Lenina suddenly felt all the sensations normally experienced at the beginning of a Violent Passion Surrogate treatment—a sense of dreadful emptiness, a breathless apprehension, a nausea. Her heart seemed to stop beating.

‘Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t like me,’ she said to herself. And at once this possibility became an established certainty: John had refused to come because he didn’t like her. He didn’t like her. …

‘It really is a bit too thick,’ the Head Mistress of Eton was saying to the Director of Crematoria and Phosphorus Reclamation. ‘When I think that I actually …’

‘Yes,’ came the voice of Fanny Crowne, ‘it’s absolutely true about the alcohol. Some one I know knew some one who was working in the Embryo Store at the time. She said to my friend, and my friend said to me …’

‘Too bad, too bad,’ said Henry Foster, sympathizing with the Arch-Community-Songster. ‘It may interest you to know that our ex-Director was on the point of transferring him to Iceland.’

Pierced by every word that was spoken, the tight balloon of Bernard’s happy self-confidence was leaking from a thousand wounds. Pale, distraught, abject and agitated, he moved among his guests, stammering incoherent apologies, assuring them that next time the Savage would certainly be there, begging them to sit down and take a carotine sandwich, a slice of vitamin A pâté, a glass of champagne-surrogate. They duly ate, but ignored him; drank and were either rude to his face or talked to one another about him, loudly and offensively as though he had not been there.

‘And now, my friends,’ said the Arch-Community-Songster of Canterbury, in that beautiful ringing voice with which he led the proceedings at Ford’s Day Celebrations, ‘Now, my friends, I think perhaps the time has come …’ He rose, put down his glass, brushed from his purple viscose waistcoat the crumbs of a considerable collation, and walked towards the door.

Bernard darted forward to intercept him.

‘Must you really, Arch-Songster? … It’s very early still. I’d hoped you would …’

Yes, what hadn’t he hoped, when Lenina confidentially told him that the Arch-Community-Songster would accept an invitation if it were sent. ‘He’s really rather sweet, you know.’ And she had shown Bernard the little golden zipper-fastening in the form of a T which the Arch-Songster had given her as a memento of the weekend she had spent at the Diocesan Singery. To meet the Arch-Community-Songster of Canterbury and Mr. Savage. Bernard had proclaimed his triumph on every invitation card. But the Savage had chosen this evening of all evenings to lock himself up in his room, to shout ‘Háni!’ and even (it was lucky that Bernard didn’t understand Zuñi) ‘Sons éso tse-ná!’ What should have been the crowning moment of Bernard’s whole career had turned out to be the moment of his greatest humiliation.

‘I’d so much hoped …’ he stammeringly repeated, looking up at the great dignitary with pleading and distracted eyes.

‘My young friend,’ said the Arch-Community-Songster in a tone of loud and solemn severity; there was a general silence. ‘Let me give you a word of advice.’ He wagged his finger at Bernard. ‘Before it’s too late. A word of good advice.’ (His voice became sepulchral.) ‘Mend your ways, my young friend, mend your ways.’ He made the sign of the T over him and turned away. ‘Lenina, my dear,’ he called in another tone. ‘Come with me.’

Obediently, but unsmiling and (wholly insensible of the honour done to her) without elation, Lenina walked after him, out of the room. The other guests followed at a respectful interval. The last of them slammed the door. Bernard was all alone.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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