Part 5 out of 5
feared that even at that date an interview between Prince Eugen
and Mr Sampson Levi might work harm to them. So they applied
to me again. This time they wanted Prince Eugen to be - em -
finished off entirely. They offered high terms.'
'I had received fifty thousand pounds for the first job, of which
Rocco had half. Rocco was also to be made a member of a certain
famous European order, if things went right. That was what he
coveted far more than the money - the vain fellow! For the second
job I was offered a hundred thousand. A tolerably large sum. I
regret that I have not been able to earn it.'
'Do you mean to tell me,' asked Racksole, horror-struck by this
calm confession, in spite of his previous knowledge, 'that you were
offered a hundred thousand pounds to poison Prince Eugen?'
'You put it rather crudely,' said Jules in reply. 'I prefer to say that I
was offered a hundred thousand pounds if Prince Eugen should die
within a reasonable time.'
'And who were your damnable employers?'
'That, honestly, I do not know.'
'You know, I suppose, who paid you the first fifty thousand
pounds, and who promised you the hundred thousand.'
'Well,' said Jules, 'I know vaguely. I know that he came via Vienna
from - em - Bosnia. My impression was that the affair had some
bearing, direct or indirect, on the projected marriage of the King of
Bosnia. He is a young monarch, scarcely out of political
leading-strings, as it were, and doubtless his Ministers thought that
they had better arrange his marriage for him. They tried last year,
and failed because the Princess whom they had in mind had cast
her sparkling eyes on another Prince. That Prince happened to be
Prince Eugen of Posen. The Ministers of the King of Bosnia knew
exactly the circumstances of Prince Eugen. They knew that he
could not marry without liquidating his debts, and they knew that
he could only liquidate his debts through this Jew, Sampson Levi.
Unfortunately for me, they ultimately wanted to make too sure of
Prince Eugen. They were afraid he might after all arrange his
marriage without the aid of Mr Sampson Levi, and so - well, you
know the rest. . . . It is a pity that the poor little innocent King of
Bosnia can't have the Princess of his Ministers' choice.'
'Then you think that the King himself had no part in this
'I think decidedly not.'
'I am glad of that,' said Racksole simply. 'And now, the name of
your immediate employer.'
'He was merely an agent. He called himself Sleszak - S-l-e-s-z-a-k.
But I imagine that that wasn't his real name. I don't know his real
name. An old man, he often used to be found at the Hôtel Ritz,
'Mr Sleszak and I will meet,' said Racksole.
'Not in this world,' said Jules quickly. 'He is dead. I heard only last
night - just before our little tussle.'
There was a silence.
'It is well,' said Racksole at length. 'Prince Eugen lives, despite all
plots. After all, justice is done.'
'Mr Racksole is here, but he can see no one, Miss.' The words
came from behind the door, and the voice was the
commissionaire's. Racksole started up, and went towards the door.
'Nonsense,' was the curt reply, in feminine tones. 'Move aside
The door opened, and Nella entered. There were tears in her eyes.
'Oh! Dad,' she exclaimed, 'I've only just heard you were in the
hotel. We looked for you everywhere. Come at once, Prince Eugen
is dying - ' Then she saw the man sitting on the bed, and stopped.
Later, when Jules was alone again, he remarked to himself, 'I may
get that hundred thousand.'
Chapter Twenty-Eight THE STATE BEDROOM ONCE MORE
WHEN, immediately after the episode of the bottle of
Romanée-Conti in the State dining-room, Prince Aribert and old
Hans found that Prince Eugen had sunk in an unconscious heap
over his chair, both the former thought, at the first instant, that
Eugen must have already tasted the poisoned wine. But a moment's
reflection showed that this was not possible. If the Hereditary
Prince of Posen was dying or dead, his condition was due to some
other agency than the Romanée-Conti. Aribert bent over him, and
a powerful odour from the man's lips at once disclosed the cause of
the disaster: it was the odour of laudanum. Indeed, the smell of
that sinister drug seemed now to float heavily over the whole table.
Across Aribert's mind there flashed then the true explanation.
