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The Evil Shepherd

Chapter 8
The little party of late diners passed on their way to the further end of the room, leaving a
wave of artificiality behind, or was it, Andrew Wilmore wondered, in a moment of half-
dazed speculation, that it was they and the rest of the gay company who represented the
real things, and he and his companion who were playing a sombre part in some unreal
and gloomier world. Francis' voice, however, when he recommenced his diatribe, was
calm and matter-of-fact enough.
"You see," he continued, argumentatively, "I was morally and actually responsible for the
man's being brought back into Society. And far worse than that, I was responsible for his
being thrust back again upon his wife. Ergo, I was also responsible for what she did that
night. The matter seems as plain as a pikestaff to me. I did what I could to atone, rightly
or wrongly it doesn't matter, because it is over and done with. There you are, old fellow,
now you know what's been making me nervy. I've committed wholesale perjury, but I
acted according to my conscience and I think according to justice. The thing has worried
me, I admit, but it has passed, and I'm glad it's off my chest. One more liqueur, Andrew,
and if you want to we'll talk about my plans for the future."
The brandy was brought. Wilmore studied his friend curiously, not without some relief.
Francis had lost the harassed and nervous appearance upon which his club friends had
commented, which had been noticeable, even, to a diminishing extent, upon the golf
course at Brancaster. He was alert and eager. He had the air of a man upon the threshold
of some enterprise dear to his heart.
"I have been through a queer experience," Francis continued presently, as he sipped his
second liqueur. "Not only had I rather less than twelve hours to make up my mind
whether I should commit a serious offence against the law, but a sensation which I
always hoped that I might experience, has come to me in what I suppose I must call most
unfortunate fashion."
"The woman?" Wilmore ventured.
Francis assented gloomily. There was a moment's silence. Wilmore, the metaphysician,
saw then a strange thing. He saw a light steal across his friend's stern face. He saw his
eyes for a moment soften, the hard mouth relax, something incredible, transforming,
shine, as it were, out of the man's soul in that moment of self-revelation. It was gone like
the momentary passing of a strange gleam of sunshine across a leaden sea, but those few
seconds were sufficient. Wilmore knew well enough what had happened.
"Oliver Hilditch's wife," Francis went on, after a few minutes' pause, "presents an enigma
which at present I cannot hope to solve. The fact that she received her husband back
again, knowing what he was and what he was capable of, is inexplicable to me. The
woman herself is a mystery. I do not know what lies behind her extraordinary immobility.
Feeling she must have, and courage, or she would never have dared to have ridded herself