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At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald

Part 4 out of 6

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"The folly of childhood," sighed his mother,
"Has always been my especial bother."

The yellow-beaks they slept on and on --
They never had heard of the bogy To-morrow;
But the mother sat outside, making her moan --
She'll soon have to beg, or steal, or borrow.
For she never can tell the night before,
Where she shall find one red worm more.

The fact, as I say, was, she'd had too many;
She couldn't sleep, and she called it virtue,
Motherly foresight, affection, any
Name you may call it that will not hurt you,
So it was late ere she tucked her head in,
And she slept so late it was almost a sin.

But the little fellow who knew of five
Nor troubled his head about any more,
Woke very early, felt quite alive,
And wanted a sixth to add to his store:
He pushed his mother, the greedy elf,
Then thought he had better try for himself.

When his mother awoke and had rubbed her eyes,
Feeling less like a bird, and more like a mole,
She saw him -- fancy with what surprise --
Dragging a huge worm out of a hole!
'Twas of this same hero the proverb took form:
'Tis the early bird that catches the worm.

"There, mother!" said Diamond, as he finished; "ain't it funny?"

"I wish you were like that little bird, Diamond, and could catch
worms for yourself," said his mother, as she rose to go and look
after her husband.

Diamond lay awake for a few minutes, thinking what he could do
to catch worms. It was very little trouble to make up his mind,
however, and still less to go to sleep after it.

CHAPTER XXIV

ANOTHER EARLY BIRD

HE GOT up in the morning as soon as he heard the men moving
in the yard. He tucked in his little brother so that he could
not tumble out of bed, and then went out, leaving the door open,
so that if he should cry his mother might hear him at once.
When he got into the yard he found the stable-door just opened.

"I'm the early bird, I think," he said to himself. "I hope I shall
catch the worm."

He would not ask any one to help him, fearing his project might meet
with disapproval and opposition. With great difficulty, but with the
help of a broken chair he brought down from his bedroom, he managed
to put the harness on Diamond. If the old horse had had the least
objection to the proceeding, of course he could not have done it;
but even when it came to the bridle, he opened his mouth for the bit,
just as if he had been taking the apple which Diamond sometimes gave him.
He fastened the cheek-strap very carefully, just in the usual hole,
for fear of choking his friend, or else letting the bit get amongst
his teeth. It was a job to get the saddle on; but with the chair
he managed it. If old Diamond had had an education in physics
to equal that of the camel, he would have knelt down to let him put
it on his back, but that was more than could be expected of him,
and then Diamond had to creep quite under him to get hold of
the girth. The collar was almost the worst part of the business;
but there Diamond could help Diamond. He held his head very low
till his little master had got it over and turned it round,
and then he lifted his head, and shook it on to his shoulders.
The yoke was rather difficult; but when he had laid the traces
over the horse's neck, the weight was not too much for him.
He got him right at last, and led him out of the stable.

By this time there were several of the men watching him, but they
would not interfere, they were so anxious to see how he would get
over the various difficulties. They followed him as far as the
stable-door, and there stood watching him again as he put the horse
between the shafts, got them up one after the other into the loops,
fastened the traces, the belly-band, the breeching, and the reins.

Then he got his whip. The moment he mounted the box, the men
broke into a hearty cheer of delight at his success. But they
would not let him go without a general inspection of the harness;
and although they found it right, for not a buckle had to be shifted,
they never allowed him to do it for himself again all the time his
father was ill.

The cheer brought his mother to the window, and there she saw her
little boy setting out alone with the cab in the gray of morning.
She tugged at the window, but it was stiff; and before she could
open it, Diamond, who was in a great hurry, was out of the mews,
and almost out of the street. She called "Diamond! Diamond!" but there
was no answer except from Jack.

"Never fear for him, ma'am," said Jack. "It 'ud be only a devil
as would hurt him, and there ain't so many o' them as some folk
'ud have you believe. A boy o' Diamond's size as can 'arness
a 'oss t'other Diamond's size, and put him to, right as a trivet--
if he do upset the keb--'ll fall on his feet, ma'am."

"But he won't upset the cab, will he, Jack?"

"Not he, ma'am. Leastways he won't go for to do it."

"I know as much as that myself. What do you mean?"

"I mean he's a little likely to do it as the oldest man in the stable.
How's the gov'nor to-day, ma'am?"

"A good deal better, thank you," she answered, closing the window
in some fear lest her husband should have been made anxious by
the news of Diamond's expedition. He knew pretty well, however,
what his boy was capable of, and although not quite easy was less
anxious than his mother. But as the evening drew on, the anxiety
of both of them increased, and every sound of wheels made his
father raise himself in his bed, and his mother peep out of the window.

Diamond had resolved to go straight to the cab-stand where he was
best known, and never to crawl for fear of getting annoyed by idlers.
Before he got across Oxford Street, however, he was hailed by a man
who wanted to catch a train, and was in too great a hurry to think
about the driver. Having carried him to King's Cross in good time,
and got a good fare in return, he set off again in great spirits,
and reached the stand in safety. He was the first there after all.

As the men arrived they all greeted him kindly, and inquired after
his father.

"Ain't you afraid of the old 'oss running away with you?" asked one.

"No, he wouldn't run away with me," answered Diamond. "He knows
I'm getting the shillings for father. Or if he did he would only
run home."

"Well, you're a plucky one, for all your girl's looks!" said the man;
"and I wish ye luck."

"Thank you, sir," said Diamond. "I'll do what I can. I came
to the old place, you see, because I knew you would let me have
my turn here."

In the course of the day one man did try to cut him out, but he
was a stranger; and the shout the rest of them raised let him see
it would not do, and made him so far ashamed besides, that he went
away crawling.

Once, in a block, a policeman came up to him, and asked him for
his number. Diamond showed him his father's badge, saying with a smile:

"Father's ill at home, and so I came out with the cab. There's no
fear of me. I can drive. Besides, the old horse could go alone."

"Just as well, I daresay. You're a pair of 'em. But you are
a rum 'un for a cabby--ain't you now?" said the policeman.
"I don't know as I ought to let you go."

"I ain't done nothing," said Diamond. "It's not my fault I'm
no bigger. I'm big enough for my age."

"That's where it is," said the man. "You ain't fit."

"How do you know that?" asked Diamond, with his usual smile,
and turning his head like a little bird.

"Why, how are you to get out of this ruck now, when it begins
to move?"

"Just you get up on the box," said Diamond, "and I'll show you.
There, that van's a-moving now. Jump up."

The policeman did as Diamond told him, and was soon satisfied
that the little fellow could drive.

"Well," he said, as he got down again, "I don't know as I should
be right to interfere. Good luck to you, my little man!"

"Thank you, sir," said Diamond, and drove away.

In a few minutes a gentleman hailed him.

"Are you the driver of this cab?" he asked.

"Yes, sir" said Diamond, showing his badge, of which, he was proud.

"You're the youngest cabman I ever saw. How am I to know you won't
break all my bones?"

"I would rather break all my own," said Diamond. "But if you're afraid,
never mind me; I shall soon get another fare."

"I'll risk it," said the gentleman; and, opening the door himself,
he jumped in.

He was going a good distance, and soon found that Diamond got him
over the ground well. Now when Diamond had only to go straight ahead,
and had not to mind so much what he was about, his thoughts always
turned to the riddle Mr. Raymond had set him; and this gentleman
looked so clever that he fancied he must be able to read it for him.
He had given up all hope of finding it out for himself, and he could
not plague his father about it when he was ill. He had thought
of the answer himself, but fancied it could not be the right one,
for to see how it all fitted required some knowledge of physiology.
So, when he reached the end of his journey, he got down very quickly,
and with his head just looking in at the window, said, as the gentleman
gathered his gloves and newspapers:

"Please, sir, can you tell me the meaning of a riddle?"

"You must tell me the riddle first," answered the gentleman, amused.

Diamond repeated the riddle.

"Oh! that's easy enough," he returned. "It's a tree."

"Well, it ain't got no mouth, sure enough; but how then does it
eat all day long?"

"It sucks in its food through the tiniest holes in its leaves,"
he answered. "Its breath is its food. And it can't do it except
in the daylight."

"Thank you, sir, thank you," returned Diamond. "I'm sorry I
couldn't find it out myself; Mr. Raymond would have been better
pleased with me."

"But you needn't tell him any one told you."

Diamond gave him a stare which came from the very back of the
north wind, where that kind of thing is unknown.

"That would be cheating," he said at last.

"Ain't you a cabby, then?"

"Cabbies don't cheat."

"Don't they? I am of a different opinion."

"I'm sure my father don't."

"What's your fare, young innocent?"

"Well, I think the distance is a good deal over three miles--
that's two shillings. Only father says sixpence a mile is too little,
though we can't ask for more."

"You're a deep one. But I think you're wrong. It's over four miles--
not much, but it is."

"Then that's half-a-crown," said Diamond.

"Well, here's three shillings. Will that do?"

"Thank you kindly, sir. I'll tell my father how good you were to me--
first to tell me my riddle, then to put me right about the distance,
and then to give me sixpence over. It'll help father to get well again,
it will."

"I hope it may, my man. I shouldn't wonder if you're as good
as you look, after all."

