FAMILY LIFE—AND DEATH
In the very early morning of their ninth day in the world, one of Desdemona’s three pups died—it was the weakling sister—and the eyes of the big black-and-gray dog pup began to open. It seemed he had absorbed all the strength of his weakling sister to add to his own, and, as is so often the case with the largest pup of a litter, he thrived apace; growing almost visibly “like a weed” as the breeders say.
Desdemona paid very little heed to the puppy that died. Had it been a human child, skilled nurture would likely have sustained its weakling life, possibly for many years. But it was not part of Nature’s plan that any of the bloodhound mother’s energies should be wasted over the weakling of her little brood. The race is to the swift in Nature’s scheme. The black-and-gray pup always secured the most warmth because he burrowed forcibly under his brothers and sisters. He secured the lion’s share of nutriment because he was strong enough to force his way from teat to teat, ousting all other comers, till his lusty appetite was satisfied. He secured the most of his mother’s attention, partly because of his ability and will to thrust himself to the fore at all times, and partly, it may be, by compelling her prideful admiration.
When Finn found the little dead body he silently nosed and drew it out from the cave. Out there on the open turf of the Down Nature would see speedily to its sepulture, for Nature employs many grave-diggers and suffers no unseemly waste. She works on a huge scale, but only the superficial see wastefulness in Nature’s plans.
So now Desdemona’s family was reduced to two—the big black-and-gray dog pup and one black-and-tan bitch pup. The reduction was probably a beneficent one for Desdemona, for her flanks were very hollow now. Two puppies were quite enough for her to nourish, more especially since one of the two already demanded as much nourishment as any two ordinary youngsters of his age. The sunken hollows of the Lady Desdemona’s sides gave extraordinary prominence to her low-hanging and not too well-filled dugs. Her shape and general appearance were strangely different from those of the sleek and shining young bitch whose beauty had aroused so much enthusiasm in the minds of all judges who had seen her at Shaws. An uninformed outsider would scarcely have recognized her as the satin-coated beauty whose supple grace had so impressed Finn a few months back, in the walled inclosure above the stables.
Yet in some ways the Lady Desdemona of the cave was a more admirable creature than the beautiful young hound who won so much admiration at Shaws. Desdemona had learned more during the past few weeks than in all the rest of her life. Sustained effort for others and consistent self-sacrifice had set their distinctive seal upon a merely beautiful young animal; and now she had elements of grandeur and dignity, of