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At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald

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Some of the glory seemed to have clung to it, and remained shining.

"You're not frightened--are you, Diamond?" I said.

"No. Why should I be?" he answered with his usual question,
looking up in my face with calm shining eyes.

"He ain't got sense to be frightened," said Nanny, going up to him
and giving him a pitying hug.

"Perhaps there's more sense in not being frightened, Nanny," I returned.
"Do you think the lightning can do as it likes?"

"It might kill you," said Jim.

"Oh, no, it mightn't!" said Diamond.

As he spoke there came another great flash, and a tearing crack.

"There's a tree struck!" I said; and when we looked round,
after the blinding of the flash had left our eyes, we saw a huge
bough of the beech-tree in which was Diamond's nest hanging
to the ground like the broken wing of a bird.

"There!" cried Nanny; "I told you so. If you had been up there
you see what would have happened, you little silly!"

"No, I don't," said Diamond, and began to sing to Dulcimer.
All I could hear of the song, for the other children were going on
with their chatter, was--

The clock struck one,
And the mouse came down.
Dickery, dickery, dock!

Then there came a blast of wind, and the rain followed in
straight-pouring lines, as if out of a watering-pot. Diamond
jumped up with his little Dulcimer in his arms, and Nanny
caught up the little boy, and they ran for the cottage.
Jim vanished with a double shuffle, and I went into the house.

When I came out again to return home, the clouds were gone,
and the evening sky glimmered through the trees, blue, and pale-green
towards the west, I turned my steps a little aside to look at the
stricken beech. I saw the bough torn from the stem, and that was
all the twilight would allow me to see. While I stood gazing,
down from the sky came a sound of singing, but the voice was
neither of lark nor of nightingale: it was sweeter than either:
it was the voice of Diamond, up in his airy nest:--

The lightning and thunder,
They go and they come;
But the stars and the stillness
Are always at home.

And then the voice ceased.

"Good-night, Diamond," I said.

"Good-night, sir," answered Diamond.

As I walked away pondering, I saw the great black top of the beech
swaying about against the sky in an upper wind, and heard the murmur
as of many dim half-articulate voices filling the solitude around
Diamond's nest.

CHAPTER XXXVI

DIAMOND QUESTIONS NORTH WIND

MY READERS will not wonder that, after this, I did my very best
to gain the friendship of Diamond. Nor did I find this at
all difficult, the child was so ready to trust. Upon one subject
alone was he reticent--the story of his relations with North Wind.
I fancy he could not quite make up his mind what to think of them.
At all events it was some little time before he trusted me with this,
only then he told me everything. If I could not regard it
all in exactly the same light as he did, I was, while guiltless
of the least pretence, fully sympathetic, and he was satisfied
without demanding of me any theory of difficult points involved.
I let him see plainly enough, that whatever might be the explanation
of the marvellous experience, I would have given much for a similar
one myself.

On an evening soon after the thunderstorm, in a late twilight,
with a half-moon high in the heavens, I came upon Diamond in the act
of climbing by his little ladder into the beech-tree.

"What are you always going up there for, Diamond?" I heard Nanny ask,
rather rudely, I thought.

"Sometimes for one thing, sometimes for another, Nanny,"
answered Diamond, looking skywards as he climbed.

"You'll break your neck some day," she said.

"I'm going up to look at the moon to-night," he added, without heeding
her remark.

"You'll see the moon just as well down here," she returned.

"I don't think so."

"You'll be no nearer to her up there."

"Oh, yes! I shall. I must be nearer her, you know. I wish I
could dream as pretty dreams about her as you can, Nanny."

"You silly! you never have done about that dream. I never dreamed
but that one, and it was nonsense enough, I'm sure."

"It wasn't nonsense. It was a beautiful dream--and a funny one too,
both in one."

"But what's the good of talking about it that way, when you know
it was only a dream? Dreams ain't true."

"That one was true, Nanny. You know it was. Didn't you come to
grief for doing what you were told not to do? And isn't that true?"

"I can't get any sense into him," exclaimed Nanny, with an expression
of mild despair. "Do you really believe, Diamond, that there's
a house in the moon, with a beautiful lady and a crooked old man
and dusters in it?"

"If there isn't, there's something better," he answered, and vanished
in the leaves over our heads.

I went into the house, where I visited often in the evenings.
When I came out, there was a little wind blowing, very pleasant
after the heat of the day, for although it was late summer now,
it was still hot. The tree-tops were swinging about in it.
I took my way past the beech, and called up to see if Diamond were
still in his nest in its rocking head.

