And then one day after the Zom had departed and all traces of the great boar barbecue had been cleaned up, Spanakopitus went out for a landlord's walk around his land. With Polaris at his side he strolled his estate, thinking Hmm, hmm, what a fine land I am privileged to own. His smile was broad and his soul deeply content, when suddenly, rounding a bend in the path, he came upon the stripped feathers and mangled innards of two handsome pheasant he had raised for sport, and close by, the cold ashes of a campfire.

"Barbarous trespass!" he snarled to Polaris. "Someone has poached my game! It must be those treacherous Zom." And though of course there was no proof, he deeply suspected the ZomMaster, recent guest upon the land.

For several days Spanakopitus fretted about this discovery. The thought that his pheasant had been poached--and by one he had invited--gnawed at him.

The very next morning, Blodget was spotted on the trail, and but for the campfire, would have been a suspect. But Spanakopitus was sure in his heart that the ZomMaster was to blame. And he just could not let this idea go.

Finally he decided to take action. Spanakopitus went to visit the ZomMaster and was greeted by the ZomMistress, who was wearing a fine pheasant feather in her hatband.

"That's a lovely pheasant feather you have there," said Spanakopitus, suspicious.

"Yes, isn't it. The ZomMaster gave it to me," she replied.

Ah-ha, thought Spanakopitus, and I know where he got it.

Immediately, in his forthright manner, Spanakopitus confronted the ZomMaster with his suspicions. Taken aback and with eyes askance, the ZomMaster claimed he had found the feather on the ground. To this, Spanakopitus expressed skepticism, but he repaired to his own quarters and his own counsel.

Yet he could not let the matter go. At home, he stewed and stewed about it, going into quite a sulk, until finally he came up with a plan that put his heart at ease.

The next day, Spanakopitus picked up his fine Berretta over-and-under and called Polaris. In the morning briskness they stepped out into the brushy meadows. Soon whirrrr and immediately whirrrr. Polaris raised two fine pheasant from the bracken. Bang! and immediately Bang! spoke the Berretta. Plop and immediately Plop the pheasant fell. Snap and immediately Snap, Polaris retrieved the dead fowl. Snip-snap, pluck-pluck, Spanakopitus field-dressed the two limp pheasant and carried them home by their scaly feet. There he asked Spanakopitae to roast the birds in her best manner, which she did, even though it was not yet dinnertime.

When the pheasant had been roasted and were all nice and steamy and succulent and enticing, Spanakopitus thanked his wife, covered the platter, and carried the whole fragrant package directly to the home of the ZomMaster, where the ZomMistress answered the door and seeing Spanakopitus, called her husband.

Fixing ZomMaster with a piercing gaze, Spanakopitus handed him the steaming dish. "Someone told me you have a taste for pheasant," he said. "I thought you might enjoy a fine brace, roasted."

And to his credit, as he accepted the tasty dish with averted eyes, the ZomMaster was suddenly suffused with shame. He hung his head and confessed his trespass, vowing that it would never happen again.

There is no more certain way to shame a miscreant, thought Spanakopitus, than to treat him with magnanimity.

20: The Gift