Winston had walked for several kilometres. This was the second time in three weeks that he had missed an evening at the Community Centre: a rash act, since you could be certain that the number of your attendances at the Centre was carefully checked. In principle a Party member had no spare time, and was never alone except in bed. It was assumed that when he was not working, eating, or sleeping he would be taking part in some kind of communal activity. But this evening as he came out of the Ministry the April air had tempted him. The sky was a warmer blue than he had seen it that year, and suddenly the long, noisy evening at the Centre had seemed intolerable. He had turned away from the bus-stop and wandered off into the labyrinth of London.
“If there is hope,” he had written in the diary, “it lies in the proles.” The words kept coming back to him. He was walking up a cobbled street of little houses. Perhaps a quarter of the windows in the street were broken and boarded up. Most of the people paid no attention to Winston. The blue overalls of the Party could not be a common sight in a street like this. Indeed, it was unwise to be here, unless you had definite business. The patrols might stop you if you happened to run into them.
He turned to the right. It was nearly twenty hours, and the drinking-shops which the proles went to (“pubs”, they called them) were full with customers.
But if there was hope, it lay in the proles. You had to cling on to that. When you put it in words it sounded reasonable: it was when you looked at the human beings passing you on the pavement that it became an act of faith. The street took a sharp turn and then ended in a flight of steps which led down into an alley. At this moment Winston remembered where he was. The alley led out into the main street, and down the next turning, not five minutes away, was the junkshop where he had bought the blank book which was now his diary.
He paused for a moment at the top of the steps. On the opposite side of the alley there was a pub. A very old man pushed open the swing door and went in. As Winston stood watching, it occurred to him that the old man, had already been middleaged when the Revolution happened. He and a few others like him were the last links to the past. In the Party itself there were not many people left whose ideas had been formed before the Revolution. The older generation had mostly been wiped out in the great purges of the fifties and sixties. Suddenly, an impulse took hold of him. He would go into the pub and question the old man. He would say to him: “Tell me about your life when you were a boy. What was it like in those days? Were things better than they are now, or were they worse?”
Hurriedly, he went down the steps and crossed the street. It was madness of course. As usual, there was no definite rule against talking to proles and going to their pubs, but it was far too unusual an action to pass unnoticed. He pushed open the door, and a hideous smell hit him in the face. As he entered the din of voices dropped to about half its volume. Behind his back he could feel everyone looking at his blue overalls. The old man whom he had followed was standing at the bar, talking to the barman.
“I arst you civil enough, didn’t I?” said the old man. “You telling me you ain’t got a pint mug in the ‘ole bleeding boozer?”
“And what in hell’s name IS a pint?” said the barman, leaning forward with the tips of his fingers on the counter.
“’Ark at ‘im! Calls ‘isself a barman and don’t know what a pint is! Why, a pint’s the ‘alf of a quart, and there’s four quarts to the gallon. ‘Ave to teach you the A, B, C next.”
“Never heard of ‘em,” said the barman shortly. “Litre and half litre—that’s all we serve. There’s the glasses on the shelf in front of you.”
“I likes a pint,” persisted the old man. “We didn’t “ave these bleeding litres when I was a young man.”
“When you were a young man we were all living in the treetops,” said the barman, with a glance at the other customers.
There was a shout of laughter, and the uneasiness caused by Winston’s entry seemed to disappear. The old man turned away, muttering to himself. Winston caught him gently by the arm.
“May I offer you a drink?” he said.
“You’re a gent,” said the man. He appeared not to have noticed Winston’s blue overalls. “Pint!” he added to the barman. “Pint of wallop.”
The barman poured two half-litres of dark-brown beer into thick glasses. Beer was the only drink you could get in prole pubs. There was a table under the window where he and the old man could talk without fear of being overheard.
“’E could ‘a drawed me off a pint,” grumbled the old man as he settled down behind a glass. “A ‘alf litre ain’t enough. It don’t satisfy. And a ‘ole litre’s too much. It starts my bladder running. Let alone the price.”
“You must have seen great changes since you were a young man,” said Winston.