Prince Eugen, taking advantage of Aribert's attention being
momentarily diverted; and yielding to a sudden impulse of despair,
had decided to poison himself, and had carried out his intention on
The laudanum must have been already in his pocket, and this fact
went to prove that the unfortunate Prince had previously
contemplated such a proceeding, even after his definite promise.
Aribert remembered now with painful vividness his nephew's
words: 'I withdraw my promise. Observe that - I withdraw it.' It
must have been instantly after the utterance of that formal
withdrawal that Eugen attempted to destroy himself.
'It's laudanum, Hans,' Aribert exclaimed, rather helplessly.
'Surely his Highness has not taken poison?' said Hans. 'It is
'I fear it is only too possible,' said the other. 'It's laudanum. What
are we to do? Quick, man!'
'His Highness must be roused, Prince. He must have an emetic. We
had better carry him to the bedroom.'
They did, and laid him on the great bed; and then Aribert mixed an
emetic of mustard and water, and administered it, but without any
effect. The sufferer lay motionless, with every muscle relaxed. His
skin was ice-cold to the touch, and the eyelids, half-drawn, showed
that the pupils were painfully contracted.
'Go out, and send for a doctor, Hans. Say that Prince Eugen has
been suddenly taken ill, but that it isn't serious. The truth must
never be known.'
'He must be roused, sire,' Hans said again, as he hurried from the
Aribert lifted his nephew from the bed, shook him, pinched him,
flicked him cruelly, shouted at him, dragged him about, but to no
avail. At length he desisted, from mere physical fatigue, and laid
the Prince back again on the bed. Every minute that elapsed
seemed an hour. Alone with the unconscious organism in the
silence of the great stately chamber, under the cold yellow glare of
the electric lights, Aribert became a prey to the most despairing
thoughts. The tragedy of his nephew's career forced itself upon
him, and it occurred to him that an early and shameful death had
all along been inevitable for this good-natured, weak-purposed,
unhappy child of a historic throne. A little good fortune, and his
character, so evenly balanced between right and wrong, might
have followed the proper path, and Eugen might have figured at
any rate with dignity on the European stage. But now it appeared
that all was over, the last stroke played. And in this disaster
Aribert saw the ruin of his own hopes. For Aribert would have to
occupy his nephew's throne, and he felt instinctively that nature
had not cut him out for a throne. By a natural impulse he inwardly
rebelled against the prospect of monarchy. Monarchy meant so
much for which he knew himself to be entirely unfitted. It meant a
political marriage, which means a forced marriage, a union against
inclination. And then what of Nella - Nella!
Hans returned. 'I have sent for the nearest doctor, and also for a
specialist,' he said.
'Good,' said Aribert. 'I hope they will hurry.' Then he sat down and
wrote a card. 'Take this yourself to Miss Racksole. If she is out of
the hotel, ascertain where she is and follow her. Understand, it is
of the first importance.'
Hans bowed, and departed for the second time, and Aribert was
He gazed at Eugen, and made another frantic attempt to rouse him
from the deadly stupor, but it was useless. He walked away to the
window: through the opened casement he could hear the tinkle of
passing hansoms on the Embankment below, whistles of
door-keepers, and the hoot of steam tugs on the river. The world
went on as usual, it appeared. It was an absurd world.
He desired nothing better than to abandon his princely title, and
live as a plain man, the husband of the finest woman on earth. . . .
But now! . . .
Pah! How selfish he was, to be thinking of himself when Eugen lay
dying. Yet - Nella!
The door opened, and a man entered, who was obviously the
doctor. A few curt questions, and he had grasped the essentials of
the case. 'Oblige me by ringing the bell, Prince. I shall want some
hot water, and an able-bodied man and a nurse.'
'Who wants a nurse?' said a voice, and Nella came quietly in. 'I am
a nurse,' she added to the doctor, 'and at your orders.'
The next two hours were a struggle between life and death. The
first doctor, a specialist who followed him, Nella, Prince Aribert,
and old Hans formed, as it were, a league to save the dying man.
None else in the hotel knew the real seriousness of the case. When
a Prince falls ill, and especially by his own act, the precise truth is
not issued broadcast to the universe.
