Finn sniffed long and interestedly at the ’possum-rug which had often covered the Mistress’s feet on board ship and elsewhere. Then he stepped on to the bed and lowered his great bulk gracefully upon it.
“How’s that?” asked the Master. And Finn thrust his muzzle gratefully into the hand he loved. The bed was superlatively good, as a matter of fact. But when, in the quite early morning hours, the Master opened his bedroom door, bound for the bath, he found Finn dozing restfully on the doormat.
So that was the end of the hall bed as a hall bed. That night Finn found it beside the Master’s bedroom door; and there in future he slept of a night, when indoors at all. But he was allowed perfect freedom, and there were summer nights he spent in the outer porch and farther afield than that, including the queer little Sussex slab-paved courtyard outside the kitchen door, where he spent the better part of one night on guard over a smelly tramp who, in a moment unlucky for himself, had decided to try his soft and clumsy hand at burglary. The gardener found the poor wretch in the morning aching with cramp and bailed up in a dampish corner by the dust-bin, by a wolfhound who kept just half an inch of white fang exposed, and responded with a truly awe-inspiring throaty snarl to the slightest hint of movement on the tramp’s part.
“Six hours ‘e’s kep’ me there, an’, bli’me, I’d sooner do six months quod,” the weary tramp explained, when the Master had been roused and Finn called off.
On the morning of his third day at Nuthill it was that Finn first met the Lady Desdemona. And it happened in this wise: Colonel Forde, of Shaws, which, as you may know, lies just across the green shoulder of Down from Nuthill—its fault is that the house is reached only by the westering sun, while Nuthill’s windows catch the first morning rays on one side and hold some of any sunshine there may be the day through—wrote, saying that he had heard of Finn’s arrival, and would the Master come across to luncheon with the Mistress and Miss Murdoch, and bring the wolfhound.
“I hope you will have a look through my kennels with me in the afternoon,” added the Colonel; and that was the kind of invitation seldom refused by the Master.
It is, of course, a good many years now since the Shaws kennels first earned the respect of discerning breeders and lovers of bloodhounds. But to this day there is one kind of doggy man (and woman) who smiles a shade disdainfully when Colonel Forde’s name is mentioned.
“Very much the amateur,” they say. And—“A bit too much of a sentimentalist to be taken seriously,” some knowing fellow in a kennel coat of the latest style will tell you. Perhaps they do not quite know what they mean. Or perhaps they are influenced by the known fact that the Colonel has more than once closed his kennel doors to a long string of safe prizes by refusing to exhibit a second time some hound who, on a first showing, has won golden opinions and high awards. But these refusals were never whimsical. They were due always to the Colonel’s decision, based upon close and sympathetic observation, that, for the particular hound in question, exhibition represented a painful ordeal.