At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald

Chapter XI

Another Visit From North Wind

One night when he reached his own room, he opened both his windows, one of which looked to the north and the other to the east, to find how the wind blew. It blew right in at the north window. Diamond was glad for he thought perhaps North Wind herself would come now. But as she always came of herself and never when he was looking for her, and, indeed, almost never when he was thinking of her, he shut the east window and went to bed.

He awoke in the dim blue night. The moon had vanished from that side of the house. He thought he heard a knocking at his door.

“Somebody wants me!” he said, and jumping out of bed ran to open the door.

But there was no one there. He closed it again, and the noise still going on, found that another door in the room was rattling. It belonged to a closet he thought, but he had never been able to open it. The wind blowing in at the window must be shaking it. He would go and see if that was it.

The door now opened quite easily. To his surprise, instead of a closet he found a long narrow room. The moon, which was sinking in the west, shone in at an open window at the other end. This room had a low ceiling and spread the whole length of the house close under the roof. It was quite empty. The yellow light of the half moon streamed over the dark floor.

He was so delighted to find this strange moonlit place close to his own snug little room that he began to dance and skip about the floor. The wind came in through the door he had left open. It blew about him as he danced and he kept turning toward it that it might blow in his face.

He kept picturing to himself the many places, lovely and desolate, the hill sides and farm yards and tree-tops and meadows, over which it had blown on its way to “The Mound.” As he danced he grew more and more delighted with the motion and the wind. His feet grew stronger and his body lighter. At length, it seemed as if he were borne up on the air and could almost fly.

So strong did this feeling become that at last he began to doubt whether he was not in one of those precious dreams he so often had, in which he floated about on the wind at will. Then something made him look up. To his unspeakable delight, he found his uplifted hands lying in those of North Wind! Yes, North Wind was dancing with him round and round the long bare room, her hair now falling to the floor, now floating to the ceiling. The sweetest of smiles was playing about her beautiful mouth. She did not stoop in order to dance with him but held his hands high in hers.

When he saw her, he gave one spring and his arms were about her neck and her arms holding him to her breast. The same moment, she swept with him out of the open window through which the moon was shining. Making a wide and sweeping circuit, she settled with him in his own little nest at the top of the big beech tree. Diamond was so entirely happy that he did not care to speak a word. But presently, he felt as if he were going to sleep and that would be to lose so much that he was not willing to do it.

“Please, dear North Wind,” said he, “I am so happy that I am afraid it is a dream. How am I to know that it is not a dream?”

“What does it matter?” returned North Wind. “The dream — if it is a dream — is a pleasant one, is it not?”

“That is just why I want it to be true! It is not for the dream itself — I mean it is not for the pleasure of it,” answered Diamond, “for I have that whether it is a dream or not. It is for you, North Wind! I cannot bear to find it a dream because then I should lose you! You would be nobody then and I could not bear that. You are not just a dream, dear North Wind, are you? Do say no, for I shall not dare dream of you again if you are nobody at all.”

“Either I am not a dream, or there is something better which is not a dream, Diamond,” said North Wind in a rather sorrowful tone.

“But it is not something better, it is you I want, North Wind,” he persisted.

She made no answer but rose with him in her arms and sailed away over the tree-tops till they came to a meadow where a flock of sheep was feeding.

“Do you remember the song you made up here in this meadow to sing to the baby?” asked North Wind, “about Bo-peep’s sheep that ran away from her to follow after the sun? And when she went after them, she could not find the old sheep at all — only some lambs — twice as many new lambs?”

“Oh, yes,” said Diamond. “But I do not like that song. It seems to say that one is just as good as another — or that two new ones are better than the one old one you had before. But somehow when once you have looked into anybody’s eyes — deep down into them, I mean — no one else will do for you any more. Nobody ever so beautiful or so good will make up to you for that one going out of sight. So you see, North Wind, I cannot help being frightened to think that perhaps I am only dreaming and that you are nowhere at all! Do tell me that you are my own real beautiful North Wind!”

Again she rose and shot high up into the air. Diamond lay quiet in her arms waiting for her to speak. He tried to see up into her face, for he was dreadfully afraid she did not answer him because she could not tell him she was not a dream. But her hair fell all over her face so that he could not see it. This frightened him still more.

“Do speak, North Wind!” he said at last.

“I am thinking what I can say,” said North Wind slowly. “And say it so that a little boy like you can understand.”