As Diamond returned, he drew up at a stand he had never been on before:
it was time to give Diamond his bag of chopped beans and oats.
The men got about him, and began to chaff him. He took it all
good-humouredly, until one of them, who was an ill-conditioned fellow,
began to tease old Diamond by poking him roughly in the ribs,
and making general game of him. That he could not bear, and the
tears came in his eyes. He undid the nose-bag, put it in the boot,
and was just going to mount and drive away, when the fellow interfered,
and would not let him get up. Diamond endeavoured to persuade him,
and was very civil, but he would have his fun out of him,
as he said. In a few minutes a group of idle boys had assembled,
and Diamond found himself in a very uncomfortable position.
Another cab drew up at the stand, and the driver got off and approached
the assemblage.

"What's up here?" he asked, and Diamond knew the voice. It was
that of the drunken cabman.

"Do you see this young oyster? He pretends to drive a cab,"
said his enemy.

"Yes, I do see him. And I sees you too. You'd better leave him alone.
He ain't no oyster. He's a angel come down on his own business.
You be off, or I'll be nearer you than quite agreeable."

The drunken cabman was a tall, stout man, who did not look one
to take liberties with.

"Oh! if he's a friend of yours," said the other, drawing back.

Diamond got out the nose-bag again. Old Diamond should have his
feed out now.

"Yes, he is a friend o' mine. One o' the best I ever had.
It's a pity he ain't a friend o' yourn. You'd be the better for it,
but it ain't no fault of hisn."

When Diamond went home at night, he carried with him one pound
one shilling and sixpence, besides a few coppers extra, which had
followed some of the fares.

His mother had got very anxious indeed--so much so that she
was almost afraid, when she did hear the sound of his cab, to go
and look, lest she should be yet again disappointed, and should
break down before her husband. But there was the old horse,
and there was the cab all right, and there was Diamond in the box,
his pale face looking triumphant as a full moon in the twilight.

When he drew up at the stable-door, Jack came out, and after a good
many friendly questions and congratulations, said:

"You go in to your mother, Diamond. I'll put up the old 'oss.
I'll take care on him. He do deserve some small attention,
he do."

"Thank you, Jack," said Diamond, and bounded into the house,
and into the arms of his mother, who was waiting him at the top
of the stair.

The poor, anxious woman led him into his own room, sat down on his bed,
took him on her lap as if he had been a baby, and cried.

"How's father?" asked Diamond, almost afraid to ask.

"Better, my child," she answered, "but uneasy about you, my dear."

"Didn't you tell him I was the early bird gone out to catch the worm?"

"That was what put it in your head, was it, you monkey?"
said his mother, beginning to get better.

"That or something else," answered Diamond, so very quietly
that his mother held his head back and stared in his face.

"Well! of all the children!" she said, and said no more.

"And here's my worm," resumed Diamond.

But to see her face as he poured the shillings and sixpences
and pence into her lap! She burst out crying a second time,
and ran with the money to her husband.

And how pleased he was! It did him no end of good. But while he
was counting the coins, Diamond turned to baby, who was lying awake
in his cradle, sucking his precious thumb, and took him up, saying:

"Baby, baby! I haven't seen you for a whole year."

And then he began to sing to him as usual. And what he sang was this,
for he was too happy either to make a song of his own or to sing sense.
It was one out of Mr. Raymond's book.

THE TRUE STORY OF THE CAT AND THE FIDDLE

Hey, diddle, diddle!
The cat and the fiddle!
He played such a merry tune,
That the cow went mad
With the pleasure she had,
And jumped right over the moon.
But then, don't you see?
Before that could be,
The moon had come down and listened.
The little dog hearkened,
So loud that he barkened,
"There's nothing like it, there isn't."

Hey, diddle, diddle!
Went the cat and the fiddle,
Hey diddle, diddle, dee, dee!
The dog laughed at the sport
Till his cough cut him short,
It was hey diddle, diddle, oh me!
And back came the cow
With a merry, merry low,
For she'd humbled the man in the moon.
The dish got excited,
The spoon was delighted,
And the dish waltzed away with the spoon.

But the man in the moon,
Coming back too soon
From the famous town of Norwich,
Caught up the dish,
Said, "It's just what I wish
To hold my cold plum-porridge!"
Gave the cow a rat-tat,
Flung water on the cat,
And sent him away like a rocket.
Said, "O Moon there you are!"
Got into her car,
And went off with the spoon in his pocket

Hey ho! diddle, diddle!
The wet cat and wet fiddle,
They made such a caterwauling,
That the cow in a fright
Stood bolt upright
Bellowing now, and bawling;
And the dog on his tail,
Stretched his neck with a wail.
But "Ho! ho!" said the man in the moon --
"No more in the South
Shall I burn my mouth,
For I've found a dish and a spoon."

CHAPTER XXV

DIAMOND'S DREAM

"THERE, baby!" said Diamond; "I'm so happy that I can only
sing nonsense. Oh, father, think if you had been a poor man,
and hadn't had a cab and old Diamond! What should I have done?"

"I don't know indeed what you could have done," said his father
from the bed.

"We should have all starved, my precious Diamond," said his mother,
whose pride in her boy was even greater than her joy in the shillings.
Both of them together made her heart ache, for pleasure can do that
as well as pain.

"Oh no! we shouldn't," said Diamond. "I could have taken Nanny's
crossing till she came back; and then the money, instead of going
for Old Sal's gin, would have gone for father's beef-tea. I wonder
what Nanny will do when she gets well again. Somebody else
will be sure to have taken the crossing by that time. I wonder
if she will fight for it, and whether I shall have to help her.
I won't bother my head about that. Time enough yet! Hey diddle!
hey diddle! hey diddle diddle! I wonder whether Mr. Raymond would
take me to see Nanny. Hey diddle! hey diddle! hey diddle diddle!
The baby and fiddle! O, mother, I'm such a silly! But I can't help it.
I wish I could think of something else, but there's nothing will
come into my head but hey diddle diddle! the cat and the fiddle!
I wonder what the angels do--when they're extra happy, you know--
when they've been driving cabs all day and taking home the money to
their mothers. Do you think they ever sing nonsense, mother?"

"I daresay they've got their own sort of it," answered his mother,
"else they wouldn't be like other people." She was thinking more
of her twenty-one shillings and sixpence, and of the nice dinner
she would get for her sick husband next day, than of the angels
and their nonsense, when she said it. But Diamond found her answer
all right.

"Yes, to be sure," he replied. "They wouldn't be like other people
if they hadn't their nonsense sometimes. But it must be very
pretty nonsense, and not like that silly hey diddle diddle! the cat
and the fiddle! I wish I could get it out of my head. I wonder
what the angels' nonsense is like. Nonsense is a very good thing,
ain't it, mother?--a little of it now and then; more of it for baby,
and not so much for grown people like cabmen and their mothers?
It's like the pepper and salt that goes in the soup--that's it--
isn't it, mother? There's baby fast asleep! Oh, what a nonsense baby
it is--to sleep so much! Shall I put him down, mother?"

Diamond chattered away. What rose in his happy little heart ran
out of his mouth, and did his father and mother good. When he went
to bed, which he did early, being more tired, as you may suppose,
than usual, he was still thinking what the nonsense could be like
which the angels sang when they were too happy to sing sense.
But before coming to any conclusion he fell fast asleep. And no wonder,
for it must be acknowledged a difficult question.

That night he had a very curious dream which I think my readers would
like to have told them. They would, at least, if they are as fond
of nice dreams as I am, and don't have enough of them of their own.

He dreamed that he was running about in the twilight in the old garden.
He thought he was waiting for North Wind, but she did not come.
So he would run down to the back gate, and see if she were there.
He ran and ran. It was a good long garden out of his dream,
but in his dream it had grown so long and spread out so wide that the
gate he wanted was nowhere. He ran and ran, but instead of coming
to the gate found himself in a beautiful country, not like any
country he had ever been in before. There were no trees of any size;
nothing bigger in fact than hawthorns, which were full of may-blossom.
The place in which they grew was wild and dry, mostly covered
with grass, but having patches of heath. It extended on every side
as far as he could see. But although it was so wild, yet wherever
in an ordinary heath you might have expected furze bushes, or holly,
or broom, there grew roses--wild and rare--all kinds. On every side,
far and near, roses were glowing. There too was the gum-cistus,
whose flowers fall every night and come again the next morning,
lilacs and syringas and laburnums, and many shrubs besides,
of which he did not know the names; but the roses were everywhere.
He wandered on and on, wondering when it would come to an end.
It was of no use going back, for there was no house to be seen anywhere.
But he was not frightened, for you know Diamond was used to things that
were rather out of the way. He threw himself down under a rose-bush,
and fell asleep.

He woke, not out of his dream, but into it, thinking he heard a child's
voice, calling "Diamond, Diamond!" He jumped up, but all was still
about him. The rose-bushes were pouring out their odours in clouds.
He could see the scent like mists of the same colour as the rose,
issuing like a slow fountain and spreading in the air till it
joined the thin rosy vapour which hung over all the wilderness.
But again came the voice calling him, and it seemed to come from
over his head. He looked up, but saw only the deep blue sky full
of stars--more brilliant, however, than he had seen them before;
and both sky and stars looked nearer to the earth.

While he gazed up, again he heard the cry. At the same moment he
saw one of the biggest stars over his head give a kind of twinkle
and jump, as if it went out and came in again. He threw himself
on his back, and fixed his eyes upon it. Nor had he gazed long
before it went out, leaving something like a scar in the blue.
But as he went on gazing he saw a face where the star had been--
a merry face, with bright eyes. The eyes appeared not only to
see Diamond, but to know that Diamond had caught sight of them,
for the face withdrew the same moment. Again came the voice,
calling "Diamond, Diamond;" and in jumped the star to its place.

