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The Devil's Paw

Chapter 5
Maltenby was one of those old-fashioned houses where the port is served as a lay
sacrament and the call of the drawing-room is responded to tardily. After the departure of
the women, Doctor Lennard drew his chair up to Julian's.
"An interesting face, your dinner companion's," he remarked. "They tell me that she is a
very brilliant young lady."
"She certainly has gifts," acknowledged Julian.
"I watched her whilst she was talking to you," the Oxford don continued. "She is one of
those rare young women whose undoubted beauty is put into the background by their
general attractiveness. Lady Maltenby was telling me fragments of her history. It appears
that she is thinking of giving up her artistic career for some sort of sociological work."
"It is curious," Julian reflected, "how the cause of the people has always appealed to
gifted Russians. England, for instance, produces no real democrats of genius. Russia
seems to claim a monopoly of them."
"There is nothing so stimulating as a sense of injustice for bringing the best out of a man
or woman," Doctor Lennard pointed out. "Russia, of course, for many years has been
shamefully misgoverned."
The conversation, owing to the intervention of other of the guests, became general and
platitudinal. Soon after, Mr. Stenson rose and excused himself. His secretary; who had
been at the telephone, desired a short conference. There was a brief silence after his
departure.
"Stenson," the Oxonian observed, "is beginning to show signs of strain."
"Why not?" Lord Shervinton pointed out. "He came into office full of the most wonderful
enthusiasm. His speeches rang through the world like a clarion note. He converted
waverers. He lit fires which still burn. But he is a man of movement. This present
stagnation is terribly irksome to him. I heard him speak last week, and I was
disappointed. He seems to have lost his inspiration. What he needs is a stimulus of some
sort, even of disaster."
"I wonder," the Bishop reflected, "if he is really afraid of the people?"
"I consider his remark concerning them most ill-advised," Lord Maltenby declared
pompously.
"I know the people," the Bishop continued, "and I love them. I think, too, that they trust
me. Yet I am not sure that I cannot see a glimmering of what is at the back of Stenson's
 
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