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 in.
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 message.'
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
'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
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
'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
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 frank curiosity.
'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
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
'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
'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 limb.'
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 cigarette.
'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 different face.'
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 codewords 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?' he added.
'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
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 hesitantly.
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? Any question?.'
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
'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.