According to official intelligence, a Prince is never seriously ill
until he is dead. Such is statecraft.
The worst feature of Prince Eugen's case was that emetics proved
Neither of the doctors could explain their failure, but it was only
too apparent. The league was reduced to helplessness. At last the
great specialist from Manchester Square gave it out that there was
no chance for Prince Eugen unless the natural vigour of his
constitution should prove capable of throwing off the poison
unaided by scientific assistance, as a drunkard can sleep off his
potion. Everything had been tried, even to artificial respiration and
the injection of hot coffee. Having emitted this pronouncement,
the great specialist from Manchester Square left. It was one o'clock
in the morning. By one of those strange and futile coincidences
which sometimes startle us by their subtle significance, the
specialist met Theodore Racksole and his captive as they were
entering the hotel. Neither had the least suspicion of the other's
In the State bedroom the small group of watchers surrounded the
bed. The slow minutes filed away in dreary procession. Another
hour passed. Then the figure on the bed, hitherto so motionless,
twitched and moved; the lips parted.
'There is hope,' said the doctor, and administered a stimulant
which was handed to him by Nella.
In a quarter of an hour the patient had regained consciousness. For
the ten thousandth time in the history of medicine a sound
constitution had accomplished a miracle impossible to the
accumulated medical skill of centuries.
In due course the doctor left, saying that Prince Eugen was 'on the
high road to recovery,' and promising to come again within a few
hours. Morning had dawned. Nella drew the great curtains, and let
in a flood of sunlight.
Old Hans, overcome by fatigue, dozed in a chair in a far corner of
The reaction had been too much for him. Nella and Prince Aribert
looked at each other. They had not exchanged a word about
themselves, yet each knew what the other had been thinking. They
clasped hands with a perfect understanding. Their brief
love-making had been of the silent kind, and it was silent now. No
word was uttered. A shadow had passed from over them, but only
their eyes expressed relief and joy.
'Aribert!' The faint call came from the bed. Aribert went to the
bedside, while Nella remained near the window.
'What is it, Eugen?' he said. 'You are better now.'
'You think so?' murmured the other. 'I want you to forgive me for
all this, Aribert. I must have caused you an intolerable trouble. I
did it so clumsily; that is what annoys me. Laudanum was a feeble
expedient; but I could think of nothing else, and I daren't ask
anyone for advice. I was obliged to go out and buy the stuff for
myself. It was all very awkward.
But, thank goodness, it has not been ineffectual.'
'What do you mean, Eugen? You are better. In a day or so you will
be perfectly recovered.'
'I am dying,' said Eugen quietly. 'Do not be deceived. I die because
I wish to die. It is bound to be so. I know by the feel of my heart.
In a few hours it will be over. The throne of Posen will be yours,
Aribert. You will fill it more worthily than I have done. Don't let
them know over there that I poisoned myself. Swear Hans to
secrecy; swear the doctors to secrecy; and breathe no word
yourself. I have been a fool, but I do not wish it to be known that I
was also a coward. Perhaps it is not cowardice; perhaps it is
courage, after all - courage to cut the knot. I could not have
survived the disgrace of any revelations, Aribert, and revelations
would have been sure to come. I have made a fool of myself, but I
am ready to pay for it. We of Posen - we always pay - everything
except our debts. Ah! those debts! Had it not been for those I could
have faced her who was to have been my wife, to have shared my
throne. I could have hidden my past, and begun again. With her
help I really could have begun again. But Fate has been against me
- always! always! By the way, what was that plot against me,
Aribert? I forget, I forget.'
His eyes closed. There was a sudden noise. Old Hans had slipped
from his chair to the floor. He picked himself up, dazed, and crept
shamefacedly out of the room.
Aribert took his nephew's hand.
'Nonsense, Eugen! You are dreaming. You will be all right soon.
Pull yourself together.'
'All because of a million,' the sick man moaned. 'One miserable
million English pounds. The national debt of Posen is fifty
millions, and I, the Prince of Posen, couldn't borrow one. If I could
have got it, I might have held my head up again. Good-bye,
Aribert... . Who is that girl?'
