“I am glad,” Sabre told him. “I felt she’d be just like that. But why have you been having a frightful struggle over it with your mother if she’s taken to her so?”
Young Perch gave the fond little laugh with which Sabre had so often heard him conclude his enormous arguments with his mother. “Oh, you know what my mother is. She’s now made up her mind that the girl is coming here to do what she calls ‘catch me.’ She’ll forget that soon. Anyway, the girl’s coming. She’s coming the day after to-morrow, the day I’m going. Come along in and see my mother and keep her to it.”
The subject did not require bringing up. “I suppose Freddie’s told you what he’s forcing me into now, Mr. Sabre,” old Mrs. Perch greeted him. “It’s a funny thing that I should be forced to do things at my time of life. Of course she’s after Freddie. Do you suppose I can’t see that?”
“Well, but she won’t see Freddie, Mrs. Perch. He won’t be here.”
“She’ll catch him,” declared Mrs. Perch doggedly. “Any girl could catch Freddie. He’s a positive fool with one of these girls after him. Now she’s got to have his uncle Henry’s armchair in her room, if you please. That’s a nice thing, isn’t it?”
“Now look here, Mother, you know perfectly well that was your own idea. You said you felt sure she had a weak back and that—”
“I never supposed she was going to have your uncle Henry’s chair for her weak back or for any other back. Ask Mr. Sabre what he thinks. There he is. Ask him.”
Sabre said, “But you do like the girl, don’t you, Mrs. Perch?”
Mrs. Perch pursed her lips.
“I don’t say I don’t like her. I merely ask what I’m going to do with her in the house. When Freddie said he wanted to bring some one in to be with me, I never supposed he was going to bring a chit of a child into the house. I assure you I never supposed that was going to be done to me.”
And then quite suddenly Mrs. Perch dropped into a chair and said in a horribly weak voice, “I don’t mind who comes into the house, now. I can’t contend like I used to contend.” Immense tears gathered in her eyes and began to run swiftly down her cheeks. “I’m not fit for anything now. I can’t live without Freddie. I like the girl; but all this house where we’ve been so happy ... without Freddie ... I shall see his dear, bright face everywhere. Why must he go, Mr. Sabre? Why must he go? I don’t understand this war at all.” Her voice trailed off. Her hands fumbled on her lap. A tear fell on them. She brushed at it with a fumbling motion but it remained there.