I have now come to the most difficult
part of my story.
Because I do
not know enough about it.
And why should I not
know as much about this part as about any other part?
For of course I could know nothing about the story
except Diamond had told it; and why should not Diamond
tell about the country at the back of the north wind,
as well as about his adventures in getting there?
Because, when he came back, he had forgotten a great
deal, and what he did remember was very hard to tell.
Things there are so different from things here!
The people there do not speak the same language for
Indeed, Diamond insisted that there
they do not speak at all.
I do not think he was
right, but it may well have appeared so to Diamond.
The fact is, we have different reports of the place
from the most trustworthy people.
are bound to believe that it appears somewhat different
to different people.
All, however, agree in a
general way about it.
I will tell you something of what
two very different people have reported, both of whom
knew more about it, I believe, than Herodotus.
One of them speaks from his own experience, for he
visited the country; the other from the testimony
of a young peasant girl who came back from it for
a month’s visit to her friends.
was a great Italian of noble family, who died more
than five hundred years ago; the latter a Scotch shepherd
who died not forty years ago.
The Italian, then, informs us that
he had to enter that country through a fire so hot
that he would have thrown himself into boiling glass
to cool himself.
This was not Diamond’s
experience, but then Durante that was the
name of the Italian, and it means Lasting, for his
books will last as long as there are enough men in
the world worthy of having them Durante
was an elderly man, and Diamond was a little boy, and
so their experience must be a little different.
The peasant girl, on the other hand, fell fast asleep
in a wood, and woke in the same country.
In describing it, Durante says that
the ground everywhere smelt sweetly, and that a gentle,
even-tempered wind, which never blew faster or slower,
breathed in his face as he went, making all the leaves
point one way, not so as to disturb the birds in the
tops of the trees, but, on the contrary, sounding
a bass to their song.
He describes also a little
river which was so full that its little waves, as it
hurried along, bent the grass, full of red and yellow
flowers, through which it flowed.
He says that
the purest stream in the world beside this one would
look as if it were mixed with something that did not
belong to it, even although it was flowing ever in
the brown shadow of the trees, and neither sun nor
moon could shine upon it.
He seems to imply that
it is always the month of May in that country.
It would be out of place to describe here the wonderful
sights he saw, for the music of them is in another
key from that of this story, and I shall therefore
only add from the account of this traveller, that
the people there are so free and so just and so healthy,
that every one of them has a crown like a king and
a mitre like a priest.
The peasant girl Kilmeny
was her name could not report such grand
things as Durante, for, as the shepherd says, telling
her story as I tell Diamond’s
“Kilmeny had been she knew
And Kilmeny had seen what she could not
Kilmeny had been where the cock never crew,
Where the rain never fell, and the wind
But it seemed as the harp of the sky had
And the airs of heaven played round her
When she spoke of the lovely forms she
And a land where sin had never been;
A land of love and a land of light,
Withouten sun, or moon, or night;
Where the river swayed a living stream,
And the light a pure and cloudless beam:
The land of vision it would seem,
And still an everlasting dream.”
The last two lines are the shepherd’s
own remark, and a matter of opinion.
But it is
clear, I think, that Kilmeny must have described the
same country as Durante saw, though, not having his
experience, she could neither understand nor describe
it so well.
Now I must give you such fragments
of recollection as Diamond was able to bring back
When he came to himself after he fell,
he found himself at the back of the north wind.
North Wind herself was nowhere to be seen.
was there a vestige of snow or of ice within sight.
The sun too had vanished; but that was no matter,
for there was plenty of a certain still rayless light.
Where it came from he never found out; but he thought
it belonged to the country itself.
thought it came out of the flowers, which were very
bright, but had no strong colour.
He said the
river for all agree that there is a river
there flowed not only through, but over
its channel, instead of being rock, stones,
pebbles, sand, or anything else, was of pure meadow
grass, not over long.
He insisted that if it
did not sing tunes in people’s ears, it sung
tunes in their heads, in proof of which I may mention
that, in the troubles which followed, Diamond was
often heard singing; and when asked what he was singing,
would answer, “One of the tunes the river at
the back of the north wind sung.”
may as well say at once that Diamond never told these
things to any one but no, I had better not
say who it was; but whoever it was told me, and I
thought it would be well to write them for my child-readers.
He could not say he was very happy
there, for he had neither his father nor mother with
him, but he felt so still and quiet and patient and
contented, that, as far as the mere feeling went, it
was something better than mere happiness.
went wrong at the back of the north wind.
was anything quite right, he thought.
was going to be right some day.
His account disagreed
with that of Durante, and agreed with that of Kilmeny,
in this, that he protested there was no wind there
I fancy he missed it.
At all events
we could not do without wind.
It all depends
on how big our lungs are whether the wind is too strong
for us or not.
When the person he told about it asked
him whether he saw anybody he knew there, he answered,
“Only a little girl belonging to the gardener,
who thought he had lost her, but was quite mistaken,
for there she was safe enough, and was to come back
some day, as I came back, if they would only wait.”
“Did you talk to her, Diamond?”
Nobody talks there.
They only look at each other, and understand everything.”
“Is it cold there?”
“Is it hot?”
“What is it then?”
“You never think about such things there.”
“What a queer place it must be!”
“It’s a very good place.”
“Do you want to go back again?”
“No; I don’t think I have left it; I feel
it here, somewhere.”
“Did the people there look pleased?”
“Yes quite pleased, only a little
“Then they didn’t look glad?”
“They looked as if they were waiting to be gladder
This was how Diamond used to answer
questions about that country.
And now I will
take up the story again, and tell you how he got back
to this country.