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 pain.
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
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
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
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-mache 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
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 Department 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
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
Station – – '
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 bar.'
'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 squeeze.
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.