Ford Foster had never shone out to so good an advantage in all his life before, as he did when he took his station on the upper rounds of that ladder, and risked his neck to hand water-pails to Ham. It was hard work, all around, but hardest of all for the two “firemen” on the roof. Now and then the strength and agility of Ham Morris were put to pretty severe tests, as Dab danced around under the scorching heat, or slipped flat upon the sloping roof. It was well for Ham that he was a man of weight and substance.
There were scores and scores of people streaming up from the village now, arriving in panting squads, every moment; and Mrs. Kinzer had all she could do to keep them from “rescuing” every atom of her furniture out of the house, and piling it up in the road.
“Wait, please,” she said to them very calmly.
“If Ham and Dab save the long barn, the fire won’t spread any farther. The old barn won’t be any loss to speak of, anyhow.”
Fiercely as the dry old barn burned, it used itself up all the quicker on that account; and it was less than thirty minutes from the time Ham and Dabney got at work before roof and rafters fell in, and the worst of the danger was over. The men and boys from the village were eager enough to do any thing that now remained to be done; but a large share of this was confined to standing around and watching the “bonfire” burn down to a harmless heap of badly smelling ashes. As soon, however, as they were no more wanted on the roof, the two “volunteer firemen” came down; and Ham Morris’s first word on reaching the ground was,—
“Dab, my boy, how you’ve grown!”
Not a tenth of an inch in mere stature, and yet Ham was entirely correct about it.
He stared at Dabney for a moment; and then he turned, and stared at every thing else. There was plenty of light just then, moon or no moon; and Ham’s eyes were very busy for a full minute. He noted rapidly the improvements in the fences, sheds, barns, the blinds on the house, the paint, a host of small things that had changed for the better; and then he simply said, “Come on, Dab,” and led the way into the house. Her mother and sisters had already given Miranda a hurried look at what they had done, but Ham was not the man to do any thing in haste. Deliberately and silently he walked from room to room, and from cellar to garret, hardly seeming to hear the frequent comments of his enthusiastic young wife. That he did hear all that had been said around him as he went, however, was at last made manifest, for he said,—
“Dab, I’ve seen all the other rooms. Where’s yours?”
“I’m going to let you and Miranda have my room,” said Dab. “I don’t think I shall board here long.”
“I don’t think you will either,” said Ham emphatically. “You’re going away to boarding-school. Miranda, is there any reason why Dab can’t have the south-west room, up stairs, with the bay-window?”