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The Grand Babylon Hotel

3. At Three A.M.
MR REGINALD DIMMOCK proved himself, despite his extreme youth, to be a
man of the world and of experiences, and a practised talker. Conversation
between him and Nella Racksole seemed never to flag. They chattered about St
Petersburg, and the ice on the Neva, and the tenor at the opera who had been
exiled to Siberia, and the quality of Russian tea, and the sweetness of Russian
champagne, and various other aspects of Muscovite existence. Russia
exhausted, Nella lightly outlined her own doings since she had met the young
man in the Tsar's capital, and this recital brought the topic round to London,
where it stayed till the final piece of steak was eaten. Theodore Racksole noticed
that Mr Dimmock gave very meagre information about his own movements,
either past or future. He regarded the youth as a typical hanger-on of Courts, and
wondered how he had obtained his post of companion to Prince Aribert of Posen,
and who Prince Aribert of Posen might be. The millionaire thought he had once
heard of Posen, but he wasn't sure; he rather fancied it was one of those small
nondescript German States of which five-sixths of the subjects are Palace
officials, and the rest charcoal-burners or innkeepers. Until the meal was nearly
over, Racksole said little - perhaps his thoughts were too busy with Jules' wink to
Mr Dimmock, but when ices had been followed by coffee, he decided that it might
be as well, in the interests of the hotel, to discover something about his
daughter's friend. He never for an instant questioned her right to possess her
own friends; he had always left her in the most amazing liberty, relying on her
inherited good sense to keep her out of mischief; but, quite apart from the wink,
he was struck by Nella's attitude towards Mr Dimmock, an attitude in which an
amiable scorn was blended with an evident desire to propitiate and please.
'Nella tells me, Mr Dimmock, that you hold a confidential position with Prince
Aribert of Posen,' said Racksole. 'You will pardon an American's ignorance, but is
Prince Aribert a reigning Prince - what, I believe, you call in Europe, a Prince
Regnant?'
'His Highness is not a reigning Prince, nor ever likely to be,' answered Dimmock.
'The Grand Ducal Throne of Posen is occupied by his Highness's nephew, the
Grand Duke Eugen.'
'Nephew?' cried Nella with astonishment.
'Why not, dear lady?'
'But Prince Aribert is surely very young?'
'The Prince, by one of those vagaries of chance which occur sometimes in the
history of families, is precisely the same age as the Grand Duke. The late Grand
Duke's father was twice married. Hence this youthfulness on the part of an
uncle.'
'How delicious to be the uncle of someone as old as yourself! But I suppose it is
no fun for Prince Aribert. I suppose he has to be frightfully respectful and
obedient, and all that, to his nephew?'
'The Grand Duke and my Serene master are like brothers. At present, of course,
Prince Aribert is nominally heir to the throne, but as no doubt you are aware, the
 
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