Aribert looked up. Nella was standing silent at the foot of the bed,
her eyes moist. She came round to the bedside, and put her hand
on the patient's heart. Scarcely could she feel its pulsation, and to
Aribert her eyes expressed a sudden despair.
At that moment Hans re-entered the room and beckoned to her.
'I have heard that Herr Racksole has returned to the hotel,' he
whispered, 'and that he has captured that man Jules, who they say
is such a villain.'
Several times during the night Nella inquired for her father, but
could gain no knowledge of his whereabouts. Now, at half-past six
in the morning, a rumour had mysteriously spread among the
servants of the hotel about the happenings of the night before. How
it had originated no one could have determined, but it had
'Where is my father?' Nella asked of Hans.
He shrugged his shoulders, and pointed upwards. 'Somewhere at
the top, they say.'
Nella almost ran out of the room. Her interruption of the interview
between Jules and Theodore Racksole has already been described.
As she came downstairs with her father she said again, 'Prince
Eugen is dying - but I think you can save him.'
'I?' exclaimed Theodore.
'Yes,' she repeated positively. 'I will tell you what I want you to do,
and you must do it.'
Chapter Twenty-Nine THEODORE IS CALLED TO THE
AS Nella passed downstairs from the top storey with her father -
the lifts had not yet begun to work - she drew him into her own
room, and closed the door.
'What's this all about?' he asked, somewhat mystified, and even
alarmed by the extreme seriousness of her face.
'Dad,' the girl began. 'you are very rich, aren't you? very, very rich?'
She smiled anxiously, timidly. He did not remember to have seen
that expression on her face before. He wanted to make a facetious
reply, but checked himself.
'Yes,' he said, 'I am. You ought to know that by this time.'
'How soon could you realize a million pounds?'
'A million - what?' he cried. Even he was staggered by her calm
reference to this gigantic sum. 'What on earth are you driving at?'
'A million pounds, I said. That is to say, five million dollars. How
soon could you realize as much as that?'
'Oh!' he answered, 'in about a month, if I went about it neatly
enough. I could unload as much as that in a month without scaring
Wall Street and other places. But it would want some
'Useless!' she exclaimed. 'Couldn't you do it quicker, if you really
'If I really had to, I could fix it in a week, but it would make things
lively, and I should lose on the job.'
'Couldn't you,' she persisted, 'couldn't you go down this morning
and raise a million, somehow, if it was a matter of life and death?'
He hesitated. 'Look here, Nella,' he said, 'what is it you've got up
'Just answer my question, Dad, and try not to think that I'm a stark,
'I rather expect I could get a million this morning, even in London.
But it would cost pretty dear. It might cost me fifty thousand
pounds, and there would be the dickens of an upset in New York -
a sort of grand universal slump in my holdings.'
'Why should New York know anything about it?'
'Why should New York know anything about it!' he repeated. 'My
girl, when anyone borrows a million sovereigns the whole world
knows about it. Do you reckon that I can go up to the Governors of
the Bank of England and say, "Look here, lend Theodore Racksole
a million for a few weeks, and he'll give you an IOU and a
covering note on stocks"?'
'But you could get it?' she asked again.
'If there's a million in London I guess I could handle it,' he replied.
'Well, Dad,' and she put her arms round his neck, 'you've just got to
go out and fix it. See? It's for me. I've never asked you for anything
really big before. But I do now. And I want it so badly.'
He stared at her. 'I award you the prize,' he said, at length. 'You
deserve it for colossal and immense coolness. Now you can tell me
the true inward meaning of all this rigmarole. What is it?'
'I want it for Prince Eugen,' she began, at first hesitatingly, with
'He's ruined unless he can get a million to pay off his debts. He's
dreadfully in love with a Princess, and he can't marry her because
Her parents wouldn't allow it. He was to have got it from Sampson
Levi, but he arrived too late - owing to Jules.'
'I know all about that - perhaps more than you do. But I don't see
how it affects you or me.'
