The Secret Agent
The Assistant Commissioner walked along a short and narrow street like a wet, muddy
trench, then crossing a very broad thoroughfare entered a public edifice, and sought
speech with a young private secretary (unpaid) of a great personage.
This fair, smooth-faced young man, whose symmetrically arranged hair gave him the air
of a large and neat schoolboy, met the Assistant Commissioner's request with a doubtful
look, and spoke with bated breath.
"Would he see you? I don't know about that. He has walked over from the House an hour
ago to talk with the permanent Under- Secretary, and now he's ready to walk back again.
He might have sent for him; but he does it for the sake of a little exercise, I suppose. It's
all the exercise he can find time for while this session lasts. I don't complain; I rather
enjoy these little strolls. He leans on my arm, and doesn't open, his lips. But, I say, he's
very tired, and - well - not in the sweetest of tempers just now."
"It's in connection with that Greenwich affair."
"Oh! I say! He's very bitter against you people. But I will go and see, if you insist."
"Do. That's a good fellow," said the Assistant Commissioner.
The unpaid secretary admired this pluck. Composing for himself an innocent face, he
opened a door, and went in with the assurance of a nice and privileged child. And
presently he reappeared, with a nod to the Assistant Commissioner, who passing through
the same door left open for him, found himself with the great personage in a large room.
Vast in bulk and stature, with a long white face, which, broadened at the base by a big
double chin, appeared egg-shaped in the fringe of thin greyish whisker, the great
personage seemed an expanding man. Unfortunate from a tailoring point of view, the
cross-folds in the middle of a buttoned black coat added to the impression, as if the
fastenings of the garment were tried to the utmost. From the head, set upward on a thick
neck, the eyes, with puffy lower lids, stared with a haughty droop on each side of a
hooked aggressive nose, nobly salient in the vast pale circumference of the face. A shiny
silk hat and a pair of worn gloves lying ready on the end of a long table looked expanded
He stood on the hearthrug in big, roomy boots, and uttered no word of greeting.
"I would like to know if this is the beginning of another dynamite campaign," he asked at
once in a deep, very smooth voice. "Don't go into details. I have no time for that."