Then she felt a crumb in her pocket, and pushed up the screen to throw it out.
Mr. Robin flew away, and Mrs. Alder came in at that moment.
"Dear child, what on earth have you put up that screen for? Do you want to fill the house with flies?"
"No'm, I didn't know—"
"Oh, well, never mind. You don't know much, I guess. I promised to take you, and I'll keep my word, but it's no use trying to fit city children into real homes."
Mrs. Alder shut the screen with a bang.
"There now, you run along out doors. I guess you and Mr. Alder will get along all right, but don't touch anything."
"Hello, it looks like rain. What's the trouble, sister?"
Mr. Alder smiled and pinched her cheek, as he met Clematis at the back door.
"I tried to help," said Clematis, drying her eyes.
"Oh, I see. You didn't do things quite right, did you? Well, I wouldn't fret about that. I don't do things quite right, myself."
Clematis smiled through her tears.
"Come on now, and help me pick some late peas for dinner. You will like that, I am sure."
He took her hand, and soon she was happy again.
"There, you picked two quarts, and did it well, too. Now take these up to Mrs. Alder, and tell her you can shell them out, every one, without hurting a thing."
"Oh," said Mrs. Alder, in the kitchen. "You think you can shell peas, do you? Well, take them out under the maple tree. Then I won't have the pods all around the kitchen."
And Clematis proved that she could shell peas, after all.
Mrs. Alder gave her a cookie for her pay, and said she had done very well.
"I guess you'll get along all right, if you stay out doors," she said.
"Thanks," said Clematis, eating the cookie as she went out. She was glad enough to stay out doors.
"I'll help Mr. Alder all the time," she said to herself. "I'll feed the pigs, and the hens, and I guess he'll be glad I'm here."
ONLY A FEW DAYS MORE
Clematis did help Mr. Alder, and tried hard, in her way, to make herself useful.
She helped Mrs. Alder too, for she went on errands to the village every time she was asked.
Every day she went to the Post Office. She took home the letters and carried home bundles from the stores.
Clematis loved this walk, because the road ran down by Knapp's saw mill, and by the river.
Near the stocking mill, the river came right up to the road, and she could even see the little fish, in the clear water.
Sometimes she stopped longer than she thought, and was late getting back, but Mrs. Alder did not scold her.
"The less we expect of her, the less we shall be disappointed," she would say.
On Sunday, they all went down to church to hear Mr. Sampson preach.
He smiled at her in his kindly way, when she went out.
"Let me see, I don't know your name, do I?" he asked, taking her hand.
"Well, Clematis, I'm glad to see you. I hope you will come again."
"That little girl looks just like another little girl I used to know," he said to Mr. Alder.
"She is here for a week or two. Doctor Wyatt sent her up." Mr. Alder whispered to him a minute, before they went away.
"How would you like to take a long walk this afternoon, Clematis?" said Mr. Alder, while she was eating her ice cream and cake.
"Oh, yes, let's." Clematis was glad enough. She never liked Sundays very well.
"Good, we can walk up Bean Hill, if you think you can go that far."
"Oh, I can walk farther than that."
So they started out, while Mrs. Alder lay down for a nap.
They didn't go by the road, but crossed the river in a boat that Mr. Alder kept tied to the bank.
Then they walked through the trees and meadows by the path.
Clematis was full of joy. New birds sang here. New trees, and new flowers met her at each turn.
After they had walked about a mile, they came to a little cabin, set among maple trees.
"Who lives here?" asked Clematis. It looked like the cabins she had seen in her picture books.
"No one lives here now. This is where they boil down their sap in the spring. They make maple syrup, and maple sugar."
There were the big pans, turned upside down, and the pails that caught the sap.
Her mouth watered as she thought of all the maple sugar they had made in that little cabin. She wanted to stay longer, but Mr. Alder started on.
"We must get along, I want to see Mr. Brooks before we go home."
"Who is Mr. Brooks?"
"Mr. Brooks is a good man who lives over here on the side of Bean Hill. He lives all alone by himself."
"Oh," replied Clematis, "is he the man who owns the white house with the vines, and has had so much sadness?"
"Yes. How did you know about him?"
"Mr. Ladd stopped near his house. He told me."
The walk was a long one, and Clematis was glad when she saw the little cottage on the hillside.
