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The Grand Babylon Hotel, a novel by Arnold Bennett


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_ AS Nella passed downstairs from the top storey with her father -
the lifts had not yet begun to work - she drew him into her own
room, and closed the door.

'What's this all about?' he asked, somewhat mystified, and even
alarmed by the extreme seriousness of her face.

'Dad,' the girl began. 'you are very rich, aren't you? very, very rich?'
She smiled anxiously, timidly. He did not remember to have seen
that expression on her face before. He wanted to make a facetious
reply, but checked himself.

'Yes,' he said, 'I am. You ought to know that by this time.'

'How soon could you realize a million pounds?'

'A million - what?' he cried. Even he was staggered by her calm
reference to this gigantic sum. 'What on earth are you driving at?'

'A million pounds, I said. That is to say, five million dollars. How
soon could you realize as much as that?'

'Oh!' he answered, 'in about a month, if I went about it neatly
enough. I could unload as much as that in a month without scaring
Wall Street and other places. But it would want some

'Useless!' she exclaimed. 'Couldn't you do it quicker, if you really
had to?'

'If I really had to, I could fix it in a week, but it would make things
lively, and I should lose on the job.'

'Couldn't you,' she persisted, 'couldn't you go down this morning
and raise a million, somehow, if it was a matter of life and death?'

He hesitated. 'Look here, Nella,' he said, 'what is it you've got up
your sleeve?'

'Just answer my question, Dad, and try not to think that I'm a stark,
staring lunatic.'

'I rather expect I could get a million this morning, even in London.
But it would cost pretty dear. It might cost me fifty thousand
pounds, and there would be the dickens of an upset in New York -
a sort of grand universal slump in my holdings.'

'Why should New York know anything about it?'

'Why should New York know anything about it!' he repeated. 'My
girl, when anyone borrows a million sovereigns the whole world
knows about it. Do you reckon that I can go up to the Governors of
the Bank of England and say, "Look here, lend Theodore Racksole
a million for a few weeks, and he'll give you an IOU and a
covering note on stocks"?'

'But you could get it?' she asked again.

'If there's a million in London I guess I could handle it,' he replied.

'Well, Dad,' and she put her arms round his neck, 'you've just got to
go out and fix it. See? It's for me. I've never asked you for anything
really big before. But I do now. And I want it so badly.'

He stared at her. 'I award you the prize,' he said, at length. 'You
deserve it for colossal and immense coolness. Now you can tell me
the true inward meaning of all this rigmarole. What is it?'

'I want it for Prince Eugen,' she began, at first hesitatingly, with

'He's ruined unless he can get a million to pay off his debts. He's
dreadfully in love with a Princess, and he can't marry her because
of this.

Her parents wouldn't allow it. He was to have got it from Sampson
Levi, but he arrived too late - owing to Jules.'

'I know all about that - perhaps more than you do. But I don't see
how it affects you or me.'

'The point is this, Dad,' Nella continued. 'He's tried to commit
suicide - he's so hipped. Yes, real suicide. He took laudanum last
night. It didn't kill him straight off - he's got over the first shock,
but he's in a very weak state, and he means to die. And I truly
believe he will die. Now, if you could let him have that million,
Dad, you would save his life.'

Nella's item of news was a considerable and disconcerting surprise
to Racksole, but he hid his feelings fairly well.

'I haven't the least desire to save his life, Nell. I don't overmuch
respect your Prince Eugen. I've done what I could for him - but
only for the sake of seeing fair play, and because I object to
conspiracies and secret murders.

It's a different thing if he wants to kill himself. What I say is: Let

Who is responsible for his being in debt to the tune of a million
pounds? He's only got himself and his bad habits to thank for that.
I suppose if he does happen to peg out, the throne of Posen will go
to Prince Aribert. And a good thing, too! Aribert is worth twenty of
his nephew.'

'That's just it, Dad,' she said, eagerly following up her chance. 'I
want you to save Prince Eugen just because Aribert - Prince
Aribert - doesn't wish to occupy the throne. He'd much prefer not
to have it.'

'Much prefer not to have it! Don't talk nonsense. If he's honest with
himself, he'll admit that he'll be jolly glad to have it. Thrones are in
his blood, so to speak.'

'You are wrong, Father. And the reason is this: If Prince Aribert
ascended the throne of Posen he would be compelled to marry a

'Well! A Prince ought to marry a Princess.'

'But he doesn't want to. He wants to give up all his royal rights, and
live as a subject. He wants to marry a woman who isn't a Princess.'

'Is she rich?'

'Her father is,' said the girl. 'Oh, Dad! can't you guess? He - he
loves me.' Her head fell on Theodore's shoulder and she began to

The millionaire whistled a very high note. 'Nell!' he said at length.
'And you?. Do you sort of cling to him?'

'Dad,' she answered, 'you are stupid. Do you imagine I should
worry myself like this if I didn't?' She smiled through her tears.
She knew from her father's tone that she had accomplished a

'It's a mighty queer arrangement,' Theodore remarked. 'But of
course if you think it'll be of any use, you had better go down and
tell your Prince Eugen that that million can be fixed up, if he really
needs it. I expect there'll be decent security, or Sampson Levi
wouldn't have mixed himself up in it.'

'Thanks, Dad. Don't come with me; I may manage better alone.'

She gave a formal little curtsey and disappeared. Racksole, who
had the talent, so necessary to millionaires, of attending to several
matters at once, the large with the small, went off to give orders
about the breakfast and the remuneration of his assistant of the
evening before, Mr George Hazell. He then sent an invitation to
Mr Felix Babylon's room, asking that gentleman to take breakfast
with him. After he had related to Babylon the history of Jules'
capture, and had a long discussion with him upon several points of
hotel management, and especially as to the guarding of
wine-cellars, Racksole put on his hat, sallied forth into the Strand,
hailed a hansom, and was driven to the City. The order and nature
of his operations there were, too complex and technical to be
described here.

