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The Grand Babylon Hotel

24. The Bottle Of Wine
AS regards Theodore Racksole, who was to have caught his man from the
outside of the cellar, he made his way as rapidly as possible from the wine-
cellars, up to the ground floor, out of the hotel by the quadrangle, through the
quadrangle, and out into the top of Salisbury Lane. Now, owing to the vastness of
the structure of the Grand Babylon, the mere distance thus to be traversed
amounted to a little short of a quarter of a mile, and, as it included a number of
stairs, about two dozen turnings, and several passages which at that time of
night were in darkness more or less complete, Racksole could not have been
expected to accomplish the journey in less than five minutes. As a matter of fact,
six minutes had elapsed before he reached the top of Salisbury Lane, because
he had been delayed nearly a minute by some questions addressed to him by a
muddled and whisky-laden guest who had got lost in the corridors. As everybody
knows, there is a sharp short bend in Salisbury Lane near the top. Racksole ran
round this at good racing speed, but he was unfortunate enough to run straight
up against the very policeman who had not long before so courteously supplied
Jules with a match. The policeman seemed to be scarcely in so pliant a mood
just then.
'Hullo!' he said, his naturally suspicious nature being doubtless aroused by the
spectacle of a bareheaded man in evening dress running violently down the lane.
'What's this? Where are you for in such a hurry?' and he forcibly detained
Theodore Racksole for a moment and scrutinized his face.
'Now, officer,' said Racksole quietly, 'none of your larks, if you please.
I've no time to lose.'
'Beg your pardon, sir,' the policeman remarked, though hesitatingly and not quite
with good temper, and Racksole was allowed to proceed on his way. The
millionaire's scheme for trapping Jules was to get down into the little sunk yard by
means of the ladder, and then to secrete himself behind some convenient
abutment of brickwork until Mr Tom Jackson should have got into the cellar. He
therefore nimbly surmounted the railings - the railings of his own hotel - and was
gingerly descending the ladder, when lo! a rough hand seized him by the coat-
collar and with a ferocious jerk urged him backwards. The fact was, Theodore
Racksole had counted without the policeman. That guardian of the peace,
mistrusting Racksole's manner, quietly followed him down the lane. The sight of
the millionaire climbing the railings had put him on his mettle, and the result was
the ignominious capture of Racksole. In vain Theodore expostulated, explained,
anathematized. Only one thing would satisfy the stolid policeman - namely, that
Racksole should return with him to the hotel and there establish his identity. If
Racksole then proved to be Racksole, owner of the Grand Babylon, well and
good - the policeman promised to apologize. So Theodore had no alternative but
to accept the suggestion. To prove his identity was, of course, the work of only a
few minutes, after which Racksole, annoyed, but cool as ever, returned to his
railings, while the policeman went off to another part of his beat, where he would
be likely to meet a comrade and have a chat.