He wondered vaguely whether in the abolished past
it had been a normal experience to lie in bed like this,
in the cool of a summer evening.

31. Love Nest

Winston looked round the shabby little room above Mr Charrington's shop. The enormous bed was made up, with ragged blankets. The clock was ticking on the mantel-piece. In the corner, on the gateleg table, the glass paperweight gleamed softly out of the half-darkness. In the fender was a battered tin oilstove, a saucepan, and two cups, provided by Mr Charrington. Winston lit the burner and set a pan of water to boil. He had brought an envelope of VICTORY COFFEE and some saccharine tablets. The clock's hands said seven-twenty: it was nineteen-twenty really. She was coming at nineteen-thirty.

Folly, folly, his heart kept saying: conscious, gratuitous, suicidal folly. Of all the crimes that a Party member could commit, this one was the least possible to conceal.

Mr Charrington had made no difficulty about letting the room. Nor did he seem shocked or become offensively knowing when it was made clear that Winston wanted the room for the purpose of a love affair. "Privacy," he said, "was a very valuable thing." Under the window somebody was singing. Winston peeped out, secure in the protection of the muslin curtain. The June sun was still high in the sky. Folly, folly, folly! he thought again. But the temptation of having a hiding-place that was truly their own, indoors and near at hand, had been too much for both of them. When he suggested the idea of renting the room to Julia she had agreed with unexpected readiness. Both of them knew that it was lunancy. It was as though they were intentionally stepping nearer their graves. As he sat waiting on the edge of the bed he thought again of the cellars of the Ministry of Love.

At this moment there was a quick step on the stairs. Julia burst into the room. She was carrying a tool-bag of coarse brown canvas, such as he had sometimes seen her carrying to and fro at the Ministry.

"Let me show you what I've brought. Did you bring some of that filthy VICTORY COFFEE? I thought you would. You can chuck it away again, because we shan't be needing it. Look here."

She fell on her knees, threw open the bag, and tumbled out some spanners and a screwdriver that filled the top part of it. Underneath were a number of neat paper packets. The first packet that she passed to Winston had a strange yet vaguely familiar feeling. It was filled with some kind of heavy, sand-like stuff which yielded wherever you touched it.

"It isn't sugar?" he said.

"Real sugar. Not saccharine, sugar. And here's a loaf of bread - proper white bread, not our bloody stuff - and a little pot of jam. And here's a tin of milk - but look! This is the one I'm really proud of. I had to wrap a bit of sacking round it, because --"

But she did not need to tell him why she had wrapped it up. The smell was already filling the room, a rich hot smell which seemed like an emanation from his early childhood, but which one did occasionally meet with even now, blowing down a passage-way before a door slammed.

"It's coffee" he murmered, "real coffee."

"It's Inner Party stuff. There's nothing those swine don't have, nothing. But of course waiters and servants and people pinch things, and look - I got a little packet of tea as well."

Winston had squatted down beside her. He tore open a corner of the packet.

"It's real tea. Not blackberry leaves."

"There's been a lot of tea about lately. They've captured India or something" she said vaguely. "But listen, dear. I want you to turn your back on me for three minutes. Go and sit on the other side of the bed. Don't go too near the window. And don't turn round till I tell you... You can turn around now" said Julia.

He turned round, and for a second almost failed to recognize her. What he had actually expected was to see her naked. But she was not naked. The transformation that had happened was much more surprising than that. She had painted her face. She must have slipped into some shop in the proletarian quarters and bought herself a complete set of make-up materials. Her lips were deeply reddened, her cheeks rouged, her nose powdered; there was even a touch of something under the eyes to make them brighter. It was not very skilfully done, but Winston's standards in such matters were not high. He had never before seen or imagined a woman of the Party with cosmetics on her face. The improvement in her appearance was startling. With just a few dabs of colour in the right places she had become not only very much prettier, but, above all, far more feminine. Her short hair and boyish overalls merely added to the effect. As he took her in his arms a wave of synthetic violets flooded his nostrils.

"Scent too!" he said.

"Yes, dear, scent too. And you know what I'm going to do next? I'm going to get hold of a real woman's frock from somewhere and wear it instead of these bloody trousers. I'll wear silk stockings and high-heeled shoes! In this room I'm going to be a woman, not a Party comrade."

They flung their clothes off and climbed into the huge mahogany bed. It was the first time that he had stripped himself naked in her presence. Until now he had been too much ashamed of his pale and meagre body, with the varicose veins standing out on his calves and the discoloured patch over his ankle. The size and springiness of the bed astonished both of them.

"It's sure to be full of bugs, but who cares"?" said Julia.