'The point is this, Dad,' Nella continued. 'He's tried to commit
suicide - he's so hipped. Yes, real suicide. He took laudanum last
night. It didn't kill him straight off - he's got over the first shock,
but he's in a very weak state, and he means to die. And I truly
believe he will die. Now, if you could let him have that million,
Dad, you would save his life.'
Nella's item of news was a considerable and disconcerting surprise
to Racksole, but he hid his feelings fairly well.
'I haven't the least desire to save his life, Nell. I don't overmuch
respect your Prince Eugen. I've done what I could for him - but
only for the sake of seeing fair play, and because I object to
conspiracies and secret murders.
It's a different thing if he wants to kill himself. What I say is: Let
Who is responsible for his being in debt to the tune of a million
pounds? He's only got himself and his bad habits to thank for that.
I suppose if he does happen to peg out, the throne of Posen will go
to Prince Aribert. And a good thing, too! Aribert is worth twenty of
'That's just it, Dad,' she said, eagerly following up her chance. 'I
want you to save Prince Eugen just because Aribert - Prince
Aribert - doesn't wish to occupy the throne. He'd much prefer not
to have it.'
'Much prefer not to have it! Don't talk nonsense. If he's honest with
himself, he'll admit that he'll be jolly glad to have it. Thrones are in
his blood, so to speak.'
'You are wrong, Father. And the reason is this: If Prince Aribert
ascended the throne of Posen he would be compelled to marry a
'Well! A Prince ought to marry a Princess.'
'But he doesn't want to. He wants to give up all his royal rights, and
live as a subject. He wants to marry a woman who isn't a Princess.'
'Is she rich?'
'Her father is,' said the girl. 'Oh, Dad! can't you guess? He - he
loves me.' Her head fell on Theodore's shoulder and she began to
The millionaire whistled a very high note. 'Nell!' he said at length.
'And you?. Do you sort of cling to him?'
'Dad,' she answered, 'you are stupid. Do you imagine I should
worry myself like this if I didn't?' She smiled through her tears.
She knew from her father's tone that she had accomplished a
'It's a mighty queer arrangement,' Theodore remarked. 'But of
course if you think it'll be of any use, you had better go down and
tell your Prince Eugen that that million can be fixed up, if he really
needs it. I expect there'll be decent security, or Sampson Levi
wouldn't have mixed himself up in it.'
'Thanks, Dad. Don't come with me; I may manage better alone.'
She gave a formal little curtsey and disappeared. Racksole, who
had the talent, so necessary to millionaires, of attending to several
matters at once, the large with the small, went off to give orders
about the breakfast and the remuneration of his assistant of the
evening before, Mr George Hazell. He then sent an invitation to
Mr Felix Babylon's room, asking that gentleman to take breakfast
with him. After he had related to Babylon the history of Jules'
capture, and had a long discussion with him upon several points of
hotel management, and especially as to the guarding of
wine-cellars, Racksole put on his hat, sallied forth into the Strand,
hailed a hansom, and was driven to the City. The order and nature
of his operations there were, too complex and technical to be
When Nella returned to the State bedroom both the doctor and the
great specialist were again in attendance. The two physicians
moved away from the bedside as she entered, and began to talk
quietly together in the embrasure of the window.
'A curious case!' said the specialist.
'Yes. Of course, as you say, it's a neurotic temperament that's at the
bottom of the trouble. When you've got that and a vigorous
constitution working one against the other, the results are apt to be
Do you consider there is any hope, Sir Charles?'
'If I had seen him when he recovered consciousness I should have
said there was hope. Frankly, when I left last night, or rather this
morning, I didn't expect to see the Prince alive again - let alone
conscious, and able to talk. According to all the rules of the game,
he ought to get over the shock to the system with perfect ease and
certainty. But I don't think he will. I don't think he wants to. And
moreover, I think he is still under the influence of suicidal mania.
If he had a razor he would cut his throat. You must keep his
strength up. Inject, if necessary. I will come in this afternoon. I am
due now at St James's Palace.' And the specialist hurried away,
with an elaborate bow and a few hasty words of polite
reassurances to Prince Aribert.
When he had gone Prince Aribert took the other doctor aside.
