When they reached the Caldwell house, Martha said, "I'm sorry my husband isn't here right now. She then introduced her children, who were on the porch.
Bertram and Loretta couldn't help giving Bruce dirty looks. They didn't think much of a boy who would drown a kitten, no matter what reason he may have had. Besides, they had become very fond of Stripey, and, quite honestly, did not want to give him up.
"Let's go inside," Martha said, opening the door.
The first thing Bruce saw was Stripey. The kitten was batting a crumpled-up piece of newspaper across the carpet.
Bruce got down on the carpet.
"Stripey," he called softly. "Stripey."
Stripey looked at Bruce warily. Then he hid behind the sofa.
"He's afraid of you," Bertram said.
Loretta added, "He doesn't trust you, and I don't blame him."
"Neither do I," said Bertram, "after what you did to him."
"Bertram, Loretta, hush!" their mother exclaimed.
"But they're right," Bruce sobbed. "They're right. If I was Stripey, I wouldn't trust me either!"
"Son," John Meredith said gently, "why don't you just sit very still, and let Stripey come to you?
Bruce sat and waited for what seemed like hours.
And then... Stripey came out from behind the sofa. Bruce held his breath.
Slowly, hesitantly, the kitten walked over to the little boy.
"Oh, Stripey," Bruce sobbed. "Oh, Stripey."
Tentatively, carefully, he reached out and tickled Stripey's chin.
And then... oh, great joy!... Stripey licked Bruce's hand, and purred.
The adults in the room smiled and, at the same time, blinked back tears.
Bertram and Loretta scowled.
"I suppose," Loretta said sourly, "you'll want him back now."
"Well," Martha said, "Stripey was Bruce's kitten first."
"No," Bruce said. "I'm not taking him back.
"Are you sure?" Rosemary asked.
"I'm sure," Bruce answered. "I love Stripey, and I'm real glad he didn't drown. But I gived him up to bring Jem Blythe home,
so I don't think I can take him back. Besides," he added thoughtfully, "it don't matter who Stripey belongs to.
All I care is about is, he isn't dead, and he forgived me."