. painted on the lid. Joy flared up like fire within him. He picked up a stone. The smashed glass tinkled on the floor. A moment later he was inside the room. He opened the green suit-case; and all at once he was breathing Lenina’s perfume, filling his lungs with her essential being. His heart beat wildly; for a moment he was almost faint. Then, bending over the precious box, he touched, he lifted into the light, he examined. The zippers on Lenina’s spare pair of viscose velveteen shorts were at first a puzzle, then solved, a delight. Zip, and then zip; zip, and then zip; he was enchanted. Her green slippers were the most beautiful things he had ever seen. He unfolded a pair of zippicamiknicks, blushed, put them hastily away again; but kissed a perfumed acetate handkerchief and wound a scarf round his neck. Opening a box, he spilt a cloud of scented powder. His hands were floury with the stuff. He wiped them on his chest, on his shoulders, on his bare arms. Delicious perfume! He shut his eyes; he rubbed his cheek against his own powdered arm. Touch of smooth skin against his face, scent in his nostrils of musky dust—her real presence. “Lenina,” he whispered. “Lenina!”
A noise made him start, made him guiltily turn. He crammed up his thieveries into the suit-case and shut the lid; then listened again, looked. Not a sign of life, not a sound. And yet he had certainly heard something—something like a sigh, something like the creak of a board. He tiptoed to the door and, cautiously opening it, found himself looking on to a broad landing. On the opposite side of the landing was another door, ajar. He stepped out, pushed, peeped.
There, on a low bed, the sheet flung back, dressed in a pair of pink one-piece zippyjamas, lay Lenina, fast asleep and so beautiful in the midst of her curls, so touchingly childish with her pink toes and her grave sleeping face, so trustful in the helplessness of her limp hands and melted limbs, that the tears came to his eyes.
With an infinity of quite unnecessary precautions—for nothing short of a pistol shot could have called Lenina back from her soma-holiday before the appointed time—he entered the room, he knelt on the floor beside the bed. He gazed, he clasped his hands, his lips moved. “Her eyes,” he murmured.
“Her eyes, her hair, her cheek, her gait, her voice;
Handlest in thy discourse O! that her hand,
In whose comparison all whites are ink
Writing their own reproach; to whose soft seizure
The cygnet’s down is harsh …”
A fly buzzed round her; he waved it away. “Flies,” he remembered,
“On the white wonder of dear Juliet’s hand, may seize
And steal immortal blessing from her lips,
Who, even in pure and vestal modesty,
Still blush, as thinking their own kisses sin.”
Very slowly, with the hesitating gesture of one who reaches forward to stroke a shy and possibly rather dangerous bird, he put out his hand. It hung there trembling, within an inch of those limp fingers, on the verge of contact. Did he dare? Dare to profane with his unworthiest hand that … No, he didn’t. The bird was too dangerous. His hand dropped back. How beautiful she was! How beautiful!
Then suddenly he found himself reflecting that he had only to take hold of the zipper at her neck and give one long, strong pull … He shut his eyes, he shook his head with the gesture of a dog shaking its ears as it emerges from the water. Detestable thought! He was ashamed of himself. Pure and vestal modesty…
There was a humming in the air. Another fly trying to steal immortal blessings? A wasp? He looked, saw nothing. The humming grew louder and louder, localized itself as being outside the shuttered windows. The plane! In a panic, he scrambled to his feet and ran into the other room, vaulted through the open window, and hurrying along the path between the tall agaves was in time to receive Bernard Marx as he climbed out of the helicopter.