Both Mark and Ruth saw a greater resemblance in the real Edna May to Frank March than had been shown by her photograph; but they remembered their promise to Captain Bill, and did not speak of it except to each other. It was very hard for Ruth to keep this promise, for Edna had become much interested in Frank through her letters, and now asked many questions about him. Ruth told her all she knew, except the one great secret that was on the end of her tongue a dozen times, but was never allowed to get any further.
Two weeks had been spent very happily by the children in Norton, when, one beautiful evening in June, the old stage rattled up to the Wings’ front gate, and from it alighted Uncle Christopher Bangs.
“Halloo, Mark!” sung out the old gentleman, catching sight of his grandnephew almost the first thing. “How are you, my boy? Sakes alive, but you’re looking well! Seems as if Maine air was the correct thing for Floridy boys, eh?”
“Yes, indeed, ‘Uncle Christmas,’” replied Mark, as he ran out to meet the dear old man, “Maine air is the very thing for this Florida boy, at any rate.”
“So it is, so it is,” chuckled Uncle Christopher. “Wal, I suppose you’re all ready to go to work now, eh?”
“To be sure I am, uncle; ready to begin right off.”
“That’s right, that’s right; but s’posing we just look in on Mrs. Wing first, and see what she’s got for supper, and then, after sleeping a bit, and eating again, and sort o’ shaking ourselves together, we’ll begin to consider. There ain’t nothing to be gained by hurrying and worrying through the only lifetime we’ve got in this world, eh?”
The Doctor and Mrs. Wing welcomed Uncle Christopher most warmly, for he was a very dear friend of theirs, and they never allowed him to stay anywhere in Norton but at their house, now that the Elmers had moved away. After supper Ruth and the Mays came over to see him, and he entertained them the whole evening with his funny stories and quaint sayings.
In the morning, after breakfast, they began to “consider,” as Uncle Christopher called it. First he made Mark stand in front of him, looked him all over from head to foot with a quizzical expression, and finally said, “Yes, you look strong and hearty, and I guess you’ll do.
“Fact is, Mark, I’ve got to take a trip down into Aroostook, and as I’m getting pretty old and feeble—Oh, you needn’t smile, youngster, I am old and I’ve made so many bad jokes lately that I must be getting feeble. As I was saying, having reached an advanced state of infirmity, it has occurred to me that I need a travelling companion, a young, able-bodied fellow like you, for instance, to protect me against the dangers of the journey. Who knows but what we may meet with an alligator, eh? and so I want you to go along with me.”