The Master laughed, and both men passed on, Finn following cheerfully enough by Desdemona’s side, conscious only that the men-folk were talking in friendly, kindly fashion, and reeking nothing of the meaning of their words. From his point of view, men-folk use such a mort of words at all times, most of them quite unnecessary, and only a few of them comprehensible. To folk accustomed, like the dog people, to intercourse confined chiefly to looks and movements, the continuous babble of words which humans indulge in is one of their most puzzling attributes. When the Master really wanted Finn to understand anything, the wolfhound very rarely failed him. But Colonel Forde’s references to Othello—well, it was all so much puppy talk, just amiable, meaningless nickering to Finn and Desdemona.
That evening, while the Master and his folk were dining at Nuthill, Finn arose from a nap in the hall and, strolling out through the garden, loped easily away across the shoulder of Down betwixt Shaws and Nuthill to visit Desdemona. He found her close to the walled inclosure by the stable, and together they whiled away a couple of evening hours on the springy thyme-and-clover-scented turf of the Downs. Just as darkness was taking the place of twilight the scuttering of an over-venturesome rabbit’s tail caught Finn’s eye, and cost that particular bunny its life. Desdemona, to whom this little event opened up a quite new chapter in life, was hugely excited over the kill, and could hardly allow Finn, with his veteran’s skill, to tear the pelt from the creature’s warm body before she made her first meal of rabbit’s hind quarters.
It was a trivial episode enough, and especially so for a hunter of Finn’s experience, who, in his time, had pulled down dozens of old-men kangaroos, not to mention the smaller fry of the Australian bush. And yet, though he did not show it as Desdemona did, this trifling incident was of quite epoch-marking importance for Finn, and stirred him profoundly.
“Hullo, old friend! What of the hunting? I declare, you’ve quite the old bush-ranging air to-night. Where have you been?” asked the Master, when Finn rejoined his own family circle in the hall at Nuthill, toward bedtime that night. Finn silently nuzzled the under side of the Master’s right wrist; but, though his dark eyes were eloquent, it was beyond him to explain either his doings or his emotions. Yet the Master was not altogether without understanding of these.
“Fact is,” he said to Betty Murdoch, as he affectionately rubbed one of Finn’s ears, “I believe this old gallant has quite fallen in love with Miss Desdemona, and I could swear he’s been hunting in her company to-night. He has all the look of it. I suspect it carries him back to old days, past the quarantine, past even Australia—eh, old chap?—and back to his hunting days about these very Downs, when we were at the cottage, you know. I had to be a great deal in town in those days, before we went to Australia, and Finn ran pretty much wild through his last summer in England.”