“Yes, you seem to be, old man.”
Mr. Bright received the suggestion with a manner that irritated Sabre. While he was being told of the Perches he stared at Sabre with that penetrating gaze of his as though in the proposal he searched for some motive other than common friendliness. His first comment was, “They’ll want references, I suppose, sir?”
Sabre smiled. “Oh, scarcely, Mr. Bright. Not when they know who you are.”
The old man was standing before Sabre in the little cupboard bending his head close towards him as though he would sense out, if he could not see, some hidden motive behind all this. He contracted his great brows as if to squeeze more penetration into his gaze. “Yes, but I’ll want references, Mr. Sabre. My girl’s been well brought up. She’s not going here, there, nor anywhere.”
Extraordinary the intensity of his searching, suspicious stare! Hard, stupid old man, Sabre thought. “Dash it, does he suppose I’ve got designs on the girl?” He would have returned an impatient answer had he not been so anxious on the Perches’ behalf. Instead he said pleasantly, “Of course she’s not, Mr. Bright. You may be sure I wouldn’t suggest this if I didn’t know it was in every way desirable. Mrs. Perch is a very old friend of mine and a very simple and kind old lady. There’ll be only herself for Effie to meet. And she’ll make a daughter of her.”
Nothing, of the penetration abated from the deep-set eyes, nor came any expression of thanks from the stern, pursed mouth. “I’ll take my girl over and see for myself, Mr. Sabre.”
Surly, stupid old man! However, poor young Perch! Poor old Mrs. Perch! The very thing, if only it would come off.
It came off. Sabre went up to Puncher’s Farm on the evening of the day Mr. Bright, “to see for himself”, had called with Effie. Young Perch greeted him delightedly in the doorway and clasped his hand in gratitude. “It’s all right. It’s fixed. She’s coming. I’ve had the most frightful struggle with my mother. But it’s only her way, you know.” He stopped and Sabre heard him gulp. “Only her way. I could see she took to the girl from the start. My mother’s started knitting me a pair of socks and old man Bright—I say, he’s rather an alarming sort of person, Sabre—had hardly opened his mouth when they arrived when the girl, in the most extraordinary, making-a-fuss-of-her kind of way, told her she was using the wrong size needles or something. And my mother, as if she had known her all her life, said, ’There you are, I knew I was. It’s simply useless asking Freddie to do any shopping for me. He simply lets them give him anything they like.’ And she told the girl she thought she had some other needles in one of those gigantic old boxes of ours. And they went off together to look, and heaven only knows what they got up to;