Part 3 out of 5
'I don't know,' said Rocco. 'I don't mind informing you that I
objected to that part of the business. I wasn't made aware of it till
after it was done, and then I tell you it got my dander up
'You mean to say you don't know why Dimmock was done to
'I mean to say I couldn't see the sense of it. Of course he - er - died,
because he sort of cried off the scheme, having previously taken a
share of it. I don't mind saying that much, because you probably
guessed it for yourself. But I solemnly state that I have a
conscientious objection to murder.'
'Then it was murder?'
'It was a kind of murder,' Rocco admitted. Who did it?'
'Unfair question,' said Rocco.
'Who else is in this precious scheme besides Jules and yourself?'
'Don't know, on my honour.'
'Well, then, tell me this. What have you been doing to Dimmock's
'How long were you in that bathroom?' Rocco parried with sublime
'Don't question me, Mr Rucker,' said Theodore Racksole. 'I feel
very much inclined to break your back across my knee. Therefore I
advise you not to irritate me. What have you been doing to
'I've been embalming it.'
'Em - balming it.'
'Certainly; Richardson's system of arterial fluid injection, as
improved by myself. You weren't aware that I included the art of
embalming among my accomplishments. Nevertheless, it is so.'
'But why?' asked Racksole, more mystified than ever. 'Why should
you trouble to embalm the poor chap's corpse?'
'Can't you see? Doesn't it strike you? That corpse has to be taken
It contains, or rather, it did contain, very serious evidence against
some person or persons unknown to the police. It may be
necessary to move it about from place to place. A corpse can't be
hidden for long; a corpse betrays itself. One couldn't throw it in the
Thames, for it would have been found inside twelve hours. One
couldn't bury it - it wasn't safe. The only thing was to keep it handy
and movable, ready for emergencies. I needn't inform you that,
without embalming, you can't keep a corpse handy and movable
for more than four or five days. It's the kind of thing that won't
keep. And so it was suggested that I should embalm it, and I did.
Mind you, I still objected to the murder, but I couldn't go back on a
colleague, you understand. You do understand that, don't you?
Well, here you are, and here it is, and that's all.'
Rocco leaned back in his chair as though he had said everything
that ought to be said. He closed his eyes to indicate that so far as
he was concerned the conversation was also closed. Theodore
Racksole stood up.
'I hope,' said Rocco, suddenly opening his eyes, 'I hope you'll call
in the police without any delay. It's getting late, and I don't like
going without my night's rest.'
'Where do you suppose you'll get a night's rest?' Racksole asked.
'In the cells, of course. Haven't I told you I know when I'm beaten.
I'm not so blind as not to be able to see that there's at any rate a
prima facie case against me. I expect I shall get off with a year or
two's imprisonment as accessory after the fact - I think that's what
they call it. Anyhow, I shall be in a position to prove that I am not
implicated in the murder of this unfortunate nincompoop.' He
pointed, with a strange, scornful gesture of his elbow, to the bed.
'And now, shall we go? Everyone is asleep, but there will be a
policeman within call of the watchman in the portico. I am at your
service. Let us go down together, Mr Racksole. I give you my word
to go quietly.'
'Stay a moment,' said Theodore Racksole curtly; 'there is no hurry.
It won't do you any harm to forego another hour's sleep, especially
as you will have no work to do to-morrow. I have one or two more
questions to put to you.'
'Well?' Rocco murmured, with an air of tired resignation, as if to
say, 'What must be must be.'
'Where has Dimmock's corpse been during the last three or four
days, since he - died?'
'Oh!' answered Rocco, apparently surprised at the simplicity of the
question. 'It's been in my room, and one night it was on the roof;
once it went out of the hotel as luggage, but it came back the next
day as a case of Demerara sugar. I forgot where else it has been,
but it's been kept perfectly safe and treated with every
'And who contrived all these manoeuvres?' asked Racksole as
calmly as he could.
'I did. That is to say, I invented them and I saw that they were
carried out. You see, the suspicions of your police obliged me to
be particularly spry.'
'And who carried them out?'
'Ah! that would be telling tales. But I don't mind assuring you that
my accomplices were innocent accomplices. It is absurdly easy for
a man like me to impose on underlings - absurdly easy.'
'What did you intend to do with the corpse ultimately?' Racksole
pursued his inquiry with immovable countenance.
'Who knows?' said Rocco, twisting his beautiful moustache. 'That
would have depended on several things - on your police, for
instance. But probably in the end we should have restored this
mortal clay' - again he jerked his elbow - 'to the man's sorrowing
'Do you know who the relatives are?'
'Certainly. Don't you? If you don't I need only hint that Dimmock
had a Prince for his father.'
'It seems to me,' said Racksole, with cold sarcasm, 'that you
behaved rather clumsily in choosing this bedroom as the scene of
'Not at all,' said Rocco. 'There was no other apartment so suitable
in the whole hotel. Who would have guessed that anything was
going on here? It was the very place for me.'
'I guessed,' said Racksole succinctly.
'Yes, you guessed, Mr Racksole. But I had not counted on you.
You are the only smart man in the business. You are an American
citizen, and I hadn't reckoned to have to deal with that class of
'Apparently I frightened you this afternoon?'
'Not in the least.'
'You were not afraid of a search?'
'I knew that no search was intended. I knew that you were trying to
frighten me. You must really credit me with a little sagacity and
insight, Mr Racksole. Immediately you began to talk to me in the
kitchen this afternoon I felt you were on the track. But I was not
frightened. I merely decided that there was no time to be lost - that
I must act quickly. I did act quickly, but, it seems, not quickly
enough. I grant that your rapidity exceeded mine. Let us go
downstairs, I beg.'
Rocco rose and moved towards the door. With an instinctive
action Racksole rushed forward and seized him by the shoulder.
'No tricks!' said Racksole. 'You're in my custody and don't forget
Rocco turned on his employer a look of gentle, dignified scorn.
'Have I not informed you,' he said, 'that I have the intention of
Racksole felt almost ashamed for the moment. It flashed across
him that a man can be great, even in crime.
'What an ineffable fool you were,' said Racksole, stopping him at
the threshold, 'with your talents, your unique talents, to get
yourself mixed up in an affair of this kind. You are ruined. And, by
Jove! you were a great man in your own line.'
'Mr Racksole,' said Rocco very quickly, 'that is the truest word you
have spoken this night. I was a great man in my own line. And I
am an ineffable fool. Alas!' He brought his long arms to his sides
with a thud.
'Why did you do it?'
'I was fascinated - fascinated by Jules. He, too, is a great man. We
had great opportunities, here in the Grand Babylon. It was a great
game. It was worth the candle. The prizes were enormous. You
would admit these things if you knew the facts. Perhaps some day
you will know them, for you are a fairly clever person at getting to
the root of a matter. Yes, I was blinded, hypnotized.'
'And now you are ruined.'
'Not ruined, not ruined. Afterwards, in a few years, I shall come up
A man of genius like me is never ruined till he is dead. Genius is
always forgiven. I shall be forgiven. Suppose I am sent to prison.
When I emerge I shall be no gaol-bird. I shall be Rocco - the great
Rocco. And half the hotels in Europe will invite me to join them.'
'Let me tell you, as man to man, that you have achieved your own
degradation. There is no excuse.'
'I know it,' said Rocco. 'Let us go.'
Racksole was distinctly and notably impressed by this man - by
this master spirit to whom he was to have paid a salary at the rate
of three thousand pounds a year. He even felt sorry for him. And
so, side by side, the captor and the captured, they passed into the
vast deserted corridor of the hotel.
Rocco stopped at the grating of the first lift.
'It will be locked,' said Racksole. 'We must use the stairs to-night.'
'But I have a key. I always carry one,' said Rocco, and he pulled
one out of his pocket, and, unfastening the iron screen, pushed it
open. Racksole smiled at his readiness and aplomb.
'After you,' said Rocco, bowing in his finest manner, and Racksole
stepped into the lift.
With the swiftness of lighting Rocco pushed forward the iron
screen, which locked itself automatically. Theodore Racksole was
hopelessly a prisoner within the lift, while Rocco stood free in the
'Good-bye, Mr Racksole,' he remarked suavely, bowing again,
lower than before. 'Good-bye: I hate to take a mean advantage of
you in this fashion, but really you must allow that you have been
very simple. You are a clever man, as I have already said, up to a
certain point. It is past that point that my own cleverness comes in.
Again, good-bye. After all, I shall have no rest to-night, but
perhaps even that will be better that sleeping in a police cell. If you
make a great noise you may wake someone and ultimately get
released from this lift. But I advise you to compose yourself, and
wait till morning. It will be more dignified. For the third time,
And with that Rocco, without hastening, walked down the corridor
and so out of sight.
Racksole said never a word. He was too disgusted with himself to
speak. He clenched his fists, and put his teeth together, and held
his breath. In the silence he could hear the dwindling sound of
Rocco's footsteps on the thick carpet.
It was the greatest blow of Racksole's life.
The next morning the high-born guests of the Grand Babylon were
aroused by a rumour that by some accident the millionaire
proprietor of the hotel had remained all night locked up m the lift.
It was also stated that Rocco had quarrelled with his new master
and incontinently left the place. A duchess said that Rocco's
departure would mean the ruin of the hotel, whereupon her
husband advised her not to talk nonsense.