“The beer was better,” said the man. “And cheaper! When I was a young man, mild beer—wallop we used to call it—‘as fourpence a pint. That was before the war, of course.”
“Which war was that?” said Winston.
“It’s all wars,” said the old man vaguely. He took up his glass. “‘Ere’s wishing you the very best of ’ealth!”
He drank the beer. Winston went to the bar and came back with two more half-litres. The old man appeared to have forgotten his prejudice against drinking a full litre.
“You are very much older than I am,” said Winston. “You must have been a grown man before I was born. You can remember what it was like in the old days, before the Revolution. People of my age don’t really know anything about those times. We can only read about them in books, and what it says in the books may not be true. I should like your opinion on that. The history books say that life before the Revolution was completely different from what it is now. There was the most terrible oppression, injustice, poverty. What I really wanted to know was this: do you feel that you have more freedom now than you had in those days? Are you treated more like a human being? In the old days, the rich people, the people at the top—”
“The ‘Ouse of Lords,” put in the old man reminiscently.
“The House of Lords, if you like. What I am asking is, were these people able to treat you as an inferior, simply because they were rich and you were poor? Is it a fact, for instance, that you had to call them “Sir” and take off your cap when you passed them?”
The old man appeared to think deeply. He drank off about a quarter of his beer before answering.
“Yes,” he said. “They liked you to touch your cap to ‘em. It showed respect, like. I didn’t agree with it, myself, but I done it often enough. Had to, as you might say.”
“And was it usual—I’m only quoting what I’ve read in history books—was it usual for these people and their servants to push you off the pavement into the gutter?”
“One of ‘em pushed me once,” said the old man. “I recollect it as if it was yesterday. It was Boat Race night and I bumps into a young bloke on Shaftesbury Avenue. Quite a gent, ‘e was—dress shirt, top ‘at, black overcoat. ‘E was kind of zig-zagging across the pavement, and I bumps into ‘im accidental-like. ‘E says, ‘Why can’t you look where you’re going?’ ‘e says. I say, ‘Ju think you’ve bought the pavement?’ ‘E says, ‘I’ll twist your bloody ‘ead off if you get fresh with me.’ I says, ‘You’re drunk. I’ll give you in charge in ‘alf a minute,’ I says. An’ if you’ll believe me, ‘e puts ‘is ‘and on my chest and gives me a shove as pretty near sent me under the wheels of a bus. Well, I was young in them days, only—”
A sense of helplessness took hold of Winston. The old man’s memory was nothing but a rubbish-heap of details.
“Perhaps I have not made myself clear,” he said. “What I’m trying to say is this. You have been alive a very long time; you lived half your life before the Revolution. In 1925, for instance, you were already grown up. Would you say from what you can remember, that life in 1925 was better than it is now, or worse? If you could choose, would you prefer to live then or now?”
The old man finished up his beer, more slowly than before. When he spoke it was with a tolerant philosophical air.
“I know what you expect me to say,” he said. “You expect me to say as I’d sooner be young again. Most people’d say they’d sooner be young, if you arst’ ‘em. You got your ‘ealth and strength when you’re young. When you get to my time of life you ain’t never well. You ain’t got the same worries.”
Winston sat back against the window-sill. It was no use going on. He was about to buy some more beer when the old man suddenly got up and went into the stinking urinal at the side of the room. The extra half-litre was already working on him. Winston sat for a minute or two, and hardly noticed when his feet carried him out into the street again.
When he looked up, he was in a narrow street, with a few dark little shops. Of course! He was standing outside the junk-shop where he had bought the diary.
Fear went through him. He had sworn never to come near the place again. And yet his feet had brought him back here of their own accord.
The owner had just lighted a hanging oil lamp. He was a man of perhaps sixty, with a long, benevolent nose, and mild eyes distorted by thick spectacles. His hair was almost white, but his eyebrows were bushy and still black. He was wearing an aged jacket of black velvet. His voice was soft.
“I recognized you on the pavement,” he said immediately. “You’re the gentleman that bought the young lady’s keepsake album. That was a beautiful bit of paper, that was.” He looked at Winston over the top of his spectacles. “Is there anything I can do for you? Or did you just want to look round?”
