Chapter 12

Bernard had to shout through the locked door; the Savage would not open.

‘But everybody’s there, waiting for you.’

‘Let them wait,’ came back the muffled voice through the door.

‘But you know quite well, John’ (how difficult it is to sound persuasive at the top of one’s voice!), ‘I asked them on purpose to meet you.’

‘You ought to have asked me first whether I wanted to meet them.’

‘But you always came before, John.’

‘That’s precisely why I don’t want to come again.’

‘Just to please me,’ Bernard bellowingly wheedled. ‘Won’t you come to please me?’


‘Do you seriously mean it?’


Despairingly, ‘But what shall I do?’ Bernard wailed.

‘Go to hell!’ bawled the exasperated voice from within.

‘But the Arch-Community-Songster of Canterbury is there to-night.’ Bernard was almost in tears.

Ai yaa tákwa!’ It was only in Zuñi that the Savage could adequately express what he felt about the Arch- Community-Songster. ‘Háni!’ he added as an afterthought; and then (with what derisive ferocity!): ‘Sons éso tse-ná.’ And he spat on the ground, as Popé might have done.

In the end Bernard had to slink back, diminished, to his rooms and inform the impatient assembly that the Savage would not be appearing that evening. The news was received with indignation. The men were furious at having been tricked into behaving politely to this insignificant fellow with the unsavoury reputation and the heretical opinions. The higher their position in the hierarchy, the deeper their resentment.

‘To play such a joke on me,’ the Arch-Songster kept repeating, ‘on me!

As for the women, they indignantly felt that they had been had on false pretences—had by a wretched little man who had had alcohol poured into his bottle by mistake—by a creature with a Gamma-Minus physique. It was an outrage, and they said so, more and more loudly. The Head Mistress of Eton was particularly scathing.

Lenina alone said nothing. Pale, her blue eyes clouded with an unwonted melancholy, she sat in a corner, cut off from those who surrounded her by an emotion which they did not share. She had come to the party filled with a strange feeling of anxious exultation. ‘In a few minutes,’ she had said to herself, as she entered the room, ‘I shall be seeing him, talking to him, telling him’ (for she had come with her mind made up) ‘that I like him—more than anybody I’ve ever known. And then perhaps he’ll say …’

What would he say? The blood had rushed to her cheeks.

‘Why was he so strange the other night, after the feelies? So queer. And yet I’m absolutely sure he really does rather like me. I’m sure …’

It was at this moment that Bernard had made his announcement; the Savage wasn’t coming to the party.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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