Thus, when the two climbed the clubhouse veranda, Lad was at their heels; pacing along in majestic unhappiness and not turning his beautiful head in response to any of a dozen greetings flung at him. The Mistress found a seat among a bevy of neighbors. Lad lay down, decorously, at her feet; and refused to display the faintest interest in anything that went on around him.
The playing had not yet begun. New arrivals were drifting up the steps of the clubhouse. Car after car disgorged women in sport clothes and men in knickerbockers or flannels. There was plenty of chatter and bustle and motion. Lad paid no heed to any of it.
Then, up to the foot of the veranda steps jarred a flashy runabout; driven by a flashier youth. At word from the policeman in charge he parked his car at the rear of the clubhouse among fifty others, and returned on foot to the steps.
"That's young Rhuburger," someone was confiding to the Mistress. "You must have read about him. He was arrested as a Conscientious Objector, during the war. Since then, his father has died, and left him all sorts of money. And he is burning it; in double handfuls. No one seems to know just how he got into the club, here. And no one seems to--"
The gossipy maundering broke off short; drowned in a wild beast growl.
Both the Mistress and her husband had been eyeing Rhuburger as he ascended the veranda steps in all the glory of unbelievably exquisite and gaudy raiment. There seemed to both of them something vaguely familiar about the fellow; though neither could place him. But, to Lad, there was nothing at all vague in his recollections of the gorgeous newcomer.
As Rhuburger reached the topmost step, the collie lifted his head, his nostrils dilating wide. A thrill went through him. His nearsighted eyes swept the crowd. They rested at last on Rhuburger. Another deep inhalation told him all he needed to know. Not in vain had Lad sniffed so long and so carefully at those faint footprints in the road dust, at the spot where Lady died. In his throat a deep growl was born.
"Hello, folks!" Rhuburger was declaiming, to a wholly unenthusiastic circle of acquaintances. "Made another record, just now. The little boat spun me here from Montclair in exactly nineteen minutes. That's--that's roughly an average rate of a mile in seventy-five seconds. Not so bad, eh? That car sure made a hit with ME, all right. Not so much of a hit, maybe, with a couple of chickens and a fat old dog that had the bad luck to be asleep in the middle of the--"