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The Grand Babylon Hotel, a novel by Arnold Bennett


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_ 'THERE is one thing, Prince, that we have just got to settle straight

said Theodore Racksole.

They were all three seated - Racksole, his daughter, and Prince
Aribert - round a dinner table in a private room at the Hôtel
Wellington. Racksole had duly arrived by the afternoon boat, and
had been met on the quay by the other two. They had dined early,
and Racksole had heard the full story of the adventures by sea and
land of Nella and the Prince. As to his own adventure of the
previous night he said very little, merely explaining, with as little
detail as possible, that Dimmock's body had come to light.

'What is that?' asked the Prince, in answer to Racksole's remark.

'We have got to settle whether we shall tell the police at once all
that has occurred, or whether we shall proceed on our own
responsibility. There can be no doubt as to which course we ought
to pursue. Every consideration of prudence points to the
advisability of taking the police into our confidence, and leaving
the matter entirely in their hands.'

'Oh, Papa!' Nella burst out in her pouting, impulsive way. 'You
surely can't think of such a thing. Why, the fun has only just

'Do you call last night fun?' questioned Racksole, gazing at her

'Yes, I do,' she said promptly. 'Now.'

'Well, I don't,' was the millionaire's laconic response; but perhaps
he was thinking of his own situation in the lift.

'Do you not think we might investigate a little further,' said the
Prince judiciously, as he cracked a walnut, 'just a little further -
and then, if we fail to accomplish anything, there would still be
ample opportunity to consult the police?'

'How do you suggest we should begin?' asked Racksole.

'Well, there is the house which Miss Racksole so intrepidly entered
last evening' - he gave her the homage of an admiring glance; 'you
and I, Mr Racksole, might examine that abode in detail.'


'Certainly. We might do something.'

'We might do too much.'

'For example?'

'We might shoot someone, or get ourselves mistaken for burglars.
If we outstepped the law, it would be no excuse for us that we had
been acting in a good cause.'

'True,' said the Prince. 'Nevertheless - ' He stopped.

'Nevertheless you have a distaste for bringing the police into the

You want the hunt all to yourself. You are on fire with the ardour
of the chase. Is not that it? Accept the advice of an older man,
Prince, and sleep on this affair. I have little fancy for nocturnal
escapades two nights together. As for you, Nella, off with you to
bed. The Prince and I will have a yarn over such fluids as can be
obtained in this hole.'

'Papa,' she said, 'you are perfectly horrid to-night.'

'Perhaps I am,' he said. 'Decidedly I am very cross with you for
coming over here all alone. It was monstrous. If I didn't happen to
be the most foolish of parents - There! Good-night. It's nine
o'clock. The Prince, I am sure, will excuse you.'

If Nella had not really been very tired Prince Aribert might have
been the witness of a good-natured but stubborn conflict between
the millionaire and his spirited offspring. As it was, Nella departed
with surprising docility, and the two men were left alone.

'Now,' said Racksole suddenly, changing his tone, 'I fancy that after
all I'm your man for a little amateur investigation to-night. And, if
I must speak the exact truth, I think that to sleep on this affair
would be about the very worst thing we could do. But I was
anxious to keep Nella out of harm's way at any rate till to-morrow.
She is a very difficult creature to manage, Prince, and I may warn
you,' he laughed grimly, 'that if we do succeed in doing anything
to-night we shall catch it from her ladyship in the morning. Are
you ready to take that risk?'

'I am,' the Prince smiled. 'But Miss Racksole is a young lady of
quite remarkable nerve.'

'She is,' said Racksole drily. 'I wish sometimes she had less.'

'I have the highest admiration for Miss Racksole,' said the Prince,
and he looked Miss Racksole's father full in the face.

'You honour us, Prince,' Racksole observed. 'Let us come to
business. Am I right in assuming that you have a reason for
keeping the police out of this business, if it can possibly be done?'

'Yes,' said the Prince, and his brow clouded. 'I am very much afraid
that my poor nephew has involved himself in some scrape that he
would wish not to be divulged.'

'Then you do not believe that he is the victim of foul play?'

'I do not.'

'And the reason, if I may ask it?'

'Mr Racksole, we speak in confidence - is it not so? Some years
ago my foolish nephew had an affair - an affair with a feminine
star of the Berlin stage. For anything I know, the lady may have
been the very pattern of her sex, but where a reigning Prince is
concerned scandal cannot be avoided in such a matter. I had
thought that the affair was quite at an end, since my nephew's
betrothal to Princess Anna of Eckstein-Schwartzburg is shortly to
be announced. But yesterday I saw the lady to whom I have
referred driving on the Digue. The coincidence of her presence
here with my nephew's disappearance is too extraordinary to be

'But how does this theory square with the murder of Reginald

'It does not square with it. My idea is that the murder of poor
Dimmock and the disappearance of my nephew are entirely
unconnected - unless, indeed, this Berlin actress is playing into the
hands of the murderers. I had not thought of that.'

