“And, moreover, for the third time, I further propose to invite Mr. Mark Elmer, Jun., President of the Elmer Mill and Ferry Company of Floridy, Miss Ruth Elmer, Secretary of the same, Miss Edna May, daughter of the captain, that is to be, of the schooner Nancy Bell, and the several gentlemen whom we met down in Aroostook last June, to take this Floridy trip on board the schooner Nancy Bell with me.”
“With you, Uncle Christopher!” exclaimed Mark. “Are you going too?”
“Why, to be sure I am,” answered Uncle Christopher. “Didn’t I tell you it was my intention to reunite the scattered members of my being under more sunny skies than these? Now what do you say to my scheme, eh?”
“I say it’s the most splendid scheme I ever heard of,” cried Mark, jumping from his chair in his excitement, “and I wish we could start this very minute.”
“Well we can’t; but we can start towards bed, and in the morning we’ll look after that mill machinery.”
The next two were indeed busy weeks for our friends. In Bangor Uncle Christopher and Mark were fully occupied in selecting mill machinery of the most improved patterns, and in purchasing a great variety of farm utensils, groceries, and other things that Mark knew would prove very welcome in Wakulla. Captain May, who had gladly accepted the command of the Nancy Bell for this voyage, was equally busy getting her ready for sea, and superintending the stowage of her precious but awkward cargo of machinery.
In Norton, Ruth and Edna had their hands full of dressmaking, packing, and paying farewell visits, and down in Aroostook the six families of the six gentlemen who had accepted Mr. Bangs’s invitation to visit Florida with him were in a whirl of excitement, for to these untravelled people the journey from Maine to Florida seemed but little less of an undertaking than a journey around the world.
At length everything was ready, and the Nancy Bell only awaited her passengers. Captain May and Mark ran over to Norton one day to bid the friends there good-bye, and returned the next, bringing the girls with them. Both the girls were as excited as they could be; Edna at the prospect of this the first long journey that she could remember, and Ruth at the idea of soon being at home with her own dear parents again, and with anticipating all she should have to show and tell Edna.
A letter had been sent to Wakulla, saying that Mark and Ruth would take advantage of the first opportunity that offered to go home, and that Edna May would come with them; but nothing was said of Uncle Christopher and the rest of the party, nor of the schooner and her cargo. All this was reserved as a grand surprise.