At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald
Part 3 out of 6
for he ain't so young as he once was. But for a four-wheeler
as takes families and their luggages, he's the very horse.
He'd carry a small house any day. I bought him cheap, and I'll sell
"Oh, I don't want him," said Diamond's father. "A body must have
time to think over an affair of so much importance. And there's
the cab too. That would come to a deal of money."
"I could fit you there, I daresay," said his friend. "But come
and look at the animal, anyhow."
"Since I lost my own old pair, as was Mr. Coleman's,"
said Diamond's father, turning to accompany the cab-master,
"I ain't almost got the heart to look a horse in the face.
It's a thousand pities to part man and horse."
"So it is," returned his friend sympathetically.
But what was the ex-coachman's delight, when, on going into the
stable where his friend led him, he found the horse he wanted him
to buy was no other than his own old Diamond, grown very thin
and bony and long-legged, as if they, had been doing what they
could to fit him for Hansom work!
"He ain't a Hansom horse," said Diamond's father indignantly.
"Well, you're right. He ain't handsome, but he's a good un"
said his owner.
"Who says he ain't handsome? He's one of the handsomest horses
a gentleman's coachman ever druv," said Diamond's father;
remarking to himself under his breath--"though I says it as shouldn't"--
for he did not feel inclined all at once to confess that his own
old horse could have sunk so low.
"Well," said his friend, "all I say is--There's a animal for you,
as strong as a church; an'll go like a train, leastways a parly,"
he added, correcting himself.
But the coachman had a lump in his throat and tears in his eyes.
For the old horse, hearing his voice, had turned his long neck,
and when his old friend went up to him and laid his hand on his side,
he whinnied for joy, and laid his big head on his master's breast.
This settled the matter. The coachman's arms were round the
horse's neck in a moment, and he fairly broke down and cried.
The cab-master had never been so fond of a horse himself as to hug
him like that, but he saw in a moment how it was. And he must
have been a good-hearted fellow, for I never heard of such an idea
coming into the head of any other man with a horse to sell:
instead of putting something on to the price because he was now
pretty sure of selling him, he actually took a pound off what he
had meant to ask for him, saying to himself it was a shame to part
Diamond's father, as soon as he came to himself, turned and asked
how much he wanted for the horse.
"I see you're old friends," said the owner.
"It's my own old Diamond. I liked him far the best of the pair,
though the other was good. You ain't got him too, have you?"
"No; nothing in the stable to match him there."
"I believe you," said the coachman. "But you'll be wanting a long
price for him, I know."
"No, not so much. I bought him cheap, and as I say, he ain't
for my work."
The end of it was that Diamond's father bought old Diamond again,
along with a four-wheeled cab. And as there were some rooms to be
had over the stable, he took them, wrote to his wife to come home,
and set up as a cabman.
IT WAS late in the afternoon when Diamond and his mother and the baby
reached London. I was so full of Diamond that I forgot to tell you
a baby had arrived in the meantime. His father was waiting for them
with his own cab, but they had not told Diamond who the horse was;
for his father wanted to enjoy the pleasure of his surprise when he
found it out. He got in with his mother without looking at the horse,
and his father having put up Diamond's carpet-bag and his mother's
little trunk, got upon the box himself and drove off; and Diamond
was quite proud of riding home in his father's own carriage.
But when he got to the mews, he could not help being a little dismayed
at first; and if he had never been to the back of the north wind,
I am afraid he would have cried a little. But instead of that,
he said to himself it was a fine thing all the old furniture was there.
And instead of helping his mother to be miserable at the change,
he began to find out all the advantages of the place; for every
place has some advantages, and they are always better worth knowing
than the disadvantages. Certainly the weather was depressing,
for a thick, dull, persistent rain was falling by the time they
reached home. But happily the weather is very changeable;
and besides, there was a good fire burning in the room, which their
neighbour with the drunken husband had attended to for them; and the
tea-things were put out, and the kettle was boiling on the fire.
And with a good fire, and tea and bread and butter, things cannot
be said to be miserable.
Diamond's father and mother were, notwithstanding, rather miserable,
and Diamond began to feel a kind of darkness beginning to spread
over his own mind. But the same moment he said to himself,
"This will never do. I can't give in to this. I've been to the back
of the north wind. Things go right there, and so I must try to get
things to go right here. I've got to fight the miserable things.
They shan't make me miserable if I can help it." I do not mean
that he thought these very words. They are perhaps too grown-up
for him to have thought, but they represent the kind of thing that
was in his heart and his head. And when heart and head go together,
nothing can stand before them.
"What nice bread and butter this is!" said Diamond.
"I'm glad you like it, my dear" said his father. "I bought
the butter myself at the little shop round the corner."
"It's very nice, thank you, father. Oh, there's baby waking!
I'll take him."
"Sit still, Diamond," said his mother. "Go on with your bread
and butter. You're not strong enough to lift him yet."
So she took the baby herself, and set him on her knee. Then Diamond
began to amuse him, and went on till the little fellow was shrieking
with laughter. For the baby's world was his mother's arms;
and the drizzling rain, and the dreary mews, and even his father's
troubled face could not touch him. What cared baby for the loss
of a hundred situations? Yet neither father nor mother thought
him hard-hearted because he crowed and laughed in the middle
of their troubles. On the contrary, his crowing and laughing
were infectious. His little heart was so full of merriment that it
could not hold it all, and it ran over into theirs. Father and
mother began to laugh too, and Diamond laughed till he had a fit
of coughing which frightened his mother, and made them all stop.
His father took the baby, and his mother put him to bed.
But it was indeed a change to them all, not only from Sandwich,
but from their old place, instead of the great river where the huge
barges with their mighty brown and yellow sails went tacking
from side to side like little pleasure-skiffs, and where the long
thin boats shot past with eight and sometimes twelve rowers,
their windows now looked out upon a dirty paved yard. And there
was no garden more for Diamond to run into when he pleased, with gay
flowers about his feet, and solemn sun-filled trees over his head.
Neither was there a wooden wall at the back of his bed with a hole
in it for North Wind to come in at when she liked. Indeed, there was
such a high wall, and there were so many houses about the mews,
that North Wind seldom got into the place at all, except when something
must be done, and she had a grand cleaning out like other housewives;
while the partition at the head of Diamond's new bed only divided
it from the room occupied by a cabman who drank too much beer,
and came home chiefly to quarrel with his wife and pinch his children.
It was dreadful to Diamond to hear the scolding and the crying.
But it could not make him miserable, because he had been at the back of
the north wind.
If my reader find it hard to believe that Diamond should be so good,
he must remember that he had been to the back of the north wind.
If he never knew a boy so good, did he ever know a boy that had been
to the back of the north wind? It was not in the least strange
of Diamond to behave as he did; on the contrary, it was thoroughly
sensible of him.
We shall see how he got on.
DIAMOND MAKES A BEGINNING
THE wind blew loud, but Diamond slept a deep sleep, and never heard it.
My own impression is that every time when Diamond slept well and
remembered nothing about it in the morning, he had been all that night
at the back of the north wind. I am almost sure that was how he
woke so refreshed, and felt so quiet and hopeful all the day.
Indeed he said this much, though not to me--that always when he
woke from such a sleep there was a something in his mind, he could
not tell what--could not tell whether it was the last far-off sounds
of the river dying away in the distance, or some of the words
of the endless song his mother had read to him on the sea-shore.
Sometimes he thought it must have been the twittering of the swallows--
over the shallows, you, know; but it may have been the chirping
of the dingy sparrows picking up their breakfast in the yard--
how can I tell? I don't know what I know, I only know what I think;
and to tell the truth, I am more for the swallows than the sparrows.
When he knew he was coming awake, he would sometimes try hard
to keep hold of the words of what seemed a new song, one he had
not heard before--a song in which the words and the music somehow
appeared to be all one; but even when he thought he had got them
well fixed in his mind, ever as he came awaker--as he would say--
one line faded away out of it, and then another, and then another,
till at last there was nothing left but some lovely picture of water
or grass or daisies, or something else very common, but with all the
commonness polished off it, and the lovely soul of it, which people
so seldom see, and, alas! yet seldomer believe in, shining out.
But after that he would sing the oddest, loveliest little songs
to the baby--of his own making, his mother said; but Diamond said he
did not make them; they were made somewhere inside him, and he knew
nothing about them till they were coming out.
When he woke that first morning he got up at once, saying to himself,
"I've been ill long enough, and have given a great deal of trouble;
I must try and be of use now, and help my mother." When he went into
her room he found her lighting the fire, and his father just getting
out of bed. They had only the one room, besides the little one,
not much more than a closet, in which Diamond slept. He began at
once to set things to rights, but the baby waking up, he took him,
and nursed him till his mother had got the breakfast ready.
She was looking gloomy, and his father was silent; and indeed except
Diamond had done all he possibly could to keep out the misery
that was trying to get in at doors and windows, he too would have
grown miserable, and then they would have been all miserable together.
