Part 1 out of 5
Prepared by David Reed email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Grand Babylon Hotel
by Arnold Bennett
T. Racksole & Daughter
Chapter One THE MILLIONAIRE AND THE WAITER
Jules, the celebrated head waiter of the Grand Babylon, was
bending formally towards the alert, middle-aged man who had just
entered the smoking-room and dropped into a basket-chair in the
corner by the conservatory. It was 7.45 on a particularly sultry June
night, and dinner was about to be served at the Grand Babylon.
Men of all sizes, ages, and nationalities, but every one alike
arrayed in faultless evening dress, were dotted about the large, dim
apartment. A faint odour of flowers came from the conservatory,
and the tinkle of a fountain. The waiters, commanded by Jules,
moved softly across the thick Oriental rugs, balancing their trays
with the dexterity of jugglers, and receiving and executing orders
with that air of profound importance of which only really
first-class waiters have the secret. The atmosphere was an
atmosphere of serenity and repose, characteristic of the Grand
Babylon. It seemed impossible that anything could occur to mar
the peaceful, aristocratic monotony of existence in that
perfectly-managed establishment. Yet on that night was to happen
the mightiest upheaval that the Grand Babylon had ever known.
'Yes, sir?' repeated Jules, and this time there was a shade of august
disapproval in his voice: it was not usual for him to have to
address a customer twice.
'Oh!' said the alert, middle-aged man, looking up at length.
Beautifully ignorant of the identity of the great Jules, he allowed
his grey eyes to twinkle as he caught sight of the expression on the
waiter's face. 'Bring me an Angel Kiss.'
'Bring me an Angel Kiss, and be good enough to lose no time.'
'If it's an American drink, I fear we don't keep it, sir.' The voice of
Jules fell icily distinct, and several men glanced round uneasily, as
if to deprecate the slightest disturbance of their calm. The
appearance of the person to whom Jules was speaking, however,
reassured them somewhat, for he had all the look of that expert,
the travelled Englishman, who can differentiate between one hotel
and another by instinct, and who knows at once where he may
make a fuss with propriety, and where it is advisable to behave
exactly as at the club. The Grand Babylon was a hotel in whose
smoking-room one behaved as though one was at one's club.
'I didn't suppose you did keep it, but you can mix it, I guess, even
in this hotel.'
'This isn't an American hotel, sir.' The calculated insolence of the
words was cleverly masked beneath an accent of humble
The alert, middle-aged man sat up straight, and gazed placidly at
Jules, who was pulling his famous red side-whiskers.
'Get a liqueur glass,' he said, half curtly and half with
good-humoured tolerance, 'pour into it equal quantities of
maraschino, cream, and cr�me de menthe. Don't stir it; don't
shake it. Bring it to me. And, I say, tell the bar-tender - '
'Tell the bar-tender to make a note of the recipe, as I shall probably
want an Angel Kiss every evening before dinner so long as this
'I will send the drink to you, sir,' said Jules distantly. That was his
parting shot, by which he indicated that he was not as other waiters
are, and that any person who treated him with disrespect did so at
his own peril.
A few minutes later, while the alert, middle-aged man was tasting
the Angel Kiss, Jules sat in conclave with Miss Spencer, who had
charge of the bureau of the Grand Babylon. This bureau was a
fairly large chamber, with two sliding glass partitions which
overlooked the entrance-hall and the smoking-room. Only a small
portion of the clerical work of the great hotel was performed there.
The place served chiefly as the lair of Miss Spencer, who was as
well known and as important as Jules himself. Most modern hotels
have a male clerk to superintend the bureau. But the Grand
Babylon went its own way. Miss Spencer had been bureau clerk
almost since the Grand Babylon had first raised its massive
chimneys to heaven, and she remained in her place despite the
vagaries of other hotels. Always admirably dressed in plain black
silk, with a small diamond brooch, immaculate wrist-bands, and
frizzed yellow hair, she looked now just as she had looked an
indefinite number of years ago. Her age - none knew it, save
herself and perhaps one other, and none cared. The gracious and
alluring contours of her figure were irreproachable; and in the
evenings she was a useful ornament of which any hotel might be
innocently proud. Her knowledge of Bradshaw, of steamship
services, and the programmes of theatres and music-halls was
unrivalled; yet she never travelled, she never went to a theatre or a
music-hall. She seemed to spend the whole of her life in that
official lair of hers, imparting information to guests, telephoning
to the various departments, or engaged in intimate conversations
with her special friends on the staff, as at present.
'Who's Number 107?' Jules asked this black-robed lady.
Miss Spencer examined her ledgers.
'Mr Theodore Racksole, New York.'
'I thought he must be a New Yorker,' said Jules, after a brief,
significant pause, 'but he talks as good English as you or me. Says
he wants an "Angel Kiss" - maraschino and cream, if you please -
every night. I'll see he doesn't stop here too long.'
Miss Spencer smiled grimly in response. The notion of referring to
Theodore Racksole as a 'New Yorker' appealed to her sense of
humour, a sense in which she was not entirely deficient. She knew,
of course, and she knew that Jules knew, that this Theodore
Racksole must be the unique and only Theodore Racksole, the
third richest man in the United States, and therefore probably in
the world. Nevertheless she ranged herself at once on the side of
Just as there was only one Racksole, so there was only one Jules,
and Miss Spencer instinctively shared the latter's indignation at the
spectacle of any person whatsoever, millionaire or Emperor,
presuming to demand an 'Angel Kiss', that unrespectable
concoction of maraschino and cream, within the precincts of the
Grand Babylon. In the world of hotels it was currently stated that,
next to the proprietor, there were three gods at the Grand Babylon
- Jules, the head waiter, Miss Spencer, and, most powerful of all,
Rocco, the renowned chef, who earned two thousand a year, and
had a chalet on the Lake of Lucerne. All the great hotels in
Northumberland Avenue and on the Thames Embankment had
tried to get Rocco away from the Grand Babylon, but without
success. Rocco was well aware that even he could rise no higher
than the ma�tre h�tel of the Grand Babylon, which, though it never
advertised itself, and didn't belong to a limited company, stood an
easy first among the hotels of Europe - first in expensiveness, first
in exclusiveness, first in that mysterious quality known as 'style'.
Situated on the Embankment, the Grand Babylon, despite its noble
proportions, was somewhat dwarfed by several colossal
neighbours. It had but three hundred and fifty rooms, whereas
there are two hotels within a quarter of a mile with six hundred
and four hundred rooms respectively. On the other hand, the Grand
Babylon was the only hotel in London with a genuine separate
entrance for Royal visitors constantly in use. The Grand Babylon
counted that day wasted on which it did not entertain, at the
lowest, a German prince or the Maharajah of some Indian State.
When Felix Babylon - after whom, and not with any reference to
London's nickname, the hotel was christened - when Felix
Babylon founded the hotel in 1869 he had set himself to cater for
Royalty, and that was the secret of his triumphant eminence.
The son of a rich Swiss hotel proprietor and financier, he had
contrived to established a connection with the officials of several
European Courts, and he had not spared money in that respect.
Sundry kings and not a few princesses called him Felix , and spoke
familiarly of the hotel as 'Felix 's'; and Felix had found that this
was very good for trade. The Grand Babylon was managed
accordingly. The 'note' of its policy was discretion, always
discretion, and quietude, simplicity, remoteness. The place was
like a palace incognito. There was no gold sign over the roof, not
even an explanatory word at the entrance. You walked down a
small side street off the Strand, you saw a plain brown building in
front of you, with two mahogany swing doors, and an official
behind each; the doors opened noiselessly; you entered; you were
in Felix 's. If you meant to be a guest, you, or your courier, gave
your card to Miss Spencer. Upon no consideration did you ask for
the tariff. It was not good form to mention prices at the Grand
Babylon; the prices were enormous, but you never mentioned
them. At the conclusion of your stay a bill was presented, brief and
void of dry details, and you paid it without a word. You met with.
a stately civility, that was all. No one had originally asked you to
come; no one expressed the hope that you would come again. The
Grand Babylon was far above such manoeuvres; it defied
competition by ignoring it; and consequently was nearly always
full during the season.
If there was one thing more than another that annoyed the Grand
Babylon - put its back up, so to speak - it was to be compared with,
or to be mistaken for, an American hotel. The Grand Babylon was
resolutely opposed to American methods of eating, drinking, and
lodging - but especially American methods of drinking. The
resentment of Jules, on being requested to supply Mr Theodore
Racksole with an Angel Kiss, will therefore be appreciated.
'Anybody with Mr Theodore Racksole?' asked Jules, continuing his
conversation with Miss Spencer. He put a scornful stress on every
syllable of the guest's name.
'Miss Racksole - she's in No. 111.'
Jules paused, and stroked his left whisker as it lay on his gleaming
'She's where?' he queried, with a peculiar emphasis.
'No. 111. I couldn't help it. There was no other room with a
bathroom and dressing-room on that floor.' Miss Spencer's voice
had an appealing tone of excuse.
'Why didn't you tell Mr Theodore Racksole and Miss Racksole that
we were unable to accommodate them?'
'Because Babs was within hearing.'
Only three people in the wide world ever dreamt of applying to Mr
Felix Babylon the playful but mean abbreviation - Babs: those
three were Jules, Miss Spencer, and Rocco. Jules had invented it.
No one but he would have had either the wit or the audacity to do
'You'd better see that Miss Racksole changes her room to-night,'
Jules said after another pause. 'Leave it to me: I'll fix it. Au revoir!
It's three minutes to eight. I shall take charge of the dining-room
And Jules departed, rubbing his fine white hands slowly and
meditatively. It was a trick of his, to rub his hands with a strange,
roundabout motion, and the action denoted that some unusual
excitement was in the air.
At eight o'clock precisely dinner was served in the immense salle
manger, that chaste yet splendid apartment of white and gold. At a
small table near one of the windows a young lady sat alone. Her
frocks said Paris, but her face unmistakably said New York. It was
a self-possessed and bewitching face, the face of a woman
thoroughly accustomed to doing exactly what she liked, when she
liked, how she liked: the face of a woman who had taught
hundreds of gilded young men the true art of fetching and carrying,
and who, by twenty years or so of parental spoiling, had come to
regard herself as the feminine equivalent of the Tsar of All the
Russias. Such women are only made in America, and they only
come to their full bloom in Europe, which they imagine to be a
continent created by Providence for their diversion.
The young lady by the window glanced disapprovingly at the menu
card. Then she looked round the dining-room, and, while admiring
the diners, decided that the room itself was rather small and plain.
Then she gazed through the open window, and told herself that
though the Thames by twilight was passable enough, it was by no
means level with the Hudson, on whose shores her father had a
hundred thousand dollar country cottage. Then she returned to the
menu, and with a pursing of lovely lips said that there appeared to
be nothing to eat.
'Sorry to keep you waiting, Nella.' It was Mr Racksole, the intrepid
millionaire who had dared to order an Angel Kiss in the
smoke-room of the Grand Babylon. Nella - her proper name was
Helen - smiled at her parent cautiously, reserving to herself the
right to scold if she should feel so inclined.
'You always are late, father,' she said.
'Only on a holiday,' he added. 'What is there to eat?'
'Then let's have it. I'm hungry. I'm never so hungry as when I'm
being seriously idle.'
'Consomm� Britannia,' she began to read out from the menu,
'Saumon d'Ecosse, Sauce Genoise, Aspics de Homard. Oh,
heavens! Who wants these horrid messes on a night like this?'
'But, Nella, this is the best cooking in Europe,' he protested.
'Say, father,' she said, with seeming irrelevance, 'had you forgotten
it's my birthday to-morrow?'
'Have I ever forgotten your birthday, O most costly daughter?'
'On the whole you've been a most satisfactory dad,' she answered
sweetly, 'and to reward you I'll be content this year with the
cheapest birthday treat you ever gave me. Only I'll have it to-night.'
'Well,' he said, with the long-suffering patience, the readiness for
any surprise, of a parent whom Nella had thoroughly trained, 'what
'It's this. Let's have filleted steak and a bottle of Bass for dinner
to-night. It will be simply exquisite. I shall love it.'
'But my dear Nella,' he exclaimed, 'steak and beer at Felix 's! It's
impossible! Moreover, young women still under twenty-three
cannot be permitted to drink Bass.'
'I said steak and Bass, and as for being twenty-three, shall be going
in twenty-four to-morrow.'
Miss Racksole set her small white teeth.
There was a gentle cough. Jules stood over them. It must have
been out of a pure spirit of adventure that he had selected this table
for his own services. Usually Jules did not personally wait at
dinner. He merely hovered observant, like a captain on the bridge
during the mate's watch. Regular frequenters of the hotel felt
themselves honoured when Jules attached himself to their tables.
Theodore Racksole hesitated one second, and then issued the order
with a fine air of carelessness:
'Filleted steak for two, and a bottle of Bass.' It was the bravest act
of Theodore Racksole's life, and yet at more than one previous
crisis a high courage had not been lacking to him.
'It's not in the menu, sir,' said Jules the imperturbable.
'Never mind. Get it. We want it.'
'Very good, sir.'
Jules walked to the service-door, and, merely affecting to look
behind, came immediately back again.
'Mr Rocco's compliments, sir, and he regrets to be unable to serve
steak and Bass to-night, sir.'
'Mr Rocco?' questioned Racksole lightly.
'Mr Rocco,' repeated Jules with firmness.
'And who is Mr Rocco?'
'Mr Rocco is our chef, sir.' Jules had the expression of a man who
is asked to explain who Shakespeare was.
The two men looked at each other. It seemed incredible that
Theodore Racksole, the ineffable Racksole, who owned a thousand
miles of railway, several towns, and sixty votes in Congress,
should be defied by a waiter, or even by a whole hotel. Yet so it
was. When Europe's effete back is against the wall not a regiment
of millionaires can turn its flank. Jules had the calm expression of
a strong man sure of victory. His face said: 'You beat me once, but
not this time, my New York friend!'
As for Nella, knowing her father, she foresaw interesting events,
and waited confidently for the steak. She did not feel hungry, and
she could afford to wait.
'Excuse me a moment, Nella,' said Theodore Racksole quietly, 'I
shall be back in about two seconds,' and he strode out of the salle �
manger. No one in the room recognized the millionaire, for he was
unknown to London, this being his first visit to Europe for over
twenty years. Had anyone done so, and caught the expression on
his face, that man might have trembled for an explosion which
should have blown the entire Grand Babylon into the Thames.
Jules retired strategically to a corner. He had fired; it was the
antagonist's turn. A long and varied experience had taught Jules
that a guest who embarks on the subjugation of a waiter is almost
always lost; the waiter has so many advantages in such a contest.
Chapter Two HOW MR RACKSOLE OBTAINED HIS DINNER
NEVERTHELESS, there are men with a confirmed habit of
getting their own way, even as guests in an exclusive hotel: and
Theodore Racksole had long since fallen into that useful practice -
except when his only daughter Helen, motherless but high-spirited
girl, chose to think that his way crossed hers, in which case
Theodore capitulated and fell back. But when Theodore and his
daughter happened to be going one and the same road, which was
pretty often, then Heaven alone might help any obstacle that was
so ill-advised as to stand in their path. Jules, great and observant
man though he was, had not noticed the terrible projecting chins of
both father and daughter, otherwise it is possible he would have
reconsidered the question of the steak and Bass.
Theodore Racksole went direct to the entrance-hall of the hotel,
and entered Miss Spencer's sanctum.
'I want to see Mr Babylon,' he said, 'without the delay of an
Miss Spencer leisurely raised her flaxen head.
