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The Grand Babylon Hotel, a novel by Arnold Bennett


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_ PRINCE EUGEN started. 'I will see him,' he said, with a gesture to
Hans as if to indicate that Mr Sampson Levi might enter at once.

'I beg one moment first,' said Aribert, laying a hand gently on his
nephew's arm, and giving old Hans a glance which had the effect
of precipitating that admirably trained servant through the

'What is it?' asked Prince Eugen crossly. 'Why this sudden
seriousness? Don't forget that I have an appointment with Mr
Sampson Levi, and must not keep him waiting. Someone said that
punctuality is the politeness of princes.'

'Eugen,' said Aribert, 'I wish you to be as serious as I am. Why
cannot we have faith in each other? I want to help you. I have
helped you. You are my titular Sovereign; but on the other hand I
have the honour to be your uncle:

I have the honour to be the same age as you, and to have been your
companion from youth up. Give me your confidence. I thought you
had given it me years ago, but I have lately discovered that you had
your secrets, even then. And now, since your illness, you are still
more secretive.'

'What do you mean, Aribert?' said Eugen, in a tone which might
have been either inimical or friendly. 'What do you want to say?'

'Well, in the first place, I want to say that you will not succeed
with the estimable Mr Sampson Levi.'

'Shall I not?' said Eugen lightly. 'How do you know what my
business is with him?'

'Suffice it to say that I know. You will never get that million
pounds out of him.'

Prince Eugen gasped, and then swallowed his excitement. 'Who
has been talking? What million?' His eyes wandered uneasily
round the room. 'Ah!' he said, pretending to laugh. 'I see how it is. I
have been chattering in my delirium. You mustn't take any notice
of that, Aribert. When one has a fever one's ideas become
grotesque and fanciful.'

'You never talked in your delirium,' Aribert replied; 'at least not
about yourself. I knew about this projected loan before I saw you
in Ostend.'

'Who told you?' demanded Eugen fiercely.

'Then you admit that you are trying to raise a loan?'

'I admit nothing. Who told you?'

'Theodore Racksole, the millionaire. These rich men have no
secrets from each other. They form a coterie, closer than any
coterie of ours. Eugen, and far more powerful. They talk, and in
talking they rule the world, these millionaires. They are the real

'Curse them!' said Eugen.

'Yes, perhaps so. But let me return to your case. Imagine my
shame, my disgust, when I found that Racksole could tell me more
about your affairs than I knew myself. Happily, he is a good
fellow; one can trust him; otherwise I should have been tempted to
do something desperate when I discovered that all your private
history was in his hands. Eugen, let us come to the point; why do
you want that million? Is it actually true that you are so deeply in
debt? I have no desire to improve the occasion. I merely ask.'

'And what if I do owe a million?' said Prince Eugen with assumed

'Oh, nothing, my dear Eugen, nothing. Only it is rather a large sum
to have scattered in ten years, is it not? How did you manage it?'

'Don't ask me, Aribert. I've been a fool. But I swear to you that the
woman whom you call "the lady in the red hat" is the last of my
follies. I am about to take a wife, and become a respectable

'Then the engagement with Princess Anna is an accomplished

'Practically so. As soon as I have settled with Levi, all will be

Aribert, I wouldn't lose Anna for the Imperial throne. She is a good
and pure woman, and I love her as a man might love an angel.'

'And yet you would deceive her as to your debts, Eugen?'

'Not her, but her absurd parents, and perhaps the Emperor. They
have heard rumours, and I must set those rumours at rest by
presenting to them a clean sheet.'

'I am glad you have been frank with me, Eugen,' said Prince
Aribert, 'but I will be plain with you. You will never marry the
Princess Anna.'

'And why?' said Eugen, supercilious again.

'Because her parents will not permit it. Because you will not be
able to present a clean sheet to them. Because this Sampson Levi
will never lend you a million.'

'Explain yourself.'

'I propose to do so. You were kidnapped - it is a horrid word, but
we must use it - in Ostend.'


'Do you know why?'

'I suppose because that vile old red-hatted woman and her
accomplices wanted to get some money out of me. Fortunately,
thanks to you, they didn't.'

'Not at all,' said Aribert. 'They wanted no money from you. They
knew well enough that you had no money. They knew you were
the naughty schoolboy among European Princes, with no sense of
responsibility or of duty towards your kingdom. Shall I tell you
why they kidnapped you?'

'When you have done abusing me, my dear uncle.'

'They kidnapped you merely to keep you out of England for a few
days, merely to compel you to fail in your appointment with
Sampson Levi. And it appears to me that they succeeded.
Assuming that you don't obtain the money from Levi, is there
another financier in all Europe from whom you can get it - on such
strange security as you have to offer?'

'Possibly there is not,' said Prince Eugen calmly. 'But, you see, I
shall get it from Sampson Levi. Levi promised it, and I know from
other sources that he is a man of his word. He said that the money,
subject to certain formalities, would be available till - '


'Till the end of June.'

'And it is now the end of July.'

'Well, what is a month? He is only too glad to lend the money. He
will get excellent interest. How on earth have you got into your
sage old head this notion of a plot against me? The idea is
ridiculous. A plot against me? What for?'

'Have you ever thought of Bosnia?' asked Aribert coldly.

'What of Bosnia?'

'I need not tell you that the King of Bosnia is naturally under
obligations to Austria, to whom he owes his crown. Austria is
anxious for him to make a good influential marriage.'

'Well, let him.'

'He is going to. He is going to marry the Princess Anna.'