But to try to make others comfortable is the only way to get right
comfortable ourselves, and that comes partly of not being able
to think so much about ourselves when we are helping other people.
For our Selves will always do pretty well if we don't pay them
too much attention. Our Selves are like some little children who
will be happy enough so long as they are left to their own games,
but when we begin to interfere with them, and make them presents
of too nice playthings, or too many sweet things, they begin at once
to fret and spoil.
"Why, Diamond, child!" said his mother at last, "you're as good to
your mother as if you were a girl--nursing the baby, and toasting
the bread, and sweeping up the hearth! I declare a body would
think you had been among the fairies."
Could Diamond have had greater praise or greater pleasure?
You see when he forgot his Self his mother took care of his Self,
and loved and praised his Self. Our own praises poison our Selves,
and puff and swell them up, till they lose all shape and beauty,
and become like great toadstools. But the praises of father or mother
do our Selves good, and comfort them and make them beautiful.
They never do them any harm. If they do any harm, it comes of our
mixing some of our own praises with them, and that turns them nasty
and slimy and poisonous.
When his father had finished his breakfast, which he did rather
in a hurry, he got up and went down into the yard to get out his
horse and put him to the cab.
"Won't you come and see the cab, Diamond?" he said.
"Yes, please, father--if mother can spare me a minute," answered Diamond.
"Bless the child! I don't want him," said his mother cheerfully.
But as he was following his father out of the door, she called
"Diamond, just hold the baby one minute. I have something to say
to your father."
So Diamond sat down again, took the baby in his lap, and began poking
his face into its little body, laughing and singing all the while,
so that the baby crowed like a little bantam. And what he sang was
something like this--such nonsense to those that couldn't understand
it! but not to the baby, who got all the good in the world out of it:--
baby's a-sleeping wake up baby for all the swallows are the merriest
fellows and have the yellowest children who would go sleeping
and snore like a gaby disturbing his mother and father and brother
and all a-boring their ears with his snoring snoring snoring for
himself and no other for himself in particular wake up baby sit up
perpendicular hark to the gushing hark to the rushing where the
sheep are the woolliest and the lambs the unruliest and their tails
the whitest and their eyes the brightest and baby's the bonniest
and baby's the funniest and baby's the shiniest and baby's the tiniest
and baby's the merriest and baby's the worriest of all the lambs
that plague their dams and mother's the whitest of all the dams
that feed the lambs that go crop-cropping without stop-stopping
and father's the best of all the swallows that build their nest out
of the shining shallows and he has the merriest children that's baby
and Diamond and Diamond and baby and baby and Diamond and Diamond and baby
Here Diamond's knees went off in a wild dance which tossed the baby
about and shook the laughter out of him in immoderate peals.
His mother had been listening at the door to the last few lines
of his song, and came in with the tears in her eyes. She took the
baby from him, gave him a kiss, and told him to run to his father.
By the time Diamond got into the yard, the horse was between the shafts,
and his father was looping the traces on. Diamond went round
to look at the horse. The sight of him made him feel very queer.
He did not know much about different horses, and all other horses
than their own were very much the same to him. But he could
not make it out. This was Diamond and it wasn't Diamond.
Diamond didn't hang his head like that; yet the head that was
hanging was very like the one that Diamond used to hold so high.
Diamond's bones didn't show through his skin like that; but the
skin they pushed out of shape so was very like Diamond's skin;
and the bones might be Diamond's bones, for he had never seen the
shape of them. But when he came round in front of the old horse,
and he put out his long neck, and began sniffing at him and rubbing
his upper lip and his nose on him, then Diamond saw it could be no
other than old Diamond, and he did just as his father had done before--
put his arms round his neck and cried--but not much.
"Ain't it jolly, father?" he said. "Was there ever anybody so lucky
as me? Dear old Diamond!"
And he hugged the horse again, and kissed both his big hairy cheeks.
He could only manage one at a time, however--the other cheek was
so far off on the other side of his big head.
His father mounted the box with just the same air, as Diamond thought,
with which he had used to get upon the coach-box, and Diamond said
to himself, "Father's as grand as ever anyhow." He had kept his
brown livery-coat, only his wife had taken the silver buttons off
and put brass ones instead, because they did not think it polite
to Mr. Coleman in his fallen fortunes to let his crest be seen
upon the box of a cab. Old Diamond had kept just his collar;
and that had the silver crest upon it still, for his master thought
nobody would notice that, and so let it remain for a memorial
of the better days of which it reminded him--not unpleasantly,
seeing it had been by no fault either of his or of the old horse's
that they had come down in the world together.
"Oh, father, do let me drive a bit," said Diamond, jumping up
on the box beside him.
His father changed places with him at once, putting the reins
into his hands. Diamond gathered them up eagerly.
"Don't pull at his mouth," said his father. "just feel,
at it gently to let him know you're there and attending to him.
That's what I call talking to him through the reins."
"Yes, father, I understand," said Diamond. Then to the horse he said,
"Go on Diamond." And old Diamond's ponderous bulk began at once
to move to the voice of the little boy.
But before they had reached the entrance of the mews, another voice
called after young Diamond, which, in his turn, he had to obey,
for it was that of his mother. "Diamond! Diamond!" it cried;
and Diamond pulled the reins, and the horse stood still as a stone.
"Husband," said his mother, coming up, "you're never going to trust
him with the reins--a baby like that?"
"He must learn some day, and he can't begin too soon. I see already
he's a born coachman," said his father proudly. "And I don't see
well how he could escape it, for my father and my grandfather,
that's his great-grandfather, was all coachmen, I'm told; so it
must come natural to him, any one would think. Besides, you see,
old Diamond's as proud of him as we are our own selves, wife. Don't you
see how he's turning round his ears, with the mouths of them open,
for the first word he speaks to tumble in? He's too well bred
to turn his head, you know."
"Well, but, husband, I can't do without him to-day. Everything's
got to be done, you know. It's my first day here. And there's
"Bless you, wife! I never meant to take him away--only to the
bottom of Endell Street. He can watch his way back."
"No thank you, father; not to-day," said Diamond. "Mother wants me.
Perhaps she'll let me go another day."
"Very well, my man," said his father, and took the reins which
Diamond was holding out to him.
Diamond got down, a little disappointed of course, and went with
his mother, who was too pleased to speak. She only took hold
of his hand as tight as if she had been afraid of his running
away instead of glad that he would not leave her.
Now, although they did not know it, the owner of the stables,
the same man who had sold the horse to his father, had been standing
just inside one of the stable-doors, with his hands in his pockets,
and had heard and seen all that passed; and from that day John
Stonecrop took a great fancy to the little boy. And this was the
beginning of what came of it.
The same evening, just as Diamond was feeling tired of the day's work,
and wishing his father would come home, Mr. Stonecrop knocked
at the door. His mother went and opened it.
"Good evening, ma'am," said he. "Is the little master in?"
"Yes, to be sure he is--at your service, I'm sure, Mr. Stonecrop,"
said his mother.
"No, no, ma'am; it's I'm at his service. I'm just a-going out
with my own cab, and if he likes to come with me, he shall drive
my old horse till he's tired."
"It's getting rather late for him," said his mother thoughtfully.
"You see he's been an invalid."
Diamond thought, what a funny thing! How could he have been an invalid
when he did not even know what the word meant? But, of course,
his mother was right.
"Oh, well," said Mr. Stonecrop, "I can just let him drive through
Bloomsbury Square, and then he shall run home again."
"Very good, sir. And I'm much obliged to you," said his mother.
And Diamond, dancing with delight, got his cap, put his hand in
Mr. Stonecrop's, and went with him to the yard where the cab was waiting.
He did not think the horse looked nearly so nice as Diamond,
nor Mr. Stonecrop nearly so grand as his father; but he was none,
the less pleased. He got up on the box, and his new friend got up
"What's the horse's name?" whispered Diamond, as he took the reins
from the man.
"It's not a nice name," said Mr. Stonecrop. "You needn't call him
by it. I didn't give it him. He'll go well enough without it.
Give the boy a whip, Jack. I never carries one when I drive old----"
He didn't finish the sentence. Jack handed Diamond a whip,
with which, by holding it half down the stick, he managed just
to flack the haunches of the horse; and away he went.
"Mind the gate," said Mr. Stonecrop; and Diamond did mind the gate,
and guided the nameless horse through it in safety, pulling him this
way and that according as was necessary. Diamond learned to drive
all the sooner that he had been accustomed to do what he was told,
and could obey the smallest hint in a moment. Nothing helps one to get
on like that. Some people don't know how to do what they are told;
they have not been used to it, and they neither understand quickly
nor are able to turn what they do understand into action quickly.
With an obedient mind one learns the rights of things fast enough;
for it is the law of the universe, and to obey is to understand.
"Look out!" cried Mr. Stonecrop, as they were turning the corner
into Bloomsbury Square.
