“All right! All right! Don’t stir, my mate,” said Finn’s low whine. And then he entered the cave and gazed down upon the miracle the night had brought. Five sleek-sided puppies nestled in a row within the Lady Desdemona’s carefully curved flank. They were so new to the world as to be no more than a few hours’ old; they were blind and helpless as stranded jellyfish. But they were vigorously breakfasting, none the less; and as Finn gazed down upon them from his three-foot height, their mother proceeded to wash and groom their fat bodies for the twentieth time that morning, interrupting herself from time to time to glance proudly up into her mate’s face, as who should say: “See what I have given you! Now you understand. These, my lord, are princes of your royal blood and mine.”
Neither she nor Finn could realize, of course, just why these children of their union—their lamentable mesalliance, as the fanciers would have said—were the first of their kind the world had ever seen: the offspring of an Irish wolfhound champion and a daughter of generations of bloodhound champions. But to Desdemona it was clear enough that a miracle unique in history had occurred; and as for Finn, he looked and looked, and his bowels yearned over the group at his feet even more mightily than over Desdemona, his mate, on the previous evening.
Here certainly was food for wonder and astonishment. Two dog people had met outside this lonely cave the night before; and here there were seven. The new-comers were, with one exception, black and golden-brown in color, like their mother; yet their short coats were sensibly different from hers in texture. The exception was black as to his saddle and head, but iron-gray for the rest, a blend one sometimes sees in other hounds. And Finn noticed that this exception was somewhat larger than either of his four brothers and sisters. (Two of them were brothers, and two sisters; the black-and-gray fellow was a brother.)
Finn gently licked the round back of one of the pups. A moment before Desdemona’s tongue had crossed the same fat back. Yet its blind little owner whimpered instant complaint at the very gentle touch of Finn’s tongue.
“Be very careful!” whined the mother.
So Finn turned to the bigger pup, the black-and-gray, and licked him carefully. There was no sign of a whimper from this sturdy chap. On the contrary, he wriggled over on his round back and presented his equally round, gray belly for the same treatment. So Finn gravely licked his largest son all over in the approved maternal fashion, while Desdemona looked on with a quaint mixture of expressions in her pain-drawn eyes. The mixture was of pride and jealousy, approval and solicitude, motherhood and matehood—quite a curious little study in expression.
And then came an odd, rather touching little incident. Using infinite care to avoid disturbing or unsettling her full-fed little ones, the bloodhound mother slowly, gently, and with much effort, raised her aching body from the ground and stood a moment tremulously resting. Then she nudged Finn with her nose, and gently, but quickly, nervously, edged him out to the mouth of the cave. There the appeal of her liquid eyes, no less than the meaning little whine which escaped her, said, plainly: