Chapter 8 Summary

Without telling her daughter, Mrs. Verloc’s mother decides to move out of the house and into a charity home run for widows of liquor-store owners. She has made her plans in complete secret, taking taxis all over London for meetings and cajoling her way into the charity home because she won’t be bringing any children with her. The home is meant for widows with children.

When everything is ready, she tells Winnie, who can’t believe what she is hearing. Winnie asks her mother if she isn’t treated well at Mr. Verloc’s, if she won’t miss her and her brother Stevie.

The older woman is adamant, however, that moving is what she must do. Although she doesn’t tell Winnie this, the real reason she is moving is out of deference to the future of Winnie and Stevie. Although Mr. Verloc appears to have no problem with her staying with him, she is fearful constantly that her presence at the house will split up Winnie and Mr. Verloc and put Stevie’s future in jeopardy.

Winnie, her mother, and Stevie take a horse-drawn cab across town to Mrs. Verloc’s mother’s new lodgings. The cabdriver is a haggard looking fellow with an iron hook instead of a left hand, and his horse has a similarly pathetic appearance. Along the way the cabdriver violently whips the horse, disturbing Stevie, who hates to see any creature suffer. The cabdriver explains to Stevie that he has to whip the horse so that he make his fare and keep his family fed.

After dropping off their mother, Winnie and Stevie return through the city on foot. Stevie is still moved by the awful sight of the cabman whipping the horse. The more he dwells on what he has seen, as well as the unfairness of the cabdriver’s situation, the angrier he becomes.

It’s a “bad world for poor people,” Stevie exclaims, and then he asks Winnie why the police are unable to protect poor people and act as a force for good in the world. Winnie responds by saying that it is the responsibility to protect those who have property against those who don’t.

That night at dinner Mr. Verloc is quiet and lost in thought. Stevie watches his brother-in-law closely as Mr. Verloc represents to him the supreme idea of goodness. After dinner Mr. Verloc goes out for a while and comes back after Winnie is already in bed.

As Mr. Verloc is preparing for bed, Winnie worries over her mother’s situation. Mr. Verloc wonders absentmindedly whether it is just as well that she move.

Winnie says that she will be determined during the next few days to cheer up Stevie, who will miss his mother greatly. Getting into bed, Mr. Verloc says that he is leaving for Europe the next day and won’t return for a week or so.