At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald

Chapter XII

North Wind Carries Diamond Away

The next night, Diamond was tired, but was waiting eagerly for the promised visit of North Wind. He was seated by his open window, with his head on his hand and rather afraid he could not sleep. Suddenly, he started and found he had already been asleep. He looked out of the window and saw something white against his beech tree. It was North Wind. Her hair and her garments went floating away behind her over the tree whose top was swaying about while the other trees were quite still.

“Are you ready, Diamond?” she asked.

“Yes,” answered Diamond, “quite ready.”

In a moment, she was at the window and her arms came in and took him. She sailed away so swiftly that he could at first mark nothing but the speed with which the clouds above and the dim earth below went rushing past. Soon he began to see that the sky was very lovely with mottled clouds all about the moon on which she threw faint colours like those of an opal.

The night was warm and in North Wind’s arms he did not feel the wind which down below was making waves in the ripe grain and ripples on the rivers and lakes. At length, they came down just where a little spring bubbled out of a hill side.

“I am going to take you along this little brook,” said North Wind. “I am not needed for anything else to-night and we will just have a lovely little time.”

She stooped over the stream and holding Diamond down close to the surface of it glided along, level with its flow, as it ran down the hill. The song of the brook came up into Diamond’s ears and grew and grew and changed with every turn. It seemed to Diamond to be singing the story of its life to him. And so it was. It began with a musical tinkle which changed to a babble and then to a gentle rushing.

Sometimes its song would almost cease. Then it broke out again, tinkle, babble, and rush, all at once. At the bottom of the hill, they came to a small river into which the brook flowed with a muffled but merry sound. Along the surface of the river, darkly clear in the moonlight below them, they floated. Now, where it widened out into a little lake, they would hover for a moment over a bed of water-lilies. They watched them swing about, folded in sleep, as the water on which they leaned swayed in the presence of North Wind. Now they would watch the fishes asleep among their roots below.

Sometimes, North Wind held Diamond over a deep hollow curving into the bank and let him look far into its cool stillness. Sometimes she would leave the river and sweep across a clover field. The bees were all at home and the clover was asleep. Then she would return and follow the river. Now the armies of wheat and of oats would hang over its rush from the opposite bank. Now the willows would dip low branches into its still waters. Now it would lead them through stately trees and grassy banks into a lovely garden where the roses and lilies were asleep and the flowers folded up, or only a few awake sending out strong, sweet odours.

Wider and wider grew the stream until they came upon boats lying along its banks which rocked a little in the flutter of North Wind’s garments. Then came houses on the banks, each standing in a lovely lawn with grand trees. In parts, the river was so high that some of the grass and some of the roots of the trees were under water. As they glided through the stems, Diamond could see the grass at the bottom of the water. How like it was to the river which ran through the country at the back of the north wind! And now he seemed to hear more and more clearly its murmured song till at last the words came out plainly.

The sun is gone down,

And the moon’s in the sky.

But the sun will come up

And the moon be laid by.

The flower is asleep

But it is not dead.

When the morning shines

It will lift its head.

When winter comes

Will it die? Oh, no!

It will only hide

From the frost and snow.

Sure is the summer,

Sure is the sun.

The night and the winter

Are shadows that run!

They left the river and began to float about and over the houses one after another — beautiful rich houses which like fine trees had taken hundreds of years to grow. Scarcely a light was to be seen, and not a movement to be heard. All the people lay fast asleep in dreams.

But a little later they came floating past a window in which a light was burning. Diamond heard a moan coming from it and looked up anxiously into North Wind’s face. By a shaded lamp, a lady in a soft white wrapper sat trying to read and forget the pain which made her moan softly while she read. North Wind seemed to read Diamond’s thought and floated silently in at the window. Diamond began singing softly the song of the river with its soothing murmuring strain. When he finished, out of the window they slipped away and floated on.

“Did she hear, North Wind?” said Diamond. “Did she know we were trying to help her — and will it help her?”

“She heard you,” answered North Wind. “She heard with her heart, though, and not with her ears. She will not forget, but she will never understand till ——”

“Till she gets to the back of the north wind,” said Diamond.

North Wind smiled. Then she turned so that he could look down at the place over which they were passing.

“Oh!” he cried out suddenly. “I know where we are now. This is my old home before we moved into the city. Do let me get down and go into the old garden, North Wind, and run into mother’s room, and into old Diamond’s stall. I wonder if the hole is at the back of my bed still — your window, you know. Oh, I should like to stay here all the rest of the night! It won’t take you long to get home from here, will it, North Wind?”

“No,” she answered; “you shall stay as long as you like.”

“Oh, how jolly!” cried Diamond.

North Wind sailed over the house with him and set him down on the lawn at the back. Diamond ran about the lawn for a little while in the moonlight. He found part of it cut up into flower beds and the small summer house and great elm tree were gone. It was so changed! He didn’t like it and ran into the stable. There were no horses there at all. He ran upstairs but the rooms were all empty. The only thing left that he cared about was the hole in the wall where his little bed had stood. All besides was desolate. He turned and ran down the stairs again and out upon the lawn. There he threw himself down and began to cry. It was all so dreary and lost!

“I liked the place so much!” he thought to himself. “But now — there is nothing left to like. I suppose it is only the people in a place that make you like it and when they are gone there is nothing left to like. It’s as if it were dead! North Wind told me I might stop as long as I wanted to, but I have stopped too long already! Oh, North Wind!” he cried aloud turning his face up toward the sky.

The moon was under a cloud and all was looking dull and dismal. A star shot from the sky. It fell in the grass beside him. The moment it lighted, there stood North Wind!

“Oh!” cried Diamond joyfully. “Were you the shooting star?”

“Yes,” said North Wind.

“And did you hear me call?”

“Yes.”

“As high up as that?”

“Yes, I heard you quite well.”

“Take me home, North Wind. Take me home!”

“Have you had enough of your old home already?”

“Yes. It is not home here any more.”

“Why is that, do you think?” asked North Wind.

“Is it because its soul is gone? Yes, that must be it, is it not, North Wind?”

“Yes, Diamond, that is it. Its soul is gone,” said North Wind.

She lifted him into her arms to bear him away. How long they floated about he did not know. But presently all was changed. He was in his own room again. And there was North Wind in the doorway of the long narrow room that opened out of his room, and in which the night before he was dancing when he looked up to find his lifted hands clasped in hers and saw her lovely face smiling down upon him.

Now she was a different North Wind. She was just as he had seen her sitting on her own door-step in the far, far north. She was as white as snow and her eyes as blue as the heart of an iceberg.

“That’s how she would look when she thought I might be afraid of her,” he said to himself. Then he spoke aloud. “I am not afraid of you, dear North Wind,” he cried. “See! I am not a bit afraid of you!” Stretching out both his hands to clasp her he pressed up close against her and laid his head upon her breast. And then he fell asleep.

In the morning, they found little Diamond lying on the floor of the big attic room — fast asleep, as they thought, and with such a happy smile on his face. But when they took him up, they found he was not asleep. He had gone to that lovely country at the back of the north wind — to stay.

This web edition published by:

eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/macdonald/george/north/chapter12.html

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