But it must not be supposed that, because of his much-honored place in the Master’s world, Finn had entirely put behind him and forgotten his strange life among the wild kindred in Australia. That could hardly be. The savor of that life would remain for ever in his nostrils, no matter how ordered and humanized his days at Nuthill; just as consciousness of human cruelty and the torture of imprisonment had been burned into his memory and nature, indelibly as though branded there by the hot irons of the circus folk in New South Wales. Finn adapted himself perfectly to the life of the household at Nuthill, and with ease. Had he not a thousand years of royal breeding in his veins? But he never forgot the wild. He never forgot his days of circus imprisonment as a wild beast. He never for one instant reverted to the gaily credulous attitude toward mankind which had helped the dog-stealers to kidnap him after the first great triumph of his youth, when he defeated all comers, from puppy and novice to full-fledged champion, and carried off the blue riband of his year at the Crystal Palace. Well-mannered he would always be; but in these later days his attitude toward all humans, and most animal folk outside his own household, was characterized by a gravely alert and watchful kind of reserve. As the Master once said, in talking on his homeward way to England of that dog-stealing episode of the wolfhound’s salad days:
“It would take a tough and wily old thief to tempt Finn across a garden-path nowadays, with the best doctored meat ever prepared. And as for really getting away with him—well, they’re welcome to try; and I fancy they’d get pretty well all they deserve from old Finn, without the law’s assistance.”
Betty Murdoch—round-figured, rosy, high-spirited, a great lover of out of doors, and aged now twenty-two—had been much exercised in her mind as to what Finn would think of her, when he arrived at Nuthill, after the long railway journey from Plymouth. She had seen the wolfhound only once before, when she was somewhat less grown-up and he was still in puppyhood, before the visit to Australia. The Master, who went specially to Plymouth to fetch Finn, said Betty must expect a certain reserve at first in the wolfhound’s attitude.
“He can’t possibly remember you, of course, and, nowadays, he is not effusive, not very ready to make new friends.”
The Mistress of the Kennels, on the other hand—she still was spoken of as “the Mistress,” though at Nuthill there never were any kennels—insisted that Finn would know perfectly well that Betty was one of the family; as, of course, he did. Apart from her physical resemblance to her aunt, Betty had very many of the Mistress’s little ways, and especially of her ways in dealings with and thinking of animal folk.