So the Master did know something of what passed in the wolfhound’s mind, though they had no common language. As a matter of fact, the evening meeting with Desdemona, the frolic on the Downs, and, at the last, the running down of that rabbit, had combined to stir Finn more than anything else had stirred him since he had fought for the Master’s life in a drought-smitten corner of the bush in Australia. Much that had lain dormant in the great hound since the adventurous days of his leadership of a dingo pack had waked into active, insistent life that evening, and, brushing aside the habits of a year’s soft living, had filled him once more with the keenness of the hunter and the fire of the masterful mate and leader.
It must not be supposed that nostalgia is a modern weakness, or the monopoly of human minds. When Finn looked out across the moonlit Downs that night, while strolling round the house with the Master before going to bed, nostalgia filled his heart to aching-point and clouded his mind with its elusive, tormenting vapors as surely as ever it clouded the brain of any human wanderer. It was the nostalgia of the wilderness, of the life of the wild; and, as he looked out into the moonlight, Finn saw again in fancy, the boundary-rider’s lonely humpy, the rugged, rocky hills of the Tinnaburra; a fleeing wallaby in the distance, himself in hot pursuit. He smelt again the tang of crushed gum-leaves, and heard the fascinating rustle which tells of the movements of game, of live food, over desiccated twigs and leaves, in bush untrodden by human feet.
Yes, Finn tasted to the full that night the nostalgia of the wilderness. But if it stirred him deeply, it by no means made him unhappy. Across the Downs’ shoulder there was Desdemona; and he was free, save for the ties of affection—stronger these than any dog-chain—which bound him to the Nuthill folk. And as for Desdemona; owing to what many fanciers would have regarded as the reprehensible eccentricity of the owner of Shaws, Desdemona was almost as free as Finn.
A week later, even easy-going Colonel Forde was a little perturbed by the news that Lady Desdemona had been away all night and that nobody knew of her whereabouts. However, the bitch strolled into the house during the forenoon, looking none the worse for her night out, and, much to his kennelman’s annoyance, the Colonel refused to have her confined to the kennels. He did not know that Finn was schooling this blood-royal princess in the ways of the wild; but he could see that she looked fit as a fiddle and was obviously very much enjoying her life. And so he turned a deaf ear to his kennelman, even when the good fellow said, protestingly:
“You don’t see such a bitch once in twenty years, sir. She’s just on her eighteenth month and she’s worth taking care of.”
“She certainly is, Bates,” replied the Colonel, “and you must keep a sharp lookout. Look to her each day. But, upon my word, I think she’s also worth giving a good time to. Give her her head, and I don’t think she will ever disappoint us. Thank goodness, there are no traps or poison about here, or none that I ever heard of.”