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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesA Little Mother To The Others - Chapter 10. Bow And Arrow
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A Little Mother To The Others - Chapter 10. Bow And Arrow Post by :gademir Category :Long Stories Author :L. T. Meade Date :May 2012 Read :1338

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A Little Mother To The Others - Chapter 10. Bow And Arrow


Nothing interfered with the excursion to the pleasant woods near Super-Ashton Rectory. The children all found themselves there soon after four o'clock on this lovely summer afternoon. They could sit under the shade of the beautiful trees, or run about and play to their hearts' content.

Miss Ramsay was a very severe governess during school hours, but when there was a holiday she was as lax as she was particular on other occasions. This afternoon she took a novel out of her pocket, seated herself with her back to a great overspreading elm tree, and prepared to enjoy herself.

Lucy, Mary, and Ann surrounded Iris; Apollo marched away by himself, and Philip and Conrad mysteriously disappeared with little Orion. Diana thus found herself alone. For a time she was contented to lie stretched out flat on the grass playing soldiers, and watching the tricks of a snow-white rabbit who ran in and out of his hole close by. Presently, however, she grew tired of this solitary entertainment, and sprang to her feet, looking eagerly around her.

"Punishment is a very good thing," she said to herself. "I's punished, and I's lot better. It's now Aunt Jane's turn to be punished, and it's Simpson's turn to be punished--it'll do them heaps of good. First time I's only going to punish 'em, I isn't going to kill 'em down dead, but I's going to pwick 'em. I is Diana, and mother said I was to live just like the gweat Diana what lived long, long, _long ago."

Diana began to trot eagerly up and down under the shade of the tall forest trees. She looked about her to right and left, and presently was fortunate enough to secure a pliant bough of a tree which was lying on the ground. Having discovered this treasure, she sat down contentedly and began to pull off the leaves and to strip the bark. When she had got the long, supple bough quite bare, she whipped some string out of her pocket, and converted it into the semblance of a bow. It was certainly by no means a perfect bow, but it was a bow after a fashion.

The bow being made, the arrow must now be secured. Diana could not possibly manage an arrow without a knife, and she was not allowed to keep a knife of her own. Both bow and arrow must be a secret, for if anyone saw her with them it might enter into the head of that person not to consider it quite proper for her to punish Aunt Jane.

"And Aunt Jane must be punished," muttered Diana. "I must make an arrow, and I must pwick her with it. My bow is weally beautiful--it is a little crooked, but what do that matter? I could shoot my arrow now and pwick the twees, if only I could get one made. Oh, here's a darlin' little stick--it would make a lovely arrow, if I had a knife to sharpen the point with. Now, I do wonder what sort of a woman that Miss Wamsay is."

Diana fixed her coal-black eyes on the lady.

"She looks sort of gentle now she's weading," whispered the little girl to herself. "She looked howid this morning in the schoolroom, but she looks sort of gentle now. I even seed her smile a minute back, and I should not be a bit s'prised if she didn't hate Aunt Jane too. I know what I'll do; I'll just go and ask her--there is nothing in all the world like being plain-spoke. If Miss Wamsay hates Aunt Jane, why, course, she'll help me to sharpen my arrow, when I tell her it is to give Aunt Jane a little pwick."

Accordingly Diana approached Miss Ramsay's side, and, as the governess did not look up, she flung herself on the grass near by, uttering a deep sigh as she did so. But Miss Ramsay was intent on her book, and did not take the least notice of Diana's deep-drawn breath. The little girl fidgeted, and tried further measures. She came close up to the governess, and, stretching out one of her fat hands, laid it on one of Miss Ramsay's.

"Don't touch me, my dear," said the lady. "You are much too hot, and your hand is very dirty."

"I's sossy for that," said Diana. "I had to touch you 'cos you wouldn't look up. I has something most 'portant to talk over."

"Have you indeed?" replied Miss Ramsay. She closed her book. The part she was reading was not specially interesting, and she could not help being amused with such a very curious specimen of the genus child as Diana Delaney.

"Well, little girl, and what is it?" she asked.

