As for Dabney Kinzer, he had done his sleeping as regularly and faithfully as even his eating, up to the very night after Ham Morris came home to find the old barn afire. There had been a few, a very few, exceptions. There were the nights when he was expecting to go duck-shooting before daylight, and waked up at midnight with a strong conviction that he was late about starting. There were, perhaps, a dozen of “eeling” expeditions, that had kept him out late enough for a full basket and a proper scolding. There, too, was the night when he had stood so steadily by the tiller of “The Swallow,” while she danced, through the dark, across the rough billows of the Atlantic.
But, on the whole, Dab Kinzer had been a good sleeper all his life till then. Once in bed, and there had been for him an end of all wakefulness.
On that particular night, for the first time, sleep refused to come, late as was the hour when the family circle broke up.
It could not have been the excitement of Ham and Miranda’s return. He would have gotten over that by this time. No more could it have been the fire, though the smell of smouldering hay came in pretty strongly at times through the wide-open windows. If any one patch of that great roomy bed was better made up for sleeping than the rest of it, Dab would surely have found the spot; for he tumbled and rolled all over it in his restlessness. Some fields on a farm will “grow” wheat better than others, but no part of the bed seemed to grow any sleep. At last Dab got wearily up, and took a chair by the window.
The night was dark, but the stars were shining; and every now and then the wind would make a shovel of itself, and toss up the hot ashes the fire had left, sending a dull red glare around on the house and barns for a moment, and flooding all the neighborhood with a stronger smell of burnt hay.
“If you’re going to burn hay,” soliloquized Dabney, “it won’t do to take a barn for a stove. Not that kind of a barn. But what did Ham Morris mean by saying that I was to go to boarding-school? That’s what I’d like to know”
The secret was out.
He had kept remarkably still, for him, all the evening, and had not asked a question; but, if his brains were ever to work over his books as they had over Ham’s remark, his future chances for sound sleep were all gone. It had come upon him so suddenly, the very thing he thought about that night in “The Swallow,” and wished for and dreamed about during all those walks and talks and lessons of all sorts with Ford Foster and Frank Harley, ever since they came in from that memorable cruise.
It was a wonderful idea, and Dab had his doubts as to the way his mother would take to it when it should be brought seriously before her. Little he guessed the truth. Ham’s remark had gone deep into other ears as well as Dabney’s; and there were reasons, therefore, why good Mrs. Kinzer was sitting by the window of her own room, at that very moment, as little inclined to sleep as was the boy she was thinking of. So proud of him too, she was, and so full of bright, motherly thoughts of the man he would make, “one of these days, when he gets his growth.”