looked round the shabby little room above Mr Charrington's shop.
Beside the window the enormous bed was made up, with ragged blankets
and a coverless bolster. The old-fashioned clock with the twelve-hour
face was ticking away on the mantelpiece. In the corner, on the
gateleg table, the glass paperweight which he had bought on his
last visit 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 full of Victory
Coffee and some saccharine tablets. The clock's hands said seventeen-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. Actually the idea had first
floated into his head in the form of a vision, of the glass paperweight
mirrored by the surface of the gateleg table. As he had foreseen,
Mr Charrington had made no difficulty about letting the room.
He was obviously glad of the few dollars that it would bring him.
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. Instead he looked into the middle distance and
spoke in generalities, with so delicate an air as to give the
impression that he had become partly invisible. Privacy, he said,
was a very valuable thing. Everyone wanted a place where they
could be alone occasionally. And when they had such a place, it
was only common courtesy in anyone else who knew of it to keep
his knowledge to himself. He even, seeming almost to fade out
of existence as he did so, added that there were two entries to
the house, one of them through the back yard, which gave on an
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, and in the sun-filled court below, a monstrous
woman, solid as a Norman pillar, with brawny red forearms and
a sacking apron strapped about her middle, was stumping to and
fro between a washtub and a clothes line, pegging out a series
of square white things which Winston recognized as babies' diapers.
Whenever her mouth was not corked with clothes pegs she was singing
in a powerful contralto:
was only an 'opeless fancy.
It passed like an Ipril dye,
But a look an' a word an' the dreams they stirred!
They 'ave stolen my 'eart awye!
tune had been haunting London for weeks past. It was one of countless
similar songs published for the benefit of the proles by a sub-section
of the Music Department. The words of these songs were composed
without any human intervention whatever on an instrument known
as a versificator. But the woman sang so tunefully as to turn
the dreadful rubbish into an almost pleasant sound. He could hear
the woman singing and the scrape of her shoes on the flagstones,
and the cries of the children in the street, and somewhere in
the far distance a faint roar of traffic, and yet the room seemed
curiously silent, thanks to the absence of a telescreen.
Folly, folly, folly! he thought again. It was inconceivable that
they could frequent this place for more than a few weeks without
being caught. 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. For some time after their visit to the church
belfry it had been impossible to arrange meetings. Working hours
had been drastically increased in anticipation of Hate Week. It
was more than a month distant, but the enormous, complex preparations
that it entailed were throwing extra work on to everybody. Finally
both of them managed to secure a free afternoon on the same day.
They had agreed to go back to the clearing in the wood. On the
evening beforehand they met briefly in the street. As usual, Winston
hardly looked at Julia as they drifted towards one another in
the crowd, but from the short glance he gave her it seemed to
him that she was paler than usual.
'It's all off,' she murmured as soon as she judged it safe to
speak. 'Tomorrow, I mean.'
'Tomorrow afternoon. I can't come.'
'Oh, the usual reason. It's started early this time.'
For a moment he was violently angry. During the month that he
had known her the nature of his desire for her had changed. At
the beginning there had been little true sensuality in it. Their
first love-making had been simply an act of the will. But after
the second time it was different. The smell of her hair, the taste
of her mouth, the feeling of her skin seemed to have got inside
him, or into the air all round him. She had become a physical
necessity, something that he not only wanted but felt that he
had a right to. When she said that she could not come, he had
the feeling that she was cheating him. But just at this moment
the crowd pressed them together and their hands accidentally met.
She gave the tips of his fingers a quick squeeze that seemed to
invite not desire but affection. It struck him that when one lived
with a woman this particular disappointment must be a normal,
recurring event; and a deep tenderness, such as he had not felt
for her before, suddenly took hold of him. He wished that they
were a married couple of ten years' standing. He wished that he
were walking through the streets with her just as they were doing
now but openly and without fear, talking of trivialities and buying
odds and ends for the household. He wished above all that they
had some place where they could be alone together without feeling
the obligation to make love every time they met. It was not actually
at that moment, but at some time on the following day, that the
idea of renting Mr Charrington's room had occurred to him. When
he suggested it to Julia she had agreed with unexpected readiness.
Both of them knew that it was lunacy. It was as though they were
intentionally stepping nearer to their graves. As he sat waiting
on the edge of the bed he thought again of the cellars of the
Ministry of Love. It was curious how that predestined horror moved
in and out of one's consciousness. There it lay, fixed in future
times, preceding death as surely as 99 precedes 100. One could
not avoid it, but one could perhaps postpone it: and yet instead,
every now and again, by a conscious, wilful act, one chose to
shorten the interval before it happened.
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.
He started forward to take her in his arms, but she disengaged
herself rather hurriedly, partly because she was still holding
'Half a second,' she said. 'Just 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 and 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, or diffusing itself mysteriously in a crowded
street, sniffed for an instant and then lost again.
'It's coffee,' he murmured, 'real coffee.'
'It's Inner Party coffee. There's a whole kilo here,' she said.
'How did you manage to get hold of all these things?'
'It's all 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
'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.'