When Nella returned to the State bedroom both the doctor and the
great specialist were again in attendance. The two physicians
moved away from the bedside as she entered, and began to talk
quietly together in the embrasure of the window.

'A curious case!' said the specialist.

'Yes. Of course, as you say, it's a neurotic temperament that's at the
bottom of the trouble. When you've got that and a vigorous
constitution working one against the other, the results are apt to be
distinctly curious.

Do you consider there is any hope, Sir Charles?'

'If I had seen him when he recovered consciousness I should have
said there was hope. Frankly, when I left last night, or rather this
morning, I didn't expect to see the Prince alive again - let alone
conscious, and able to talk. According to all the rules of the game,
he ought to get over the shock to the system with perfect ease and
certainty. But I don't think he will. I don't think he wants to. And
moreover, I think he is still under the influence of suicidal mania.
If he had a razor he would cut his throat. You must keep his
strength up. Inject, if necessary. I will come in this afternoon. I am
due now at St James's Palace.' And the specialist hurried away,
with an elaborate bow and a few hasty words of polite
reassurances to Prince Aribert.

When he had gone Prince Aribert took the other doctor aside.
'Forget everything, doctor,' he said, 'except that I am one man and
you are another, and tell me the truth. Shall you be able to save his
Highness? Tell me the truth.'

'There is no truth,' was the doctor's reply. 'The future is not in our
hands, Prince.'

'But you are hopeful? Yes or no.'

The doctor looked at Prince Aribert. 'No!' he said shortly. 'I am not.
I am never hopeful when the patient is not on my side.'

'You mean - ?'

'I mean that his Royal Highness has no desire to live. You must
have observed that.'

'Only too well,' said Aribert.

'And you are aware of the cause?'

Aribert nodded an affirmative.

'But cannot remove it?'

'No,' said Aribert. He felt a touch on his sleeve. It was Nella's

With a gesture she beckoned him towards the ante-room.

'If you choose,' she said, when they were alone, 'Prince Eugen can
be saved.

I have arranged it.'

'You have arranged it?' He bent over her, almost with an air of
alarm. 'Go and tell him that the million pounds which is so
necessary to his happiness will be forthcoming. Tell him that it
will be forthcoming today, if that will be any satisfaction to him.'

'But what do you mean by this, Nella?'

'I mean what I say, Aribert,' and she sought his hand and took it in

'Just what I say. If a million pounds will save Prince Eugen's life, it
is at his disposal.'

'But how - how have you managed it? By what miracle?'

'My father,' she replied softly, 'will do anything that I ask him. Do
not let us waste time. Go and tell Eugen it is arranged, that all will
be well.


'But we cannot accept this - this enormous, this incredible favour.
It is impossible.'

'Aribert,' she said quickly, 'remember you are not in Posen holding
a Court reception. You are in England and you are talking to an
American girl who has always been in the habit of having her own

The Prince threw up his hands and went back in to the bedroom.
The doctor was at a table writing out a prescription. Aribert
approached the bedside, his heart beating furiously. Eugen greeted
him with a faint, fatigued smile.

'Eugen,' he whispered, 'listen carefully to me. I have news. With
the assistance of friends I have arranged to borrow that million for
you. It is quite settled, and you may rely on it. But you must get
better. Do you hear me?'

Eugen almost sat up in bed. 'Tell me I am not delirious,' he

'Of course you aren't,' Aribert replied. 'But you mustn't sit up. You
must take care of yourself.'

'Who will lend the money?' Eugen asked in a feeble, happy

'Never mind. You shall hear later. Devote yourself now to getting

The change in the patient's face was extraordinary. His mind
seemed to have put on an entirely different aspect. The doctor was
startled to hear him murmur a request for food. As for Aribert, he
sat down, overcome by the turmoil of his own thoughts. Till that
moment he felt that he had never appreciated the value and the
marvellous power of mere money, of the lucre which philosophers
pretend to despise and men sell their souls for. His heart almost
burst in its admiration for that extraordinary Nella, who by mere
personal force had raised two men out of the deepest slough of
despair to the blissful heights of hope and happiness. 'These
Anglo-Saxons,' he said to himself, 'what a race!'

By the afternoon Eugen was noticeably and distinctly better. The
physicians, puzzled for the third time by the progress of the case,
announced now that all danger was past. The tone of the
announcement seemed to Aribert to imply that the fortunate issue
was due wholly to unrivalled medical skill, but perhaps Aribert
was mistaken. Anyhow, he was in a most charitable mood, and
prepared to forgive anything.

'Nella,' he said a little later, when they were by themselves again in
the ante-chamber, 'what am I to say to you? How can I thank you?
How can I thank your father?'

'You had better not thank my father,' she said. 'Dad will affect to
regard the thing as a purely business transaction, as, of course, it
is. As for me, you can - you can - '


'Kiss me,' she said. 'There! Are you sure you've formally proposed
to me, mon prince?'

'Ah! Nell!' he exclaimed, putting his arms round her again. 'Be
mine! That is all I want!'

'You'll find,' she said, 'that you'll want Dad's consent too!'

'Will he make difficulties? He could not, Nell - not with you!'

'Better ask him,' she said sweetly.

A moment later Racksole himself entered the room. 'Going on all
right?' he enquired, pointing to the bedroom. 'Excellently,' the
lovers answered together, and they both blushed.

'Ah!' said Racksole. 'Then, if that's so, and you can spare a minute,
I've something to show you, Prince.' _



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