The Evil Shepherd HTML version
To reach their table, the one concerning which Francis and his friend had been
speculating, the new arrivals, piloted by Louis, had to pass within a few feet of the two
men. The woman, serene, coldly beautiful, dressed like a Frenchwoman in unrelieved
black, with extraordinary attention to details, passed them by with a careless glance and
subsided into the chair which Louis was holding. Her companion, however, as he
recognised Francis hesitated. His expression of somewhat austere gloom was lightened.
A pleasant but tentative smile parted his lips. He ventured upon a salutation, half a nod,
half a more formal bow, a salutation which Francis instinctively returned. Andrew
Wilmore looked on with curiosity.
"So that is Oliver Hilditch," he murmured.
"That is the man," Francis observed, "of whom last evening half the people in this
restaurant were probably asking themselves whether or not he was guilty of murder. To-
night they will be wondering what he is going to order for dinner. It is a strange world."
"Strange indeed," Wilmore assented. "This afternoon he was in the dock, with his fate in
the balance--the condemned cell or a favoured table at Claridge's. And your meeting! One
can imagine him gripping your hands, with tears in his eyes, his voice broken with
emotion, sobbing out his thanks. And instead you exchange polite bows. I would not have
missed this situation for anything."
"Tradesman!" Francis scoffed. "One can guess already at the plot of your next novel."
"He has courage," Wilmore declared. "He has also a very beautiful companion. Were you
serious, Francis, when you told me that that was his wife?"
"She herself was my informant," was the quiet reply.
Wilmore was puzzled.
"But she passed you just now without even a glance of recognition, and I thought you
told me at the club this afternoon that all your knowledge of his evil ways came from her.
Besides, she looks at least twenty years younger than he does."
Francis, who had been watching his glass filled with champagne, raised it to his lips and
drank its contents steadily to the last drop.
"I can only tell you what I know, Andrew," he said, as he set down the empty glass. "The
woman who is with him now is the woman who spoke to me outside the Old Bailey this
afternoon. We went to a tea-shop together. She told me the story of his career. I have
never listened to so horrible a recital in my life."