It was the middle of
the morning, and Winston had left the cubicle to go to the lavatory.
A solitary figure was coming towards him from the other end of the long,
brightly-lit corridor. It was the girl with dark hair. Four days had
gone past since the evening when he had run into her outside the
junk-shop. As she came nearer he saw that her right arm was in a sling,
not noticeable at a distance because it was of the same colour as her
overalls. Probably she had crushed her hand while swinging round one of
the big kaleidoscopes on which the plots of novels were 'roughed in'. It
was a common accident in the Fiction Department.
They were perhaps four metres apart when the girl stumbled and fell
almost flat on her face. A sharp cry of pain was wrung out of her. She
must have fallen right on the injured arm. Winston stopped short. The
girl had risen to her knees. Her face had turned a milky yellow colour
against which her mouth stood out redder than ever. Her eyes were fixed
on his, with an appealing expression that looked more like fear than
A curious emotion stirred in Winston's heart. In front of him was an
enemy who was trying to kill him: in front of him, also, was a human
creature, in pain and perhaps with a broken bone. Already he had
instinctively started forward to help her. In the moment when he had
seen her fall on the bandaged arm, it had been as though he felt the
pain in his own body.
'You're hurt?' he said.
'It's nothing. My arm. It'll be all right in a second.'
She spoke as though her heart were fluttering. She had certainly turned
'You haven't broken anything?'
'No, I'm all right. It hurt for a moment, that's all.'
She held out her free hand to him, and he helped her up. She had
regained some of her colour, and appeared very much better.
'It's nothing,' she repeated shortly. 'I only gave my wrist a bit of a
bang. Thanks, comrade!'
And with that she walked on in the direction in which she had been
going, as briskly as though it had really been nothing. The whole
incident could not have taken as much as half a minute. Not to let one's
feelings appear in one's face was a habit that had acquired the status
of an instinct, and in any case they had been standing straight in front
of a telescreen when the thing happened. Nevertheless it had been very
difficult not to betray a momentary surprise, for in the two or three
seconds while he was helping her up the girl had slipped something into
his hand. There was no question that she had done it intentionally. It
was something small and flat. As he passed through the lavatory door he
transferred it to his pocket and felt it with the tips of his fingers.
It was a scrap of paper folded into a square.
While he stood at the urinal he managed, with a little more fingering,
to get it unfolded. Obviously there must be a message of some kind
written on it. For a moment he was tempted to take it into one of the
water-closets and read it at once. But that would be shocking folly, as
he well knew. There was no place where you could be more certain that
the telescreens were watched continuously.
He went back to his cubicle, sat down, threw the fragment of paper
casually among the other papers on the desk, put on his spectacles and
hitched the speakwrite towards him. 'five minutes,' he told himself,
'five minutes at the very least!' His heart bumped in his breast with
frightening loudness. Fortunately the piece of work he was engaged on
was mere routine, the rectification of a long list of figures, not
needing close attention.
Whatever was written on the paper, it must have some kind of political
meaning. So far as he could see there were two possibilities. One, much
the more likely, was that the girl was an agent of the Thought Police,
just as he had feared. He did not know why the Thought Police should
choose to deliver their messages in such a fashion, but perhaps they had
their reasons. The thing that was written on the paper might be a
threat, a summons, an order to commit suicide, a trap of some
description. But there was another, wilder possibility that kept raising
its head, though he tried vainly to suppress it. This was, that the
message did not come from the Thought Police at all, but from some kind
of underground organization. Perhaps the Brotherhood existed after all!
Perhaps the girl was part of it! No doubt the idea was absurd, but it
had sprung into his mind in the very instant of feeling the scrap of
paper in his hand. It was not till a couple of minutes later that the
other, more probable explanation had occurred to him. And even now,
though his intellect told him that the message probably meant death –
still, that was not what he believed, and the unreasonable hope
persisted, and his heart banged, and it was with difficulty that he kept
his voice from trembling as he murmured his figures into the speakwrite.
He rolled up the completed bundle of work and slid it into the pneumatic
tube. Eight minutes had gone by. He re-adjusted his spectacles on his
nose, sighed, and drew the next batch of work towards him, with the
scrap of paper on top of it. He flattened it out. On it was written, in
a large unformed handwriting:
I love you.
For several seconds he was too stunned even to throw the incriminating
thing into the memory hole. When he did so, although he knew very well
the danger of showing too much interest, he could not resist reading it
once again, just to make sure that the words were really there.