'Then what do you propose to do to-night?'

'I propose to enter the house which Miss Racksole entered last
night and to find out something definite.'

'I concur,' said Racksole. 'I shall heartily enjoy it. But let me tell
you, Prince, and pardon me for speaking bluntly, your surmise is
incorrect. I would wager a hundred thousand dollars that Prince
Eugen has been kidnapped.'

'What grounds have you for being so sure?'

'Ah! said Racksole, 'that is a long story. Let me begin by asking
you this.

Are you aware that your nephew, Prince Eugen, owes a million of

'A million of money!' cried Prince Aribert astonished. 'It is

'Nevertheless, he does,' said Racksole calmly. Then he told him all
he had learnt from Mr Sampson Levi.

'What have you to say to that?' Racksole ended. Prince Aribert
made no reply.

'What have you to say to that?' Racksole insisted.

'Merely that Eugen is ruined, even if he is alive.'

'Not at all,' Racksole returned with cheerfulness. 'Not at all. We
shall see about that. The special thing that I want to know just now
from you is this:

Has any previous application ever been made for the hand of the
Princess Anna?'

'Yes. Last year. The King of Bosnia sued for it, but his proposal
was declined.'


'Because my nephew was considered to be a more suitable match
for her.'

'Not because the personal character of his Majesty of Bosnia is
scarcely of the brightest?'

'No. Unfortunately it is usually impossible to consider questions of
personal character when a royal match is concerned.'

'Then, if for any reason the marriage of Princess Anna with your
nephew was frustrated, the King of Bosnia would have a fair
chance in that quarter?'

'He would. The political aspect of things would be perfectly

'Thanks!' said Racksole. 'I will wager another hundred thousand
dollars that someone in Bosnia - I don't accuse the King himself -
is at the bottom of this business. The methods of Balkan
politicians have always been half-Oriental. Let us go.'


'To this precious house of Nella's adventure.'

'But surely it is too early?'

'So it is,' said Racksole, 'and we shall want a few things, too. For
instance, a dark lantern. I think I will go out and forage for a

'And a revolver?' suggested Prince Aribert.

'Does it mean revolvers?' The millionaire laughed. 'It may come to
that.' 'Here you are, then, my friend,' said Racksole, and he pulled
one out of his hip pocket. 'And yours?'

'I,' said the Prince, 'I have your daughter's.'

'The deuce you have!' murmured Racksole to himself.

It was then half past nine. They decided that it would be impolitic
to begin their operations till after midnight. There were three hours
to spare.

'Let us go and see the gambling,' Racksole suggested. 'We might
encounter the Berlin lady.'

The suggestion, in the first instance, was not made seriously, but it
appeared to both men that they might do worse than spend the
intervening time in the gorgeous saloon of the Kursaal, where, in
the season, as much money is won and lost as at Monte Carlo. It
was striking ten o'clock as they entered the rooms. There was a
large company present - a company which included some of the
most notorious persons in Europe. In that multifarious assemblage
all were equal. The electric light shone coldly and impartially on
the just and on the unjust, on the fool and the knave, on the
European and the Asiatic. As usual, women monopolized the best
places at the tables.

The scene was familiar enough to Prince Aribert, who had
witnessed it frequently at Monaco, but Theodore Racksole had
never before entered any European gaming palace; he had only the
haziest idea of the rules of play, and he was at once interested. For
some time they watched the play at the table which happened to be
nearest to them. Racksole never moved his lips.

With his eyes glued on the table, and ears open for every remark,
of the players and the croupier, he took his first lesson in roulette.
He saw a mere youth win fifteen thousand francs, which were
stolen in the most barefaced mariner by a rouged girl scarcely
older than the youth; he saw two old gamesters stake their coins,
and lose, and walk quietly out of the place; he saw the bank win
fifty thousand francs at a single turn.

'This is rather good fun,' he said at length, 'but the stakes are too
small to make it really exciting. I'll try my luck, just for the
experience. I'm bound to win.'

'Why?' asked the Prince.

'Because I always do, in games of chance,' Racksole answered with
gay confidence. 'It is my fate. Then to-night, you must remember, I
shall be a beginner, and you know the tyro's luck.'

In ten minutes the croupier of that table was obliged to suspend
operations pending the arrival of a further supply of coin.

'What did I tell you?' said Racksole, leading the way to another
table further up the room. A hundred curious glances went after
him. One old woman, whose gay attire suggested a false
youthfulness, begged him in French to stake a five-franc piece for
her. She offered him the coin. He took it, and gave her a
hundred-franc note in exchange. She clutched the crisp rustling
paper, and with hysterical haste scuttled back to her own table.