"Are you there, Diamond?" I said.

"Yes, sir," came his clear voice in reply.

"Isn't it growing too dark for you to get down safely?"

"Oh, no, sir--if I take time to it. I know my way so well,
and never let go with one hand till I've a good hold with the other."

"Do be careful," I insisted--foolishly, seeing the boy was as careful
as he could be already.

"I'm coming," he returned. "I've got all the moon I want to-night."

I heard a rustling and a rustling drawing nearer and nearer.
Three or four minutes elapsed, and he appeared at length creeping
down his little ladder. I took him in my arms, and set him on
the ground.

"Thank you, sir," he said. "That's the north wind blowing,
isn't it, sir?"

"I can't tell," I answered. "It feels cool and kind, and I think
it may be. But I couldn't be sure except it were stronger, for a
gentle wind might turn any way amongst the trunks of the trees."

"I shall know when I get up to my own room," said Diamond.
"I think I hear my mistress's bell. Good-night, sir."

He ran to the house, and I went home.

His mistress had rung for him only to send him to bed, for she was
very careful over him and I daresay thought he was not looking well.
When he reached his own room, he opened both his windows,
one of which looked to the north and the other to the east, to find
how the wind blew. It blew right in at the northern window.
Diamond was very glad, for he thought perhaps North Wind herself
would come now: a real north wind had never blown all the time
since he left London. But, as she always came of herself,
and never when he was looking for her, and indeed almost never when
he was thinking of her, he shut the east window, and went to bed.
Perhaps some of my readers may wonder that he could go to sleep with
such an expectation; and, indeed, if I had not known him, I should
have wondered at it myself; but it was one of his peculiarities,
and seemed nothing strange in him. He was so full of quietness that
he could go to sleep almost any time, if he only composed himself
and let the sleep come. This time he went fast asleep as usual.

But he woke in the dim blue night. The moon had vanished.
He thought he heard a knocking at his door. "Somebody wants me,"
he said to himself, and jumping out of bed, ran to open it.

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

The door now opened quite easily, but to his surprise, instead of
a closet he found a long narrow room. The moon, which was sinking
in the west, shone in at an open window at the further end.
The room was low with a coved ceiling, and occupied the whole top
of the house, immediately under the roof. It was quite empty.
The yellow light of the half-moon streamed over the dark floor.
He was so delighted at the discovery of the strange, desolate,
moonlit place close to his own snug little room, that he began
to dance and skip about the floor. The wind came in through
the door he had left open, and blew about him as he danced,
and he kept turning towards it that it might blow in his face.
He kept picturing to himself the many places, lovely and desolate,
the hill-sides and farm-yards and tree-tops and meadows,
over which it had blown on its way to The Mound. And as he danced,
he grew more and more delighted with the motion and the wind;
his feet grew stronger, and his body lighter, until at length it
seemed as if he were borne up on the air, and could almost fly.
So strong did his feeling become, that at last he began to doubt
whether he was not in one of those precious dreams he had
so often had, in which he floated about on the air at will.
But something made him look up, and to his unspeakable delight,
he found his uplifted hands lying in those of North Wind,
who was dancing with him, round and round the long bare room,
her hair now falling to the floor, now filling the arched ceiling,
her eyes shining on him like thinking stars, and the sweetest of
grand smiles playing breezily about her beautiful mouth. She was,
as so often before, of the height of a rather tall lady. She did not
stoop in order to dance with him, but held his hands high in hers.
When he saw her, he gave one spring, and his arms were about her neck,
and her arms holding him to her bosom. The same moment she swept
with him through the open window in at which the moon was shining,
made a circuit like a bird about to alight, and settled with him
in his nest on the top of the great beech-tree. There she placed
him on her lap and began to hush him as if he were her own baby,
and Diamond was so entirely happy that he did not care to speak
a word. At length, however, he found that he was going to sleep,
and that would be to lose so much, that, pleasant as it was, he could
not consent.

"Please, dear North Wind," he said, "I am so happy that I'm afraid
it's a dream. How am I to know that it's not a dream?"

"What does it matter?" returned North Wind.

"I should, cry" said Diamond.

"But why should you cry? The dream, if it is a dream, is a pleasant one--
is it not?"

"That's just why I want it to be true."

"Have you forgotten what you said to Nanny about her dream?"

