They had done it, they had done it at last!
The room they were standing in was long-shaped and softly lit. The telescreen
was dimmed to a low murmur; the richness of the dark-blue carpet gave one the
impression of treading on velvet. At the far end of the room O'Brien was sitting
at a table under a green-shaded lamp, with a mass of papers on either side of
him. He had not bothered to look up when the servant showed Julia and Winston
Winston's heart was thumping so hard that he doubted whether he would be able to
speak. They had done it, they had done it at last, was all he could think. It
had been a rash act to come here at all, and sheer folly to arrive together;
though it was true that they had come by different routes and only met on
O'Brien's doorstep. But merely to walk into such a place needed an effort of the
nerve. It was only on very rare occasions that one saw inside the
dwelling-places of the Inner Party, or even penetrated into the quarter of the
town where they lived. The whole atmosphere of the huge block of flats, the
richness and spaciousness of everything, the unfamiliar smells of good food and
good tobacco, the silent and incredibly rapid lifts sliding up and down, the
white-jacketed servants hurrying to and fro – everything was intimidating.
Although he had a good pretext for coming here, he was haunted at every step by
the fear that a black-uniformed guard would suddenly appear from round the
corner, demand his papers, and order him to get out. O'Brien's servant, however,
had admitted the two of them without demur. He was a small, dark-haired man in a
white jacket, with a diamond-shaped, completely expressionless face which might
have been that of a Chinese. The passage down which he led them was softly
carpeted, with cream-papered walls and white wainscoting, all exquisitely clean.
That too was intimidating. Winston could not remember ever to have seen a
passageway whose walls were not grimy from the contact of human bodies.
O'Brien had a slip of paper between his fingers and seemed to be studying it
intently. His heavy face, bent down so that one could see the line of the nose,
looked both formidable and intelligent. For perhaps twenty seconds he sat
without stirring. Then he pulled the speakwrite towards him and rapped out a
message in the hybrid jargon of the Ministries:
'Items one comma five comma seven approved fullwise stop suggestion contained
item six doubleplus ridiculous verging crimethink cancel stop unproceed
constructionwise antegetting plusfull estimates machinery overheads stop end
He rose deliberately from his chair and came towards them across the soundless
carpet. A little of the official atmosphere seemed to have fallen away from him
with the Newspeak words, but his expression was grimmer than usual, as though he
were not pleased at being disturbed. The terror that Winston already felt was
suddenly shot through by a streak of ordinary embarrassment. It seemed to him
quite possible that he had simply made a stupid mistake. For what evidence had
he in reality that O'Brien was any kind of political conspirator? Nothing but a
flash of the eyes and a single equivocal remark: beyond that, only his own
secret imaginings, founded on a dream. He could not even fall back on the
pretence that he had come to borrow the dictionary, because in that case Julia's
presence was impossible to explain. As O'Brien passed the telescreen a thought
seemed to strike him. He stopped, turned aside and pressed a switch on the wall.
There was a sharp snap. The voice had stopped.
Julia uttered a tiny sound, a sort of squeak of surprise. Even in the midst of
his panic, Winston was too much taken aback to be able to hold his tongue.
'You can turn it off!' he said.
'Yes,' said O'Brien, 'we can turn it off. We have that privilege.'
He was opposite them now. His solid form towered over the pair of them, and the
expression on his face was still indecipherable. He was waiting, somewhat
sternly, for Winston to speak, but about what? Even now it was quite conceivable
that he was simply a busy man wondering irritably why he had been interrupted.
Nobody spoke. After the stopping of the telescreen the room seemed deadly
silent. The seconds marched past, enormous. With difficulty Winston continued to
keep his eyes fixed on O'Brien's. Then suddenly the grim face broke down into
what might have been the beginnings of a smile. With his characteristic gesture
O'Brien resettled his spectacles on his nose.
'Shall I say it, or will you?' he said.
'I will say it,' said Winston promptly. 'That thing is really turned off?'
'Yes, everything is turned off. We are alone.'
'We have come here because – '
He paused, realizing for the first time the vagueness of his own motives. Since
he did not in fact know what kind of help he expected from O'Brien, it was not
easy to say why he had come here. He went on, conscious that what he was saying
must sound both feeble and pretentious:
'We believe that there is some kind of conspiracy, some kind of secret
organization working against the Party, and that you are involved in it. We want
to join it and work for it. We are enemies of the Party. We disbelieve in the
principles of Ingsoc. We are thought-criminals. We are also adulterers. I tell
you this because we want to put ourselves at your mercy. If you want us to
incriminate ourselves in any other way, we are ready.'
