Page:BulldogDrummondSapper.djvu/24

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20
PROLOGUE

my own pocket.… I shall have to trust you to pay me when the job is finished.…

"And that payment will be—how much?" Steinemann's guttural voice broke the silence.

"One million pounds sterling—to be split up between you in any proportion you may decide, and to be paid within one month of the completion of my work. After that the matter will pass into your hands… and may you leave that cursed country grovelling in the dirty …" His eyes glowed with a fierce, vindictive fury; and then, as if replacing a mask which had slipped for a moment, the Count was once again the suave, courteous host. He had stated his terms frankly and without haggling: stated them as one big man states them to another of the same kidney, to whom time is money and indecision or beating about the bush anathema.

"Take them or leave them." So much had he said in effect, if not in actual words, and not one of his audience but was far too used to men and matters to have dreamed of suggesting any compromise. All or nothing: and no doctrine could have appealed more to the three men in whose hands lay the decision.…

"Perhaps, Count, you would be good enough to leave us for a few minutes." Von Gratz was speaking. "The decision is a big one, and …"

"Why, certainly, gentlemen." The Count moved towards the door. "I will return in ten minutes. By that time you will have decided—one way or the other."

Once in the lounge he sat down and lit a cigarette. The hotel was deserted save for one fat woman asleep in a chair opposite, and the Count gave himself up to