"It's not for the dream itself--I mean, it's not for the pleasure
of it," answered Diamond, "for I have that, whether it be a dream
or not; it's for you, North Wind; I can't bear to find it a dream,
because then I should lose you. You would be nobody then, and I
could not bear that. You ain't a dream, are you, dear North Wind?
Do say No, else I shall cry, and come awake, and you'll be gone for ever.
I daren't dream about you once again if you ain't anybody."

"I'm either not a dream, or there's something better that's not
a dream, Diamond," said North Wind, in a rather sorrowful tone,
he thought.

"But it's not something better--it's you I want, North Wind,"
he persisted, already beginning to cry a little.

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

"Do you remember what the song you were singing a week ago says
about Bo-Peep--how she lost her sheep, but got twice as many lambs?"
asked North Wind, sitting down on the grass, and placing him in her
lap as before.

"Oh yes, I do, well enough," answered Diamond; "but I never just
quite liked that rhyme."

"Why not, child?"

"Because it seems to say one's as good as another, or two new ones
are better than one that's lost. I've been thinking about it
a great deal, and it seems to me that although any one sixpence
is as good as any other sixpence, not twenty lambs would do instead
of one sheep whose face you knew. Somehow, when once you've
looked into anybody's eyes, right deep down into them, I mean,
nobody will do for that one any more. Nobody, ever so beautiful
or so good, will make up for that one going out of sight.
So you see, North Wind, I can't help being frightened to think
that perhaps I am only dreaming, and you are nowhere at all.
Do tell me that you are my own, real, beautiful North Wind."

Again she rose, and shot herself into the air, as if uneasy
because she could not answer him; and Diamond lay quiet in her arms,
waiting for what she would say. He tried to see up into her face,
for he was dreadfully afraid she was not answering him because she
could not say that she was not a dream; but she had let her hair
fall all over her face so that he could not see it. This frightened
him still more.

"Do speak, North Wind," he said at last.

"I never speak when I have nothing to say," she replied.

"Then I do think you must be a real North Wind, and no dream,"
said Diamond.

"But I'm looking for something to say all the time."

"But I don't want you to say what's hard to find. If you were
to say one word to comfort me that wasn't true, then I should know
you must be a dream, for a great beautiful lady like you could
never tell a lie."

"But she mightn't know how to say what she had to say, so that
a little boy like you would understand it," said North Wind.
"Here, let us get down again, and I will try to tell you what I think.
You musn't suppose I am able to answer all your questions, though.
There are a great many things I don't understand more than you do."

She descended on a grassy hillock, in the midst of a wild furzy common.
There was a rabbit-warren underneath, and some of the rabbits came
out of their holes, in the moonlight, looking very sober and wise,
just like patriarchs standing in their tent-doors, and looking
about them before going to bed. When they saw North Wind,
instead of turning round and vanishing again with a thump of
their heels, they cantered slowly up to her and snuffled all about
her with their long upper lips, which moved every way at once.
That was their way of kissing her; and, as she talked to Diamond,
she would every now and then stroke down their furry backs,
or lift and play with their long ears. They would, Diamond thought,
have leaped upon her lap, but that he was there already.

"I think," said she, after they had been sitting silent for a while,
"that if I were only a dream, you would not have been able to love
me so. You love me when you are not with me, don't you?"

"Indeed I do," answered Diamond, stroking her hand. "I see! I see!
How could I be able to love you as I do if you weren't there at all,
you know? Besides, I couldn't be able to dream anything half
so beautiful all out of my own head; or if I did, I couldn't love
a fancy of my own like that, could I?"

"I think not. You might have loved me in a dream, dreamily, and forgotten
me when you woke, I daresay, but not loved me like a real being
as you love me. Even then, I don't think you could dream anything
that hadn't something real like it somewhere. But you've seen
me in many shapes, Diamond: you remember I was a wolf once--don't you?"

"Oh yes--a good wolf that frightened a naughty drunken nurse."

"Well, suppose I were to turn ugly, would you rather I weren't
a dream then?"

"Yes; for I should know that you were beautiful inside all the same.
You would love me, and I should love you all the same. I shouldn't
like you to look ugly, you know. But I shouldn't believe it a bit."

"Not if you saw it?"

"No, not if I saw it ever so plain."

"There's my Diamond! I will tell you all I know about it then.
I don't think I am just what you fancy me to be. I have to shape
myself various ways to various people. But the heart of me is true.
People call me by dreadful names, and think they know all about me.
But they don't. Sometimes they call me Bad Fortune, sometimes Evil Chance,
sometimes Ruin; and they have another name for me which they think
the most dreadful of all."