Diamond called as loud as he could, right up into the sky:

"Here's Diamond, down below you. What do you want him to do?"

The next instant many of the stars round about that one went out,
and many voices shouted from the sky,--

"Come up; come up. We're so jolly! Diamond! Diamond!"

This was followed by a peal of the merriest, kindliest laughter,
and all the stars jumped into their places again.

"How am I to come up?" shouted Diamond.

"Go round the rose-bush. It's got its foot in it," said the first voice.

Diamond got up at once, and walked to the other side of the rose-bush.

There he found what seemed the very opposite of what he wanted--
a stair down into the earth. It was of turf and moss. It did not seem
to promise well for getting into the sky, but Diamond had learned
to look through the look of things. The voice must have meant
that he was to go down this stair; and down this stair Diamond went,
without waiting to think more about it.

It was such a nice stair, so cool and soft--all the sides as well
as the steps grown with moss and grass and ferns! Down and down
Diamond went--a long way, until at last he heard the gurgling
and splashing of a little stream; nor had he gone much farther
before he met it--yes, met it coming up the stairs to meet him,
running up just as naturally as if it had been doing the other thing.
Neither was Diamond in the least surprised to see it pitching itself
from one step to another as it climbed towards him: he never
thought it was odd--and no more it was, there. It would have been
odd here. It made a merry tune as it came, and its voice was like
the laughter he had heard from the sky. This appeared promising;
and he went on, down and down the stair, and up and up the stream,
till at last he came where it hurried out from under a stone,
and the stair stopped altogether. And as the stream bubbled up,
the stone shook and swayed with its force; and Diamond thought he
would try to lift it. Lightly it rose to his hand, forced up by the
stream from below; and, by what would have seemed an unaccountable
perversion of things had he been awake, threatened to come tumbling
upon his head. But he avoided it, and when it fell, got upon it.
He now saw that the opening through which the water came pouring
in was over his head, and with the help of the stone he scrambled
out by it, and found himself on the side of a grassy hill which
rounded away from him in every direction, and down which came
the brook which vanished in the hole. But scarcely had he noticed
so much as this before a merry shouting and laughter burst upon him,
and a number of naked little boys came running, every one eager to get
to him first. At the shoulders of each fluttered two little wings,
which were of no use for flying, as they were mere buds; only being
made for it they could not help fluttering as if they were flying.
Just as the foremost of the troop reached him, one or two of
them fell, and the rest with shouts of laughter came tumbling
over them till they heaped up a mound of struggling merriment.
One after another they extricated themselves, and each as he got
free threw his arms round Diamond and kissed him. Diamond's heart
was ready to melt within him from clear delight. When they had all
embraced him,--

"Now let us have some fun," cried one, and with a shout they all scampered
hither and thither, and played the wildest gambols on the grassy slopes.
They kept constantly coming back to Diamond, however, as the centre of
their enjoyment, rejoicing over him as if they had found a lost playmate.

There was a wind on the hillside which blew like the very embodiment
of living gladness. It blew into Diamond's heart, and made him
so happy that he was forced to sit down and cry.

"Now let's go and dig for stars," said one who seemed to be
the captain of the troop.

They all scurried away, but soon returned, one after another,
each with a pickaxe on his shoulder and a spade in his hand.
As soon as they were gathered, the captain led them in a straight
line to another part of the hill. Diamond rose and followed.

"Here is where we begin our lesson for to-night," he said.
"Scatter and dig."

There was no more fun. Each went by himself, walking slowly with bent
shoulders and his eyes fixed on the ground. Every now and then
one would stop, kneel down, and look intently, feeling with his
hands and parting the grass. One would get up and walk on again,
another spring to his feet, catch eagerly at his pickaxe and
strike it into the ground once and again, then throw it aside,
snatch up his spade, and commence digging at the loosened earth.
Now one would sorrowfully shovel the earth into the hole again,
trample it down with his little bare white feet, and walk on.
But another would give a joyful shout, and after much tugging
and loosening would draw from the hole a lump as big as his head,
or no bigger than his fist; when the under side of it would pour
such a blaze of golden or bluish light into Diamond's eyes that he
was quite dazzled. Gold and blue were the commoner colours:
the jubilation was greater over red or green or purple. And every
time a star was dug up all the little angels dropped their tools
and crowded about it, shouting and dancing and fluttering their
wing-buds.

When they had examined it well, they would kneel down one after the
other and peep through the hole; but they always stood back to give
Diamond the first look. All that diamond could report, however, was,
that through the star-holes he saw a great many things and places
and people he knew quite well, only somehow they were different--
there was something marvellous about them--he could not tell what.
Every time he rose from looking through a star-hole, he felt as if his
heart would break for, joy; and he said that if he had not cried,
he did not know what would have become of him.

As soon as all had looked, the star was carefully fitted in again,
a little mould was strewn over it, and the rest of the heap left
as a sign that the star had been discovered.

At length one dug up a small star of a most lovely colour--a colour
Diamond had never seen before. The moment the angel saw what it was,
instead of showing it about, he handed it to one of his neighbours,
and seated himself on the edge of the hole, saying:

"This will do for me. Good-bye. I'm off."

They crowded about him, hugging and kissing him; then stood back
with a solemn stillness, their wings lying close to their shoulders.
The little fellow looked round on them once with a smile, and then
shot himself headlong through the star-hole. Diamond, as privileged,
threw himself on the ground to peep after him, but he saw nothing.
"It's no use," said the captain. "I never saw anything more of one
that went that way."

"His wings can't be much use," said Diamond, concerned and fearful,
yet comforted by the calm looks of the rest.

"That's true," said the captain. "He's lost them by this time.
They all do that go that way. You haven't got any, you see."

"No," said Diamond. "I never did have any."

"Oh! didn't you?" said the captain.

"Some people say," he added, after a pause, "that they come again.
I don't know. I've never found the colour I care about myself.
I suppose I shall some day."

Then they looked again at the star, put it carefully into its hole,
danced around it and over it--but solemnly, and called it by the name
of the finder.

"Will you know it again?" asked Diamond.

"Oh, yes. We never forget a star that's been made a door of."

Then they went on with their searching and digging.

Diamond having neither pickaxe nor spade, had the more time to think.

"I don't see any little girls," he said at last.

The captain stopped his shovelling, leaned on his spade, rubbed his
forehead thoughtfully with his left hand--the little angels were
all left-handed--repeated the words "little girls," and then,
as if a thought had struck him, resumed his work, saying--

"I think I know what you mean. I've never seen any of them, of course;
but I suppose that's the sort you mean. I'm told--but mind I don't
say it is so, for I don't know--that when we fall asleep, a troop
of angels very like ourselves, only quite different, goes round
to all the stars we have discovered, and discovers them after us.
I suppose with our shovelling and handling we spoil them a bit;
and I daresay the clouds that come up from below make them smoky
and dull sometimes. They say--mind, I say they say--these other
angels take them out one by one, and pass each round as we do,
and breathe over it, and rub it with their white hands, which are
softer than ours, because they don't do any pick-and-spade work,
and smile at it, and put it in again: and that is what keeps them from
growing dark."

"How jolly!" thought Diamond. "I should like to see them at their
work too.--When do you go to sleep?" he asked the captain.

"When we grow sleepy," answered the captain. "They do say--but mind
I say they say--that it is when those others--what do you call them?
I don't know if that is their name; I am only guessing that may be
the sort you mean--when they are on their rounds and come near any
troop of us we fall asleep. They live on the west side of the hill.
None of us have ever been to the top of it yet."

Even as he spoke, he dropped his spade. He tumbled down beside it,
and lay fast asleep. One after the other each of the troop dropped
his pickaxe or shovel from his listless hands, and lay fast asleep
by his work.

"Ah!" thought Diamond to himself, with delight, "now the girl-angels
are coming, and I, not being an angel, shall not fall asleep
like the rest, and I shall see the girl-angels."

But the same moment he felt himself growing sleepy. He struggled
hard with the invading power. He put up his fingers to his eyelids
and pulled them open. But it was of no use. He thought he saw
a glimmer of pale rosy light far up the green hill, and ceased
to know.

When he awoke, all the angels were starting up wide awake too.
He expected to see them lift their tools, but no, the time for play
had come. They looked happier than ever, and each began to sing
where he stood. He had not heard them sing before.

"Now," he thought, "I shall know what kind of nonsense the angels
sing when they are merry. They don't drive cabs, I see, but they
dig for stars, and they work hard enough to be merry after it."

And he did hear some of the angels' nonsense; for if it was all
sense to them, it had only just as much sense to Diamond as made
good nonsense of it. He tried hard to set it down in his mind,
listening as closely as he could, now to one, now to another,
and now to all together. But while they were yet singing he began,
to his dismay, to find that he was coming awake--faster and faster.
And as he came awake, he found that, for all the goodness of his memory,
verse after verse of the angels' nonsense vanished from it.
He always thought he could keep the last, but as the next began he
lost the one before it, and at length awoke, struggling to keep hold
of the last verse of all. He felt as if the effort to keep from
forgetting that one verse of the vanishing song nearly killed him.
And yet by the time he was wide awake he could not be sure of that even.
It was something like this:

White hands of whiteness
Wash the stars' faces,
Till glitter, glitter, glit, goes their brightness
Down to poor places.

This, however, was so near sense that he thought it could not be
really what they did sing.

