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The Grand Babylon Hotel, a novel by Arnold Bennett


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_ NEVERTHELESS, sundry small things weighed on Racksole's
mind. First there was Jules' wink. Then there was the ribbon on the
door-handle and Jules'

visit to No. 111, and the broken window - broken from the outside.
Racksole did not forget that the time was 3 a.m. He slept but little
that night, but he was glad that he had bought the Grand Babylon
Hotel. It was an acquisition which seemed to promise fun and

The next morning he came across Mr Babylon early. 'I have
emptied my private room of all personal papers,' said Babylon,
'and it is now at your disposal.

I purpose, if agreeable to yourself, to stay on in the hotel as a guest
for the present. We have much to settle with regard to the
completion of the purchase, and also there are things which you
might want to ask me. Also, to tell the truth, I am not anxious to
leave the old place with too much suddenness. It will be a wrench
to me.'

'I shall be delighted if you will stay,' said the millionaire, 'but it
must be as my guest, not as the guest of the hotel.'

'You are very kind.'

'As for wishing to consult you, no doubt I shall have need to do so,
but I must say that the show seems to run itself.'

'Ah!' said Babylon thoughtfully. 'I have heard of hotels that run
themselves. If they do, you may be sure that they obey the laws of
gravity and run downwards. You will have your hands full. For
example, have you yet heard about Miss Spencer?'

'No,' said Racksole. 'What of her?'

'She has mysteriously vanished during the night, and nobody
appears to be able to throw any light on the affair. Her room is
empty, her boxes gone.

You will want someone to take her place, and that someone will
not be very easy to get.'

'H'm!' Racksole said, after a pause. 'Hers is not the only post that
falls vacant to-day.'

A little later, the millionaire installed himself in the late owner's
private room and rang the bell.

'I want Jules,' he said to the page.

While waiting for Jules, Racksole considered the question of Miss
Spencer's disappearance.

'Good morning, Jules,' was his cheerful greeting, when the
imperturbable waiter arrived.

'Good morning, sir.'

'Take a chair.'

'Thank you, sir.'

'We have met before this morning, Jules.'

'Yes, sir, at 3 a.m.'

'Rather strange about Miss Spencer's departure, is it not?'
suggested Racksole.

'It is remarkable, sir.'

'You are aware, of course, that Mr Babylon has transferred all his
interests in this hotel to me?'

'I have been informed to that effect, sir.'

'I suppose you know everything that goes on in the hotel, Jules?'

'As the head waiter, sir, it is my business to keep a general eye on

'You speak very good English for a foreigner, Jules.'

'For a foreigner, sir! I am an Englishman, a Hertfordshire man born
and bred. Perhaps my name has misled you, sir. I am only called
Jules because the head waiter of any really high-class hotel must
have either a French or an Italian name.'

'I see,' said Racksole. 'I think you must be rather a clever person,

'That is not for me to say, sir.'

'How long has the hotel enjoyed the advantage of your services?'

'A little over twenty years.'

'That is a long time to be in one place. Don't you think it's time you
got out of the rut? You are still young, and might make a
reputation for yourself in another and wider sphere.'

Racksole looked at the man steadily, and his glance was steadily

'You aren't satisfied with me, sir?'

'To be frank, Jules, I think - I think you - er - wink too much. And I
think that it is regrettable when a head waiter falls into a habit of
taking white ribbons from the handles of bedroom doors at three in
the morning.'

Jules started slightly.

'I see how it is, sir. You wish me to go, and one pretext, if I may
use the term, is as good as another. Very well, I can't say that I'm
surprised. It sometimes happens that there is incompatibility of
temper between a hotel proprietor and his head waiter, and then,
unless one of them goes, the hotel is likely to suffer. I will go, Mr
Racksole. In fact, I had already thought of giving notice.'

The millionaire smiled appreciatively. 'What wages do you require
in lieu of notice? It is my intention that you leave the hotel within
an hour.'

'I require no wages in lieu of notice, sir. I would scorn to accept
anything. And I will leave the hotel in fifteen minutes.'

'Good-day, then. You have my good wishes and my admiration, so
long as you keep out of my hotel.'

Racksole got up. 'Good-day, sir. And thank you.'

'By the way, Jules, it will be useless for you to apply to any other
first-rate European hotel for a post, because I shall take measures
which will ensure the rejection of any such application.'

'Without discussing the question whether or not there aren't at least
half a dozen hotels in London alone that would jump for joy at the
chance of getting me,' answered Jules, 'I may tell you, sir, that I
shall retire from my profession.'