"Here we are. There is Mr. Brooks now, working over his flowers." Mr. Alder went over to the little garden, where a man with white hair was pulling out weeds.
"Good day, Mr. Alder. Glad enough to see you. Come up and sit on the piazza."
Mr. Brooks smiled, as he wiped his hands.
"And here is a lady, too," he added. "I believe I have never met her."
He held out his hand to Clematis with a kindly smile, and led them to the piazza.
Mr. Alder told him who she was, while Clematis was looking at the neat little cottage.
A vine was growing about the door, with little white flowers, peeping out from its green leaves.
Mr. Brooks saw her looking at it.
"Do you like the flowers?" he asked.
"Yes,—it is just the same."
"What do you mean? What is just the same?"
"Why, just the same vine as the one on the white house."
"She saw the old home place when she drove over with Mr. Ladd," said Mr. Alder. "She remembered the vine."
"I am glad you like it. You ought to like it, Clematis, because it has your own name," added Mr. Alder.
"Well, well, is her name Clematis?" Mr. Brooks took her on his knee and looked into her face.
"I wish I had a little girl like you," he said.
She sat there on his knee, while he talked with Mr. Alder.
"I hope you will come again, Clematis. You will, if you get a chance, won't you?" Mr. Brooks said, as they started to go.
He brought out a big, sweet pear, and put it into her hand.
"You can eat that on the way home," he said.
All the way home Clematis kept thinking of Mr. Brooks, and the vine, and how he had looked into her face while she sat on his knee.
She had never known any father or mother, and people didn't have time to hold her that way at the Home.
"Could we go again?" she asked, as they crossed the river.
"Well, perhaps. We'll see."
When they got home, Mrs. Alder was sitting on the back steps.
Beside her, in the grass, lay three dead chickens.
"How on earth did those chickens get killed?" asked Mr. Alder, as he took one in his hand.
"Why on earth did that child ever bring her old cat up here? That's what I'd like to know." Mrs. Alder was cross.
"Did Deborah do that? Dear me! We'll have to shut her up in the loft."
"That's where she is, and that's where she'll stay," said Mrs. Alder. "Remember now, Clematis. Don't you let her get out again."
"Yes'm," said Clematis.
She didn't know what else to say, so she went sadly to the loft. There she found Deborah, sleeping sweetly, as if she had never done a thing wrong in the world.
She sat down by the open window, and looked across the river valley, and across the lake, to the mountains.
"Oh dear!" she sighed.
She heard Mrs. Alder speaking.
"I don't care, I think the Doctor was asking a good deal of us, to keep a strange child like that."
"Well, Mary, never mind. It is only for a few days longer. I guess we can stand it. Think of the pleasure it gives Clematis."
Mr. Alder spoke kindly, but as Clematis heard the words, she turned pale.
"Only a few days more. Only a few days more." The words went through her mind again and again.
She had never thought about going back. Two weeks seems a long, long time to little girls. Only a few days more before she must leave Tilton.
Clematis put her elbows on the window sill, and rested her chin in her hands.
The sun was setting behind the maple tree. The golden rays gleamed in the white mist that had risen from the river, for it was a cold evening.
In the distance the Belmont mountains were a deep, misty blue, and the clouds above them all white and gold.
Now all the valley was filling with a golden mist. The birds were singing in the trees along the banks of the river. They filled the evening air with joyous songs.
"Only a few days more. Only a few days more."
Soon she must go back to the brick walls, and the yard with the high fence around it.
When Mr. Alder came to call Clematis for supper, her eyes were red, and her cheeks pale.
"Never mind, dear little girl," he said. "We'll keep Deborah shut up. I guess we can spare the chickens. We have plenty more."
She said nothing, but went silently in for the evening meal. She had forgotten all about the chickens. All through supper the words ran in her head, and the last thing in her mind as she fell asleep was this thought:
"Only a few days more."
WHERE IS CLEMATIS?
On Monday Clematis found a big, blue envelope, with the other mail.
"I guess you have a letter for your own self this time," said Mr. Morse, as he handed her the mail.
Clematis did not stop to look at the little fishes by the shore. She hurried straight home.
It was a letter for her own self. Miss Rose sent it to her.
"Oh, I wish I had learned to read. Please read mine first, Mrs. Alder?"