'I am afraid - ,' she began the usual formula. It was part of her daily
duty to discourage guests who desired to see Mr Babylon.
'No, no,' said Racksole quickly, 'I don't want any "I'm afraids." This
is business. If you had been the ordinary hotel clerk I should have
slipped you a couple of sovereigns into your hand, and the thing
would have been done.
As you are not - as you are obviously above bribes - I merely say to
you, I must see Mr Babylon at once on an affair of the utmost
urgency. My name is Racksole - Theodore Racksole.'
'Of New York?' questioned a voice at the door, with a slight
The millionaire turned sharply, and saw a rather short,
French-looking man, with a bald head, a grey beard, a long and
perfectly-built frock coat, eye-glasses attached to a minute silver
chain, and blue eyes that seemed to have the transparent innocence
of a maid's.
'There is only one,' said Theodore Racksole succinctly.
'You wish to see me?' the new-comer suggested.
'You are Mr Felix Babylon?'
The man bowed.
'At this moment I wish to see you more than anyone else in the
world,' said Racksole. 'I am consumed and burnt up with a desire
to see you, Mr Babylon.
I only want a few minutes' quiet chat. I fancy I can settle my
business in that time.'
With a gesture Mr Babylon invited the millionaire down a side
corridor, at the end of which was Mr Babylon's private room, a
miracle of Louis XV furniture and tapestry: like most unmarried
men with large incomes, Mr Babylon had 'tastes' of a highly
The landlord and his guest sat down opposite each other. Theodore
Racksole had met with the usual millionaire's luck in this
adventure, for Mr Babylon made a practice of not allowing himself
to be interviewed by his guests, however distinguished, however
wealthy, however pertinacious. If he had not chanced to enter Miss
Spencer's office at that precise moment, and if he had not been
impressed in a somewhat peculiar way by the physiognomy of the
millionaire, not all Mr Racksole's American energy and ingenuity
would have availed for a confabulation with the owner of the
Grand Babylon Hotel that night. Theodore Racksole, however, was
ignorant that a mere accident had served him. He took all the
credit to himself.
'I read in the New York papers some months ago,' Theodore
started, without even a clearing of the throat, 'that this hotel of
yours, Mr Babylon, was to be sold to a limited company, but it
appears that the sale was not carried out.'
'It was not,' answered Mr Babylon frankly, 'and the reason was that
the middle-men between the proposed company and myself wished
to make a large secret profit, and I declined to be a party to such a
profit. They were firm; I was firm; and so the affair came to
'The agreed price was satisfactory?'
'May I ask what the price was?'
'Are you a buyer, Mr Racksole?'
'Are you a seller, Mr Babylon?'
'I am,' said Babylon, 'on terms. The price was four hundred
thousand pounds, including the leasehold and goodwill. But I sell
only on the condition that the buyer does not transfer the property
to a limited company at a higher figure.'
'I will put one question to you, Mr Babylon,' said the millionaire.
'What have your profits averaged during the last four years?'
'Thirty-four thousand pounds per annum.'
'I buy,' said Theodore Racksole, smiling contentedly; 'and we will,
if you please, exchange contract-letters on the spot.'
'You come quickly to a resolution, Mr Racksole. But perhaps you
have been considering this question for a long time?'
'On the contrary,' Racksole looked at his watch, 'I have been
considering it for six minutes.'
Felix Babylon bowed, as one thoroughly accustomed to
eccentricity of wealth.
'The beauty of being well-known,' Racksole continued, 'is that you
needn't trouble about preliminary explanations. You, Mr Babylon,
probably know all about me. I know a good deal about you. We
can take each other for granted without reference. Really, it is as
simple to buy an hotel or a railroad as it is to buy a watch,
provided one is equal to the transaction.'
'Precisely,' agreed Mr Babylon smiling. 'Shall we draw up the little
informal contract? There are details to be thought of. But it occurs
to me that you cannot have dined yet, and might prefer to deal with
minor questions after dinner.'
'I have not dined,' said the millionaire, with emphasis, 'and in that
connexion will you do me a favour? Will you send for Mr Rocco?'
'You wish to see him, naturally.'
'I do,' said the millionaire, and added, 'about my dinner.'
'Rocco is a great man,' murmured Mr Babylon as he touched the
bell, ignoring the last words. 'My compliments to Mr Rocco,' he
said to the page who answered his summons, 'and if it is quite
convenient I should be glad to see him here for a moment.'
'What do you give Rocco?' Racksole inquired.
'Two thousand a year and the treatment of an Ambassador.'
'I shall give him the treatment of an Ambassador and three
'You will be wise,' said Felix Babylon.
At that moment Rocco came into the room, very softly - a man of
forty, thin, with long, thin hands, and an inordinately long brown
'Rocco,' said Felix Babylon, 'let me introduce Mr Theodore
Racksole, of New York.'
'Sharmed,' said Rocco, bowing. 'Ze - ze, vat you call it,
'Exactly,' Racksole put in, and continued quickly: 'Mr Rocco, I
wish to acquaint you before any other person with the fact that I
have purchased the Grand Babylon Hotel. If you think well to
afford me the privilege of retaining your services I shall be happy
to offer you a remuneration of three thousand a year.'
'Tree, you said?'
'And now, Mr Rocco, will you oblige me very much by ordering a
plain beefsteak and a bottle of Bass to be served by Jules - I
particularly desire Jules - at table No. 17 in the dining-room in ten
minutes from now? And will you do me the honour of lunching
with me to-morrow?'
Mr Rocco gasped, bowed, muttered something in French, and
Five minutes later the buyer and seller of the Grand Babylon Hotel
had each signed a curt document, scribbled out on the hotel
note-paper. Felix Babylon asked no questions, and it was this
heroic absence of curiosity, of surprise on his part, that more than
anything else impressed Theodore Racksole. How many hotel
proprietors in the world, Racksole asked himself, would have let
that beef-steak and Bass go by without a word of comment.
'From what date do you wish the purchase to take effect?' asked
'Oh,' said Racksole lightly, 'it doesn't matter. Shall we say from
'As you will. I have long wished to retire. And now that the
moment has come - and so dramatically - I am ready. I shall return
to Switzerland. One cannot spend much money there, but it is my
native land. I shall be the richest man in Switzerland.' He smiled
with a kind of sad amusement.
'I suppose you are fairly well off?' said Racksole, in that easy
familiar style of his, as though the idea had just occurred to him.
'Besides what I shall receive from you, I have half a million
'Then you will be nearly a millionaire?'
Felix Babylon nodded.
'I congratulate you, my dear sir,' said Racksole, in the tone of a
judge addressing a newly-admitted barrister. 'Nine hundred
thousand pounds, expressed in francs, will sound very nice - in
'Of course to you, Mr Racksole, such a sum would be poverty.
Now if one might guess at your own wealth?' Felix Babylon was
imitating the other's freedom.
'I do not know, to five millions or so, what I am worth,' said
Racksole, with sincerity, his tone indicating that he would have
been glad to give the information if it were in his power.
'You have had anxieties, Mr Racksole?'
'Still have them. I am now holiday-making in London with my
daughter in order to get rid of them for a time.'
'Is the purchase of hotels your notion of relaxation, then?'
Racksole shrugged his shoulders. 'It is a change from railroads,' he
'Ah, my friend, you little know what you have bought.'
'Oh! yes I do,' returned Racksole; 'I have bought just the first hotel
in the world.'
'That is true, that is true,' Babylon admitted, gazing meditatively at
the antique Persian carpet. 'There is nothing, anywhere, like my
hotel. But you will regret the purchase, Mr Racksole. It is no
business of mine, of course, but I cannot help repeating that you
will regret the purchase.'
'I never regret.'
'Then you will begin very soon - perhaps to-night.'
'Why do you say that?'
