The summer sun blazed down scorchingly on the white road, on the wide stretch of moorland in the distance, and on the little coppice which grew not far from the road.
The only shady spot for miles, it seemed, was that one under the trees in the little coppice, where the caravan stood; but even there the heat was stifling, and the smell of hot blistering varnish mingled with the faint scent of honeysuckle and dog-roses.
Not a sound broke the stillness, for even the birds had been driven to shelter and to silence, and except for the rabbits very few other live things lived about there, to make any sounds. That afternoon there were four other live things in the coppice, but they too were silent, for they were wrapped in deep sleep. The four were a man and a woman, a horse and a dog, and of all the things in that stretch of country they were the most unlovely. The man and the woman were dirty, untidy, red-faced and coarse. Even in their sleep their faces looked cruel and sullen. The old horse standing patiently by, with drooping head and hopeless, patient eyes, looked starved and weak. His poor body was so thin that the bones seemed ready to push through the skin, on which showed the marks of the blows he had received that morning. The fourth creature there was a dog, as thin as the horse, but younger, a lank, yellow, ugly, big-bodied dog, with a clever head, bright, speaking brown eyes, and as keen a nose for scent as any dog ever born possessed.
The brown eyes had been closed for a while in slumber, but presently they opened alertly; a fly had bitten his nose, and the owner of the nose got up to catch the fly. This done, he looked around him. He looked with drooped ears and tail at the sleeping man and woman, with ears a little raised at the old horse, and then with both ears and tail alertly cocked he looked about him eagerly, even anxiously. A second later he was leaping up the steps and into the caravan; but in less than a minute he was out again, leaping over the steps at the other end, and out to the edge of the coppice. What he was in search of was not in the van, or under it, or anywhere near it.
The dog did not whine, or make a sound. He knew better than that. A whine would have brought a heavy boot flying through the air at him, or a stick across his back, or a kick in the ribs, if he were foolish enough to go within reach of a foot. With his long nose to the ground he stepped delicately to the edge of the coppice, then stood still looking about him, his brown eyes full of wistful anxiety.
He looked to the right, he looked to the left, he listened eagerly, then he stepped back to the van again. This time he found something. It was only a clue, but it sent his spirits up again, and with his nose to the ground he came quickly back to the edge of the little wood and beyond it; then, evidently satisfied, he took to his heels and raced away with a joy which almost forced a yelp of triumph from his throat.