‘A gramme in time saves nine,’ said Lenina, producing a bright treasure of sleep-taught wisdom.

Bernard pushed away the proffered glass impatiently.

‘Now don’t loose your temper,’ she said. ‘Remember, one cubic centimetre cures ten gloomy sentiments.’

‘Oh, for Ford’s sake, be quiet!’ he shouted.

Lenina shrugged her shoulders. ‘A gramme is always better than a damn,’ she concluded with dignity, and drank the sundae herself.

On their way back across the Channel, Bernard insisted on stopping his propeller and hovering on his helicopter screws within a hundred feet of the waves. The weather had taken a change for the worse; a south-westerly wind had sprung up, the sky was cloudy.

‘Look,’ he commanded.

‘But it’s horrible,’ said Lenina, shrinking back from the window. She was appalled by the rushing emptiness of the night, by the black foam-flecked water heaving beneath them, by the pale face of the moon, so haggard and distracted among the hastening clouds. ‘Let’s turn on the radio. Quick!’ She reached for the dialling knob on the dash-board and turned it at random.

‘…skies are blue inside of you,’ sang sixteen tremoloing falsettos, ‘the weather’s always…’

Then a hiccough and silence. Bernard had switched off the current.

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

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

‘But I do,’ he insisted. ‘It makes me feel as though…’ he hesitated, 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. Not just a cell in the social body. Doesn’t it make you feel like that, Lenina?’

But Lenina was crying. ‘It’s horrible, it’s horrible,’ she kept repeating. ‘And how can you talk like that about not wanting to be a part of the social body? After all, every one works for every one else. We can’t do without any one. Even Epsilons…’

‘Yes, I know,’ said Bernard derisively. ‘ “Even Epsilons are useful”! So am I. And I damned well wish I weren’t!’

Lenina was shocked by his blasphemy. ‘Bernard!’ she protested in a voice of amazed distress. ‘How can you?’

In a different key, ‘How can I?’ he repeated meditatively. ‘No, the real problem is: How is it that I can’t, or rather—because, after all, I know quite well why I can’t—what would it be like if I could, if I were free—not enslaved by 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.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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