The Evil Shepherd HTML version
Francis Ledsam, alert, well-satisfied with himself and the world, the echo of a little buzz
of congratulations still in his ears, paused on the steps of the modern Temple of Justice to
light a cigarette before calling for a taxi to take him to his club. Visions of a whisky and
soda--his throat was a little parched --and a rubber of easy-going bridge at his favourite
table, were already before his eyes. A woman who had followed him from the Court
touched him on the shoulder.
"Can I speak to you for a moment, Mr. Ledsam?"
The barrister frowned slightly as he swung around to confront his questioner. It was such
a familiar form of address.
"What do you want?" he asked, a little curtly.
"A few minutes' conversation with you," was the calm reply. "The matter is important."
The woman's tone and manner, notwithstanding her plain, inconspicuous clothes,
commanded attention. Francis Ledsam was a little puzzled. Small things meant much to
him in life, and he had been looking forward almost with the zest of a schoolboy to that
hour of relaxation at his club. He was impatient of even a brief delay, a sentiment which
he tried to express in his response.
"What do you want to speak to me about?" he repeated bluntly. "I shall be in my rooms in
the Temple to-morrow morning, any time after eleven."
"It is necessary for me to speak to you now," she insisted. "There is a tea-shop across the
way. Please accompany me there."
Ledsam, a little surprised at the coolness of her request, subjected his accoster to a closer
scrutiny. As he did so, his irritation diminished. He shrugged his shoulders slightly.
"If you really have business with me," he said, "I will give you a few minutes."
They crossed the street together, the woman self-possessed, negative, wholly without the
embarrassment of one performing an unusual action. Her companion felt the awakening
of curiosity. Zealously though she had, to all appearance, endeavoured to conceal the
fact, she was without a doubt personable. Her voice and manner lacked nothing of
refinement. Yet her attraction to Francis Ledsam, who, although a perfectly normal
human being, was no seeker after promiscuous adventures, did not lie in these externals.
As a barrister whose success at the criminal bar had been phenomenal, he had attained to
a certain knowledge of human nature. He was able, at any rate, to realise that this woman
was no imposter. He knew that she had vital things to say.