Chapter 13

Henry Foster loomed up through the twilight of the Embryo Store.

‘Like to come to a feely this evening?’

Lenina shook her head without speaking.

‘Going out with some one else?’ It interested him to know which of his friends was being had by which other. ‘Is it Benito?’ he questioned.

She shook her head again.

Henry detected the weariness in those purple eyes, the pallor beneath that glaze of lupus, the sadness at the corners of the unsmiling crimson mouth. ‘You’re not feeling ill, are you?’ he asked, a trifle anxiously, afraid that she might be suffering from one of the few remaining infectious diseases.

Yet once more Lenina shook her head.

‘Anyhow, you ought to go and see the doctor,’ said Henry. ‘A doctor a day keeps the jim-jams away,’ he added heartily, driving home his hypnopædic adage with a clap on the shoulder. ‘Perhaps you need a Pregnancy Substitute,’ he suggested. ‘Or else an extra-strong V.P.S. treatment. Sometimes, you know, the standard passion-surrogate isn’t quite …’

‘Oh, for Ford’s sake,’ said Lenina, breaking her stubborn silence, ‘shut up!’ And she turned back to her neglected embryos.

A V.P.S. treatment indeed! She would have laughed, if she hadn’t been on the point of crying. As though she hadn’t got enough V.P. of her own! She sighed profoundly as she refilled her syringe. ‘John,’ she murmured to herself, ‘John …’ Then ‘My Ford,’ she wondered, ‘have I given this one its sleeping-sickness injection, or haven’t I?’ She simply couldn’t remember. In the end, she decided not to run the risk of letting it have a second dose, and moved down the line to the next bottle.

Twenty-two years eight months and four days from that moment, a promising young Alpha-Minus administrator at Mwanza-Mwanza was to die of trypanosomiasis—the first case for over half a century. Sighing, Lenina went on with her work.

An hour later, in the Changing-room, Fanny was energetically protesting. ‘But it’s absurd to let yourself get into a state like this. Simply absurd,’ she repeated. ‘And what about? A man—one man.’

‘But he’s the one I want.’

‘As though there weren’t millions of other men in the world.’

‘But I don’t want them.’

‘How can you know till you’ve tried?’

‘I have tried.’

‘But how many?’ asked Fanny, shrugging her shoulders contemptuously. ‘One, two?’

‘Dozens. But,’ shaking her head, ‘it wasn’t any good,’ she added.

‘Well, you must persevere,’ said Fanny sententiously. But it was obvious that her confidence in her own prescriptions had been shaken. ‘Nothing can be achieved without perseverance.’

‘But meanwhile …’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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