One never saw a double bed nowadays, except in the homes of the proles. Winston had occasionally slept in one in his boyhood: Julia had never been in one before, so far as she could remember. Presently they fell asleep for a little while. He did not stir, because Julia was sleeping with her head in the crook of his arm. He wondered vaguely whether in the abolished past it had been a normal experience to lie in bed like this, in the cool of a summer evening, a man and a woman with no clothes on, making love when they chose, talking of what they chose, not feeling any compulsion to get up, simply lying there and listening to peaceful sounds outside. Surely there could never have been a time when that seemed ordinary? Julia woke up, rubbed her eyes, and raised herself on her elbow to look at the oilstove. She suddenly twisted herself over in the bed, seized a shoe from the flooor, and sent it hurtling into the corner.

"Get out, you filthy brute."

"What was it?" he said in surprise.

"A rat. I saw him stick his beastly nose out of the wainscoating. There's a hole down there. I gave him a good fright, anyway."

"Rats!" murmered Winston. "In this room!"

"They're all over the place," said Julia indifferently as she lay down again. "Some parts of London are swarming with them. Did you know they attack children? Yes, they do. In some of these streets a woman daren't leave a baby alone for two minutes. It's the great huge brown ones that do it. And the nasty thing is that the brutes always--"

"Don't go on!" said Winston, with his eyes tightly shut.

"Dearest! You've gone quite pale. What's the matter? Do they make you feel sick?"

"Of all horrors in the world - a rat!"

She pressed herself against him and wound her limbs round him, as though to reassure him with the warmth of her body. He did not reopen his eyes immediately.

"I'm sorry," he said; "it's nothing. I don't like rats, that's all."

"Don't worry, dear, we're not going to have the filthy brutes in here. I'll stuff the hole with a bit of sacking before we go. And next time we come here I'll bring some plaster and bung it up properly."

Feeling slightly ashamed of himself, he sat up against the bedhead. Julia got out of bed, pulled on her overalls, and made the coffee. She brought the glass paperweight over to the bed to have alook at it in a better light. He took it out of her hand, fascinated, as always, by the soft, rain-watery appearance of the glass.

"It's a little chunk of history that they've forgotten to alter. It's a message from a hundred years ago, if one knew how to read it."

"And that picture over there" - she nodded at the engraving on the oppsotie wall. She went over to look at it. "What is this place? I've seen it before somewhere."

"It's a church, or at least it used to be. St Clement Danes it's name was." The fragment of rhyme that Mr Charrington had taught him came back into his head, and he added half-nostalgically: "Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement's!" To his astonishment she capped the line:

"You owe me three farthings, say the bells of St Martin's, When will you pay me? say the bells of Old Bailey--' "I can't remember how it goes on after that. But anyway I remember it ends up, "Here comes a candle to light you to bed, here comes a chopper to chop off your head!"

"Who taught you that?" he said.

"My grandfather. He used to say it to me when I was a little girl. He was vaporized when I was eight - at any rate, he disappeared. I wonder what a lemon was," she added inconsequently. "I've seen oranges. They're a kind of yellow fruit with a thick skin."

"I can remember lemons," said Winston. "They were quite common in the 'fifties. They were so sour that it set your teeth on edge even to smell them."

"I bet that picture's got bugs behind it," said Julia. "I'll take it down and give it a good clean some day. I suppose it's almost time we were leaving. I must start washing this paint off. What a bore!"

Winston did not get up for a few minutes more. The room was darkening. He turned over towards the light and lay gazing into the glass paperwieght. The inexhaustibly interesting thing was not the fragment of coral but the interior of the glass itself. There was such a depth of it, and yet it was almost as transparent as air. It was as though the surface of the glass had been the arch of the sky, enclosing a tiny world with its atmosphere complete. He had the feeling that he could get inside it, and that in fact he was inside it, along with the mahogany bed and the gateleg table, and the clock and the steel engraving and the paperweight itself. The paperweight was the room he was in, and the coral was Julia's life and his own, fixed in a sort of eternity at the heart of the crystal.

...In the room over Mr Charrington's shop, when they could get there, Julia and Winston lay side by side on a stripped bed under the open window, naked for the sake of coolness. The rat had never come back, but the bugs had multiplied hideously in the heat. It did not seem to matter. Dirty or clean, the room was paradise. As soon as they arrived they would sprinkle everything with pepper bought on the black market, tear off their clothes, and make love with sweating bodies, then fall asleep and wake to find that the bugs had rallied and were massing for the counter-attack.

