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The Evil Shepherd

Chapter 12
It was after leaving Miss Daisy Hyslop's flat that the event to which Francis Ledsam had
been looking forward more than anything else in the world, happened. It came about
entirely by chance. There were no taxis in the Strand. Francis himself had finished work
for the day, and feeling disinclined for his usual rubber of bridge, he strolled homewards
along the Mall. At the corner of Green Park, he came face to face with the woman who
for the last few months had scarcely been out of his thoughts. Even in that first moment
he realised to his pain that she would have avoided him if she could. They met, however,
where the path narrowed, and he left her no chance to avoid him. That curious impulse of
conventionality which opens a conversation always with cut and dried banalities, saved
them perhaps from a certain amount of embarrassment. Without any conscious
suggestion, they found themselves walking side by side.
"I have been wanting to see you very much indeed," he said. "I even went so far as to
wonder whether I dared call."
"Why should you?" she asked. "Our acquaintance began and ended in tragedy. There is
scarcely any purpose in carrying it further."
He looked at her for a moment before replying. She was wearing black, but scarcely the
black of a woman who sorrows. She was still frigidly beautiful, redolent, in all the details
of her toilette, of that almost negative perfection which he had learnt to expect from her.
She suggested to him still that same sense of aloofness from the actualities of life.
"I prefer not to believe that it is ended," he protested. "Have you so many friends that you
have no room for one who has never consciously done you any harm?"
She looked at him with some faint curiosity in her immobile features.
"Harm? No! On the contrary, I suppose I ought to thank you for your evidence at the
inquest."
"Some part of it was the truth," he replied.
"I suppose so," she admitted drily. "You told it very cleverly."
He looked her in the eyes.
"My profession helped me to be a good witness," he said. "As for the gist of my evidence,
that was between my conscience and myself."
"Your conscience?" she repeated. "Are there really men who possess such things?"
 
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