“Guess so,” said Andy.
“I thought ye’d want to. Set right there, Mr. Woodworth. Don’t you mind bein’ in the way. Andy’s used to it.”
They rowed up through the clear light. The harbor stretched away, gleaming, to darkness. The cliffs rose on the right, somber and waiting. Uncle William lifted his face. The little house on the cliff caught a gleam and twinkled. The boat grated on the beach. There was a stiff climb up the path, with long pauses for breath. Uncle William opened the door. He moved back swiftly. A gray avalanche had descended upon him. She clawed at his shoulder and perched there, looking down at him.
A smile overspread Uncle William’s face. He put up a hand to the gray fur, stroking it. “Now, don’t that beat all!” he said. “She’s been here all along, like enough, Andy.”
“Durned if I know,” said Andy. He looked at her aggressively. “I hain’t seen hide nor hair of her for two weeks.”
Juno returned the look, purring indifferently. She leaped from Uncle William’s shoulder, leading the way into the house, her back arched and her tail erect; her toes scarcely touched the boards she trod upon.
She disappeared under the red lounge. In a moment her head reappeared—with something dangling from the mouth. She laid it proudly at Uncle William’s feet.
He peered at it. “Ketched a mouse, hev ye? I reckoned she wouldn’t starve, Andy!” He beamed on him.
“That ain’t a mouse,” said Andy.
“Why, so ’t ain’t. Juno!” Uncle William’s voice was stern. “You come here!”
Juno came—with another. She laid it at his feet and departed for a third. By the time the fifth was deposited before him, Uncle William said feebly: “That’s enough for this time, Juno. Don’t you do no more.”
She added one more to the wriggling row, and seated herself calmly beside it, looking up for approval.
Uncle William glared at her for a minute. Then a sunny smile broke his face. “That’s all right, Juno.” He bent and stroked the impassive head. “I was prepared to mourn for ye, if need be, but not to rejoice—not to this extent. But it’s all right.” Juno purred in proud content.
It was fortunate that the artist was better, for Uncle William became lost in the kittens and their welfare. The weakest thing at hand claimed his interest. He carried them in a clam-basket from point to point, seeing the best spots for their comfort and development. Juno marched at his side, proud and happy. She purred approval of the universe and the ways of man. Wherever Uncle William deposited the basket, she took up her abode, serenely pleased; and when, a few hours later, he shifted it on account of wind or rain or sun, she followed without demur. For her the sun rose and set in Uncle William’s round face and the depths of the clam-basket.