DESDEMONA FORGETS HER MANNERS
It has been recorded that, as the weeks slipped by after Desdemona’s first little term of absence from her home at Shaws, she grew daily more sedate in her manner and less given to the irresponsible activities of hound youth.
It was also noticed that she developed a habit of carrying off all her best bones, or other solid comestibles, instead of despatching them beside her dish as her sophisticated habit had always been. What was not known, even to the astute Bates, was that the most of such eatables were laboriously carried over close upon four miles of downland by the Lady Desdemona, for ultimate storage in her cave, where, a little reluctantly, she devoured some of them and stowed away others to be more or less devoured by insects, and, it may be, by prowling stoats and other vermin, during the bloodhound’s periods of residence in her own proper home.
Finn accompanied his mate, as a matter of course, upon most of her pilgrimages to the cave. But, somewhat to his chagrin, he found, as time went on, that Desdemona became less and less keen upon his company. Latterly, in fact, she came as near as so courtly a creature could to sending him about his business flatly, and she formed a habit of lying across the mouth of her cave in a manner which certainly suggested that she grudged Finn entry to the old place—a thing which ruffled him more than he cared to admit.
As a matter of fact, the Lady Desdemona had not the faintest idea why she should adopt this tone and manner toward her mate. She admired Finn as much as ever; she liked him well, and had no shadow of a reason for mistrusting him. But she had her own weird to dree; and inherited memories and instincts far stronger than any wish or inclination of her daily life, were just now dominating her utterly.
She was full of a vague anxiousness; a sense of impending difficulties; a blind but undeniable determination to be forearmed against she knew not what dangers and needs. And among other things, other vague instincts the which she must obey with or without understanding, there was the desire to store up food, and to preserve intact her sole command of the privacy of her cave. If Finn had been human, he would have shrugged his shoulders, and in private given vent to generalizations regarding the inscrutability of females. As it was, he very likely shrugged his great gray shoulders, but went his way without remark.
Then came the day upon which Desdemona disappeared from Shaws, and Finn, to the Master’s surprise, slept in his own proper bed at Nuthill.
The fact was he had parted with Desdemona that evening under rather painful circumstances. In the early evening he had journeyed with her to the cave—she carrying a large mutton-bone which she made no pretense of offering to share with her mate—and her attitude throughout had been one of really unaccountable chilliness and reserve. They had drunk together—the cold nectar of a prehistoric dew-pond that lay within a hundred yards of the cave—and Desdemona had turned away curtly and hurried back to the cave, with never a lick or a look in Finn’s direction, as though she feared he might take the place away in his teeth. Finn had noticed that she moved wearily, as though action taxed her strength; yet he thought her unaccountably ready to walk away from him.