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The Secret Agent

Chapter 2
Such was the house, the household, and the business Mr Verloc left behind him on his
way westward at the hour of half-past ten in the morning. It was unusually early for him;
his whole person exhaled the charm of almost dewy freshness; he wore his blue cloth
overcoat unbuttoned; his boots were shiny; his cheeks, freshly shaven, had a sort of gloss;
and even his heavy-lidded eyes, refreshed by a night of peaceful slumber, sent out
glances of comparative alertness. Through the park railings these glances beheld men and
women riding in the Row, couples cantering past harmoniously, others advancing
sedately at a walk, loitering groups of three or four, solitary horsemen looking
unsociable, and solitary women followed at a long distance by a groom with a cockade to
his hat and a leather belt over his tight-fitting coat. Carriages went bowling by, mostly
two-horse broughams, with here and there a victoria with the skin of some wild beast
inside and a woman's face and hat emerging above the folded hood. And a peculiarly
London sun - against which nothing could be said except that it looked bloodshot -
glorified all this by its stare. It hung at a moderate elevation above Hyde Park Corner
with an air of punctual and benign vigilance. The very pavement under Mr Verloc's feet
had an old-gold tinge in that diffused light, in which neither wall, nor tree, nor beast, nor
man cast a shadow. Mr Verloc was going westward through a town without shadows in
an atmosphere of powdered old gold. There were red, coppery gleams on the roofs of
houses, on the corners of walls, on the panels of carriages, on the very coats of the horses,
and on the broad back of Mr Verloc's overcoat, where they produced a dull effect of
rustiness. But Mr Verloc was not in the least conscious of having got rusty. He surveyed
through the park railings the evidences of the town's opulence and luxury with an
approving eye. All these people had to be protected. Protection is the first necessity of
opulence and luxury. They had to be protected; and their horses, carriages, houses,
servants had to be protected; and the source of their wealth had to be protected in the
heart of the city and the heart of the country; the whole social order favourable to their
hygienic idleness had to be protected against the shallow enviousness of unhygienic
labour. It had to - and Mr Verloc would have rubbed his hands with satisfaction had he
not been constitutionally averse from every superfluous exertion. His idleness was not
hygienic, but it suited him very well. He was in a manner devoted to it with a sort of inert
fanaticism, or perhaps rather with a fanatical inertness. Born of industrious parents for a
life of toil, he had embraced indolence from an impulse as profound as inexplicable and
as imperious as the impulse which directs a man's preference for one particular woman in
a given thousand. He was too lazy even for a mere demagogue, for a workman orator, for
a leader of labour. It was too much trouble. He required a more perfect form of ease; or it
might have been that he was the victim of a philosophical unbelief in the effectiveness of
every human effort. Such a form of indolence requires, implies, a certain amount of
intelligence. Mr Verloc was not devoid of intelligence - and at the notion of a menaced
social order he would perhaps have winked to himself if there had not been an effort to
make in that sign of scepticism. His big, prominent eyes were not well adapted to
winking. They were rather of the sort that closes solemnly in slumber with majestic
effect.
 
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