Winston gazed abstractedly through the muslin curtain. Down in
the yard the red-armed woman was still marching to and fro between
the washtub and the line. She took two more pegs out of her mouth
and sang with deep feeling:
sye that time 'eals all things,
They sye you can always forget;
But the smiles an' the tears acrorss the years
They twist my 'eart-strings yet!
knew the whole drivelling song by heart, it seemed. Her voice
floated upward with the sweet summer air, very tuneful, charged
with a sort of happy melancholy. One had the feeling that she
would have been perfectly content, if the June evening had been
endless and the supply of clothes inexhaustible, to remain there
for a thousand years, pegging out diapers and singing rubbish.
It struck him as a curious fact that he had never heard a member
of the Party singing alone and spontaneously. It would even have
seemed slightly unorthodox, a dangerous eccentricity, like talking
to oneself. Perhaps it was only when people were somewhere near
the starvation level that they had anything to sing about.
'You can turn round 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. He remembered the half-darkness
of a basement kitchen, and a woman's cavernous mouth. It was the
very same scent that she had used; but at the moment it did not
seem to matter.
'Scent too!' he said.
'Yes, dear, scent too. And do 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. There were
no sheets, but the blanket they lay on was threadbare and smooth,
and 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. When Winston woke
up the hands of the clock had crept round to nearly nine. He did
not stir, because Julia was sleeping with her head in the crook
of his arm. Most of her make-up had transferred itself to his
own face or the bolster, but a light stain of rouge still brought
out the beauty of her cheekbone. A yellow ray from the sinking
sun fell across the foot of the bed and lighted up the fireplace,
where the water in the pan was boiling fast. Down in the yard
the woman had stopped singing, but the faint shouts of children
floated in from the street. 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.
'Half that water's boiled away,' she said. 'I'll get up and make
some coffee in another moment. We've got an hour. What time do
they cut the lights off at your flats?'
'It's twenty-three at the hostel. But you have to get in earlier
than that, because -- Hi! Get out, you filthy brute!'
She suddenly twisted herself over in the bed, seized a shoe from
the floor, and sent it hurtling into the corner with a boyish
jerk of her arm, exactly as he had seen her fling the dictionary
at Goldstein, that morning during the Two Minutes Hate.
'What was it?' he said in surprise.
'A rat. I saw him stick his beastly nose out of the wainscoting.
There's a hole down there. I gave him a good fright, anyway.'
'Rats!' murmured Winston. 'In this room!'
'They're all over the place,' said Julia indifferently as she
lay down again. 'We've even got them in the kitchen at the hostel.
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
'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. For several moments he had had
the feeling of being back in a nightmare which had recurred from
time to time throughout his life. It was always very much the
same. He was standing in front of a wall of darkness, and on the
other side of it there was something unendurable, something too
dreadful to be faced. In the dream his deepest feeling was always
one of self-deception, because he did in fact know what was behind
the wall of darkness. With a deadly effort, like wrenching a piece
out of his own brain, he could even have dragged the thing into
the open. He always woke up without discovering what it was: but
somehow it was connected with what Julia had been saying when
he cut her short.
'I'm sorry,' he said, 'it's nothing. I don't like rats, that's
'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
Already the black instant of panic was half-forgotten. Feeling
slightly ashamed of himself, he sat up against the bedhead. Julia
got out of bed, pulled on her overalls, and made the coffee. The
smell that rose from the saucepan was so powerful and exciting
that they shut the window lest anybody outside should notice it
and become inquisitive. What was even better than the taste of
the coffee was the silky texture given to it by the sugar, a thing
Winston had almost forgotten after years of saccharine. With one
hand in her pocket and a piece of bread and jam in the other,
Julia wandered about the room, glancing indifferently at the bookcase,
pointing out the best way of repairing the gateleg table, plumping
herself down in the ragged arm-chair to see if it was comfortable,
and examining the absurd twelve-hour clock with a sort of tolerant
amusement. She brought the glass paperweight over to the bed to
have a look at it in a better light. He took it out of her hand,
fascinated, as always, by the soft, rainwatery appearance of the
'What is it, do you think?' said Julia.
'I don't think it's anything -- I mean, I don't think it was ever
put to any use. That's what I like about it. 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 opposite wall -- 'would that be a hundred years old?'
'More. Two hundred, I dare say. One can't tell. It's impossible
to discover the age of anything nowadays.'
She went over to look at it. 'Here's where that brute stuck his
nose out,' she said, kicking the wainscoting immediately below
the picture. 'What is this place? I've seen it before somewhere.'
'It's a church, or at least it used to be. St Clement Danes its
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:
owe me three farthings,' say the bells of St Martin's,
'When will you pay me?' say the bells of Old Bailey -- '
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!"'
It was like the two halves of a countersign. But there must be
another line after 'the bells of Old Bailey'. Perhaps it could
be dug out of Mr Charrington's memory, if he were suitably prompted.
'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 round 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! I'll get the lipstick off your face afterwards.'
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
paperweight. 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
HERE TO DISCUSS THIS BOOK