“I was passing,” said Winston. “I just looked in. I don’t want anything in particular.”
“It’s just as well,” said the other. “Between you and me, the antique trade’s just about finished. No demand any longer, and no stock either.”
The tiny interior of the shop was uncomfortably full, but there was almost nothing in it of the value. The floorspace was very restricted, because all round the walls were stacked picture-frames. In the window there were trays of nuts and bolts, worn-out chisels, penknives with broken blades, watches that did not even pretend to be working, and other rubbish. Then Winston’s eye was caught by a round, smooth thing that gleamed softly in the lamplight, and he picked it up.
It was a heavy lump of glass, curved on one side, flat on the other, making almost a hemisphere. At the heart of it was a strange, pink object that recalled a rose or a sea anemone.
“What is it?” said Winston, fascinated.
“That’s coral, that is,” said the old man. “It must have come from the Indian Ocean. They used to kind of embed it in the glass. That wasn’t made less than a hundred years ago. More, by the look of it.”
“It’s a beautiful thing,” said Winston.
“It is a beautiful thing,” said the other. “But there’s not many that’d say so nowadays.” He coughed. “Now, if it so happened that you wanted to buy it, that’d cost you four dollars.”
Winston immediately paid over the four dollars and put the thing into his pocket. It was very heavy, but fortunately it did not make much of a bulge.
“There’s another room upstairs that you might care to take a look at,” said the owner. “There’s not much in it. Just a few pieces.”
He lit another lamp, and, led the way slowly up the stairs, into a room. Winston noticed that the furniture was still arranged as though the room were meant to be lived in. There was a strip of carpet on the floor, a picture or two on the walls, and an arm-chair next to the fireplace. An old-fashioned glass clock was ticking away on the mantelpiece. Under the window, and occupying a quarter of the room, was an enormous bed with the mattress still on it.
“We lived here till my wife died,” said the old man. “I’m selling the furniture off by little and little.”
He was holding the lamp high up, so as to illuminate the whole room, and in the warm dim light the place looked inviting. The thought came to Winston that it would probably be quite easy to rent the room for a few dollars a week, if he dared to take the risk. It was a wild, impossible idea; but the room had awakened in him a sort of nostalgia. It seemed to him that he knew exactly what it felt like to sit in a room like this.
“There’s no telescreen!” he could not help murmuring.
“Ah,” said the old man, “I never had one of those things. Too expensive. And I never seemed to feel the need of it, somehow.”
There was a small bookcase in the other corner, and Winston went towards it. It contained nothing but rubbish. The destruction of books had been done with the same thoroughness in the prole quarters as everywhere else.
“Now, if you happen to be interested in old prints at all—” began the old man.
Winston came across to examine the picture. It was a steel engraving of an oval building with rectangular windows, and a small tower in front. There was a railing running round the building, and at the rear end there was what appeared to be a statue. Winston looked at it for some moments. It seemed familiar.
“I know that building,” said Winston finally. “It’s a ruin now. It’s in the middle of the street outside the Palace of Justice.”
“That’s right. Outside the Law Courts. It was bombed in—oh, many years ago. It was a church at one time, St Clement Danes, its name was.” He smiled and added: “Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement’s!”
“What’s that?” said Winston.
“Oh—“Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement’s.” That was a rhyme we had when I was a little boy. How it goes on I don’t remember, but I do know it ended up, “Here comes a candle to light you to bed, Here comes a chopper to chop off your head.” It was a kind of a dance. They held out their arms for you to pass under, and when they came to “Here comes a chopper to chop off your head” they brought their arms down and caught you. It was just names of churches. All the London churches were in it—all the important ones, that is.”
“I never knew it had been a church,” said Winston.
“There’s a lot of them left, really,” said the old man, “though they’ve been put to other uses. Now, how did that rhyme go? Ah! I’ve got it! “Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement’s, You owe me three farthings, say the bells of St Martin’s—” there, now, that’s as far as I can get. A farthing, that was a small copper coin, looked something like a cent.”
“Where was St Martin’s?” said Winston.