"What is that?" asked Diamond, smiling up in her face.

"I won't tell you that name. Do you remember having to go through
me to get into the country at my back?"

"Oh yes, I do. How cold you were, North Wind! and so white,
all but your lovely eyes! My heart grew like a lump of ice,
and then I forgot for a while."

"You were very near knowing what they call me then. Would you
be afraid of me if you had to go through me again?"

"No. Why should I? Indeed I should be glad enough, if it was only
to get another peep of the country at your back."

"You've never seen it yet."

"Haven't I, North Wind? Oh! I'm so sorry! I thought I had.
What did I see then?"

"Only a picture of it. The real country at my real back is ever
so much more beautiful than that. You shall see it one day--
perhaps before very long."

"Do they sing songs there?"

"Don't you remember the dream you had about the little boys that dug
for the stars?"

"Yes, that I do. I thought you must have had something to do
with that dream, it was so beautiful."

"Yes; I gave you that dream."

"Oh! thank you. Did you give Nanny her dream too--about the moon
and the bees?"

"Yes. I was the lady that sat at the window of the moon."

"Oh, thank you. I was almost sure you had something to do with that too.
And did you tell Mr. Raymond the story about the Princess Daylight?"

"I believe I had something to do with it. At all events he thought
about it one night when he couldn't sleep. But I want to ask you
whether you remember the song the boy-angels sang in that dream
of yours."

"No. I couldn't keep it, do what I would, and I did try."

"That was my fault."

"How could that be, North Wind?"

"Because I didn't know it properly myself, and so I couldn't teach it
to you. I could only make a rough guess at something like what it
would be, and so I wasn't able to make you dream it hard enough
to remember it. Nor would I have done so if I could, for it was
not correct. I made you dream pictures of it, though. But you
will hear the very song itself when you do get to the back of----"

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

"And now we've settled all this--for the time, at least,"
said North Wind.

"But I can't feel quite sure yet," said Diamond.

"You must wait a while for that. Meantime you may be hopeful,
and content not to be quite sure. Come now, I will take you home again,
for it won't do to tire you too much."

"Oh, no, no. I'm not the least tired," pleaded Diamond.

"It is better, though."

"Very well; if you wish it," yielded Diamond with a sigh.

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

She rose, and swept over the meadow and the trees. In a few moments
the Mound appeared below them. She sank a little, and floated
in at the window of Diamond's room. There she laid him on his bed,
covered him over, and in a moment he was lapt in a dreamless sleep.

CHAPTER XXXVII

ONCE MORE

THE next night Diamond was seated by his open window, with his head
on his hand, rather tired, but so eagerly waiting for the promised
visit that he was afraid he could not sleep. But he started suddenly,
and found that he had been already asleep. He rose, and looking
out of the window saw something white against his beech-tree. It
was North Wind. She was holding by one hand to a top branch.
Her hair and her garments went floating away behind her over the tree,
whose top was swaying about while the others were still.

"Are you ready, Diamond?" she asked.

"Yes," answered Diamond, "quite ready."

In a moment she was at the window, and her arms came in and took him.
She sailed away so swiftly that he could at first mark nothing but
the speed with which the clouds above and the dim earth below went
rushing past. But soon he began to see that the sky was very lovely,
with mottled clouds all about the moon, on which she threw faint
colours like those of mother-of-pearl, or an opal. The night was warm,
and in the lady's arms he did not feel the wind which down below was
making waves in the ripe corn, and ripples on the rivers and lakes.
At length they descended on the side of an open earthy hill,
just where, from beneath a stone, a spring came bubbling out.

"I am going to take you along this little brook," said North Wind.
"I am not wanted for anything else to-night, so I can give you
a treat."

