“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.
Mr. Chalk made but a poor breakfast next morning, the effort to display a feeling of proper sympathy with Mrs. Chalk, who was presiding in gloomy silence at the coffee-pot, and at the same time to maintain an air of cheerful innocence as to the cause of her behaviour, being almost beyond his powers. He chipped his egg with a painstaking attempt to avoid noise, and swallowed each mouthful with a feeble pretence of not knowing that she was watching him as he ate. Her glance conveyed a scornful reproach that he could eat at all in such circumstances, and, that there might be no mistake as to her own feelings, she ostentatiously pushed the toast-rack and egg-stand away from her.
“You—you’re not eating, my dear,” said Mr. Chalk.
“If I ate anything it would choke me,” was the reply.
Mr. Chalk affected surprise, but his voice quavered. To cover his discomfiture he passed his cup up for more coffee, shivering despite himself, as he noticed the elaborate care which Mrs. Chalk displayed in rinsing out the cup and filling it to the very brim. Beyond raising her eyes to the ceiling when he took another piece of toast, she made no sign.