“St Martin’s? That’s still standing. It’s in Victory Square, alongside the picture gallery. A building with a kind of a triangular porch and pillars in front, and a big flight of steps.”
Winston knew the place well. It was a museum used for propaganda displays.
Winston did not buy the picture.He stayed for some minutes more, talking to the old man, whose name, he discovered, was Charrington. Mr Charrington, it seemed, was a widower aged sixty-three and had inhabited this shop for thirty years.
He got away went down the stairs alone. He had already made up his mind that after a while he would take the risk of visiting the shop again. He would buy scraps of beautiful rubbish. He would buy the engraving of St Clement Danes, take it out of its frame, and carry it home under the jacket of his overalls.
Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement’s, You owe me three farthings, say the—
Suddenly his heart seemed to turn to ice and his bowels to water. A figure in blue overalls was coming down the pavement, not ten metres away. It was the girl from the Fiction Department, the girl with dark hair. She looked him straight in the face, then walked quickly on as though she had not seen him.
For a few seconds Winston was too paralysed to move. Then he turned to the right and walked heavily away, not noticing for the moment that he was going in the wrong direction. There was no doubting any longer that the girl was spying on him. She must have followed him here. It was too great a coincidence. Whether she was really an agent of the Thought Police, or simply an amateur spy, hardly mattered. It was enough that she was watching him.
It was after twenty-two hours when he got back to the flat. He went into the kitchen and swallowed nearly a teacupful of Victory Gin. Then he went to the table in the alcove, sat down, and took the diary out of the drawer. But he did not open it at once. From the telescreen a female voice was singing a patriotic song. He sat staring at the cover of the book, trying without success to shut the voice out of his consciousness.
It was at night that they came for you, always at night. The proper thing was to kill yourself before they got you. Undoubtedly some people did so. Many of the disappearances were actually suicides. But it needed desperate courage to kill yourself in a world where firearms, or any quick and certain poison, were not available.
He opened the diary. It was important to write something down. The woman on the telescreen had started a new song. He tried to think of O’Brien, for whom, or to whom, the diary was written, but instead he began thinking of the things that would happen to him after the Thought Police took him away. It would not matter if they killed you at once. To be killed was what you expected. But before death there was the routine of confession that had to be gone through: the grovelling on the floor and screaming for mercy, the crack of broken bones, the smashed teeth.
Why did you have to endure it, since the end was always the same? Why was it not possible to cut a few days or weeks out of your life?
He tried to summon up the image of O’Brien. “We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness,” O’Brien had said to him. He knew what it meant, or thought he knew. The place where there is no darkness was the imagined future, which one would never see. But with the voice from the telescreen he could not follow the train of thought. He put a cigarette in his mouth. Half the tobacco fell out on to his tongue. The face of Big Brother swam into his mind. It looked up at him, heavy, calm, protecting: but what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache? The words came back at him:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
It was the middle of the morning, and Winston had left the cubicle to go to the lavatory.
A figure was coming towards him from the other end of the corridor. It was the girl with dark hair. Four days had gone past since the evening when he had run into her outside the junk-shop. As she came nearer he saw that her right arm was in a sling, not noticeable at a distance because it was of the same colour as her overalls.
They were perhaps four metres apart when the girl stumbled and fell almost flat on her face with a sharp cry of pain. She must have fallen right on the injured arm. Winston stopped short. The girl had risen to her knees. Her face had turned a milky yellow colour against which her mouth stood out redder than ever. Her eyes were fixed on his.
A curious emotion stirred in Winston’s heart. In front of him was an enemy who was trying to kill him: in front of him, also, was a human creature, in pain and perhaps with a broken bone.
“You’re hurt?” he said.
“It’s nothing. My arm. It’ll be all right in a second.”
She spoke as though her heart were fluttering. She had certainly turned very pale.
“You haven’t broken anything?”
“No, I’m all right. It hurt for a moment, that’s all.”
She held out her free hand to him, and he helped her up. She had regained some of her colour, and appeared very much better.
“It’s nothing,” she repeated shortly. “I only gave my wrist a bit of a bang. Thanks, comrade!”
