The Evil Shepherd
Francis Ledsam arrived at his club, the Sheridan, an hour later than he had anticipated.
He nodded to the veteran hall-porter, hung up his hat and stick, and climbed the great
staircase to the card-room without any distinct recollection of performing any of these
simple and reasonable actions. In the cardroom he exchanged a few greetings with
friends, accepted without comment or without the slightest tinge of gratification a little
chorus of chafing congratulations upon his latest triumph, and left the room without any
inclination to play, although there was a vacant place at his favourite table. From sheer
purposelessness he wandered back again into the hall, and here came his first gleam of
returning sensation. He came face to face with his most intimate friend, Andrew
Wilmore. The latter, who had just hung up his coat and hat, greeted him with a growl of
"So you've brought it off again, Francis!"
"Touch and go," the barrister remarked. "I managed to squeak home."
Wilmore laid his hand upon his friend's shoulder and led the way towards two easy-chairs
in the lounge.
"I tell you what it is, old chap," he confided, "you'll be making yourself unpopular before
long. Another criminal at large, thanks to that glib tongue and subtle brain of yours. The
crooks of London will present you with a testimonial when you're made a judge."
"So you think that Oliver Hilditch was guilty, then?" Francis asked curiously.
"My dear fellow, how do I know or care?" was the indifferent reply. "I shouldn't have
thought that there had been any doubt about it. You probably know, anyway."
"That's just what I didn't when I got up to make my speech," Francis assured his friend
emphatically. "The fellow was given an opportunity of making a clean breast of it, of
course--Wensley, his lawyer, advised him to, in fact--but the story he told me was
precisely the story he told at the inquest."
They were established now in their easy-chairs, and Wilmore summoned a waiter.
"Two large whiskies and sodas," he ordered. "Francis," he went on, studying his
companion intently, "what's the matter with you? You don't look as though your few days
in the country last week had done you any good."
Francis glanced around as though to be sure that they were alone.
"I was all right when I came up, Andrew," he muttered. "This case has upset me."