He stopped and glanced over his shoulder, with the feeling that the door had
opened. Sure enough, the little yellow-faced servant had come in without
knocking. Winston saw that he was carrying a tray with a decanter and glasses.
'Martin is one of us,' said O'Brien impassively. 'Bring the drinks over here,
Martin. Put them on the round table. Have we enough chairs? Then we may as well
sit down and talk in comfort. Bring a chair for yourself, Martin. This is
business. You can stop being a servant for the next ten minutes.'
The little man sat down, quite at his ease, and yet still with a servant-like
air, the air of a valet enjoying a privilege. Winston regarded him out of the
corner of his eye. It struck him that the man's whole life was playing a part,
and that he felt it to be dangerous to drop his assumed personality even for a
moment. O'Brien took the decanter by the neck and filled up the glasses with a
dark-red liquid. It aroused in Winston dim memories of something seen long ago
on a wall or a hoarding – a vast bottle composed of electric lights which
seemed to move up and down and pour its contents into a glass. Seen from the top
the stuff looked almost black, but in the decanter it gleamed like a ruby. It
had a sour-sweet smell. He saw Julia pick up her glass and sniff at it with
'It is called wine,' said O'Brien with a faint smile. 'You will have read about
it in books, no doubt. Not much of it gets to the Outer Party, I am afraid.' His
face grew solemn again, and he raised his glass: 'I think it is fitting that we
should begin by drinking a health. To our Leader: To Emmanuel Goldstein.'
Winston took up his glass with a certain eagerness. Wine was a thing he had read
and dreamed about. Like the glass paperweight or Mr Charrington's
half-remembered rhymes, it belonged to the vanished, romantic past, the olden
time as he liked to call it in his secret thoughts. For some reason he had
always thought of wine as having an intensely sweet taste, like that of
blackberry jam and an immediate intoxicating effect. Actually, when he came to
swallow it, the stuff was distinctly disappointing. The truth was that after
years of gin-drinking he could barely taste it. He set down the empty glass.
'Then there is such a person as Goldstein?' he said.
'Yes, there is such a person, and he is alive. Where, I do not know.'
'And the conspiracy – the organization? Is it real? It is not simply an
invention of the Thought Police?'
'No, it is real. The Brotherhood, we call it. You will never learn much more
about the Brotherhood than that it exists and that you belong to it. I will come
back to that presently.' He looked at his wrist-watch. 'It is unwise even for
members of the Inner Party to turn off the telescreen for more than half an
hour. You ought not to have come here together, and you will have to leave
separately. You, comrade' – he bowed his head to Julia – 'will leave first. We
have about twenty minutes at our disposal. You will understand that I must start
by asking you certain questions. In general terms, what are you prepared to do?'
'Anything that we are capable of,' said Winston.
O'Brien had turned himself a little in his chair so that he was facing Winston.
He almost ignored Julia, seeming to take it for granted that Winston could speak
for her. For a moment the lids flitted down over his eyes. He began asking his
questions in a low, expressionless voice, as though this were a routine, a sort
of catechism, most of whose answers were known to him already.
'You are prepared to give your lives?'
'You are prepared to commit murder?'
'To commit acts of sabotage which may cause the death of hundreds of innocent
'To betray your country to foreign powers?'
'You are prepared to cheat, to forge, to blackmail, to corrupt the minds of
children, to distribute habit-forming drugs, to encourage prostitution, to
disseminate venereal diseases – to do anything which is likely to cause
demoralization and weaken the power of the Party?'
'If, for example, it would somehow serve our interests to throw sulphuric acid
in a child's face – are you prepared to do that?'
'You are prepared to lose your identity and live out the rest of your life as a
waiter or a dock-worker?'
'You are prepared to commit suicide, if and when we order you to do so?'
'You are prepared, the two of you, to separate and never see one another again?'
'No!' broke in Julia.
It appeared to Winston that a long time passed before he answered. For a moment
he seemed even to have been deprived of the power of speech. His tongue worked
soundlessly, forming the opening syllables first of one word, then of the other,
over and over again. Until he had said it, he did not know which word he was
going to say. 'No,' he said finally.