She stooped over the stream and holding Diamond down close to the
surface of it, glided along level with its flow as it ran down
the hill. And the song of the brook came up into Diamond's ears,
and grew and grew and changed with every turn. It seemed to Diamond
to be singing the story of its life to him. And so it was.
It began with a musical tinkle which changed to a babble and then
to a gentle rushing. Sometimes its song would almost cease, and then
break out again, tinkle, babble, and rush, all at once. At the bottom
of the hill they came to a small river, into which the brook flowed
with a muffled but merry sound. Along the surface of the river,
darkly clear below them in the moonlight, they floated; now, where it
widened out into a little lake, they would hover for a moment over
a bed of water-lilies, and watch them swing about, folded in sleep,
as the water on which they leaned swayed in the presence of North Wind;
and now they would watch the fishes asleep among their roots below.
Sometimes she would hold Diamond over a deep hollow curving
into the bank, that he might look far into the cool stillness.
Sometimes she would leave the river and sweep across a clover-field.
The bees were all at home, and the clover was asleep. Then she would
return and follow the river. It grew wider and wider as it went.
Now the armies of wheat and of oats would hang over its rush
from the opposite banks; now the willows would dip low branches
in its still waters; and now it would lead them through stately
trees and grassy banks into a lovely garden, where the roses
and lilies were asleep, the tender flowers quite folded up,
and only a few wide-awake and sending out their life in sweet,
strong odours. Wider and wider grew the stream, until they came
upon boats lying along its banks, which rocked a little in the
flutter of North Wind's garments. Then came houses on the banks,
each standing in a lovely lawn, with grand trees; and in parts
the river was so high that some of the grass and the roots of some
of the trees were under water, and Diamond, as they glided through
between the stems, could see the grass at the bottom of the water.
Then they would leave the river and float about and over the houses,
one after another--beautiful rich houses, which, like fine trees,
had taken centuries to grow. There was scarcely a light to be seen,
and not a movement to be heard: all the people in them lay
fast asleep.

"What a lot of dreams they must be dreaming!" said Diamond.

"Yes," returned North Wind. "They can't surely be all lies--
can they?"

"I should think it depends a little on who dreams them,"
suggested Diamond.

"Yes," said North Wind. "The people who think lies, and do lies,
are very likely to dream lies. But the people who love what is true
will surely now and then dream true things. But then something
depends on whether the dreams are home-grown, or whether the seed
of them is blown over somebody else's garden-wall. Ah! there's
some one awake in this house!"

They were floating past a window in which a light was burning.
Diamond heard a moan, and looked up anxiously in North Wind's face.

"It's a lady," said North Wind. "She can't sleep for pain."

"Couldn't you do something for her?" said Diamond.

"No, I can't. But you could."

"What could I do?"

"Sing a little song to her."

"She wouldn't hear me."

"I will take you in, and then she will hear you."

"But that would be rude, wouldn't it? You can go where you please,
of course, but I should have no business in her room."

"You may trust me, Diamond. I shall take as good care of the lady
as of you. The window is open. Come."

By a shaded lamp, a lady was seated in a white wrapper,
trying to read, but moaning every minute. North Wind floated behind
her chair, set Diamond down, and told him to sing something.
He was a little frightened, but he thought a while, and then sang:--

The sun is gone down,
And the moon's in the sky;
But the sun will come up,
And the moon be laid by.

The flower is asleep
But it is not dead;
When the morning shines,
It will lift its head.

When winter comes,
It will die -- no, no;
It will only hide
From the frost and the snow.

Sure is the summer,
Sure is the sun;
The night and the winter
Are shadows that run.

The lady never lifted her eyes from her book, or her head from
her hand.

As soon as Diamond had finished, North Wind lifted him and carried
him away.

"Didn't the lady hear me?" asked Diamond when they were once more
floating down the river.

"Oh, yes, she heard you," answered North Wind.

"Was she frightened then?"

"Oh, no."

"Why didn't she look to see who it was?"

"She didn't know you were there."

"How could she hear me then?"

"She didn't hear you with her ears."

"What did she hear me with?"

"With her heart."

"Where did she think the words came from?"

"She thought they came out of the book she was reading. She will
search all through it to-morrow to find them, and won't be able
to understand it at all."

"Oh, what fun!" said Diamond. "What will she do?"

"I can tell you what she won't do: she'll never forget the meaning
of them; and she'll never be able to remember the words of them."

"If she sees them in Mr. Raymond's book, it will puzzle her,
won't it?"

"Yes, that it will. She will never be able to understand it."

"Until she gets to the back of the north wind," suggested Diamond.

"Until she gets to the back of the north wind," assented the lady.

"Oh!" cried Diamond, "I know now where we are. Oh! do let me go
into the old garden, and into mother's room, and Diamond's stall.
I wonder if the hole is at the back of my bed still. I should like
to stay there all the rest of the night. It won't take you long
to get home from here, will it, North Wind?"

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

"Oh, how jolly," cried Diamond, as North Wind sailed over the house
with him, and set him down on the lawn at the back.

Diamond ran about the lawn for a little while in the moonlight.
He found part of it cut up into flower-beds, and the little
summer-house with the coloured glass and the great elm-tree gone.
He did not like this, and ran into the stable. There were no
horses there at all. He ran upstairs. The rooms were empty.
The only thing left that he cared about was the hole in the wall
where his little bed had stood; and that was not enough to make him
wish to stop. He ran down the stair again, and out upon the lawn.
There he threw himself down and began to cry. It was all so dreary
and lost!