As for Racksole, he sent a message for the detective in charge of
the Dimmock affair, and bravely told him the happenings of the
The narration was a decided ordeal to a man of Racksole's
'A strange story!' commented Detective Marshall, and he could not
avoid a smile. 'The climax was unfortunate, but you have certainly
got some valuable facts.'
Racksole said nothing.
'I myself have a clue,' added the detective. When your message
arrived I was just coming up to see you. I want you to accompany
me to a certain spot not far from here. Will you come, now, at
'With pleasure,' said Racksole.
At that moment a page entered with a telegram. Racksole opened
'Please come instantly. Nella. Hotel Wellington, Ostend.'
He looked at his watch.
'I can't come,' he said to the detective. Tm going to Ostend.'
'But really, Mr Racksole,' protested the detective. 'My business is
'So's mine,' said Racksole.
In ten minutes he was on his way to Victoria Station.
Chapter Fifteen END OF THE YACHT ADVENTURE
WE must now return to Nella Racksole and Prince Aribert of
Posen on board the yacht without a name. The Prince's first
business was to make Jules, otherwise Mr Tom Jackson, perfectly
secure by means of several pieces of rope. Although Mr Jackson
had been stunned into a complete unconsciousness, and there was
a contused wound under his ear, no one could say how soon he
might not come to himself and get very violent. So the Prince,
having tied his arms and legs, made him fast to a stanchion.
'I hope he won't die,' said Nella. 'He looks very white.'
'The Mr Jacksons of this world,' said Prince Aribert sententiously,
'never die till they are hung. By the way, I wonder how it is that no
one has interfered with us. Perhaps they are discreetly afraid of my
revolver - of your revolver, I mean.'
Both he and Nella glanced up at the imperturbable steersman, who
kept the yacht's head straight out to sea. By this time they were
about a couple of miles from the Belgian shore.
Addressing him in French, the Prince ordered the sailor to put the
yacht about, and make again for Ostend Harbour, but the fellow
took no notice whatever of the summons. The Prince raised the
revolver, with the idea of frightening the steersman, and then the
man began to talk rapidly in a mixture of French and Flemish. He
said that he had received Jules' strict orders not to interfere in any
way, no matter what might happen on the deck of the yacht. He
was the captain of the yacht, and he had to make for a certain
English port, the name of which he could not divulge: he was to
keep the vessel at full steam ahead under any and all
circumstances. He seemed to be a very big, a very strong, and a
very determined man, and the Prince was at a loss what course of
action to pursue. He asked several more questions, but the only
effect of them was to render the man taciturn and ill-humoured.
In vain Prince Aribert explained that Miss Nella Racksole,
daughter of millionaire Racksole, had been abducted by Mr Tom
Jackson; in vain he flourished the revolver threateningly; the surly
but courageous captain said merely that that had nothing to do
with him; he had instructions, and he should carry them out. He
sarcastically begged to remind his interlocutor that he was the
captain of the yacht.
'It won't do to shoot him, I suppose,' said the Prince to Nella. 'I
might bore a hole into his leg, or something of that kind.'
'It's rather risky, and rather hard on the poor captain, with his
extraordinary sense of duty,' said Nella. 'And, besides, the whole
crew might turn on us. No, we must think of something else.'
'I wonder where the crew is,' said the Prince.
Just then Mr Jackson, prone and bound on the deck, showed signs
of recovering from his swoon. His eyes opened, and he gazed
vacantly around. At length he caught sight of the Prince, who
approached him with the revolver well in view.
'It's you, is it?' he murmured faintly. 'What are you doing on board?
Who's tied me up like this?'
'See here!' replied the Prince, 'I don't want to have any arguments,
but this yacht must return to Ostend at once, where you will be
given up to the authorities.'
'Really!' snarled Mr Tom Jackson. 'Shall I!' Then he called out in
French to the man at the wheel, 'Hi André! let these two be put off
in the dinghy.'
It was a peculiar situation. Certain of nothing but the possession of
Nella's revolver, the Prince scarcely knew whether to carry the
argument further, and with stronger measures, or to accept the
situation with as much dignity as the circumstances would permit.
'Let us take the dinghy,' said Nella; 'we can row ashore in an hour.'
He felt that she was right. To leave the yacht in such a manner
seemed somewhat ignominious, and it certainly involved the
escape of that profound villain, Mr Thomas Jackson. But what else
could be done? The Prince and Nella constituted one party on the
vessel; they knew their own strength, but they did not know the
strength of their opponents. They held the hostile ringleader bound
and captive, but this man had proved himself capable of giving
orders, and even to gag him would not help them if the captain of
the yacht persisted in his obstinate course. Moreover, there was a
distinct objection to promiscuous shooting; the Prince felt that;
there was no knowing how promiscuous shooting might end.
'We will take the dinghy,' said the Prince quickly, to the captain.
A bell rang below, and a sailor and the Negro boy appeared on
deck. The pulsations of the screw grew less rapid. The yacht
stopped. The dinghy was lowered. As the Prince and Nella
prepared to descend into the little cock-boat Mr Tom Jackson
addressed Nella, all bound as he lay.
'Good-bye,' he said, 'I shall see you again, never fear.' .
In another moment they were in the dinghy, and the dinghy was
adrift. The yacht's screw chumed the water, and the beautiful
vessel slipped away from them. As it receded a figure appeared at
the stem. It was Mr Thomas Jackson.
He had been released by his minions. He held a white
handkerchief to his ear, and offered a calm, enigmatic smile to the
two forlorn but victorious occupants of the dinghy. Jules had been
defeated for once in his life; or perhaps it would be more just to
say that he had been out-manoeuvred. Men like Jules are incapable
of being defeated. It was characteristic of his luck that now, in the
very hour when he had been caught red-handed in a serious crime
against society, he should be effecting a leisurely escape - an
escape which left no clue behind.
The sea was utterly calm and blue in the morning sun. The dinghy
rocked itself lazily in the swell of the yacht's departure. As the mist
cleared away the outline of the shore became more distinct, and it
appeared as if Ostend was distant scarcely a cable's length. The
white dome of the great Kursaal glittered in the pale turquoise sky,
and the smoke of steamers in the harbour could be plainly
distinguished. On the offing was a crowd of brown-sailed fishing
luggers returning with the night's catch. The many-hued
bathing-vans could be counted on the distant beach. Everything
seemed perfectly normal. It was difficult for either Nella or her
companion to realize that anything extraordinary had happened
within the last hour. Yet there was the yacht, not a mile off, to
prove to them that something very extraordinary had, in fact,
happened. The yacht was no vision, nor was that sinister watching
figure at its stern a vision, either.
'I suppose Jules was too surprised and too feeble to inquire how I
came to be on board his yacht,' said the Prince, taking the oars.
'Oh! How did you?' asked Nella, her face lighting up. 'Really, I had
almost forgotten that part of the affair.'
'I must begin at the beginning and it will take some time,' answered
the Prince. 'Had we not better postpone the recital till we get
'I will row and you shall talk,' said Nella. 'I want to know now.'
He smiled happily at her, but gently declined to yield up the oars.
'Is it not sufficient that I am here?' he said.
'It is sufficient, yes,' she replied, 'but I want to know.'
With a long, easy stroke he was pulling the dinghy shorewards.
She sat in the stern-sheets.
'There is no rudder,' he remarked, 'so you must direct me. Keep the
boat's head on the lighthouse. The tide seems to be running in
strongly; that will help us. The people on shore will think that we
have only been for a little early morning excursion.'
'Will you kindly tell me how it came about that you were able to
save my life, Prince?' she said.
'Save your life, Miss Racksole? I didn't save your life; I merely
knocked a man down.'
'You saved my life,' she repeated. 'That villain would have stopped
at nothing. I saw it in his eye.'
'Then you were a brave woman, for you showed no fear of death.'
His admiring gaze rested full on her. For a moment the oars ceased
She gave a gesture of impatience.
'It happened that I saw you last night in your carriage,' he said. 'The
fact is, I had not had the audacity to go to Berlin with my story. I
stopped in Ostend to see whether I could do a little detective work
on my own account.
It was a piece of good luck that I saw you. I followed the carriage
as quickly as I could, and I just caught a glimpse of you as you
entered that awful house. I knew that Jules had something to do
with that house. I guessed what you were doing. I was afraid for
you. Fortunately I had surveyed the house pretty thoroughly. There
is an entrance to it at the back, from a narrow lane. I made my way
there. I got into the yard at the back, and I stood under the window
of the room where you had the interview with Miss Spencer. I
heard everything that was said. It was a courageous enterprise on
your part to follow Miss Spencer from the Grand Babylon to
Ostend. Well, I dared not force an entrance, lest I might precipitate
matters too suddenly, and involve both of us in a difficulty. I
merely kept watch. Ah, Miss Racksole! you were magnificent with
Miss Spencer; as I say, I could hear every word, for the window
was slightly open. I felt that you needed no assistance from me.
And then she cheated you with a trick, and the revolver came
flying through the window. I picked it up, I thought it would
probably be useful. There was a silence. I did not guess at first that
you had fainted. I thought that you had escaped. When I found out
the truth it was too late for me to intervene. There were two men,
both desperate, besides Miss Spencer - '
'Who was the other man?' asked Nella.
