Having infused by persistent importunities some sort of heat into the chilly
interest of several licensed victuallers (the acquaintances once upon a time of
her late unlucky husband), Mrs Verloc's mother had at last secured her
admission to certain almshouses founded by a wealthy innkeeper for the
destitute widows of the trade.
This end, conceived in the astuteness of her uneasy heart, the old woman had
pursued with secrecy and determination. That was the time when her daughter
Winnie could not help passing a remark to Mr Verloc that "mother has been
spending half-crowns and five shillings almost every day this last week in cab
fares." But the remark was not made grudgingly. Winnie respected her mother's
infirmities. She was only a little surprised at this sudden mania for locomotion. Mr
Verloc, who was sufficiently magnificent in his way, had grunted the remark
impatiently aside as interfering with his meditations. These were frequent, deep,
and prolonged; they bore upon a matter more important than five shillings.
Distinctly more important, and beyond all comparison more difficult to consider in
all its aspects with philosophical serenity.
Her object attained in astute secrecy, the heroic old woman had made a clean
breast of it to Mrs Verloc. Her soul was triumphant and her heart tremulous.
Inwardly she quaked, because she dreaded and admired the calm, self-
contained character of her daughter Winnie, whose displeasure was made
redoubtable by a diversity of dreadful silences. But she did not allow her inward
apprehensions to rob her of the advantage of venerable placidity conferred upon
her outward person by her triple chin, the floating ampleness of her ancient form,
and the impotent condition of her legs.
The shock of the information was so unexpected that Mrs Verloc, against her
usual practice when addressed, interrupted the domestic occupation she was
engaged upon. It was the dusting of the furniture in the parlour behind the shop.
She turned her head towards her mother.
"Whatever did you want to do that for?" she exclaimed, in scandalised
The shock must have been severe to make her depart from that distant and
uninquiring acceptance of facts which was her force and her safeguard in life.
"Weren't you made comfortable enough here?"