Chapter 16

The room into which the three were ushered was the Controller’s study.

‘His fordship will be down in a moment.’ The Gamma butler left them to themselves.

Helmholtz laughed aloud.

‘It’s more like a caffeine-solution party than a trial,’ he said, and let himself fall into the most luxurious of the pneumatic arm-chairs. ‘Cheer up, Bernard,’ he added, catching sight of his friend’s green unhappy face. But Bernard would not be cheered; without answering, without even looking at Helmholtz, he went and sat down on the most uncomfortable chair in the room, carefully chosen in the obscure hope of somehow deprecating the wrath of the higher powers.

The Savage meanwhile wandered restlessly round the room, peering with a vague superficial inquisitiveness at the books in the shelves, at the sound-track rolls and the reading-machine bobbins in their numbered pigeon-holes. On the table under the window lay a massive volume bound in limp black leather-surrogate, and stamped with large golden T’s. He picked it up and opened it. My Life and Work, by Our Ford. The book had been published at Detroit by the Society for the Propagation of Fordian Knowledge. Idly he turned the pages, read a sentence here, a paragraph there, and had just come to the conclusion that the book didn’t interest him, when the door opened, and the Resident World Controller for Western Europe walked briskly into the room.

Mustapha Mond shook hands with all three of them; but it was to the Savage that he addressed himself. ‘So you don’t much like civilization, Mr. Savage,’ he said.

The Savage looked at him. He had been prepared to lie, to bluster, to remain sullenly unresponsive; but, reassured by the good-humoured intelligence of the Controller’s face, he decided to tell the truth, straightforwardly. ‘No.’ He shook his head.

Bernard started and looked horrified. What would the Controller think? To be labelled as the friend of a man who said that he didn’t like civilization—said it openly and, of all people, to the Controller—it was terrible. ‘But, John,’ he began. A look from Mustapha Mond reduced him to an abject silence.

‘Of course,’ the Savage went on to admit, ‘there are some very nice things. All that music in the air, for instance …’

‘Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments will hum about my ears, and sometimes voices.’

The Savage’s face lit up with a sudden pleasure. ‘Have you read it too?’ he asked. ‘I thought nobody knew about that book here, in England.’

‘Almost nobody. I’m one of the very few. It’s prohibited, you see. But as I make the laws here, I can also break them. With impunity, Mr. Marx,’ he added, turning to Bernard. ‘Which I’m afraid you can’t do.’

Bernard sank into a yet more hopeless misery.

‘But why is it prohibited?’ asked the Savage. In the excitement of meeting a man who had read Shakespeare he had momentarily forgotten everything else.

The Controller shrugged his shoulders. ‘Because it’s old; that’s the chief reason. We haven’t any use for old things here.’

‘Even when they’re beautiful?’

‘Particularly when they’re beautiful. Beauty’s attractive, and we don’t want people to be attracted by old things. We want them to like the new ones.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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