As the event proved, the Nuthill family and Colonel Forde spent most of the evening in that loose box. Stools were brought in from the harness-room; and Betty Murdoch had to tell her story all over again, while the others made suggestions and filled in gaps with their surmises; and everybody’s gaze centered upon Desdemona and her son, lying among the fresh straw. It is likely that Desdemona might have noticed the confinement of that loose box a good deal more than she did, but for the fact that she was thoroughly tired out. Her health was not good just then, and the events of the day seemed rather to have overcome her.
To the eyes of Colonel Forde and the Nuthill folk she appeared most cruelly emaciated. She certainly was thinner than hounds who live with men-folk grow; for she had gone rather short of food while nursing her pups and had had to hunt for most of the food she did get. But in any case unless specially nourished for the task, and given the abundant rest of kennel or stable life, a bitch will always lose a lot of flesh over suckling her young. Desdemona was not really so emaciated as her friends thought her; but she was much thinner than she had ever been before; and above all, had not a trace left of that sleekness which sheltered life gives. The veterinary surgeon who came to see her next morning, by Colonel Forde’s request, had never before seen a dog fresh from wild life; and he, too, thought Desdemona more dangerously emaciated than she was.
“We must get that pup away from her just as soon as ever we can,” said the vet.
“But won’t that make her fret?” asked the Mistress of the Kennels.
“Not very much if we let Finn be with her, I think,” said the Master.
“And, in any case, she really isn’t fit to go on feeding of that great pup,” repeated the vet. He even spoke of threatening trouble of the milk-glands, which might mean losing Desdemona altogether. Her complete loss of that smooth sleekness which life with humans gives deceived the vet more than a little. And the upshot of it all was that Betty Murdoch took over the sole management of the black-and-gray pup—her pup, as Colonel Forde called him; and Desdemona and Finn were taken over to Shaws in a cart, Finn being kept with the bloodhound to prevent her from fretting for her puppy. At Shaws, Desdemona was established in a loose box under the vet’s supervision, and Finn spent some days there with her.
Betty always said she had no earthly reason for christening her black-and-gray pup Jan; but that, somehow, the name occurred to her as fitting him from the moment at which she first saw him endeavoring to stand up and growl at her pony, Punch, at the vixen, and at the world generally on the Downs. From that same time Jan seemed to every one else to fit his name; and it was clear he had taken a great fancy to Betty Murdoch ever since she had wrapped him in her jacket and carried him home triumphantly on her saddle-bow from the cave on the Downs.