Page:BulldogDrummondSapper.djvu/18

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14
PROLOGUE

world outlook at the present moment from one point of view and one point of view only—our own."

The gaunt American gave a hoarse chuckle.

"It will be my object after dinner," continued the Count, "to try and prove to you that we have a common point of view. Until then—shall we merely concentrate on a pious hope that the Hôtel Nationale will not poison us with their food?"

"I guess," remarked the American, "that you've got a pretty healthy command of languages, Count."

"I speak four fluently—French, German, English, and Spanish," returned the other. "In addition, I can make myself understood in Russia, Japan, China, the Balkan States, and—America."

His smile, as he spoke, robbed the words of any suspicion of offence. The next moment the head waiter opened the door, and the four men sat down to dine.

It must be admitted that the average hostess, desirous of making a dinner a success, would have been filled with secret dismay at the general atmosphere in the room. The American, in accumulating his millions, had also accumulated a digestion of such an exotic and tender character that dry rusks and Vichy water were the limit of his capacity.

Herr Steinemann was of the common order of German, to whom food is sacred. He ate and drank enormously, and evidently considered that nothing further was required of him.

Von Gratz did his best to keep his end up, but a she was apparently in a chronic condition of fear that the gaunt American would assault him with violence, he cannot be said to have contributed much to the gaiety of the meal.