Page:BulldogDrummondSapper.djvu/22

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18
 
PROLOGUE

country to the dirt, but you will taste of power such as few men have tasted before.…" The Count stood up, his eyes blazing. "And I—I will do it for you."

He resumed his seat, and his left hand, slipping off the table, beat a tattoo on his knee.

"This is our opportunity—the opportunity of clever men. I have not got the money necessary: you have.…" He leaned forward in his chair, and glanced at the intent faces of his audience. Then he began to speak …

Ten minutes later he pushed back his chair.

"There is my proposal, gentlemen, in a nutshell. Unforeseen developments will doubtless occur; I have spent my life overcoming the unexpected. What is your answer?"

He rose and stood with his back to them by the fire, and for several minutes no one spoke. Each man was busy with his own thoughts, and showed it in his own particular way. The American, his eyes shut, rolled his toothpick backwards and forwards in his mouth slowly and methodically; Steinemann stared at the fire, breathing heavily after the exertions of dinner: von Gratz walked up and down—his hands behind his back—whistling under his breath. Only the Comte de Guy stared unconcernedly at the fire, as if indifferent to the result of their thoughts. In his attitude at that moment he gave a true expression to his attitude on life. Accustomed to play with great stakes, he had just dealt the cards for the most gigantic gamble of his life.… What matter to the three men, who were looking at the hands he had given them, that only a master criminal could have conceived