At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald

Chapter II

Diamond’s First Trip With the North Wind

Diamond awoke very early the next morning and thought what a curious dream he had had. But the memory of it grew brighter and brighter until it did not look altogether like a dream. In fact he began to doubt whether he had not really been abroad in the wind at night.

All that week it was hard weather. The grass showed white in the morning with the hoar frost which clung to every blade. As Diamond’s shoes were not good and his mother had not saved up quite enough money to get him the new pair she so much wanted for him, she would not let him run out. But at length, she brought home his new shoes. No sooner did she find that they fitted him, than she told him he might run out into the yard and amuse himself.

The sun was going down when he flew from the door like a bird from its cage. A great fire of sunset burned over the top of the gate that led to the stables. Above the fire in the sky, lay a large lake of green light, above that a golden cloud, and over that the blue of the wintry heavens. Diamond thought that next to his own home, he had never seen any place he would like so much to live in as that sky.

As he wandered about, he came to stand by the little door which opened upon the lawn of the house next door. That made him remember how the wind had driven him to this same spot on the night of his dream. So he thought he would just go in and see if things looked at all as they did then. But not a flower was to be seen in the beds on the lawn! Even the brave old chrysanthemums and Christmas roses had passed away before the frost. What? Yes! There was one. He ran and knelt down to look at it.

It was a primrose — a tiny, tiny thing, but perfect in shape — a baby wonder. As he stooped his face to see it close, a little wind began to blow. Two or three long leaves that stood up behind the flower shook and wavered and quivered. But the primrose lay still in the green hollow, looking up at the sky and not seeming to know at all that the wind was blowing. It looked like a golden eye that the black wintry earth had opened to look at the sky with.

That very same night, after Diamond had been asleep for a little, he awoke all at once in the dark.

“Open the window, Diamond,” said a voice.

Now Diamond’s mother had once more pasted up North Wind’s window.

“Are you North Wind?” said Diamond. “I do not hear you blowing.”

“No, but you hear me talking. Open the window for I haven’t over much time.”

“Yes,” said Diamond. “But please, North Wind, where’s the use? You left me all alone last time.”

“That was your fault,” returned North Wind. “I had work to do and you kept me waiting.”

Diamond was already scratching at the paper like ten mice and, getting hold of the edge of it, tore it off. The next instant a young girl glided across the bed and stood on the floor.

“Oh, dear!” said Diamond quite dismayed. “I didn’t know — who are you, please?”

“I am North Wind.”

“But you are no bigger than I am!”

“Do you think I care how big or how little I am? And of course, I am little this evening! Didn’t you see me behind the leaves of the primrose? Didn’t you see them blowing? Make haste, now, if you want to go with me! Dress as fast as you can and I will go and shake the leaves of the primrose till you come!”

“Don’t hurt it!” said Diamond.

North Wind broke out into a little laugh like the breaking of silver bubbles and was gone in a moment. Diamond saw the gleam of something vanishing down the stair. He dressed himself as fast as ever he could and crept out into the yard, through the door in the wall, and away to the primrose. Behind it stood North Wind leaning over it.

“Come along!” she said jumping up and holding out her hand. She led him across the garden and with one bound was on top of the wall. Then she reached down her hand to Diamond. He gave a great spring and stood beside her.

Another bound, and they stood in the road by the river. It was full tide and the stars were shining clear in its depths. But they had not walked beside it far before its surface was covered with ripples and the stars had vanished. North Wind was now as tall as a full-grown girl. Her hair was flying about her head and the wind was blowing a breeze down the river. But she turned aside and went up a narrow lane.

“I have some rather disagreeable work to do to-night,” she said. “And disagreeable work must be looked after first.”

So saying, she laid hold of Diamond and began to run, gliding along faster and faster. She made many turnings and windings. Once they ran through a hall where they found both the front and back doors open. At the foot of the stair, North Wind stood still and Diamond, hearing a great growl, started in terror. There, instead of North Wind, was a huge wolf by his side! He let go his hold and the wolf bounded up the stair. The windows of the house rattled and shook and there came the sound of a fall.

“Surely,” thought Diamond, “North Wind can’t be eating one of the children!”

He started to rush up after her, but she met him on the stair, took him by the hand and hurried him out of the house.

“I hope you haven’t eaten a baby, North Wind!” he said very solemnly.

North Wind laughed merrily and went tripping on faster. Her grassy robe swept and swirled about her steps. Wherever it passed over withered leaves, they went fleeing and whirling away and running on their edges all about her feet. “No, I did not eat a baby,” she said, “as you would know if you had not let go of me. I merely scared an ugly nurse who was calling a child bad names. I flew at her throat and she tumbled over with a crash. I had to put on a bad shape before she could see me. I put on a wolf’s shape for that is what she is growing to be inside.”

They were now climbing the slope of a grassy ascent. At the top, North Wind stood and turned her face toward London. The stars were still shining clear and cold overhead. There was not a cloud to be seen.

“Now,” said North Wind, “do not let go of me again. I might have lost you the last time, only I was not in a hurry then. Now I am in a hurry.”