CHAPTER XXVI

DIAMOND TAKES A FARE THE WRONG WAY RIGHT

THE next morning Diamond was up almost as early as before. He had nothing
to fear from his mother now, and made no secret of what he was about.
By the time he reached the stable, several of the men were there.
They asked him a good many questions as to his luck the day before,
and he told them all they wanted to know. But when he proceeded
to harness the old horse, they pushed him aside with rough kindness,
called him a baby, and began to do it all for him. So Diamond
ran in and had another mouthful of tea and bread and butter;
and although he had never been so tired as he was the night before,
he started quite fresh this morning. It was a cloudy day,
and the wind blew hard from the north--so hard sometimes that,
perched on the box with just his toes touching the ground,
Diamond wished that he had some kind of strap to fasten himself
down with lest he should be blown away. But he did not really
mind it.

His head was full of the dream he had dreamed; but it did not make
him neglect his work, for his work was not to dig stars but to drive
old Diamond and pick up fares. There are not many people who can
think about beautiful things and do common work at the same time.
But then there are not many people who have been to the back of the
north wind.

There was not much business doing. And Diamond felt rather cold,
notwithstanding his mother had herself put on his comforter
and helped him with his greatcoat. But he was too well aware
of his dignity to get inside his cab as some do. A cabman ought
to be above minding the weather--at least so Diamond thought.
At length he was called to a neighbouring house, where a young woman
with a heavy box had to be taken to Wapping for a coast-steamer.

He did not find it at all pleasant, so far east and so near the river;
for the roughs were in great force. However, there being no block,
not even in Nightingale Lane, he reached the entrance of the wharf,
and set down his passenger without annoyance. But as he turned
to go back, some idlers, not content with chaffing him, showed a
mind to the fare the young woman had given him. They were just
pulling him off the box, and Diamond was shouting for the police,
when a pale-faced man, in very shabby clothes, but with the look
of a gentleman somewhere about him, came up, and making good use of
his stick, drove them off.

"Now, my little man," he said, "get on while you can. Don't lose
any time. This is not a place for you."

But Diamond was not in the habit of thinking only of himself.
He saw that his new friend looked weary, if not ill, and very poor.

"Won't you jump in, sir?" he said. "I will take you wherever
you like."

"Thank you, my man; but I have no money; so I can't."

"Oh! I don't want any money. I shall be much happier if you will
get in. You have saved me all I had. I owe you a lift, sir."

"Which way are you going?"

"To Charing Cross; but I don't mind where I go."

"Well, I am very tired. If you will take me to Charing Cross,
I shall be greatly obliged to you. I have walked from Gravesend,
and had hardly a penny left to get through the tunnel."

So saying, he opened the door and got in, and Diamond drove away.

But as he drove, he could not help fancying he had seen the gentleman--
for Diamond knew he was a gentleman--before. Do all he could,
however, he could not recall where or when. Meantime his fare,
if we may call him such, seeing he was to pay nothing, whom the relief
of being carried had made less and less inclined to carry himself,
had been turning over things in his mind, and, as they passed
the Mint, called to Diamond, who stopped the horse, got down
and went to the window.

"If you didn't mind taking me to Chiswick, I should be able
to pay you when we got there. It's a long way, but you shall
have the whole fare from the Docks--and something over."

"Very well, sir" said Diamond. "I shall be most happy."

He was just clambering up again, when the gentleman put his head
out of the window and said--

"It's The Wilderness--Mr. Coleman's place; but I'll direct you
when we come into the neighbourhood."

It flashed upon Diamond who he was. But he got upon his box
to arrange his thoughts before making any reply.

The gentleman was Mr. Evans, to whom Miss Coleman was to have been
married, and Diamond had seen him several times with her in the garden.
I have said that he had not behaved very well to Miss Coleman.
He had put off their marriage more than once in a cowardly fashion,
merely because he was ashamed to marry upon a small income,
and live in a humble way. When a man thinks of what people will say
in such a case, he may love, but his love is but a poor affair.
Mr. Coleman took him into the firm as a junior partner, and it
was in a measure through his influence that he entered upon those
speculations which ruined him. So his love had not been a blessing.
The ship which North Wind had sunk was their last venture,
and Mr. Evans had gone out with it in the hope of turning its
cargo to the best advantage. He was one of the single boat-load
which managed to reach a desert island, and he had gone through
a great many hardships and sufferings since then. But he was not
past being taught, and his troubles had done him no end of good,
for they had made him doubt himself, and begin to think, so that
he had come to see that he had been foolish as well as wicked.
For, if he had had Miss Coleman with him in the desert island,
to build her a hut, and hunt for her food, and make clothes for her,
he would have thought himself the most fortunate of men; and when he
was at home, he would not marry till he could afford a man-servant.
Before he got home again, he had even begun to understand that no man
can make haste to be rich without going against the will of God,
in which case it is the one frightful thing to be successful.
So he had come back a more humble man, and longing to ask Miss Coleman
to forgive him. But he had no idea what ruin had fallen upon them,
for he had never made himself thoroughly acquainted with the
firm's affairs. Few speculative people do know their own affairs.
Hence he never doubted he should find matters much as he left them,
and expected to see them all at The Wilderness as before. But if he
had not fallen in with Diamond, he would not have thought of going
there first.

What was Diamond to do? He had heard his father and mother drop
some remarks concerning Mr. Evans which made him doubtful of him.
He understood that he had not been so considerate as he might have been.
So he went rather slowly till he should make up his mind. It was,
of course, of no use to drive Mr. Evans to Chiswick. But if he
should tell him what had befallen them, and where they lived now,
he might put off going to see them, and he was certain that Miss Coleman,
at least, must want very much to see Mr. Evans. He was pretty sure
also that the best thing in any case was to bring them together,
and let them set matters right for themselves.

The moment he came to this conclusion, he changed his course from
westward to northward, and went straight for Mr. Coleman's poor
little house in Hoxton. Mr. Evans was too tired and too much
occupied with his thoughts to take the least notice of the streets
they passed through, and had no suspicion, therefore, of the change
of direction.

By this time the wind had increased almost to a hurricane, and as they
had often to head it, it was no joke for either of the Diamonds.
The distance, however, was not great. Before they reached the street
where Mr. Coleman lived it blew so tremendously, that when Miss Coleman,
who was going out a little way, opened the door, it dashed against
the wall with such a bang, that she was afraid to venture, and went
in again. In five minutes after, Diamond drew up at the door.
As soon as he had entered the street, however, the wind blew
right behind them, and when he pulled up, old Diamond had so much
ado to stop the cab against it, that the breeching broke.
Young Diamond jumped off his box, knocked loudly at the door,
then turned to the cab and said--before Mr. Evans had quite begun
to think something must be amiss:

"Please, sir, my harness has given away. Would you mind stepping
in here for a few minutes? They're friends of mine. I'll take you
where you like after I've got it mended. I shan't be many minutes,
but you can't stand in this wind."

Half stupid with fatigue and want of food, Mr. Evans yielded
to the boy's suggestion, and walked in at the door which the maid
held with difficulty against the wind. She took Mr. Evans
for a visitor, as indeed he was, and showed him into the room
on the ground-floor. Diamond, who had followed into the hall,
whispered to her as she closed the door--

"Tell Miss Coleman. It's Miss Coleman he wants to see."

"I don't know" said the maid. "He don't look much like a gentleman."

"He is, though; and I know him, and so does Miss Coleman."

The maid could not but remember Diamond, having seen him when he
and his father brought the ladies home. So she believed him,
and went to do what he told her.

What passed in the little parlour when Miss Coleman came down
does not belong to my story, which is all about Diamond.
If he had known that Miss Coleman thought Mr. Evans was dead,
perhaps he would have managed differently. There was a cry
and a running to and fro in the house, and then all was quiet again.

Almost as soon as Mr. Evans went in, the wind began to cease,
and was now still. Diamond found that by making the breeching
just a little tighter than was quite comfortable for the old
horse he could do very well for the present; and, thinking it
better to let him have his bag in this quiet place, he sat
on the box till the old horse should have eaten his dinner.
In a little while Mr. Evans came out, and asked him to come in.
Diamond obeyed, and to his delight Miss Coleman put her arms round
him and kissed him, and there was payment for him! Not to mention
the five precious shillings she gave him, which he could not refuse
because his mother wanted them so much at home for his father.
He left them nearly as happy as they were themselves.

The rest of the day he did better, and, although he had not so
much to take home as the day before, yet on the whole the result
was satisfactory. And what a story he had to tell his father
and mother about his adventures, and how he had done, and what was
the result! They asked him such a multitude of questions! some
of which he could answer, and some of which he could not answer;
and his father seemed ever so much better from finding that his boy
was already not only useful to his family but useful to other people,
and quite taking his place as a man who judged what was wise,
and did work worth doing.

For a fortnight Diamond went on driving his cab, and keeping his family.
He had begun to be known about some parts of London, and people would
prefer taking his cab because they liked what they heard of him.
One gentleman who lived near the mews engaged him to carry him
to the City every morning at a certain hour; and Diamond was
punctual as clockwork--though to effect that required a good deal
of care, for his father's watch was not much to be depended on,
and had to be watched itself by the clock of St. George's church.
Between the two, however, he did make a success of it.

After that fortnight, his father was able to go out again.
Then Diamond went to make inquiries about Nanny, and this led
to something else.

CHAPTER XXVII

THE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL

THE first day his father resumed his work, Diamond went with him
as usual. In the afternoon, however, his father, having taken
a fare to the neighbourhood, went home, and Diamond drove the cab
the rest of the day. It was hard for old Diamond to do all
the work, but they could not afford to have another horse.
They contrived to save him as much as possible, and fed him well,
and he did bravely.

