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I have a passage from a novel, WILL O' THE MILL, which is written by Robert Louis Stevenson. You can find it on Google. Anyhow, what I want to know is what exactly 'it' means in the following passage;

He would linger by the wayside, and follow the carriages with his eyes as they raided downward by the river. It did not matter what it was; everything that went that way, were it cloud or carriage, bird or brown water in the stream, he felt his heart flow out after it in an ecstasy of longing.

I'm looking forward to your wise answers.

Thanks!
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He would linger by the wayside, and follow the carriages with his eyes as they raided downward by the river. It did not matter what it was; everything that went that way, were it cloud or carriage, bird or brown water in the stream, he felt his heart flow out after it in an ecstasy of longing.

In this case "it" is a general reference. It refers to no one thing in particular.
Perhaps it would help if I paraphrased the passage:

He was watching everything that went past. It could be a a cloud or a carriage. It could be a bird or the brown water in the stream He didn't care. They all caused a feeling of longing in his heart.

Does this help?
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I see what you're saying!

Oh, that's a great explanation.

Thank you very much!