'You did well to tell me,' said O'Brien. 'It is necessary for us to know
He turned himself toward Julia and added in a voice with somewhat more
expression in it:
'Do you understand that even if he survives, it may be as a different person? We
may be obliged to give him a new identity. His face, his movements, the shape of
his hands, the colour of his hair – even his voice would be different. And you
yourself might have become a different person. Our surgeons can alter people
beyond recognition. Sometimes it is necessary. Sometimes we even amputate a
Winston could not help snatching another sidelong glance at Martin's Mongolian
face. There were no scars that he could see. Julia had turned a shade paler, so
that her freckles were showing, but she faced O'Brien boldly. She murmured
something that seemed to be assent.
'Good. Then that is settled.'
There was a silver box of cigarettes on the table. With a rather absent-minded
air O'Brien pushed them towards the others, took one himself, then stood up and
began to pace slowly to and fro, as though he could think better standing. They
were very good cigarettes, very thick and well-packed, with an unfamiliar
silkiness in the paper. O'Brien looked at his wrist-watch again.
'You had better go back to your Pantry, Martin,' he said. 'I shall switch on in
a quarter of an hour. Take a good look at these comrades' faces before you go.
You will be seeing them again. I may not.'
Exactly as they had done at the front door, the little man's dark eyes flickered
over their faces. There was not a trace of friendliness in his manner. He was
memorizing their appearance, but he felt no interest in them, or appeared to
feel none. It occurred to Winston that a synthetic face was perhaps incapable of
changing its expression. Without speaking or giving any kind of salutation,
Martin went out, closing the door silently behind him. O'Brien was strolling up
and down, one hand in the pocket of his black overalls, the other holding his
'You understand,' he said, 'that you will be fighting in the dark. You will
always be in the dark. You will receive orders and you will obey them, without
knowing why. Later I shall send you a book from which you will learn the true
nature of the society we live in, and the strategy by which we shall destroy it.
When you have read the book, you will be full members of the Brotherhood. But
between the general aims that we are fighting for and the immediate tasks of the
moment, you will never know anything. I tell you that the Brotherhood exists,
but I cannot tell you whether it numbers a hundred members, or ten million. From
your personal knowledge you will never be able to say that it numbers even as
many as a dozen. You will have three or four contacts, who will be renewed from
time to time as they disappear. As this was your first contact, it will be
preserved. When you receive orders, they will come from me. If we find it
necessary to communicate with you, it will be through Martin. When you are
finally caught, you will confess. That is unavoidable. But you will have very
little to confess, other than your own actions. You will not be able to betray
more than a handful of unimportant people. Probably you will not even betray me.
By that time I may be dead, or I shall have become a different person, with a
He continued to move to and fro over the soft carpet. In spite of the bulkiness
of his body there was a remarkable grace in his movements. It came out even in
the gesture with which he thrust a hand into his pocket, or manipulated a
cigarette. More even than of strength, he gave an impression of confidence and
of an understanding tinged by irony. However much in earnest he might be, he had
nothing of the single-mindedness that belongs to a fanatic. When he spoke of
murder, suicide, venereal disease, amputated limbs, and altered faces, it was
with a faint air of persiflage. 'This is unavoidable,' his voice seemed to say;
'this is what we have got to do, unflinchingly. But this is not what we shall be
doing when life is worth living again.' A wave of admiration, almost of worship,
flowed out from Winston towards O'Brien. For the moment he had forgotten the
shadowy figure of Goldstein. When you looked at O'Brien's powerful shoulders and
his blunt-featured face, so ugly and yet so civilized, it was impossible to
believe that he could be defeated. There was no stratagem that he was not equal
to, no danger that he could not foresee. Even Julia seemed to be impressed. She
had let her cigarette go out and was listening intently. O'Brien went on:
'You will have heard rumours of the existence of the Brotherhood. No doubt you
have formed your own picture of it. You have imagined, probably, a huge
underworld of conspirators, meeting secretly in cellars, scribbling messages on
walls, recognizing one another by code words or by special movements of the hand.
Nothing of the kind exists. The members of the Brotherhood have no way of
recognizing one another, and it is impossible for any one member to be aware of
the identity of more than a few others. Goldstein himself, if he fell into the
hands of the Thought Police, could not give them a complete list of members, or
any information that would lead them to a complete list. No such list exists.
The Brotherhood cannot be wiped out because it is not an organization in the
ordinary sense. Nothing holds it together except an idea which is
indestructible. You will never have anything to sustain you, except the idea.