"I thought I liked the place so much," said Diamond to himself,
"but I find I don't care about it. I suppose it's only the people
in it that make you like a place, and when they're gone, it's dead,
and you don't care a bit about it. North Wind told me I might stop
as long as I liked, and I've stopped longer already. North Wind!"
he cried aloud, turning his face towards the sky.

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

"Oh!" cried Diamond, joyfully, "were you the shooting star?"

"Yes, my child."

"Did you hear me call you then?"

"Yes."

"So high up as that?"

"Yes; I heard you quite well."

"Do take me home."

"Have you had enough of your old home already?"

"Yes, more than enough. It isn't a home at all now."

"I thought that would be it," said North Wind. "Everything, dreaming
and all, has got a soul in it, or else it's worth nothing, and we
don't care a bit about it. Some of our thoughts are worth nothing,
because they've got no soul in them. The brain puts them into
the mind, not the mind into the brain."

"But how can you know about that, North Wind? You haven't got
a body."

"If I hadn't you wouldn't know anything about me. No creature can
know another without the help of a body. But I don't care to talk
about that. It is time for you to go home."

So saying, North Wind lifted Diamond and bore him away.

CHAPTER XXXVIII

AT THE BACK OF THE NORTH WIND

I DID not see Diamond for a week or so after this, and then he told me
what I have now told you. I should have been astonished at his being able
even to report such conversations as he said he had had with North Wind,
had I not known already that some children are profound in metaphysics.
But a fear crosses me, lest, by telling so much about my friend,
I should lead people to mistake him for one of those consequential,
priggish little monsters, who are always trying to say clever things,
and looking to see whether people appreciate them. When a child
like that dies, instead of having a silly book written about him,
he should be stuffed like one of those awful big-headed fishes you see
in museums. But Diamond never troubled his head about what people
thought of him. He never set up for knowing better than others.
The wisest things he said came out when he wanted one to help
him with some difficulty he was in. He was not even offended
with Nanny and Jim for calling him a silly. He supposed there
was something in it, though he could not quite understand what.
I suspect however that the other name they gave him, God's Baby,
had some share in reconciling him to it.

Happily for me, I was as much interested in metaphysics as
Diamond himself, and therefore, while he recounted his conversations
with North Wind, I did not find myself at all in a strange sea,
although certainly I could not always feel the bottom, being indeed
convinced that the bottom was miles away.

"Could it be all dreaming, do you think, sir?" he asked anxiously.

"I daren't say, Diamond," I answered. "But at least there is one
thing you may be sure of, that there is a still better love than that
of the wonderful being you call North Wind. Even if she be a dream,
the dream of such a beautiful creature could not come to you by chance."

"Yes, I know," returned Diamond; "I know."

Then he was silent, but, I confess, appeared more thoughtful
than satisfied.

The next time I saw him, he looked paler than usual.

"Have you seen your friend again?" I asked him.

"Yes," he answered, solemnly.

"Did she take you out with her?"

"No. She did not speak to me. I woke all at once, as I generally
do when I am going to see her, and there she was against the door
into the big room, sitting just as I saw her sit on her own doorstep,
as white as snow, and her eyes as blue as the heart of an iceberg.
She looked at me, but never moved or spoke."

"Weren't you afraid?" I asked.

"No. Why should I have been?" he answered. "I only felt a little cold."

"Did she stay long?"

"I don't know. I fell asleep again. I think I have been rather
cold ever since though," he added with a smile.

I did not quite like this, but I said nothing.

Four days after, I called again at the Mound. The maid who opened
the door looked grave, but I suspected nothing. When I reached
the drawing-room, I saw Mrs. Raymond had been crying.

"Haven't you heard?" she said, seeing my questioning looks.

"I've heard nothing," I answered.

"This morning we found our dear little Diamond lying on the floor
of the big attic-room, just outside his own door--fast asleep,
as we thought. But when we took him up, we did not think he was asleep.
We saw that----"

Here the kind-hearted lady broke out crying afresh.

"May I go and see him?" I asked.

"Yes," she sobbed. "You know your way to the top of the tower."

I walked up the winding stair, and entered his room. A lovely figure,
as white and almost as clear as alabaster, was lying on the bed.
I saw at once how it was. They thought he was dead. I knew that he
had gone to the back of the north wind.

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