When Rose woke next morning, she was not sure whether she had dreamed what
occurred the night before, or it had actually happened. So she hopped up and dressed,
although it was an hour earlier than she usually rose, for she could not sleep any more,
being possessed with a strong desire to slip down and see if the big portmanteau and
packing cases were really in the hall. She seemed to remember tumbling over them
when she went to bed, for the aunts had sent her off very punctually, because they
wanted their pet nephew all to themselves.
The sun was shining, and Rose opened her window to let in the soft May air fresh from
the sea. As she leaned over her little balcony, watching an early bird get the worm, and
wondering how she should like Uncle Alec, she saw a man leap the garden wall and
come whistling up the path. At first she thought it was some trespasser, but a second
look showed her that it was her uncle returning from an early dip into the sea. She had
hardly dared to look at him the night before, because whenever she tried to do so she
always found a pair of keen blue eyes looking at her. Now she could take a good stare
at him as he lingered along, looking about him as if glad to see the old place again.
A brown, breezy man, in a blue jacket, with no hat on the curly head, which he shook
now and then like a water dog; broad-shouldered, alert in his motions, and with a
general air of strength and stability about him which pleased Rose, though she could
not explain the feeling of comfort it gave her. She had just said to herself, with a sense
of relief, "I guess I shall like him, though he looks as if he made people mind," when he
lifted his eyes to examine the budding horse-chestnut overhead, and saw the eager
face peering down at him. He waved his hand to her, nodded, and called out in a bluff,
"You are on deck early, little niece."
"I got up to see if you had really come, uncle."
"Did you? Well, come down here and make sure of it."
"I'm not allowed to go out before breakfast, sir."
"Oh, indeed!" with a shrug. "Then I'll come aboard and salute," he added; and, to Rose's
great amazement, Uncle Alec went up one of the pillars of the back piazza hand over
hand, stepped across the roof, and swung himself into her balcony, saying, as he
landed on the wide balustrade: "Have you any doubts about me now, ma'am?"
Rose was so taken aback, she could only answer with a smile as she went to meet him.