One day in very early spring, when Spanakopitae was away visiting the DrizzleMistress, a badger showed up at Spanakopitus's home. Polaris had gone with Spanakopitae, which gave Spanakopitus reassurance for her safety, even though he was lonely. But there was no one to sniff out the badger and raise the alarm. Blodget just showed up, a mystery within a riddle within an enigma. It's not that he harmed anything. He just skulked around from room to room, his gaze fixed on Spanakopitus, who grew increasingly uneasy.

Spanakopitus knew he could easily dispatch Blodget with a blow from his muzzleloader, but something told him that would not be the right thing to do. Blodget's appearance contained a message, Spanakopitus was sure--if he could only figure it out. Alone, bemused, Spanakopitus was mightily perplexed and confabulated.

For three days the visitation ensued, with Blodget roaming around the house like an omen of . . . what? Finally, wordlessly, just before Spanakopitae's return, Blodget left, as cryptically as he had come.

The lady of the house returned with flushed face and sparkling eyes, full of animated stories about happenings at the DrizzleMistress's--until she noticed the preoccupied look of her mate. "Whatever has happened, dear?" she asked him. And as Spanakopitus told her of Blodget's puzzling visit, Polaris caught the badger's lingering scent and sniffed here and there in considerable agitation.

17: The Secret Boarder