Mrs. Perch believed her son could do anything and, in the matter of his capabilities, had the strange conviction that he had only to write and ask anybody, from Mr. Asquith downwards, for employment in the highest offices in order to obtain it. Young Perch—who used to protest, “Well, but I’ve got my work, Mother”—was in fact a horticulturist of very fair reputation. He specialised in sweet peas and roses; and Sabre, in the early days of his intimacy with the Rod, Pole or Perch household, was surprised at the livelihood that could apparently be made by the disposal of seeds, blooms and cuttings.
“Fred’s getting quite famous with his sweet peas,” Sabre once said to Mrs. Perch. “I’ve been reading an illustrated interview with him in The Country House.”
Tides of glory into Mrs. Perch’s face. “Ah, if only he hadn’t worn that dreadful floppy hat of his, Mr. Sabre. It couldn’t have happened on a more unfortunate day. I fully intended to see how he looked before the photographs were taken and of course it so happened I was turning a servant out of the house and couldn’t attend to it. That dreadful floppy hat doesn’t suit him. It never did suit him. But he will wear it. It’s no good my saying anything to him.”
This was an opinion that old Mrs. Perch was constantly reiterating. Young Perch was equally given to declaring, “I can’t do anything with my Mother, you know.” And yet it was Sabre’s observation that each life was entirely guided and administered by the other. Young Perch once told Sabre he had never slept a night away from his mother since he was seventeen, and he was never absent from her half a day but she was at the window watching for his return.
Sabre was extraordinarily attracted by the devotion between the pair. Their interests, their habits, their thoughts were as widely sundered as their years, yet each was wholly and completely bound up in the other. When Sabre sat and talked with Young Perch of an evening, old Mrs. Perch would sit with them, next her son, in an armchair asleep. At intervals she would start awake and say querulously, “Now I suppose I must be driven off to bed.”
Young Perch, not pausing in what he might be saying, would stretch a hand and lay it on his mother’s. Mrs. Perch, as though Freddie’s hand touched away enormous weariness and care, would sigh restfully and sleep again. It gave Sabre extraordinary sensations.
* * * * *
If he had been asked to name his particular friends these were the friends he would have named. He saw them constantly. Infrequently he saw another. Quite suddenly she came back into his life.
Nona returned into his life.