The Evil Shepherd HTML version

Chapter 35
Francis, glad of a moment or two's solitude in which to rearrange his somewhat distorted
sensations, found an empty space in the stern of the launch and stood leaning over the
rail. His pulses were still tingling with the indubitable excitement of the last half-hour. It
was all there, even now, before his eyes like a cinematograph picture--the duel between
those two men, a duel of knowledge, of strength, of science, of courage. From beginning
to end, there had been no moment when Francis had felt that he was looking on at what
was in any way a degrading or immoral spectacle. Each man had fought in his way to
win. Young Wilmore, graceful as a panther, with a keen, joyous desire of youth for
supremacy written in his face and in the dogged lines of his mouth; the budding
champion from the East End less graceful, perhaps, but with even more strength and at
least as much determination, had certainly done his best to justify his selection. There
were no points to be scored. There had been no undue feinting, no holding, few of the
tricks of the professional ring. It was a fight to a finish, or until Harrison gave the word.
And the better man had won. But even that knock-out blow which Reggie Wilmore had
delivered after a wonderful feint, had had little that was cruel in it. There was something
beautiful almost in the strength and grace with which it had been delivered--the
breathless eagerness, the waiting, the end.
Francis felt a touch upon his arm and looked around. A tall, sad-faced looking woman,
whom he had noticed with a vague sense of familiarity in the dancing-room, was standing
by his side.
"You have forgotten me, Mr. Ledsam," she said.
"For the moment," he admitted.
I am Isabel Culbridge," she told him, watching his face.
"Lady Isabel?" Francis repeated incredulously. "But surely--"
"Better not contradict me," she interrupted. "Look again."
Francis looked again.
"I am very sorry," he said. "It is some time, is it not, since we met?"
She stood by his side, and for a few moments neither of them spoke. The little orchestra
in the bows had commenced to play softly, but there was none of the merriment amongst
the handful of men and women generally associated with a midnight river picnic. The
moon was temporarily obscured, and it seemed as though some artist's hand had so dealt
with the few electric lights that the men, with their pale faces and white shirt-fronts, and
the three or four women, most of them, as it happened, wearing black, were like some
ghostly figures in some sombre procession. Only the music kept up the pretence that this