'Forget everything, doctor,' he said, 'except that I am one man and
you are another, and tell me the truth. Shall you be able to save his
Highness? Tell me the truth.'
'There is no truth,' was the doctor's reply. 'The future is not in our
'But you are hopeful? Yes or no.'
The doctor looked at Prince Aribert. 'No!' he said shortly. 'I am not.
I am never hopeful when the patient is not on my side.'
'You mean - ?'
'I mean that his Royal Highness has no desire to live. You must
have observed that.'
'Only too well,' said Aribert.
'And you are aware of the cause?'
Aribert nodded an affirmative.
'But cannot remove it?'
'No,' said Aribert. He felt a touch on his sleeve. It was Nella's
With a gesture she beckoned him towards the ante-room.
'If you choose,' she said, when they were alone, 'Prince Eugen can
I have arranged it.'
'You have arranged it?' He bent over her, almost with an air of
alarm. 'Go and tell him that the million pounds which is so
necessary to his happiness will be forthcoming. Tell him that it
will be forthcoming today, if that will be any satisfaction to him.'
'But what do you mean by this, Nella?'
'I mean what I say, Aribert,' and she sought his hand and took it in
'Just what I say. If a million pounds will save Prince Eugen's life, it
is at his disposal.'
'But how - how have you managed it? By what miracle?'
'My father,' she replied softly, 'will do anything that I ask him. Do
not let us waste time. Go and tell Eugen it is arranged, that all will
'But we cannot accept this - this enormous, this incredible favour.
It is impossible.'
'Aribert,' she said quickly, 'remember you are not in Posen holding
a Court reception. You are in England and you are talking to an
American girl who has always been in the habit of having her own
The Prince threw up his hands and went back in to the bedroom.
The doctor was at a table writing out a prescription. Aribert
approached the bedside, his heart beating furiously. Eugen greeted
him with a faint, fatigued smile.
'Eugen,' he whispered, 'listen carefully to me. I have news. With
the assistance of friends I have arranged to borrow that million for
you. It is quite settled, and you may rely on it. But you must get
better. Do you hear me?'
Eugen almost sat up in bed. 'Tell me I am not delirious,' he
'Of course you aren't,' Aribert replied. 'But you mustn't sit up. You
must take care of yourself.'
'Who will lend the money?' Eugen asked in a feeble, happy
'Never mind. You shall hear later. Devote yourself now to getting
The change in the patient's face was extraordinary. His mind
seemed to have put on an entirely different aspect. The doctor was
startled to hear him murmur a request for food. As for Aribert, he
sat down, overcome by the turmoil of his own thoughts. Till that
moment he felt that he had never appreciated the value and the
marvellous power of mere money, of the lucre which philosophers
pretend to despise and men sell their souls for. His heart almost
burst in its admiration for that extraordinary Nella, who by mere
personal force had raised two men out of the deepest slough of
despair to the blissful heights of hope and happiness. 'These
Anglo-Saxons,' he said to himself, 'what a race!'
By the afternoon Eugen was noticeably and distinctly better. The
physicians, puzzled for the third time by the progress of the case,
announced now that all danger was past. The tone of the
announcement seemed to Aribert to imply that the fortunate issue
was due wholly to unrivalled medical skill, but perhaps Aribert
was mistaken. Anyhow, he was in a most charitable mood, and
prepared to forgive anything.
'Nella,' he said a little later, when they were by themselves again in
the ante-chamber, 'what am I to say to you? How can I thank you?
How can I thank your father?'
'You had better not thank my father,' she said. 'Dad will affect to
regard the thing as a purely business transaction, as, of course, it
is. As for me, you can - you can - '
'Kiss me,' she said. 'There! Are you sure you've formally proposed
to me, mon prince?'
'Ah! Nell!' he exclaimed, putting his arms round her again. 'Be
mine! That is all I want!'
'You'll find,' she said, 'that you'll want Dad's consent too!'
'Will he make difficulties? He could not, Nell - not with you!'
'Better ask him,' she said sweetly.
