Jimmy tied a bowline knot at the proper distance from one end of the line, passed the line around Bobby’s body under the arms, ran the end of the line through the loop, and secured it. With this arrangement the line could not tighten and pinch, and still was tight enough to hold Bobby securely.
“Now,” said Jimmy, indicating a high bowlder, “I’ll bring the line around this rock, so I’ll have a purchase on it and it can’t slip away from me, and let it out as you climb down. You holler when you want to stop and holler when you want to come up.”
The plan worked admirably for a while. Very slowly Bobby descended, calling out now and again for Jimmy to “hold” while he picked eggs from nests on shelving rocks.
At last his bag was full, and he was ready to ascend.
“All right, Jimmy. Pull up now,” he called.
Jimmy pulled, but pull as he would he could not budge Bobby one inch. He did not dare release the line where it made its turn around the bowlder, for without the leverage he feared the line would get away from him, in which case Bobby would crash to the bottom of the cliff. So Jimmy pulled desperately. But it was of no avail, and presently he took another turn of the line around the bowlder, and secured it so that it could not slip, and ran forward.
Bobby was shouting to be drawn up, and Jimmy, throwing himself upon his face and peering down over the edge of the cliff, saw Bobby dangling in mid air some forty feet below him and thirty feet above the deep black water. He also saw that, supported only by the line, Bobby was in a strained and perilous as well as most uncomfortable position.
His first impulse was to lower Bobby to the base of the cliff, and let him wait there until he could get the boat, bring it around and take him off. But he saw at a glance that at its foot the rocky cliff rose out of the deep water in a perpendicular wall, so smooth that there was not even a hand hold to be had, and this was its condition for a considerable distance on either side. Neither was there hope that, in the strong outgoing tide, and encumbered by clothing, Bobby could swim in the icy waters to a point where a footing could be had.
“Hurry, Jimmy; I can’t stand this much longer! I can’t stand it much longer!” Bobby shouted, as he caught a glimpse of Jimmy’s head.
Jimmy in return shouted reassurance to Bobby, and ran back for another effort to pull him out. But again he pulled and pulled in vain. With all the strength he had he could not pull Bobby up a single inch. With a sickening dread at his heart, he refastened the line.
Jimmy realized that there was no help to be had from outside. There was no one at home but Mrs. Abel, and rowing the skiff alone against the tide fully four hours would be consumed in reaching there and another three hours in coming back. Then it would be well past dark. An easterly breeze was springing up, and a chop was rising on the bay. This easterly wind was likely to bring with it a cold storm, and Bobby, suspended thirty feet above the water, and not warmly dressed, might perish.