It was getting dusky now. A cab was approaching rather rapidly
from the opposite direction, and Diamond pulling aside, and the
other driver pulling up, they only just escaped a collision.
Then they knew each other.
"Why, Diamond, it's a bad beginning to run into your own father,"
cried the driver.
"But, father, wouldn't it have been a bad ending to run into your
own son?" said Diamond in return; and the two men laughed heartily.
"This is very kind of you, I'm sure, Stonecrop," said his father.
"Not a bit. He's a brave fellow, and'll be fit to drive on his own
hook in a week or two. But I think you'd better let him drive you
home now, for his mother don't like his having over much of the
night air, and I promised not to take him farther than the square."
"Come along then, Diamond," said his father, as he brought his cab
up to the other, and moved off the box to the seat beside it.
Diamond jumped across, caught at the reins, said "Good-night, and
thank you, Mr. Stonecrop," and drove away home, feeling more of a
man than he had ever yet had a chance of feeling in all his life.
Nor did his father find it necessary to give him a single hint
as to his driving. Only I suspect the fact that it was old Diamond,
and old Diamond on his way to his stable, may have had something
to do with young Diamond's success.
"Well, child," said his mother, when he entered the room,
"you've not been long gone."
"No, mother; here I am. Give me the baby."
"The baby's asleep," said his mother.
"Then give him to me, and I'll lay him down."
But as Diamond took him, he woke up and began to laugh.
For he was indeed one of the merriest children. And no wonder,
for he was as plump as a plum-pudding, and had never had an
ache or a pain that lasted more than five minutes at a time.
Diamond sat down with him and began to sing to him.
baby baby babbing your father's gone a-cabbing to catch a shilling
for its pence to make the baby babbing dance for old Diamond's
a duck they say he can swim but the duck of diamonds is baby that's
him and of all the swallows the merriest fellows that bake their
cake with the water they shake out of the river flowing for ever
and make dust into clay on the shiniest day to build their nest
father's the best and mother's the whitest and her eyes are the
brightest of all the dams that watch their lambs cropping the grass
where the waters pass singing for ever and of all the lambs with
the shakingest tails and the jumpingest feet baby's the funniest
baby's the bonniest and he never wails and he's always sweet
and Diamond's his nurse and Diamond's his nurse and Diamond's his nurse
When Diamond's rhymes grew scarce, he always began dancing the baby.
Some people wondered that such a child could rhyme as he did,
but his rhymes were not very good, for he was only trying to remember
what he had heard the river sing at the back of the north wind.
DIAMOND GOES ON
DIAMOND became a great favourite with all the men about the mews.
Some may think it was not the best place in the world for him
to be brought up in; but it must have been, for there he was.
At first, he heard a good many rough and bad words; but he did
not like them, and so they did him little harm. He did not know
in the least what they meant, but there was something in the very
sound of them, and in the tone of voice in which they were said,
which Diamond felt to be ugly. So they did not even stick to him,
not to say get inside him. He never took any notice of them,
and his face shone pure and good in the middle of them, like a
primrose in a hailstorm. At first, because his face was so quiet
and sweet, with a smile always either awake or asleep in his eyes,
and because he never heeded their ugly words and rough jokes,
they said he wasn't all there, meaning that he was half an idiot,
whereas he was a great deal more there than they had the sense to see.
And before long the bad words found themselves ashamed to come
out of the men's mouths when Diamond was near. The one would
nudge the other to remind him that the boy was within hearing,
and the words choked themselves before they got any farther.
When they talked to him nicely he had always a good answer, sometimes a
smart one, ready, and that helped much to make them change their minds
One day Jack gave him a curry-comb and a brush to try his hand
upon old Diamond's coat. He used them so deftly, so gently,
and yet so thoroughly, as far as he could reach, that the man could
not help admiring him.
"You must make haste and, grow" he said. "It won't do to have
a horse's belly clean and his back dirty, you know."
"Give me a leg," said Diamond, and in a moment he was on the old
horse's back with the comb and brush. He sat on his withers,
and reaching forward as he ate his hay, he curried and he brushed,
first at one side of his neck, and then at the other.
When that was done he asked for a dressing-comb, and combed
his mane thoroughly. Then he pushed himself on to his back,
and did his shoulders as far down as he could reach. Then he sat
on his croup, and did his back and sides; then he turned around
like a monkey, and attacked his hind-quarters, and combed his tail.
This last was not so easy to manage, for he had to lift it up,
and every now and then old Diamond would whisk it out of his hands,
and once he sent the comb flying out of the stable door, to the
great amusement of the men. But Jack fetched it again, and Diamond
began once more, and did not leave off until he had done the whole
business fairly well, if not in a first-rate, experienced fashion.
All the time the old horse went on eating his hay, and, but with an
occasional whisk of his tail when Diamond tickled or scratched him,
took no notice of the proceeding. But that was all a pretence,
for he knew very well who it was that was perched on his back,
and rubbing away at him with the comb and the brush. So he was
quite pleased and proud, and perhaps said to himself something
"I'm a stupid old horse, who can't brush his own coat; but there's
my young godson on my back, cleaning me like an angel."
I won't vouch for what the old horse was thinking, for it
is very difficult to find out what any old horse is thinking.
"Oh dear!" said Diamond when he had done, "I'm so tired!"
And he laid himself down at full length on old Diamond's back.
By this time all the men in the stable were gathered about the
two Diamonds, and all much amused. One of them lifted him down,
and from that time he was a greater favourite than before.
And if ever there was a boy who had a chance of being a prodigy
at cab-driving, Diamond was that boy, for the strife came to be
who should have him out with him on the box.
His mother, however, was a little shy of the company for him,
and besides she could not always spare him. Also his father liked
to have him himself when he could; so that he was more desired
than enjoyed among the cabmen.
But one way and another he did learn to drive all sorts of horses,
and to drive them well, and that through the most crowded streets
in London City. Of course there was the man always on the box-seat
beside him, but before long there was seldom the least occasion
to take the reins from out of his hands. For one thing he never
got frightened, and consequently was never in too great a hurry.
Yet when the moment came for doing something sharp, he was always
ready for it. I must once more remind my readers that he had been
to the back of the north wind.
One day, which was neither washing-day, nor cleaning-day nor
marketing-day, nor Saturday, nor Monday--upon which consequently Diamond
could be spared from the baby--his father took him on his own cab.
After a stray job or two by the way, they drew up in the row upon
the stand between Cockspur Street and Pall Mall. They waited
a long time, but nobody seemed to want to be carried anywhere.
By and by ladies would be going home from the Academy exhibition,
and then there would be a chance of a job.
"Though, to be sure," said Diamond's father--with what truth I
cannot say, but he believed what he said--"some ladies is very hard,
and keeps you to the bare sixpence a mile, when every one knows
that ain't enough to keep a family and a cab upon. To be sure
it's the law; but mayhap they may get more law than they like some
As it was very hot, Diamond's father got down to have a glass
of beer himself, and give another to the old waterman. He left
Diamond on the box.
A sudden noise got up, and Diamond looked round to see what was
There was a crossing near the cab-stand, where a girl was sweeping.
Some rough young imps had picked a quarrel with her, and were
now hauling at her broom to get it away from her. But as they
did not pull all together, she was holding it against them,
scolding and entreating alternately.
Diamond was off his box in a moment, and running to the help of the girl.
He got hold of the broom at her end and pulled along with her.
But the boys proceeded to rougher measures, and one of them hit
Diamond on the nose, and made it bleed; and as he could not let
go the broom to mind his nose, he was soon a dreadful figure.
But presently his father came back, and missing Diamond, looked about.
He had to look twice, however, before he could be sure that that
was his boy in the middle of the tumult. He rushed in, and sent
the assailants flying in all directions. The girl thanked Diamond,
and began sweeping as if nothing had happened, while his father
led him away. With the help of old Tom, the waterman, he was soon
washed into decency, and his father set him on the box again,
perfectly satisfied with the account he gave of the cause of his being
in a fray.
"I couldn't let them behave so to a poor girl--could I, father?"
"Certainly not, Diamond," said his father, quite pleased,
for Diamond's father was a gentleman.
A moment after, up came the girl, running, with her broom over
her shoulder, and calling, "Cab, there! cab!"
Diamond's father turned instantly, for he was the foremost in the rank,
and followed the girl. One or two other passing cabs heard the cry,
and made for the place, but the girl had taken care not to call
till she was near enough to give her friends the first chance.
When they reached the curbstone--who should it be waiting for the cab
but Mrs. and Miss Coleman! They did not look at the cabman, however.
The girl opened the door for them; they gave her the address,
and a penny; she told the cabman, and away they drove.
When they reached the house, Diamond's father got down and rang
the bell. As he opened the door of the cab, he touched his hat
as he had been wont to do. The ladies both stared for a moment,
and then exclaimed together:
"Why, Joseph! can it be you?"
"Yes, ma'am; yes, miss," answered he, again touching his hat,
with all the respect he could possibly put into the action.