'I do not know. It was dark. They drove away with you to the
harbour. Again I followed. I saw them carry you on board. Before
the yacht weighed anchor I managed to climb unobserved into the
dinghy. I lay down full length in it, and no one suspected that I was
there. I think you know the rest.'
'Was the yacht all ready for sea?'
'The yacht was all ready for sea. The captain fellow was on the
bridge, and steam was up.'
'Then they expected me! How could that be?'
'They expected some one. I do not think they expected you.'
'Did the second man go on board?'
'He helped to carry you along the gangway, but he came back again
to the carriage. He was the driver.'
'And no one else saw the business?'
'The quay was deserted. You see, the last steamer had arrived for
There was a brief silence, and then Nella ejaculated, under her
'Truly, it is a wonderful world!'
And it was a wonderful world for them, though scarcely perhaps,
in the sense which Nella Racksole had intended. They had just
emerged from a highly disconcerting experience. Among other
minor inconveniences, they had had no breakfast. They were out in
the sea in a tiny boat. Neither of them knew what the day might
bring forth. The man, at least, had the most serious anxieties for
the safety of his Royal nephew. And yet - and yet - neither of them
wished that that voyage of the little boat on the summer tide
should come to an end. Each, perhaps unconsciously, had a vague
desire that it might last for ever, he lazily pulling, she directing his
course at intervals by a movement of her distractingly pretty head.
How was this condition of affairs to be explained? Well, they were
both young; they both had superb health, and all the ardour of
youth; and - they were together.
The boat was very small indeed; her face was scarcely a yard from
his. She, in his eyes, surrounded by the glamour of beauty and vast
wealth; he, in her eyes, surrounded by the glamour of masculine
intrepidity and the brilliance of a throne.
But all voyages come to an end, either at the shore or at the bottom
of the sea, and at length the dinghy passed between the stone
jetties of the harbour. The Prince rowed to the nearest steps, tied
up the boat, and they landed. It was six o'clock in the morning, and
a day of gorgeous sunlight had opened. Few people were about at
that early hour.
'And now, what next?' said the Prince. 'I must take you to an hotel.'
'I am in your hands,' she acquiesced, with a smile which sent the
blood racing through his veins. He perceived now that she was
tired and overcome, suffering from a sudden and natural reaction.
At the Hôtel Wellington the Prince told the sleepy door-keeper that
they had come by the early train from Bruges, and wanted
breakfast at once. It was absurdly early, but a common English
sovereign will work wonders in any Belgian hotel, and in a very
brief time Nella and the Prince were breakfasting on the verandah
of the hotel upon chocolate that had been specially and hastily
brewed for them.
'I never tasted such excellent chocolate,' claimed the Prince.
The statement was wildly untrue, for the Hôtel Wellington is not
celebrated for its chocolate. Nevertheless Nella replied
enthusiastically, 'Nor I.'
Then there was a silence, and Nella, feeling possibly that she had
been too ecstatic, remarked in a very matter-of-fact tone: 'I must
telegraph to Papa instantly.'
Thus it was that Theodore Racksole received the telegram which
drew him away from Detective Marshall.
Chapter Sixteen THE WOMAN WITH THE RED HAT
'THERE is one thing, Prince, that we have just got to settle straight
said Theodore Racksole.
They were all three seated - Racksole, his daughter, and Prince
Aribert - round a dinner table in a private room at the Hôtel
Wellington. Racksole had duly arrived by the afternoon boat, and
had been met on the quay by the other two. They had dined early,
and Racksole had heard the full story of the adventures by sea and
land of Nella and the Prince. As to his own adventure of the
previous night he said very little, merely explaining, with as little
detail as possible, that Dimmock's body had come to light.
'What is that?' asked the Prince, in answer to Racksole's remark.
'We have got to settle whether we shall tell the police at once all
that has occurred, or whether we shall proceed on our own
responsibility. There can be no doubt as to which course we ought
to pursue. Every consideration of prudence points to the
advisability of taking the police into our confidence, and leaving
the matter entirely in their hands.'
'Oh, Papa!' Nella burst out in her pouting, impulsive way. 'You
surely can't think of such a thing. Why, the fun has only just
'Do you call last night fun?' questioned Racksole, gazing at her
'Yes, I do,' she said promptly. 'Now.'
'Well, I don't,' was the millionaire's laconic response; but perhaps
he was thinking of his own situation in the lift.
'Do you not think we might investigate a little further,' said the
Prince judiciously, as he cracked a walnut, 'just a little further -
and then, if we fail to accomplish anything, there would still be
ample opportunity to consult the police?'
'How do you suggest we should begin?' asked Racksole.
'Well, there is the house which Miss Racksole so intrepidly entered
last evening' - he gave her the homage of an admiring glance; 'you
and I, Mr Racksole, might examine that abode in detail.'
'Certainly. We might do something.'
'We might do too much.'
'We might shoot someone, or get ourselves mistaken for burglars.
If we outstepped the law, it would be no excuse for us that we had
been acting in a good cause.'
'True,' said the Prince. 'Nevertheless - ' He stopped.
'Nevertheless you have a distaste for bringing the police into the
You want the hunt all to yourself. You are on fire with the ardour
of the chase. Is not that it? Accept the advice of an older man,
Prince, and sleep on this affair. I have little fancy for nocturnal
escapades two nights together. As for you, Nella, off with you to
bed. The Prince and I will have a yarn over such fluids as can be
obtained in this hole.'
'Papa,' she said, 'you are perfectly horrid to-night.'
'Perhaps I am,' he said. 'Decidedly I am very cross with you for
coming over here all alone. It was monstrous. If I didn't happen to
be the most foolish of parents - There! Good-night. It's nine
o'clock. The Prince, I am sure, will excuse you.'
If Nella had not really been very tired Prince Aribert might have
been the witness of a good-natured but stubborn conflict between
the millionaire and his spirited offspring. As it was, Nella departed
with surprising docility, and the two men were left alone.
'Now,' said Racksole suddenly, changing his tone, 'I fancy that after
all I'm your man for a little amateur investigation to-night. And, if
I must speak the exact truth, I think that to sleep on this affair
would be about the very worst thing we could do. But I was
anxious to keep Nella out of harm's way at any rate till to-morrow.
She is a very difficult creature to manage, Prince, and I may warn
you,' he laughed grimly, 'that if we do succeed in doing anything
to-night we shall catch it from her ladyship in the morning. Are
you ready to take that risk?'
'I am,' the Prince smiled. 'But Miss Racksole is a young lady of
quite remarkable nerve.'
'She is,' said Racksole drily. 'I wish sometimes she had less.'
'I have the highest admiration for Miss Racksole,' said the Prince,
and he looked Miss Racksole's father full in the face.
'You honour us, Prince,' Racksole observed. 'Let us come to
business. Am I right in assuming that you have a reason for
keeping the police out of this business, if it can possibly be done?'
'Yes,' said the Prince, and his brow clouded. 'I am very much afraid
that my poor nephew has involved himself in some scrape that he
would wish not to be divulged.'
'Then you do not believe that he is the victim of foul play?'
'I do not.'
'And the reason, if I may ask it?'
'Mr Racksole, we speak in confidence - is it not so? Some years
ago my foolish nephew had an affair - an affair with a feminine
star of the Berlin stage. For anything I know, the lady may have
been the very pattern of her sex, but where a reigning Prince is
concerned scandal cannot be avoided in such a matter. I had
thought that the affair was quite at an end, since my nephew's
betrothal to Princess Anna of Eckstein-Schwartzburg is shortly to
be announced. But yesterday I saw the lady to whom I have
referred driving on the Digue. The coincidence of her presence
here with my nephew's disappearance is too extraordinary to be
'But how does this theory square with the murder of Reginald
'It does not square with it. My idea is that the murder of poor
Dimmock and the disappearance of my nephew are entirely
unconnected - unless, indeed, this Berlin actress is playing into the
hands of the murderers. I had not thought of that.'
'Then what do you propose to do to-night?'
'I propose to enter the house which Miss Racksole entered last
night and to find out something definite.'
'I concur,' said Racksole. 'I shall heartily enjoy it. But let me tell
you, Prince, and pardon me for speaking bluntly, your surmise is
incorrect. I would wager a hundred thousand dollars that Prince
Eugen has been kidnapped.'
'What grounds have you for being so sure?'
'Ah! said Racksole, 'that is a long story. Let me begin by asking
Are you aware that your nephew, Prince Eugen, owes a million of
'A million of money!' cried Prince Aribert astonished. 'It is
'Nevertheless, he does,' said Racksole calmly. Then he told him all
he had learnt from Mr Sampson Levi.
'What have you to say to that?' Racksole ended. Prince Aribert
made no reply.
'What have you to say to that?' Racksole insisted.
'Merely that Eugen is ruined, even if he is alive.'
'Not at all,' Racksole returned with cheerfulness. 'Not at all. We
shall see about that. The special thing that I want to know just now
from you is this:
Has any previous application ever been made for the hand of the
'Yes. Last year. The King of Bosnia sued for it, but his proposal
'Because my nephew was considered to be a more suitable match
'Not because the personal character of his Majesty of Bosnia is
scarcely of the brightest?'
'No. Unfortunately it is usually impossible to consider questions of
personal character when a royal match is concerned.'