"I 'spects," said Diana, looking very solemnly into her face, "that you and me, we has both got the same enemies."

"The same enemies! My dear child, what do you mean?" asked Miss Ramsay.

"I 'spects I's wight," said Diana, tossing her black head. "I's not often wrong. I wead your thoughts--I think that you has a desp'ate hate, down deep in your heart, to Aunt Jane."

"Good gracious!" cried the governess, "what does the child mean? Why should I hate Mrs. Dolman?"

"But why should not you?--that's the point," said Diana.

"Well, I don't," said Miss Ramsay.

Diana looked intently at her. Slowly, but surely, her big black eyes filled with tears; the tears rolled down her cheeks; she did not attempt to wipe them away.

"What is the matter with you, you queer little creature?" said Miss Ramsay. "What in the world are you crying about?"

"I is so bitter dis'pointed," repeated Diana.

"What, because I don't hate your Aunt Jane?"

"I is bitter dis-pointed," repeated Diana. "I thought, course, you hated her, 'cos I saw her look at you so smart like, and order you to be k'ick this morning, and I thought, 'Miss Wamsay don't like that, and course Miss Wamsay hates her, and if Miss Wamsay hates her, well, she'll help me, 'cos I hates her awful.'"

"But do you know that all this is very wrong?" said Miss Ramsay.

"W'ong don't matter," answered Diana, sweeping her hand in a certain direction, as if she were pushing wrong quite out of sight. "I hate her, and I want to punish her. You ought to hate her, 'cos she told you to be k'ick, and she looked at you with a kind of a fwown. Won't you twy and begin? Do, p'ease."

"I really never heard anything like this before in the whole course of my life," said Miss Ramsay. "Mrs. Dolman did warn me to be prepared for much, but I never heard a Christian child speak in the way you are doing."

"I isn't a Chwistian child," said Diana. "I is a heathen. Did you never hear of Diana what lived long, long ago?--the beautiful, bwave lady that shotted peoples whenever she p'eased with her bow and arrows?"

"Do you mean the heathen goddess?" said Miss Ramsay.

"I don't know what you call her, but I is named after her, and I mean to be like her. My beautiful mother said I was to be like her, and I'm going to twy. See, now, here is the bow"--she held up the crooked bow as she spoke--"and I only want the arrow. Will you help me to make the arrow? I thought--oh, I did think--that if you hated Aunt Jane you would help me to make the arrow. Here's the stick, and if you have a knife in your pocket you can just sharpen it, and it will make the most perfect arrow in all the world. I'll love you then. I'll help you always. I'll do my lessons if you ask me, and I'll twy to be good to you; 'cos you and me we'll both have our enemies, and p'w'aps, if I'm not stwong enough to use the bow, p'w'aps you could use it, and we might go about together and sting our enemies, and be weal fwiends. Will you twy? Will you make me the little arrow, p'ease, p'ease?"

"And what are you going to do with the arrow when it is made?" asked Miss Ramsay. "I happen," she continued, without waiting for Diana's reply, "to have a knife in my pocket, and I don't mind sharpening that piece of wood for you. But bows and arrows are dangerous weapons for little girls like you."

"Course they is dangerous," said Diana. "What would be the use of 'em, if they wasn't? They is to pwick our enemies and p'w'aps kill 'em."

"But look here, Diana, what do you want this special bow and arrow for?"

"I want to have Aunt Jane Dolman and Simpson shotted. I'll tell you why I want 'em both to be shotted--'cos Simpson killed my spiders and beetles, and Aunt Jane Dolman is a poky old thing and she shut me up in a punishment woom. Now wouldn't you like to help me--and then we'll both have deaded our enemies, and we'll be as happy as the day is long."

Miss Ramsay was so astounded at Diana's remarks that she slowly rose from her seat and stared for nearly half a minute at the little girl.

"Well," she said at last, "I have seen in my lifetime all sorts of children. I have taught little girls and boys since I was eighteen years of age. I have seen good children and naughty children, and clever children, and stupid children, but I have never met anyone like you, little Diana Delaney. Do you really know what you are saying? Do you know that you are a very, very wicked little girl?"

