Chapter 2 Summary
Mr. Verloc walks through London on his way to a meeting at a foreign embassy. He walks through peaceful neighborhoods and remarks to himself that what the people who live in these neighborhoods need most his protection.
According to Verloc, “Protection is the first necessity of opulence and luxury.” Verloc is described as lazy, intelligent, overweight, and cynical. Although his parents were hardworking people, Verloc himself took to laziness early in life.
Verloc enters Knightsbridge, a quiet residential neighborhood, and arrives at the entrance to a foreign embassy. To the porter outside, Verloc shows a letter stamped with the embassy seal, and the porter lets him inside. He enters a room with a tall fireplaces, where an elderly gentleman stands reading a newspaper with his back to the fire. Verloc waits in the room until Privy Councillor Wurmt, an employee of the embassy, enters with a stack of papers in his hand.
Wurmt and Verloc discuss the papers, which are reports written by Verloc over the past year. Wurmt complains about the complacent attitude of the London police with regard to revolutionaries. He believes that someone should commit a dramatic, outrageous act to stir the police into better vigilance.
Wurmt complains to Verloc about the reports, saying that Verloc has been hired to make things happen, not simply report on events. Wurmt also comments on Verloc’s corpulence, connecting his weight to his inaction. Then Wurmt declares that Verloc better see Mr. Vladimir, who is the First Secretary of the Embassy.
Vladimir, who has a popular reputation on the London social scene, sees Verloc in his office. Vladimir is very upset with Verloc’s failures as a secret agent. For the past eleven years, Verloc has participated in the anarchist underground while reporting back to the embassy. Recently installed in his new post as First Secretary, Vladimir tells Verloc that the old way of doing things will not work anymore. He wants Verloc to do more to stir the revolutionary movement into action so as to provoke a response from the British government.
Vladimir discusses the various violent acts Verloc’s group could commit—assassinating a prominent government official, bombing a theater or a church—and declares that the most effective thing would be for Verloc to bomb the Greenwich Observatory, seen as a bastion of science and progress. Vladimir tells Verloc that if he doesn’t pull off the attack within the next month, the embassy will dismiss him from his post as spy.
Embarrassed and angry, Verloc leaves the embassy and returns to his shop. He sits silently until dinner, when he joins Winnie, her mother, and her brother Stevie, and remains mostly mute throughout the duration of the meal.
During dinner, Winnie thinks back on her father and how he used to beat Stevie mercilessly, and how grateful she is that her husband remains indifferent to her brother.