'Then, if for any reason the marriage of Princess Anna with your
nephew was frustrated, the King of Bosnia would have a fair
chance in that quarter?'
'He would. The political aspect of things would be perfectly
'Thanks!' said Racksole. 'I will wager another hundred thousand
dollars that someone in Bosnia - I don't accuse the King himself -
is at the bottom of this business. The methods of Balkan
politicians have always been half-Oriental. Let us go.'
'To this precious house of Nella's adventure.'
'But surely it is too early?'
'So it is,' said Racksole, 'and we shall want a few things, too. For
instance, a dark lantern. I think I will go out and forage for a
'And a revolver?' suggested Prince Aribert.
'Does it mean revolvers?' The millionaire laughed. 'It may come to
that.' 'Here you are, then, my friend,' said Racksole, and he pulled
one out of his hip pocket. 'And yours?'
'I,' said the Prince, 'I have your daughter's.'
'The deuce you have!' murmured Racksole to himself.
It was then half past nine. They decided that it would be impolitic
to begin their operations till after midnight. There were three hours
'Let us go and see the gambling,' Racksole suggested. 'We might
encounter the Berlin lady.'
The suggestion, in the first instance, was not made seriously, but it
appeared to both men that they might do worse than spend the
intervening time in the gorgeous saloon of the Kursaal, where, in
the season, as much money is won and lost as at Monte Carlo. It
was striking ten o'clock as they entered the rooms. There was a
large company present - a company which included some of the
most notorious persons in Europe. In that multifarious assemblage
all were equal. The electric light shone coldly and impartially on
the just and on the unjust, on the fool and the knave, on the
European and the Asiatic. As usual, women monopolized the best
places at the tables.
The scene was familiar enough to Prince Aribert, who had
witnessed it frequently at Monaco, but Theodore Racksole had
never before entered any European gaming palace; he had only the
haziest idea of the rules of play, and he was at once interested. For
some time they watched the play at the table which happened to be
nearest to them. Racksole never moved his lips.
With his eyes glued on the table, and ears open for every remark,
of the players and the croupier, he took his first lesson in roulette.
He saw a mere youth win fifteen thousand francs, which were
stolen in the most barefaced mariner by a rouged girl scarcely
older than the youth; he saw two old gamesters stake their coins,
and lose, and walk quietly out of the place; he saw the bank win
fifty thousand francs at a single turn.
'This is rather good fun,' he said at length, 'but the stakes are too
small to make it really exciting. I'll try my luck, just for the
experience. I'm bound to win.'
'Why?' asked the Prince.
'Because I always do, in games of chance,' Racksole answered with
gay confidence. 'It is my fate. Then to-night, you must remember, I
shall be a beginner, and you know the tyro's luck.'
In ten minutes the croupier of that table was obliged to suspend
operations pending the arrival of a further supply of coin.
'What did I tell you?' said Racksole, leading the way to another
table further up the room. A hundred curious glances went after
him. One old woman, whose gay attire suggested a false
youthfulness, begged him in French to stake a five-franc piece for
her. She offered him the coin. He took it, and gave her a
hundred-franc note in exchange. She clutched the crisp rustling
paper, and with hysterical haste scuttled back to her own table.
At the second table there was a considerable air of excitement. In
the forefront of the players was a woman in a low-cut evening
dress of black silk and a large red picture hat. Her age appeared to
be about twenty-eight; she had dark eyes, full lips, and a distinctly
Jewish nose. She was handsome, but her beauty was of that
forbidding, sinister order which is often called Junoesque. This
woman was the centre of attraction. People said to each other that
she had won a hundred and sixty thousand francs that day at the
'You were right,' Prince Aribert whispered to Theodore Racksole;
'that is the Berlin lady.'
'The deuce she is! Has she seen you? Will she know you?'
'She would probably know me, but she hasn't looked up yet.'
'Keep behind her, then. I propose to find her a little occupation.' By
dint of a carefully-exercised diplomacy, Racksole manoeuvred
himself into a seat opposite to the lady in the red hat. The fame of
his success at the other table had followed him, and people
regarded him as a serious and formidable player. In the first turn
the lady put a thousand francs on double zero; Racksole put a
hundred on number nineteen and a thousand on the odd numbers.
Nineteen won. Racksole received four thousand four hundred
francs. Nine times in succession Racksole backed number nineteen
and the odd numbers; nine times the lady backed double zero.
Nine times Racksole won and the lady lost. The other players,
perceiving that the affair had resolved itself into a duel, stood back
for the most part and watched those two. Prince Aribert never
stirred from his position behind the great red hat. The game
continued. Racksole lost trifles from time to time, but ninety-nine
hundredths of the luck was with him. As an English spectator at
the table remarked, 'he couldn't do wrong.' When midnight struck
the lady in the red hat was reduced to a thousand francs. Then she
fell into a winning vein for half an hour, but at one o'clock her
resources were exhausted. Of the hundred and sixty thousand
francs which she was reputed to have had early in the evening,
Racksole held about ninety thousand, and the bank had the rest.
It was a calamity for the Juno of the red hat. She jumped up,
stamped her foot, and hurried from the room. At a discreet
distance Racksole and the Prince pursued her.
'It might be well to ascertain her movements,' said Racksole.
Outside, in the glare of the great arc lights, and within sound of the
surf which beats always at the very foot of the Kursaal, the Juno of
the red hat summoned a fiacre and drove rapidly away. Racksole
and the Prince took an open carriage and started in pursuit. They
had not, however, travelled more than half a mile when Prince
Aribert stopped the carriage, and, bidding Racksole get out, paid
the driver and dismissed him.
'I feel sure I know where she is going,' he explained, 'and it will be
better for us to follow on foot.'
'You mean she is making for the scene of last night's affair?' said
'Exactly. We shall - what you call, kill two birds with one stone.'
Prince Aribert's guess was correct. The lady's carriage stopped in
front of the house where Nella Racksole and Miss Spencer had had
their interview on the previous evening, and the lady vanished into
the building just as the two men appeared at the end of the street.
Instead of proceeding along that street, the Prince led Racksole to
the lane which gave on to the backs of the houses, and he counted
the houses as they went up the lane. In a few minutes they had
burglariously climbed over a wall, and crept, with infinite caution,
up a long, narrow piece of ground - half garden, half paved yard,
till they crouched under a window - a window which was shielded
by curtains, but which had been left open a little.
'Listen,' said the Prince in his lightest whisper, 'they are talking.'
'The Berlin lady and Miss Spencer. I'm sure it's Miss Spencer's
Racksole boldly pushed the french window a little wider open, and
put his ear to the aperture, through which came a beam of yellow
'Take my place,' he whispered to the Prince, 'they're talking
German. You'll understand better.'
Silently they exchanged places under the window, and the Prince
'Then you refuse?' Miss Spencer's visitor was saying.
There was no answer from Miss Spencer.
'Not even a thousand francs? I tell you I've lost the whole
Again no answer.
'Then I'll tell the whole story,' the lady went on, in an angry rush of
words. 'I did what I promised to do. I enticed him here, and you've
got him safe in your vile cellar, poor little man, and you won't give
me a paltry thousand francs.'
'You have already had your price.' The words were Miss Spencer's.
They fell cold and calm on the night air.
'I want another thousand.'
'I haven't it.'
'Then we'll see.'
Prince Aribert heard a rustle of flying skirts; then another
movement - a door banged, and the beam of light through the
aperture of the window suddenly disappeared. He pushed the
window wide open. The room was in darkness, and apparently
'Now for that lantern of yours,' he said eagerly to Theodore
Racksole, after he had translated to him the conversation of the
two women, Racksole produced the dark lantern from the
capacious pocket of his dust coat, and lighted it. The ray flashed
about the ground.
'What is it?' exclaimed Prince Aribert with a swift cry, pointing to
the ground. The lantern threw its light on a perpendicular grating
at their feet, through which could be discerned a cellar. They both
knelt down, and peered into the subterranean chamber. On a
broken chair a young man sat listlessly with closed eyes, his head
leaning heavily forward on his chest.
In the feeble light of the lantern he had the livid and ghastly
appearance of a corpse.
'Who can it be?' said Racksole.
'It is Eugen,' was the Prince's low answer.
Chapter Seventeen THE RELEASE OF PRINCE EUGEN
'EUGEN,' Prince Aribert called softly. At the sound of his own
name the young man in the cellar feebly raised his head and stared
up at the grating which separated him from his two rescuers. But
his features showed no recognition. He gazed in an aimless, vague,
silly manner for a few seconds, his eyes blinking under the glare of
the lantern, and then his head slowly drooped again on to his chest.
He was dressed in a dark tweed travelling suit, and Racksole
observed that one sleeve - the left - was torn across the upper part
of the cuff, and that there were stains of dirt on the left shoulder. A
soiled linen collar, which had lost all its starch and was half
unbuttoned, partially encircled the captive's neck; his brown boots
were unlaced; a cap, a handkerchief, a portion of a watch-chain,
and a few gold coins lay on the floor. Racksole flashed the lantern
into the corners of the cellar, but he could discover no other
furniture except the chair on which the Hereditary Prince of Posen
sat and a small deal table on which were a plate and a cup.
'Eugen,' cried Prince Aribert once more, but this time his forlorn
nephew made no response whatever, and then Aribert added in a
low voice to Racksole: 'Perhaps he cannot see us clearly.'
