Spunk did not change his name; but
that was perhaps the only thing that did not meet
with some sort of change during the weeks that immediately
followed Billy’s arrival. Given a house,
five men, and an ironbound routine of life, and it
is scarcely necessary to say that the advent of a
somewhat fussy elderly woman, an impulsive young girl,
and a very-much-alive small cat will make some difference.
As to Spunk’s name it was not Mrs.
Stetson’s fault that even that was left undisturbed.
Mrs. Stetson early became acquainted
with Spunk. She was introduced to him, indeed,
on the night of her arrival though fortunately
not at table: William had seen to it that Spunk
did not appear at dinner, though to accomplish this
the man had been obliged to face the amazed and grieved
indignation of the kitten’s mistress.
“But I don’t see how any
one can object to a nice clean little cat at
the table,” Billy had remonstrated tearfully.
“I know; but er they
do, sometimes,” William had stammered; “and
this is one of the times. Aunt Hannah would never
stand for it never!”
“Oh, but she doesn’t know
Spunk,” Billy had observed then, hopefully.
“You just wait until she knows him.”
Mrs. Stetson began to “know”
Spunk the next day. The immediate source of her
knowledge was the discovery that Spunk had found her
ball of black knitting yarn, and had delightedly captured
it. Not that he was content to let it remain
where it was indeed, no. He rolled
it down the stairs, batted it through the hall to
the drawing-room, and then proceeded to ‘châsse’
with it in and out among the legs of various chairs
and tables, ending in one grand whirl that wound the
yarn round and round his small body, and keeled him
over half upon his back. There he blissfully went
Billy found him after a gleeful following
of the slender woollen trail. Mrs. Stetson was
with her but she was not gleeful.
“Oh, Aunt Hannah, Aunt Hannah,”
gurgled Billy, “isn’t he just too cute
Aunt Hannah shook her head.
“I must confess I don’t
see it,” she declared. “My dear, just
look at that hopeless snarl!”
“Oh, but it isn’t hopeless
at all,” laughed Billy. “It’s
like one of those strings they unwind at parties with
a present at the end of it. And Spunk is the
present,” she added, when she had extricated
the small gray cat. “And you shall hold
him,” she finished, graciously entrusting the
sleepy kitten to Mrs. Stetson’s unwilling arms.
“But, I it I
can’t Billy! I don’t like
that name,” blurted out the indignant little
lady with as much warmth as she ever allowed herself
to show. “It must be changed to to
name changed?” demanded Billy, in a horrified
voice. “Why, Aunt Hannah, it can’t
be changed; it’s his, you know.”
Then she laughed merrily. “‘Thomas,’
indeed! Why, you old dear! just suppose
I should ask you to change your name! Now
I like ‘Helen Clarabella’ lots
better than ‘Hannah,’ but I’m not
going to ask you to change that and I’m
going to love you just as well, even if you are ’Hannah’ see
if I don’t! And you’ll love Spunk,
too, I’m sure you will. Now watch me find
the end of this snarl!” And she danced over to
the dumbfounded little lady in the big chair, gave
her an affectionate kiss, and then attacked the tangled
mass of black with skilful fingers.
“But, I you oh,
my grief and conscience!” finished the little
woman whose name was not Helen Clarabella. “Oh,
my grief and conscience,” according to Bertram,
was Aunt Hannah’s deadliest swear-word.
In Aunt Hannah’s black silk
lap Spunk stretched luxuriously, and blinked sleepy
eyes; then with a long purr of content he curled himself
for another nap still Spunk.
It was some time after luncheon that
day that Bertram heard a knock at his studio door.
Bertram was busy. His particular pet “Face
of a Girl” was to be submitted soon to the judges
of a forthcoming Art Exhibition, and it was not yet
finished. He was trying to make up now for the
many hours lost during the last few days; and even
Bertram, at times, did not like interruptions.
His model had gone, but he was still working rapidly
when the knock came. His tone was not quite cordial
when he answered.
“It’s I Spunk and I. May we
come in?” called a confident voice.
Bertram said a sharp word behind his teeth but
he opened the door.
“Of course! I was painting,”
“How lovely! And I’ll watch you.
Oh, my what a pretty room!”
“I’m glad you like it.”
“Indeed I do; I like it ever so much. I
shall stay here lots, I know.”
“Oh, you will!”
For once even Bertram’s ready tongue failed to
find fitting response.
“Yes. Now paint. I
want to see you. Aunt Hannah has gone out anyway,
and I’m lonesome. I think I’ll stay.”
“But I can’t that is, I’m
not used to spectators.”
“Of course you aren’t,
you poor old lonesomeness! But it isn’t
going to be that way, any more, you know, now that
I’ve come. I sha’n’t let you
“I could swear to that,”
declared the man, with sudden fervor; and for Billy’s
peace of mind it was just as well, perhaps, that she
did not know the exact source of that fervency.
“Now paint,” commanded Billy again.
Because he did not know what else
to do, Bertram picked up a brush; but he did not paint.
The first stroke of his brush against the canvas was
to Spunk a challenge; and Spunk never refused a challenge.
With a bound he was on Bertram’s knee, gleeful
paw outstretched, batting at the end of the brush.
“Tut, tut no, no naughty
Spunk! Say, but wasn’t that cute?”
chuckled Billy. “Do it again!”
The artist gave an exasperated sigh.
“My dear girl,” he protested,
“cruel as it may seem to you, this picture is
not a kindergarten game for the edification of small
cats. I must politely ask Spunk to desist.”
“But he won’t!”
laughed Billy. “Never mind; we will take
it some day when he’s asleep. Let’s
not paint any more, anyhow. I’ve come to
see your rooms.” And she sprang blithely
to her feet. “Dear, dear, what a lot of
faces! and all girls, too! How funny!
Why don’t you paint other things? Still,
they are rather nice.”
“Thank you,” accepted Bertram; dryly.
Bertram did not paint any more that
afternoon. Billy found much to interest her,
and she asked numberless questions. She was greatly
excited when she understood the full significance of
the omnipresent “Face of a Girl”; and
she graciously offered to pose herself for the artist.
She spent, indeed, quite half an hour turning her head
from side to side, and demanding “Now how’s
that? and that?” Tiring at last of
this, she suggested Spunk as a substitute, remarking
that, after all, cats pretty cats like
Spunk were even nicer to paint than girls.
She rescued Spunk then from the paint-box
where he had been holding high carnival with Bertram’s
tubes of paint, and demanded if Bertram ever saw a
more delightful, more entrancing, more altogether-to-be-desired
model. She was so artless, so merry, so frankly
charmed with it all that Bertram could not find it
in his heart to be angry, notwithstanding his annoyance.
But when at four o’clock, she took herself and
her cat cheerily up-stairs, he lifted his hands in
“Great Scott!” he groaned.
“If this is a sample of what’s coming I’m
going, that’s all!”