"It's a lucky day which I see you once more upon it."
"Who would have thought it?" said Mrs. Coleman. "It's changed
times for both of us, Joseph, and it's not very often we can
have a cab even; but you see my daughter is still very poorly,
and she can't bear the motion of the omnibuses. Indeed we meant
to walk a bit first before we took a cab, but just at the corner,
for as hot as the sun was, a cold wind came down the street,
and I saw that Miss Coleman must not face it. But to think
we should have fallen upon you, of all the cabmen in London!
I didn't know you had got a cab."
"Well, you see, ma'am, I had a chance of buying the old horse,
and I couldn't resist him. There he is, looking at you, ma'am. Nobody
knows the sense in that head of his."
The two ladies went near to pat the horse, and then they noticed
Diamond on the box.
"Why, you've got both Diamonds with you," said Miss Coleman.
"How do you do, Diamond?"
Diamond lifted his cap, and answered politely.
"He'll be fit to drive himself before long," said his father,
proudly. "The old horse is a-teaching of him."
"Well, he must come and see us, now you've found us out.
Where do you live?"
Diamond's father gave the ladies a ticket with his name and address
printed on it; and then Mrs. Coleman took out her purse, saying:
"And what's your fare, Joseph?"
"No, thank you, ma'am," said Joseph. "It was your own old horse
as took you; and me you paid long ago."
He jumped on his box before she could say another word,
and with a parting salute drove off, leaving them on the pavement,
with the maid holding the door for them.
It was a long time now since Diamond had seen North Wind,
or even thought much about her. And as his father drove along,
he was thinking not about her, but about the crossing-sweeper,
and was wondering what made him feel as if he knew her quite well,
when he could not remember anything of her. But a picture arose
in his mind of a little girl running before the wind and dragging
her broom after her; and from that, by degrees, he recalled the
whole adventure of the night when he got down from North Wind's
back in a London street. But he could not quite satisfy himself
whether the whole affair was not a dream which he had dreamed
when he was a very little boy. Only he had been to the back of
the north wind since--there could be no doubt of that; for when he
woke every morning, he always knew that he had been there again.
And as he thought and thought, he recalled another thing that had
happened that morning, which, although it seemed a mere accident,
might have something to do with what had happened since. His father
had intended going on the stand at King's Cross that morning, and had
turned into Gray's Inn Lane to drive there, when they found the way
blocked up, and upon inquiry were informed that a stack of chimneys
had been blown down in the night, and had fallen across the road.
They were just clearing the rubbish away. Diamond's father turned,
and made for Charing Cross.
That night the father and mother had a great deal to talk about.
"Poor things!" said the mother. "it's worse for them than it
is for us. You see they've been used to such grand things,
and for them to come down to a little poky house like that--
it breaks my heart to think of it."
"I don't know" said Diamond thoughtfully, "whether Mrs. Coleman
had bells on her toes."
"What do you mean, child?" said his mother.
"She had rings on her fingers, anyhow," returned Diamond.
"Of course she had, as any lady would. What has that to do with it?"
"When we were down at Sandwich," said Diamond, "you said you would
have to part with your mother's ring, now we were poor."
"Bless the child; he forgets nothing," said his mother.
"Really, Diamond, a body would need to mind what they say to you."
"Why?" said Diamond. "I only think about it."
"That's just why," said the mother.
"Why is that why?" persisted Diamond, for he had not yet learned
that grown-up people are not often so much grown up that they
never talk like children--and spoilt ones too.
"Mrs. Coleman is none so poor as all that yet. No, thank Heaven!
she's not come to that."
"Is it a great disgrace to be poor?" asked Diamond, because of
the tone in which his mother had spoken.
But his mother, whether conscience-stricken I do not know hurried
him away to bed, where after various attempts to understand her,
resumed and resumed again in spite of invading sleep, he was
conquered at last, and gave in, murmuring over and over to himself,
"Why is why?" but getting no answer to the question.
THE DRUNKEN CABMAN
A FEW nights after this, Diamond woke up suddenly, believing he heard
North Wind thundering along. But it was something quite different.
South Wind was moaning round the chimneys, to be sure, for she
was not very happy that night, but it was not her voice that had
wakened Diamond. Her voice would only have lulled him the deeper asleep.
It was a loud, angry voice, now growling like that of a beast,
now raving like that of a madman; and when Diamond came a little
wider awake, he knew that it was the voice of the drunken cabman,
the wall of whose room was at the head of his bed. It was anything
but pleasant to hear, but he could not help hearing it. At length
there came a cry from the woman, and then a scream from the baby.
Thereupon Diamond thought it time that somebody did something,
and as himself was the only somebody at hand, he must go and see
whether he could not do something. So he got up and put on part
of his clothes, and went down the stair, for the cabman's room did
not open upon their stair, and he had to go out into the yard,
and in at the next door. This, fortunately, the cabman, being drunk,
had left open. By the time he reached their stair, all was still except
the voice of the crying baby, which guided him to the right door.
He opened it softly, and peeped in. There, leaning back in a chair,
with his arms hanging down by his sides, and his legs stretched
out before him and supported on his heels, sat the drunken cabman.
His wife lay in her clothes upon the bed, sobbing, and the baby was
wailing in the cradle. It was very miserable altogether.
Now the way most people do when they see anything very miserable
is to turn away from the sight, and try to forget it. But Diamond
began as usual to try to destroy the misery. The little boy was just
as much one of God's messengers as if he had been an angel with a
flaming sword, going out to fight the devil. The devil he had to fight
just then was Misery. And the way he fought him was the very best.
Like a wise soldier, he attacked him first in his weakest point--
that was the, baby; for Misery can never get such a hold of a baby
as of a grown person. Diamond was knowing in babies, and he knew he
could do something to make the baby, happy; for although he had only
known one baby as yet, and although not one baby is the same as another,
yet they are so very much alike in some things, and he knew that one
baby so thoroughly, that he had good reason to believe he could do
something for any other. I have known people who would have begun
to fight the devil in a very different and a very stupid way.
They would have begun by scolding the idiotic cabman; and next they
would make his wife angry by saying it must be her fault as well
as his, and by leaving ill-bred though well-meant shabby little
books for them to read, which they were sure to hate the sight of;
while all the time they would not have put out a finger to touch
the wailing baby. But Diamond had him out of the cradle in a moment,
set him up on his knee, and told him to look at the light.
Now all the light there was came only from a lamp in the yard,
and it was a very dingy and yellow light, for the glass of the lamp
was dirty, and the gas was bad; but the light that came from
it was, notwithstanding, as certainly light as if it had come
from the sun itself, and the baby knew that, and smiled to it;
and although it was indeed a wretched room which that lamp lighted--
so dreary, and dirty, and empty, and hopeless!--there in the middle
of it sat Diamond on a stool, smiling to the baby, and the baby on his
knees smiling to the lamp. The father of him sat staring at nothing,
neither asleep nor awake, not quite lost in stupidity either,
for through it all he was dimly angry with himself, he did not
know why. It was that he had struck his wife. He had forgotten it,
but was miserable about it, notwithstanding. And this misery was the
voice of the great Love that had made him and his wife and the baby
and Diamond, speaking in his heart, and telling him to be good.
For that great Love speaks in the most wretched and dirty hearts;
only the tone of its voice depends on the echoes of the place in which
it sounds. On Mount Sinai, it was thunder; in the cabman's heart
it was misery; in the soul of St. John it was perfect blessedness.
By and by he became aware that there was a voice of singing in the room.
This, of course, was the voice of Diamond singing to the baby--
song after song, every one as foolish as another to the cabman,
for he was too tipsy to part one word from another: all the words
mixed up in his ear in a gurgle without division or stop; for such
was the way he spoke himself, when he was in this horrid condition.
But the baby was more than content with Diamond's songs, and Diamond
himself was so contented with what the songs were all about, that he did
not care a bit about the songs themselves, if only baby liked them.
But they did the cabman good as well as the baby and Diamond,
for they put him to sleep, and the sleep was busy all the time
it lasted, smoothing the wrinkles out of his temper.
At length Diamond grew tired of singing, and began to talk
to the baby instead. And as soon as he stopped singing,
the cabman began to wake up. His brain was a little clearer now,
his temper a little smoother, and his heart not quite so dirty.
He began to listen and he went on listening, and heard Diamond
saying to the baby something like this, for he thought the cabman
"Poor daddy! Baby's daddy takes too much beer and gin, and that
makes him somebody else, and not his own self at all. Baby's daddy
would never hit baby's mammy if he didn't take too much beer.
