The Secret Agent
After Chief Inspector Heat had left him Mr Verloc moved about the parlour.
From time to time he eyed his wife through the open door. "She knows all about it now,"
he thought to himself with commiseration for her sorrow and with some satisfaction as
regarded himself. Mr Verloc's soul, if lacking greatness perhaps, was capable of tender
sentiments. The prospect of having to break the news to her had put him into a fever.
Chief Inspector Heat had relieved him of the task. That was good as far as it went. It
remained for him now to face her grief.
Mr Verloc had never expected to have to face it on account of death, whose catastrophic
character cannot be argued away by sophisticated reasoning or persuasive eloquence. Mr
Verloc never meant Stevie to perish with such abrupt violence. He did not mean him to
perish at all. Stevie dead was a much greater nuisance than ever he had been when alive.
Mr Verloc had augured a favourable issue to his enterprise, basing himself not on Stevie's
intelligence, which sometimes plays queer tricks with a man, but on the blind docility and
on the blind devotion of the boy. Though not much of a psychologist, Mr Verloc had
gauged the depth of Stevie's fanaticism. He dared cherish the hope of Stevie walking
away from the walls of the Observatory as he had been instructed to do, taking the way
shown to him several times previously, and rejoining his brother-in-law, the wise and
good Mr Verloc, outside the precincts of the park. Fifteen minutes ought to have been
enough for the veriest fool to deposit the engine and walk away. And the Professor had
guaranteed more than fifteen minutes. But Stevie had stumbled within five minutes of
being left to himself. And Mr Verloc was shaken morally to pieces. He had foreseen
everything but that. He had foreseen Stevie distracted and lost - sought for - found in
some police station or provincial workhouse in the end. He had foreseen Stevie arrested,
and was not afraid, because Mr Verloc had a great opinion of Stevie's loyalty, which had
been carefully indoctrinated with the necessity of silence in the course of many walks.
Like a peripatetic philosopher, Mr Verloc, strolling along the streets of London, had
modified Stevie's view of the police by conversations full of subtle reasonings. Never had
a sage a more attentive and admiring disciple. The submission and worship were so
apparent that Mr Verloc had come to feel something like a liking for the boy. In any case,
he had not foreseen the swift bringing home of his connection. That his wife should hit
upon the precaution of sewing the boy's address inside his overcoat was the last thing Mr
Verloc would have thought of. One can't think of everything. That was what she meant
when she said that he need not worry if he lost Stevie during their walks. She had assured
him that the boy would turn up all right. Well, he had turned up with a vengeance!
"Well, well," muttered Mr Verloc in his wonder. What did she mean by it? Spare him the
trouble of keeping an anxious eye on Stevie? Most likely she had meant well. Only she
ought to have told him of the precaution she had taken.