For the rest of the morning it was very difficult to work. What was even
worse than having to focus his mind on a series of niggling jobs was the
need to conceal his agitation from the telescreen. He felt as though a
fire were burning in his belly. Lunch in the hot, crowded, noise-filled
canteen was torment. He had hoped to be alone for a little while during
the lunch hour, but as bad luck would have it the imbecile Parsons
flopped down beside him, the tang of his sweat almost defeating the
tinny smell of stew, and kept up a stream of talk about the preparations
for Hate Week. He was particularly enthusiastic about a papier-mâché
model of Big Brother's head, two metres wide, which was being made for
the occasion by his daughter's troop of Spies. The irritating thing was
that in the racket of voices Winston could hardly hear what Parsons was
saying, and was constantly having to ask for some fatuous remark to be
repeated. Just once he caught a glimpse of the girl, at a table with two
other girls at the far end of the room. She appeared not to have seen
him, and he did not look in that direction again.
The afternoon was more bearable. Immediately after lunch there arrived a
delicate, difficult piece of work which would take several hours and
necessitated putting everything else aside. It consisted in falsifying a
series of production reports of two years ago, in such a way as to cast
discredit on a prominent member of the Inner Party, who was now under a
cloud. This was the kind of thing that Winston was good at, and for more
than two hours he succeeded in shutting the girl out of his mind
altogether. Then the memory of her face came back, and with it a raging,
intolerable desire to be alone. Until he could be alone it was
impossible to think this new development out. Tonight was one of his
nights at the Community Centre. He wolfed another tasteless meal in the
canteen, hurried off to the Centre, took part in the solemn foolery of a
'discussion group', played two games of table tennis, swallowed several
glasses of gin, and sat for half an hour through a lecture entitled 'Ingsoc
in relation to chess'. His soul writhed with boredom, but for once he
had had no impulse to shirk his evening at the Centre. At the sight of
the words I love you the desire to stay alive had welled up in him, and
the taking of minor risks suddenly seemed stupid. It was not till
twenty-three hours, when he was home and in bed – in the darkness,
where you were safe even from the telescreen so long as you kept silent
– that he was able to think continuously.
It was a physical problem that had to be solved: how to get in touch
with the girl and arrange a meeting. He did not consider any longer the
possibility that she might be laying some kind of trap for him. He knew
that it was not so, because of her unmistakable agitation when she
handed him the note. Obviously she had been frightened out of her wits,
as well she might be. Nor did the idea of refusing her advances even
cross his mind. Only five nights ago he had contemplated smashing her
skull in with a cobblestone, but that was of no importance. He thought
of her naked, youthful body, as he had seen it in his dream. He had
imagined her a fool like all the rest of them, her head stuffed with
lies and hatred, her belly full of ice. A kind of fever seized him at
the thought that he might lose her, the white youthful body might slip
away from him! What he feared more than anything else was that she would
simply change her mind if he did not get in touch with her quickly. But
the physical difficulty of meeting was enormous. It was like trying to
make a move at chess when you were already mated. Whichever way you
turned, the telescreen faced you. Actually, all the possible ways of
communicating with her had occurred to him within five minutes of
reading the note; but now, with time to think, he went over them one by
one, as though laying out a row of instruments on a table.
Obviously the kind of encounter that had happened this morning could not
be repeated. If she had worked in the Records Department it might have
been comparatively simple, but he had only a very dim idea whereabouts
in the building the Fiction Departrnent lay, and he had no pretext for
going there. If he had known where she lived, and at what time she left
work, he could have contrived to meet her somewhere on her way home; but
to try to follow her home was not safe, because it would mean loitering
about outside the Ministry, which was bound to be noticed. As for
sending a letter through the mails, it was out of the question. By a
routine that was not even secret, all letters were opened in transit.
Actually, few people ever wrote letters. For the messages that it was
occasionally necessary to send, there were printed postcards with long
lists of phrases, and you struck out the ones that were inapplicable. In
any case he did not know the girl's name, let alone her address. Finally
he decided that the safest place was the canteen. If he could get her at
a table by herself, somewhere in the middle of the room, not too near
the telescreens, and with a sufficient buzz of conversation all round –
if these conditions endured for, say, thirty seconds, it might be
possible to exchange a few words.
For a week after this, life was like a restless dream. On the next day
she did not appear in the canteen until he was leaving it, the whistle
having already blown. Presumably she had been changed on to a later
shift. They passed each other without a glance. On the day after that
she was in the canteen at the usual time, but with three other girls and
immediately under a telescreen. Then for three dreadful days she did not
appear at all. His whole mind and body seemed to be afflicted with an
unbearable sensitivity, a sort of transparency, which made every
movement, every sound, every contact, every word that he had to speak or
listen to, an agony. Even in sleep he could not altogether escape from
her image. He did not touch the diary during those days. If there was
any relief, it was in his work, in which he could sometimes forget
himself for ten minutes at a stretch. He had absolutely no clue as to
what had happened to her. There was no enquiry he could make. She might
have been vaporized, she might have committed suicide, she might have
been transferred to the other end of Oceania: worst and likeliest of
all, she might simply have changed her mind and decided to avoid him.