'Because the Grand Babylon is the Grand Babylon. You think
because you control a railroad, or an iron-works, or a line of
steamers, therefore you can control anything. But no. Not the
Grand Babylon. There is something about the Grand Babylon - ' He
threw up his hands.
'Servants rob you, of course.'
'Of course. I suppose I lose a hundred pounds a week in that way.
But it is not that I mean. It is the guests. The guests are too - too
The great Ambassadors, the great financiers, the great nobles, all
the men that move the world, put up under my roof. London is the
centre of everything, and my hotel - your hotel - is the centre of
London. Once I had a King and a Dowager Empress staying here at
the same time. Imagine that!'
'A great honour, Mr Babylon. But wherein lies the difficulty?'
'Mr Racksole,' was the grim reply, 'what has become of your
shrewdness - that shrewdness which has made your fortune so
immense that even you cannot calculate it? Do you not perceive
that the roof which habitually shelters all the force, all the
authority of the world, must necessarily also shelter nameless and
numberless plotters, schemers, evil-doers, and workers of
mischief? The thing is as clear as day - and as dark as night. Mr
Racksole, I never know by whom I am surrounded. I never know
what is going forward.
Only sometimes I get hints, glimpses of strange acts and strange
You mentioned my servants. They are almost all good servants,
skilled, competent. But what are they besides? For anything I know
my fourth sub-chef may be an agent of some European
Government. For anything I know my invaluable Miss Spencer
may be in the pay of a court dressmaker or a Frankfort banker.
Even Rocco may be someone else in addition to Rocco.'
'That makes it all the more interesting,' remarked Theodore
'What a long time you have been, Father,' said Nella, when he
returned to table No. 17 in the salle manger.
'Only twenty minutes, my dove.'
'But you said two seconds. There is a difference.'
'Well, you see, I had to wait for the steak to cook.'
'Did you have much trouble in getting my birthday treat?'
'No trouble. But it didn't come quite as cheap as you said.'
'What do you mean, Father?'
'Only that I've bought the entire hotel. But don't split.'
'Father, you always were a delicious parent. Shall you give me the
hotel for a birthday present?'
'No. I shall run it - as an amusement. By the way, who is that chair
He noticed that a third cover had been laid at the table.
'That is for a friend of mine who came in about five minutes ago.
Of course I told him he must share our steak. He'll be here in a
'May I respectfully inquire his name?'
'Dimmock - Christian name Reginald; profession, English
companion to Prince Aribert of Posen. I met him when I was in St
Petersburg with cousin Hetty last fall. Oh; here he is. Mr
Dimmock, this is my dear father. He has succeeded with the steak.'
Theodore Racksole found himself confronted by a very young
man, with deep black eyes, and a fresh, boyish expression. They
began to talk.
Jules approached with the steak. Racksole tried to catch the
waiter's eye, but could not. The dinner proceeded.
'Oh, Father!' cried Nella, 'what a lot of mustard you have taken!'
'Have I?' he said, and then he happened to glance into a mirror on
his left hand between two windows. He saw the reflection of Jules,
who stood behind his chair, and he saw Jules give a slow,
significant, ominous wink to Mr Dimmock - Christian name,
He examined his mustard in silence. He thought that perhaps he
had helped himself rather plenteously to mustard.
Chapter Three AT THREE A.M.
MR REGINALD DIMMOCK proved himself, despite his extreme
youth, to be a man of the world and of experiences, and a practised
talker. Conversation between him and Nella Racksole seemed
never to flag. They chattered about St Petersburg, and the ice on
the Neva, and the tenor at the opera who had been exiled to
Siberia, and the quality of Russian tea, and the sweetness of
Russian champagne, and various other aspects of Muscovite
existence. Russia exhausted, Nella lightly outlined her own doings
since she had met the young man in the Tsar's capital, and this
recital brought the topic round to London, where it stayed till the
final piece of steak was eaten. Theodore Racksole noticed that Mr
Dimmock gave very meagre information about his own
movements, either past or future. He regarded the youth as a
typical hanger-on of Courts, and wondered how he had obtained
his post of companion to Prince Aribert of Posen, and who Prince
Aribert of Posen might be. The millionaire thought he had once
heard of Posen, but he wasn't sure; he rather fancied it was one of
those small nondescript German States of which five-sixths of the
subjects are Palace officials, and the rest charcoal-burners or
innkeepers. Until the meal was nearly over, Racksole said little -
perhaps his thoughts were too busy with Jules' wink to Mr
Dimmock, but when ices had been followed by coffee, he decided
that it might be as well, in the interests of the hotel, to discover
something about his daughter's friend. He never for an instant
questioned her right to possess her own friends; he had always left
her in the most amazing liberty, relying on her inherited good
sense to keep her out of mischief; but, quite apart from the wink,
he was struck by Nella's attitude towards Mr Dimmock, an attitude
in which an amiable scorn was blended with an evident desire to
propitiate and please.
'Nella tells me, Mr Dimmock, that you hold a confidential position
with Prince Aribert of Posen,' said Racksole. 'You will pardon an
American's ignorance, but is Prince Aribert a reigning Prince -
what, I believe, you call in Europe, a Prince Regnant?'
'His Highness is not a reigning Prince, nor ever likely to be,'
answered Dimmock. 'The Grand Ducal Throne of Posen is
occupied by his Highness's nephew, the Grand Duke Eugen.'
'Nephew?' cried Nella with astonishment.
'Why not, dear lady?'
'But Prince Aribert is surely very young?'
'The Prince, by one of those vagaries of chance which occur
sometimes in the history of families, is precisely the same age as
the Grand Duke. The late Grand Duke's father was twice married.
Hence this youthfulness on the part of an uncle.'
'How delicious to be the uncle of someone as old as yourself! But I
suppose it is no fun for Prince Aribert. I suppose he has to be
frightfully respectful and obedient, and all that, to his nephew?'
'The Grand Duke and my Serene master are like brothers. At
present, of course, Prince Aribert is nominally heir to the throne,
but as no doubt you are aware, the Grand Duke will shortly marry
a near relative of the Emperor's, and should there be a family - ' Mr
Dimmock stopped and shrugged his straight shoulders. 'The Grand
Duke,' he went on, without finishing the last sentence, 'would
much prefer Prince Aribert to be his successor. He really doesn't
want to marry. Between ourselves, strictly between ourselves, he
regards marriage as rather a bore. But, of course, being a German
Grand Duke, he is bound to marry. He owes it to his country, to
'How large is Posen?' asked Racksole bluntly.
'Father,' Nella interposed laughing, 'you shouldn't ask such
inconvenient questions. You ought to have guessed that it isn't
etiquette to inquire about the size of a German Dukedom.'
'I am sure,' said Dimmock, with a polite smile, 'that the Grand
Duke is as much amused as anyone at the size of his territory. I
forget the exact acreage, but I remember that once Prince Aribert
and myself walked across it and back again in a single day.'
'Then the Grand Duke cannot travel very far within his own
dominions? You may say that the sun does set on his empire?'
'It does,' said Dimmock.
'Unless the weather is cloudy,' Nella put in. 'Is the Grand Duke
content always to stay at home?'
'On the contrary, he is a great traveller, much more so than Prince
I may tell you, what no one knows at present, outside this hotel,
that his Royal Highness the Grand Duke, with a small suite, will be
'In London?' asked Nella.
'In this hotel?'
'Oh! How lovely!'
'That is why your humble servant is here to-night - a sort of
'But I understood,' Racksole said, 'that you were - er - attached to
Prince Aribert, the uncle.'
'I am. Prince Aribert will also be here. The Grand Duke and the
Prince have business about important investments connected with
the Grand Duke's marriage settlement. . . . In the highest quarters,
'For so discreet a person,' thought Racksole, 'you are fairly
communicative.' Then he said aloud: 'Shall we go out on the
As they crossed the dining-room Jules stopped Mr Dimmock and
handed him a letter. 'Just come, sir, by messenger,' said Jules.
