Mr Verloc returning from the Continent at the end of ten days, brought back a
mind evidently unrefreshed by the wonders of foreign travel and a countenance
unlighted by the joys of home-coming. He entered in the clatter of the shop bell
with an air of sombre and vexed exhaustion. His bag in hand, his head lowered,
he strode straight behind the counter, and let himself fall into the chair, as though
he had tramped all the way from Dover. It was early morning. Stevie, dusting
various objects displayed in the front windows, turned to gape at him with
reverence and awe.
"Here!" said Mr Verloc, giving a slight kick to the gladstone bag on the floor; and
Stevie flung himself upon it, seized it, bore it off with triumphant devotion. He was
so prompt that Mr Verloc was distinctly surprised.
Already at the clatter of the shop bell Mrs Neale, blackleading the parlour grate,
had looked through the door, and rising from her knees had gone, aproned, and
grimy with everlasting toll, to tell Mrs Verloc in the kitchen that "there was the
master come back."
Winnie came no farther than the inner shop door.
"You'll want some breakfast," she said from a distance.
Mr Verloc moved his hands slightly, as if overcome by an impossible suggestion.
But once enticed into the parlour he did not reject the food set before him. He ate
as if in a public place, his hat pushed off his forehead, the skirts of his heavy
overcoat hanging in a triangle on each side of the chair. And across the length of
the table covered with brown oil-cloth Winnie, his wife, talked evenly at him the
wifely talk, as artfully adapted, no doubt, to the circumstances of this return as
the talk of Penelope to the return of the wandering Odysseus. Mrs Verloc,
however, had done no weaving during her husband's absence. But she had had
all the upstairs room cleaned thoroughly, had sold some wares, had seen Mr
Michaelis several times. He had told her the last time that he was going away to
live in a cottage in the country, somewhere on the London, Chatham, and Dover
line. Karl Yundt had come too, once, led under the arm by that "wicked old
housekeeper of his." He was "a disgusting old man." Of Comrade Ossipon,
whom she had received curtly, entrenched behind the counter with a stony face
and a faraway gaze, she said nothing, her mental reference to the robust
anarchist being marked by a short pause, with the faintest possible blush. And
bringing in her brother Stevie as soon as she could into the current of domestic
events, she mentioned that the boy had moped a good deal.
"It's all along of mother leaving us like this."