At the second table there was a considerable air of excitement. In
the forefront of the players was a woman in a low-cut evening
dress of black silk and a large red picture hat. Her age appeared to
be about twenty-eight; she had dark eyes, full lips, and a distinctly
Jewish nose. She was handsome, but her beauty was of that
forbidding, sinister order which is often called Junoesque. This
woman was the centre of attraction. People said to each other that
she had won a hundred and sixty thousand francs that day at the

'You were right,' Prince Aribert whispered to Theodore Racksole;
'that is the Berlin lady.'

'The deuce she is! Has she seen you? Will she know you?'

'She would probably know me, but she hasn't looked up yet.'

'Keep behind her, then. I propose to find her a little occupation.' By
dint of a carefully-exercised diplomacy, Racksole manoeuvred
himself into a seat opposite to the lady in the red hat. The fame of
his success at the other table had followed him, and people
regarded him as a serious and formidable player. In the first turn
the lady put a thousand francs on double zero; Racksole put a
hundred on number nineteen and a thousand on the odd numbers.

Nineteen won. Racksole received four thousand four hundred
francs. Nine times in succession Racksole backed number nineteen
and the odd numbers; nine times the lady backed double zero.
Nine times Racksole won and the lady lost. The other players,
perceiving that the affair had resolved itself into a duel, stood back
for the most part and watched those two. Prince Aribert never
stirred from his position behind the great red hat. The game
continued. Racksole lost trifles from time to time, but ninety-nine
hundredths of the luck was with him. As an English spectator at
the table remarked, 'he couldn't do wrong.' When midnight struck
the lady in the red hat was reduced to a thousand francs. Then she
fell into a winning vein for half an hour, but at one o'clock her
resources were exhausted. Of the hundred and sixty thousand
francs which she was reputed to have had early in the evening,
Racksole held about ninety thousand, and the bank had the rest.

It was a calamity for the Juno of the red hat. She jumped up,
stamped her foot, and hurried from the room. At a discreet
distance Racksole and the Prince pursued her.

'It might be well to ascertain her movements,' said Racksole.

Outside, in the glare of the great arc lights, and within sound of the
surf which beats always at the very foot of the Kursaal, the Juno of
the red hat summoned a fiacre and drove rapidly away. Racksole
and the Prince took an open carriage and started in pursuit. They
had not, however, travelled more than half a mile when Prince
Aribert stopped the carriage, and, bidding Racksole get out, paid
the driver and dismissed him.

'I feel sure I know where she is going,' he explained, 'and it will be
better for us to follow on foot.'

'You mean she is making for the scene of last night's affair?' said

'Exactly. We shall - what you call, kill two birds with one stone.'

Prince Aribert's guess was correct. The lady's carriage stopped in
front of the house where Nella Racksole and Miss Spencer had had
their interview on the previous evening, and the lady vanished into
the building just as the two men appeared at the end of the street.
Instead of proceeding along that street, the Prince led Racksole to
the lane which gave on to the backs of the houses, and he counted
the houses as they went up the lane. In a few minutes they had
burglariously climbed over a wall, and crept, with infinite caution,
up a long, narrow piece of ground - half garden, half paved yard,
till they crouched under a window - a window which was shielded
by curtains, but which had been left open a little.

'Listen,' said the Prince in his lightest whisper, 'they are talking.'


'The Berlin lady and Miss Spencer. I'm sure it's Miss Spencer's

Racksole boldly pushed the french window a little wider open, and
put his ear to the aperture, through which came a beam of yellow

'Take my place,' he whispered to the Prince, 'they're talking
German. You'll understand better.'

Silently they exchanged places under the window, and the Prince
listened intently.

'Then you refuse?' Miss Spencer's visitor was saying.

There was no answer from Miss Spencer.

'Not even a thousand francs? I tell you I've lost the whole
twenty-five thousand.'

Again no answer.

'Then I'll tell the whole story,' the lady went on, in an angry rush of
words. 'I did what I promised to do. I enticed him here, and you've
got him safe in your vile cellar, poor little man, and you won't give
me a paltry thousand francs.'

'You have already had your price.' The words were Miss Spencer's.
They fell cold and calm on the night air.

'I want another thousand.'

'I haven't it.'

'Then we'll see.'

Prince Aribert heard a rustle of flying skirts; then another
movement - a door banged, and the beam of light through the
aperture of the window suddenly disappeared. He pushed the
window wide open. The room was in darkness, and apparently

'Now for that lantern of yours,' he said eagerly to Theodore
Racksole, after he had translated to him the conversation of the
two women, Racksole produced the dark lantern from the
capacious pocket of his dust coat, and lighted it. The ray flashed
about the ground.

'What is it?' exclaimed Prince Aribert with a swift cry, pointing to
the ground. The lantern threw its light on a perpendicular grating
at their feet, through which could be discerned a cellar. They both
knelt down, and peered into the subterranean chamber. On a
broken chair a young man sat listlessly with closed eyes, his head
leaning heavily forward on his chest.

In the feeble light of the lantern he had the livid and ghastly
appearance of a corpse.

'Who can it be?' said Racksole.

'It is Eugen,' was the Prince's low answer. _



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