It did not take long for Finn to realize that his mate attached more importance than she ever had before to the food-supply question. It was easy to bring her a bone from his own daily supply at Nuthill, though that did involve carrying the bone over four or five miles of Downs. But, as was natural, Desdemona wanted more than bones. It was not for nothing that five little mouths (armed with teeth like pin-points) tugged and pounded at her dugs by day and by night. Whenever Finn thought of it, he would run down and kill a rabbit for his mate, and for these the bloodhound was duly grateful. But dogs do not discuss such needs. Finn himself was well fed each day at Nuthill, as a matter of course. Frequently though he visited the down-ridge cave, he did not live there, and being still attached to a regular man-made home, he never adopted any set hunting routine, any more than he reverted to any other among the habits of wild life. He did not reason with himself regarding Desdemona’s position or needs. When he thought of it, he gave her food; but these thoughts of his were, quite naturally, less frequent than the recurrence of Desdemona’s conscious needs, underlined and emphasized as these were by the tireless assertiveness of her five children.
One result was that, within three days of the arrival of the puppies, Desdemona was doing a certain amount of hunting on her own account, especially in the seasons of twilight, both morning and evening. In her movements she was, of course, infinitely slower than her wolfhound mate. He could easily have run circles round her when she was traveling at her fastest. Her sense of smell and tracking ability were immeasurably ahead of Finn’s powers in these directions, and in some countries this would have stood her in good stead. It was no very great help to her, however, in rabbit-hunting; and many a long and patient tracking ended for Desdemona in nothing more nutritious than a view of her intended quarry disappearing into the security of its earth or burrow while the hungry hunter was still twenty paces distant. Then, perforce, poor Desdemona would hurry back to her nursing, hungry as when she left it.
If Finn should arrive with food on such an evening or morning, so much the better. If not—well, Desdemona gave herself utterly to her puppies. There was no thought of grievance or complaint in her mind, but only the earnest endeavor to satisfy, so far as she was able, all the calls of her little blind tyrants. Her will to succeed as a mother was at least equal to that which any creature of the wild could have known. But her powers of contrivance, her cunning, endurance, and, in short, her command of success, in conditions approximating to those of motherhood in lined and emphasized as these were by the tireless assertiveness of her five children.