The Evil Shepherd HTML version
The greatest tragedies in the world, provided they happen to other people, have singularly
little effect upon the externals of our own lives. There was certainly not a soul in Soto's
that night who did not know that Bobby Fairfax had been arrested in the bar below for the
murder of Victor Bidlake, had taken poison and died on the way to the police station. Yet
the same number of dinners were ordered and eaten, the same quantity of wine drunk.
The management considered that they had shown marvellous delicacy of feeling by
restraining the orchestra from their usual musical gymnastics until after the service of
dinner. Conversation, in consequence, buzzed louder than ever. One speculation in
particular absorbed the attention of every single person in the room--why had Bobby
Fairfax, at the zenith of a very successful career, risked the gallows and actually accepted
death for the sake of killing Victor Bidlake, a young man with whom, so far as anybody
knew, he had no cause of quarrel whatever? There were many theories, many people who
knew the real facts and whispered them into a neighbour's ear, only to have them
contradicted a few moments later. Yet, Curiously enough, the two men who knew most
about it were the two most silent men in the room, for each was dining alone. Francis,
who had remained only in the hope that something of the sort might happen, was
conscious of a queer sense of excitement when, with the service of coffee, Sir Timothy,
glass in hand, moved up from a table lower down and with a word of apology took the
vacant place by his side. It was what he had desired, and yet he felt a thrill almost of fear
at Sir Timothy's murmured words. He felt that he was in the company of one who, if not
an enemy, at any rate had no friendly feeling towards him.
"My congratulations, Mr. Ledsam," Sir Timothy said quietly. "You appear to have started
your career with a success."
"Only a partial one," Francis acknowledged, "and as a matter of fact I deny that I have
started in any new career. It was easy enough to make use of a fluke and direct the
intelligence of others towards the right person, but when the real significance of the thing
still eludes you, one can scarcely claim a triumph."
Sir Timothy gently knocked the ash from the very fine cigar which he was smoking.
"Still, your groundwork was good," he observed.
Francis shrugged his shoulders.
"That," he admitted, "was due to chance."
"Shall we exchange notes?" Sir Timothy suggested gently. "It might be interesting."
"As you will," Francis assented. "There is no particular secret in the way I stumbled upon
the truth. I was dining here that night, as you know, with Andrew Wilmore, and while he
was ordering the dinner and talking to some friends, I went down to the American Bar to