He's very fond of baby's mammy, and works from morning to night
to get her breakfast and dinner and supper, only at night he forgets,
and pays the money away for beer. And they put nasty stuff in beer,
I've heard my daddy say, that drives all the good out, and lets all
the bad in. Daddy says when a man takes a drink, there's a thirsty
devil creeps into his inside, because he knows he will always get
enough there. And the devil is always crying out for more drink,
and that makes the man thirsty, and so he drinks more and more,
till he kills himself with it. And then the ugly devil creeps
out of him, and crawls about on his belly, looking for some other
cabman to get into, that he may drink, drink, drink. That's what my
daddy says, baby. And he says, too, the only way to make the devil
come out is to give him plenty of cold water and tea and coffee,
and nothing at all that comes from the public-house; for the devil
can't abide that kind of stuff, and creeps out pretty soon, for fear
of being drowned in it. But your daddy will drink the nasty stuff,
poor man! I wish he wouldn't, for it makes mammy cross with him,
and no wonder! and then when mammy's cross, he's crosser,
and there's nobody in the house to take care of them but baby;
and you do take care of them, baby--don't you, baby? I know you do.
Babies always take care of their fathers and mothers--don't they, baby?
That's what they come for--isn't it, baby? And when daddy stops
drinking beer and nasty gin with turpentine in it, father says,
then mammy will be so happy, and look so pretty! and daddy will
be so good to baby! and baby will be as happy as a swallow,
which is the merriest fellow! And Diamond will be so happy too!
And when Diamond's a man, he'll take baby out with him on the box,
and teach him to drive a cab."
He went on with chatter like this till baby was asleep, by which
time he was tired, and father and mother were both wide awake--
only rather confused--the one from the beer, the other from the blow--
and staring, the one from his chair, the other from her bed,
at Diamond. But he was quite unaware of their notice, for he
sat half-asleep, with his eyes wide open, staring in his turn,
though without knowing it, at the cabman, while the cabman could
not withdraw his gaze from Diamond's white face and big eyes.
For Diamond's face was always rather pale, and now it was paler than
usual with sleeplessness, and the light of the street-lamp upon it.
At length he found himself nodding, and he knew then it was time
to put the baby down, lest he should let him fall. So he rose from
the little three-legged stool, and laid the baby in the cradle,
and covered him up--it was well it was a warm night, and he did not
want much covering--and then he all but staggered out of the door,
he was so tipsy himself with sleep.
"Wife," said the cabman, turning towards the bed, "I do somehow believe
that wur a angel just gone. Did you see him, wife? He warn't wery big,
and he hadn't got none o' them wingses, you know. It wur one o'
them baby-angels you sees on the gravestones, you know."
"Nonsense, hubby!" said his wife; "but it's just as good.
I might say better, for you can ketch hold of him when you like.
That's little Diamond as everybody knows, and a duck o' diamonds he is!
No woman could wish for a better child than he be."
"I ha' heerd on him in the stable, but I never see the brat afore.
Come, old girl, let bygones be bygones, and gie us a kiss,
and we'll go to bed."
The cabman kept his cab in another yard, although he had his room
in this. He was often late in coming home, and was not one to take
notice of children, especially when he was tipsy, which was oftener
than not. Hence, if he had ever seen Diamond, he did not know him.
But his wife knew him well enough, as did every one else who lived
all day in the yard. She was a good-natured woman. It was she
who had got the fire lighted and the tea ready for them when Diamond
and his mother came home from Sandwich. And her husband was not
an ill-natured man either, and when in the morning he recalled not
only Diamond's visit, but how he himself had behaved to his wife,
he was very vexed with himself, and gladdened his poor wife's heart
by telling her how sorry he was. And for a whole week after,
he did not go near the public-house, hard as it was to avoid it,
seeing a certain rich brewer had built one, like a trap to catch
souls and bodies in, at almost every corner he had to pass on his
way home. Indeed, he was never quite so bad after that, though it
was some time before he began really to reform.
ONE day when old Diamond was standing with his nose in his bag
between Pall Mall and Cockspur Street, and his master was reading
the newspaper on the box of his cab, which was the last of a good
many in the row, little Diamond got down for a run, for his legs
were getting cramped with sitting. And first of all he strolled
with his hands in his pockets up to the crossing, where the girl
and her broom were to be found in all weathers. Just as he was
going to speak to her, a tall gentleman stepped upon the crossing.
He was pleased to find it so clean, for the streets were muddy,
and he had nice boots on; so he put his hand in his pocket,
and gave the girl a penny. But when she gave him a sweet smile
in return, and made him a pretty courtesy, he looked at her again,
"Where do you live, my child?"
"Paradise Row," she answered; "next door to the Adam and Eve--
down the area."
"Whom do you live with?" he asked.
"My wicked old grannie," she replied.
"You shouldn't call your grannie wicked," said the gentleman.
"But she is," said the girl, looking up confidently in his face.
"If you don't believe me, you can come and take a look at her."
The words sounded rude, but the girl's face looked so simple
that the gentleman saw she did not mean to be rude, and became
still more interested in her.
"Still you shouldn't say so," he insisted.
"Shouldn't I? Everybody calls her wicked old grannie--even them
that's as wicked as her. You should hear her swear. There's nothing
like it in the Row. Indeed, I assure you, sir, there's ne'er
a one of them can shut my grannie up once she begins and gets
right a-going. You must put her in a passion first, you know.
It's no good till you do that--she's so old now. How she do make
them laugh, to be sure!"
Although she called her wicked, the child spoke so as plainly
to indicate pride in her grannie's pre-eminence in swearing.
The gentleman looked very grave to hear her, for he was sorry
that such a nice little girl should be in such bad keeping.
But he did not know what to say next, and stood for a moment
with his eyes on the ground. When he lifted them, he saw the face
of Diamond looking up in his.
"Please, sir," said Diamond, "her grannie's very cruel to her sometimes,
and shuts her out in the streets at night, if she happens to be late."
"Is this your brother?" asked the gentleman of the girl.
"How does he know your grandmother, then? He does not look
like one of her sort."
"Oh no, sir! He's a good boy--quite."
Here she tapped her forehead with her finger in a significant manner.
"What do you mean by that?" asked the gentleman, while Diamond
looked on smiling.
"The cabbies call him God's baby," she whispered. "He's not right
in the head, you know. A tile loose."
Still Diamond, though he heard every word, and understood it too,
kept on smiling. What could it matter what people called him,
so long as he did nothing he ought not to do? And, besides, God's baby
was surely the best of names!
"Well, my little man, and what can you do?" asked the gentleman,
turning towards him--just for the sake of saying something.
"Drive a cab," said Diamond.
"Good; and what else?" he continued; for, accepting what the girl
had said, he regarded the still sweetness of Diamond's face as a
sign of silliness, and wished to be kind to the poor little fellow.
"Nurse a baby," said Diamond.
"Well--and what else?"
"Clean father's boots, and make him a bit of toast for his tea."
"You're a useful little man," said the gentleman. "What else can
"Not much that I know of," said Diamond. "I can't curry a horse,
except somebody puts me on his back. So I don't count that."
"Can you read?"
"No. But mother can and father can, and they're going to teach me
some day soon."
"Well, here's a penny for you."
"Thank you, sir."
"And when you have learned to read, come to me, and I'll give you
sixpence and a book with fine pictures in it."
"Please, sir, where am I to come?" asked Diamond, who was too much
a man of the world not to know that he must have the gentleman's
address before he could go and see him.
"You're no such silly!" thought he, as he put his hand in his pocket,
and brought out a card. "There," he said, "your father will be able
to read that, and tell you where to go."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," said Diamond, and put the card
in his pocket.
The gentleman walked away, but turning round a few paces off,
saw Diamond give his penny to the girl, and, walking slower heard
"I've got a father, and mother, and little brother, and you've got
nothing but a wicked old grannie. You may have my penny."
The girl put it beside the other in her pocket, the only trustworthy
article of dress she wore. Her grandmother always took care
that she had a stout pocket.
"Is she as cruel as ever?" asked Diamond.
"Much the same. But I gets more coppers now than I used to, and I
can get summats to eat, and take browns enough home besides to keep
her from grumbling. It's a good thing she's so blind, though."
"Why?" asked Diamond.
"'Cause if she was as sharp in the eyes as she used to be, she would
find out I never eats her broken wittles, and then she'd know as I
must get something somewheres."
"Doesn't she watch you, then?"
"O' course she do. Don't she just! But I make believe and drop
it in my lap, and then hitch it into my pocket."
"What would she do if she found you out?"
"She never give me no more."
"But you don't want it!"
"Yes, I do want it."
"What do you do with it, then?"
"Give it to cripple Jim."
"Who's cripple Jim?"
"A boy in the Row. His mother broke his leg when he wur a kid,
so he's never come to much; but he's a good boy, is Jim, and I love
Jim dearly. I always keeps off a penny for Jim--leastways as often
as I can.--But there I must sweep again, for them busses makes no
end o' dirt."
"Diamond! Diamond!" cried his father, who was afraid he might
get no good by talking to the girl; and Diamond obeyed, and got
up again upon the box. He told his father about the gentleman,
and what he had promised him if he would learn to read, and showed
him the gentleman's card.
