“Very well. And say, Herzog!”
“Bring whatever literature you have on liquid air, nitrogen extraction from the atmosphere, and so on. Understand? And come at once!”
* * * * *
“That’s all! Good-bye!”
Smiling dourly, with satisfaction, he hung up and shoved the telephone away again, then turned to his still reflecting partner, who had now hoisted his patent leather boots to the window sill and seemed absorbed in regarding their gloss through a blue veil of nicotine.
“Herzog,” announced the Billionaire, “will be here in ten minutes, and we’ll get down to business.”
“So?” languidly commented the immaculate Waldron. “Well, much as I’d like to flatter your astuteness, Flint, I’m bound to say you’re barking up a false trail, this time! Beef, yes. Steel, yes. Railroads, steamships, coal, iron, wheat, yes. All tangible, all concrete, all susceptible of being weighed, measured, put in figures, fenced and bounded, legislated about and so on and so forth. But air—!”
He snapped his manicured fingers, to show his well-considered contempt for the Billionaire’s scheme, and, throwing away his smoked-out cigar, chose a fresh one.
Flint made no reply, but with an angry grunt flung a look of scorn at the calm and placid one. Then, furtively opening his desk drawer, he once more sought the little vial and took two more pellets—an action which Waldron, without moving his head, complacently observed in a heavily-bevelled mirror that hung between the windows.
“Air,” murmured Waldron, suavely. “Hot air, Flint?”
No answer, save another grunt and the slamming of the desk-drawer.
And thus, in silence, the two men, masters of the world, awaited the coming of the practical scientist, the proletarian, on whom they both, at last analysis, had to rely for most of their results.
The baiting of Herzog.
Herzog was not long in arriving. To be summoned in haste by Isaac Flint, and to delay, was unthinkable. For eighteen years the chemist had lickspittled to the Billionaire. Keen though his mind was, his character and stamina were those of a jellyfish; and when the Master took snuff, as the saying is, Herzog never failed to sneeze.
He therefore appeared, now, in some ten minutes—a fat, rubicund, spectacled man, with a cast in his left eye and two fingers missing, to remind him of early days in experimental work on explosives. Under his arm he carried several tomes and pamphlets; and so, bowing first to one financier, then to the other, he stood there on the threshold, awaiting his masters’ pleasure.
“Come in, Herzog,” directed Flint. “Got some material there on liquid air, and nitrogen, and so on?”
“Yes, sir. Just what is it you want, sir?”