She liked even less what awaited her at the entrance to the pueblo, where their guide had left them while he went inside for instructions. The dirt, to start with, the piles of rubbish, the dust, the dogs, the flies. Her face wrinkled up into a grimace of disgust. She held her handkerchief to her nose.
But how can they live like this? she broke out in a voice of indignant incredulity. (It wasnt possible.)
Bernard shrugged his shoulders philosophically. Anyhow, he said, theyve been doing it for the last five or six thousand years. So I suppose they must be used to it by now.
But cleanliness is next to fordliness, she insisted.
Yes, and civilization is sterilization, Bernard went on, concluding on a tone of irony the second hypnopædic lesson in elementary hygiene. But these people have never heard of Our Ford, and they arent civilized. So theres no point in
Oh! She gripped his arm. Look.
An almost naked Indian was very slowly climbing down the ladder from the first-floor terrace of a neighbouring houserung after rung, with the tremulous caution of extreme old age. His face was profoundly wrinkled and black, like a mask of obsidian. The toothless mouth had fallen in. At the corners of the lips, and on each side of the chin a few long bristles gleamed almost white against the dark skin. The long unbraided hair hung down in grey wisps round his face. His body was bent and emaciated to the bone, almost fleshless. Very slowly he came down, pausing at each rung before he ventured another step.
Whats the matter with him? whispered Lenina. Her eyes were wide with horror and amazement.
Hes old, thats all, Bernard answered as carelessly as he could. He too was startled; but he made an effort to seem unmoved.
Old? she repeated. But the Directors old; lots of people are old; theyre not like that.
Thats because we dont allow them to be like that. We preserve them from diseases. We keep their internal secretions artificially balanced at a youthful equilibrium. We dont permit their magnesium-calcium ratio to fall below what it was at thirty. We give them transfusions of young blood. We keep their metabolism permanently stimulated. So, of course, they dont look like that. Partly, he added, because most of them die long before they reach this old creatures age. Youth almost unimpaired till sixty, and then, crack! the end.
But Lenina was not listening. She was watching the old man. Slowly, slowly he came down. His feet touched the ground. He turned. In their deep-sunken orbits his eyes were still extraordinarily bright. They looked at her for a long moment expressionlessly, without surprise, as though she had not been there at all. Then slowly, with bent back, the old man hobbled past them and was gone.
But its terrible, Lenina whispered. Its awful. We ought not to have come here. She felt in her pocket for her somaonly to discover that, by some unprecedented oversight, she had left the bottle down at the rest-house. Bernards pockets were also empty.
Lenina was left to face the horrors of Malpais unaided. They came crowding in on her thick and fast. The spectacle of two young women giving the breast to their babies made her blush and turn away her face. She had never seen anything so indecent in her life. And what made it worse was that, instead of tactfully ignoring it, Bernard proceeded to make open comments on this revoltingly viviparous scene. Ashamed, now that the effects of the soma had worn off, of the weakness he had displayed that morning in the hotel, he went out of his way to show himself strong and unorthodox.
What a wonderfully intimate relationship, he said, deliberately outrageous. And what an intensity of feeling it must generate! I often think one may have missed something in not having had a mother. And
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