There is the tiny walled inclosure above the stables at Shaws, once used as a milking-yard, and just now a veritable posy of daisies, buttercups, rich green grass, and apple-blossom. For in it there are six or seven gnarled and lichen-grown old apple-trees, whose fruit is of small account, but whose bloom is a gift sent straight from heaven to gladden the hearts of men and beasts, birds and bees. The big double doors in the ivy-grown flint wall of this inclosure stood wide open. Humming bees sailed booming to and fro, like ships in a tropical trade-wind. And through the lattice-work of the gray old apple-trees’ branches (so virginally clothed just now) clean English sunshine dappled all the earth and grass in moving checkers of light and shade.
When the Nuthill party looked in through the gates of this delectable pleasaunce they beheld in its midst the Lady Desdemona, gazing solemnly down her long nose at the moving checkers of sunlight on the grass. Her head was held low—the true bloodhound poise—and that position exaggerated the remarkable wealth of velvety “wrinkle” with which her forehead had been endowed by nature, after the selective breeding of centuries. Low hung her golden dewlap over the grass at her feet; and all across the satin blackness of her saddle intricately woven little patterns of sunlight flicked back and forth as the breeze stirred the branches overhead.
“There’s all the wisdom and philosophy of the ancients in her face,” said the Master, as the beautiful young bloodhound bitch winded them and raised her head.
As a fact, her thought had been far from abstruse. She was merely watching the moving patches of sunlight, and not reflecting upon it as humans do, but feeling the joyousness and beauty of that time and place. She gave no thought to these matters, but was, as it were, inhaling them, and enjoying them profoundly; more profoundly than most men-folk would.
Finn eyed her gravely, appraisingly, yet also without thought. He, too, had been unreflectingly absorbing the beauty of the morning; and now his enjoyment became suddenly narrowed down and concentrated. The rest of the world dropped out of the picture, or rather it became merged for Finn in the picture he beheld of the Lady Desdemona; a study in tawny orange-gold and jetty black, gleaming where the sun touched her and embodying the quintessence of canine health, youth, and high-breeding.
So the world stood still for a moment while all concerned felt, without thought, how good it was. Then her youth and sex spoke in the bloodhound, and Lady Desdemona, head and stern uplifted now, came passaging gaily, proudly forward down the grassy slope to the gateway, entirely ignoring the human people, as was natural, and making direct for Finn, the tallest, most stately representative of her own kind she had ever seen. The Master stepped aside, with a smile, the better to watch the meeting of the hounds. It was worth watching. Till they met, the movement,