That Desdemona was any relation of his own neither he nor she seemed for one moment to guess, though less than a couple of months had passed since he ceased to derive his sole nutriment and support in life from this same stately hound, at whose golden-brown fore legs and low-hanging dewlap he now sniffed so curiously.
One result of her return to the sheltered life was that Desdemona looked almost twice as big and massive as she had looked in her nursing days. The pendulous dugs were no longer in evidence; but the rich, silky rolls about her neck lay fold in fold; the immensely long ears were veritable buttresses to her massy head. Her black nose gleamed like satin at the end of her long muzzle, above which lay an interminable array of deep wrinkles, radiating out and downward from her high-peaked crown. Just once the noble head was lowered—as that of an ancient Greek philosopher to an inquisitive child—and the crimson-hawed eyes directed downward as, in a calm, aloof spirit of investigation, the Lady Desdemona took note of the fussy movements of her own son.
“I don’t think we have been introduced, have we?” she seemed to say. It was difficult to realize that, not many weeks before, hollow of flank, with the mother anxiety in her eyes, the same noble creature had battled and contrived to keep life in herself and in this same lusty pup out there on the open Down, four miles and more away, among the small wild creatures and the debris of her cave home.
Among the dog-folk Nature has arranged matters in this way, wisely and kindly. Separated from her good master, Colonel Forde, for many months, or even years, Desdemona would have recognized him again without hesitation. But like every other canine mother, and like every creature of the wild, her own flesh and blood became utterly strange to her within a very few weeks, when separated from her during its first months of life. And from Nature’s standpoint this is a highly necessary ordinance, since, after a few more months, Desdemona, mated elsewhere, might easily find herself called upon to rear an entirely new family in new surroundings. So it is that whilst among her kind, as among the creatures of the wild, there is nothing to prevent mother and son or daughter from becoming friends in the youngster’s adult life; yet never, after the first separation, can they meet consciously as mother and offspring.
It was an interesting picture for the Nuthill folk and Colonel Forde to see Finn and Desdemona sedately strolling across the lawn together, tried friends and mates, divided sometimes by the impudent gambols and even by the mock attacks and invitations to play of their own lusty son—the only whelp in existence, probably the only one who ever had lived, to carry in his veins in equal parts the blood of centuries of Irish wolfhound and bloodhound champions.
“Do keep them there!” cried pretty Betty Murdoch. “I simply must have that picture; I’ll fetch my camera.” And after some skilled manoeuvering to secure the son’s collaboration, the promised picture was secured.