Among the breeders who at one time or another have visited the Shaws kennels are a few of the knowing fellows who smile at mention of the Colonel’s name. Well, let them smile. It is perhaps as well for them that the Colonel is pretty tolerably indifferent alike to their smiles and to the awards of show judges; for, if Colonel Forde were seriously bent upon “pot-hunting,” there would not be anything like so many “pots” about for other people; and these particular gentry would not at all like that.
“Kennels!” said one of them at a dog-show in Brighton, “why, it’s more like a kindergarten. There’s a sitting-room, a kind of drawing-room, if you’ll believe me, in the middle of the kennels, for tea-parties! And as for the dogs, well, they just do whatever they like. As often as not the kennels are empty, except for pups, and the hounds all over the garden and house—a regular kindergarten.”
It will be seen then that the Colonel must clearly have merited the disdainful smiles. But I am bound to say I never heard of any one being bitten or frightened by a dog at Shaws, and it is notorious that, difficult though bloodhound whelps are to rear, the Colonel rarely loses one in a litter. Still, “kindergarten” is certainly a withering epithet in this connection; and one can perfectly understand the professional’s attitude. A sitting-room, nay, worse—“A kind of drawing-room,” in the midst of the kennels! Why, it almost suggests that, forgetful of prize-winning, advertising, and selling, the Colonel must positively have enjoyed the mere pleasure of spending a leisure hour among his dogs; not at a show or in the public eye, but in the privacy of his own home! Glaring evidence of amateurishness, this. The knowing ones, as usual, were perfectly correct. That is precisely what the Colonel was; a genuine amateur of hounds.
INTRODUCING THE LADY DESDEMONA
April was uniformly dull and wet that year, but May seemed to bring full summer in her train; and it was on the morning of the third of May that Finn went to Shaws with the Nuthill house party.
The turf of the Downs was so springy on this morning that one felt uplifted by it in walking. Each separate blade of the clover-scented carpet seemed surcharged with young life. The downland air was as a tonic wine to every creature that breathed it. The joy of the day was voiced in the liquid trilling of two larks that sang far overhead. The place and time gave to the Nuthill party England at her best and sweetest, than which, as the Master often said, the world has nothing more lovely to offer; and he was one who had fared far and wide in other lands.