At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald

Chapter X

Diamond in His New Home

Before the end of the month, Ruby had got a great deal thinner and old Diamond a good deal fatter. They really began to look fit to go in double harness. Diamond’s father and mother got their things all packed up and were ready to go into the country at the shortest notice. They were now so peaceful, and so happy over the prospect that they believed it worth all the trouble and worry they had gone through.

Nanny had been so happy since she left the hospital and had been living with Diamond’s family that she did not think the country would make her any happier. Besides she would have to leave cripple Jim behind and maybe never see him again. She had known cripple Jim much longer than she had known Diamond and he had no one else to care about him.

Diamond had taken a great deal of time and trouble to find Jim. For Jim had moved his home and had not heard of Nanny’s illness till long after she was taken to the hospital. He was much too shy to go and inquire about her there. But when at length she went to live with Diamond’s family, Jim was willing enough to go and see her. It was after one of his visits during which he and Nanny had talked things over that Diamond found out that Nanny thought it would not be so very pleasant to go to the country. The sun and the moon and the trees and the flowers did not seem much to Nanny without Jim.

Diamond thought it over and that same night he went to see Mr. Raymond. He wanted to tell him about Jim and Nanny and ask him what they could do about it. “Jim can shine shoes very well indeed, sir,” said Diamond. “If you could take Jim into the country too, to clean your shoes and do other odd jobs, then Nanny would like it better. She is so fond of Jim.”

Mr. Raymond thought it all over and finally decided that there would be something for Jim to do.

So on a certain day, Diamond’s father took his mother and Diamond himself and his little brother and sister and Nanny and Jim down by train to a place called “The Mound,” where Mr. Raymond was to live. He went back to London that same night. The next day, he drove Ruby and Diamond down with the carriage behind them, and Mr. Raymond and a lady in the carriage. For Mr. Raymond was now married. And the moment Nanny saw Mrs. Raymond, she recognized her as the lady who had let her wear the beautiful ruby ring when she was ill in the hospital.

The weather was very hot at first, and the woods very shadowy, and the wild flowers mainly gone. But there were plenty of the loveliest grass and daisies about the house. Diamond’s chief pleasure seemed to be to lie among them and breathe the pure air. As he lay there, he dreamed often of the country at the back of the north wind and tried to remember the songs the river used to sing. For this was more like being at the back of the north wind than anything he had known since he left it. But though he did lie happily in the grass and dream of her, of North Wind herself, he neither saw nor heard anything for some months.

Mr. Raymond’s house was called “The Mound” because it stood upon a steep little knoll that had been made on purpose. It was built for Queen Elizabeth as a hunting tower — a place, that is, from the top of which you could see the country for miles on all sides. From a window the Queen was able to follow with her eyes the flying deer, and the hunters in the chase. The mound had been cast up so as to give the house an outlook over the neighboring heights and woods.

Diamond’s father and mother lived in a little cottage a short distance from the house. It was a real cottage with a roof of thick thatch which, in June and July, the wind sprinkled with the red and white petals of the rose tree climbing up the walls. But Mr. and Mrs. Raymond wanted Diamond to be a page in their own house. So he was dressed in the little blue suit of a page and lived at “The Mound” itself.

“Would you be afraid to sleep alone, Diamond?” asked his mistress. “There is a little room at the top of the house — all alone. Perhaps you would not mind sleeping there.”

“I can sleep anywhere,” said Diamond. “And I like best to be high up. Should I be able to see out?”

“I will show you the place,” she answered, and taking him by the hand, she led him up and up the oval winding stair into one of the two towers that were on the house. Near the top, they entered a tiny room with two windows from which you could see all over the country. Diamond clapped his hands with delight!

“You would like this room, then, Diamond?” asked his mistress.

“It is the grandest room in the house!” he answered. “I shall be near the stars and yet not far from the tops of the trees. That is just what I like!”

I daresay he thought also that it would be a nice place for North Wind to call at, in passing. Below him spread a lake of green leaves with glimpses of grass here and there at the bottom. As he looked down, he saw a squirrel appear suddenly and as suddenly vanish among the top-most branches.

“Aha! Mr. Squirrel!” he cried. “My nest is built higher than yours!”

“I will have a bell hung at your door which I can ring when I want you,” said his mistress. And so Diamond became a little page in the house.

But after all, his master and mistress seemed to want to keep him out of doors as much as possible. And his father and mother sometimes looked at him very anxiously. Diamond thought that no one seemed to ask him to do much. Often they gave him a story book and sent him out to sit in the sweet air and sunshine at the foot of a big beech tree.

He did not see much of Nanny and Jim. Somehow they liked to slip off together when their work was over. They did not understand the many fancies that Diamond talked about, but they could understand each other very well. They were never unkind to him but they liked better to go off by themselves. Diamond did not mind much. He was never lonely. And then he had a beautiful place where he went and where he saw lovely things that no one else saw.

He called this place his nest. He went to it by going up a little rope ladder that hung from a branch of the big beech tree. When he reached the limb the rope hung from, he went on climbing higher and higher. Up among the leafy branches and away at the top, out of sight, he found a safe and comfortable seat which he called his nest.

“What do you see up there, Diamond,” some one asked him once.

“I can see the first star peeping out of the sky. I don’t see anything more except a few leaves and the big sky over me. It goes swinging about. The earth is all behind my back. There comes another star! The wind with its kisses makes me feel as if I were in North Wind’s arms.”

He thought he would be quite happy if only he could remember some of the songs the river sang to him when he was in the country at the back of the north wind. They seemed to be murmuring in his ear most of the time. Yet somehow they were just far enough off so that he could not catch the words.

His little brother and baby sister often played about on the grass with him and often he made up songs to sing to the baby. But these never seemed to be just like the river’s songs after all. One of them was about his nest up in the beech tree and it ran like this:

What would you see if I took you up

To my little nest in the air?

You would see the sky like a clean blue cup

Turned upside downwards there.

What would you do if I took you there,

To my little nest in the tree?

My child with cries would trouble the air

To get what she could but see.

What would you get in the top of the tree,

For all your crying and grief?

Not a star would you clutch of all you see —

You could only gather a leaf.

But when you had lost your greedy grief

Content to see from afar,

You would find in your hand a withering leaf,

In your heart a shining star!

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:09