"Do you think that is polite?" asked Mrs. Alder.
"No'm, but you get lots of letters."
"That is true. Well, let us see."
She opened the envelope, while Clematis got close to her side.
"Dear little Clematis:
I hope you are well, and having a good time. I am sure you must be having a splendid time, for Tilton is a lovely place. I wish I were with you.
What a naughty girl you were to take Deborah, when she was not invited. I hope Mrs. Alder has forgiven you.
I am going to ask Mrs. Alder to send you home on the afternoon train Saturday, so you will be all ready when school begins.
I shall be at the train to meet you. Don't forget Deborah.
Your true friend, Rose Thornton."
"That is a good letter for a little girl to get, I am sure. Now run out and play, while I read my letters."
Clematis went out, rather slowly. The letter made her think again of the end of her stay, and she was sad.
But the sun was bright, the breeze was cool, and the birds sang merrily.
She saw Mr. Alder down in the garden, and ran to him.
"Can I help you, Mr. Alder?"
"I think not. I am weeding late carrots, and I think you would not know them from weeds."
"I should know them, honestly. Just let me try a little bit."
"Well, then, take this little trowel. Make the earth loose around them, and then pull the weeds out with your fingers."
Clematis kneeled in the soft earth, and began to work with the trowel.
She weeded the row across from Mr. Alder, where he could see what she was doing.
"Well, I declare! You are a real gardener." Mr. Alder patted her shoulder, and praised her well when she had done several feet of her row.
The little green tops of the carrots all stood straight and clean. Every weed was gone, but no carrots were hurt.
"I told you I could do it. You did not believe me, did you?"
Clematis smiled happily.
"Well, I do now. I never saw any one do better."
So the man and the little girl worked side by side beneath the August sun.
The smell of the warm earth, and the fresh growing things all around her, made Clematis breathe deeply.
She could hear the birds singing, and see the mountains, across the lakes.
While she was hard at work, she almost forgot to be sad because she was going back on the Saturday train.
"Just look at that child," said Mrs. Alder, when they went in to wash for dinner. "Has she been weeding in her good clothes?"
"She has weeded two whole rows of carrots, I know that much. I'll get her some new clothes when those wear out. She is as much help at weeding as a man."
Clematis was as proud of that, as Deborah was with her first rat. In the afternoon Mrs. Alder found her a pair of small overalls. These covered her dress and kept her clean.
It was a happy child that came in at evening. She had worked steadily, in the hot sun and the breeze, and had finished all the carrots.
"You don't know how much help that has been, Clematis," said Mr. Alder. "It tires my back to weed carrots, and now they are all done."
"I will weed tomorrow, too," she said, happy with her praise.
There was plenty to do, as there always is on a farm, and Clematis was busy all day.
"I don't see how she learns so quickly," exclaimed Mr. Alder, when he was telling Mr. Ladd about her.
"I suppose it is because she naturally loves it," he answered. "It seems too bad that she couldn't live here in the country, she seems to love it so."
"Yes. I wish Mrs. Alder was better, and took to children more. Clematis is clumsy in the house, but out in the garden she is right at home."
So the days went on, with sunshine and clouds, and Saturday came nearer and nearer.
"Clematis, what have you been doing to the calendar in your room?" asked Mrs. Alder, at dinner on Friday.
"I was just looking to see how many days till Saturday."
"Well, you needn't muss it up that way."
Every morning Clematis had taken it down and counted the days with her fingers.
Friday evening she did not eat much supper, and was very silent.
"Longing to get back home, I guess," said Mrs. Alder. "Well, dear, you will be back with the other children tomorrow. I know what it is. I was homesick myself when I was a child."
Clematis did not answer. She didn't know how to tell what it was that troubled her, so she said nothing.
The stars were bright, and the tiny moon was low in the sky, before the weary eyes closed in sleep.
Clematis had been thinking, and thinking. Tomorrow was Saturday.
Early in the morning she was awake again, by the window.
She leaned her head on her hands, and began to think again.
"That is what he said," she repeated, half aloud.
"That is just what he said. If he didn't mean it, why did he say it?"
At the breakfast table, Mrs. Alder noticed how pale her cheeks were.
