She said: “We must get down.”
It was much too jolly to go in, really. But if she wanted her tea —girls always wanted tea! And, twisting the cord carefully round the branch, he began to superintend her descent. About to follow, he heard her cry:
“Oh, Mark! I’m stuck—I’m stuck! I can’t reach it with my foot! I’m swinging!” And he saw that she was swinging by her hands and the cord.
“Let go; drop on to the branch below—the cord’ll hold you straight till you grab the trunk.”
Her voice mounted piteously:
“I can’t—I really can’t—I should slip!”
He tied the cord, and slithered hastily to the branch below her; then, bracing himself against the trunk, he clutched her round the waist and knees; but the taut cord held her up, and she would not come to anchor. He could not hold her and untie the cord, which was fast round her waist. If he let her go with one hand, and got out his knife, he would never be able to cut and hold her at the same time. For a moment he thought he had better climb up again and slack off the cord, but he could see by her face that she was getting frightened; he could feel it by the quivering of her body.
“If I heave you up,” he said, “can you get hold again above?” And, without waiting for an answer, he heaved. She caught hold frantically.
“Hold on just for a second.”
She did not answer, but he saw that her face had gone very white. He snatched out his knife and cut the cord. She clung just for that moment, then came loose into his arms, and he hauled her to him against the trunk. Safe there, she buried her face on his shoulder. He began to murmur to her and smooth her softly, with quite a feeling of its being his business to smooth her like this, to protect her. He knew she was crying, but she let no sound escape, and he was very careful not to show that he knew, for fear she should feel ashamed. He wondered if he ought to kiss her. At last he did, on the top of her head, very gently. Then she put up her face and said she was a beast. And he kissed her again on an eyebrow.
After that she seemed all right, and very gingerly they descended to the ground, where shadows were beginning to lengthen over the fern and the sun to slant into their eyes.
The night after the wedding the boy stood at the window of his pleasant attic bedroom, with one wall sloping, and a faint smell of mice. He was tired and excited, and his brain, full of pictures. This was his first wedding, and he was haunted by a vision of his sister’s little white form, and her face with its starry eyes. She was gone—his no more! How fearful the Wedding March had sounded on that organ—that awful old wheezer; and the sermon! One didn’t want to hear that sort of thing when one felt inclined to cry. Even Gordy had looked rather boiled when he was giving