Four, five, six - seven times they met during the month of June. Winston had dropped his habit of drinking gin at all hours. He seemed to have lost the need for it. He had grown fatter, his varicose ulcer had subsided, leaving only a brown stain on the skin above his ankle, his fits of coughing in the early morning had stopped. The process of life had ceased to be intolerable, he had no longer any impulse to make faces at the telescreen or shout curses at the top of his voice. Now that they had a secure hiding-place, almost a home, it did not even seem a hardship that they could only meet infrequently and for a couple of hours at a time. What mattered was that the room over the junk-shop should exist. To know that it was there, inviolate, was almsot the same as being in it. The room was a world, a pocket of the past where extinct animals could walk.

He usually stopped to talk with Mr Charrington for a few minutes on his way upstairs. The old man seemed seldom or never to go out of doors, and on the other hand to have almost no customers. He led a ghostlike existence . Wandering about among his worthless stock, with his long nose and thick spectacles and his bowed shoulders in the velvet jacket, he had always vaguely the air of being a collector rather than a tradesman. He had dragged out from the corners of his memory some fragments of forgotten rhymes. There was one about four and twenty blackbirds, and another about a cow with a crumpled horn, and another about the death of poor Cock Robin. "It just occurred to me you might be interested," he would say whenever he produced a new fragment. But he could never recall more than a few lines of any one rhyme.

Winston was gelatinous with fatigue. He had worked more than ninety hours in five days. So had everyone else in the Ministry. Now it was all over. He could spend six hours in the hiding-place. Slowly, in mild afternoon sunshine, he walked up a dingy street in the direction of Mr Charrington's shop. The heavy brief case that he was carrying bumped against his knee at each step. Inside it was the book, which he had now had in his possession for six days and had not yet opened, nor even looked at. He climbed the stairs above Mr Charrington's shop. He was tired, but not sleepy any longer. He opened the window, lit the dirty little oilstove and put on a pan of water for coffee. Julia would be arriving presently: meanwhile there was the book.

He sat down on the sluttish armchair and undid the straps of the brief-case. Somewhere in remote distance a rocket bomb thundered. The blissful feeling of being alone with the forbidden book, in a room with no telescreen, had not worn off. Solitude and safety were physical sensations, mixed up somehow with the tiredness of his body, the softness of the chair, the touch of the faint breeze from the window that played on his cheek.

He had just turned back to Chapter 1 when he heard Julia's footstep on the stair and started out of his chair to meet her. She dumped her brown tool-bag on the floor and flung herself into his arms. It was more than a week since they had seen one another.

"I've got 'the book'," he said, as they disentangled themselves.

"Oh, you've got it? Good," she said without much interest, and almost immediately knelt down beside the oil stove to make the coffee.

They did not return to the subject until they had been in bed for half an hour. Julia had settled down on her side and seemed to be already on the point of falling asleep. He reached out for the book, which was lying on the floor, and sat up against the bed-head.

"We must read it," he said. "You too. All members of the Brotherhood have to read it."

"You read it," she said with her eyes shut. "Read it aloud. That's the best way. Then you can explain it to me as you go."

The clock's hands said six, meaning eighteen. They had three or four hours ahead of them. He propped the book against his knees and began reading.

...Winston became aware of silence, as one becomes aware of a new sound. It seemed to him that Julia had been very still for some time past. She was lying on her side, naked from the waist upwards, with her cheek pillowed on her hand and one dark lock tumbling across her eyes. Her breast rose and fell slowly and regularly.

"Julia." No answer. "Julia, are you awake?"

No answer. She was asleep. He shut the book, put it carefully on the floor, lay down, and pulled the coverlet over both of them...

A yellow beam from the sinking sun slanted in through the window and fell across the pillow. He shut his eyes. The sun on his face and the girl's smooth body touching his own gave him a strong, sleepy, confident feeling. He was safe, everything was all right. He fell asleep murmuring "sanity is not stastitical," with the feeling that this remark contained in it a profound wisdom.


WHY O'BRIEN WATCHED WINSTON (reader wants to know). Nov 18, 2004

Rats ravage Australian cars (city council won't lay bait in case innocent possums die). New.com.au, Jun 28, 2004. Go to 44.Room 101 & ORIGINS OF ROOM 101 & THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN

JULIA'S FATE (reader asks about Party doctrine on Julia's kind of thinking). Mar 17, 2004. Go to 27.Goodthink & 26.Rebellion & 37.We Are The Dead

Cambodians resorting to eating rats (afraid of Bird Flu from chicken). My Way, Feb 18, 2004. Go to 44.Room 101 & TAKE NOT OUR DAILY BREAD

Rats in Calif, Hawaii, Arizona, New York (8ft long & can jump 10ft). New York Times, Sep 17, 2002





26.Julia & Rebellion and 29.Risking Renting Room and 32.Enemies Of The Party and 37.We Are The Dead

Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com