Page:BulldogDrummondSapper.djvu/13

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9
PROLOGUE

He was a peculiar-looking man, in a big fur coat, reminding one irresistibly of a cod-fish.

"I wish to be taken to Room X." The French secretary stiffened involuntarily as the maître d'hôtel stepped obsequiously forward. Cosmopolitan as the hotel was, even now she could never hear German spoken without an inward shudder of disgust.

"A Boche," she murmured in disgust to the manager as the first arrival disappeared through the swing doors at the end of the lounge. It is to be regretted that that worthy man was more occupied in shaking himself by the hand, at the proof that the letter was bona fide, than in any meditation on the guest's nationality.

Almost immediately afterwards the second and third members of the party arrived. They did not come together, and what seemed peculiar to the manager was that they were evidently strangers to one another.

The leading one—a tall gaunt man with a ragged beard and a pair of piercing eyes—asked in a nasal and by no means an inaudible tone for Room X. As he spoke a little fat man who was standing just behind him started perceptibly, and shot a bird-like glance at the speaker.

Then in execrable French he too asked for Room X.

"He's not French," said the secretary excitedly to the manager as the ill-assorted pair were led out of the lounge by the head waiter. "That last one was another Boche."

The manager thoughtfully twirled his pince-nez between his fingers.

"Two Germans and an American." He looked a