Wherever he was and whatever he did, it was always Margaret, Margaret,—and Margaret lost to him.
By the end of the third week, however, the tonic effects of the strong sea air and water began to work inwards. Healthy body would no longer suffer sick heart. He had taken his morning plunge hitherto as a matter of course, now he began to enjoy it and to look forward to it—certain index of all-round recovery.
His appetite grew till he felt it needed an apology, at which Mrs. Carre laughed enjoyably. He began to take more interest in his surroundings for their own sakes. His thoughts of Margaret, with their after-glow of tender memory, were like the soft sad haze which falls on Guernsey when the sun has sunk and left behind it, in the upper sky, its slowly dying fires of dull red amber and gold.
Towards the end of the fourth week he tentatively fished out his manuscript and began to read it—with pauses. He grew interested in it. He saw new possibilities in the story.—His life was getting back on to the rails again.
Greater bodily peace and comfort than he found in that thick-set, creeper-covered, little cottage in the Rue Lucas, man might scarcely hope for. Anything more would have tended to luxury and made for restraint.
He was free as the wind to come and go as he listed, to roam the lonely lanes all night and watch the coming of the dawn—which he did; or to lie abed all day—which he did not; to do any mortal thing that pleased him, so long only as he gave his hostess full and fair warning of the state of his appetite and the times when it must be satisfied.
His quarters were not perhaps palatial, but what man, king of himself alone, would live in a palace?
He bumped his head with the utmost regularity against the lintel of the front door each time he entered, and only learned at last to bob by instinct. And the beams in the ceilings were so low that they claimed recognition somewhat after the manner of a boisterous acquaintance.
But doors and windows were always open, night and day, and his good friends the dogs came in to greet him by way of the windows quite as often as by the doors.
All through the black times those two were his close companions, and no better could he have had. They asked nothing of him—or almost nothing, and they gave him all they had. They were grateful from the bottom of their large hearts for any slightest sign of recognition. And they were proud of his company, which to others would have proved somewhat of a wet blanket. Without a doubt they assisted mightily in his cure, though neither he nor they knew it.
Every morning when he jumped up to see the weather, the first things that met him when he reached the open window, were four eager eyes full of welcome, and a grave intelligent brown face and hopeful swinging tail, and a dancing white face and little wriggling body.