Read CHAPTER XXXVI - HOW MOSES MOORE KEPT HIS APPOINTMENT of A World of Girls The Story of a School , free online book, by L. T. Meade, on

Susan Drummond got back to Lavender House without apparent discovery.  She was certainly late when she took her place in the class-room for her next day’s preparation; but, beyond a very sharp reprimand from mademoiselle, no notice was taken of this fact.  She managed to whisper to Nora and Phyllis that the basket would be moved by the first dawn the next morning, and the little girls went to bed happier in consequence.  Nothing ever could disturb Susan’s slumbers, and that night she certainly slept without rocking.  As she was getting into bed she ventured to tell Annie how successfully she had manoeuvered; but Annie received her news with the most absolute indifference, looking at her for a moment with a queer smile, and then saying: 

“My own wish is that this should be found out.  As a matter of course, I sha’n’t betray you, girls; but as things now stand I am anxious that Mrs. Willis should know the very worst of me.”

After a remark which Susan considered so simply idiotic, there was, of course, no further conversation between the two girls.

Moses Moore had certainly promised Betty to rise soon after dawn on the following morning, and go to Lavender House to carry off the basket from under the laurel-tree.  Moses, a remarkably indolent lad, had been stimulated by the thought of the delicious cherries which would be his as soon as he brought the basket to Betty.  He had cleverly stipulated that a quart ­not a pint ­of cherries was to be his reward, and he looked forward with considerable pleasure to picking them himself, and putting a few extra ones into his mouth on the sly.

Moses was not at all the kind of a boy who would have scrupled to steal a few cherries; but in this particular old Betty, ill as she was, was too sharp for him or for any of the other village lads.  Her bed was drawn up close to her little window, and her window looked directly on to the two cherry trees.  Never, to all appearance, did Betty close her eyes.  However early the hour might be in which a village boy peeped over the wall of her garden, he always saw her white night-cap moving, and he knew that her bright blue eyes would be on him, and he would be proclaimed a thief all over the place before many minutes were over.

Moses, therefore, was very glad to secure his cherries by fair means, as he could not obtain them by foul; and he went to bed and to sleep, determined to be off on his errand with the dawn.

A very natural thing, however, happened.  Moses, unaccustomed to getting up at half-past three in the morning, never opened his eyes until the church clock struck five.  Then he started upright, rubbed and rubbed at his sleepy orbs, tumbled into his clothes, and, softly opening the cottage door, set off on his errand.

The fact of his being nearly an hour and a half late did not trouble him in the least.  In any case, he would get to Lavender House before six o’clock, and would have consumed his cherries in less than an hour from that date.

Moses sauntered gaily along the roads, whistling as he went, and occasionally tossing his battered cap in the air.  He often lingered on his way, now to cut down a particularly tempting switch from the hedge, now to hunt for a possible bird’s nest.  It was very nearly six o’clock when he reached the back avenue, swung himself over the gate, which was locked, and ran softly on the dewy grass in the direction of the laurel bush.  Old Betty had given him most careful instructions, and he was far too sharp a lad to forget what was necessary for the obtaining of a quart of cherries.  He found his tree, and lay flat down on the ground in order to pull out the basket.  His fingers had just clasped the handle when there came a sudden interruption ­a rush, a growl, and some very sharp teeth had inserted themselves into the back of his ragged jacket.  Poor Moses found himself, to his horror, in the clutches of a great mastiff.  The creature held him tight, and laid one heavy paw on him to prevent him rising.

Under these circumstances, Moses thought it quite unnecessary to retain any self-control.  He shrieked, he screamed, he wriggled; his piercing yells filled the air, and, fortunately for him, his being two hours too late brought assistance to his aid.  Michael, the gardener, and a strong boy who helped him, rushed to the spot, and liberated the terrified lad, who, after all, was only frightened, for Rover had satisfied himself with tearing his jacket to pieces, not himself.

“Give me the b-basket,” sobbed Moses, “and let me g-g-go.”

“You may certainly go, you little tramp,” said Michael, “but Jim and me will keep the basket.  I much misdoubt me if there isn’t mischief here.  What’s the basket put hiding here for, and who does it belong to?”

“Old B-B-Betty,” gasped forth the agitated Moses.

“Well, let old Betty fetch it herself.  Mrs. Willis will keep it for her,” said Michael.  “Come along, Jim, get to your weeding, do.  There, little scamp, you had better make yourself scarce.”

Moses certainly took his advice, for he scuttled off like a hare.  Whether he ever got his cherries or not, history does not disclose.

Michael, looking gravely at Jim, opened the basket, examined its contents, and, shaking his head solemnly, carried it into the house.

“There’s been deep work going on, Jim, and my missis ought to know,” said Michael, who was an exceedingly strict disciplinarian.  Jim, however, had a soft corner in his heart for the young ladies, and he commenced his weeding with a profound sigh.