The singing of the girls over their test-tubes, the preoccupied whistling of the Microscopists, suddenly ceased. There was a profound silence; every one looked round.

‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ the Director repeated once more, ‘excuse me for thus interrupting your labours. A painful duty constrains me. The security and stability of Society are in danger. Yes, in danger, ladies and gentlemen. This man,’ he pointed accusingly at Bernard, ‘this man who stands before you here, this Alpha-Plus to whom so much has been given, and from whom, in consequence, so much must be expected, this colleague of yours—or should I anticipate and say this ex-colleague?—has grossly betrayed the trust imposed in him. By his heretical views on sport and soma, by the scandalous unorthodoxy of his sex-life, by his refusal to obey the teachings of Our Ford and behave out of office hours, “like a babe in a bottle” ’ (here the Director made the sign of the T), ‘he has proved himself an enemy of Society, a subverter, ladies and gentlemen, of all Order and Stability, a conspirator against Civilization itself. For this reason I propose to dismiss him, to dismiss him with ignominy from the post he has held in this Centre; I propose forthwith to apply for his transference to a Sub-Centre of the lowest order and, that his punishment may serve the best interest of Society, as far as possible removed from any important Centre of population. In Iceland he will have small opportunity to lead others astray by his unfordly example.’ The Director paused; then, folding his arms, he turned impressively to Bernard. ‘Marx,’ he said, ‘can you show any reason why I should not now execute the judgment passed upon you?’

‘Yes, I can,’ Bernard answered in a very loud voice.

Somewhat taken aback, but still majestically, ‘Then show it,’ said the Director.

‘Certainly. But it’s in the passage. One moment.’ Bernard hurried to the door and threw it open. ‘Come in,’ he commanded, and the reason came in and showed itself.

There was a gasp, a murmur of astonishment and horror; a young girl screamed; standing on a chair to get a better view some one upset two test-tubes full of spermatozoa. Bloated, sagging, and among those firm youthful bodies, those undistorted faces, a strange and terrifying monster of middle-agedness, Linda advanced into the room, coquettishly smiling her broken and discoloured smile, and rolling as she walked, with what was meant to be a voluptuous undulation, her enormous haunches. Bernard walked beside her.

‘There he is,’ he said, pointing at the Director.

‘Did you think I didn’t recognize him?’ Linda asked indignantly; then, turning to the Director, ‘Of course I knew you; Tomakin, I should have known you anywhere, among a thousand. But perhaps you’ve forgotten me. Don’t you remember? Don’t you remember, Tomakin? Your Linda.’ She stood looking at him, her head on one side, still smiling, but with a smile that became progressively, in face of the Director’s expression of petrified disgust, less and less self-confident, that wavered and finally went out. ‘Don’t you remember, Tomakin?’ she repeated in a voice that trembled. Her eyes were anxious, agonized. The blotched and sagging face twitched grotesquely into the grimace of extreme grief. ‘Tomakin!’ She held out her arms. Some one began to titter.

‘What’s the meaning,’ began the Director, ‘of this monstrous …’

‘Tomakin!’ She ran forward, her blanket trailing behind her, threw her arms round his neck, hid her face on his chest.

A howl of laughter went up irrepressibly.

‘… this monstrous practical joke,’ the Director shouted.

Red in the face, he tried to disengage himself from her embrace. Desperately she clung. ‘But I’m Linda, I’m Linda.’ The laughter drowned her voice. ‘You made me have a baby,’ she screamed above the uproar.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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