Nella dropped behind for a second with her father. 'Leave me
alone with this boy a little - there's a dear parent,' she whispered in
'I am a mere cypher, an obedient nobody,' Racksole replied,
pinching her arm surreptitiously. 'Treat me as such. Use me as you
like. I will go and look after my hoteL' And soon afterwards he
Nella and Mr Dimmock sat together on the terrace, sipping iced
drinks. They made a handsome couple, bowered amid plants which
blossomed at the command of a Chelsea wholesale florist. People
who passed by remarked privately that from the look of things
there was the beginning of a romance m that conversation. Perhaps
there was, but a more intimate acquaintance with the character of
Nella Racksole would have been necessary in order to predict what
precise form that romance would take.
Jules himself served the liquids, and at ten o'clock he brought
another note. Entreating a thousand pardons, Reginald Dimmock,
after he had glanced at the note, excused himself on the plea of
urgent business for his Serene master, uncle of the Grand Duke of
Posen. He asked if he might fetch Mr Racksole, or escort Miss
Racksole to her father. But Miss Racksole said gaily that she felt
no need of an escort, and should go to bed. She added that her
father and herself always endeavoured to be independent of each
Just then Theodore Racksole had found his way once more into Mr
Babylon's private room. Before arriving there, however, he had
discovered that in some mysterious manner the news of the change
of proprietorship had worked its way down to the lowest strata of
the hotel's cosmos. The corridors hummed with it, and even
under-servants were to be seen discussing the thing, just as though
it mattered to them.
'Have a cigar, Mr Racksole,' said the urbane Mr Babylon, 'and a
mouthful of the oldest cognac in all Europe.'
In a few minutes these two were talking eagerly, rapidly. Felix
Babylon was astonished at Racksole's capacity for absorbing the
details of hotel management. And as for Racksole he soon realized
that Felix Babylon must be a prince of hotel managers. It had
never occurred to Racksole before that to manage an hotel, even a
large hotel, could be a specially interesting affair, or that it could
make any excessive demands upon the brains of the manager; but
he came to see that he had underrated the possibilities of an hotel.
The business of the Grand Babylon was enormous. It took
Racksole, with all his genius for organization, exactly half an hour
to master the details of the hotel laundry-work. And the
laundry-work was but one branch of activity amid scores, and not a
very large one at that. The machinery of checking supplies, and of
establishing a mean ratio between the raw stuff received in the
kitchen and the number of meals served in the salle � manger and
the private rooms, was very complicated and delicate. When
Racksole had grasped it, he at once suggested some improvements,
and this led to a long theoretical discussion, and the discussion led
to digressions, and then Felix Babylon, in a moment of
Racksole looked at the gilt clock on the high mantelpiece.
'Great Scott!' he said. 'It's three o'clock. Mr Babylon, accept my
apologies for having kept you up to such an absurd hour.'
'I have not spent so pleasant an evening for many years. You have
let me ride my hobby to my heart's content. It is I who should
'I should like to ask you one question,' said Babylon. 'Have you
ever had anything to do with hotels before?'
'Never,' said Racksole.
'Then you have missed your vocation. You could have been the
greatest of all hotel-managers. You would have been greater than
me, and I am unequalled, though I keep only one hotel, and some
men have half a dozen. Mr Racksole, why have you never run an
'Heaven knows,' he laughed, 'but you flatter me, Mr Babylon.'
'I? Flatter? You do not know me. I flatter no one, except, perhaps,
now and then an exceptionally distinguished guest. In which case I
give suitable instructions as to the bill.'
'Speaking of distinguished guests, I am told that a couple of
German princes are coming here to-morrow.'
'That is so.'
'Does one do anything? Does one receive them formally - stand
bowing in the entrance-hall, or anything of that sort?'
'Not necessarily. Not unless one wishes. The modern hotel
proprietor is not like an innkeeper of the Middle Ages, and even
princes do not expect to see him unless something should happen
to go wrong. As a matter of fact, though the Grand Duke of Posen
and Prince Aribert have both honoured me by staying here before,
I have never even set eyes on them. You will find all arrangements
have been made.'
They talked a little longer, and then Racksole said good night. 'Let
me see you to your room. The lifts will be closed and the place
will be deserted.
As for myself, I sleep here,' and Mr Babylon pointed to an inner
'No, thanks,' said Racksole; 'let me explore my own hotel
unaccompanied. I believe I can discover my room.' When he got
fairly into the passages, Racksole was not so sure that he could
discover his own room. The number was 107, but he had forgotten
whether it was on the first or second floor.
Travelling in a lift, one is unconscious of floors. He passed several
lift-doorways, but he could see no glint of a staircase; in all
self-respecting hotels staircases have gone out of fashion, and
though hotel architects still continue, for old sakes' sake, to build
staircases, they are tucked away in remote corners where their
presence is not likely to offend the eye of a spoiled and
cosmopolitan public. The hotel seemed vast, uncanny, deserted.
An electric light glowed here and there at long intervals. On the
thick carpets, Racksole's thinly-shod feet made no sound, and he
wandered at ease to and fro, rather amused, rather struck by the
peculiar senses of night and mystery which had suddenly come
over him. He fancied he could hear a thousand snores peacefully
descending from the upper realms. At length he found a staircase,
a very dark and narrow one, and presently he was on the first floor.
He soon discovered that the numbers of the rooms on this floor did
not get beyond seventy. He encountered another staircase and
ascended to the second floor. By the decoration of the walls he
recognized this floor as his proper home, and as he strolled
through the long corridor he whistled a low, meditative whistle of
satisfaction. He thought he heard a step in the transverse corridor,
and instinctively he obliterated himself in a recess which held a
service-cabinet and a chair. He did hear a step. Peeping cautiously
out, he perceived, what he had not perceived previously, that a
piece of white ribbon had been tied round the handle of the door of
one of the bedrooms. Then a man came round the corner of the
transverse corridor, and Racksole drew back. It was Jules - Jules
with his hands in his pockets and a slouch hat over his eyes, but in
other respects attired as usual.
Racksole, at that instant, remembered with a special vividness
what Felix Babylon had said to him at their first interview. He
wished he had brought his revolver. He didn't know why he should
feel the desirability of a revolver in a London hotel of the most
unimpeachable fair fame, but he did feel the desirability of such an
instrument of attack and defence. He privately decided that if Jules
went past his recess he would take him by the throat and in that
attitude put a few plain questions to this highly dubious waiter. But
Jules had stopped. The millionaire made another cautious
observation. Jules, with infinite gentleness, was turning the handle
of the door to which the white ribbon was attached. The door
slowly yielded and Jules disappeared within the room. After a brief
interval, the night-prowling Jules reappeared, closed the door as
softly as he had opened it, removed the ribbon, returned upon his
steps, and vanished down the transverse corridor.
'This is quaint,' said Racksole; 'quaint to a degree!'
It occurred to him to look at the number of the room, and he stole
'Well, I'm d - d!' he murmured wonderingly.
The number was 111, his daughter's room! He tried to open it, but
the door was locked. Rushing to his own room, No. 107, he seized
one of a pair of revolvers (the kind that are made for millionaires)
and followed after Jules down the transverse corridor. At the end
of this corridor was a window; the window was open; and Jules
was innocently gazing out of the window. Ten silent strides, and
Theodore Racksole was upon him.
'One word, my friend,' the millionaire began, carelessly waving the
revolver in the air. Jules was indubitably startled, but by an
admirable exercise of self-control he recovered possession of his
faculties in a second.
'Sir?' said Jules.
'I just want to be informed, what the deuce you were doing in No.
111 a moment ago.'
'I had been requested to go there,' was the calm response.
'You are a liar, and not a very clever one. That is my daughter's
room. Now - out with it, before I decide whether to shoot you or
throw you into the street.'
'Excuse me, sir, No. 111 is occupied by a gentleman.'
