During the course of their various absences from Shaws and Nuthill, Finn and the Lady Desdemona very thoroughly scoured the South Downs within a radius of a dozen miles from home. In the beginning of their longest jaunt, which kept the pair of them five days away, Desdemona made a discovery that greatly interested both of them.
It happened that Finn ran down and killed a rabbit, rather, perhaps, from lightness of heart, or by way of displaying his powers to Desdemona, than from any desire for food. And so it fell out that, having slain the bunny, the hunter and his mate proceeded to amuse themselves in the vicinity, leaving the rabbit lying where it had received its coup de grace, at the foot of a stunted, wind-twisted thorn-bush.
It might have been an hour later when (with appetites whetted, no doubt, by exercise in the finest air to be found in southern England) Finn and Desdemona forsook their play and made for the thorn-bush, with a view to a cold rabbit supper. But a glance at the spot showed that the very thoroughly killed rabbit was no longer there. Finn’s eyes blazed for a moment with the sort of masterful wrath he had not shown since his dingo-leading days in the Tinnaburra. Desdemona noticed this exhibition of lordly anger and thought it rather fine. But, being female, she was more practical than Finn; and being a bloodhound, she had a sense of smell by comparison with which Finn’s scenting powers were as naught—a mere gap in his equipment; and this despite the fact that the training his wild life had given him in this respect placed him far ahead of the average wolfhound. But by comparison with bloodhounds, the fleet dogs who hunt by sight and speed—deerhounds, greyhounds, Irish wolfhounds and the like—have very little sense of smell.
Now the Lady Desdemona, having no experience of wild life, did not know in the least what had become of that rabbit. She formed no conclusions whatever about it. But obeying one of her strongest instincts, she picked up a trail leading in the direction opposite to that from which Finn had overtaken the bunny, and, with one glance of encouragement over her shoulder at Finn, began to follow this up at a loping trot. As she ran, her delicate, golden-colored flews skimmed the ground; her sensitive nostrils questioned almost every blade of grass, her brain automatically registering every particle of information so obtained, and guiding her feet accordingly. Her strong tail waved above and behind her in the curve of an Arab scimitar. She ceased to be the Lady Desdemona and became simply a bloodhound at work; an epitome of the whole complex science of tracking. Finn trotted admiringly beside her, his muzzle never passing her shoulder; and now and again when he happened to lower his head from its accustomed three-foot level, his nostrils caught a whiff or two of something reminiscent of long-past hunting excursions when he was barely out of puppyhood.