The next day she reappeared. Her arm was out of the sling and she had a
band of sticking-plaster round her wrist. The relief of seeing her was
so great that he could not resist staring directly at her for several
seconds. On the following day he very nearly succeeded in speaking to
her. When he came into the canteen she was sitting at a table well out
from the wall, and was quite alone. It was early, and the place was not
very full. The queue edged forward till Winston was almost at the
counter, then was held up for two minutes because someone in front was
complaining that he had not received his tablet of saccharine. But the
girl was still alone when Winston secured his tray and began to make for
her table. He walked casually towards her, his eyes searching for a
place at some table beyond her. She was perhaps three metres away from
him. Another two seconds would do it. Then a voice behind him called,
'Smith!' He pretended not to hear. 'Smith!' repeated the voice, more
loudly. It was no use. He turned round. A blond-headed, silly-faced
young man named Wilsher, whom he barely knew, was inviting him with a
smile to a vacant place at his table. It was not safe to refuse. After
having been recognized, he could not go and sit at a table with an
unattended girl. It was too noticeable. He sat down with a friendly
smile. The silly blond face beamed into his. Winston had a hallucination
of himself smashing a pick-axe right into the middle of it. The girl's
table filled up a few minutes later.
But she must have seen him coming towards her, and perhaps she would
take the hint. Next day he took care to arrive early. Surely enough, she
was at a table in about the same place, and again alone. The person
immediately ahead of him in the queue was a small, swiftly-moving,
beetle-like man with a flat face and tiny, suspicious eyes. As Winston
turned away from the counter with his tray, he saw that the little man
was making straight for the girl's table. His hopes sank again. There
was a vacant place at a table further away, but something in the little
man's appearance suggested that he would be sufficiently attentive to
his own comfort to choose the emptiest table. With ice at his heart
Winston followed. It was no use unless he could get the girl alone. At
this moment there was a tremendous crash. The little man was sprawling
on all fours, his tray had gone flying, two streams of soup and coffee
were flowing across the floor. He started to his feet with a malignant
glance at Winston, whom he evidently suspected of having tripped him up.
But it was all right. Five seconds later, with a thundering heart,
Winston was sitting at the girl's table.
He did not look at her. He unpacked his tray and promptly began eating.
It was all-important to speak at once, before anyone else came, but now
a terrible fear had taken possession of him. A week had gone by since
she had first approached him. She would have changed her mind, she must
have changed her mind! It was impossible that this affair should end
successfully; such things did not happen in real life. He might have
flinched altogether from speaking if at this moment he had not seen
Ampleforth, the hairy-eared poet, wandering limply round the room with a
tray, looking for a place to sit down. In his vague way Ampleforth was
attached to Winston, and would certainly sit down at his table if he
caught sight of him. There was perhaps a minute in which to act. Both
Winston and the girl were eating steadily. The stuff they were eating
was a thin stew, actually a soup, of haricot beans. In a low murmur
Winston began speaking. Neither of them looked up; steadily they spooned
the watery stuff into their mouths, and between spoonfuls exchanged the
few necessary words in low expressionless voices.
'What time do you leave work?'
'Where can we meet?'
'Victory Square, near the monument.
'It's full of telescreens.'
'It doesn't matter if there's a crowd.'
'No. Don't come up to me until you see me among a lot of people. And
don't look at me. Just keep somewhere near me.'
Ampleforth failed to see Winston and sat down at another table. They did
not speak again, and, so far as it was possible for two people sitting
on opposite sides of the same table, they did not look at one another.
The girl finished her lunch quickly and made off, while Winston stayed
to smoke a cigarette.
