Finn’s heart had swelled almost to bursting when the Master came to him in the quarantine station at Plymouth, for, to tell the truth, he never had been able to make head or tail of being left alone in this place, though the Master had tried hard to explain. But he had been well treated there, and was certain the Master would eventually return to him. Yet, when the moment came, there was a sudden overwhelming swelling of his heart which made Finn gasp. He almost staggered as the Master greeted him. The emotion of gladness hurt him, and his dark eyes were flooded.
After that there were no further surprises for Finn. Once he had felt the Master’s hand burrowing in the wiry gray hair of his neck, Finn knew well that they were homeward bound, that the unaccountable period of separation was over, and that he would very presently see the Mistress of the Kennels; as in fact he did, that very night, at Nuthill by the Downs. And Betty—well, it was perfectly clear to Finn that she was somehow part and parcel with the Mistress; and whilst never now effusive to any one, he made it clear at once that he accepted Betty as one of his own little circle of human folk, to be loved and trusted, and never suspected. In the evening the great hound lay extended on the hearthrug of the square, oak-paneled hall at Nuthill. (He occupied a good six feet of rug.) Betty stepped across his shoulders once, to reach matches from the mantel; and Finn never blinked or moved a hair, save that the tip of his long tail just languidly rose twice, ever so gently slapping the rug. The Master, who was watching, laughed at this.
“You may account yourself an honored friend already, Betty,” he said. “I’ll guarantee no other living soul, except the Mistress or I, could step over old Finn like that without his moving. In these days he doesn’t unguard to that extent with any one else.”
“Ah, well,” laughed Betty; “even less wise dogs than Finn know who loves them—don’t they, old man?”
Finn blinked a friendly response as she rubbed his ears. But as yet it was not that. Finn had given no thought to Betty’s loving him; but he had realized that she was kin to the Mistress and the Master, and therefore, for him, in a category apart from all other folk, animal or human; a person to be trusted absolutely, even by a hound of his unique experience.
NUTHILL AND SHAWS
In a recess beside the hearth in the hall at Nuthill Finn found an oaken platform, or bench, five feet long by two and a half feet wide. It stood perhaps fifteen inches from the floor, on four stout legs, and its two ends and back had sides eight inches high. The front was open, and the bench itself was covered by a ’possum-skin rug.
“This, my friend, is your own bed,” said the Master, when he showed the bench to Finn, after all the household had retired that night. “You’ve slept hard, old chap, and you’ve lived hard, in your time; but when you want it, there will always be comfort for you here. But you’re free, old chap. You can go wherever you like; still, I’d like you to try this. See! Up, lad!”