The Secret Agent

  • CHAPTER I

  • Narrator

    Mr Verloc, going out in the morning, left his shop nominally in charge of his brother-in-law.

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  • It could be done, because there was very little business at any time, and practically none at all before the evening.

  • Mr Verloc cared but little about his ostensible business.

  • And, moreover, his wife was in charge of his brother-in-law.

  • Narrator

    The shop was small, and so was the house.

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  • It was one of those grimy brick houses which existed in large quantities before the era of reconstruction dawned upon London.

  • The shop was a square box of a place, with the front glazed in small panes.

  • In the daytime the door remained closed;

  • in the evening it stood discreetly but suspiciously ajar.

  • Narrator

    The window contained photographs of more or less undressed dancing girls;

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  • nondescript packages in wrappers like patent medicines;

  • closed yellow paper envelopes, very flimsy, and marked two-and-six in heavy black figures;

  • a few numbers of ancient French comic publications hung across a string as if to dry;

  • a dingy blue china bowl, a casket of black wood, bottles of marking ink, and rubber stamps;

  • a few books, with titles hinting at impropriety;

  • a few apparently old copies of obscure newspapers, badly printed, with titles like The Torch, The Gong—rousing titles.

  • And the two gas jets inside the panes were always turned low, either for economy’s sake or for the sake of the customers.

  • Narrator

    These customers were either very young men, who hung about the window for a time before slipping in suddenly;

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  • or men of a more mature age, but looking generally as if they were not in funds.