He ran down a rabbit for his mate, and deposited it before her at the cave’s mouth in the most friendly manner. Then, before he could get time to tear the pelt off for her, the Lady Desdemona, with a snappishness more suggestive of a hedge-side cur than of a hound of her rank, actually snatched away the rabbit, and with never a “Thank you,” or a “By your leave,” carried it right inside the cave, dropping it there and returning to bar the entrance, with a look in her red-hawed eyes and a lift of her golden flews which, if not actual snarling, was, as folks say, near enough to make no difference. At least it very plainly told Finn he was not wanted there; and the limits of his punctilious courtesy having now been passed, he had turned away without look or sound and descended the Down in high dudgeon.
It was clear to Finn that his mate needed a lesson in manners, and so, moodily, he stalked away and went hungry to bed like the illogical male creature he was, vaguely surmising that in his discomfort there must be something of retribution for Desdemona. Had he but known it, he had a long line of human precedents in the matter of this particular piece of foolishness, even to the detail of the untasted dinner-dish which he left in the back porch when he went to bed at Nuthill.
FINN IS ENLIGHTENED
Next morning courtesy demanded that Finn should accept Betty Murdoch’s invitation to accompany her on a rather long walk. She had bills to pay and calls to make in the village. Finn went, of course, stalking silently beside pretty, cheery Betty. But he made a poor companion, and Betty even told the Master at luncheon that she thought Finn was not very well, so dull and uninterested in anything he had appeared all the morning.
“H’m! I suspect he misses Lady Desdemona,” said the Master. “Puzzling thing, that. I can’t make out why they’re not together.”
The fact was, Finn found the nursing of his offended dignity a wearisome task. It was all very well to rebuke Desdemona by ignoring her existence; but could he be quite sure that she noticed his absence or cared about it? And in any case, whether or not it affected her, it certainly bored him very much. He missed greatly the companionship of his mate, and not a bit the less because she had been so rude to him the day before.
The upshot of it was that, after disposing of a good portion of the dinner placed in his big dish at six o’clock that evening (in the little courtyard in which he had once held a tramp bailed up all night), he picked up the large, succulent, and still decently covered knuckle-bone designed for his dessert, and, carrying this in his mouth, set out for the cave on the Downs. He probably had some small twinges of misgiving, but endeavored to dismiss these by assuring himself that poor Desdemona was no doubt very sorry for her ill-temper of the previous day; that she doubtless was feeling his protracted absence keenly, and that it would be only courteous and fair now to let bygones be bygones, and present her with a really choice knuckle-bone by way of proving his forgiveness.