"Why, it's not many doors from the Mews!" said his father, giving him
back the card. "Take care of it, my boy, for it may lead to something.
God knows, in these hard times a man wants as many friends as he's
ever likely to get."
"Haven't you got friends enough, father?" asked Diamond.
"Well, I have no right to complain; but the more the better,
"Just let me count," said Diamond.
And he took his hands from his pockets, and spreading out the fingers
of his left hand, began to count, beginning at the thumb.
"There's mother, first, and then baby, and then me. Next there's
old Diamond--and the cab--no, I won't count the cab, for it never
looks at you, and when Diamond's out of the shafts, it's nobody.
Then there's the man that drinks next door, and his wife,
and his baby."
"They're no friends of mine," said his father.
"Well, they're friends of mine," said Diamond.
His father laughed.
"Much good they'll do you!" he said.
"How do you know they won't?" returned Diamond.
"Well, go on," said his father.
"Then there's Jack and Mr. Stonecrop, and, deary me! not to
have mentioned Mr. Coleman and Mrs. Coleman, and Miss Coleman,
and Mrs. Crump. And then there's the clergyman that spoke
to me in the garden that day the tree was blown down."
"What's his name!"
"I don't know his name."
"Where does he live?"
"I don't know."
"How can you count him, then?"
"He did talk to me, and very kindlike too."
His father laughed again.
"Why, child, you're just counting everybody you know. That don't
make 'em friends."
"Don't it? I thought it did. Well, but they shall be my friends.
I shall make 'em."
"How will you do that?"
"They can't help themselves then, if they would. If I choose
to be their friend, you know, they can't prevent me. Then there's
that girl at the crossing."
"A fine set of friends you do have, to be sure, Diamond!"
"Surely she's a friend anyhow, father. If it hadn't been for her,
you would never have got Mrs. Coleman and Miss Coleman to carry home."
His father was silent, for he saw that Diamond was right, and was
ashamed to find himself more ungrateful than he had thought.
"Then there's the new gentleman," Diamond went on.
"If he do as he say," interposed his father.
"And why shouldn't he? I daresay sixpence ain't too much for him
to spare. But I don't quite understand, father: is nobody your
friend but the one that does something for you?"
"No, I won't say that, my boy. You would have to leave out baby then."
"Oh no, I shouldn't. Baby can laugh in your face, and crow in your ears,
and make you feel so happy. Call you that nothing, father?"
The father's heart was fairly touched now. He made no answer
to this last appeal, and Diamond ended off with saying:
"And there's the best of mine to come yet--and that's you, daddy--
except it be mother, you know. You're my friend, daddy, ain't you?
And I'm your friend, ain't I?"
"And God for us all," said his father, and then they were both
silent for that was very solemn.
DIAMOND LEARNS TO READ
THE question of the tall gentleman as to whether Diamond could
read or not set his father thinking it was high time he could;
and as soon as old Diamond was suppered and bedded, he began the
task that very night. But it was not much of a task to Diamond,
for his father took for his lesson-book those very rhymes his mother
had picked up on the sea-shore; and as Diamond was not beginning
too soon, he learned very fast indeed. Within a month he was able
to spell out most of the verses for himself.
But he had never come upon the poem he thought he had heard his
mother read from it that day. He had looked through and through
the book several times after he knew the letters and a few words,
fancying he could tell the look of it, but had always failed to find
one more like it than another. So he wisely gave up the search till
he could really read. Then he resolved to begin at the beginning,
and read them all straight through. This took him nearly a fortnight.
When he had almost reached the end, he came upon the following verses,
which took his fancy much, although they were certainly not very
like those he was in search of.
LITTLE BOY BLUE
Little Boy Blue lost his way in a wood.
Sing apples and cherries, roses and honey;
He said, "I would not go back if I could,
It's all so jolly and funny."
He sang, "This wood is all my own,
Apples and cherries, roses and honey;
So here I'll sit, like a king on my throne,
All so jolly and funny."
A little snake crept out of the tree,
Apples and cherries, roses and honey;
"Lie down at my feet, little snake," said he,
All so jolly and funny.
A little bird sang in the tree overhead,
Apples and cherries, roses and honey;
"Come and sing your song on my finger instead,
All so jolly and funny."
The snake coiled up; and the bird flew down,
And sang him the song of Birdie Brown.
Little Boy Blue found it tiresome to sit,
And he thought he had better walk on a bit.
So up he got, his way to take,
And he said, "Come along, little bird and snake."
And waves of snake o'er the damp leaves passed,
And the snake went first and Birdie Brown last;
By Boy Blue's head, with flutter and dart,
Flew Birdie Brown with its song in its heart.
He came where the apples grew red and sweet:
"Tree, drop me an apple down at my feet."
He came where the cherries hung plump and red:
"Come to my mouth, sweet kisses," he said.
And the boughs bow down, and the apples they dapple
The grass, too many for him to grapple.
And the cheeriest cherries, with never a miss,
Fall to his mouth, each a full-grown kiss.
He met a little brook singing a song.
He said, "Little brook, you are going wrong.
"You must follow me, follow me, follow, I say
Do as I tell you, and come this way."
And the song-singing, sing-songing forest brook
Leaped from its bed and after him took,
Followed him, followed. And pale and wan,
The dead leaves rustled as the water ran.
And every bird high up on the bough,
And every creature low down below,
He called, and the creatures obeyed the call,
Took their legs and their wings and followed him all;
Squirrels that carried their tails like a sack,
Each on his own little humpy brown back;
Householder snails, and slugs all tails,
And butterflies, flutterbies, ships all sails;
And weasels, and ousels, and mice, and larks,
And owls, and rere-mice, and harkydarks,
All went running, and creeping, and flowing,
After the merry boy fluttering and going;
The dappled fawns fawning, the fallow-deer following,
The swallows and flies, flying and swallowing;
Cockchafers, henchafers, cockioli-birds,
Cockroaches, henroaches, cuckoos in herds.
The spider forgot and followed him spinning,
And lost all his thread from end to beginning.
The gay wasp forgot his rings and his waist,
He never had made such undignified haste.
The dragon-flies melted to mist with their hurrying.
The mole in his moleskins left his barrowing burrowing.
The bees went buzzing, so busy and beesy,
And the midges in columns so upright and easy.
But Little Boy Blue was not content,
Calling for followers still as he went,
Blowing his horn, and beating his drum,
And crying aloud, "Come all of you, come!"
He said to the shadows, "Come after me;"
And the shadows began to flicker and flee,
And they flew through the wood all flattering and fluttering,
Over the dead leaves flickering and muttering.
And he said to the wind, "Come, follow; come, follow,
With whistle and pipe, and rustle and hollo."
And the wind wound round at his desire,
As if he had been the gold cock on the spire.
And the cock itself flew down from the church,
And left the farmers all in the lurch.
They run and they fly, they creep and they come,
Everything, everything, all and some.
The very trees they tugged at their roots,
Only their feet were too fast in their boots,
After him leaning and straining and bending,
As on through their boles he kept walking and wending,
Till out of the wood he burst on a lea,
Shouting and calling, "Come after me!"
And then they rose up with a leafy hiss,
And stood as if nothing had been amiss.
Little Boy Blue sat down on a stone,
And the creatures came round him every one.
And he said to the clouds, "I want you there."
And down they sank through the thin blue air.
And he said to the sunset far in the West,
"Come here; I want you; I know best."
And the sunset came and stood up on the wold,
And burned and glowed in purple and gold.
Then Little Boy Blue began to ponder:
"What's to be done with them all, I wonder."
Then Little Boy Blue, he said, quite low,
"What to do with you all I am sure I don't know."
Then the clouds clodded down till dismal it grew;
The snake sneaked close; round Birdie Brown flew;
The brook sat up like a snake on its tail;
And the wind came up with a what-will-you wail;
And all the creatures sat and stared;
The mole opened his very eyes and glared;
And for rats and bats and the world and his wife,
Little Boy Blue was afraid of his life.
Then Birdie Brown began to sing,
And what he sang was the very thing:
"You have brought us all hither, Little Boy Blue,
Pray what do you want us all to do?"
"Go away! go away!" said Little Boy Blue;
"I'm sure I don't want you -- get away -- do."
"No, no; no, no; no, yes, and no, no,"
Sang Birdie Brown, "it mustn't be so.
"We cannot for nothing come here, and away.
Give us some work, or else we stay."
"Oh dear! and oh dear!" with sob and with sigh,
Said Little Boy Blue, and began to cry.
But before he got far, he thought of a thing;
And up he stood, and spoke like a king.
"Why do you hustle and jostle and bother?
Off with you all! Take me back to my mother."
The sunset stood at the gates of the west.
"Follow me, follow me" came from Birdie Brown's breast.
"I am going that way as fast as I can,"
Said the brook, as it sank and turned and ran.
Back to the woods fled the shadows like ghosts:
"If we stay, we shall all be missed from our posts."