"Try to eat some toast, dear," said Mrs. Alder. "You will soon be home again. Only a few hours more now."
Clematis raised her eyes, and gave Mrs. Alder a strange look.
"That child does beat all," said Mrs. Alder, after breakfast. "She seems to be thinking a lot, but she keeps as quiet as a stone jug."
"She is thinking; you may be sure of that," Mr. Alder replied.
All the morning Clematis went about silently, except when she was in the loft with Deborah. Then she talked.
"I shan't be afraid. I am a big girl, Debby, and I shan't be a mite afraid."
Deborah could not speak, but she snuggled up close, and purred, so Clematis knew just what she meant.
"Be sure to have all your things ready, Clematis," called Mrs. Alder.
"We shall have an early dinner, for Mr. Ladd will be here about one o'clock to take you to the station."
"Yes'm," said Clematis, and she went slowly to her room.
Before long, all was ready, and dinner was on the table.
"Now, let's eat a big dinner. I roasted a chicken especially for you."
How good the roast chicken smelled! There were baked potatoes, and peas, and beans, too.
Clematis was hungry now. She ate, and ate, and ate.
"Good girl." Mr. Alder patted her on the head. "Travelers must be well fed."
"Be sure to wash all the blueberry off your mouth," added Mrs. Alder, as Clematis got down.
Clematis went to the sink and washed her face and hands. Then she went to the back door.
"Don't forget Deborah's satin dress, and velvet hat?" called Mr. Alder.
She turned and smiled back at him, as she went out.
Soon Mr. Ladd drove up.
"I came a bit early," he said. "I've got some milk for the Seminary. Is Clematis ready?"
"Yes, all ready, I guess. She just went out to get her cat."
Mrs. Alder went to the back door and called.
She waited a minute, but Clematis did not come.
She called again. No Clematis. "Please go and get her, Henry," she said to Mr. Alder. "Tell her to come right in."
After a few minutes Mr. Alder came back. He looked puzzled.
"Well, where is Clematis?" asked Mrs. Alder.
"I don't know."
"Don't know? Isn't she in the loft?"
"Well, perhaps she went to say goodby to the pigs."
"She isn't there."
"She must be around here somewhere. She has no wings; she can't fly."
"I'm not so sure of that." Mr. Alder smiled in a puzzled way at Mr. Ladd.
"That's just like you men."
Mrs. Alder went to the door and called as loudly as she could. Then she went to the barn and called again.
She looked all about. Mr. Alder looked all about. Mr. Ladd looked all about.
They all called once more.
It was of no use. Clematis was gone.
HUNTING FOR CLEMATIS
Mr. Alder looked at Mr. Ladd. Mr. Ladd looked at Mrs. Alder. They all looked at each other.
What should they do?
"Well," said Mrs. Alder at last, "you drive down street with Mr. Ladd and find out if any one has seen her. I will look all about the farm."
The men had not gone far down the street when they met a boy.
"Hi, Ned! have you seen our little girl?" called Mr. Alder.
"Who, Clematis? Have you lost her?"
"No, she has lost herself. Have you seen her?"
"My gracious, no." His blue eyes opened almost as wide as butter plates.
"Well, tell any one you see that she's lost; that's a good boy."
"My gracious, I guess I will."
Off ran little Ned Atkinson, as fast as his legs would carry him.
He told every one he met, but no one had seen Clematis.
Not far down the street Mr. Knapp came rolling out of his yard.
"Have you seen that little girl of ours, Mr. Knapp?"
"Yes, yes. I saw her. She's a likely gal. Quite spry."
"Where was she?" Both men spoke at once.
"Oh, right along here, yesterday morning."
"I mean today. Have you seen her today?"
"No, no, I haven't set eyes on her today. What's the matter? Is she lost?"
"It looks as if she were lost. We can't find her."
"Well, she'll be back.
'Let 'em alone, And they'll come home, Wagging their tails behind them.'"
They heard his great voice echo down the river, as they drove on.
Nobody had seen Clematis. Nobody knew anything about her.
Mrs. Alder looked everywhere at home.
Her bag and box were neatly packed and ready, but there was no sign of the little girl who owned them.
Many people were looking for Clematis that afternoon.
Ned Atkinson ran everywhere, telling people about the lost girl.
They looked in the woods and in the fields. They looked all along the river banks.
