The Secret Agent HTML version

Chapter 3
" . . . All idealisation makes life poorer. To beautify it is to take away its character of
complexity - it is to destroy it. Leave that to the moralists, my boy. History is made by
men, but they do not make it in their heads. The ideas that are born in their consciousness
play an insignificant part in the march of events. History is dominated and determined by
the tool and the production - by the force of economic conditions. Capitalism has made
socialism, and the laws made by the capitalism for the protection of property are
responsible for anarchism. No one can tell what form the social organisation may take in
the future. Then why indulge in prophetic phantasies? At best they can only interpret the
mind of the prophet, and can have no objective value. Leave that pastime to the moralists,
my boy."
Michaelis, the ticket-of-leave apostle, was speaking in an even voice, a voice that
wheezed as if deadened and oppressed by the layer of fat on his chest. He had come out
of a highly hygienic prison round like a tub, with an enormous stomach and distended
cheeks of a pale, semi-transparent complexion, as though for fifteen years the servants of
an outraged society had made a point of stuffing him with fattening foods in a damp and
lightless cellar. And ever since he had never managed to get his weight down as much as
an ounce.
It was said that for three seasons running a very wealthy old lady had sent him for a cure
to Marienbad - where he was about to share the public curiosity once with a crowned
head - but the police on that occasion ordered him to leave within twelve hours. His
martyrdom was continued by forbidding him all access to the healing waters. But he was
resigned now.
With his elbow presenting no appearance of a joint, but more like a bend in a dummy's
limb, thrown over the back of a chair, he leaned forward slightly over his short and
enormous thighs to spit into the grate.
"Yes! I had the time to think things out a little," he added without emphasis. "Society has
given me plenty of time for meditation."
On the other side of the fireplace, in the horse-hair arm-chair where Mrs Verloc's mother
was generally privileged to sit, Karl Yundt giggled grimly, with a faint black grimace of a
toothless mouth. The terrorist, as he called himself, was old and bald, with a narrow,
snow-white wisp of a goatee hanging limply from his chin. An extraordinary expression
of underhand malevolence survived in his extinguished eyes. When he rose painfully the
thrusting forward of a skinny groping hand deformed by gouty swellings suggested the
effort of a moribund murderer summoning all his remaining strength for a last stab. He
leaned on a thick stick, which trembled under his other hand.
"I have always dreamed," he mouthed fiercely, "of a band of men absolute in their
resolve to discard all scruples in the choice of means, strong enough to give themselves