Said the wind with a voice that had changed its cheer,
"I was just going there, when you brought me here."
"That's where I live," said the sack-backed squirrel,
And he turned his sack with a swing and a swirl.
Said the cock of the spire, "His father's churchwarden."
Said the brook running faster, "I run through his garden."
Said the mole, "Two hundred worms -- there I caught 'em
Last year, and I'm going again next autumn."
Said they all, "If that's where you want us to steer for,
What in earth or in water did you bring us here for?"
"Never you mind," said Little Boy Blue;
"That's what I tell you. If that you won't do,
"I'll get up at once, and go home without you.
I think I will; I begin to doubt you."
He rose; and up rose the snake on its tail,
And hissed three times, half a hiss, half a wail.
Little Boy Blue he tried to go past him;
But wherever he turned, sat the snake and faced him.
"If you don't get out of my way," he said,
"I tell you, snake, I will break your head."
The snake he neither would go nor come;
So he hit him hard with the stick of his drum.
The snake fell down as if he were dead,
And Little Boy Blue set his foot on his head.
And all the creatures they marched before him,
And marshalled him home with a high cockolorum.
And Birdie Brown sang Twirrrr twitter twirrrr twee --
Apples and cherries, roses and honey;
Little Boy Blue has listened to me --
All so jolly and funny.
DIAMOND managed with many blunders to read this rhyme to his mother.
"Isn't it nice, mother?" he said.
"Yes, it's pretty," she answered.
"I think it means something," returned Diamond.
"I'm sure I don't know what," she said.
"I wonder if it's the same boy--yes, it must be the same--
Little Boy Blue, you know. Let me see--how does that rhyme go?
Little Boy Blue, come blow me your horn--
Yes, of course it is--for this one went `blowing his horn and beating
his drum.' He had a drum too.
Little Boy Blue, come blow me your horn;
The sheep's in the meadow, the cow's in the corn,
He had to keep them out, you know. But he wasn't minding his work.
Where's the little boy that looks after the sheep?
He's under the haystack, fast asleep.
There, you see, mother! And then, let me see--
Who'll go and wake him? No, not I;
For if I do, he'll be sure to cry.
So I suppose nobody did wake him. He was a rather cross little boy,
I daresay, when woke up. And when he did wake of himself, and saw
the mischief the cow had done to the corn, instead of running
home to his mother, he ran away into the wood and lost himself.
Don't you think that's very likely, mother?"
"I shouldn't wonder," she answered.
"So you see he was naughty; for even when he lost himself he
did not want to go home. Any of the creatures would have shown
him the way if he had asked it--all but the snake. He followed
the snake, you know, and he took him farther away. I suppose it
was a young one of the same serpent that tempted Adam and Eve.
Father was telling us about it last Sunday, you remember."
"Bless the child!" said his mother to herself; and then added aloud,
finding that Diamond did not go on, "Well, what next?"
"I don't know, mother. I'm sure there's a great deal more,
but what it is I can't say. I only know that he killed the snake.
I suppose that's what he had a drumstick for. He couldn't do it
with his horn."
"But surely you're not such a silly as to take it all for true, Diamond?"
"I think it must be. It looks true. That killing of the snake
looks true. It's what I've got to do so often."
His mother looked uneasy. Diamond smiled full in her face,
"When baby cries and won't be happy, and when father and you talk
about your troubles, I mean."
This did little to reassure his mother; and lest my reader should
have his qualms about it too, I venture to remind him once more
that Diamond had been to the back of the north wind.
Finding she made no reply, Diamond went on--
"In a week or so, I shall be able to go to the tall gentleman
and tell him I can read. And I'll ask him if he can help
me to understand the rhyme."
But before the week was out, he had another reason for going
to Mr. Raymond.
For three days, on each of which, at one time or other, Diamond's
father was on the same stand near the National Gallery, the girl
was not at her crossing, and Diamond got quite anxious about her,
fearing she must be ill. On the fourth day, not seeing her yet,
he said to his father, who had that moment shut the door of his cab
upon a fare--
"Father, I want to go and look after the girl, She can't be well."
"All right," said his father. "Only take care of yourself, Diamond."
So saying he climbed on his box and drove off.
He had great confidence in his boy, you see, and would trust
him anywhere. But if he had known the kind of place in which
the girl lived, he would perhaps have thought twice before he
allowed him to go alone. Diamond, who did know something of it,
had not, however, any fear. From talking to the girl he had
a good notion of where about it was, and he remembered the
address well enough; so by asking his way some twenty times,
mostly of policemen, he came at length pretty near the place.
The last policeman he questioned looked down upon him from the summit
of six feet two inches, and replied with another question, but kindly:
"What do you want there, my small kid? It ain't where you was bred,
"No sir" answered Diamond. "I live in Bloomsbury."
"That's a long way off," said the policeman.
"Yes, it's a good distance," answered Diamond; "but I find my way
about pretty well. Policemen are always kind to me."
"But what on earth do you want here?"
Diamond told him plainly what he was about, and of course the man
believed him, for nobody ever disbelieved Diamond. People might
think he was mistaken, but they never thought he was telling a story.
"It's an ugly place," said the policeman.
"Is it far off?" asked Diamond.
"No. It's next door almost. But it's not safe."
"Nobody hurts me," said Diamond.
"I must go with you, I suppose."
"Oh, no! please not," said Diamond. "They might think I was going
to meddle with them, and I ain't, you know."
"Well, do as you please," said the man, and gave him full directions.
Diamond set off, never suspecting that the policeman, who was a
kind-hearted man, with children of his own, was following him close,
and watching him round every corner. As he went on, all at once
he thought he remembered the place, and whether it really was so,
or only that he had laid up the policeman's instructions well in
his mind, he went straight for the cellar of old Sal.
"He's a sharp little kid, anyhow, for as simple as he looks,"
said the man to himself. "Not a wrong turn does he take!
But old Sal's a rum un for such a child to pay a morning visit to.
She's worse when she's sober than when she's half drunk. I've seen
her when she'd have torn him in pieces."
Happily then for Diamond, old Sal had gone out to get some gin.
When he came to her door at the bottom of the area-stair and knocked,
he received no answer. He laid his ear to the door, and thought he heard
a moaning within. So he tried the door, and found it was not locked!
It was a dreary place indeed,--and very dark, for the window was below
the level of the street, and covered with mud, while over the grating
which kept people from falling into the area, stood a chest of drawers,
placed there by a dealer in second-hand furniture, which shut out
almost all the light. And the smell in the place was dreadful.
Diamond stood still for a while, for he could see next to nothing,
but he heard the moaning plainly enough now, When he got used
to the darkness, he discovered his friend lying with closed eyes
and a white suffering face on a heap of little better than rags in
a corner of the den. He went up to her and spoke; but she made him
no answer. Indeed, she was not in the least aware of his presence,
and Diamond saw that he could do nothing for her without help.
So taking a lump of barley-sugar from his pocket, which he had bought
for her as he came along, and laying it beside her, he left the place,
having already made up his mind to go and see the tall gentleman,
Mr. Raymond, and ask him to do something for Sal's Nanny, as the girl
By the time he got up the area-steps, three or four women who had
seen him go down were standing together at the top waiting for him.
They wanted his clothes for their children; but they did not follow
him down lest Sal should find them there. The moment he appeared,
they laid their hands on him, and all began talking at once,
for each wanted to get some advantage over her neighbours.
He told them quite quietly, for he was not frightened, that he
had come to see what was the matter with Nanny.
"What do you know about Nanny?" said one of them fiercely. "Wait till
old Sal comes home, and you'll catch it, for going prying into her
house when she's out. If you don't give me your jacket directly,
I'll go and fetch her."
"I can't give you my jacket," said Diamond. "It belongs to my
father and mother, you know. It's not mine to give. Is it now?
You would not think it right to give away what wasn't yours--
would you now?"
"Give it away! No, that I wouldn't; I'd keep it," she said,
with a rough laugh. "But if the jacket ain't yours, what right have
you to keep it? Here, Cherry, make haste. It'll be one go apiece."
They all began to tug at the jacket, while Diamond stooped and kept
his arms bent to resist them. Before they had done him or the jacket
any harm, however, suddenly they all scampered away; and Diamond,
looking in the opposite direction, saw the tall policeman coming
"You had better have let me come with you, little man," he said,
looking down in Diamond's face, which was flushed with his resistance.
"You came just in the right time, thank you," returned Diamond.
"They've done me no harm."
"They would have if I hadn't been at hand, though."
"Yes; but you were at hand, you know, so they couldn't."
Perhaps the answer was deeper in purport than either Diamond
or the policeman knew. They walked away together, Diamond telling
his new friend how ill poor Nanny was, and that he was going to let
the tall gentleman know. The policeman put him in the nearest way
for Bloomsbury, and stepping out in good earnest, Diamond reached
Mr. Raymond's door in less than an hour. When he asked if he
was at home, the servant, in return, asked what he wanted.