And with that she walked on in the direction in which she had been going. The whole incident could not have taken as much as half a minute. For Winston, it had been very difficult not to betray a momentary surprise, for in the two or three seconds while he was helping her up the girl had slipped something into his hand. A scrap of paper folded into a square.
While he stood at the urinal he managed to get it unfolded. He was tempted to take it into one of the water-closets and read it at once. But that would be shocking folly. There was no place where you could be more certain that the telescreens were watched continuously.
He went back to his cubicle, sat down, threw the fragment of paper casually among the other papers on the desk, put on his spectacles and hitched the speakwrite towards him.
Whatever was written on the paper, it must have some kind of political meaning. So far as he could see there were two possibilities. One, much the more likely, was that the girl was an agent of the Thought Police, just as he had feared. But there was another, wilder possibility that kept raising its head, though he tried vainly to suppress it. This was, that the message did not come from the Thought Police at all, but from some kind of underground organization. Perhaps the Brotherhood existed after all! Perhaps the girl was part of it!
He rolled up the completed bundle of work and slid it into the pneumatic tube. Eight minutes had gone by. He readjusted his spectacles on his nose, sighed, and drew the next batch of work towards him, with the scrap of paper on top of it. He flattened it out. On it was written, in large handwriting:
I LOVE YOU.
For several seconds he was too stunned even to throw the incriminating thing into the memory hole. When he did so, although he knew very well the danger of showing too much interest, he could not resist reading it once again, just to make sure that the words were really there.
For the rest of the morning it was very difficult to work. He felt as though a fire were burning in his belly. Lunch in the hot, crowded, noise-filled canteen was torment. He had hoped to be alone for a little while during the lunch hour, but Parsons flopped down beside him. Once, Winston caught a glimpse of the girl, at a table with two other girls at the far end of the room. She appeared not to have seen him, and he did not look in that direction again.
The afternoon was more bearable. Immediately after lunch there arrived a delicate, difficult piece of work which would take several hours. It consisted in falsifying a series of production reports of two years ago, in such a way as to cast discredit on a prominent member of the Inner Party. This was the kind of thing that Winston was good at, and for more than two hours he succeeded in shutting the girl out of his mind altogether. Then the memory of her face came back, and with it a raging, intolerable desire to be alone. At the sight of the words I LOVE YOU the desire to stay alive had welled up in him, and the taking of minor risks suddenly seemed stupid. It was not till twenty-three hours, when he was home and in bed that he was able to think continuously.
It was a physical problem that had to be solved: how to arrange a meeting with the girl. He did not longer consider the possibility that she might be laying some kind of trap for him. Obviously she had been frightened out of her wits,. Nor did the idea of refusing her advances even cross his mind. Only five nights ago he had contemplated smashing her skull in with a cobblestone, but that was of no importance. He thought of her naked, youthful body, as he had seen it in his dream. He had imagined her a fool like all the rest of them, her head stuffed with lies and hatred. What he feared more than anything else was that she would simply change her mind if he did not get in touch with her quickly.
Obviously the kind of encounter that had happened this morning could not be repeated. If she had worked in the Records Department it might have been comparatively simple, but he had only a very dim idea whereabouts in the building the Fiction Department lay, and he had no reason for going there. If he had known where she lived, and at what time she left work, he could have meet her somewhere on her way home; but to try to follow her home was not safe. Sending a letter was out of the question. Finally he decided that the safest place was the canteen. If he could get her at a table by herself, somewhere in the middle of the room, not too near the telescreens,, it might be possible to exchange a few words.
For a week after this, life was like a restless dream. On the next day she did not appear in the canteen until he was leaving it. They passed each other without a glance. On the day after that she was in the canteen at the usual time, but with three other girls and near a telescreen. Then for three dreadful days she did not appear at all. He did not touch the diary during those days. He had absolutely no clue as to what had happened to her.
