The Devil's Paw HTML version

Chapter 15
For a gathering of men upon whose decision hung such momentous issues, the Council
which met that evening at Westminster seemed alike unambitious in tone and uninspired
in appearance. Some short time was spent in one of the anterooms, where Julian was
introduced to many of the delegates. The disclosure of his identity, although it aroused
immense interest, was scarcely an unmixed joy to the majority of them. Those who were
in earnest - and they mostly were in grim and deadly earnest - had hoped to find him a
man nearer their own class. Fenn and Bright had their own reasons for standing apart, and
the extreme pacifists took note of the fact that he had been a soldier. His coming,
however, was an event the importance of which nobody attempted to conceal.
The Bishop was voted into the chair when the little company trooped into the apartment
which had been set aside for their more important meetings. His election had been
proposed by Miles Furley, and as it was announced that under no circumstances would he
become a candidate for the permanent leadership of the party, was agreed to without
comment. A few notes for his guidance had been jotted down earlier in the day. The great
subject of discussion was, of course, the recently received communication from an
affiliated body of their friends in Germany, copies of which had been distributed amongst
the members.
"I am asked to explain," the Bishop announced, in opening the proceedings, "that this
document which we all recognise as being of surpassing importance, has been copied by
Mr. Fenn, himself, and that since, copies have been distributed amongst the members, the
front door of the building has been closed and the telephones placed under surveillance. It
is not, of course, possible that any of you could be mistrusted, but it is of the highest
importance that neither the Press, the Government, nor the people should have any
indication of what is transpiring, until the delegate whom you choose takes the initial
step. It is proposed that until after his interview with the Prime Minister, no delegate shall
leave the place. The question now arises, what of the terms themselves? I will ask each
one of you to state his views, commencing with Miss Abbeway."
Every one of the twenty-three - or twenty-four now, including Julian - had a few words to
say, and the tenor of their remarks was identical. For a basis of peace terms, the proposals
were entirely reasonable, nor did they appear in any case to be capable of
misconstruction. They were laid down in eight clauses.
1.The complete evacuation of Northern France and Belgium, with full compensation for
all damage done.
2.Alsace and Lorraine to determine their position by vote of the entire population.
3.Servia and Roumania to be reestablished as independent kingdoms, with such
rectifications and modifications of frontier as a joint committee should decide upon.