The idea was ingenious, but hopeless from the start. The whistle at the end of the garden became piercing in its endeavour to attract attention, and, what was worse, developed an odd note of entreaty. Mr. Chalk, pale with apprehension, could bear no more.
“Well, I think I’ve done enough for one night,” he observed, cheerfully and loudly, as he thrust his spade into the ground and took his coat from a neighbouring bush.
He turned to go indoors and, knowing his wife’s objection to dirty boots, made for the door near the kitchen. As he passed the drawing-room window, however, a low but imperative voice pronounced his name.
“Yes, my dear,” said Mr. Chalk.
“There’s a friend of yours whistling for you,” said his wife, with forced calmness.
“Whistling?” said Mr. Chalk, with as much surprise as a man could assume in face of the noise from the bottom of the garden.
“Do you mean to tell me you can’t hear it?” demanded his wife, in a choking voice.
Mr. Chalk lost his presence of mind. “I thought it was a bird,” he said, assuming a listening attitude.
“Bird?” gasped the indignant Mrs. Chalk. “Look down there. Do you call that a bird?”
Mr. Chalk looked and uttered a little cry of astonishment.
“I suppose she wants to see one of the servants,” he said, at last; “but why doesn’t she go round to the side entrance? I shall have to speak to them about it.”
Mrs. Chalk drew herself up and eyed him with superb disdain.
“Go down and speak to her,” she commanded. “Certainly not,” said Mr. Chalk, braving her, although his voice trembled.
“Because if I did you would ask me what she said, and when I told you you wouldn’t believe me,” said Mr. Chalk.
“You—you decline to go down?” said his wife, in a voice shaking with emotion.
“I do,” said Mr. Chalk, firmly. “Why don’t you go yourself?”
Mrs. Chalk eyed him for a moment in scornful silence, and then stepped to the window and sailed majestically down the garden. Mr. Chalk watched her, with parted lips, and then he began to breathe more freely as the whistle ceased and the head suddenly disappeared. Still a little nervous, he watched his wife to the end of the garden and saw her crane her head over the fence. By the time she returned he was sitting in an attitude of careless ease, with his back to the window.
“Well?” he said, with assurance.
Mrs. Chalk stood stock-still, and the intensity of her gaze drew Mr. Chalk’s eyes to her face despite his will. For a few seconds she gazed at him in silence, and then, drawing her skirts together, swept violently out of the room.