Two o’clock. He went to look at Effie, still in profound slumber. Why awaken her? Nothing could be done; only watch. He returned to his vigil.
Yes, Mrs. Perch was sinking. More pronounced now that masklike aspect of her face. Yes, dying. He spoke the word to himself. “Dying.” As of a fire in the grate gone to one dull spark among the greying ashes.—It is out; it cannot burn again. So life here too far retired, too deeply sunk to struggle back and vitalise again that hue, those lips, that masklike effigy.
Profound and awful mystery. Within that form was in process a most dreadful activity. The spirit was preparing to vacate the habitation it had so long occupied. It gave no sign. The better to hide its preparations it had drawn that mask about the face. Seventy years it had sojourned here; now it was bound away. Seventy years it had been known to passers-by through the door and windows of this its habitation; now, deeply retired within the inner chambers, it set its house in order to be gone. Profound and awful mystery. Dreadful and momentous activity. From the windows of her eyes turning off the lights; from the engines of her powers cutting off its forces; drawing the furnaces; dissevering the contacts. A lifetime within this home; now passenger into an eternity. A lifetime settled; now preparing to be away on a journey inconceivably tremendous, unimaginably awful. Did it shrink? Did it pause in its preparations to peer and peep and shudder?
He felt very cold. He moved from the bed and replenished the fire and crouched beside it.
This war! He said beneath his breath, “Young Perch! Young Perch!” Young Perch was killed. Realise the thing! He was never going to see Young Perch again. He was never going to see old Mrs. Perch again. He was never to come into Puncher’s again. Another place of his life was to be walled up. His home like an empty house; the office like an empty house; now no refuge here. Things were crowding in about him, things were closing in upon him. And he was just to live on here, out of the war, yet insupportably beset by the war. Beset by the war yet useless in the war. Young Perch! How in pity was he to go on living out of the war, now that the war had taken Young Perch and killed old Mrs. Perch and shut this refuge from its oppression? He must get in. He could not endure it. He could not, could not....
Ten minutes past three. There was perceptible to him no change in that face upon the pillow. He brought a lamp from the dressing table and looked at her, shading the light with his hand. Impenetrable mask! Profound and awful mystery. Much more than a house that dreadfully engrossed spirit was preparing to leave. This meagre form, scarcely discernible beneath the coverlet, had been its fortress, once new, once strong, once beautiful, once by its garrison proudly fought, splendidly defended, added