“No, it’s not that, sir,” persisted the kennelman; “but Desdemona she’s good enough to win in the best company, and to mother winners, too. And you know, sir, if a dog’s to do hisself justice on the bench, you can’t let him go skirmishing around the country like a gipsy’s lurcher. It sorter roughs ’em somehow. The judges don’t like it, and the Fancy don’t, neither, sir. Look at the chalk an’ that on her coat this morning, sir.”
“Ah well,” said the Colonel, with a little laugh, “we never have bred for the judges, Bates; nor yet for the Fancy, either; and if they can’t recognize the merits of a bitch like that because she’s been living a natural, happy sort of life, instead of a cage-life—why, then, that’s their loss, not ours, and we must chance it.”
And so the kennelman shrugged his shoulders and the Lady Desdemona continued to enjoy life, the new and wider life to which she was being introduced by that hardened wanderer and past-master in the lore of the wild—Finn.
It may be that Colonel Forde himself was more than a little worried about it when, a week later, the young bloodhound disappeared one afternoon and did not show up again next day. There had been further communications with the house of the redoubtable champion Windle Hercules in Hampshire. The Lady Desdemona’s line of travel had been chosen. Bates was to escort her on the nuptial journey, and all arrangements for the wedding of the distinguished pair had been completed. And now—“Just as if she mighter bin any tramp’s cur,” as Bates feelingly put it—Desdemona had elected to stay away and to remain away. And the news from Nuthill showed that—“That there plaguy great wolfhound” was also on the missing list.
On the fourth day of absence, all search having proved unsuccessful, the police were notified. Then, bright and early on the morning of the fifth day, the Lady Desdemona walked quietly up to the kitchen door at Shaws, followed leisurely by Finn, who, after seeing his mate welcomed with some enthusiasm by the cook and several members of her excited staff, turned about and loped easily away in the direction of Nuthill.
But to the experts concerned it speedily became apparent that the alliance with Champion Windle Hercules must be indefinitely postponed. Lady Desdemona would have none of him. It seemed she knew her own mind very well, was perfectly calm and content, but quite determined in her opposition to any hint of matrimonial pourparlers with the admitted champion of her race. Bates the kennelman pished and tushed, and thought he knew all about it. The Master felt pretty sure he knew all about it. The Colonel just smiled and said that Desdemona was young yet, and that, for his part, he always had thought two years a better marrying age than eighteen months.
Meantime, you could not have found a more placidly happy and contented hound in England than the Lady Desdemona; and there were very few days on which she did not meet Finn, either at Nuthill or at Shaws.