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The Devil's Paw

Chapter 8
According to plans made earlier in the day, a small shooting party left the Hall
immediately after luncheon and did not return until late in the afternoon. Julian, therefore,
saw nothing more of Catherine until she came into the drawing-room, a few minutes
before the announcement of dinner, wearing a wonderful toilette of pale blue silk, with
magnificent pearls around her neck and threaded in her Russian headdress. As is the way
with all women of genius, Catherine's complete change of toilette indicated a parallel
change in her demeanour. Her interesting but somewhat subdued manner of the previous
evening seemed to have vanished. At the dinner table she dominated the conversation.
She displayed an intimate acquaintance with every capital of Europe and with countless
personages of importance. She exchanged personal reminiscences with Lord Shervinton,
who had once been attached to the Embassy at Rome, and with Mr. Hannaway Wells,
who had been first secretary at Vienna. She spoke amusingly of Munich, at which place,
it appeared, she had first studied art, but dilated, with all the artist's fervour, on her
travellings in Spain, on the soft yet wonderfully vivid colouring of the southern cities.
She seemed to have escaped altogether from the gravity of which she had displayed
traces on the previous evening. She was no longer the serious young woman with a
purpose. From the chrysalis she had changed into the butterfly, the brilliant and
cosmopolitan young queen of fashion, ruling easily, not with the arrogance of rank, but
with the actual gifts of charm and wit. Julian himself derived little benefit from being her
neighbour, for the conversation that evening, from first to last, was general. Even after
she had left the room, the atmosphere which she had created seemed to linger behind her.
"I have never rightly understood Miss Abbeway," the Bishop declared. "She is a most
extraordinarily brilliant young woman."
Lord Shervinton assented.
"To-night you have Catherine Abbeway," he expounded, "as she might have been but for
these queer, alternating crazes of hers - art and socialism. Her brain was developed a little
too early, and she was unfortunately, almost in her girlhood, thrown in with a little clique
of brilliant young Russians who attained a great influence over her. Most of them are in
Siberia or have disappeared by now. One Anna Katinski - was brought back from
Tobolsk like a royal princess on the first day of the revolution."
"It is strange," the Earl pronounced didactically, "that a young lady of Miss Abbeway's
birth and gifts should espouse the cause of this Labour rabble, a party already cursed with
too many leaders."
"A woman, when she takes up a cause," Mr. Hannaway Wells observed, "always seeks
either for the picturesque or for something which appeals to the emotions. So long as she
doesn't mix with them, the cause of the people has a great deal to recommend it. One can
use beautiful phrases, can idealise with a certain amount of logic, and can actually
achieve things."
 
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