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The Grand Babylon Hotel, a novel by Arnold Bennett


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_ AT the Grand Babylon a great ball was given that night in the Gold
Room, a huge saloon attached to the hotel, though scarcely part of
it, and certainly less exclusive than the hotel itself. Theodore
Racksole knew nothing of the affair, except that it was an
entertainment offered by a Mr and Mrs Sampson Levi to their
friends. Who Mr and Mrs Sampson Levi were he did not know, nor
could anyone tell him anything about them except that Mr
Sampson Levi was a prominent member of that part of the Stock
Exchange familiarly called the Kaffir Circus, and that his wife was
a stout lady with an aquiline nose and many diamonds, and that
they were very rich and very hospitable. Theodore Racksole did
not want a ball in his hotel that evening, and just before dinner he
had almost a mind to issue a decree that the Gold Room was to be
closed and the ball forbidden, and Mr and Mrs Sampson Levi
might name the amount of damages suffered by them. His reasons
for such a course were threefold - first, he felt depressed and
uneasy; second, he didn't like the name of Sampson Levi; and,
third, he had a desire to show these so-called plutocrats that their
wealth was nothing to him, that they could not do what they chose
with Theodore Racksole, and that for two pins Theodore Racksole
would buy them up, and the whole Kaffir Circus to boot. But
something wamed him that though such a high-handed proceeding
might be tolerated in America, that land of freedom, it would
never be tolerated in England. He felt instinctively that in England
there are things you can't do, and that this particular thing was one
of them. So the ball went forward, and neither Mr nor Mrs
Sampson Levi had ever the least suspicion what a narrow escape
they had had of looking very foolish in the eyes of the thousand or
so guests invited by them to the Gold Room of the Grand Babylon
that evening.

The Gold Room of the Grand Babylon was built for a ballroom. A
balcony, supported by arches faced with gilt and lapis-lazulo, ran
around it, and from this vantage men and maidens and chaperons
who could not or would not dance might survey the scene.
Everyone knew this, and most people took advantage of it. What
everyone did not know - what no one knew - was that higher up
than the balcony there was a little barred window in the end wall
from which the hotel authorities might keep a watchful eye, not
only on the dancers, but on the occupants of the balcony itself.

It may seem incredible to the uninitiated that the guests at any
social gathering held in so gorgeous and renowned an apartment as
the Gold Room of the Grand Babylon should need the observation
of a watchful eye. Yet so it was. Strange matters and unexpected
faces had been descried from the little window, and more than one
European detective had kept vigil there with the most eminently
satisfactory results.

At eleven o'clock Theodore Racksole, afflicted by vexation of
spirit, found himself gazing idly through the little barred window.
Nella was with him.

Together they had been wandering about the corridors of the hotel,
still strange to them both, and it was quite by accident that they
had lighted upon the small room which had a surreptitious view of
Mr and Mrs Sampson Levi's ball. Except for the light of the
chandelier of the ball-room the little cubicle was in darkness.
Nella was looking through the window; her father stood behind.

'I wonder which is Mrs Sampson Levi?' Nella said, 'and whether
she matches her name. Wouldn't you love to have a name like that,
Father - something that people could take hold of - instead of

The sound of violins and a confused murmur of voices rose gently
up to them.

'Umphl' said Theodore. 'Curse those evening papers!' he added,
inconsequently but with sincerity.

'Father, you're very horrid to-night. What have the evening papers
been doing?'

'Well, my young madame, they've got me in for one, and you for
another; and they're manufacturing mysteries like fun. It's young
Dimmock's death that has started 'em.'

'Well, Father, you surely didn't expect to keep yourself out of the

Besides, as regards newspapers, you ought to be glad you aren't in
New York.

Just fancy what the dear old Herald would have made out of a little
transaction like yours of last night'

'That's true,' assented Racksole. 'But it'll be all over New York
to-morrow morning, all the same. The worst of it is that Babylon
has gone off to Switzerland.'


'Don't know. Sudden fancy, I guess, for his native heath.'

'What difference does it make to you?'

'None. Only I feel sort of lonesome. I feel I want someone to lean
up against in running this hotel.'

'Father, if you have that feeling you must be getting ill.'

'Yes,' he sighed, 'I admit it's unusual with me. But perhaps you
haven't grasped the fact, Nella, that we're in the middle of a rather
queer business.'

'You mean about poor Mr Dimmock?'

'Partly Dimmock and partly other things. First of all, that Miss
Spencer, or whatever her wretched name is, mysteriously
disappears. Then there was the stone thrown into your bedroom.
Then I caught that rascal Jules conspiring with Dimmock at three
o'clock in the morning. Then your precious Prince Aribert arrives
without any suite - which I believe is a most peculiar and wicked
thing for a Prince to do - and moreover I find my daughter on very
intimate terms with the said Prince. Then young Dimmock goes
and dies, and there is to be an inquest; then Prince Eugen and his
suite, who were expected here for dinner, fail to turn up at all - '

'Prince Eugen has not come?'

'He has not; and Uncle Aribert is in a deuce of a stew about him,
and telegraphing all over Europe. Altogether, things are working
up pretty lively.'