The next morning his father was so much stronger that Diamond
thought he might go and ask Mr. Raymond to take him to see Nanny.
He found him at home. His servant had grown friendly by this time,
and showed him in without any cross-questioning. Mr. Raymond received
him with his usual kindness, consented at once, and walked with him
to the Hospital, which was close at hand. It was a comfortable
old-fashioned house, built in the reign of Queen Anne, and in her day,
no doubt, inhabited by rich and fashionable people: now it was a home
for poor sick children, who were carefully tended for love's sake.
There are regions in London where a hospital in every other street
might be full of such children, whose fathers and mothers are dead,
or unable to take care of them.

When Diamond followed Mr. Raymond into the room where those children
who had got over the worst of their illness and were growing better lay,
he saw a number of little iron bedsteads, with their heads to the walls,
and in every one of them a child, whose face was a story in itself.
In some, health had begun to appear in a tinge upon the cheeks,
and a doubtful brightness in the eyes, just as out of the cold dreary
winter the spring comes in blushing buds and bright crocuses.
In others there were more of the signs of winter left. Their faces
reminded you of snow and keen cutting winds, more than of sunshine
and soft breezes and butterflies; but even in them the signs
of suffering told that the suffering was less, and that if the
spring-time had but arrived, it had yet arrived.

Diamond looked all round, but could see no Nanny. He turned
to Mr. Raymond with a question in his eyes.

"Well?" said Mr. Raymond.

"Nanny's not here," said Diamond.

"Oh, yes, she is."

"I don't see her."

"I do, though. There she is."

He pointed to a bed right in front of where Diamond was standing.

"That's not Nanny," he said.

"It is Nanny. I have seen her many times since you have.
Illness makes a great difference."

"Why, that girl must have been to the back of the north wind!"
thought Diamond, but he said nothing, only stared; and as he stared,
something of the old Nanny began to dawn through the face of the
new Nanny. The old Nanny, though a good girl, and a friendly girl,
had been rough, blunt in her speech, and dirty in her person.
Her face would always have reminded one who had already been to the back
of the north wind of something he had seen in the best of company,
but it had been coarse notwithstanding, partly from the weather,
partly from her living amongst low people, and partly from having
to defend herself: now it was so sweet, and gentle, and refined,
that she might have had a lady and gentleman for a father and mother.
And Diamond could not help thinking of words which he had heard
in the church the day before: "Surely it is good to be afflicted;"
or something like that. North Wind, somehow or other, must have
had to do with her! She had grown from a rough girl into a gentle
maiden.

Mr. Raymond, however, was not surprised, for he was used to see
such lovely changes--something like the change which passes upon
the crawling, many-footed creature, when it turns sick and ill,
and revives a butterfly, with two wings instead of many feet.
Instead of her having to take care of herself, kind hands ministered
to her, making her comfortable and sweet and clean, soothing her
aching head, and giving her cooling drink when she was thirsty;
and kind eyes, the stars of the kingdom of heaven, had shone upon her;
so that, what with the fire of the fever and the dew of tenderness,
that which was coarse in her had melted away, and her whole face
had grown so refined and sweet that Diamond did not know her. But as
he gazed, the best of the old face, all the true and good part of it,
that which was Nanny herself, dawned upon him, like the moon coming
out of a cloud, until at length, instead of only believing Mr. Raymond
that this was she, he saw for himself that it was Nanny indeed--
very worn but grown beautiful.

He went up to her. She smiled. He had heard her laugh, but had
never seen her smile before.

"Nanny, do you know me?" said Diamond.

She only smiled again, as if the question was amusing.

She was not likely to forget him; for although she did not yet know
it was he who had got her there, she had dreamed of him often,
and had talked much about him when delirious. Nor was it much wonder,
for he was the only boy except Joe who had ever shown her kindness.

Meantime Mr. Raymond was going from bed to bed, talking to the
little people. Every one knew him, and every one was eager
to have a look, and a smile, and a kind word from him.

Diamond sat down on a stool at the head of Nanny's bed. She laid
her hand in his. No one else of her old acquaintance had been
near her.

Suddenly a little voice called aloud--

"Won't Mr. Raymond tell us a story?"

"Oh, yes, please do! please do!" cried several little voices which
also were stronger than the rest. For Mr. Raymond was in the habit
of telling them a story when he went to see them, and they enjoyed
it far more than the other nice things which the doctor permitted
him to give them.

"Very well," said Mr. Raymond, "I will. What sort of a story shall
it be?"

"A true story," said one little girl.

"A fairy tale," said a little boy.

"Well," said Mr. Raymond, "I suppose, as there is a difference,
I may choose. I can't think of any true story just at this moment,
so I will tell you a sort of a fairy one."

"Oh, jolly!" exclaimed the little boy who had called out for
a fairy tale.

"It came into my head this morning as I got out of bed,"
continued Mr. Raymond; "and if it turns out pretty well,
I will write it down, and get somebody to print it for me,
and then you shall read it when you like."

"Then nobody ever heard it before?" asked one older child.

"No, nobody."

"Oh!" exclaimed several, thinking it very grand to have the first telling;
and I daresay there might be a peculiar freshness about it,
because everything would be nearly as new to the story-teller
himself as to the listeners.

Some were only sitting up and some were lying down, so there could
not be the same busy gathering, bustling, and shifting to and fro
with which children generally prepare themselves to hear a story;
but their faces, and the turning of their heads, and many feeble
exclamations of expected pleasure, showed that all such preparations
were making within them.

Mr. Raymond stood in the middle of the room, that he might turn from
side to side, and give each a share of seeing him. Diamond kept
his place by Nanny's side, with her hand in his. I do not know
how much of Mr. Raymond's story the smaller children understood;
indeed, I don't quite know how much there was in it to be understood,
for in such a story every one has just to take what he can get.
But they all listened with apparent satisfaction, and certainly
with great attention. Mr. Raymond wrote it down afterwards,
and here it is--somewhat altered no doubt, for a good story-teller
tries to make his stories better every time he tells them.
I cannot myself help thinking that he was somewhat indebted for this
one to the old story of The Sleeping Beauty.

CHAPTER XXVIII

LITTLE DAYLIGHT

NO HOUSE of any pretension to be called a palace is in the least
worthy of the name, except it has a wood near it--very near it--
and the nearer the better. Not all round it--I don't mean that,
for a palace ought to be open to the sun and wind, and stand
high and brave, with weathercocks glittering and flags flying;
but on one side of every palace there must be a wood. And there
was a very grand wood indeed beside the palace of the king who was
going to be Daylight's father; such a grand wood, that nobody yet
had ever got to the other end of it. Near the house it was kept
very trim and nice, and it was free of brushwood for a long way in;
but by degrees it got wild, and it grew wilder, and wilder, and wilder,
until some said wild beasts at last did what they liked in it.
The king and his courtiers often hunted, however, and this kept the wild
beasts far away from the palace.

One glorious summer morning, when the wind and sun were out together,
when the vanes were flashing and the flags frolicking against
the blue sky, little Daylight made her appearance from somewhere--
nobody could tell where--a beautiful baby, with such bright eyes
that she might have come from the sun, only by and by she showed such
lively ways that she might equally well have come out of the wind.
There was great jubilation in the palace, for this was the first baby
the queen had had, and there is as much happiness over a new baby
in a palace as in a cottage.

But there is one disadvantage of living near a wood: you do not know
quite who your neighbours may be. Everybody knew there were in it
several fairies, living within a few miles of the palace, who always
had had something to do with each new baby that came; for fairies live
so much longer than we, that they can have business with a good many
generations of human mortals. The curious houses they lived in were
well known also,--one, a hollow oak; another, a birch-tree, though
nobody could ever find how that fairy made a house of it; another, a hut
of growing trees intertwined, and patched up with turf and moss.
But there was another fairy who had lately come to the place,
and nobody even knew she was a fairy except the other fairies.
A wicked old thing she was, always concealing her power,
and being as disagreeable as she could, in order to tempt people
to give her offence, that she might have the pleasure of taking
vengeance upon them. The people about thought she was a witch,
and those who knew her by sight were careful to avoid offending her.
She lived in a mud house, in a swampy part of the forest.

In all history we find that fairies give their remarkable gifts
to prince or princess, or any child of sufficient importance in
their eyes, always at the christening. Now this we can understand,
because it is an ancient custom amongst human beings as well;
and it is not hard to explain why wicked fairies should choose
the same time to do unkind things; but it is difficult to understand
how they should be able to do them, for you would fancy all wicked
creatures would be powerless on such an occasion. But I never knew
of any interference on the part of the wicked fairy that did not
turn out a good thing in the end. What a good thing, for instance,
it was that one princess should sleep for a hundred years! Was she
not saved from all the plague of young men who were not worthy of her?
And did she not come awake exactly at the right moment when the
right prince kissed her? For my part, I cannot help wishing a good
many girls would sleep till just the same fate overtook them.
It would be happier for them, and more agreeable to their friends.

Of course all the known fairies were invited to the christening.
But the king and queen never thought of inviting an old witch.

For the power of the fairies they have by nature; whereas a witch gets
her power by wickedness. The other fairies, however, knowing the
danger thus run, provided as well as they could against accidents
from her quarter. But they could neither render her powerless,
nor could they arrange their gifts in reference to hers beforehand,
for they could not tell what those might be.

