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Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (M R James) online
'OH, WHISTLE, AND I'LL COME TO YOU, MY LAD'
'Oh yes, to be sure, sir. Thank you, sir. It's no trouble, I'm sure,' said the maid, and departed to giggle with her colleagues.
Parkins set forth, with a stern determination to improve his game.
I am glad to be able to report that he succeeded so far in this enterprise that the Colonel, who had been rather repining at the prospect of a second day's play in his company, became quite chatty as the morning advanced; and his voice boomed out over the flats, as certain also of our own minor poets have said, 'like some great bourdon in a minster tower'.
'Extraordinary wind, that, we had last night,' he said. 'In my old home we should have said someone had been whistling for it.'
'Should you, indeed!' said Perkins. 'Is there a superstition of that kind still current in your part of the country?'
'I don't know about superstition,' said the Colonel. 'They believe in it all over Denmark and Norway, as well as on the Yorkshire coast; and my experience is, mind you, that there's generally something at the bottom of what these country-folk hold to, and have held to for generations. But it's your drive' (or whatever it might have been: the golfing reader will have to imagine appropriate digressions at the proper intervals).
When conversation was resumed, Parkins said, with a slight hesitancy:
'A propos of what you were saying just now, Colonel, I think I ought to tell you that my own views on such subjects are very strong. I am, in fact, a convinced disbeliever in what is called the "supernatural".'
'What!' said the Colonel,'do you mean to tell me you don't believe in second-sight, or ghosts, or anything of that kind?'
'In nothing whatever of that kind,' returned Parkins firmly.
'Well,' said the Colonel, 'but it appears to me at that rate, sir, that you must be little better than a Sadducee.'
Parkins was on the point of answering that, in his opinion, the Sadducees were the most sensible persons he had ever read of in the Old Testament; but feeling some doubt as to whether much mention of them was to be found in that work, he preferred to laugh the accusation off.
'Perhaps I am,' he said; 'but--Here, give me my cleek, boy!--Excuse me one moment, Colonel.' A short interval. 'Now, as to whistling for the wind, let me give you my theory about it. The laws which govern winds are really not at all perfectly known--to fisherfolk and such, of course, not known at all. A man or woman of eccentric habits, perhaps, or a stranger, is seen repeatedly on the beach at some unusual hour, and is heard whistling. Soon afterwards a violent wind rises; a man who could read the sky perfectly or who possessed a barometer could have foretold that it would. The simple people of a fishing-village have no barometers, and only a few rough rules for prophesying weather. What more natural than that the eccentric personage I postulated should be regarded as having raised the wind, or that he or she should clutch eagerly at the reputation of being able to do so? Now, take last night's wind: as it happens, I myself was whistling. I blew a whistle twice, and the wind seemed to come absolutely in answer to my call. If anyone had seen me--'
The audience had been a little restive under this harangue, and Parkins had, I fear, fallen somewhat into the tone of a lecturer; but at the last sentence the Colonel stopped.
'Whistling, were you?' he said. 'And what sort of whistle did you use? Play this stroke first.' Interval.
'About that whistle you were asking, Colonel. It's rather a curious one. I have it in my--No; I see I've left it in my room. As a matter of fact, I found it yesterday.'