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regret it," said the Count tersely. "But remember one thing. After the coffee has been brought in, I do not wish to be disturbed under any circumstances whatever." The head waiter paused as he came to a door, and the Count repeated the last few words. "Under no circumstances whatever."

"Mais certainement, Monsieur le Comte.… I, personally, will see to it.…"

As he spoke he flung open the door and the Count entered. It cannot be said that the atmosphere of the room was congenial. The three occupants were regarding one another in hostile silence, and as the Count entered they, with one accord, transferred their suspicious glances to him.

For a moment he stood motionless, while he looked at each one in turn. Then he stepped forward…

"Good evening, gentlemen"—he still spoke in French—"I am honoured at your presence." He turned to the head waiter. "Let dinner be served in five minutes exactly."

With a bow the man left the room, and the door closed.

"During that five minutes, gentlemen, I propose to introduce myself to you, and you to one another." As he spoke he divested himself of his coat and hat. "The business which I wish to discuss we will postpone, with your permission, till after the coffee, when we shall be undisturbed."

In silence the three guests waited while he unwound the thick white muffler; then, with undisguised curiosity, they studied their host. In appearance he was striking. He had a short dark beard, and in profile