A moment later Racksole himself entered the room. 'Going on all
right?' he enquired, pointing to the bedroom. 'Excellently,' the
lovers answered together, and they both blushed.
'Ah!' said Racksole. 'Then, if that's so, and you can spare a minute,
I've something to show you, Prince.'
Chapter Thirty CONCLUSION
'I'VE a great deal to tell you, Prince,' Racksole began, as soon as
they were out of the room, 'and also, as I said, something to show
you. Will you come to my room? We will talk there first. The
whole hotel is humming with excitement.'
'With pleasure,' said Aribert.
'Glad his Highness Prince Eugen is recovering,' Racksole said,
urged by considerations of politeness.
'Ah! As to that - ' Aribert began. 'If you don't mind, we'll discuss
that later, Prince,' Racksole interrupted him.
They were in the proprietor's private room.
'I want to tell you all about last night,' Racksole resumed, 'about
my capture of Jules, and my examination of him this morning.'
And he launched into a full acount of the whole thing, down to the
least details. 'You see,'
he concluded, 'that our suspicions as to Bosnia were tolerably
correct. But as regards Bosnia, the more I think about it, the surer I
feel that nothing can be done to bring their criminal politicians to
'And as to Jules, what do you propose to do?'
'Come this way,' said Racksole, and led Aribert to another room. A
sofa in this room was covered with a linen cloth. Racksole lifted
the cloth - he could never deny himself a dramatic moment - and
disclosed the body of a dead man.
It was Jules, dead, but without a scratch or mark on him.
'I have sent for the police - not a street constable, but an official
from Scotland Yard,' said Racksole.
'How did this happen?' Aribert asked, amazed and startled. 'I
understood you to say that he was safely immured in the bedroom.'
'So he was,' Racksole replied. 'I went up there this afternoon,
chiefly to take him some food. The commissionaire was on guard
at the door. He had heard no noise, nothing unusual. Yet when I
entered the room Jules was gone.
He had by some means or other loosened his fastenings; he had
then managed to take the door off the wardrobe. He had moved the
bed in front of the window, and by pushing the wardrobe door
three parts out of the window and lodging the inside end of it
under the rail at the head of the bed, he had provided himself with
a sort of insecure platform outside the window. All this he did
without making the least sound. He must then have got through the
window, and stood on the little platform. With his fingers he
would just be able to reach the outer edge of the wide cornice
under the roof of the hotel. By main strength of arms he had swung
himself on to this cornice, and so got on to the roof proper. He
would then have the run of the whole roof.
At the side of the building facing Salisbury Lane there is an iron
fire-escape, which runs right down from the ridge of the roof into a
little sunk yard level with the cellars. Jules must have thought that
his escape was accomplished. But it unfortunately happened that
one rung in the iron escape-ladder had rusted rotten through being
badly painted. It gave way, and Jules, not expecting anything of the
kind, fell to the ground. That was the end of all his cleverness and
As Racksole ceased, speaking he replaced the linen cloth with a
gesture from which reverence was not wholly absent.
When the grave had closed over the dark and tempestuous career
of Tom Jackson, once the pride of the Grand Babylon, there was
little trouble for the people whose adventures we have described.
