Discipline over, Graeme handed him out through the pantry window, bade him to go home to bed, and fastened the window behind him. The night passed without further disturbance, and Graeme awoke as the dawn glimmered golden on his wide-open window.
In ten minutes he was racing bareheaded past Colinette and La Forge towards Les Laches, a towel round his neck and Punch bounding silently by his side. They had stolen out the back way through the top of the post-office fields, and had left Scamp still prisoner in the woodhouse, lest the hysterical joy of his release should disturb the ladies.
And presently they were racing back home, all aglow with the tingling kisses of the waves, and rough of hair with the salt and the wind.
The sun was up but not yet stripped for the long day’s race to the west. The eastern skies still gleamed through a faery haze with the soft iridescence of a young ormer shell, the tender pinks and greens and golds of the new day’s birth-chamber mellowing upwards into the glorious blue of a day of days.
’The year’s at
The day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearled:
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in his heaven—
All’s right with the world!’
The lilt of the joyous words had often been with him as he sped through the sleeping fields to his morning plunge.
This day of days, as though his soul forecasted what was coming, they sang in his heart and on his lips. His cure was surely near completion. The salt was regaining its savour. Life was worth living again.
And it was then, when he had come through the valley and was ready to climb again, that the glory came to him.
As the two friends sprang lightly over the turf wall into the garden of the Red House, they saw a sight which one of them will not forget as long as he lives.
In the gap of the tall hedge, where the path led down to the cottage,—ringed in its darkness like a lovely picture in a sombre frame, with a pale eucalyptus rising stately on either side; and behind it all, and gleaming softly through and round it all, the tender glories of the new day,—stood a girl in a dove-coloured dress, bareheaded, holding the dew-pearled branches apart with her two hands, and gazing at him with wide eyes, and parted lips, and startled face.
And the girl was Margaret Brandt.
Graeme’s first thought was that he was dreaming. He blinked his eyes to make sure they were not playing him false.
If she had disappeared at that moment, he would have sworn to hallucinations and the visibility of spirits to the day of his death.
But she did not disappear, and Punch proved her no spirit by stalking gravely up to give her welcome. Without taking her startled eyes off Graeme, she dropped one white hand on to the great brown head and the diamonds sprinkled her dove-coloured dress.