While they were talking she used to doze and say, “Good morning, Mrs. So-and-So. My boy’s gone to fight for his country. I’m very proud of my boy gone to fight for his country. Good morning, Mr. So-and-So. My boy’s gone to—He didn’t want to go, but I said he must go to fight for his country.... But that’s not true, Freddie.... Oh, very well, dear. Good morning, Mrs. So-and-So.—”
She used to wake up with a start and say, “Eh, Freddie? Oh, I thought Freddie was in the room.” Tears.
She said she always looked forward to the evenings when Sabre came. She liked him to sit and talk to Effie and to smoke all the time and knock out his pipe on the fender. She said it made her think Freddie was there. Effie said that every night she went into Young Perch’s room and tucked up the bed and set the alarm clock and put the candle and the matches and one cigarette and the ash-tray by the bed; and every night in this performance said, “He said he’s certain to come in quite unexpectedly one night, and he will smoke his one cigarette before he goes to sleep. It’s no good my telling him he’ll set the house on fire one night. He never listens to anything I tell him.” And every morning, when Effie took her in a cup of tea very early (as Freddie used to), she always said, “Has Freddie come home in the night, Effie, dear? Now just go and knock on his door very quietly and then just peep your head in.”
Sabre had always thought Bright Effie would be wonderful with old Mrs. Perch. He wrote long letters to Young Perch, telling him how much more than wonderful Bright Effie was. Effie mothered Mrs. Perch and managed her and humoured her in a way that not even Young Perch himself could have bettered. In that astounding fund of humour of hers, reflected in those sparkling eyes, even Mrs. Perch’s most querulously violent attacks were transformed into matter for whimsical appreciation, delightfully and most lovingly dealt with. When the full, irritable, inconsequent flood of one of Mrs. Perch’s moods would be launched upon her in Sabre’s presence, she would turn a dancing eye towards him and immediately she could step into the torrent and would begin, “Now, look here, Mrs. Perch, you know perfectly well—“; and in two minutes the old lady would be mollified and happy.
Marvellous Effie! Sabre used to think; and of course it was because her astounding fund of humour was based upon her all-embracing capacity for love. That was why it was so astounding in its depth and breadth and compass. Sabre liked immensely the half-whispered talks with her while Mrs. Perch dozed in her chair. Effie was always happy. Nothing of that wanting something look was ever to be seen in Effie’s shining eyes. She had the secret of life. Watching her face while they talked, he came to believe that the secret, the thing missing in half the faces one saw, was love. But—the old difficulty—many had love; himself and Nona; and yet were troubled.