The next day she reappeared. Her arm was out of the sling and she had a band of sticking-plaster round her wrist. The relief of seeing her was so great that he could not resist staring directly at her for several seconds. On the following day he very nearly succeeded in speaking to her. When he came into the canteen she was sitting at a table well out from the wall, and was quite alone. It was early, and the place was not very full. He walked casually towards her, his eyes searching for a place at some table beyond her. She was perhaps three metres away from him, when a voice behind him called, “Smith!” He pretended not to hear. “Smith!” repeated the voice, more loudly. It was no use. He turned round. A blond-headed, silly-faced young man named Wilsher, whom he barely knew, was inviting him with a smile to a vacant place at his table. It was not safe to refuse. He sat down with a friendly smile.
Next day he took care to arrive early. Surely enough, she was at a table alone. The person immediately ahead of him in the queue was a small, swiftly-moving, man. As Winston turned away from the counter with his tray, he saw that the little man was making straight for the girl’s table. With ice at his heart Winston followed. It was no use unless he could get the girl alone. At this moment there was a tremendous crash. The little man was sprawling on all fours, his tray had gone flying, two streams of soup and coffee were flowing across the floor. He started to his feet with a malignant glance at Winston, whom he evidently suspected of having tripped him up. But it was all right. Five seconds later, Winston was sitting at the girl’s table.
He did not look at her. He unpacked his tray and promptly began eating. A terrible fear had taken possession of him. A week had gone by since she had first approached him. She would have changed her mind, she must have changed her mind! It was impossible for this affair to end successfully. There was perhaps a minute in which to act. Both Winston and the girl were eating steadily. Neither of them looked up; they spooned the watery food into their mouths, and between spoonfuls exchanged the few necessary words in low expressionless voices.
“What time do you leave work?”
“Where can we meet?”
“Victory Square, near the monument.”
“It’s full of telescreens.”
“It doesn’t matter if there’s a crowd.”
“No. Don’t come up to me until you see me among a lot of people. And don’t look at me. Just keep somewhere near me.”
They did not speak again. The girl finished her lunch quickly and made off, while Winston stayed to smoke a cigarette.
Winston was in Victory Square before the appointed time. He wandered round the base of the enormous column, at the top of which Big Brother’s statue gazed southward. In the street in front of it there was a statue of a man on horseback which was supposed to represent Oliver Cromwell. At five minutes past the hour the girl had still not appeared. Again the terrible fear seized upon Winston. She was not coming, she had changed her mind! Then he saw the girl standing at the base of the monument, reading or pretending to read a poster which ran spirally up the column. Suddenly everyone seemed to be running across the square. The girl joined in the rush. Winston followed. As he ran, he gathered from some shouted remarks that a convoy of Eurasian prisoners was passing.
Already a dense mass of people was blocking the south side of the square. Winston squirmed his way forward into the heart of the crowd. Soon he was within arm’s length of the girl. He wriggled himself sideways, and with a violent lunge managed to break through the crowd. He was next to the girl. They were shoulder to shoulder, both staring fixedly in front of them.
A long line of trucks, with wooden-faced guards armed with sub-machine guns standing upright in each corner, was passing slowly down the street. In the trucks little yellow men in shabby greenish uniforms were sitting, jammed close together. Their sad, Mongolian faces gazed out over the sides of the trucks. Winston knew they were there but he saw them only intermittently. The girl’s shoulder, and her arm right down to the elbow, were pressed against his. Her cheek was almost near enough for him to feel its warmth. She had immediately taken charge of the situation, just as she had done in the canteen. She began speaking in the same expressionless voice as before, with lips barely moving.
“Can you hear me?”
“Can you get Sunday afternoon off?”
“Then listen carefully. You’ll have to remember this. Go to Paddington Station—”
She outlined the route that he was to follow. A half-hour railway journey; turn left outside the station; two kilometres along the road; a gate with the top bar missing; a path across a field; a grass-grown lane; a track between bushes; a dead tree with moss on it. It was as though she had a map inside her head. “Can you remember all that?” she murmured finally.
“You turn left, then right, then left again. And the gate’s got no top bar.”
“Yes. What time?”
“About fifteen. You may have to wait. I’ll get there by another way. Are you sure you remember everything?”
“Then get away from me as quick as you can.”