'But he must surely recognize your voice,' said Racksole, in a hard,
gloomy tone. There was a pause, and the two men above ground
looked at each other hesitatingly. Each knew that they must enter
that cellar and get Prince Eugen out of it, and each was somehow
afraid to take the next step.
'Thank God he is not dead!' said Aribert.
'He may be worse than dead!' Racksole replied.
'Worse than - What do you mean?'
'I mean - he may be mad.'
'Come,' Aribert almost shouted, with a sudden access of energy - a
wild impulse for action. And, snatching the lantern from Racksole,
he rushed into the dark room where they had heard the
conversation of Miss Spencer and the lady in the red hat. For a
moment Racksole did not stir from the threshold of the window.
'Come,' Prince Aribert repeated, and there was an imperious
command in his utterance. 'What are you afraid of?'
'I don't know,' said Racksole, feeling stupid and queer; 'I don't
Then he marched heavily after Prince Aribert into the room. On
the mantelpiece were a couple of candles which had been blown
out, and in a mechanical, unthinking way, Racksole lighted them,
and the two men glanced round the room. It presented no peculiar
features: it was just an ordinary room, rather small, rather mean,
rather shabby, with an ugly wallpaper and ugly pictures in ugly
frames. Thrown over a chair was a man's evening-dress jacket. The
door was closed. Prince Aribert turned the knob, but he could not
'It's locked,' he said. 'Evidently they know we're here.'
'Nonsense,' said Racksole brusquely; 'how can they know?' And,
taking hold of the knob, he violently shook the door, and it opened.
'I told you it wasn't locked,' he added, and this small success of
opening the door seemed to steady the man. It was a curious
psychological effect, this terrorizing (for it amounted to that) of
two courageous full-grown men by the mere apparition of a
helpless creature in a cellar. Gradually they both recovered from it.
The next moment they were out in the passage which led to the
front door of the house. The front door stood open. They looked
into the street, up and down, but there was not a soul in sight. The
street, lighted by three gas-lamps only, seemed strangely sinister
'She has gone, that's clear,' said Racksole, meaning the woman
with the red hat.
'And Miss Spencer after her, do you think?' questioned Aribert.
'No. She would stay. She would never dare to leave. Let us find the
The cellar steps were happily not difficult to discover, for in
moving a pace backwards Prince Aribert had a narrow escape of
precipitating himself to the bottom of them. The lantern showed
that they were built on a curve.
Silently Racksole resumed possession of the lantern and went first,
the Prince close behind him. At the foot was a short passage, and
in this passage crouched the figure of a woman. Her eyes threw
back the rays of the lantern, shining like a cat's at midnight. Then,
as the men went nearer, they saw that it was Miss Spencer who
barred their way. She seemed half to kneel on the stone floor, and
in one hand she held what at first appeared to be a dagger, but
which proved to be nothing more romantic than a rather long
'I heard you, I heard you,' she exclaimed. 'Get back; you mustn't
There was a desperate and dangerous look on her face, and her
form shook with scarcely controlled passionate energy.
'Now see here, Miss Spencer,' Racksole said calmly, 'I guess we've
had enough of this fandango. You'd better get up and clear out, or
we'll just have to drag you off.'
He went calmly up to her, the lantern in his hand. Without another
word she struck the knife into his arm, and the lantern fell
extinguished. Racksole gave a cry, rather of angry surprise than of
pain, and retreated a few steps. In the darkness they could still
perceive the glint of her eyes.
'I told you you mustn't come here,' the woman said. 'Now get back.'
Racksole positively laughed. It was a queer laugh, but he laughed,
and he could not help it. The idea of this woman, this bureau clerk,
stopping his progress and that of Prince Aribert by means of a
bread-knife aroused his sense of humour. He struck a match,
relighted the candle, and faced Miss Spencer once more.
'I'll do it again,' she said, with a note of hard resolve.
'Oh, no, you won't, my girl,' said Racksole; and he pulled out his
revolver, cocked it, raised his hand.
'Put down that plaything of yours,' he said firmly.
'No,' she answered.
'I shall shoot.'
She pressed her lips together.
'I shall shoot,' he repeated. 'One - two - three.'
Bang, bang! He had fired twice, purposely missing her. Miss
Spencer never blenched. Racksole was tremendously surprised -
and he would have been a thousandfold more surprised could he
have contrasted her behaviour now with her abject terror on the
previous evening when Nella had threatened her.
'You've got a bit of pluck,' he said, 'but it won't help you. Why
won't you let us pass?'
As a matter of fact, pluck was just what she had not, really; she
had merely subordinated one terror to another. She was
desperately afraid of Racksole's revolver, but she was much more
afraid of something else.
'Why won't you let us pass?'
'I daren't,' she said, with a plaintive tremor; 'Tom put me in charge.'
That was all. The men could see tears running down her poor
Theodore Racksole began to take off his light overcoat.
'I see I must take my coat off to you,' he said, and he almost
smiled. Then, with a quick movement, he threw the coat over Miss
Spencer's head and flew at her, seizing both her arms, while Prince
Her struggles ceased - she was beaten.
'That's all right,' said Racksole: 'I could never have used that
revolver - to mean business with it, of course.'
They carried her, unresisting, upstairs and on to the upper floor,
where they locked her in a bedroom. She lay in the bed as if
'Now for my poor Eugen,' said Prince Aribert.
'Don't you think we'd better search the house first?' Racksole
suggested; 'it will be safer to know just how we stand. We can't
afford any ambushes or things of that kind, you know.'
The Prince agreed, and they searched the house from top to
bottom, but found no one. Then, having locked the front door and
the french window of the sitting-room, they proceeded again to the
Here a new obstacle confronted them. The cellar door was, of
course, locked; there was no sign of a key, and it appeared to be a
heavy door. They were compelled to return to the bedroom where
Miss Spencer was incarcerated, in order to demand the key of the
cellar from her. She still lay without movement on the bed.
'Tom's got it,' she replied, faintly, to their question: 'Tom's got it, I
swear to you. He took it for safety.'
'Then how do you feed your prisoner?' Racksole asked sharply.
'Through the grating,' she answered.
Both men shuddered. They felt she was speaking the truth. For the
third time they went to the cellar door. In vain Racksole thrust
himself against it; he could do no more than shake it.
'Let's try both together,' said Prince Aribert. 'Now!' There was a
'Again,' said Prince Aribert. There was another crack, and then the
upper hinge gave way. The rest was easy. Over the wreck of the
door they entered Prince Eugen's prison.
The captive still sat on his chair. The terrific noise and bustle of
breaking down the door seemed not to have aroused him from his
lethargy, but when Prince Aribert spoke to him in German he
looked at his uncle.
'Will you not come with us, Eugen?' said Prince Aribert; 'you
needn't stay here any longer, you know.'
'Leave me alone,' was the strange reply; 'leave me alone. What do
'We are here to get you out of this scrape,' said Aribert gently.
Racksole stood aside.
'Who is that fellow?' said Eugen sharply.
'That is my friend Mr Racksole, an Englishman - or rather, I should
say, an American - to whom we owe a great deal. Come and have
'I won't,' answered Eugen doggedly. 'I'm waiting here for her. You
didn't think anyone had kept me here, did you, against my will? I
tell you I'm waiting for her. She said she'd come.'
'Who is she?' Aribert asked, humouring him.
'She! Why, you know! I forgot, of course, you don't know. You
Don't pry, Uncle Aribert. She was wearing a red hat.'
'I'll take you to her, my dear Eugen.' Prince Aribert put his hands
on the other's shoulder, but Eugen shook him off violently, stood
up, and then sat down again.
Aribert looked at Racksole, and they both looked at Prince Eugen.
The latter's face was flushed, and Racksole observed that the left
pupil was more dilated than the right. The man started, muttered
odd, fragmentary scraps of sentences, now grumbling, now
'His mind is unhinged,' Racksole whispered in English.
'Hush!' said Prince Aribert. 'He understands English.' But Prince
Eugen took no notice of the brief colloquy.
'We had better get him upstairs, somehow,' said Racksole.
'Yes,' Aribert assented. 'Eugen, the lady with the red hat, the lady
you are waiting for, is upstairs. She has sent us down to ask you to
come up. Won't you come?'
'Himmel!' the poor fellow exclaimed, with a kind of weak anger.
'Why did you not say this before?'
He rose, staggered towards Aribert, and fell headlong on the floor.
He had swooned. The two men raised him, carried him up the
stone steps, and laid him with infinite care on a sofa. He lay,
breathing queerly through the nostrils, his eyes closed, his fingers
contracted; every now and then a convulsion ran through his
'One of us must fetch a doctor,' said Prince Aribert.
'I will,' said Racksole. At that moment there was a quick, curt rap
on the french window, and both Racksole and the Prince glanced
round startled. A girl's face was pressed against the large
window-pane. It was Nella's.
Racksole unfastened the catch, and she entered.
'I have found you,' she said lightly; 'you might have told me. I
couldn't sleep. I inquired from the hotel-folks if you had retired,
and they said no; so I slipped out. I guessed where you were.'
Racksole interrupted her with a question as to what she meant by
this escapade, but she stopped him with a careless gesture. What's
this?' She pointed to the form on the sofa.
