"Miss Wychwood, er, Judith," Alice whispered, although it was unlikely that anyone would over hear them. "Is the balcony getting closer perhaps?"
The disconcertingly ethereal voice of Miss Wychwood hovered somewhere off to Alice's right, not quite on the same ledge, but then again, ghosts did not require even the insubstantial support of its narrow width. "Only a few steps further," came the encouraging reply. "Just don't look down."
Now Alice had certainly had no intention of looking down. When she had begun her perilous journey out the window, one promise she made herself was that she would certainly not look down. Alice knew what lay below, as she had glanced out the extremely untidy windows many times, but she had no real desire to remind herself of that geography without the safety of a dirty windowpane between her and it.
But a funny thing happens to the most obedient child when told not to do something.
Alice looked down and immediately dizziness overwhelmed her. The ground, which had seemed so near by from the safety behind the glass, now seemed perilously distant. After all the falls I have taken, after all the adventures I have survived, Alice thought somewhat nervously, perhaps I should think nothing at all of falling into the garden below.
"Miss Alice!" cried Miss Wychwood. "Take my hand!"
Alice craned her neck around to the side where Miss Wychwood hovered anxiously. Without a thought she stretched her hand out to her friend and clasped hers. The two inched along the ledge without drawing another breath it seemed, but Alice could feel the dizziness that had attacked her subsiding.
The balcony loomed ahead like a shimmering oasis in the desert. Alice found herself as thirsty for it as a camel who had been on a very long holiday indeed and had only had a very dry bread for tea with no butter at all.
"Just a few more steps," Miss Wychwood encouraged.
Alice tried to think nothing at all and concentrated only on the sound of her friend's voice and the touch of her hand. Step, step, step. Minute movements, but progress, surely, Alice told herself.
"We're there!" Miss Wychwood cried. "Alice, you're safe!"
Alice looked down and they were indeed at the balustrade for the balcony. She let go of Judith's hand to grab the railing and ever so carefully boosted herself over it. Trembling, Alice nonetheless found herself filled with triumph. "We did it!" she cried with a voice that very nearly sounded like a sob.
Miss Wychwood clapped her hands with joy. "Indeed!"
"Judith!" Alice said, her eyes wide and mouth open. "I could feel your hand!"
They both gasped with surprise and delight and embraced at once.