And then, as a medieval observer might have said, the heavens opened and a whirling vision of gray-clad muscle and gleaming fangs descended from the high hedge-top, landing fairly and squarely athwart Grip’s back. For a moment the sheep-dog sprawled, paralyzed by this inexplicable event. In that moment his last chance was lost. The new arrival had whirled his huge body clear and gripped the sheep-dog’s neck in jaws longer and more powerful than those of any other dog in Sussex. Grip weighed close upon ninety pounds; but he was shaken and battered now from side to side, very much as a rat is shaken by a terrier. And, finally, with one tremendous lift of the greatest neck the hound world has known, Grip was flung clear to the far side of the lane, at the very feet of his master, who promptly grabbed him by the collar and, as though to complete Finn’s prescription, hammered him repeatedly upon the nose with his clenched fist.
“I’ll larn’ee to answer me—by cripes, I will!” quoth David.
By this time the sorely trounced Jan was on his feet and Finn had begun to lick his son’s streaming ears. From the inside of the high hedge came hurrying footsteps; and in another moment the Master appeared at the white gate, twenty paces lower down the lane. David Crumplin was offered the hospitality of the scullery for the examination of his dog, but preferred to get Grip away with him after an admission that—
“Your puppy there will do some killin’ in his day, sir, if he lives to see it. But as for this other fellow”—pointing to Finn—“he could down any dog this side o’ Gretna Green, an’ you can say as I said so. I know most of ’em.”
That was how Jan learned his first big lesson, and the good of it never left him, and often saved his life; just as surely as his father’s great speed and strength saved it on this morning, in the very breathless nick of time when his throat had been bared to the knife that was between Grip’s killing jaws.
In the beginning of Jan’s first fight Finn had been dreaming of a hunt in the Australian bush. Once or twice, as David Crumplin cursed and ranted in the lane, Finn’s dark ears had twitched as though in semi-consciousness of the trouble. Later, as Jan had snarlingly roared in his fourth or fifth attack, his sire’s brown eyes had opened wide and he had lain a moment with ears pricked and head well up, at Betty’s feet. And then with a long, formidable growl he had leaped for the porch. Half a dozen great bounds took him through the garden. A leap which hardly broke his stride carried him across the iron fence into the orchard, and a score of strides from there brought him to the hedge-side. The hedge was six feet high here. In the lane, which lay low, it was ten feet high. There was a gate twenty yards away. Finn scorned this and went soaring through the bramble-ends at the top of the hedge, and thence, a bolt of fire from the blue, to Grip’s shoulders.