Page:BulldogDrummondSapper.djvu/21

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17
PROLOGUE

"The war was the act of a fool," snarled Herr Steinemann. "In a few years more of peace, we should have beaten those swine.…"

"And now—they have beaten you." The Count smiled slightly. "Let us admit that the war was the act of a fool if you like, but as men of business we can only deal with the result … the result, gentlemen, as it concerns us. Both you gentlemen are sufficiently patriotic to resent the presence of that army at Cologne I have no doubt. And you, Mr. Hocking, have no love on personal grounds for the English.… But I am not proposing to appeal to financiers of your reputation on such grounds as those to support my scheme.… It is enough that your personal predilections run with and not against what I am about to put before you—the defeat of England … a defeat more utter and complete than if she had lost the war.…"

His voice sank a little, and instinctively his three listeners drew closer.

"Don't think that I am proposing this through motives of revenge merely. We are business men, and revenge is only worth our while if it pays. This will pay. I can give you no figures, but we are not of the type who deal in thousands, or even hundreds of thousands. There is a force in England which, if it be harnessed and led properly, will result in millions coming to you.… It is present now in every nation—fettered, inarticulate, unco-ordinated.… It is partly the result of the war—the war that the idiots have waged.… Harness that force, gentlemen, co-ordinate it, and use it for your own ends.… That is my proposal. Not only will you humble that cursed