'I advise you that it is a serious error of judgement to contradict
me, my friend. Don't do it again. We will go to the room together,
and you shall prove that the occupant is a gentleman, and not my
'Impossible, sir,' said Jules.
'Scarcely that,' said Racksole, and he took Jules by the sleeve. The
millionaire knew for a certainty that Nella occupied No. 111, for
he had examined the room her, and himself seen that her trunks
and her maid and herself had arrived there in safety. 'Now open the
door,' whispered Racksole, when they reached No.111.
'I must knock.'
'That is just what you mustn't do. Open it. No doubt you have your
Confronted by the revolver, Jules readily obeyed, yet with a
deprecatory gesture, as though he would not be responsible for this
outrage against the decorum of hotel life. Racksole entered. The
room was brilliantly lighted.
'A visitor, who insists on seeing you, sir,' said Jules, and fled.
Mr Reginald Dimmock, still in evening dress, and smoking a
cigarette, rose hurriedly from a table.
'Hello, my dear Mr Racksole, this is an unexpected - ah - pleasure.'
'Where is my daughter? This is her room.'
'Did I catch what you said, Mr Racksole?'
'I venture to remark that this is Miss Racksole's room.'
'My good sir,' answered Dimmock, 'you must be mad to dream of
such a thing.
Only my respect for your daughter prevents me from expelling you
forcibly, for such an extraordinary suggestion.'
A small spot half-way down the bridge of the millionaire's nose
turned suddenly white.
'With your permission,' he said in a low calm voice, 'I will examine
the dressing-room and the bath-room.'
'Just listen to me a moment,' Dimmock urged, in a milder tone.
'I'll listen to you afterwards, my young friend,' said Racksole, and
he proceeded to search the bath-room, and the dressing-room,
without any result whatever. 'Lest my attitude might be open to
misconstruction, Mr Dimmock, I may as well tell you that I have
the most perfect confidence in my daughter, who is as well able to
take care of herself as any woman I ever met, but since you entered
it there have been one or two rather mysterious occurrences in this
hotel. That is all.' Feeling a draught of air on his shoulder,
Racksole turned to the window. 'For instance,' he added, 'I perceive
that this window is broken, badly broken, and from the outside.
Now, how could that have occurred?'
'If you will kindly hear reason, Mr Racksole,' said Dimmock in his
best diplomatic manner, 'I will endeavour to explain things to you.
I regarded your first question to me when you entered my room as
being offensively put, but I now see that you had some
justification.' He smiled politely. 'I was passing along this corridor
about eleven o'clock, when I found Miss Racksole in a difficulty
with the hotel servants. Miss Racksole was retiring to rest in this
room when a large stone, which must have been thrown from the
Embankment, broke the window, as you see. Apart from the
discomfort of the broken window, she did not care to remain in the
room. She argued that where one stone had come another might
follow. She therefore insisted on her room being changed. The
servants said that there was no other room available with a
dressing-room and bath-room attached, and your daughter made a
point of these matters. I at once offered to exchange apartments
with her. She did me the honour to accept my offer. Our respective
belongings were moved - and that is all. Miss Racksole is at this
moment, I trust, asleep in No. 124.'
Theodore Racksole looked at the young man for a few seconds in
There was a faint knock at the door.
'Come in,' said Racksole loudly.
Someone pushed open the door, but remained standing on the mat.
It was Nella's maid, in a dressing-gown.
'Miss Racksole's compliments, and a thousand excuses, but a book
of hers was left on the mantelshelf in this room. She cannot sleep,
and wishes to read.'
'Mr Dimmock, I tender my apologies - my formal apologies,' said
Racksole, when the girl had gone away with the book. 'Good
'Pray don't mention it,' said Dimmock suavely - and bowed him
Chapter Four ENTRANCE OF THE PRINCE
NEVERTHELESS, sundry small things weighed on Racksole's
mind. First there was Jules' wink. Then there was the ribbon on the
door-handle and Jules'
visit to No. 111, and the broken window - broken from the outside.
Racksole did not forget that the time was 3 a.m. He slept but little
that night, but he was glad that he had bought the Grand Babylon
Hotel. It was an acquisition which seemed to promise fun and
The next morning he came across Mr Babylon early. 'I have
emptied my private room of all personal papers,' said Babylon,
'and it is now at your disposal.
I purpose, if agreeable to yourself, to stay on in the hotel as a guest
for the present. We have much to settle with regard to the
completion of the purchase, and also there are things which you
might want to ask me. Also, to tell the truth, I am not anxious to
leave the old place with too much suddenness. It will be a wrench
'I shall be delighted if you will stay,' said the millionaire, 'but it
must be as my guest, not as the guest of the hotel.'
'You are very kind.'
'As for wishing to consult you, no doubt I shall have need to do so,
but I must say that the show seems to run itself.'
'Ah!' said Babylon thoughtfully. 'I have heard of hotels that run
themselves. If they do, you may be sure that they obey the laws of
gravity and run downwards. You will have your hands full. For
example, have you yet heard about Miss Spencer?'
'No,' said Racksole. 'What of her?'
'She has mysteriously vanished during the night, and nobody
appears to be able to throw any light on the affair. Her room is
empty, her boxes gone.
You will want someone to take her place, and that someone will
not be very easy to get.'
'H'm!' Racksole said, after a pause. 'Hers is not the only post that
falls vacant to-day.'
A little later, the millionaire installed himself in the late owner's
private room and rang the bell.
'I want Jules,' he said to the page.
While waiting for Jules, Racksole considered the question of Miss
'Good morning, Jules,' was his cheerful greeting, when the
imperturbable waiter arrived.
'Good morning, sir.'
'Take a chair.'
'Thank you, sir.'
'We have met before this morning, Jules.'
'Yes, sir, at 3 a.m.'
'Rather strange about Miss Spencer's departure, is it not?'
'It is remarkable, sir.'
'You are aware, of course, that Mr Babylon has transferred all his
interests in this hotel to me?'
'I have been informed to that effect, sir.'
'I suppose you know everything that goes on in the hotel, Jules?'
'As the head waiter, sir, it is my business to keep a general eye on
'You speak very good English for a foreigner, Jules.'
'For a foreigner, sir! I am an Englishman, a Hertfordshire man born
and bred. Perhaps my name has misled you, sir. I am only called
Jules because the head waiter of any really high-class hotel must
have either a French or an Italian name.'
'I see,' said Racksole. 'I think you must be rather a clever person,
'That is not for me to say, sir.'
'How long has the hotel enjoyed the advantage of your services?'
'A little over twenty years.'
'That is a long time to be in one place. Don't you think it's time you
got out of the rut? You are still young, and might make a
reputation for yourself in another and wider sphere.'
Racksole looked at the man steadily, and his glance was steadily
'You aren't satisfied with me, sir?'
'To be frank, Jules, I think - I think you - er - wink too much. And I
think that it is regrettable when a head waiter falls into a habit of
taking white ribbons from the handles of bedroom doors at three in
Jules started slightly.
'I see how it is, sir. You wish me to go, and one pretext, if I may
use the term, is as good as another. Very well, I can't say that I'm
surprised. It sometimes happens that there is incompatibility of
temper between a hotel proprietor and his head waiter, and then,
unless one of them goes, the hotel is likely to suffer. I will go, Mr
Racksole. In fact, I had already thought of giving notice.'
The millionaire smiled appreciatively. 'What wages do you require
in lieu of notice? It is my intention that you leave the hotel within
'I require no wages in lieu of notice, sir. I would scorn to accept
anything. And I will leave the hotel in fifteen minutes.'
'Good-day, then. You have my good wishes and my admiration, so
long as you keep out of my hotel.'
Racksole got up. 'Good-day, sir. And thank you.'
'By the way, Jules, it will be useless for you to apply to any other
first-rate European hotel for a post, because I shall take measures
which will ensure the rejection of any such application.'