Of course the old hag was there without being asked. Not to be
asked was just what she wanted, that she might have a sort of reason
for doing what she wished to do. For somehow even the wickedest
of creatures likes a pretext for doing the wrong thing.

Five fairies had one after the other given the child such gifts
as each counted best, and the fifth had just stepped back to her
place in the surrounding splendour of ladies and gentlemen, when,
mumbling a laugh between her toothless gums, the wicked fairy
hobbled out into the middle of the circle, and at the moment
when the archbishop was handing the baby to the lady at the head
of the nursery department of state affairs, addressed him thus,
giving a bite or two to every word before she could part with it:

"Please your Grace, I'm very deaf: would your Grace mind repeating
the princess's name?"

"With pleasure, my good woman," said the archbishop, stooping to
shout in her ear: "the infant's name is little Daylight."

"And little daylight it shall be," cried the fairy, in the tone
of a dry axle, "and little good shall any of her gifts do her.
For I bestow upon her the gift of sleeping all day long, whether she
will or not. Ha, ha! He, he! Hi, hi!"

Then out started the sixth fairy, who, of course, the others
had arranged should come after the wicked one, in order to undo
as much as she might.

"If she sleep all day," she said, mournfully, "she shall, at least,
wake all night."

"A nice prospect for her mother and me!" thought the poor king;
for they loved her far too much to give her up to nurses,
especially at night, as most kings and queens do--and are sorry
for it afterwards.

"You spoke before I had done," said the wicked fairy. "That's against
the law. It gives me another chance."

"I beg your pardon," said the other fairies, all together.

"She did. I hadn't done laughing," said the crone. "I had only got
to Hi, hi! and I had to go through Ho, ho! and Hu, hu! So I decree
that if she wakes all night she shall wax and wane with its mistress,
the moon. And what that may mean I hope her royal parents will
live to see. Ho, ho! Hu, hu!"

But out stepped another fairy, for they had been wise enough to keep
two in reserve, because every fairy knew the trick of one.

"Until," said the seventh fairy, "a prince comes who shall kiss
her without knowing it."

The wicked fairy made a horrid noise like an angry cat, and hobbled away.
She could not pretend that she had not finished her speech this time,
for she had laughed Ho, ho! and Hu, hu!

"I don't know what that means," said the poor king to the seventh fairy.

"Don't be afraid. The meaning will come with the thing itself,"
said she.

The assembly broke up, miserable enough--the queen, at least,
prepared for a good many sleepless nights, and the lady at the head
of the nursery department anything but comfortable in the prospect
before her, for of course the queen could not do it all. As for
the king, he made up his mind, with what courage he could summon,
to meet the demands of the case, but wondered whether he could
with any propriety require the First Lord of the Treasury to take
a share in the burden laid upon him.

I will not attempt to describe what they had to go through for some time.
But at last the household settled into a regular system--a very irregular
one in some respects. For at certain seasons the palace rang all night
with bursts of laughter from little Daylight, whose heart the old
fairy's curse could not reach; she was Daylight still, only a little
in the wrong place, for she always dropped asleep at the first hint
of dawn in the east. But her merriment was of short duration.
When the moon was at the full, she was in glorious spirits,
and as beautiful as it was possible for a child of her age to be.
But as the moon waned, she faded, until at last she was wan and
withered like the poorest, sickliest child you might come upon
in the streets of a great city in the arms of a homeless mother.
Then the night was quiet as the day, for the little creature
lay in her gorgeous cradle night and day with hardly a motion,
and indeed at last without even a moan, like one dead. At first
they often thought she was dead, but at last they got used to it,
and only consulted the almanac to find the moment when she would begin
to revive, which, of course, was with the first appearance of the
silver thread of the crescent moon. Then she would move her lips,
and they would give her a little nourishment; and she would grow better
and better and better, until for a few days she was splendidly well.
When well, she was always merriest out in the moonlight; but even
when near her worst, she seemed better when, in warm summer nights,
they carried her cradle out into the light of the waning moon.
Then in her sleep she would smile the faintest, most pitiful smile.

For a long time very few people ever saw her awake. As she grew
older she became such a favourite, however, that about the palace
there were always some who would contrive to keep awake at night,
in order to be near her. But she soon began to take every chance
of getting away from her nurses and enjoying her moonlight alone.
And thus things went on until she was nearly seventeen years of age.
Her father and mother had by that time got so used to the odd
state of things that they had ceased to wonder at them. All their
arrangements had reference to the state of the Princess Daylight,
and it is amazing how things contrive to accommodate themselves.
But how any prince was ever to find and deliver her,
appeared inconceivable.

As she grew older she had grown more and more beautiful, with the
sunniest hair and the loveliest eyes of heavenly blue, brilliant and
profound as the sky of a June day. But so much more painful and sad
was the change as her bad time came on. The more beautiful she
was in the full moon, the more withered and worn did she become
as the moon waned. At the time at which my story has now arrived,
she looked, when the moon was small or gone, like an old woman
exhausted with suffering. This was the more painful that her
appearance was unnatural; for her hair and eyes did not change.
Her wan face was both drawn and wrinkled, and had an eager hungry look.
Her skinny hands moved as if wishing, but unable, to lay hold
of something. Her shoulders were bent forward, her chest went in,
and she stooped as if she were eighty years old. At last she had
to be put to bed, and there await the flow of the tide of life.
But she grew to dislike being seen, still more being touched
by any hands, during this season. One lovely summer evening,
when the moon lay all but gone upon the verge of the horizon,
she vanished from her attendants, and it was only after searching
for her a long time in great terror, that they found her fast
asleep in the forest, at the foot of a silver birch, and carried
her home.

A little way from the palace there was a great open glade, covered with
the greenest and softest grass. This was her favourite haunt;
for here the full moon shone free and glorious, while through a vista
in the trees she could generally see more or less of the dying moon
as it crossed the opening. Here she had a little rustic house
built for her, and here she mostly resided. None of the court
might go there without leave, and her own attendants had learned
by this time not to be officious in waiting upon her, so that she
was very much at liberty. Whether the good fairies had anything
to do with it or not I cannot tell, but at last she got into the way
of retreating further into the wood every night as the moon waned,
so that sometimes they had great trouble in finding her; but as she
was always very angry if she discovered they were watching her,
they scarcely dared to do so. At length one night they thought they
had lost her altogether. It was morning before they found her.
Feeble as she was, she had wandered into a thicket a long way from
the glade, and there she lay--fast asleep, of course.

Although the fame of her beauty and sweetness had gone abroad,
yet as everybody knew she was under a bad spell, no king in the
neighbourhood had any desire to have her for a daughter-in-law.
There were serious objections to such a relation.

About this time in a neighbouring kingdom, in consequence of the
wickedness of the nobles, an insurrection took place upon the death
of the old king, the greater part of the nobility was massacred,
and the young prince was compelled to flee for his life, disguised
like a peasant. For some time, until he got out of the country,
he suffered much from hunger and fatigue; but when he got into
that ruled by the princess's father, and had no longer any fear
of being recognised, he fared better, for the people were kind.
He did not abandon his disguise, however. One tolerable reason
was that he had no other clothes to put on, and another that he
had very little money, and did not know where to get any more.
There was no good in telling everybody he met that he was a prince,
for he felt that a prince ought to be able to get on like other people,
else his rank only made a fool of him. He had read of princes
setting out upon adventure; and here he was out in similar case,
only without having had a choice in the matter. He would go on,
and see what would come of it.

For a day or two he had been walking through the palace-wood,
and had had next to nothing to eat, when he came upon the strangest
little house, inhabited by a very nice, tidy, motherly old woman.
This was one of the good fairies. The moment she saw him she knew quite
well who he was and what was going to come of it; but she was not at
liberty to interfere with the orderly march of events. She received
him with the kindness she would have shown to any other traveller,
and gave him bread and milk, which he thought the most delicious food
he had ever tasted, wondering that they did not have it for dinner at
the palace sometimes. The old woman pressed him to stay all night.
When he awoke he was amazed to find how well and strong he felt.
She would not take any of the money he offered, but begged him,
if he found occasion of continuing in the neighbourhood, to return
and occupy the same quarters.

"Thank you much, good mother," answered the prince; "but there is
little chance of that. The sooner I get out of this wood the better."

"I don't know that," said the fairy.

"What do you mean?" asked the prince.

"Why, how should I know?" returned she.

"I can't tell," said the prince.

"Very well," said the fairy.

"How strangely you talk!" said the prince.

"Do I?" said the fairy.

"Yes, you do," said the prince.

"Very well," said the fairy.

The prince was not used to be spoken to in this fashion, so he felt
a little angry, and turned and walked away. But this did not offend
the fairy. She stood at the door of her little house looking
after him till the trees hid him quite. Then she said "At last!"
and went in.

The prince wandered and wandered, and got nowhere. The sun sank
and sank and went out of sight, and he seemed no nearer the end
of the wood than ever. He sat down on a fallen tree, ate a bit
of bread the old woman had given him, and waited for the moon;
for, although he was not much of an astronomer, he knew the moon
would rise some time, because she had risen the night before.
Up she came, slow and slow, but of a good size, pretty nearly
round indeed; whereupon, greatly refreshed with his piece of bread,
he got up and went--he knew not whither.

After walking a considerable distance, he thought he was coming
to the outside of the forest; but when he reached what he thought
the last of it, he found himself only upon the edge of a great open
space in it, covered with grass. The moon shone very bright,
and he thought he had never seen a more lovely spot. Still it looked
dreary because of its loneliness, for he could not see the house at
the other side. He sat down, weary again, and gazed into the glade.
He had not seen so much room for several days.

