In the wake of yesterday's Tube bombing in London, welcome to Episode Sixteen of our nightly audio adventure, The Secret Agent - written by Joseph Conrad in 1907 but one of the most quoted books on the planet in our new era of 21st century terrorism.
Just as Friday's intended atrocity misfired so too did that of Conrad's terrorists, but with fatal consequences. In tonight's episode, Mr Verloc's misunderstanding of his wife's emotions leads on to a terrible denouement:
'By heavens! You know that I hunted high and low. I ran the risk of giving myself away to find somebody for that accursed job. And I tell you again I couldn't find anyone crazy enough or hungry enough. What do you take me for—a murderer, or what? The boy is gone. Do you think I wanted him to blow himself up? He's gone. His troubles are over. Ours are just going to begin, I tell you, precisely because he did blow himself... I wish to goodness,' he growled huskily, 'I had never seen Greenwich Park or anything belonging to it...'
The audible wish of Mr Verloc's overflowing heart flowed into an empty place in his wife's memory. Greenwich Park. A park! That's where the boy was killed. A park—smashed branches, torn leaves, gravel, bits of brotherly flesh and bone, all spouting up together in the manner of a firework. She remembered now what she had heard, and she remembered it pictorially. They had to gather him up with the shovel. Trembling all over with irrepressible shudders, she saw before her the very implement with its ghastly load scraped up from the ground. Mrs Verloc closed her eyes desperately, throwing upon that vision the night of her eyelids, where after a rainlike fall of mangled limbs the decapitated head of Stevie lingered suspended alone, and fading out slowly like the last star of a pyrotechnic display. Mrs Verloc opened her eyes.
...and then she resolves to act.
If you're a member of The Mark Steyn Club you can hear Part Sixteen of our serialization of The Secret Agent simply by clicking here and logging-in. All previous episodes can be found here. And, if you prefer me in visual form, tomorrow, Sunday, I'll be making a rare Canadian telly appearance with CTV's Evan Solomon on "Question Period", coast to coast at 11am Eastern/8am Pacific.
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