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 very pale.
‘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 close attention.