'Without discussing the question whether or not there aren't at least
half a dozen hotels in London alone that would jump for joy at the
chance of getting me,' answered Jules, 'I may tell you, sir, that I
shall retire from my profession.'
'Really! You will turn your brains to a different channel.'
'No, sir. I shall take rooms in Albemarle Street or Jermyn Street,
and just be content to be a man-about-town. I have saved some
twenty thousand pounds - a mere trifle, but sufficient for my
needs, and I shall now proceed to enjoy it. Pardon me for troubling
you with my personal affairs. And good-day again.'
That afternoon Racksole went with Felix Babylon first to a firm of
solicitors in the City, and then to a stockbroker, in order to carry
out the practical details of the purchase of the hotel.
'I mean to settle in England,' said Racksole, as they were coming
back. 'It is the only country - ' and he stopped.
'The only country?'
'The, only country where you can invest money and spend money
with a feeling of security. In the United States there is nothing
worth spending money on, nothing to buy. In France or Italy, there
is no real security.'
'But surely you are a true American?' questioned Babylon.
'I am a true American,' said Racksole, 'but my father, who began by
being a bedmaker at an Oxford college, and ultimately made ten
million dollars out of iron in Pittsburg - my father took the wise
precaution of having me educated in England. I had my three years
at Oxford, like any son of the upper middle class! It did me good.
It has been worth more to me than many successful speculations. It
taught me that the English language is different from, and better
than, the American language, and that there is something - I
haven't yet found out exactly what - in English life that Americans
will never get. Why,' he added, 'in the United States we still bribe
our judges and our newspapers. And we talk of the eighteenth
century as though it was the beginning of the world. Yes, I shall
transfer my securities to London. I shall build a house in Park
Lane, and I shall buy some immemorial country seat with a history
as long as the A. T. and S. railroad, and I shall calmly and
gradually settle down. D'you know - I am rather a good-natured
man for a millionaire, and of a social disposition, and yet I haven't
six real friends in the whole of New York City. Think of that!'
'And I,' said Babylon, 'have no friends except the friends of my
boyhood in Lausanne. I have spent thirty years in England, and
gained nothing but a perfect knowledge of the English language
and as much gold coin as would fill a rather large box.'
These two plutocrats breathed a simultaneous sigh.
'Talking of gold coin,' said Racksole, 'how much money should you
think Jules has contrived to amass while he has been with you?'
'Oh!' Babylon smiled. 'I should not like to guess. He has had unique
opportunities - opportunities.'
'Should you consider twenty thousand an extraordinary sum under
'Not at all. Has he been confiding in you?'
'Somewhat. I have dismissed him.'
'You have dismissed him?'
'There is no reason why not. But I have felt inclined to dismiss him
for the past ten years, and never found courage to do it.'
'It was a perfectly simple proceeding, I assure you. Before I had
done with him, I rather liked the fellow.'
'Miss Spencer and Jules - both gone in one day!' mused Felix
'And no one to take their places,' said Racksole. 'And yet the hotel
continues its way!'
But when Racksole reached the Grand Babylon he found that Miss
Spencer's chair in the bureau was occupied by a stately and
imperious girl, dressed becomingly in black.
'Heavens, Nella!' he cried, going to the bureau. 'What are you doing
'I am taking Mis Spencer's place. I want to help you with your
hotel, Dad. I fancy I shall make an excellent hotel clerk. I have
arranged with a Miss Selina Smith, one of the typists in the office,
to put me up to all the tips and tricks, and I shall do very well.'
'But look here, Helen Racksole. We shall have the whole of
London talking about this thing - the greatest of all American
heiresses a hotel clerk! And I came here for quiet and rest!'
'I suppose it was for the sake of quiet and rest that you bought the
'You would insist on the steak,' he retorted. 'Get out of this, on the
'Here I am, here to stay,' said Nella, and deliberately laughed at her
Just then the face of a fair-haired man of about thirty years
appeared at the bureau window. He was very well-dressed, very
aristocratic in his pose, and he seemed rather angry.
He looked fixedly at Nella and started back.
'Ach!' he exclaimed. 'You!'
'Yes, your Highness, it is indeed I. Father, this is his Serene
Highness Prince Aribert of Posen - one of our most esteemed
'You know my name, Fr�ulein?' the new-comer murmured in
'Certainly, Prince,' Nella replied sweetly. 'You were plain Count
Steenbock last spring in Paris - doubtless travelling incognito - '
'Silence,' he entreated, with a wave of the hand, and his forehead
went as white as paper.
Chapter Five WHAT OCCURRED TO REGINALD DIMMOCK
IN another moment they were all three talking quite nicely, and
with at any rate an appearance of being natural. Prince Aribert
became suave, even deferential to Nella, and more friendly
towards Nella's father than their respective positions demanded.
The latter amused himself by studying this sprig of royalty, the
first with whom he had ever come into contact. He decided that the
young fellow was personable enough, 'had no frills on him,'
and would make an exceptionally good commercial traveller for a
first-class firm. Such was Theodore Racksole's preliminary
estimate of the man who might one day be the reigning Grand
Duke of Posen.
It occurred to Nella, and she smiled at the idea, that the bureau of
the hotel was scarcely the correct place in which to receive this
august young man. There he stood, with his head half-way through
the bureau window, negligently leaning against the woodwork, just
as though he were a stockbroker or the manager of a New York
'Is your Highness travelling quite alone?' she asked.
'By a series of accidents I am,' he said. 'My equerry was to have
met me at Charing Cross, but he failed to do so - I cannot imagine
'Mr Dimmock?' questioned Racksole.
'Yes, Dimmock. I do not remember that he ever missed an
You know him? He has been here?'
'He dined with us last night,' said Racksole - 'on Nella's invitation,'
he added maliciously; 'but to-day we have seen nothing of him. I
know, however, that he has engaged the State apartments, and also
a suite adjoining the State apartments - No. 55. That is so, isn't it,
'Yes, Papa,' she said, having first demurely examined a ledger.
'Your Highness would doubtless like to be conducted to your room
- apartments I mean.' Then Nella laughed deliberately at the
Prince, and said, 'I don't know who is the proper person to conduct
you, and that's a fact. The truth is that Papa and I are rather raw yet
in the hotel line. You see, we only bought the place last night.'
'You have bought the hotel!' exclaimed the Prince.
'That's so,' said Racksole.
'And Felix Babylon has gone?'
'He is going, if he has not already gone.'
'Ah! I see,' said the Prince; 'this is one of your American "strokes".
You have bought to sell again, is that not it? You are on your
holidays, but you cannot resist making a few thousands by way of
relaxation. I have heard of such things.'
'We sha'n't sell again, Prince, until we are tired of our bargain.
Sometimes we tire very quickly, and sometimes we don't. It
depends - eh? What?'
Racksole broke off suddenly to attend to a servant in livery who
had quietly entered the bureau and was making urgent mysterious
signs to him.
'If you please, sir,' the man by frantic gestures implored Mr
Theodore Racksole to come out.
'Pray don't let me detain you, Mr Racksole,' said the Prince, and
therefore the proprietor of the Grand Babylon departed after the
servant, with a queer, curt little bow to Prince Aribert.
'Mayn't I come inside?' said the Prince to Nella immediately the
millionaire had gone.
'Impossible, Prince,' Nella laughed. 'The rule against visitors
entering this bureau is frightfully strict.'
'How do you know the rule is so strict if you only came into
possession last night?'
'I know because I made the rule myself this morning, your
'But seriously, Miss Racksole, I want to talk to you.'
'Do you want to talk to me as Prince Aribert or as the friend - the
acquaintance - whom I knew in Paris' last year?'
'As the friend, dear lady, if I may use the term.'
'And you are sure that you would not like first to be conducted to
'Not yet. I will wait till Dimmock comes; he cannot fail to be here
'Then we will have tea served in father's private room - the
proprietor's private room, you know.'
