Page:BulldogDrummondSapper.djvu/17

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13
PROLOGUE

"All in good time, Mr. Hocking," smiled the host. "I have hopes that the dinner will fill in that time satisfactorily."

He turned to the taller of the two Germans, who without his coat seemed more like a cod-fish than ever.

"Herr Steinemann, is it not?" This time he spoke in German.

The man whose interest in German coal was hardly less well known than Hocking's in cotton, bowed stiffly.

"And Herr von Gratz?" The Count turned to the last member of the party and shook hands. Though less well known than either of the other two in the realms of international finance, von Gratz's name in the steel trade of Central Europe was one to conjure with.

"Well, gentlemen," said the Count, "before we sit down to dinner, I may perhaps be permitted to say a few words of introduction. The nations of the world have recently been engaged in a performance of unrivalled stupidity. As far as one can tell that performance is now over. The last thing I wish to do is to discuss the war—except in so far as it concerns our meeting here to-night. Mr. Hocking is an American, you two gentlemen are Germans. I"—the Count smiled slightly—"have no nationality. Or rather, shall I say, I have every nationality. Completely cosmopolitan.… Gentlemen, the war was waged by idiots, and when idiots get busy on a large scale, it is time for clever men to step in … That is the raison d'être for this little dinner.… I claim that we four men are sufficiently international to be able to disregard any stupid and petty feelings about this country and that country, and to regard the