All at once he spied something in the middle of the grass.
What could it be? It moved; it came nearer. Was it a human creature,
gliding across--a girl dressed in white, gleaming in the moonshine?
She came nearer and nearer. He crept behind a tree and watched,
wondering. It must be some strange being of the wood--a nymph whom
the moonlight and the warm dusky air had enticed from her tree.
But when she came close to where he stood, he no longer doubted she
was human--for he had caught sight of her sunny hair, and her clear
blue eyes, and the loveliest face and form that he had ever seen.
All at once she began singing like a nightingale, and dancing
to her own music, with her eyes ever turned towards the moon.
She passed close to where he stood, dancing on by the edge of the trees
and away in a great circle towards the other side, until he could see
but a spot of white in the yellowish green of the moonlit grass.
But when he feared it would vanish quite, the spot grew, and became
a figure once more. She approached him again, singing and dancing,
and waving her arms over her head, until she had completed the circle.
Just opposite his tree she stood, ceased her song, dropped her arms,
and broke out into a long clear laugh, musical as a brook. Then, as
if tired, she threw herself on the grass, and lay gazing at the moon.
The prince was almost afraid to breathe lest he should startle her,
and she should vanish from his sight. As to venturing near her,
that never came into his head.

She had lain for a long hour or longer, when the prince began again
to doubt concerning her. Perhaps she was but a vision of his own fancy.
Or was she a spirit of the wood, after all? If so, he too would
haunt the wood, glad to have lost kingdom and everything for the
hope of being near her. He would build him a hut in the forest,
and there he would live for the pure chance of seeing her again.
Upon nights like this at least she would come out and bask
in the moonlight, and make his soul blessed. But while he thus
dreamed she sprang to her feet, turned her face full to the moon,
and began singing as she would draw her down from the sky by the power
of her entrancing voice. She looked more beautiful than ever.
Again she began dancing to her own music, and danced away into
the distance. Once more she returned in a similar manner;
but although he was watching as eagerly as before, what with fatigue
and what with gazing, he fell fast asleep before she came near him.
When he awoke it was broad daylight, and the princess was nowhere.

He could not leave the place. What if she should come the next night!
He would gladly endure a day's hunger to see her yet again:
he would buckle his belt quite tight. He walked round the glade
to see if he could discover any prints of her feet. But the grass
was so short, and her steps had been so light, that she had not
left a single trace behind her. He walked half-way round the wood
without seeing anything to account for her presence. Then he
spied a lovely little house, with thatched roof and low eaves,
surrounded by an exquisite garden, with doves and peacocks walking
in it. Of course this must be where the gracious lady who loved
the moonlight lived. Forgetting his appearance, he walked towards
the door, determined to make inquiries, but as he passed a little
pond full of gold and silver fishes, he caught sight of himself
and turned to find the door to the kitchen. There he knocked,
and asked for a piece of bread. The good-natured cook brought him in,
and gave him an excellent breakfast, which the prince found nothing
the worse for being served in the kitchen. While he ate, he talked
with his entertainer, and learned that this was the favourite
retreat of the Princess Daylight. But he learned nothing more,
both because he was afraid of seeming inquisitive, and because the cook
did not choose to be heard talking about her mistress to a peasant
lad who had begged for his breakfast.

As he rose to take his leave, it occurred to him that he might
not be so far from the old woman's cottage as he had thought,
and he asked the cook whether she knew anything of such a place,
describing it as well as he could. She said she knew it well enough,
adding with a smile--

"It's there you're going, is it?"

"Yes, if it's not far off."

"It's not more than three miles. But mind what you are about,
you know."

"Why do you say that?"

"If you're after any mischief, she'll make you repent it."

"The best thing that could happen under the circumstances,"
remarked the prince.

"What do you mean by that?" asked the cook.

"Why, it stands to reason," answered the prince "that if you wish
to do anything wrong, the best thing for you is to be made to repent
of it."

"I see," said the cook. "Well, I think you may venture.
She's a good old soul."

"Which way does it lie from here?" asked the prince.

She gave him full instructions; and he left her with many thanks.

Being now refreshed, however, the prince did not go back to the cottage
that day: he remained in the forest, amusing himself as best he could,
but waiting anxiously for the night, in the hope that the princess
would again appear. Nor was he disappointed, for, directly the
moon rose, he spied a glimmering shape far across the glade.
As it drew nearer, he saw it was she indeed--not dressed in white
as before: in a pale blue like the sky, she looked lovelier still.
He thought it was that the blue suited her yet better than the white;
he did not know that she was really more beautiful because the
moon was nearer the full. In fact the next night was full moon,
and the princess would then be at the zenith of her loveliness.

The prince feared for some time that she was not coming near his
hiding-place that night; but the circles in her dance ever widened
as the moon rose, until at last they embraced the whole glade,
and she came still closer to the trees where he was hiding than she
had come the night before. He was entranced with her loveliness,
for it was indeed a marvellous thing. All night long he watched her,
but dared not go near her. He would have been ashamed of watching
her too, had he not become almost incapable of thinking of anything
but how beautiful she was. He watched the whole night long, and saw
that as the moon went down she retreated in smaller and smaller circles,
until at last he could see her no more.

Weary as he was, he set out for the old woman's cottage, where he
arrived just in time for her breakfast, which she shared with him.
He then went to bed, and slept for many hours. When he awoke
the sun was down, and he departed in great anxiety lest he should
lose a glimpse of the lovely vision. But, whether it was by the
machinations of the swamp-fairy, or merely that it is one thing
to go and another to return by the same road, he lost his way.
I shall not attempt to describe his misery when the moon rose,
and he saw nothing but trees, trees, trees.

She was high in the heavens before he reached the glade.
Then indeed his troubles vanished, for there was the princess
coming dancing towards him, in a dress that shone like gold,
and with shoes that glimmered through the grass like fireflies.
She was of course still more beautiful than before. Like an embodied
sunbeam she passed him, and danced away into the distance.

Before she returned in her circle, the clouds had begun to gather
about the moon. The wind rose, the trees moaned, and their lighter
branches leaned all one way before it. The prince feared that the
princess would go in, and he should see her no more that night.
But she came dancing on more jubilant than ever, her golden dress
and her sunny hair streaming out upon the blast, waving her arms
towards the moon, and in the exuberance of her delight ordering
the clouds away from off her face. The prince could hardly believe
she was not a creature of the elements, after all.

By the time she had completed another circle, the clouds had
gathered deep, and there were growlings of distant thunder.
Just as she passed the tree where he stood, a flash of lightning
blinded him for a moment, and when he saw again, to his horror,
the princess lay on the ground. He darted to her, thinking she
had been struck; but when she heard him coming, she was on her feet
in a moment.

"What do you want?" she asked.

"I beg your pardon. I thought--the lightning" said the prince,
hesitating.

"There's nothing the matter," said the princess, waving him off
rather haughtily.

The poor prince turned and walked towards the wood.

"Come back," said Daylight: "I like you. You do what you are told.
Are you good?"

"Not so good as I should like to be," said the prince.

"Then go and grow better," said the princess.

Again the disappointed prince turned and went.

"Come back," said the princess.

He obeyed, and stood before her waiting.

"Can you tell me what the sun is like?" she asked.

"No," he answered. "But where's the good of asking what you know?"

"But I don't know," she rejoined.

"Why, everybody knows."

"That's the very thing: I'm not everybody. I've never seen the sun."

"Then you can't know what it's like till you do see it."

"I think you must be a prince," said the princess.

"Do I look like one?" said the prince.

"I can't quite say that."

"Then why do you think so?"

"Because you both do what you are told and speak the truth.--
Is the sun so very bright?"

"As bright as the lightning."

"But it doesn't go out like that, does it?"

"Oh, no. It shines like the moon, rises and sets like the moon,
is much the same shape as the moon, only so bright that you can't
look at it for a moment."

"But I would look at it," said the princess.

"But you couldn't," said the prince.

"But I could," said the princess.

"Why don't you, then?"

"Because I can't."

"Why can't you?"

"Because I can't wake. And I never shall wake until----"

Here she hid her face in her hands, turned away, and walked in
the slowest, stateliest manner towards the house. The prince ventured
to follow her at a little distance, but she turned and made a repellent
gesture, which, like a true gentleman-prince, he obeyed at once.
He waited a long time, but as she did not come near him again, and as
the night had now cleared, he set off at last for the old woman's cottage.

It was long past midnight when he reached it, but, to his surprise,
the old woman was paring potatoes at the door. Fairies are fond
of doing odd things. Indeed, however they may dissemble, the night
is always their day. And so it is with all who have fairy blood
in them.

"Why, what are you doing there, this time of the night, mother?"
said the prince; for that was the kind way in which any young man
in his country would address a woman who was much older than himself.

"Getting your supper ready, my son," she answered.

"Oh, I don't want any supper," said the prince.

"Ah! you've seen Daylight," said she.

"I've seen a princess who never saw it," said the prince.

"Do you like her?" asked the fairy.

"Oh! don't I?" said the prince. "More than you would believe, mother."

"A fairy can believe anything that ever was or ever could be,"
said the old woman.

"Then are you a fairy?" asked the prince.

"Yes," said she.

"Then what do you do for things not to believe?" asked the prince.

"There's plenty of them--everything that never was nor ever could be."

"Plenty, I grant you," said the prince. "But do you believe there
could be a princess who never saw the daylight? Do you believe
that now?"

