At the Back of the North Wind
Category: Children
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At the back of the North Wind is a children's book by George MacDonald published in 1871. The fantasy novel focuses on Duamon as he travels with lady North Wind in the night. The stories in the book read like fairy tales, including Little Daylight, which became a popular piece on its own. MacDonald was a prominent figure in fantasy literature and a mentor to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland writer Lewis Carroll.

At the Back of the North Wind

George MacDonald

Simplified by Elizabeth Lewis

Chapter I
Diamond Makes the Acquaintance of North Wind

There was once a little boy named Diamond and he slept in a low room over a coach house. In fact, his room was just a loft where they kept hay and straw and oats for the horses. Little Diamond’s father was a coachman and he had named his boy after a favorite horse.

Diamond’s father had built him a bed in the loft with boards all around it, because there was so little room in their own end of the coach house. So when little Diamond lay there in bed, he could hear the horses under him munching away in the dark or moving sleepily in their dreams. His father put old Diamond, the horse after whom he was named, in the stall under the bed because he was quiet and did not go to sleep standing, but lay down like a reasonable creature.

Little Diamond sometimes woke in the middle of the night and felt his bed shaking in the blasts of the north wind. Then he could not help wondering if the wind should blow the house down and he should fall down into the manger, whether old Diamond might not eat him up before he knew him in his night gown. And though old Diamond was quiet all night long, yet when he woke up he got up like an earthquake. Then little Diamond knew what o’clock it was, or at least what was to be done next, which was — to go to sleep again as fast as he could!

Often there was hay at little Diamond’s feet as he lay in bed, and hay at his head, piled up in great heaps to the very roof. Sometimes there was none at all. That was when they had used it all and had not yet bought more. Soon they bought more, and then it was only through a little lane with two or three turnings in it that he could reach his bed at all.

Sometimes when his mother undressed him in her room and told him to trot away to bed by himself, he would creep into the heart of the hay first. There he would lie, thinking how cold it was outside in the wind and how warm it would be inside his bed; and how he would go to his bed when he pleased; only he wouldn’t just yet; he would get a little colder first. As he grew colder lying in the hay, his bed seemed to him to grow warmer. Then at last, he would scramble out of the hay, shoot like an arrow into his bed, cover himself up, snuggle down, and think what a happy boy he was!

He had not the least idea that the wind got in at a chink in the wall and blew about him all night. But the back of his bed was of boards only an inch thick, and on the other side of them was the north wind. Now these boards were soft and crumbly, and it happened that a soft part in them had worn away.

One night after he lay down, little Diamond found that a knot had come out of one of them and the wind was blowing in upon him. He jumped out of bed again, got a little wisp of hay, twisted it up and folded it in the middle. In this way, he made it into a cork and stuck it into the knot-hole to keep the wind out. But the wind began to blow loudly and angrily. Just as Diamond was falling asleep, out blew his hay cork and hit him on the nose!

It was just hard enough to wake him up and let him hear the wind whistling through the hole. He searched about for his hay cork, found it, and stuck it in harder. He was just dropping off to sleep once more, when pop! with an angry whistle behind it, the cork struck him again, this time on the cheek. Up he rose once more, got some more hay to make a new cork, and stuck it into the hole as hard as ever he could. But he was scarcely laid down again, before pop! it came on his forehead. So he gave it up, drew the bed-clothes over his head, and was soon fast asleep.


Next day, little Diamond forgot all about the hole. But his mother found it when she was making up his bed and pasted a piece of thick brown paper over it. So when Diamond snuggled down into his bed that night, he did not think of it at all. But before he dropped asleep, he heard a queer sound and lifted his head to listen. Was somebody talking to him? The wind was rising again and beginning to blow and whistle. Was it the wind? He moved about to find out who or what it was, and at last, happened to put his hand upon the knot-hole with the paper pasted over it. Against this he laid his ear and then he heard the voice quite distinctly.

“What do you mean, little boy, by closing up my window?”

“What window?” asked Diamond.

“You stuffed hay into it three times last night! I had to blow it out again three times!”

“You can’t mean this little hole? It isn’t a window. It is a hole in my bed.”

“I did not say a window. I said it was my window!”

“But it can’t be a window!” said Diamond. “Windows are holes to see out of.”

“Well, that is just what I made this window for.”

“But you are outside,” answered Diamond. “You can’t want a window.”

“You are quite mistaken. Windows are to see out of, you say. Well, I am in my house, and I want windows to see out of.”

“But you have made a window into my bed.”

“Well, your mother has three windows into my dancing hall, and you have three into my garret.”

“Dear me!” said Diamond. “Still you can hardly expect me to keep a window in my bed for you. Now, can you?”

“Come!” said the voice. “You just open that window!”

“Well,” said Diamond, “mother says I should be obliging. Still it is rather hard. You see, the north wind will blow right in my face if I do!”

“I am the North Wind!” said the voice.

“O-o-oh!” said Diamond. “Then will you promise not to blow in my face if I open your window?”

“I cannot promise that,” said the North Wind.

“But you will give me the tooth-ache. Mother has it already.”

“But what is to become of me without a window!” cried the voice.

“I am sure I don’t know. All I say is that it will be worse for me than for you.”

“No, it will not,” replied the voice. “You shall not be the worse for it — I promise you that. You will be much the better for it. Just believe what I say, and do as I tell you.”

“Well, I can pull the clothes over my head,” said Diamond. So he felt around with his little sharp nails, got hold of one edge of the paper and tore it off. In came a long whistling stream of cold that struck his little naked chest. He scrambled and tumbled in under the bed-clothes and covered himself up. There was no paper between him and the voice now, and he felt — not frightened exactly — but a little queer.

“What a strange person this North Wind must be,” thought Diamond, “to live in what they call ‘Out-of-Doors,’ I suppose, and make windows into people’s beds.”

Now the voice began again. He could hear it quite plainly, even with his head under the bed-clothes. It was still more gentle now, though it was six times as large and loud as before. And he thought it sounded a little like his mother’s.

“What is your name, little boy?” it asked.

“Diamond,” answered Diamond under the bed-clothes.

“What a funny name!”

“It is a very nice name,” replied the boy.

“I am not so sure of that,” said the voice.

“Well, I am!” returned Diamond. “I think it is a very pretty name.”

“Diamond is a useless thing, rather,” said the voice.

“That is not true. Diamond is very useful — and as big as two — and so quiet all night! But doesn’t he make a jolly row in the morning, getting up on his four great legs! It is like thunder!”

“You do not seem to know what a diamond is!” cried the voice.

“Oh, don’t I, just! Diamond is a great and good horse, and he sleeps right under me. He is old Diamond and I am young Diamond. Or, if you like it better, Mr. North Wind, if you are so particular, he is big Diamond and I am little Diamond. And I do not know which of us my father likes best!”

A beautiful laugh, soft and musical, sounded somewhere near him. But the boy kept his head under the clothes.

“I am not Mr. North Wind,” said the voice.

“You told me you were the North Wind,” cried Diamond.

“I did not say Mr. North Wind,” said the voice.

“Well, I do say Mr. for my mother tells me always to be polite.”

“Then let me tell you that I do not think it at all polite for you to say Mr. to me,” answered the voice.

“Isn’t it? Well, I am sorry then.”

“But you ought to know better,” said the voice. “You can’t think it is polite to lie there with your head under the bed-clothes and never look to see what kind of a person you are talking to! I want you to come out with me.”

“I want to go to sleep!” said Diamond.

“Will you take your head out of the bed-clothes?” said the voice a little angrily.

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