The dog had not had a walk since we went to Downton that morning.
His ears were looking more triangular by the minute, his eyes were boring into the soul of anyone who happened to be passing by.
He needed air.
Coincidentally, so did I. My headache had not gone away. It was hanging around like some teenager at a bus stop in a small village, waiting for Something to happen. I did various things to discourage it but to little avail. Teenagers can be stubborn creatures.
I find a brisk walk usually leaves a teenager standing.
So I hitched the dog to a lead, and we walked down the path, through the gate, and into the forest.
It was raining, but neither of us cared. I watched affectionately as Macaulay plied his trade: sniffing proffered scents as if taking a draught of superlatively aged red wine, and laying down a brand new vintage for the local posterity.
We poddled on through the drizzle, and I waited, in the time-honoured manner of dog –owners through the ages, for Macaulay to do his evening poo.
It was not forthcoming. Because Macaulay had an agenda, of which I was so far oblivious.
We came to a pile of wood. And suddenly the dogs sniffing became somehow more searching. It increased in intensity. It acquired a virtuosity I had rarely seen in this accomplished terrier.
And then deftly, furtively, with the alacrity of a master, Macaulay had picked something up.
Something which, once upon a time, appeared to have been alive, but which had shuffled off this mortal coil long since.
Immediately he acquired his peerless prize, he became Gollum-like. Sheepish, wary, crouch-walking, avoiding eye contact lest someone attempt to wrest the Precious from his jaws. It did seem to be a very large bone indeed.
Whether it was a sanitized pet shop bone, or a piece of dead deer, I could not instantly ascertain. And since I had the equivalent of a small vole with a pneumatic drill boring into my head I did not feel like investigating further.
It is fortunate that I have had the forethought to invest in an insurance scheme for just such an eventuality.
It is called a husband.
“Phil!” I shouted, as the dog silver-fished his way into the house, “the dog’s got a bone!”
“I know he has,” came a grim reply through clenched teeth. “He’s tried picking it up on his walk every day for the last three weeks!”
The husband flew down the stairs, with more than his customary haste, and swung into the sitting room, where the dog was attempting to dig a hole in the sofa for bone-burying purposes.
With little ceremony, Phil grabbed the dog’s gory prize, and bore it gingerly between finger and thumb out to the family dustbin.
The dog followed with the air of a professional Victorian mourner, pointedly sorrowful.
Never in the history of really great bones has so much been wrested from a small dog with so little ceremony.
I’m not sure he has forgiven us since.
We shall have to bribe him with a new one.