'Good!' he said.
Nella talked through a telephone, and rang several bells, and
behaved generally in a manner calculated to prove to Princes and
to whomever it might concern that she was a young woman of
business instincts and training, and then she stepped down from
her chair of office, emerged from the bureau, and, preceded by two
menials, led Prince Aribert to the Louis XV chamber in which her
father and Felix Babylon had had their long confabulation on the
'What do you want to talk to me about?' she asked her companion,
as she poured out for him a second cup of tea. The Prince looked
at her for a moment as he took the proffered cup, and being a
young man of sane, healthy, instincts, he could think of nothing for
the moment except her loveliness.
Nella was indeed beautiful that afternoon. The beauty of even the
most beautiful woman ebbs and flows from hour to hour. Nella's
this afternoon was at the flood. Vivacious, alert, imperious, and yet
ineffably sweet, she seemed to radiate the very joy and exuberance
'I have forgotten,' he said.
'You have forgotten! That is surely very wrong of you? You gave
me to understand that it was something terribly important. But of
course I knew it couldn't be, because no man, and especially no
Prince, ever discussed anything really important with a woman.'
'Recollect, Miss Racksole, that this aftemoon, here, I am not the
'You are Count Steenbock, is that it?'
He started. 'For you only,' he said, unconsciously lowering his
voice. 'Miss Racksole, I particularly wish that no one here should
know that I was in Paris last spring.'
'An affair of State?' she smiled.
'An affair of State,' he replied soberly. 'Even Dimmock doesn't
know. It was strange that we should be fellow guests at that quiet
out-of-the-way hotel - strange but delightful. I shall never forget
that rainy afternoon that we spent together in the Museum of the
Trocad�ro. Let us talk about that.'
'About the rain, or the museum?'
'I shall never forget that afternoon,' he repeated, ignoring the
lightness of her question.
'Nor I,' she murmured corresponding to his mood.
'You, too enjoyed it?' he said eagerly.
'The sculptures were magnificent,' she replied, hastily glancing at
'Ah! So they were! Tell me, Miss Racksole, how did you discover
'I must not say,' she answered. 'That is my secret. Do not seek to
penetrate it. Who knows what horrors you might discover if you
probed too far?' She laughed, but she laughed alone. The Prince
remained pensive - as it were brooding.
'I never hoped to see you again,' he said.
'One never sees again those whom one wishes to see.'
'As for me, I was perfectly convinced that we should meet again.'
'Because I always get what I want.'
'Then you wanted to see me again?'
'Certainly. You interested me extremely. I have never met another
man who could talk so well about sculpture as the Count
'Do you really always get what you want, Miss Racksole?'
'That is because your father is so rich, I suppose?'
'Oh, no, it isn't!' she said. 'It's simply because I always do get what I
want. It's got nothing to do with Father at all.'
'But Mr Racksole is extremely wealthy?'
'Wealthy isn't the word, Count. There is no word. It's positively
awful the amount of dollars poor Papa makes. And the worst of it
is he can't help it.
He told me once that when a man had made ten millions no power
on earth could stop those ten millions from growing into twenty.
And so it continues.
I spend what I can, but I can't come near coping with it; and of
course Papa is no use whatever at spending.'
'And you have no mother?'
'Who told you I had no mother?' she asked quietly.
'I - er - inquired about you,' he said, with equal candour and
'In spite of the fact that you never hoped to see me again?'
'Yes, in spite of that.'
'How funny!' she said, and lapsed into a meditative silence.
'Yours must be a wonderful existence,' said the Prince. 'I envy you.'
'You envy me - what? My father's wealth?'
'No,' he said; 'your freedom and your responsibilities.'
'I have no responsibilities,' she remarked.
'Pardon me,' he said; 'you have, and the time is coming when you
will feel them.'
'I'm only a girl,' she murmured with sudden simplicity. 'As for you,
Count, surely you have sufficient responsibilities of your own?'
'I?' he said sadly. 'I have no responsibilties. I am a nobody - a
Serene Highness who has to pretend to be very important, always
taking immense care never to do anything that a Serene Highness
ought not to do. Bah!'
'But if your nephew, Prince Eugen, were to die, would you not
come to the throne, and would you not then have these
responsibilities which you so much desire?'
'Eugen die?' said Prince Aribert, in a curious tone. 'Impossible. He
is the perfection of health. In three months he will be married. No,
I shall never be anything but a Serene Highness, the most
despicable of God's creatures.'
'But what about the State secret which you mentioned? Is not that a
'Ah!' he said. 'That is over. That belongs to the past. It was an
accident in my dull career. I shall never be Count Steenbock
'Who knows?' she said. 'By the way, is not Prince Eugen coming
here to-day? Mr Dimmock told us so.'
'See!' answered the Prince, standing up and bending over her. 'I am
going to confide in you. I don't know why, but I am.'
'Don't betray State secrets,' she warned him, smiling into his face.
But just then the door of the room was unceremoniously opened.
'Go right in,' said a voice sharply. It was Theodore Racksole's. Two
men entered, bearing a prone form on a stretcher, and Racksole
Nella sprang up. Racksole stared to see his daughter.
'I didn't know you were in here, Nell. Here,' to the two men, 'out
'Why!' exclaimed Nella, gazing fearfully at the form on the
stretcher, 'it's Mr Dimmock!'
'It is,' her father acquiesced. 'He's dead,' he added laconically. 'I'd
have broken it to you more gently had I known. Your pardon,
Prince.' There was a pause.
'Dimmock dead!' Prince Aribert whispered under his breath, and he
kneeled down by the side of the stretcher. 'What does this mean?'
The poor fellow was just walking across the quadrangle towards
the portico when he fell down. A commissionaire who saw him
says he was walking very quickly. At first I thought it was
sunstroke, but it couldn't have been, though the weather certainly
is rather warm. It must be heart disease. But anyhow, he's dead.
We did what we could. I've sent for a doctor, and for the police. I
suppose there'll have to be an inquest.'
Theodore Racksole stopped, and in an awkward solemn silence
they all gazed at the dead youth. His features were slightly drawn,
and his eyes closed; that was all. He might have been asleep.
'My poor Dimmock!' exclaimed the Prince, his voice broken. 'And
I was angry because the lad did not meet me at Charing Cross!'
'Are you sure he is dead, Father?' Nella said.
'You'd better go away, Nella,' was Racksole's only reply; but the
girl stood still, and began to sob quietly. On the previous night she
had secretly made fun of Reginald Dimmock. She had deliberately
set herself to get information from him on a topic in which she
happened to be specially interested and she had got it, laughing the
while at his youthful crudities - his vanity, his transparent cunning,
his abusurd airs. She had not liked him; she had even distrusted
him, and decided that he was not 'nice'. But now, as he lay on the
stretcher, these things were forgotten. She went so far as to
reproach herself for them. Such is the strange commanding power
'Oblige me by taking the poor fellow to my apartments,' said the
Prince, with a gesture to the attendants. 'Surely it is time the doctor
Racksole felt suddenly at that moment he was nothing but a mere
hotel proprietor with an awkward affair on his hands. For a
fraction of a second he wished he had never bought the Grand
A quarter of an hour later Prince Aribert, Theodore Racksole, a
doctor, and an inspector of police were in the Prince's
reception-room. They had just come from an ante-chamber, in
which lay the mortal remains of Reginald Dimmock.
'Well?' said Racksole, glancing at the doctor.
The doctor was a big, boyish-looking man, with keen, quizzical
'It is not heart disease,' said the doctor.
'Not heart disease?'
'Then what is it?' asked the Prince.
'I may be able to answer that question after the post-mortem,' said
the doctor. 'I certainly can't answer it now. The symptoms are
unusual to a degree.'
The inspector of police began to write in a note-book.
Chapter Six IN THE GOLD ROOM
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
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
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
'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
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
'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
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 r�le 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
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