'Do you really think, Dad, there was anything between Jules and
poor Mr Dimmock?'

'Think! I know! I tell you I saw that scamp give Dimmock a wink
last night at dinner that might have meant - well!'

'So you caught that wink, did you, Dad?'

'Why, did you?'

'Of course, Dad. I was going to tell you about it.'

The millionaire grunted.

'Look here, Father,' Nella whispered suddenly, and pointed to the
balcony immediately below them. 'Who's that?' She indicated a
man with a bald patch on the back of his head, who was propping
himself up against the railing of the balcony and gazing
immovable into the ball-room.

'Well, who is it?'

'Isn't it Jules?'

'Gemini! By the beard of the prophet, it is!'

'Perhaps Mr Jules is a guest of Mrs Sampson Levi.'

'Guest or no guest, he goes out of this hotel, even if I have to throw
him out myself.'

Theodore Racksole disappeared without another word, and Nella
followed him.

But when the millionaire arrived on the balcony floor he could see
nothing of Jules, neither there nor in the ball-room itself. Saying
no word aloud, but quietly whispering wicked expletives, he
searched everywhere in vain, and then, at last, by tortuous
stairways and corridors returned to his original post of observation,
that he might survey the place anew from the vantage ground. To
his surprise he found a man in the dark little room, watching the
scene of the ball as intently as he himself had been doing a few
minutes before. Hearing footsteps, the man turned with a start.

It was Jules.

The two exchanged glances in the half light for a second.

'Good evening, Mr Racksole,' said Jules calmly. 'I must apologize
for being here.'

'Force of habit, I suppose,' said Theodore Racksole drily.

'Just so, sir.'

'I fancied I had forbidden you to re-enter this hotel?'

'I thought your order applied only to my professional capacity. I am
here to-night as the guest of Mr and Mrs Sampson Levi.'

'In your new rôle of man-about-town, eh?'


'But I don't allow men-about-town up here, my friend.'

'For being up here I have already apologized.'

'Then, having apologized, you had better depart; that is my
disinterested advice to you.'

'Good night, sir.'

'And, I say, Mr Jules, if Mr and Mrs Sampson Levi, or any other
Hebrews or Christians, should again invite you to my hotel you
will oblige me by declining the invitation. You'll find that will be
the safest course for you.'

'Good night, sir.'

Before midnight struck Theodore Racksole had ascertained that
the invitation-list of Mr and Mrs Sampson Levi, though a
somewhat lengthy one, contained no reference to any such person
as Jules.

He sat up very late. To be precise, he sat up all night. He was a
man who, by dint of training, could comfortably dispense with
sleep when he felt so inclined, or when circumstances made such a
course advisable. He walked to and fro in his room, and cogitated
as few people beside Theodore Racksole could cogitate. At 6 a.m.
he took a stroll round the business part of his premises, and
watched the supplies come in from Covent Garden, from
Smithfield, from Billingsgate, and from other strange places. He
found the proceedings of the kitchen department quite interesting,
and made mental notes of things that he would have altered, of
men whose wages he would increase and men whose wages he
would reduce. At 7 a.m. he happened to be standing near the
luggage lift, and witnessed the descent of vast quantities of
luggage, and its disappearance into a Carter Paterson van.

'Whose luggage is that?' he inquired peremptorily.

The luggage clerk, with an aggrieved expression, explained to him
that it was the luggage of nobody in particular, that it belonged to
various guests, and was bound for various destinations; that it was,
in fact, 'expressed'

luggage despatched in advance, and that a similar quantity of it left
the hotel every morning about that hour.

Theodore Racksole walked away, and breakfasted upon one cup of
tea and half a slice of toast.

At ten o'clock he was informed that the inspector of police desired
to see him. The inspector had come, he said, to superintend the
removal of the body of Reginald Dimmock to the mortuary
adjoining the place of inquest, and a suitable vehicle waited at the
back entrance of the hotel.

The inspector had also brought subpoenas for himself and Prince
Aribert of Posen and the commissionaire to attend the inquest.

'I thought Mr Dimmock's remains were removed last night,' said
Racksole wearily.

'No, sir. The fact is the van was engaged on another job.'

The inspector gave the least hint of a professional smile, and
Racksole, disgusted, told him curtly to go and perform his duties.

In a few minutes a message came from the inspector requesting Mr
Racksole to be good enough to come to him on the first floor.
Racksole went. In the ante-room, where the body of Reginald
Dimmock had originally been placed, were the inspector and
Prince Aribert, and two policemen.

'Well?' said Racksole, after he and the Prince had exchanged bows.
Then he saw a coffin laid across two chairs. 'I see a coffin has been
obtained,' he remarked. 'Quite right' He approached it. 'It's empty,'
he observed unthinkingly.

'Just so,' said the inspector. 'The body of the deceased has

And his Serene Highness Prince Aribert informs me that though he
has occupied a room immediately opposite, on the other side of the
corridor, he can throw no light on the affair.'

'Indeed, I cannot!' said the Prince, and though he spoke with
sufficient calmness and dignity, you could see that he was deeply
pained, even distressed.

'Well, I'm - ' murmured Racksole, and stopped. _



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