When night came, they were still hunting, but had found no trace of Clematis.
"I can't sleep a wink tonight," said Mrs. Alder. "I think the child must be crazy, to run off like that."
"I don't feel much like sleep myself," Mr. Alder replied.
"I wonder where she can be hiding."
The next morning many people came to ask if Clematis had been found.
"No, no, no. There isn't a sign of her anywhere. I don't know what we shall do."
Mrs. Alder made the same answer to every one.
During the day people still looked about in new places.
Afternoon came again, but no Clematis came with it.
Towards evening, Mr. Brooks was sitting in his chair by his little cottage, reading a book.
The sun was sinking behind the mountains in the west.
The birds were singing their evening songs, in the trees by the brook.
All was quiet and peaceful.
As he sat there, Mr. Brooks heard steps on the path.
He looked down and saw a little girl. In her arms was a cat, with a black spot over one eye.
The child stumbled as she walked. She seemed ready to drop, she was so tired.
"Why, little girl, where did you come from?" cried Mr. Brooks.
He got up and went down to meet her.
Then she raised her pale face, and he saw that it was Clematis. Her face and hands were soiled; her hair was tangled; her dress was dusty and torn.
"Oh, little maid," he said. "Did you walk way over here to see me?"
"Yes," said Clematis, faintly. "I said I would, and I did."
"Dear child, you are worn out. Come in and rest."
He took her into the little house, and got a basin and water.
"There, dear, wash your face and hands. You will feel better.
"Now sit down, Clematis," said Mr. Brooks, when she had finished washing her face and hands, "and we will have a bite to eat."
He cut a slice of bread. On this he spread some butter, and sprinkled a little sugar.
Clematis watched him with hungry eyes.
"Dear child, you must be starved," he said, as she took a great bite.
"Wouldn't you be hungry if you hadn't had any breakfast or dinner?"
Clematis took another big bite.
"No breakfast? No dinner? Where have you been all day?"
"I stayed in the little house where they boil the sap."
The bread was nearly gone now.
"Did you run away this morning?"
Mr. Brooks was cutting another slice.
"No, I stayed there last night."
"You stayed there all last night? Child! I should think you would have frozen. There was frost last night."
"I did freeze," said Clematis, beginning on the second slice.
Mr. Brooks looked at her a moment in silence, while she ate.
"I never heard anything to beat that," he said at last, as he reached once more for the bread.
"Mrs. Alder will be very anxious."
Clematis shook her head.
"No she won't. She'll be glad I'm gone."
Mr. Brooks smiled.
"Well, Mr. Alder will, anyway. As soon as you have eaten a few loaves of bread, I'll get Mr. Giles's horse. They will be glad enough to see you again."
Clematis put down her bread. Her lips quivered, and her eyes filled with tears.
"Don't you want me?" she said.
"My dear child, what do you mean?"
"You said you wished you had a little girl."
"Did I say that?"
"Yes, you said you wished you had a little girl, and you can have me. Nobody wants me, except you.
"I can make my bed, and wash dishes, and I don't say slang words any more, and I can weed everything in your garden."
Poor Clematis, she had never said so much at one time in her life.
Then she burst into tears. She was tired, and worn, and faint.
Mr. Brooks took her into his lap. He hardly knew what to say to comfort her.
"Have you no father or mother?" he asked.
"No," she sobbed, "I haven't anybody at all."
"You see I am all alone here. I haven't any good place to keep a little girl."
"I don't care, I can sleep on the floor."
Her eyes were drooping, and she was growing quiet. Her head rested on his shoulder.
Mr. Brooks was thinking what to say, when he looked down at her face.
Her brown eyes were closed, and she was fast asleep.
He held her there a while. Then he took her into the next room, and laid her on the bed.
Covered with a warm blanket, she sighed softly, and sank into a deep slumber.
"I can't take her home tonight. She ought to have a long, quiet sleep," said Mr. Brooks to himself.
He watched her a while. Then he went out, up the mountain to Mr. Giles's house.
There he telephoned to Atkinson's store.
In another minute a little boy was racing up the street. He called to every one on his way:
"Clematis is found! Clematis is found! She's up on Bean Hill."
Ned shouted at the top of his voice.