As she spoke, she was growing larger and larger. Her head went up and up toward the stars. As she grew, her hair, longer and longer, lifted itself from her head and went out in black waves. She put her hands behind her head and began weaving and knotting her hair together. Then she took up Diamond in her hands and threw him over her shoulder saying, “I have made a place for you in my hair. Get in, Diamond.”

Diamond soon found the woven nest and crept into it. The next moment he was rising in the air. North Wind grew towering up to the place of the clouds. Her hair went streaming out from her till it spread like a mist over the stars. She flung herself abroad in space. Diamond made a little place through the woven meshes of her hair and peeped through that, for he did not dare look over the top of his nest.

The earth was rushing past like a river or a sea below him. Trees and water and green grass hurried away beneath. Now there was nothing but the roofs of houses sweeping along like a great torrent of stones and rocks. Chimneys fell and tiles flew from the roofs. There was a great roaring for the wind was dashing against London like a stormy sea. Diamond, of course, at the back of North Wind, was in a calm but he could hear it. Around and around and around, swept North Wind, her dark hair rolling and flowing, sweeping the people all into their homes and the bad smells out of the streets.

Suddenly, Diamond saw a little girl coming along a street. She was dreadfully blown by the wind, and a broom she was trailing behind her was very troublesome. It seemed as if the wind had a spite at her! It kept worrying her and tearing at her rags. She was so lonely there!

“Oh, please, North Wind,” cried Diamond, “won’t you help that little girl?”

“I cannot leave my work, Diamond. But you can help her if you like. Only, I can’t wait for you. And mind, the wind will get hold of you too!”

“But how shall I get home again,” cried Diamond, “if you don’t wait for me?”

“Well, you must think of that!” said North Wind.

“Oh,” cried Diamond. “I am sure the wind will blow her over! I must help her anyway! Let me go!”

Without a word, North Wind dropped into the street and set him down. The same moment, he was caught in the coils of the blast and all but swept away. North Wind vanished. The wind was roaring along the street. The little girl was scudding before it, her hair flying, while behind her she dragged her broom with which she swept her crossing. Her little legs were going as fast as they could, to keep her from falling.

“Stop! stop! little girl!” shouted Diamond, starting in pursuit.

“I can’t!” wailed the girl. “The wind won’t let me!”

Diamond ran after her and caught hold of her frock but it tore in his hand. Then he ran fast enough to get in front of her and turning around, caught her in his arms. Just then, he thought he got a glimpse of North Wind turning the corner in front of them. They must go with her of course, and sure enough, when they turned the corner after her, they found it quite quiet there.

“Now, you must lead me,” said Diamond. “You show me the way you must go to get home and I will take care of you.”

So the little girl put her free hand in his and began to lead him. They went around turning after turning, till they stopped at a cellar-door in a very dirty lane. There the little girl knocked.

“What an awful place!” said Diamond. “I should not like to live here.”

“Oh yes, you would, if you had no where else to go!” answered the girl. “I only hope they’ll let me in.”

“Don’t they always let you in?” said Diamond.

“No, they don’t. And then I have to stay in the street all night and scud back to my crossing the first thing in the morning. You see they don’t answer, now!”

“Well,” said Diamond, “I don’t want to get in. I want to go back to my mother. Come with me and I will take you to my own home.”

it was the back door of a garden

The little girl thought this would be much better than sitting in the streets all night. So they started off. The trouble was that Diamond was not at all sure that he could find the way without North Wind. But the only thing to do was to try. So they wandered on and on, turning in this direction and that, without any reason for one way more than another. At last, they got out of the thick of the houses into a kind of waste place. By this time, they were both very tired, and Diamond was inclined to cry. For he said to himself that he had not done the little girl any good and he had lost his own way home. But in this, he was wrong for she was far happier in having him with her, and making people happier is one of the best ways of doing them good.

They sat down and rested themselves a little and then went on. After a time, they found themselves on a rising ground that sloped rather steeply on the other side. The moment they reached the top, a gust of wind seized them and blew them down hill as fast as they could run. Nor could Diamond stop before he went bang! against one of the doors in a wall. To his dismay, it burst open. When they came to themselves, they peeped in. It was the back door of a garden.

“Oh! oh!” cried Diamond after staring for a few moments. “I know this place — know it well! It is Mr. Coleman’s garden and here I am at home again. Oh, I am so glad! Come in, little girl! Come in with me and my mother will give you some breakfast.”

“No, no! I can’t!” said the little girl. “We have been so long coming. Look up! Don’t you see that it is morning now? I must hurry back to my crossing and sweep it and get money to take home or they will beat me! I cannot stay. Good-bye, little boy, good-bye!”

She started back at once, ran up the hill and disappeared behind it. Diamond called after her and called, but she did not even turn round. He was sorry to see her go but there was no help for it. So when she was gone quite out of sight, he shut the door of the garden as best he could, and ran through the kitchen garden to the stables. And wasn’t he glad to get into his own blessed bed again!

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