Winston was in Victory Square before the appointed time. He wandered
round the base of the enormous fluted column, at the top of which Big
Brother's statue gazed southward towards the skies where he had
vanquished the Eurasian aeroplanes (the Eastasian aeroplanes, it had
been, a few years ago) in the Battle of Airstrip One. In the street in
front of it there was a statue of a man on horseback which was supposed
to represent Oliver Cromwell. At five minutes past the hour the girl had
still not appeared. Again the terrible fear seized upon Winston. She was
not coming, she had changed her mind! He walked slowly up to the north
side of the square and got a sort of pale-coloured pleasure from
identifying St Martin's Church, whose bells, when it had bells, had
chimed 'You owe me three farthings.' Then he saw the girl standing at
the base of the monument, reading or pretending to read a poster which
ran spirally up the column. It was not safe to go near her until some
more people had accumulated. There were telescreens all round the
pediment. But at this moment there was a din of shouting and a zoom of
heavy vehicles from somewhere to the left. Suddenly everyone seemed to
be running across the square. The girl nipped nimbly round the lions at
the base of the monument and joined in the rush. Winston followed. As he
ran, he gathered from some shouted remarks that a convoy of Eurasian
prisoners was passing.
Already a dense mass of people was blocking the south side of the
square. Winston, at normal times the kind of person who gravitates to
the outer edge of any kind of scrimmage, shoved, butted, squirmed his
way forward into the heart of the crowd. Soon he was within arm's length
of the girl, but the way was blocked by an enormous prole and an almost
equally enormous woman, presumably his wife, who seemed to form an
impenetrable wall of flesh. Winston wriggled himself sideways, and with
a violent lunge managed to drive his shoulder between them. For a moment
it felt as though his entrails were being ground to pulp between the two
muscular hips, then he had broken through, sweating a little. He was
next to the girl. They were shoulder to shoulder, both staring fixedly
in front of them.
A long line of trucks, with wooden-faced guards armed with sub-machine
guns standing upright in each corner, was passing slowly down the
street. In the trucks little yellow men in shabby greenish uniforms were
squatting, jammed close together. Their sad, Mongolian faces gazed out
over the sides of the trucks utterly incurious. Occasionally when a
truck jolted there was a clank-clank of metal: all the prisoners were
wearing leg-irons. Truck-load after truck-load of the sad faces passed.
Winston knew they were there but he saw them only intermittently. The
girl's shoulder, and her arm right down to the elbow, were pressed
against his. Her cheek was almost near enough for him to feel its
warmth. She had immediately taken charge of the situation, just as she
had done in the canteen. She began speaking in the same expressionless
voice as before, with lips barely moving, a mere murmur easily drowned
by the din of voices and the rumbling of the trucks.
'Can you hear me?'
'Can you get Sunday afternoon off?'
'Then listen carefully. You'll have to remember this. Go to Paddington
With a sort of military precision that astonished him, she outlined the
route that he was to follow. A half-hour railway journey; turn left
outside the station; two kilometres along the road: a gate with the top
bar missing; a path across a field; a grass-grown lane; a track between
bushes; a dead tree with moss on it. It was as though she had a map
inside her head. 'Can you remember all that?' she murmured finally.
'You turn left, then right, then left again. And the gate's got no top
'Yes. What time?'
'About fifteen. You may have to wait. I'll get there by another way. Are
you sure you remember everything?'
'Then get away from me as quick as you can.'
She need not have told him that. But for the moment they could not
extricate themselves from the crowd. The trucks were still filing past,
the people still insatiably gaping. At the start there had been a few
boos and hisses, but it came only from the Party members among the
crowd, and had soon stopped. The prevailing emotion was simply
curiosity. Foreigners, whether from Eurasia or from Eastasia, were a
kind of strange animal. One literally never saw them except in the guise
of prisoners, and even as prisoners one never got more than a momentary
glimpse of them. Nor did one know what became of them, apart from the
few who were hanged as war-criminals: the others simply vanished,
presumably into forced-labour camps. The round Mogol faces had given way
to faces of a more European type, dirty, bearded and exhausted. From
over scrubby cheekbones eyes looked into Winston's, sometimes with
strange intensity, and flashed away again. The convoy was drawing to an
end. In the last truck he could see an aged man, his face a mass of
grizzled hair, standing upright with wrists crossed in front of him, as
though he were used to having them bound together. It was almost time
for Winston and the girl to part. But at the last moment, while the
crowd still hemmed them in, her hand felt for his and gave it a fleeting
It could not have been ten seconds, and yet it seemed a long time that
their hands were clasped together. He had time to learn every detail of
her hand. He explored the long fingers, the shapely nails, the
work-hardened palm with its row of callouses, the smooth flesh under the
wrist. Merely from feeling it he would have known it by sight. In the
same instant it occurred to him that he did not know what colour the
girl's eyes were. They were probably brown, but people with dark hair
sometimes had blue eyes. To turn his head and look at her would have
been inconceivable folly. With hands locked together, invisible among
the press of bodies, they stared steadily in front of them, and instead
of the eyes of the girl, the eyes of the aged prisoner gazed mournfully
at Winston out of nests of hair.