'Not while I live. He made overtures there a year ago, and was

'Yes; but he will make overtures again, and this time he will not be
rebuffed. Oh, Eugen! can't you see that this plot against you is
being engineered by some persons who know all about your
affairs, and whose desire is to prevent your marriage with Princess
Anna? Only one man in Europe can have any motive for wishing
to prevent your marriage with Princess Anna, and that is the man
who means to marry her himself.' Eugen went very pale.

'Then, Aribert, do you mean to oonvey to me that my detention in
Ostend was contrived by the agents of the King of Bosnia?'

'I do.'

'With a view to stopping my negotiations with Sampson Levi, and
so putting an end to the possibility of my marriage with Anna?'

Aribert nodded.

'You are a good friend to me, Aribert. You mean well. But you are

You have been worrying about nothing.'

'Have you forgotten about Reginald Dimmock?'

'I remember you said that he had died.'

'I said nothing of the sort. I said that he had been assassinated. That
was part of it, my poor Eugen.'

'Pooh!' said Eugen. 'I don't believe he was assassinated. And as for
Sampson Levi, I will bet you a thousand marks that he and I come
to terms this morning, and that the million is in my hands before I
leave London.' Aribert shook his head.

'You seem to be pretty sure of Mr Levi's character. Have you had
much to do with him before?'

'Well,' Eugen hesitated a second, 'a little. What young man in my
position hasn't had something to do with Mr Sampson Levi at one
time or another?'

'I haven't,' said Aribert.

'You! You are a fossil.' He rang a silver bell. 'Hans! I will receive
Mr Sampson Levi.'

Whereupon Aribert discreetly departed, and Prince Eugen sat
down in the great velvet chair, and began to look at the papers
which Hans had previously placed upon the table.

'Good morning, your Royal Highness,' said Sampson Levi, bowing
as he entered. 'I trust your Royal Highness is well.'

'Moderately, thanks,' returned the Prince.

In spite of the fact that he had had as much to do with people of
Royal blood as any plain man in Europe, Sampson Levi had never
yet learned how to be at ease with these exalted individuals during
the first few minutes of an interview. Afterwards, he resumed
command of himself and his faculties, but at the beginning he was
invariably flustered, scarlet of face, and inclined to perspiration.

'We will proceed to business at once,' said Prince Eugen. 'Will you
take a seat, Mr Levi?'

'I thank your Royal Highness.'

'Now as to that loan which we had already practically arranged - a
million, I think it was,' said the Prince airily.

'A million,' Levi acquiesced, toying with his enormous watch

'Everything is now in order. Here are the papers and I should like
to finish the matter up at once.'

'Exactly, your Highness, but - '

'But what? You months ago expressed the warmest satisfaction at
the security, though I am quite prepared to admit that the security,
is of rather an unusual nature. You also agreed to the rate of
interest. It is not everyone, Mr Levi, who can lend out a million at
5-1/2 per cent. And in ten years the whole amount will be paid
back. I - er - I believe I informed you that the fortune of Princess
Anna, who is about to accept my hand, will ultimately amount to
something like fifty millions of marks, which is over two million
pounds in your English money.' Prince Eugen stopped. He had no
fancy for talking in this confidential manner to financiers, but he
felt that circumstances demanded it.

'You see, it's like this, your Royal Highness,' began Mr Sampson
Levi, in his homely English idiom. 'It's like this. I said I could keep
that bit of money available till the end of June, and you were to
give me an interview here before that date. Not having heard from
your Highness, and not knowing your Highness's address, though
my German agents made every inquiry, I concluded, that you had
made other arrangements, money being so cheap this last few

'I was unfortunately detained at Ostend,' said Prince Eugen, with as
much haughtiness as he could assume, 'by - by important business.
I have made no other arangements, and I shall have need of the
million. If you will be so good as to pay it to my London bankers - '

'I'm very sorry,' said Mr Sampson Levi, with a tremendous and
dazzling air of politeness, which surprised even himself, 'but my
syndicate has now lent the money elsewhere. It's in South America
- I don't mind telling your Highness that we've lent it to the Chilean

'Hang the Chilean Government, Mr Levi,' exclaimed the Prince,
and he went white. 'I must have that million. It was an

'It was an arrangement, I admit,' said Mr Sampson Levi, 'but your
Highness broke the arrangement.'

There was a long silence.

'Do you mean to say,' began the Prince with tense calmness, 'that
you are not in a position to let me have that million?'

'I could let your Highness have a million in a couple of years' time.'

The Prince made a gesture of annoyance. 'Mr Levi,' he said, 'if you
do not place the money in my hands to-morrow you will ruin one
of the oldest of reigning families, and, incidentally, you will alter
the map of Europe. You are not keeping faith, and I had relied on

'Pardon me, your Highness,' said little Levi, rising in resentment, 'it
is not I who have not kept faith. I beg to repeat that the money is
no longer at my disposal, and to bid your Highness good morning.'

And Mr Sampson Levi left the audience chamber with an
awkward, aggrieved bow. It was a scene characteristic of the end
of the nineteenth century - an overfed, commonplace, pursy little
man who had been born in a Brixton semi-detached villa, and
whose highest idea of pleasure was a Sunday up the river in an
expensive electric launch, confronting and utterly routing, in a
hotel belonging to an American millionaire, the representative of a
race of men who had fingered every page of European history for
centuries, and who still, in their native castles, were surrounded
with every outward circumstance of pomp and power.

'Aribert,' said Prince Eugen, a little later, 'you were right. It is all
over. I have only one refuge - '

'You don't mean - ' Aribert stopped, dumbfounded.

'Yes, I do,' he said quickly. 'I can manage it so that it will look like
an accident.' _



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