Then Desdemona came shuffling down the slope with reassuring little whines of response to her son’s growling. And to these there came Finn, a trifle winded, and bearing traces of blood and fur about his bearded gray muzzle. So Master Black-and-Gray, whose knowledge of his fellow-inhabitants of the earth had hitherto been confined to Finn and Desdemona and his own brothers and sisters—now defunct—found himself, at the close of this most adventurous afternoon, the center of an admiring, wondering circle formed by his mother and her wolfhound mate, and the pony and Betty Murdoch. Having regarded each one among his audience in turn questioningly, he finally waddled out to his mother and thrust his somewhat bruised little nose greedily into her hanging dugs, so that Desdemona, forgetful for the moment of other matters, was impelled to lower herself to the turf and yield sustenance to her only surviving offspring.
JAN GOES TO NUTHILL
The idea came to me quite suddenly when I saw Finn walk off with the best of his dinner bones to the Downs. I’d just come in from the village, and Punch was hitched to the gate-post, so I got into the saddle again and set out on Master Finn’s trail.
Thus Betty Murdoch, later on in the evening, explaining the position to the Master and to the Mistress of the Kennels.
“I felt sure he must be going to Desdemona,” continued Betty. “And—”
“It really is a wonder we none of us thought of that before,” said her aunt.
They were all assembled now in a roomy loose box in the Nuthill stables. Comfortably ensconced in a bed of clean straw, Desdemona was nursing her puppy under the approving gaze of Finn, who sat on his haunches beside the Master, gravely reviewing his mate’s changed situation.
“I think the cave must be quite four miles away; right out past Fritten Ring and the long barrow, you know, and I fancy poor Desdemona must have had quite a family, because, besides the one dead pup close to the cave, I saw several little skeletons; quite a lot of animal remains scattered about—pieces of rabbit and the remains of another fox besides the one Finn killed. The extraordinary thing is that Jan, here, appeared to me to have been fighting the fox that killed his sister. He was growling away most ferociously when I found him.”
“Yes, he’s a real ‘well-plucked un,’ is Jan, as you call him,” said the Master. “Your pup, Betty. I’m sure the Colonel will say he must be yours, for you found him, and there’s fully as much Finn as Desdemona about him. He will make a wonderful dog, that, unless I’m greatly mistaken. Well, now I must get over to Shaws and let them know about Desdemona. I dare say the Colonel will want to come back with me to see the bitch; so I’ll ask him to have dinner with us.”