As she spoke, she was settling quietly down on a grassy hill side in the midst of a wild, furzy common. There was a rabbit warren underneath. Some of the rabbits came out of their holes in the moonlight. They looked very sober and wise, like patriarchs standing in their tent doors and looking about them before going to bed. When they saw North Wind, instead of turning around and vanishing again with a thump of their heels, they cantered slowly up to her. They snuffed all about her with their long upper lips which moved every way at once. That was their way of kissing her. Every now and then, she stroked down their long furry backs or lifted and played with their long ears.

“I think,” she said to Diamond after they had been sitting silent for a long time, “that if I were only a dream, you would not have been able to love me so. You love me when you are not with me, don’t you?”

“Indeed I do!” answered Diamond stroking her hand. “I see! I see! How could I be able to love you as I do if you were not there at all, you know? Besides I would not be able to dream anything half so beautiful all out of my own head. Or if I did, I could not love a fancy of my own like that, could I?”

“I think not. Besides, would you not have forgotten me wholly when you woke again? People almost always forget their dreams. But you have seen me in many shapes, Diamond. You remember I was a wolf once — don’t you?”

“Yes, a good wolf that frightened a bad, wicked nurse!”

“Well, if I were to turn to an ugly shape again, would you still wish I were not a dream?”

“Yes, for I should know you were still beautiful inside, and that you loved me still. I should not like you to look ugly, you know. And I shouldn’t believe it was really you a bit!”

“That’s my own Diamond! Then I will try to tell you all I know about it. I don’t think I am just what you fancy me to be. I have to shape myself in various ways to various people. But the heart of me is true. People call me by dreadful names and think they know all about me. But they don’t. Sometimes they call me Bad Fortune or Evil Chance or Ruin — as Mr. Evans did when I sank his ship. Then people have another name for me which they think the most dreadful of all.”

“What is that?” asked Diamond smiling up in her face. “And does it only mean another way in which you do them good though they think you are doing them ill?”

“Yes,” answered North Wind, “it is just like that. But I will not tell you that name — not just now. Only will you always remember, if you should hear it, not to be the least afraid of it — or of me? Will you promise, Diamond?”

“Yes, North Wind, I promise,” said Diamond. “I will never be afraid of you.”

“Do you remember having to go through me to get into the country at my back?” asked North Wind, “after the long, long, long ride in the ship and the journey on the iceberg?”

“Yes, yes, I do! How tired you were, North Wind, when we got at last on to the iceberg and South Wind began to blow! And how thin and weak you grew in the beautiful blue cave in the side of the ice. Afterward when I landed and found you in the cleft in the ice ridge, sitting on your own door-step, how cold you were, North Wind! And so white, all but your lovely eyes! When I went up close to you, my own heart grew like a lump of ice. And when I tried to clasp you, the white grew so thick all about me, and then I forgot for a while.”

“You were very near then, Diamond, to knowing what my other name is. But did I hurt you at all, dear boy? Would you be afraid of me if you had to go through me again?”

“No. Why should I? It was delicious to forget like that! It was like going into the softest and sweetest sleep! I should be glad enough to do it again, if it was only to get another peep at the country at your back.”

“But you did not then see the real country at the back of the north wind, Diamond,” said North Wind.

“Didn’t I, North Wind? Oh, I’m so sorry! I thought I did. What did I see?”

“Only a picture of it — a sort of vision of it — and only while you seemed to be asleep. The real country at my real back is ever so much more beautiful than that. You shall see it one day — perhaps before very long.”

“Do they sing songs there?” asked Diamond.

“Yes,” replied North Wind. “You have not forgotten the lovely river as clear as glass that ran over and through the grass and flowers, have you? Nor the soft sweet songs it was always singing?”

“No,” said Diamond. “I remember that best of all. But I could not keep the words of any one of its songs in mind, do what I would. And I did try.”

“That was my fault,” said North Wind.

“How was that?” asked the little boy.

“Because I could not hear it plainly enough myself to teach it to you. But you will hear the very song itself when you get to the back of ——”

“My own dear North Wind,” said Diamond, finishing the sentence for her, and stroking the arm that held him leaning against her.

“And now, I will take you home again,” said North Wind. “It won’t do to tire you too much.”

“Oh, no, no!” pleaded Diamond. “I am not in the least tired.”

“It is better, though,” said North Wind.

“Very well; if you wish it,” yielded Diamond, but with a sigh.

“You are a dear boy,” said North Wind. “I will come for you again to-morrow night and take you out for a longer time. We shall make a little journey together, in fact. We shall start earlier, and as the moon will be somewhat later, we shall have clear moonlight all the way.”

She rose in air and swept over the meadow and the trees. In a few minutes, “The Mound” appeared below them. She sank down to the house and floated in at the window of Diamond’s room. There she laid him on his bed and covered him over. In a moment, he had sunk into a dreamless sleep.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:58