'That is my nephew, Prince Eugen,' said Aribert.
'Hurt?' she inquired coldly. 'I hope not.'
'He is ill,' said Racksole, 'his brain is turned.'
Nella began to examine the unconscious Prince with the expert
movements of a girl who had passed through the best hospital
course to be obtained in New York.
'He has got brain fever,' she said. 'That is all, but it will be enough.
Do you know if there is a bed anywhere in this remarkable house?'
Chapter Eighteen IN THE NIGHT-TIME
'HE must on no account be moved,' said the dark little Belgian
doctor, whose eyes seemed to peer so quizzically through his
spectacles; and he said it with much positiveness.
That pronouncement rather settled their plans for them. It was
certainly a professional triumph for Nella, who, previous to the
doctor's arrival, had told them the very same thing. Considerable
argument had passed before the doctor was sent for. Prince Aribert
was for keeping the whole affair a deep secret among their three
selves. Theodore Racksole agreed so far, but he suggested further
that at no matter what risk they should transport the patient over to
England at once. Racksole had an idea that he should feel safer in
that hotel of his, and better able to deal with any situation that
might arise. Nella scorned the idea. In her quality of an amateur
nurse, she assured them that Prince Eugen was much more
seriously ill than either of them suspected, and she urged that they
should take absolute possession of the house, and keep possession
till Prince Eugen was convalescent.
'But what about the Spencer female?' Racksole had said.
'Keep her where she is. Keep her a prisoner. And hold the house
against all comers. If Jules should come back, simply defy him to
enter - that is all.
There are two of you, so you must keep an eye on the former
occupiers, if they return, and on Miss Spencer, while I nurse the
patient. But first, you must send for a doctor.'
'Doctor!' Prince Aribert had said, alarmed. 'Will it not be necessary
to make some awkward explanation to the doctor?'
'Not at all!' she replied. 'Why should it be? In a place like Ostend
doctors are far too discreet to ask questions; they see too much to
retain their curiosity. Besides, do you want your nephew to die?'
Both the men were somewhat taken aback by the girl's sagacious
grasp of the situation, and it came about that they began to obey
her like subordinates.
She told her father to sally forth in search of a doctor, and he went.
She gave Prince Aribert certain other orders, and he promptly
By the evening of the following day, everything was going
smoothly. The doctor came and departed several times, and sent
medicine, and seemed fairly optimistic as to the issue of the
illness. An old woman had been induced to come in and cook and
clean. Miss Spencer was kept out of sight on the attic floor,
pending some decision as to what to do with her. And no one
outside the house had asked any questions. The inhabitants of that
particular street must have been accustomed to strange behaviour
on the part of their neighbours, unaccountable appearances and
disappearances, strange flittings and arrivals. This strong-minded
and active trio - Racksole, Nella, and Prince Aribert - might have
been the lawful and accustomed tenants of the house, for any
outward evidence to the contrary.
On the afternoon of the third day Prince Eugen was distinctly and
seriously worse. Nella had sat up with him the previous night and
throughout the day.
Her father had spent the morning at the hotel, and Prince Aribert
had kept watch. The two men were never absent from the house at
the same time, and one of them always did duty as sentinel at
night. On this afternoon Prince Aribert and Nella sat together in
the patient's bedroom. The doctor had just left. Theodore Racksole
was downstairs reading the New York Herald. The Prince and
Nella were near the window, which looked on to the back-garden.
It was a queer shabby little bedroom to shelter the august body of a
European personage like Prince Eugen of Posen. Curiously
enough, both Nella and her father, ardent democrats though they
were, had been somehow impressed by the royalty and importance
of the fever-stricken Prince - impressed as they had never been by
Aribert. They had both felt that here, under their care, was a
species of individuality quite new to them, and different from
anything they had previously encountered. Even the gestures and
tones of his delirium had an air of abrupt yet condescending
command - an imposing mixture of suavity and haughtiness. As for
Nella, she had been first struck by the beautiful 'E' over a crown on
the sleeves of his linen, and by the signet ring on his pale,
emaciated hand. After all, these trifling outward signs are at least
as effective as others of deeper but less obtrusive significance. The
Racksoles, too, duly marked the attitude of Prince Aribert to his
nephew: it was at once paternal and reverential; it disclosed clearly
that Prince Aribert continued, in spite of everything, to regard his
nephew as his sovereign lord and master, as a being surrounded by
a natural and inevitable pomp and awe. This attitude, at the
beginning, seemed false and unreal to the Americans; it seemed to
them to be assumed; but gradually they came to perceive that they
were mistaken, and that though America might have cast out 'the
monarchial superstition', nevertheless that 'superstition' had
vigorously survived in another part of the world.
'You and Mr Racksole have been extraordinarily kind to me,' said
Prince Aribert very quietly, after the two had sat some time in
'Why? How?' she asked unaffectedly. 'We are interested in this
affair ourselves, you know. It began at our hotel - you mustn't
forget that, Prince.'
'I don't,' he said. 'I forget nothing. But I cannot help feeling that I
have led you into a strange entanglement. Why should you and Mr
Racksole be here - you who are supposed to be on a holiday! -
hiding in a strange house in a foreign country, subject to all sorts
of annoyances and all sorts of risks, simply because I am anxious
to avoid scandal, to avoid any sort of talk, in connection with my
misguided nephew? It is nothing to you that the Hereditary Prince
of Posen should be liable to a public disgrace. What will it matter
to you if the throne of Posen becomes the laughing-stock of
'I really don't know, Prince,' Nella smiled roguishly. 'But we
Americans have, a habit of going right through with anything we
'Ah!' he said, 'who knows how this thing will end? All our trouble,
our anxieties, our watchfulness, may come to nothing. I tell you
that when I see Eugen lying there, and think that we cannot learn
his story until he recovers, I am ready to go mad. We might be
arranging things, making matters smooth, preparing for the future,
if only we knew - knew what he can tell us. I tell you that I am
ready to go mad. If anything should happen to you, Miss Racksole,
I would kill myself.'
'But why?' she questioned. 'Supposing, that is, that anything could
happen to me - which it can't.'
'Because I have dragged you into this,' he replied, gazing at her. 'It
is nothing to you. You are only being kind.'
'How do you know it is nothing to me, Prince?' she asked him
Just then the sick man made a convulsive movement, and Nella
flew to the bed and soothed him. From the head of the bed she
looked over at Prince Aribert, and he returned her bright, excited
glance. She was in her travelling-frock, with a large white Belgian
apron tied over it. Large dark circles of fatigue and sleeplessness
surrounded her eyes, and to the Prince her cheek seemed hollow
and thin; her hair lay thick over the temples, half covering the ears.
Aribert gave no answer to her query - merely gazed at her with
'I think I will go and rest,' she said at last. 'You will know all about
'Sleep well,' he said, as he softly opened the door for her. And then
he was alone with Eugen. It was his turn that night to watch, for
they still half-expected some strange, sudden visit, or onslaught, or
move of one kind or another from Jules. Racksole slept in the
parlour on the ground floor.
Nella had the front bedroom on the first floor; Miss Spencer was
immured in the attic; the last-named lady had been singularly quiet
and incurious, taking her food from Nella and asking no questions,
the old woman went at nights to her own abode in the purlieus of
the harbour. Hour after hour Aribert sat silent by his nephew's
bed-side, attending mechanically to his wants, and every now and
then gazing hard into the vacant, anguished face, as if trying to
extort from that mask the secrets which it held. Aribert was
tortured by the idea that if he could have only half an hour's, only a
quarter of an hour's, rational speech with Prince Eugen, all might
be cleared up and put right, and by the fact that that rational talk
was absolutely impossible on Eugen's part until the fever had run
its course. As the minutes crept on to midnight the watcher, made
nervous by the intense, electrical atmosphere which seems always
to surround a person who is dangerously ill, grew more and more a
prey to vague and terrible apprehensions. His mind dwelt
hysterically on the most fatal possibilities.
He wondered what would occur if by any ill-chance Eugen should
die in that bed - how he would explain the affair to Posen and to
the Emperor, how he would justify himself. He saw himself being
tried for murder, sentenced (him - a Prince of the blood!), led to
the scaffold . . . a scene unparalleled in Europe for over a century!
. . . Then he gazed anew at the sick man, and thought he saw death
in every drawn feature of that agonized face. He could have
screamed aloud. His ears heard a peculiar resonant boom. He
started - it was nothing but the city clock striking twelve. But there
was another sound - a mysterious shuffle at the door. He listened;
then jumped from his chair. Nothing now! Nothing! But still he
felt drawn to the door, and after what seemed an interminable
interval he went and opened it, his heart beating furiously. Nella
lay in a heap on the door mat. She was fully dressed, but had
apparently lost consciousness. He clutched at her slender body,
picked her up, carried her to the chair by the fire-place, and laid
her in it. He had forgotten all about Eugen.
'What is it, my angel?' he whispered, and then he kissed her -
kissed her twice. He could only look at her; he did not know what
to do to succour her.
At last she opened her eyes and sighed.
'Where am I?' she asked. vaguely, in a tremulous tone. as she
recognized him. 'Is it you? Did I do anything silly? Did I faint?'
'What has happened? Were you ill?' he questioned anxiously. He
was kneeling at her feet, holding her hand tight.