This the prince said, not that he doubted the princess,
but that he wanted the fairy to tell him more.
She was too old a fairy, however, to be caught so easily.

"Of all people, fairies must not tell secrets. Besides, she's
a princess."

"Well, I'll tell you a secret. I'm a prince."

"I know that."

"How do you know it?"

"By the curl of the third eyelash on your left eyelid."

"Which corner do you count from?"

"That's a secret."

"Another secret? Well, at least, if I am a prince, there can
be no harm in telling me about a princess."

"It's just the princes I can't tell."

"There ain't any more of them--are there?" said the prince.

"What! you don't think you're the only prince in the world,
do you?"

"Oh, dear, no! not at all. But I know there's one too many just
at present, except the princess----"

"Yes, yes, that's it," said the fairy.

"What's it?" asked the prince.

But he could get nothing more out of the fairy, and had to go
to bed unanswered, which was something of a trial.

Now wicked fairies will not be bound by the law which the good fairies
obey, and this always seems to give the bad the advantage over the good,
for they use means to gain their ends which the others will not.
But it is all of no consequence, for what they do never succeeds; nay,
in the end it brings about the very thing they are trying to prevent.
So you see that somehow, for all their cleverness, wicked fairies
are dreadfully stupid, for, although from the beginning of the world
they have really helped instead of thwarting the good fairies,
not one of them is a bit wiser for it. She will try the bad
thing just as they all did before her; and succeeds no better of course.

The prince had so far stolen a march upon the swamp-fairy that she
did not know he was in the neighbourhood until after he had seen
the princess those three times. When she knew it, she consoled
herself by thinking that the princess must be far too proud and too
modest for any young man to venture even to speak to her before he
had seen her six times at least. But there was even less danger
than the wicked fairy thought; for, however much the princess
might desire to be set free, she was dreadfully afraid of the
wrong prince. Now, however, the fairy was going to do all she could.

She so contrived it by her deceitful spells, that the next night
the prince could not by any endeavour find his way to the glade.
It would take me too long to tell her tricks. They would
be amusing to us, who know that they could not do any harm,
but they were something other than amusing to the poor prince.
He wandered about the forest till daylight, and then fell fast asleep.
The same thing occurred for seven following days, during which neither
could he find the good fairy's cottage. After the third quarter
of the moon, however, the bad fairy thought she might be at ease
about the affair for a fortnight at least, for there was no chance
of the prince wishing to kiss the princess during that period.
So the first day of the fourth quarter he did find the cottage, and the
next day he found the glade. For nearly another week he haunted it.
But the princess never came. I have little doubt she was on the
farther edge of it some part of every night, but at this period she
always wore black, and, there being little or no light, the prince
never saw her. Nor would he have known her if he had seen her.
How could he have taken the worn decrepit creature she was now,
for the glorious Princess Daylight?

At last, one night when there was no moon at all, he ventured near
the house. There he heard voices talking, although it was past midnight;
for her women were in considerable uneasiness, because the one whose
turn it was to watch her had fallen asleep, and had not seen which
way she went, and this was a night when she would probably wander
very far, describing a circle which did not touch the open glade
at all, but stretched away from the back of the house, deep into
that side of the forest--a part of which the prince knew nothing.
When he understood from what they said that she had disappeared,
and that she must have gone somewhere in the said direction,
he plunged at once into the wood to see if he could find her.
For hours he roamed with nothing to guide him but the vague notion
of a circle which on one side bordered on the house, for so much
had he picked up from the talk he had overheard.

It was getting towards the dawn, but as yet there was no streak of light
in the sky, when he came to a great birch-tree, and sat down weary
at the foot of it. While he sat--very miserable, you may be sure--
full of fear for the princess, and wondering how her attendants
could take it so quietly, he bethought himself that it would not
be a bad plan to light a fire, which, if she were anywhere near,
would attract her. This he managed with a tinder-box, which the
good fairy had given him. It was just beginning to blaze up,
when he heard a moan, which seemed to come from the other side of
the tree. He sprung to his feet, but his heart throbbed so that he
had to lean for a moment against the tree before he could move.
When he got round, there lay a human form in a little dark heap
on the earth. There was light enough from his fire to show that it
was not the princess. He lifted it in his arms, hardly heavier
than a child, and carried it to the flame. The countenance
was that of an old woman, but it had a fearfully strange look.
A black hood concealed her hair, and her eyes were closed.
He laid her down as comfortably as he could, chafed her hands,
put a little cordial from a bottle, also the gift of the fairy,
into her mouth; took off his coat and wrapped it about her,
and in short did the best he could. In a little while she opened
her eyes and looked at him--so pitifully! The tears rose and
flowed from her grey wrinkled cheeks, but she said never a word.
She closed her eyes again, but the tears kept on flowing, and her
whole appearance was so utterly pitiful that the prince was near
crying too. He begged her to tell him what was the matter,
promising to do all he could to help her; but still she did not speak.
He thought she was dying, and took her in his arms again to carry
her to the princess's house, where he thought the good-natured
cook might he able to do something for her. When he lifted her,
the tears flowed yet faster, and she gave such a sad moan that it
went to his very heart.

"Mother, mother!" he said. "Poor mother!" and kissed her on
the withered lips.

She started; and what eyes they were that opened upon him!
But he did not see them, for it was still very dark, and he had
enough to do to make his way through the trees towards the house.

Just as he approached the door, feeling more tired than he could
have imagined possible--she was such a little thin old thing--
she began to move, and became so restless that, unable to carry her
a moment longer, he thought to lay her on the grass. But she stood
upright on her feet. Her hood had dropped, and her hair fell about her.
The first gleam of the morning was caught on her face: that face
was bright as the never-aging Dawn, and her eyes were lovely as the
sky of darkest blue. The prince recoiled in overmastering wonder.
It was Daylight herself whom he had brought from the forest!
He fell at her feet, nor dared to look up until she laid her hand
upon his head. He rose then.

"You kissed me when I was an old woman: there! I kiss you when I
am a young princess," murmured Daylight.--"Is that the sun coming?"

CHAPTER XXIX

RUBY

THE children were delighted with the story, and made many amusing
remarks upon it. Mr. Raymond promised to search his brain for another,
and when he had found one to bring it to them. Diamond having
taken leave of Nanny, and promised to go and see her again soon,
went away with him.

Now Mr. Raymond had been turning over in his mind what he could do both
for Diamond and for Nanny. He had therefore made some acquaintance
with Diamond's father, and had been greatly pleased with him.
But he had come to the resolution, before he did anything so good
as he would like to do for them, to put them all to a certain test.
So as they walked away together, he began to talk with Diamond
as follows:--

"Nanny must leave the hospital soon, Diamond."

"I'm glad of that, sir."

"Why? Don't you think it's a nice place?"

"Yes, very. But it's better to be well and doing something, you know,
even if it's not quite so comfortable."

"But they can't keep Nanny so long as they would like. They can't
keep her till she's quite strong. There are always so many sick
children they want to take in and make better. And the question is,
What will she do when they send her out again?"

"That's just what I can't tell, though I've been thinking of it
over and over, sir. Her crossing was taken long ago, and I couldn't
bear to see Nanny fighting for it, especially with such a poor
fellow as has taken it. He's quite lame, sir."

"She doesn't look much like fighting, now, does she, Diamond?"

"No, sir. She looks too like an angel. Angels don't fight--
do they, sir?"

"Not to get things for themselves, at least," said Mr. Raymond.

"Besides," added Diamond, "I don't quite see that she would have
any better right to the crossing than the boy who has got it.
Nobody gave it to her; she only took it. And now he has taken it."

"If she were to sweep a crossing--soon at least--after the illness
she has had, she would be laid up again the very first wet day,"
said Mr. Raymond.

"And there's hardly any money to be got except on the wet days,"
remarked Diamond reflectively. "Is there nothing else she
could do, sir?"

"Not without being taught, I'm afraid."

"Well, couldn't somebody teach her something?"

"Couldn't you teach her, Diamond?"

"I don't know anything myself, sir. I could teach her to dress the,
baby; but nobody would give her anything for doing things like that:
they are so easy. There wouldn't be much good in teaching
her to drive a cab, for where would she get the cab to drive?
There ain't fathers and old Diamonds everywhere. At least poor
Nanny can't find any of them, I doubt."

"Perhaps if she were taught to be nice and clean, and only speak
gentle words"

"Mother could teach her that," interrupted Diamond.

"And to dress babies, and feed them, and take care of them,"
Mr. Raymond proceeded, "she might get a place as a nurse somewhere,
you know. People do give money for that."

"Then I'll ask mother," said Diamond.

"But you'll have to give her her food then; and your father,
not being strong, has enough to do already without that."

"But here's me," said Diamond: "I help him out with it. When he's tired
of driving, up I get. It don't make any difference to old Diamond.
I don't mean he likes me as well as my father--of course he can't,
you know--nobody could; but he does his duty all the same.
It's got to be done, you know, sir; and Diamond's a good horse--
isn't he, sir?"

"From your description I should say certainly; but I have not
the pleasure of his acquaintance myself."

"Don't you think he will go to heaven, sir?"

"That I don't know anything about," said Mr. Raymond. "I confess
I should be glad to think so," he added, smiling thoughtfully.

"I'm sure he'll get to the back of the north wind, anyhow,"
said Diamond to himself; but he had learned to be very careful
of saying such things aloud.

"Isn't it rather too much for him to go in the cab all day

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