"Are I?" said Diana. "Well, then, I like being a wicked little girl. I thought p'w'aps you would help me; but it don't matter, not one bit."

Before Miss Ramsay could say another word Diana had turned abruptly and flown, as if on the wings of the wind, right down through the wood.

The governess watched the little figure disappearing between the oaks and elms until at last it quite vanished from view. She felt a momentary inclination to go after the child, but her book was interesting, and her seat under the overhanging elm extremely comfortable. And this was a holiday, and she worked hard enough, poor thing, on working days. And, after all, Diana was nothing but a silly little child, and didn't mean half she said.

"It would be folly to take the least notice of her remarks," thought the governess. "I'll just go on treating her like the others. I expect I shall have a good deal of work breaking in that interesting little quartette, for, after all, if my salary is to be raised, I may as well stay at the Rectory as anywhere else. The house is comfortable, and I have got used to Mrs. Dolman's queer ways by this time."

Accordingly Miss Ramsay reseated herself, and again took up her novel. She turned the leaves, and soon got into a most interesting part of the volume. Lost in the sorrows of her hero and heroine, she forgot all about Diana Delaney and her bow and arrow.

Meanwhile, Diana, walking rapidly away by herself, was reflecting hard.

"Miss Wamsay's a poor sort," she thought. "I aren't going to twouble 'bout anyone like her, but I must get that arrow made. The bow is beautiful, but I can't do nothing 'cos I hasn't got an arrow."

At this moment, to her great delight, she saw Apollo coming to meet her.

"There you is!" she shouted.

"What do you want with me?" asked Apollo.

"Look at my bow, 'Pollo! Aren't it beautiful? Aren't I just like the weal Diana now?"

"Did you make this bow all by yourself?" asked Apollo.

"Yes; why shouldn't I?"

"Well, it's awfully crooked."

"Is it?" said Diana; "I thought it was beautiful. Can you stwaighten it for me a little bit, 'Pollo?"

"I think I can make you a better bow than this," answered Apollo.

"Oh, can you? What a darlin' you is! And will you cut an arrow for me, and will you make it very sharp? Will you make it awfu' sharp? The kind that would pwick deep, you know, that would cut into things and be like the arrow that the gweat Diana used."

Apollo was finding his afternoon somewhat dull. He had made no friends as yet with the little Dolman children. Orion had disappeared with both the boys; Iris was with Ann, Lucy, and Mary; he had been thrown for the last hour completely on his own resources. The sight, therefore, of Diana, with her flushed face and bright eyes and spirited manner, quite cheered the little fellow. He and Diana had often been chums, and he thought it would be rather nice to be chummy with his little sister to-day.

"I may as well help you," he said, "but, of course, Di, you can't expect me to do this sort of thing often. I shall most likely be very soon going to school, and then I'll be with fellows, you know."

"What's fellows?" asked Diana.

"Oh, boys! Of course, when I get with boys, you can't expect me to be much with you."

"All wight," answered Diana. "I hope you won't get with no fellows this afternoon, 'cos you is useful to me. Just sit down where you is, and help me to make a bow and arrow."

Apollo instantly seated himself on the grass, and Diana threw herself on her face and hands by his side. She raised herself on her elbows and fixed her bright black eyes on her brother's face. She stared very hard at him, and he stared back at her.

"Well," she said, "isn't you going to begin?"

"Yes," he replied; "but what do you want the bow and arrow for?"

"To get my enemies shotted."

"Your enemies? What folly this is, Di. You have not got any enemies."

"Haven't I? I know better. I won't talk to you about it, 'Pollo."

"All right," replied Apollo; "you must tell me, or I won't help you."

"There, now!" said Diana, "you's got a howid fwown between your bwows. I don't like it; you's going to be obs'nate. I don't like obs'nate boys."

"I mean what I say," replied Apollo. "I know you of old, you monkey. You are up to mischief, and I insist upon hearing all about it."

Diana gazed at him solemnly.

"Does you like Aunt Jane?" she said, after a pause.

"I can't say that I do," replied Apollo.

"Does you like that old thing in the nursery--Simpson, they calls her?"

"I can't say that I do," replied the boy again.