You will get no comradeship and no encouragement. When finally you are caught,
you will get no help. We never help our members. At most, when it is absolutely
necessary that someone should be silenced, we are occasionally able to smuggle a
razor blade into a prisoner's cell. You will have to get used to living without
results and without hope. You will work for a while, you will be caught, you
will confess, and then you will die. Those are the only results that you will
ever see. There is no possibility that any perceptible change will happen within
our own lifetime. We are the dead. Our only true life is in the future. We shall
take part in it as handfuls of dust and splinters of bone. But how far away that
future may be, there is no knowing. It might be a thousand years. At present
nothing is possible except to extend the area of sanity little by little. We
cannot act collectively. We can only spread our knowledge outwards from
individual to individual, generation after generation. In the face of the
Thought Police there is no other way.'
He halted and looked for the third time at his wrist-watch.
'It is almost time for you to leave, comrade,' he said to Julia. 'Wait. The
decanter is still half full.'
He filled the glasses and raised his own glass by the stem.
'What shall it be this time?' he said, still with the same faint suggestion of
irony. 'To the confusion of the Thought Police? To the death of Big Brother? To
humanity? To the future?'
'To the past,' said Winston.
'The past is more important,' agreed O'Brien gravely.
They emptied their glasses, and a moment later Julia stood up to go. O'Brien
took a small box from the top of a cabinet and handed her a flat white tablet
which he told her to place on her tongue. It was important, he said, not to go
out smelling of wine: the lift attendants were very observant. As soon as the
door had shut behind her he appeared to forget her existence. He took another
pace or two up and down, then stopped.
'There are details to be settled,' he said. 'I assume that you have a
hiding-place of some kind?'
Winston explained about the room over Mr Charrington's shop.
'That will do for the moment. Later we will arrange something else for you. It
is important to change one's hiding-place frequently. Meanwhile I shall send you
a copy of the book' – even O'Brien, Winston noticed, seemed to pronounce the
words as though they were in italics – 'Goldstein's book, you understand, as
soon as possible. It may be some days before I can get hold of one. There are
not many in existence, as you can imagine. The Thought Police hunt them down and
destroy them almost as fast as we can produce them. It makes very little
difference. The book is indestructible. If the last copy were gone, we could
reproduce it almost word for word. Do you carry a brief-case to work with you?'
'As a rule, yes.'
'What is it like?'
'Black, very shabby. With two straps.'
'Black, two straps, very shabby – good. One day in the fairly near future – I
cannot give a date – one of the messages among your morning's work will contain
a misprinted word, and you will have to ask for a repeat. On the following day
you will go to work without your brief-case. At some time during the day, in the
street, a man will touch you on the arm and say "I think you have dropped your
brief-case." The one he gives you will contain a copy of Goldstein's book. You
will return it within fourteen days.'
They were silent for a moment.
'There are a couple of minutes before you need go,' said O'Brien. 'We shall meet
again – if we do meet again -'
Winston looked up at him. 'In the place where there is no darkness?' he said
O'Brien nodded without appearance of surprise. 'In the place where there is no
darkness,' he said, as though he had recognized the allusion. 'And in the
meantime, is there anything that you wish to say before you leave? Any message?
Winston thought. There did not seem to be any further question that he wanted to
ask: still less did he feel any impulse to utter high-sounding generalities.
Instead of anything directly connected with O'Brien or the Brotherhood, there
came into his mind a sort of composite picture of the dark bedroom where his
mother had spent her last days, and the little room over Mr Charrington's shop,
and the glass paperweight, and the steel engraving in its rosewood frame. Almost
at random he said:
'Did you ever happen to hear an old rhyme that begins "Oranges and lemons, say
the bells of St Clement's"?'
Again O'Brien nodded. With a sort of grave courtesy he completed the stanza:
'Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement's,
You owe me three farthings, say the bells of St Martin's,
When will you pay me? say the bells of Old Bailey
When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch.'
'You knew the last line!' said Winston.
'Yes, I knew the last line. And now, I am afraid, it is time for you to go. But
wait. You had better let me give you one of these tablets.'
As Winston stood up O'Brien held out a hand. His powerful grip crushed the bones
of Winston's palm. At the door Winston looked back, but O'Brien seemed already
to be in process of putting him out of mind. He was waiting with his hand on the
switch that controlled the telescreen. Beyond him Winston could see the
writing-table with its green-shaded lamp and the speakwrite and the wire baskets
deep-laden with papers. The incident was closed. Within thirty seconds, it
occurred to him, O'Brien would be back at his interrupted and important work on
behalf of the Party.