up and blinked because of the bright moonlight shining in her eyes. The light
slanted in through the lace-curtained window in the back bedroom of her aunt's
She remembered Aunt Meg's words
earlier in the day: "I'm glad you came to visit during the full moon. Something
special happens in the back bedroom when the moon is full."
Was this beautiful white path of
moonlight what her aunt meant? Clemmy was too sleepy to think about it. She
turned away from the light and went back to sleep.
When she awoke the next morning,
Clemmy looked at the wall at the foot of her bed. An old tapestry hung there. It
was a huge cloth, reaching from the ceiling to the floor, covered with
embroidered leaves and red and blue flowers. Aunt Meg called it a millefleurs,
or thousand flowers, tapestry. Half-hidden in the forest of flowers was a snow
white unicorn—a now you see it, now you don't little creature. It was a slim,
pale horse with one delicate horn, all outlined in gold.
The fragrance of freshly sliced
oranges met Clemmy as she came down the worn staircase to say good morning to
her aunt. She found her in the kitchen, and sat down at the old kitchen table. A
cup painted with pink roses and a clear glass bowl of orange slices were at her
place. She liked the way none of the dishes matched.
"Eat," said Aunt Meg, pouring milk
from a fat blue jug. "Toast will be ready in a second."
They ate a quiet breakfast, looking
out the kitchen window at Aunt Meg's own little shadowy woods. Meg lived all
alone in her old country house, working at her paintings. So calm and nice,
After washing the breakfast dishes,
they walked onto the brick terrace that sloped down to the woods. Clemmy noticed
a wooden box at the edge of the bricks. It had a few grains of crushed corn in
"Come on," said Aunt Meg. "Let's walk
in the woods before the dew dries away." She picked up a little twiggy basket.
The woods quickly closed around them,
shady with oaks, dark pines, and white-barked birches. Ferns were soft and wet
beneath their feet. It feels like being in the tapestry with the unicorn,
She picked a bunch of shiny yellow
flowers and put them into the basket. Later, she added a pine cone, a scrap of
white bark, and a blue feather.
When they got back to the house, Meg
set the basket in the middle of the table so they could look at their treasures
while they ate lunch. The flowers had wilted.
"I'll put them in water," Clemmy
said. "Maybe they'll perk up again."
"Well, probably not," Aunt Meg said.
"They're wild things, and they're ephemeral."
"E-FEM-eral? What's that?"
"That just means they change
quickly," said Meg. "Like stones that are sparkling green in a stream but turn
dull gray when they're dry."
That night, Clemmy got up and knelt
by the window. She saw Meg come out the kitchen door and pour corn into the
wooden feeder on the terrace.
Later, the moon again woke Clemmy.
She smiled and looked, half asleep, for the unicorn in the tapestry. It was
She could see the tapestry's flowers
and leaves plainly in the bright moonlight, but the unicorn wasn't there! She
stared until her eyes grew heavy, then dropped off to sleep. As she nodded off
she thought she heard the clatter of hooves on the terrace below.
The next morning Clemmy checked the
tapestry first thing. The unicorn was back again! It was all so strange. And it
sounded too silly to ask Meg about yet.
The next night, the moon woke Clemmy
again. And again she could see by the bright moonlight that the unicorn was
Then she heard a sound like a pony's
hoof beats. She rushed to the window. There was a sudden clatter on the bricks
below and a slim form disappeared into the woods.
Right away the next morning Clemmy
looked at the tapestry, and found the unicorn back in its usual place.
Now she had to tell Aunt Meg!
"The unicorn goes away every night,
and then comes back in the morning," she excitedly told Meg at the breakfast
"Oh, good," her aunt said. "You've
discovered the secret of the back bedroom."
"That's the secret?"
"Mm-hmm," said Meg. "And it only
happens during the full moon. " She glanced at Clemmy and smiled. "I can see you
think it's some kind of magic."
"It's a special, wonderful
something," said Meg. "But it isn't magic. Magic is something you can't explain.
And I can explain the unicorn."
Meg sipped her milk and gazed out the
window. "I'll tell you how it happens, Clemmy. Years ago, I discovered that the
unicorn disappears on full moon nights. I thought it was magic, too. Then I
remembered how vision works at night.
"You see, light can play tricks on
your eyes. You've seen that happen when the sun goes down at night. As a room
grows dark, the colors fade out of everything. Leaves that are dark green and
roses that are light pink are both visible in the daytime. But when the light
disappears, only the dark green leaves show up. The roses seem to disappear.
"That's what happens to the unicorn!
The full moon is bright enough for you to see the flowers and leaves in the
tapestry, but not the unicorn. It's embroidered in light-colored thread that
doesn't show up in the moonlight."
Clemmy was quiet for a long time.
"But what about the hoof beats and the wooden box?"
"Oh," said Aunt Meg. "The corn is for
a young deer that lives in the woods. I want him to know that a friend lives
here in this house. The hoof beats you heard were his." She put her hand on
Clemmy's arm. "Do you mind that it's not magic?" asked Aunt Meg.
"No," said Clemmy thoughtfully. "I
don't think so. I think it's just -- ephemeral."
Then they picked up the little
treasure basket and went out to walk in the woods before the dew dried away.