It had happened at
last. The expected message had come. All his life, it seemed to him, he
had been waiting for this to happen.
He was walking down the long corridor at the Ministry and he was almost
at the spot where Julia had slipped the note into his hand when he
became aware that someone larger than himself was walking just behind
him. The person, whoever it was, gave a small cough, evidently as a
prelude to speaking. Winston stopped abruptly and turned. It was
At last they were face to face, and it seemed that his only impulse was
to run away. His heart bounded violently. He would have been incapable
of speaking. O'Brien, however, had continued forward in the same
movement, laying a friendly hand for a moment on Winston's arm, so that
the two of them were walking side by side. He began speaking with the
peculiar grave courtesy that differentiated him from the majority of
Inner Party members.
'I had been hoping for an opportunity of talking to you,' he said. 'I
was reading one of your Newspeak articles in The Times the other day.
You take a scholarly interest in Newspeak, I believe?'
Winston had recovered part of his self-possession. 'Hardly scholarly,'
he said. 'I'm only an amateur. It's not my subject. I have never had
anything to do with the actual construction of the language.'
'But you write it very elegantly,' said O'Brien. 'That is not only my
own opinion. I was talking recently to a friend of yours who is
certainly an expert. His name has slipped my memory for the moment.'
Again Winston's heart stirred painfully. It was inconceivable that this
was anything other than a reference to Syme. But Syme was not only dead,
he was abolished, an unperson. Any identifiable reference to him would
have been mortally dangerous. O'Brien's remark must obviously have been
intended as a signal, a codeword. By sharing a small act of thoughtcrime
he had turned the two of them into accomplices. They had continued to
stroll slowly down the corridor, but now O'Brien halted. With the
curious, disarming friendliness that he always managed to put in to the
gesture he resettled his spectacles on his nose. Then he went on:
'What I had really intended to say was that in your article I noticed
you had used two words which have become obsolete. But they have only
become so very recently. Have you seen the tenth edition of the Newspeak
'No,' said Winston. 'I didn't think it had been issued yet. We are still
using the ninth in the Records Department.'
'The tenth edition is not due to appear for some months, I believe. But
a few advance copies have been circulated. I have one myself. It might
interest you to look at it, perhaps?'
'Very much so,' said Winston, immediately seeing where this tended.
'Some of the new developments are most ingenious. The reduction in the
number of verbs – that is the point that will appeal to you, I think.
Let me see, shall I send a messenger to you with the dictionary? But I
am afraid I invariably forget anything of that kind. Perhaps you could
pick it up at my flat at some time that suited you? Wait. Let me give
you my address.'
They were standing in front of a telescreen. Somewhat absentmindedly
O'Brien felt two of his pockets and then produced a small
leather-covered notebook and a gold ink-pencil. Immediately beneath the
telescreen, in such a position that anyone who was watching at the other
end of the instrument could read what he was writing, he scribbled an
address, tore out the page and handed it to Winston.
'I am usually at home in the evenings,' he said. 'If not, my servant
will give you the dictionary.'
He was gone, leaving Winston holding the scrap of paper, which this time
there was no need to conceal. Nevertheless he carefully memorized what
was written on it, and some hours later dropped it into the memory hole
along with a mass of other papers.
They had been talking to one another for a couple of minutes at the
most. There was only one meaning that the episode could possibly have.
It had been contrived as a way of letting Winston know O'Brien's
address. This was necessary, because except by direct enquiry it was
never possible to discover where anyone lived. There were no directories
of any kind. 'If you ever want to see me, this is where I can be found,'
was what O'Brien had been saying to him. Perhaps there would even be a
message concealed somewhere in the dictionary. But at any rate, one
thing was certain. The conspiracy that he had dreamed of did exist, and
he had reached the outer edges of it.
He knew that sooner or later he would obey O'Brien's summons. Perhaps
tomorrow, perhaps after a long delay – he was not certain. What was
happening was only the working-out of a process that had started years
ago. The first step had been a secret, involuntary thought, the second
had been the opening of the diary. He had moved from thoughts to words,
and now from words to actions. The last step was something that would
happen in the Ministry of Love. He had accepted it. The end was
contained in the beginning. But it was frightening: or, more exactly, it
was like a foretaste of death, like being a little less alive. Even
while he was speaking to O'Brien, when the meaning of the words had sunk
in, a chilly shuddering feeling had taken possession of his body. He had
the sensation of stepping into the dampness of a grave, and it was not
much better because he had always known that the grave was there and
waiting for him.