'Really! You will turn your brains to a different channel.'

'No, sir. I shall take rooms in Albemarle Street or Jermyn Street,
and just be content to be a man-about-town. I have saved some
twenty thousand pounds - a mere trifle, but sufficient for my
needs, and I shall now proceed to enjoy it. Pardon me for troubling
you with my personal affairs. And good-day again.'

That afternoon Racksole went with Felix Babylon first to a firm of
solicitors in the City, and then to a stockbroker, in order to carry
out the practical details of the purchase of the hotel.

'I mean to settle in England,' said Racksole, as they were coming
back. 'It is the only country - ' and he stopped.

'The only country?'

'The, only country where you can invest money and spend money
with a feeling of security. In the United States there is nothing
worth spending money on, nothing to buy. In France or Italy, there
is no real security.'

'But surely you are a true American?' questioned Babylon.

'I am a true American,' said Racksole, 'but my father, who began by
being a bedmaker at an Oxford college, and ultimately made ten
million dollars out of iron in Pittsburg - my father took the wise
precaution of having me educated in England. I had my three years
at Oxford, like any son of the upper middle class! It did me good.
It has been worth more to me than many successful speculations. It
taught me that the English language is different from, and better
than, the American language, and that there is something - I
haven't yet found out exactly what - in English life that Americans
will never get. Why,' he added, 'in the United States we still bribe
our judges and our newspapers. And we talk of the eighteenth
century as though it was the beginning of the world. Yes, I shall
transfer my securities to London. I shall build a house in Park
Lane, and I shall buy some immemorial country seat with a history
as long as the A. T. and S. railroad, and I shall calmly and
gradually settle down. D'you know - I am rather a good-natured
man for a millionaire, and of a social disposition, and yet I haven't
six real friends in the whole of New York City. Think of that!'

'And I,' said Babylon, 'have no friends except the friends of my
boyhood in Lausanne. I have spent thirty years in England, and
gained nothing but a perfect knowledge of the English language
and as much gold coin as would fill a rather large box.'

These two plutocrats breathed a simultaneous sigh.

'Talking of gold coin,' said Racksole, 'how much money should you
think Jules has contrived to amass while he has been with you?'

'Oh!' Babylon smiled. 'I should not like to guess. He has had unique
opportunities - opportunities.'

'Should you consider twenty thousand an extraordinary sum under
the circumstances?'

'Not at all. Has he been confiding in you?'

'Somewhat. I have dismissed him.'

'You have dismissed him?'

'Why not?'

'There is no reason why not. But I have felt inclined to dismiss him
for the past ten years, and never found courage to do it.'

'It was a perfectly simple proceeding, I assure you. Before I had
done with him, I rather liked the fellow.'

'Miss Spencer and Jules - both gone in one day!' mused Felix

'And no one to take their places,' said Racksole. 'And yet the hotel
continues its way!'

But when Racksole reached the Grand Babylon he found that Miss
Spencer's chair in the bureau was occupied by a stately and
imperious girl, dressed becomingly in black.

'Heavens, Nella!' he cried, going to the bureau. 'What are you doing

'I am taking Mis Spencer's place. I want to help you with your
hotel, Dad. I fancy I shall make an excellent hotel clerk. I have
arranged with a Miss Selina Smith, one of the typists in the office,
to put me up to all the tips and tricks, and I shall do very well.'

'But look here, Helen Racksole. We shall have the whole of
London talking about this thing - the greatest of all American
heiresses a hotel clerk! And I came here for quiet and rest!'

'I suppose it was for the sake of quiet and rest that you bought the
hotel, Papa?'

'You would insist on the steak,' he retorted. 'Get out of this, on the

'Here I am, here to stay,' said Nella, and deliberately laughed at her

Just then the face of a fair-haired man of about thirty years
appeared at the bureau window. He was very well-dressed, very
aristocratic in his pose, and he seemed rather angry.

He looked fixedly at Nella and started back.

'Ach!' he exclaimed. 'You!'

'Yes, your Highness, it is indeed I. Father, this is his Serene
Highness Prince Aribert of Posen - one of our most esteemed

'You know my name, Fräulein?' the new-comer murmured in

'Certainly, Prince,' Nella replied sweetly. 'You were plain Count
Steenbock last spring in Paris - doubtless travelling incognito - '

'Silence,' he entreated, with a wave of the hand, and his forehead
went as white as paper. _


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