"They is sort of enemies of yours, isn't they?" asked Diana.

"Oh! I don't know that I go as far as that," replied Apollo.

"But if Aunt Jane makes you do howid lessons all day, and if Simpson is always fussing you and getting you to wash your face and hands, and if you can't never go with _fellows_, and if you is kept in--and if--and if--"

"Oh! don't begin all that, Di," said Apollo. "Where is the use of making the worst of things?"

"Well, I want to make the best of things," said Diana. "I want to have our enemies shotted wight off."

"Do you mean to tell me," said Apollo, laughing, "that you wish to shoot Aunt Jane and that old woman in the nursery?"

"I wish to pwick 'em first time, and then, if they is naughty again, to have 'em shotted down dead. Why not? Mother, who is up in the heavens, called me after gweat Diana, and Diana always shotted her enemies."

"Oh, dear me, Di! I think you are the queerest little thing in the world," said Apollo. "But now, look here," he added, "I am older than you, and I know that what you are thinking about is very wrong. I can't make you a bow and arrow to do that sort of thing."

Diana looked bitterly disappointed. She could master, or she fancied she could master, Aunt Jane, Simpson, and Miss Ramsay, but she knew well, from past experience, that she could not master Apollo.

"What is to be done?" she said. She thought for a long time. "Would not you like a bow and arrow just all your own, to shoot at the twees with?" she asked at last artfully.

"Oh, I have no objection to that!" answered Apollo. "It seems right that I should have one; does it not, Di? But of course I would never do any mischief with it. Why, little thing, you have been talking the most awful rot."

"Well, you can make a bow and arrow for your very own self," said Diana.

"I don't see why I shouldn't, but you'll have to promise--"

"Oh, I won't make pwomises!" said Diana. "Why should I make pwomises about your bow and arrows? I'll help you to make 'em. Do let me, Apollo!"

Apollo seemed suddenly smitten with the idea. After all, it would be fine to make a bow and arrow, and to try to shoot things in the wood. How lovely it would be if he succeeded in shooting a rabbit; he would certainly have a try. Accordingly, he rose and climbed into the lower branches of an elm tree, and cut down a long, smooth young bough, and, descending again to the ground, began to peel the bark off. When this was done, Diana produced some more string out of her pocket, and a very creditable bow was the result.

"Now, the arrow," said the little girl.

"We must get some strong wood for that," said Apollo, "something that won't split. I'll just walk about and look around me." He did so, and soon found a stick suitable for his purpose. He sat down again and began whittling away. Very soon a fairly sharp arrow was the result. "Of course it ought to be tipped," said Apollo, "but we have nothing to tip it with. It is lucky that the wood is hard, and so it is really sharp. Now, shall I have a few shots with it?"

"Please do, Apollo. Oh, how 'licious it all is! Don't you feel just as if you was a heathen god?"

"I wish I were," said Apollo, throwing back his head. "Oh, Di, how hot it is in the wood! What wouldn't I give to be back in the dear old garden again?"

"Maybe we'll go soon," said Diana; "maybe they won't want to keep us if--" But here she shut up her little mouth firmly.

Apollo was too much excited about the bow and arrows to think of Diana's remarks. He stood up and began to practice shooting.

"You is doing it beautiful," said Diana, applauding his extremely poor efforts. "Now, twy again. Think that you has lived long, long ago, and that you is shotting things for our dinner."

The arrow went wide of the mark, the arrow went everywhere but where it ought to. Diana clapped and laughed and shouted, and Apollo thought himself the finest archer in the world.

"Now, let me have a teeny turn," she said.

"To be sure I will," he replied good-naturedly. He showed her how to place the arrow, and she made one or two valiant attempts to send it flying through the wood.

"It is hard," she panted; "the arrow don't seem even to make the least little pwick. Now, I want to shoot stwaight at that oak twee, or would you mind awfu', Apollo, if I was to shoot at you?"

"All right," replied Apollo; "you may aim at my hand, if you like." He walked about a dozen yards away and held up his hand.

Diana made valiant efforts, and grew crimson in the face, but the arrow still went wide of the mark.

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