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Almayer's Folly

Chapter 12
Winnie Verloc, the widow of Mr Verloc, the sister of the late faithful Stevie (blown
to fragments in a state of innocence and in the conviction of being engaged in a
humanitarian enterprise), did not run beyond the door of the parlour. She had
indeed run away so far from a mere trickle of blood, but that was a movement of
instinctive repulsion. And there she had paused, with staring eyes and lowered
head. As though she had run through long years in her flight across the small
parlour, Mrs Verloc by the door was quite a different person from the woman who
had been leaning over the sofa, a little swimmy in her head, but otherwise free to
enjoy the profound calm of idleness and irresponsibility. Mrs Verloc was no
longer giddy. Her head was steady. On the other hand, she was no longer calm.
She was afraid.
If she avoided looking in the direction of her reposing husband it was not
because she was afraid of him. Mr Verloc was not frightful to behold. He looked
comfortable. Moreover, he was dead. Mrs Verloc entertained no vain delusions
on the subject of the dead. Nothing brings them back, neither love nor hate. They
can do nothing to you. They are as nothing. Her mental state was tinged by a
sort of austere contempt for that man who had let himself be killed so easily. He
had been the master of a house, the husband of a woman, and the murderer of
her Stevie. And now he was of no account in every respect. He was of less
practical account than the clothing on his body, than his overcoat, than his boots
- than that hat lying on the floor. He was nothing. He was not worth looking at. He
was even no longer the murderer of poor Stevie. The only murderer that would
be found in the room when people came to look for Mr Verloc would be - herself!
Her hands shook so that she failed twice in the task of refastening her veil. Mrs
Verloc was no longer a person of leisure and responsibility. She was afraid. The
stabbing of Mr Verloc had been only a blow. It had relieved the pent-up agony of
shrieks strangled in her throat, of tears dried up in her hot eyes, of the
maddening and indignant rage at the atrocious part played by that man, who was
less than nothing now, in robbing her of the boy.
It had been an obscurely prompted blow. The blood trickling on the floor off the
handle of the knife had turned it into an extremely plain case of murder. Mrs
Verloc, who always refrained from looking deep into things, was compelled to
look into the very bottom of this thing. She saw there no haunting face, no
reproachful shade, no vision of remorse, no sort of ideal conception. She saw
there an object. That object was the gallows. Mrs Verloc was afraid of the
gallows.
She was terrified of them ideally. Having never set eyes on that last argument of
men's justice except in illustrative woodcuts to a certain type of tales, she first
saw them erect against a black and stormy background, festooned with chains
 
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