But the bloodhound came out in Jan in other ways besides his appearance. He was for ever trailing, and used his dark hazel eyes far less than any wolfhound uses his. In questing about the place for Betty Murdoch, one noticed that Jan often did not raise his eyes or muzzle from the ground until he almost touched her skirt. Withal, his vision was keener than that of Desdemona’s or any other typical bloodhound. His eyes served him well for scanning the Downs; and often he would see a rabbit in the far distance before picking up its trail. Still, once he did pick up a trail, he would follow it as no wolfhound could, with unfailing certitude, and without troubling to use his eyes.
The first notable demonstration of his trailing powers was his tracking down of a missing ewe, across several miles of open Down, to the edge of a remote, disused chalk-pit, into which the foolish creature had fallen and broken its neck.
The trifling episode which served to draw more general attention to Jan’s all-round intelligence—which actually was considerably above the average level for a half-grown youngster—concerned Betty Murdoch in particular. It chanced that on a certain gray morning toward the close of the year Betty had a sudden curiosity to see again the hill-side cave beside which she had found Desdemona and Jan six months before. The gray weather, so far from depressing Betty, often moved her to take long walks; and if no other companion happened to be available, she could always be sure of Jan’s readiness to bear her company, as he did on this occasion.
The fact that Betty did not appear at luncheon-time roused little comment. She often was late for luncheon, and the only meal over which Nuthill folk made a special point of being punctual was dinner. Still, when three o’clock brought no sign of Betty, and the short day’s decline was at hand, the Master and the Mistress did begin to wonder. Then Jan arrived, apparently rather in a hurry, and very talkative. His short barks and little whines left no doubt about his determination to attract attention; and the manner in which he bustled into the hall, hastily nuzzled the Master’s hand or coat-sleeve, and bustled, whining, back to the porch, told those concerned, as plainly as words could, that he wanted them to accompany him.
“Why, what’s this?” said the Master. “I wonder if Betty is in sight.”
Out in the garden nothing could be seen of Betty; but having led his friends so far, Jan became more than ever insistent in demanding their attendance on the path leading to the little orchard gate that opened upon the Downs.
“H’m! Looks to me as though Betty were in a difficulty. I wish you’d send out word to the stable for Curtin to saddle Punch and ride on after me. Or, wait a moment. You stay here with Jan. I’ll send the message, and get my brandy—flask. One never knows. I’ll be out again in a minute.”
But this hardly met with Jan’s views. He seemed determined that the Master should not go back. Whining and barking very urgently, he actually laid hold upon the Master’s coat with his teeth, dragging with all his strength to prevent a return to the house.