of the poor, pathetically mendacious, miserably authenticated by the horrible breath of cheap rum and soap-suds. She scrubbed hard, snuffling all the time, and talking volubly. And she was sincere. And on each side of her thin red nose her bleared, misty eyes swam in tears, because she felt really the want of some sort of stimulant in the morning.
In the parlour Mrs Verloc observed, with knowledge:
`There's Mrs Neale at it again with her harrowing tales about her little children. They can't be all so little as she makes them out. Some of them must be big enough by now to try to do something for themselves. It only makes Stevie angry.'
These words were confirmed by a thud as of a fist striking the kitchen table. In the normal evolution of his sympathy Stevie had become angry on discovering that he had no shilling in his pocket. In his inability to relieve at once Mrs Neale's `little 'uns' privations, he felt that somebody should be made to suffer for it. Mrs Verloc rose and went into the kitchen to `stop that nonsense'. And she did it firmly but gently. She was well aware that directly Mrs Neale received her money she went round the corner to drink ardent spirits in a mean and musty public-house - the unavoidable station on the via dolorosa of her life. Mrs Verloc's comment upon this practice had an unexpected profundity, as coming from a person disinclined to look under the surface of things. `Of course, what is she to do to keep up? If I were like Mrs Neale I expect I wouldn't act any different.'
In the afternoon of the same day, as Mr Verloc, coming with a start out of the last of a long series of dozes before the parlour fire, declared his intention of going out for a walk, Winnie said from the shop:
`I wish you would take that boy out with you, Adolf.'
For the third time that day Mr Verloc was surprised. He stared stupidly at his wife. She continued in her steady manner. The boy, whenever he was not doing anything, moped in the house. It made her uneasy; it made her nervous, she confessed. And that from the calm Winnie sounded like exaggeration. But in truth, Stevie moped in the striking fashion of an unhappy domestic animal. He would go up on the dark landing, to sit on the floor at the foot of the tall clock, with his knees drawn up and his head in his hands. To come upon his pallid face, with its big eyes gleaming in the dusk, was discomposing; to think of him up there was uncomfortable.
Mr Verloc got used to the startling novelty of the idea. He was Fond of his wife as a man should be - that is, generously. But a weighty objection presented itself to his mind, and he formulated it.
`He'll lose sight of me perhaps, and get lost in the street,' he said. Mrs Verloc shook her head competently.
`He won't. You don't know him. That boy just worships you. But if you should miss him--'
Mrs Verloc paused for a moment, but only for a moment.
`You just go on, and have your walk out. Don't worry. He'll be all right. He's sure to turn up safe here before very long.'
This optimism procured for Mr Verloc his fourth surprise of the day.
`Is he?' he grunted doubtfully. But perhaps his brother-in-law was not such an idiot as he looked. His wife would know best. He turned away his heavy eyes, saying huskily: `Well, let him come along, then,' and relapsed into the clutches of black care, that perhaps prefers to sit behind a horseman, but knows also how to tread close on the heels of people not sufficiently well off to keep horses - like Mr Verloc, for instance.
Winnie, at the shop door, did not see this fatal attendant upon Mr Verloc's walks. She watched the two figures down the squalid street, one tall and burly, the other slight and short, with a thin neck, and the
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