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The Grand Babylon Hotel, a novel by Arnold Bennett


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_ 'I'VE a great deal to tell you, Prince,' Racksole began, as soon as
they were out of the room, 'and also, as I said, something to show
you. Will you come to my room? We will talk there first. The
whole hotel is humming with excitement.'

'With pleasure,' said Aribert.

'Glad his Highness Prince Eugen is recovering,' Racksole said,
urged by considerations of politeness.

'Ah! As to that - ' Aribert began. 'If you don't mind, we'll discuss
that later, Prince,' Racksole interrupted him.

They were in the proprietor's private room.

'I want to tell you all about last night,' Racksole resumed, 'about
my capture of Jules, and my examination of him this morning.'
And he launched into a full acount of the whole thing, down to the
least details. 'You see,'

he concluded, 'that our suspicions as to Bosnia were tolerably
correct. But as regards Bosnia, the more I think about it, the surer I
feel that nothing can be done to bring their criminal politicians to

'And as to Jules, what do you propose to do?'

'Come this way,' said Racksole, and led Aribert to another room. A
sofa in this room was covered with a linen cloth. Racksole lifted
the cloth - he could never deny himself a dramatic moment - and
disclosed the body of a dead man.

It was Jules, dead, but without a scratch or mark on him.

'I have sent for the police - not a street constable, but an official
from Scotland Yard,' said Racksole.

'How did this happen?' Aribert asked, amazed and startled. 'I
understood you to say that he was safely immured in the bedroom.'

'So he was,' Racksole replied. 'I went up there this afternoon,
chiefly to take him some food. The commissionaire was on guard
at the door. He had heard no noise, nothing unusual. Yet when I
entered the room Jules was gone.

He had by some means or other loosened his fastenings; he had
then managed to take the door off the wardrobe. He had moved the
bed in front of the window, and by pushing the wardrobe door
three parts out of the window and lodging the inside end of it
under the rail at the head of the bed, he had provided himself with
a sort of insecure platform outside the window. All this he did
without making the least sound. He must then have got through the
window, and stood on the little platform. With his fingers he
would just be able to reach the outer edge of the wide cornice
under the roof of the hotel. By main strength of arms he had swung
himself on to this cornice, and so got on to the roof proper. He
would then have the run of the whole roof.

At the side of the building facing Salisbury Lane there is an iron
fire-escape, which runs right down from the ridge of the roof into a
little sunk yard level with the cellars. Jules must have thought that
his escape was accomplished. But it unfortunately happened that
one rung in the iron escape-ladder had rusted rotten through being
badly painted. It gave way, and Jules, not expecting anything of the
kind, fell to the ground. That was the end of all his cleverness and

As Racksole ceased, speaking he replaced the linen cloth with a
gesture from which reverence was not wholly absent.

When the grave had closed over the dark and tempestuous career
of Tom Jackson, once the pride of the Grand Babylon, there was
little trouble for the people whose adventures we have described.
Miss Spencer, that yellow-haired, faithful slave and attendant of a
brilliant scoundrel, was never heard of again. Possibly to this day
she survives, a mystery to her fellow-creatures, in the pension of
some cheap foreign boarding-house. As for Rocco, he certainly
was heard of again. Several years after the events set down, it
came to the knowledge of Felix Babylon that the unrivalled Rocco
had reached Buenos Aires, and by his culinary skill was there
making the fortune of a new and splendid hotel. Babylon
transmitted the information to Theodore Racksole, and Racksole
might, had he chosen, have put the forces of the law in motion
against him. But Racksole, seeing that everything pointed to the
fact that Rocco was now pursuing his vocation honestly, decided
to leave him alone. The one difficulty which Racksole experienced
after the demise of Jules - and it was a difficulty which he had, of
course, anticipated - was connected with the police. The police,
very properly, wanted to know things. They desired to be informed
what Racksole had been doing in the Dimmock affair, between his
first visit to Ostend and his sending for them to take charge of
Jules' dead body. And Racksole was by no means inclined to tell
them everything. Beyond question he had transgressed the laws of
England, and possibly also the laws of Belgium; and the moral
excellence of his motives in doing so was, of course, in the eyes of
legal justice, no excuse for such conduct. The inquest upon Jules
aroused some bother; and about ninety-and-nine separate and
distinct rumours. In the end, however, a compromise was arrived
at. Racksole's first aim was to pacify the inspector whose clue,
which by the way was a false one, he had so curtly declined to
follow up. That done, the rest needed only tact and patience. He
proved to the satisfaction of the authorities that he had acted in a
perfectly honest spirit, though with a high hand, and that
substantial justice had been done. Also, he subtly indicated that, if
it came to the point, he should defy them to do their worst. Lastly,
he was able, through the medium of the United States
Ambassador, to bring certain soothing influences to bear upon the