"I want to tell him something."
"But I can't go and trouble him with such a message as that."
"He told me to come to him--that is, when I could read--and I can."
"How am I to know that?"
Diamond stared with astonishment for one moment, then answered:
"Why, I've just told you. That's how you know it."
But this man was made of coarser grain than the policeman,
and, instead of seeing that Diamond could not tell a lie,
he put his answer down as impudence, and saying, "Do you
think I'm going to take your word for it?" shut the door in his face.
Diamond turned and sat down on the doorstep, thinking with himself
that the tall gentleman must either come in or come out, and he
was therefore in the best possible position for finding him.
He had not waited long before the door opened again; but when he
looked round, it was only the servant once more.
"Get, away" he said. "What are you doing on the doorstep?"
"Waiting for Mr. Raymond," answered Diamond, getting up.
"He's not at home."
"Then I'll wait till he comes," returned Diamond, sitting down again
with a smile.
What the man would have done next I do not know, but a step
sounded from the hall, and when Diamond looked round yet again,
there was the tall gentleman.
"Who's this, John?" he asked.
"I don't know, sir. An imperent little boy as will sit on the doorstep."
"Please sir" said Diamond, "he told me you weren't at home, and I
sat down to wait for you."
"Eh, what!" said Mr. Raymond. "John! John! This won't do.
Is it a habit of yours to turn away my visitors? There'll be some
one else to turn away, I'm afraid, if I find any more of this kind
of thing. Come in, my little man. I suppose you've come to claim
"No, sir, not that."
"What! can't you read yet?"
"Yes, I can now, a little. But I'll come for that next time.
I came to tell you about Sal's Nanny."
"Who's Sal's Nanny?"
"The girl at the crossing you talked to the same day."
"Oh, yes; I remember. What's the matter? Has she got run over?"
Then Diamond told him all.
Now Mr. Raymond was one of the kindest men in London. He sent at
once to have the horse put to the brougham, took Diamond with him,
and drove to the Children's Hospital. There he was well known
to everybody, for he was not only a large subscriber, but he used
to go and tell the children stories of an afternoon. One of the
doctors promised to go and find Nanny, and do what could be done--
have her brought to the hospital, if possible.
That same night they sent a litter for her, and as she could
be of no use to old Sal until she was better, she did not object
to having her removed. So she was soon lying in the fever ward--
for the first time in her life in a nice clean bed. But she knew
nothing of the whole affair. She was too ill to know anything.
MR. RAYMOND'S RIDDLE
MR. RAYMOND took Diamond home with him, stopping at the Mews
to tell his mother that he would send him back soon. Diamond ran
in with the message himself, and when he reappeared he had in his
hand the torn and crumpled book which North Wind had given him.
"Ah! I see," said Mr. Raymond: "you are going to claim your
"I wasn't thinking of that so much as of another thing," said Diamond.
"There's a rhyme in this book I can't quite understand. I want you
to tell me what it means, if you please."
"I will if I can," answered Mr. Raymond. "You shall read it to me
when we get home, and then I shall see."
Still with a good many blunders, Diamond did read it after a fashion.
Mr. Raymond took the little book and read it over again.
Now Mr. Raymond was a poet himself, and so, although he had never
been at the back of the north wind, he was able to understand the
poem pretty well. But before saying anything about it, he read it
over aloud, and Diamond thought he understood it much better already.
"I'll tell you what I think it means," he then said. "It means
that people may have their way for a while, if they like, but it
will get them into such troubles they'll wish they hadn't had it."
"I know, I know!" said Diamond. "Like the poor cabman next door.
He drinks too much."
"Just so," returned Mr. Raymond. "But when people want to do right,
things about them will try to help them. Only they must kill
the snake, you know."
"I was sure the snake had something to do with it,"
cried Diamond triumphantly.
A good deal more talk followed, and Mr. Raymond gave Diamond
"What will you do with it?" he asked.
"Take it home to my mother," he answered. "She has a teapot--
such a black one!--with a broken spout, and she keeps all her money
in it. It ain't much; but she saves it up to buy shoes for me.
And there's baby coming on famously, and he'll want shoes soon.
And every sixpence is something--ain't it, sir?"
"To be sure, my man. I hope you'll always make as good a use
of your money."
"I hope so, sir," said Diamond.
"And here's a book for you, full of pictures and stories and poems.
I wrote it myself, chiefly for the children of the hospital where
I hope Nanny is going. I don't mean I printed it, you know.
I made it," added Mr. Raymond, wishing Diamond to understand that he
was the author of the book.
"I know what you mean. I make songs myself. They're awfully silly,
but they please baby, and that's all they're meant for."
"Couldn't you let me hear one of them now?" said Mr. Raymond.
"No, sir, I couldn't. I forget them as soon as I've done with them.
Besides, I couldn't make a line without baby on my knee. We make
them together, you know. They're just as much baby's as mine.
It's he that pulls them out of me."
"I suspect the child's a genius," said the poet to himself,
"and that's what makes people think him silly."
Now if any of my child readers want to know what a genius is--
shall I try to tell them, or shall I not? I will give them one
very short answer: it means one who understands things without
any other body telling him what they mean. God makes a few such
now and then to teach the rest of us.
"Do you like riddles?" asked Mr. Raymond, turning over the leaves
of his own book.
"I don't know what a riddle is," said Diamond.
"It's something that means something else, and you've got to find
out what the something else is."
Mr. Raymond liked the old-fashioned riddle best, and had written a few--
one of which he now read.
I have only one foot, but thousands of toes;
My one foot stands, but never goes.
I have many arms, and they're mighty all;
And hundreds of fingers, large and small.
From the ends of my fingers my beauty grows.
I breathe with my hair, and I drink with my toes.
I grow bigger and bigger about the waist,
And yet I am always very tight laced.
None e'er saw me eat -- I've no mouth to bite;
Yet I eat all day in the full sunlight.
In the summer with song I shave and quiver,
But in winter I fast and groan and shiver.
"Do you know what that means, Diamond?" he asked, when he had finished.
"No, indeed, I don't," answered Diamond.
"Then you can read it for yourself, and think over it, and see
if you can find out," said Mr. Raymond, giving him the book.
"And now you had better go home to your mother. When you've found
the riddle, you can come again."
If Diamond had had to find out the riddle in order to see
Mr. Raymond again, I doubt if he would ever have seen him.
"Oh then," I think I hear some little reader say, "he could not have
been a genius, for a genius finds out things without being told."
I answer, "Genius finds out truths, not tricks." And if you do
not understand that, I am afraid you must be content to wait till
you grow older and know more.
THE EARLY BIRD
WHEN Diamond got home he found his father at home already, sitting by
the fire and looking rather miserable, for his head ached and he
felt sick. He had been doing night work of late, and it had not agreed
with him, so he had given it up, but not in time, for he had taken
some kind of fever. The next day he was forced to keep his bed,
and his wife nursed him, and Diamond attended to the baby. If he
had not been ill, it would have been delightful to have him at home;
and the first day Diamond sang more songs than ever to the baby,
and his father listened with some pleasure. But the next he could
not bear even Diamond's sweet voice, and was very ill indeed;
so Diamond took the baby into his own room, and had no end of quiet
games with him there. If he did pull all his bedding on the floor,
it did not matter, for he kept baby very quiet, and made the bed
himself again, and slept in it with baby all the next night, and many
But long before his father got well, his mother's savings were
all but gone. She did not say a word about it in the hearing
of her husband, lest she should distress him; and one night,
when she could not help crying, she came into Diamond's room that
his father might not hear her. She thought Diamond was asleep,
but he was not. When he heard her sobbing, he was frightened,
"Is father worse, mother?"
"No, Diamond," she answered, as well as she could; "he's a good
"Then what are you crying for, mother?"
"Because my money is almost all gone," she replied.
"O mammy, you make me think of a little poem baby and I learned
out of North Wind's book to-day. Don't you remember how I bothered
you about some of the words?"
"Yes, child," said his mother heedlessly, thinking only of what she
should do after to-morrow.
Diamond began and repeated the poem, for he had a wonderful memory.
A little bird sat on the edge of her nest;
Her yellow-beaks slept as sound as tops;
That day she had done her very best,
And had filled every one of their little crops.
She had filled her own just over-full,
And hence she was feeling a little dull.
"Oh, dear!" she sighed, as she sat with her head
Sunk in her chest, and no neck at all,
While her crop stuck out like a feather bed
Turned inside out, and rather small;
"What shall I do if things don't reform?
I don't know where there's a single worm.
"I've had twenty to-day, and the children five each,
Besides a few flies, and some very fat spiders:
No one will say I don't do as I preach --
I'm one of the best of bird-providers;
But where's the use? We want a storm --
I don't know where there's a single worm."
"There's five in my crop," said a wee, wee bird,
Which woke at the voice of his mother's pain;
"I know where there's five." And with the word
He tucked in his head, and went off again.
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