'I saw Jules by the side of my bed,' she murmured; 'I'm sure I saw
him; he laughed at me. I had not undressed. I sprang up,
frightened, but he had gone, and then I ran downstairs - to you.'
'You were dreaming,' he soothed her.
'You must have been. I have not heard a sound. No one could have
But if you like I will wake Mr Racksole.'
'Perhaps I was dreaming,' she admitted. 'How foolish!'
'You were over-tired,' he said, still unconsciously holding her hand.
They gazed at each other. She smiled at him.
'You kissed me,' she said suddenly, and he blushed red and stood
up before her. 'Why did you kiss me?'
'Ah! Miss Racksole,' he murmured, hurrying the words out.
'Forgive me. It is unforgivable, but forgive me. I was overpowered
by my feelings. I did not know what I was doing.'
'Why did you kiss me?' she repeated.
'Because - Nella! I love you. I have no right to say it.'
'Why have you no right to say it?'
'If Eugen dies, I shall owe a duty to Posen - I shall be its ruler.'
'Well!' she said calmly, with an adorable confidence. 'Papa is worth
forty millions. Would you not abdicate?'
'Ah!' he gave a low cry. 'Will you force me to say these things? I
could not shirk my duty to Posen, and the reigning Prince of Posen
can only marry a Princess.'
'But Prince Eugen will live,' she said positively, 'and if he lives - '
'Then I shall be free. I would renounce all my rights to make you
mine, if - if - '
'If what, Prince?'
'If you would deign to accept my hand.'
'Am I, then, rich enough?'
'Nella!' He bent down to her.
Then there was a crash of breaking glass. Aribert went to the
window and opened it. In the starlit gloom he could see that a
ladder had been raised against the back of the house. He thought
he heard footsteps at the end of the garden.
'It was Jules,' he exclaimed to Nella, and without another word
rushed upstairs to the attic. The attic was empty. Miss Spencer had
Chapter Nineteen ROYALTY AT THE GRAND BABYLON
THE Royal apartments at the Grand Babylon are famous in the
world of hotels, and indeed elsewhere, as being, in their own way,
unsurpassed. Some of the palaces of Germany, and in particular
those of the mad Ludwig of Bavaria, may possess rooms and
saloons which outshine them in gorgeous luxury and the mere wild
fairy-like extravagance of wealth; but there is nothing, anywhere,
even on Eighth Avenue, New York, which can fairly be called
more complete, more perfect, more enticing, or - not least
important - more comfortable.
The suite consists of six chambers - the ante-room, the saloon or
audience chamber, the dining-room, the yellow drawing-room
(where Royalty receives its friends), the library, and the State
bedroom - to the last of which we have already been introduced.
The most important and most impressive of these is, of course, the
audience chamber, an apartment fifty feet long by forty feet broad,
with a superb outlook over the Thames, the Shot Tower, and the
higher signals of the South-Western Railway. The decoration of
this room is mainly in the German taste, since four out of every six
of its Royal occupants are of Teutonic blood; but its chief glory is
its French ceiling, a masterpiece by Fragonard, taken bodily from a
certain famous palace on the Loire. The walls are of panelled oak,
with an eight-foot dado of Arras cloth imitated from unique
Continental examples. The carpet, woven in one piece, is an
antique specimen of the finest Turkish work, and it was obtained, a
bargain, by Felix Babylon, from an impecunious Roumanian
Prince. The silver candelabra, now fitted with electric light, came
from the Rhine, and each had a separate history. The Royal chair -
it is not etiquette to call it a throne, though it amounts to a throne -
was looted by Napoleon from an Austrian city, and bought by Felix
Babylon at the sale of a French collector. At each corner of the
room stands a gigantic grotesque vase of German faïence of the
sixteenth century. These were presented to Felix Babylon by
William the First of Germany, upon the conclusion of his first
incognito visit to London in connection with the French trouble of
There is only one picture in the audience chamber. It is a portrait
of the luckless but noble Dom Pedro, Emperor of the Brazils.
Given to Felix Babylon by Dom Pedro himself, it hangs there
solitary and sublime as a reminder to Kings and Princes that
Empires may pass away and greatness fall. A certain Prince who
was occupying the suite during the Jubilee of 1887 - when the
Grand Babylon had seven persons of Royal blood under its roof -
sent a curt message to Felix that the portrait must be removed.
Felix respectfully declined to remove it, and the Prince left for
another hotel, where he was robbed of two thousand pounds' worth
of jewellery. The Royal audience chamber of the Grand Babylon,
if people only knew it, is one of the sights of London, but it is
never shown, and if you ask the hotel servants about its wonders
they will tell you only foolish facts concerning it, as that the
Turkey carpet costs fifty pounds to clean, and that one of the great
vases is cracked across the pedestal, owing to the rough treatment
accorded to it during a riotous game of Blind Man's Buff, played
one night by four young Princesses, a Balkan King, and his
In one of the window recesses of this magnificent apartment, on a
certain afternoon in late July, stood Prince Aribert of Posen. He
was faultlessly dressed in the conventional frock-coat of English
civilization, with a gardenia in his button-hole, and the
indispensable crease down the front of the trousers. He seemed to
be fairly amused, and also to expect someone, for at frequent
intervals he looked rapidly over his shoulder in the direction of the
door behind the Royal chair. At last a little wizened, stooping old
man, with a distinctly German cast of countenance, appeared
through the door, and laid some papers on a small table by the side
of the chair.
'Ah, Hans, my old friend!' said Aribert, approaching the old man. 'I
must have a little talk with you about one or two matters. How do
you find His Royal Highness?'
The old man saluted, military fashion. 'Not very well, your
Highness,' he answered. 'I've been valet to your Highness's nephew
since his majority, and I was valet to his Royal father before him,
but I never saw - ' He stopped, and threw up his wrinkled hands
'You never saw what?' Aribert smiled affectionately on the old
fellow. You could perceive that these two, so sharply
differentiated in rank, had been intimate in the past, and would be
'Do you know, my Prince,' said the old man, 'that we are to receive
the financier, Sampson Levi - is that his name? - in the audience
chamber? Surely, if I may humbly suggest, the library would have
been good enough for a financier?'
'One would have thought so,' agreed Prince Aribert, 'but perhaps
your master has a special reason. Tell me,' he went on, changing
the subject quickly, 'how came it that you left the Prince, my
nephew, at Ostend, and returned to Posen?'
'His orders, Prince,' and old Hans, who had had a wide experience
of Royal whims and knew half the secrets of the Courts of Europe,
gave Aribert a look which might have meant anything. 'He sent me
back on an - an errand, your Highness.'
'And you were to rejoin him here?'
'Just so, Highness. And I did rejoin him here, although, to tell the
truth, I had begun to fear that I might never see my master again.'
'The Prince has been very ill in Ostend, Hans.'
'So I have gathered,' Hans responded drily, slowly rubbing his
hands together. 'And his Highness is not yet perfectly recovered.'
'Not yet. We despaired of his life, Hans, at one time, but thanks to
an excellent constitution, he came safely through the ordeal.'
'We must take care of him, your Highness.'
'Yes, indeed,' said Aribert solemnly, 'his life is very precious to
At that moment, Eugen, Hereditary Prince of Posen, entered the
audience chamber. He was pale and languid, and his uniform
seemed to be a trouble to him. His hair had been slightly ruffled,
and there was a look of uneasiness, almost of alarmed unrest, in
his fine dark eyes. He was like a man who is afraid to look behind
him lest he should see something there which ought not to be
there. But at the same time, here beyond doubt was Royalty.
Nothing could have been more striking than the contrast between
Eugen, a sick man in the shabby house at Ostend, and this Prince
Eugen in the Royal apartments of the Grand Babylon Hotel,
surrounded by the luxury and pomp which modern civilization can
offer to those born in high places. All the desperate episode of
Ostend was now hidden, passed over. It was supposed never to
have occurred. It existed only like a secret shame in the hearts of
those who had witnessed it. Prince Eugen had recovered; at any
rate, he was convalescent, and he had been removed to London,
where he took up again the dropped thread of his princely life. The
lady with the red hat, the incorruptible and savage Miss Spencer,
the unscrupulous and brilliant Jules, the dark, damp cellar, the
horrible little bedroom - these things were over. Thanks to Prince
Aribert and the Racksoles, he had emerged from them in safety.
He was able to resume his public and official career. The Emperor
had been informed of his safe arrival in London, after an
unavoidable delay in Ostend; his name once more figured in the
Court chronicle of the newspapers. In short, everything was
smothered over. Only - only Jules, Rocco, and Miss Spencer were
still at large; and the body of Reginald Dimmock lay buried in the
domestic mausoleum of the palace at Posen; and Prince Eugen had
still to interview Mr Sampson Levi.
That various matters lay heavy on the mind of Prince Eugen was
beyond question. He seemed to have withdrawn within himself.
Despite the extraordinary experiences through which he had
recently passed, events which called aloud for explanations and
confidence between the nephew and the uncle, he would say
scarcely a word to Prince Aribert. Any allusion, however direct, to
the days at Ostend, was ignored by him with more or less
ingenuity, and Prince Aribert was really no nearer a full solution of
the mystery of Jules' plot than he had been on the night when he
and Racksole visited the gaming tables at Ostend. Eugen was well
aware that he had been kidnapped through the agency of the
woman in the red hat, but, doubtless ashamed at having been her
dupe, he would not proceed in any way with the clearing-up of the
'You will receive in this room, Eugen?' Aribert questioned him.