One afternoon, a fortnight after the recovery of the Hereditary
Prince of Posen, Aribert, who was still staying at the Grand
Babylon, expressed a wish to hold converse with the millionaire.
Prince Eugen, accompanied by Hans and some Court officials
whom he had sent for, had departed with immense éclat, armed
with the comfortable million, to arrange formally for his betrothal.

Touching the million, Eugen had given satisfactory personal
security, and the money was to be paid off in fifteen years.

'You wish to talk to me, Prince,' said Racksole to Aribert, when
they were seated together in the former's room.

'I wish to tell you,' replied Aribert, 'that it is my intention to
renounce all my rights and titles as a Royal Prince of Posen, and to
be known in future as Count Hartz - a rank to which I am entitled
through my mother.

Also that I have a private income of ten thousand pounds a year,
and a château and a town house in Posen. I tell you this because I
am here to ask the hand of your daughter in marriage. I love her,
and I am vain enough to believe that she loves me. I have already
asked her to be my wife, and she has consented. We await your

'You honour us, Prince,' said Racksole with a slight smile, 'and in
more ways than one, May I ask your reason for renouncing your
princely titles?'

'Simply because the idea of a morganatic marriage would be as
repugnant to me as it would be to yourself and to Nella.'

'That is good.' The Prince laughed. 'I suppose it has occurred to you
that ten thousand pounds per annum, for a man in your position, is
a somewhat small income. Nella is frightfully extravagant. I have
known her to spend sixty thousand dollars in a single year, and
have nothing to show for it at the end. Why! she would ruin you in
twelve months.'

'Nella must reform her ways,' Aribert said.

'If she is content to do so,' Racksole went on, 'well and good! I

'In her name and my own, I thank you,' said Aribert gravely.

'And,' the millionaire continued, 'so that she may not have to
reform too fiercely, I shall settle on her absolutely, with reversion
to your children, if you have any, a lump sum of fifty million
dollars, that is to say, ten million pounds, in sound, selected
railway stock. I reckon that is about half my fortune. Nella and I
have always shared equally.'

Aribert made no reply. The two men shook hands in silence, and
then it happened that Nella entered the room.

That night, after dinner, Racksole and his friend Felix Babylon
were walking together on the terrace of the Grand Babylon Hotel.

Felix had begun the conversation.

'I suppose, Racksole,' he had said, 'you aren't getting tired of the
Grand Babylon?'

'Why do you ask?'

'Because I am getting tired of doing without it. A thousand times
since I sold it to you I have wished I could undo the bargain. I can't
bear idleness. Will you sell?'

'I might,' said Racksole, 'I might be induced to sell.'

'What will you take, my friend?' asked Felix

'What I gave,' was the quick answer.

'Eh!' Felix exclaimed. 'I sell you my hotel with Jules, with Rocco,
with Miss Spencer. You go and lose all those three inestimable
servants, and then offer me the hotel without them at the same
price! It is monstrous.' The little man laughed heartily at his own
wit. 'Nevertheless,' he added, 'we will not quarrel about the price. I
accept your terms.'

And so was brought to a close the complex chain of events which
had begun when Theodore Racksole ordered a steak and a bottle of
Bass at the table d'hôte of the Grand Babylon Hotel.

The Grand Babylon Hotel, by Arnold Bennett. _


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