Clematis would have been surprised, if she had seen how glad Mrs. Alder was to know that she was safe.
They sent a message to Miss Rose, and told her that Clematis was found.
Every one was glad. Every one asked how she ever got way up there on Bean Hill, but no one knew.
All this time Clematis was sleeping quietly.
When Mr. Brooks returned, she had not stirred.
He stood and looked at her a long, long time.
When he turned away there were tears in his eyes.
"Poor little elf," he whispered. "She thought I meant just what I said."
He spread some blankets on the floor, and lay down, but he did not go to sleep.
His thoughts went back to a book he had been reading.
It was about Silas Marner, a man who was sad and lonely.
Silas Marner took a little girl into his tiny house to care for, and she made his life happy again.
"Silas Marner did not have so large a home as this," he thought. "But he took good care of the little girl. How happy they were together."
The little face, all wet with tears, came before him again and again.
"I might keep her for a little while, at least," he said to himself. "I will see what Mr. Alder thinks in the morning."
When Mr. Brooks woke in the morning, Clematis was already up. She had washed her face and hands at the spring, near the door, and was sitting on the step.
"Oho, so the little bird woke first, did she?" said Mr. Brooks.
Clematis nodded, and looked up shyly.
"I was thinking about you last night before I went to sleep. Suppose I should keep you with me for a little while. Do you think you would like that?"
"Oh, I would help like anything," she cried. "You just try me, and see."
"Well, I will talk to Mr. Alder, and perhaps you can stay for a while, at least."
So Mr. Brooks talked with Mr. Alder. Then he wrote to Mrs. Snow.
Yes, Clematis might stay a week.
How hard she tried!
"I'll wash and wipe all the dishes," she said.
The very first day she broke a cup. Then she cried.
"Dear me, don't feel bad about that. You are doing the best you can, I know."
Mr. Brooks laughed, and Clematis smiled again.
"Men don't care so much about dishes," she said to herself.
To be sure, Clematis had not learned to do much, but she had learned to do her best.
Mr. Brooks found that she could help in many ways, and she was so anxious to do her best, that he gladly forgave her mistakes.
He made her a little bed in the room upstairs.
At evening, she could hear the wind whispering in the trees, and the little brook that ran down from the spring.
In the morning, she could see the lakes and mountains across the valley, as she sat by her open window, while the birds hopped about on the twigs, and sang their sweetest songs.
Deborah slept each night in a little box close by her bed, and followed her about all day long.
The week passed very quickly. On Friday, Mr. Brooks saw that she was silent and thoughtful.
"I don't think I can spare you yet," he said at breakfast. "I must ask Mrs. Snow to let you stay another week, at least."
Clematis was never so happy. She smiled and hummed a little song all the morning. Now and then she would stop to pat Deborah, who slept by the stove.
"He is going to let me stay another week, Debby!" she would whisper. "Another week, another whole week."
This week was passing also, when Clematis had a great surprise.
It was a letter from Miss Rose.
"Oh, read it to me, read it to me!" she exclaimed, as she climbed up into Mr. Brooks's lap.
So he opened the envelope and read:
Mr. Brooks has asked us if he might keep you for a year. Do you think you would like to stay?
I shall go to see you in Tilton next week, so you must be thinking it over, and decide if you really want to stay?
Your true friend, Rose Thornton."
After he had finished, Clematis was silent for a moment. Then she looked up at him with a happy smile.
"Please read it again," she said.
So he read it again, while she sat still in his lap.
"Do you think you would really like to stay?" he asked, when he had finished.
Clematis patted his hand, and snuggled her face against his shoulder.
"Can Debby stay, too?" she asked.
"Of course she can. We couldn't get along without Debby."
That night Clematis looked out at the golden light, just fading from the mountains.
A star was twinkling in the sky. The brook was bubbling down among the trees, and the wind hummed a little tune in their soft branches.
She was very happy.
"I am going to be happy always now," she said.
THE TRUE FAIRY STORY
The next week they got Mr. Giles's horse, and drove down to meet Miss Rose at the station.
How glad Clematis was to see her!
She sat in her lap all the way back to Bean Hill, and told her about the mountains, the lakes, the trees, and the birds.
"So you think you would like to stay a whole year, do you?" asked Miss Rose.
Clematis smiled and nodded.
