Withal, Jan’s faults, such as they were, were no more seriously objectionable than the faults of a well-bred, high-spirited, good-hearted English school-boy. Finn’s disposition was knightly; but it was the disposition of a tried and veteran knight and not of a dashing young gallant. Under his thick black-and-gray coat Jan did carry a few scars, so shrewdly had Grip’s fangs done their work; but life had hardly marked him as yet; certainly he carried none of life’s scars. Also, good and sound as his heart was, clean and straight though he was by nature, he never had that rare and delicate courtliness which so distinguished his sire among hounds. Even Desdemona, great lady that she undoubtedly was, had not the wolfhound’s grave courtesy. Neither had Jan. He was more bluff. The bloodhound in him made him look solemn at times; but he was not naturally a grave person at all.
On the other hand, Jan was no longer a puppy. The hardening and furnishing process would continue to improve his physique till after the end of his second year; but he had definitely laid aside puppyhood in his eighteenth month and had a truly commanding presence. He was three inches lower at the shoulder than his sire—the tallest hound in England—yet looked as big a dog because built on slightly heavier lines. He had the wolfhound’s fleetness, but with it much of the massy solidity of the bloodhound. His chest was immensely deep, his fore legs, haunches, and thighs enormously powerful. And the wrinkled massiveness of his head, like the breadth of his black saddle, gave him the appearance of great size, strength, and weight.
As a fact he scaled one hundred and sixty-four pounds on his second birthday, and that was eight pounds heavier than his sire; a notable thing in view of the fact that he was in no way gross and carried no soft fat, thanks to the many miles of downland he covered every day of his life in hunting with Finn and walking with Betty Murdoch.
Taking him for all in all, Jan was probably as finely conditioned and developed a hound as any in England when he reached his second birthday, and it is hardly likely that a stronger hound could have been found in all the world. It may be that for hardness and toughness and endurance he might have found his master without much difficulty; for hardship begets hardihood, and Jan had known no hardship as yet. But at the end of his second year he was a very splendid specimen of complete canine development, and, by reason of his breeding, easily to be distinguished from all other hounds.
And then, two months after that second birthday, Dick Vaughan came home on short furlough, a privilege which, as Captain Will Arnutt wrote to Dr. Vaughan, he had very thoroughly earned.
Dick Vaughan’s home-coming was something of an event for the district, as well as for Dr. Vaughan and the Upcroft household, and for Betty Murdoch and the Nuthill folk. He was a totally different person from the careless, casual, rather reckless Dick Vaughan who had left for Canada eighteen months before. Every one had liked the old Dick Vaughan who had disappeared; yet nobody now regretted the apparently final loss of him, and all were agreed in admiring the new Dick with more or less enthusiasm.