Miss Spencer, that yellow-haired, faithful slave and attendant of a
brilliant scoundrel, was never heard of again. Possibly to this day
she survives, a mystery to her fellow-creatures, in the pension of
some cheap foreign boarding-house. As for Rocco, he certainly
was heard of again. Several years after the events set down, it
came to the knowledge of Felix Babylon that the unrivalled Rocco
had reached Buenos Aires, and by his culinary skill was there
making the fortune of a new and splendid hotel. Babylon
transmitted the information to Theodore Racksole, and Racksole
might, had he chosen, have put the forces of the law in motion
against him. But Racksole, seeing that everything pointed to the
fact that Rocco was now pursuing his vocation honestly, decided
to leave him alone. The one difficulty which Racksole experienced
after the demise of Jules - and it was a difficulty which he had, of
course, anticipated - was connected with the police. The police,
very properly, wanted to know things. They desired to be informed
what Racksole had been doing in the Dimmock affair, between his
first visit to Ostend and his sending for them to take charge of
Jules' dead body. And Racksole was by no means inclined to tell
them everything. Beyond question he had transgressed the laws of
England, and possibly also the laws of Belgium; and the moral
excellence of his motives in doing so was, of course, in the eyes of
legal justice, no excuse for such conduct. The inquest upon Jules
aroused some bother; and about ninety-and-nine separate and
distinct rumours. In the end, however, a compromise was arrived
at. Racksole's first aim was to pacify the inspector whose clue,
which by the way was a false one, he had so curtly declined to
follow up. That done, the rest needed only tact and patience. He
proved to the satisfaction of the authorities that he had acted in a
perfectly honest spirit, though with a high hand, and that
substantial justice had been done. Also, he subtly indicated that, if
it came to the point, he should defy them to do their worst. Lastly,
he was able, through the medium of the United States
Ambassador, to bring certain soothing influences to bear upon the
One afternoon, a fortnight after the recovery of the Hereditary
Prince of Posen, Aribert, who was still staying at the Grand
Babylon, expressed a wish to hold converse with the millionaire.
Prince Eugen, accompanied by Hans and some Court officials
whom he had sent for, had departed with immense éclat, armed
with the comfortable million, to arrange formally for his betrothal.
Touching the million, Eugen had given satisfactory personal
security, and the money was to be paid off in fifteen years.
'You wish to talk to me, Prince,' said Racksole to Aribert, when
they were seated together in the former's room.
'I wish to tell you,' replied Aribert, 'that it is my intention to
renounce all my rights and titles as a Royal Prince of Posen, and to
be known in future as Count Hartz - a rank to which I am entitled
through my mother.
Also that I have a private income of ten thousand pounds a year,
and a château and a town house in Posen. I tell you this because I
am here to ask the hand of your daughter in marriage. I love her,
and I am vain enough to believe that she loves me. I have already
asked her to be my wife, and she has consented. We await your
'You honour us, Prince,' said Racksole with a slight smile, 'and in
more ways than one, May I ask your reason for renouncing your
'Simply because the idea of a morganatic marriage would be as
repugnant to me as it would be to yourself and to Nella.'
'That is good.' The Prince laughed. 'I suppose it has occurred to you
that ten thousand pounds per annum, for a man in your position, is
a somewhat small income. Nella is frightfully extravagant. I have
known her to spend sixty thousand dollars in a single year, and
have nothing to show for it at the end. Why! she would ruin you in
'Nella must reform her ways,' Aribert said.
'If she is content to do so,' Racksole went on, 'well and good! I
'In her name and my own, I thank you,' said Aribert gravely.
'And,' the millionaire continued, 'so that she may not have to
reform too fiercely, I shall settle on her absolutely, with reversion
to your children, if you have any, a lump sum of fifty million
dollars, that is to say, ten million pounds, in sound, selected
railway stock. I reckon that is about half my fortune. Nella and I
have always shared equally.'
Aribert made no reply. The two men shook hands in silence, and
then it happened that Nella entered the room.
That night, after dinner, Racksole and his friend Felix Babylon
were walking together on the terrace of the Grand Babylon Hotel.
Felix had begun the conversation.
'I suppose, Racksole,' he had said, 'you aren't getting tired of the
'Why do you ask?'
'Because I am getting tired of doing without it. A thousand times
since I sold it to you I have wished I could undo the bargain. I can't
bear idleness. Will you sell?'
'I might,' said Racksole, 'I might be induced to sell.'
'What will you take, my friend?' asked Felix
'What I gave,' was the quick answer.
'Eh!' Felix exclaimed. 'I sell you my hotel with Jules, with Rocco,
with Miss Spencer. You go and lose all those three inestimable
servants, and then offer me the hotel without them at the same
price! It is monstrous.' The little man laughed heartily at his own
wit. 'Nevertheless,' he added, 'we will not quarrel about the price. I
accept your terms.'
And so was brought to a close the complex chain of events which
had begun when Theodore Racksole ordered a steak and a bottle of
Bass at the table d'hôte of the Grand Babylon Hotel.