"Deborah can stay too," she said.
When they got to the little cottage, Miss Rose went in with Mr. Brooks, and had a long talk.
She told him all she knew about Clematis.
He listened while she told him how Clematis ran away, how the policeman found her, and how she came to the Home.
"Have you any trace of her father and mother?"
"No, they said the father's name was Jones, but I am not sure that was her father's true name. Both her father and mother died when she was a baby, they say."
Mr. Brooks looked puzzled.
"Did the mother leave nothing when she died, that people might know her by?"
Miss Rose reached into her little black bag and brought out the picture. Mr. Brooks did not take it at first.
"They said the father's name was Jones; did they tell you his first name?" he asked.
"No, just Jones. I could learn no other name."
Miss Rose held out the picture, and Mr. Brooks's hand trembled as he took it.
After one look, he carried it to the window.
There he held it to the light, and gazed at it a long time.
"Do you see some one there you know?" asked Miss Rose.
"Wouldn't you know your own daughter, if you saw her?"
Miss Rose smiled. Then she saw tears in his eyes.
"Please forgive me for smiling," she said. "You reminded me so much of Clematis. She asks questions just like that."
"Well, wouldn't you expect her to be like her own grandfather?"
Then Mr. Brooks smiled too.
"Is she really your grandchild?" exclaimed Miss Rose.
"Yes, she is, she must be. This is her mother here."
He pointed to one of the girls in the picture.
"This was taken in front of the Seminary, a year before she ran away to be married."
"Oh, it seems just like a fairy story. I can hardly believe it."
Miss Rose looked again at the picture.
"Yes, it is like a fairy story," Mr. Brooks replied. "Dear, wayward girl. She needn't have run away. I would have gladly forgiven her."
"Then you will take Clematis to live with you, I suppose."
"Yes indeed. I have wondered about that name, Clematis. Her mother loved flowers. She loved the clematis vine about the door most of all."
"I suppose she named Clematis in memory of her dear old home," said Miss Rose.
Then Mr. Brooks told Miss Rose about the white house on the hill.
"I suppose we ought to move back there, now," he said. "Then Clematis can go to the Union School, and grow up like other children."
"It is wonderful. It is a fairy story, I am sure," she replied, "for the fairies must have led Clematis to your door. She will be the happiest child alive, when we tell her."
And Clematis was the happiest girl alive, when they called her in and told her the whole story.
She climbed into her grandfather's lap, and held his hand, while Miss Rose told it just like a fairy tale.
"Are we going to live in the house where all the vines are?" she asked, when Miss Rose was done.
"Yes, dear, you are."
"And I can stay there always?"
"And will you be my grandpa always?"
She looked up at Mr. Brooks. He smiled and kissed her hot cheek.
"Yes, little maiden. You shall be my housekeeper, and we shall be as happy as robins in an apple tree."
So Miss Rose went back to Boston, and told them all the story.
The children made her tell it over and over again. They said it was better than any fairy tale they had ever read.
"And did she really sleep out in the woods alone?" asked Sally.
"And does her grandfather really and truly have a big white house on a hill?" asked Jane.
"Yes, yes, yes. It is all true, every word of it," answered Miss Rose.
Even Clematis could hardly believe it all, at first.
She followed her grandfather all about, wherever he went, for fear he might fly away, and never come back.
In the golden October, they moved up to the white house on the hill, grandfather, Clematis, and Deborah.
There Clematis had the room over the porch, where the vines climbed around her window. She could look out each morning, and see the river, and the lakes, with the mountains beyond.
She felt a little strange among all the new people she saw each day, and she had very much to learn. But Clematis learned the best thing of all, to do the best she could, and she soon grew into a sweet, useful girl.
Her little friends loved her, and her teachers helped her, for she tried to please them, and never complained because things were not easy to do.
When she heard that Sally and the other girls could hardly believe her story, she went and whispered to her grandfather.
"May I?" she asked.
"Of course you may," he said, "as many as you want."
Then she wrote a letter all her own self. She invited all the girls her own age, at the Home, to visit her the next summer, and see for themselves.
So if you ever go to Tilton, you must look about for a strong, happy girl, with big brown eyes, who studies her lessons, and works in the garden, and has the happiest time any girl ever had, with her grandfather, in the big white house on the hill.