“I’m going to try, anyway,” replied Mary, with spirit. “Let me take your knife, will you please, Agony?”
The lowest branches of the pine were far above her head, and in order to get a foothold in them Mary had to climb a neighboring tree and swing herself across. The ground seemed terrifying far away even from this lowest branch; but this was only the beginning. She resolutely refrained from looking down and kept on steadily, branch above branch, until she reached the one from which the robin hung. Then began the most perilous part of the undertaking. To reach the bird she must crawl out on this branch for a distance of at least six feet, there being no limb directly underneath for her to walk out on. Praying for a steady balance, she swung herself astride of the branch, and holding on tightly with her hands began hitching herself slowly outward. The bough bent sickeningly under her; Agony below shrieked and covered her eyes; then opened them again and continued to gaze in horrified fascination as inch by inch Mary neared the wildly fluttering bird, whose terror had increased a hundred-fold at the human presence so near it.
There came an ominous cracking sound; Agony uttered another shriek and turned away; the next instant the shrill cries of the bird ceased; the man in the chair gave vent to a long drawn “Ah-h!” Agony looked up to see the exhausted bird fluttering to the ground beside her, a length of string still hanging to its foot, while Mary slowly and carefully worked her way back to the trunk of the tree. In a few minutes she slid to the ground and sat there, breathless and trembling, but triumphant.
“I got it!” she panted. Then, turning to the man in the chair, she exclaimed, “There now, who said it was impossible?”
The man applauded vigorously. “That was the bravest act I have ever seen performed,” he said admiringly. “You’re the right stuff, whoever you are, and I take my hat off to you.”
“Anybody would have done it,” murmured Mary modestly, as she rose and prepared to depart.
“How could you do it?” marveled Agony, as the two walked homeward through the woods. “Weren’t you horribly scared?”
“Yes, I was,” admitted Mary frankly. “When I started to go out on that branch I was shaking so that I could hardly hold on. It seemed miles to the ground, and I got so dizzy I turned faint for a moment. But I tried to think of something else, and kept on going, and pretty soon I could reach the string to cut it.”
The boundless admiration with which Agony regarded Mary’s act of bravery was gradually swallowed up in envy. Why hadn’t she herself been the one to climb up and rescue that poor bird? She would give anything to have done such a spectacular thing. Deep in her heart, however, she knew she would never have had the courage to crawl out on that branch even if she had thought of it first.
Silence fell upon the two girls as they walked along in the gradually failing light; all topics of conversation seemed to have been exhausted. Mary’s clothes were dry before they were through the woods, and she put them on to save the trouble of carrying them, giving Agony back her green bloomers.