'Yes,' was the answer, given pettishly. 'Why not? Even if I have no
proper retinue here, surely that is no reason why I should not hold
audience in a proper manner? . . . Hans, you can go.' The old valet
'Aribert,' the Hereditary Prince continued, when they were alone in
the chamber, 'you think I am mad.'
'My dear Eugen,' said Prince Aribert, startled in spite of himself.
'Don't be absurd.'
'I say you think I am mad. You think that that attack of brain fever
has left its permanent mark on me. Well, perhaps I am mad. Who
can tell? God knows that I have been through enough lately to
drive me mad.'
Aribert made no reply. As a matter of strict fact, the thought had
crossed his mind that Eugen's brain had not yet recovered its
normal tone and activity. This speech of his nephew's, however,
had the effect of immediately restoring his belief in the latter's
entire sanity. He felt convinced that if only he could regain his
nephew's confidence, the old brotherly confidence which had
existed between them since the years when they played together as
boys, all might yet be well. But at present there appeared to be no
sign that Eugen meant to give his confidence to anyone.
The young Prince had come up out of the valley of the shadow of
death, but some of the valley's shadow had clung to him, and it
seemed he was unable to dissipate it.
'By the way,' said Eugen suddenly, 'I must reward these Racksoles,
I suppose. I am indeed grateful to them. If I gave the girl a
bracelet, and the father a thousand guineas - how would that meet
'My dear Eugen!' exclaimed Aribert aghast. 'A thousand guineas!
Do you know that Theodore Racksole could buy up all Posen from
end to end without making himself a pauper. A thousand guineas!
You might as well offer him sixpence.'
'Then what must I offer?'
'Nothing, except your thanks. Anything else would be an insult.
These are no ordinary hotel people.'
'Can't I give the little girl a bracelet?' Prince Eugen gave a sinister
Aribert looked at him steadily. 'No,' he said.
'Why did you kiss her - that night?' asked Prince Eugen carelessly.
'Kiss whom?' said Aribert, blushing and angry, despite his most
determined efforts to keep calm and unconcerned.
'The Racksole girl.'
'When do you mean?'
'I mean,' said Prince Eugen, 'that night in Ostend when I was ill.
You thought I was in a delirium. Perhaps I was. But somehow I
remember that with extraordinary distinctness. I remember raising
my head for a fraction of an instant, and just in that fraction of an
instant you kissed her. Oh, Uncle Aribert!'
'Listen, Eugen, for God's sake. I love Nella Racksole. I shall marry
'You!' There was a long pause, and then Eugen laughed. 'Ah!' he
said. 'They all talk like that to start with. I have talked like that
myself, dear uncle; it sounds nice, and it means nothing.'
'In this case it means everything, Eugen,' said Aribert quietly.
Some accent of determination in the latter's tone made Eugen
rather more serious.
'You can't marry her,' he said. 'The Emperor won't permit a
'The Emperor has nothing to do with the affair. I shall renounce
I shall become a plain citizen.'
'In which case you will have no fortune to speak of.'
'But my wife will have a fortune. Knowing the sacrifices which I
shall have made in order to marry her, she will not hesitate to
place that fortune in my hands for our mutual use,' said Aribert
'You will decidedly be rich,' mused Eugen, as his ideas dwelt on
Theodore Racksole's reputed wealth. 'But have you thought of this,'
he asked, and his mild eyes glowed again in a sort of madness.
'Have you thought that I am unmarried, and might die at any
moment, and then the throne will descend to you - to you, Aribert?'
'The throne will never descend to me, Eugen,' said Aribert softly,
'for you will live. You are thoroughly convalescent. You have
nothing to fear.'
'It is the next seven days that I fear,' said Eugen.
'The next seven days! Why?'
'I do not know. But I fear them. If I can survive them - '
'Mr Sampson Levi, sire,' Hans announced in a loud tone.
Chapter Twenty MR SAMPSON LEVI BIDS PRINCE EUGEN
PRINCE EUGEN started. 'I will see him,' he said, with a gesture to
Hans as if to indicate that Mr Sampson Levi might enter at once.
'I beg one moment first,' said Aribert, laying a hand gently on his
nephew's arm, and giving old Hans a glance which had the effect
of precipitating that admirably trained servant through the
'What is it?' asked Prince Eugen crossly. 'Why this sudden
seriousness? Don't forget that I have an appointment with Mr
Sampson Levi, and must not keep him waiting. Someone said that
punctuality is the politeness of princes.'
'Eugen,' said Aribert, 'I wish you to be as serious as I am. Why
cannot we have faith in each other? I want to help you. I have
helped you. You are my titular Sovereign; but on the other hand I
have the honour to be your uncle:
I have the honour to be the same age as you, and to have been your
companion from youth up. Give me your confidence. I thought you
had given it me years ago, but I have lately discovered that you had
your secrets, even then. And now, since your illness, you are still
'What do you mean, Aribert?' said Eugen, in a tone which might
have been either inimical or friendly. 'What do you want to say?'
'Well, in the first place, I want to say that you will not succeed
with the estimable Mr Sampson Levi.'
'Shall I not?' said Eugen lightly. 'How do you know what my
business is with him?'
'Suffice it to say that I know. You will never get that million
pounds out of him.'
Prince Eugen gasped, and then swallowed his excitement. 'Who
has been talking? What million?' His eyes wandered uneasily
round the room. 'Ah!' he said, pretending to laugh. 'I see how it is. I
have been chattering in my delirium. You mustn't take any notice
of that, Aribert. When one has a fever one's ideas become
grotesque and fanciful.'
'You never talked in your delirium,' Aribert replied; 'at least not
about yourself. I knew about this projected loan before I saw you
'Who told you?' demanded Eugen fiercely.
'Then you admit that you are trying to raise a loan?'
'I admit nothing. Who told you?'
'Theodore Racksole, the millionaire. These rich men have no
secrets from each other. They form a coterie, closer than any
coterie of ours. Eugen, and far more powerful. They talk, and in
talking they rule the world, these millionaires. They are the real
'Curse them!' said Eugen.
'Yes, perhaps so. But let me return to your case. Imagine my
shame, my disgust, when I found that Racksole could tell me more
about your affairs than I knew myself. Happily, he is a good
fellow; one can trust him; otherwise I should have been tempted to
do something desperate when I discovered that all your private
history was in his hands. Eugen, let us come to the point; why do
you want that million? Is it actually true that you are so deeply in
debt? I have no desire to improve the occasion. I merely ask.'
'And what if I do owe a million?' said Prince Eugen with assumed
'Oh, nothing, my dear Eugen, nothing. Only it is rather a large sum
to have scattered in ten years, is it not? How did you manage it?'
'Don't ask me, Aribert. I've been a fool. But I swear to you that the
woman whom you call "the lady in the red hat" is the last of my
follies. I am about to take a wife, and become a respectable
'Then the engagement with Princess Anna is an accomplished
'Practically so. As soon as I have settled with Levi, all will be
Aribert, I wouldn't lose Anna for the Imperial throne. She is a good
and pure woman, and I love her as a man might love an angel.'
'And yet you would deceive her as to your debts, Eugen?'
'Not her, but her absurd parents, and perhaps the Emperor. They
have heard rumours, and I must set those rumours at rest by
presenting to them a clean sheet.'
'I am glad you have been frank with me, Eugen,' said Prince
Aribert, 'but I will be plain with you. You will never marry the
'And why?' said Eugen, supercilious again.
'Because her parents will not permit it. Because you will not be
able to present a clean sheet to them. Because this Sampson Levi
will never lend you a million.'
'I propose to do so. You were kidnapped - it is a horrid word, but
we must use it - in Ostend.'
'Do you know why?'
'I suppose because that vile old red-hatted woman and her
accomplices wanted to get some money out of me. Fortunately,
thanks to you, they didn't.'
'Not at all,' said Aribert. 'They wanted no money from you. They
knew well enough that you had no money. They knew you were
the naughty schoolboy among European Princes, with no sense of
responsibility or of duty towards your kingdom. Shall I tell you
why they kidnapped you?'
'When you have done abusing me, my dear uncle.'
'They kidnapped you merely to keep you out of England for a few
days, merely to compel you to fail in your appointment with
Sampson Levi. And it appears to me that they succeeded.
Assuming that you don't obtain the money from Levi, is there
another financier in all Europe from whom you can get it - on such
strange security as you have to offer?'
'Possibly there is not,' said Prince Eugen calmly. 'But, you see, I
shall get it from Sampson Levi. Levi promised it, and I know from
other sources that he is a man of his word. He said that the money,
subject to certain formalities, would be available till - '
'Till the end of June.'
'And it is now the end of July.'
'Well, what is a month? He is only too glad to lend the money. He
will get excellent interest. How on earth have you got into your
sage old head this notion of a plot against me? The idea is
ridiculous. A plot against me? What for?'
'Have you ever thought of Bosnia?' asked Aribert coldly.
'What of Bosnia?'
'I need not tell you that the King of Bosnia is naturally under
obligations to Austria, to whom he owes his crown. Austria is