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The Grand Babylon Hotel

6. In The Gold Room
AT the Grand Babylon a great ball was given that night in the Gold Room, a huge
saloon attached to the hotel, though scarcely part of it, and certainly less
exclusive than the hotel itself. Theodore Racksole knew nothing of the affair,
except that it was an entertainment offered by a Mr and Mrs Sampson Levi to
their friends. Who Mr and Mrs Sampson Levi were he did not know, nor could
anyone tell him anything about them except that Mr Sampson Levi was a
prominent member of that part of the Stock Exchange familiarly called the Kaffir
Circus, and that his wife was a stout lady with an aquiline nose and many
diamonds, and that they were very rich and very hospitable. Theodore Racksole
did not want a ball in his hotel that evening, and just before dinner he had almost
a mind to issue a decree that the Gold Room was to be closed and the ball
forbidden, and Mr and Mrs Sampson Levi might name the amount of damages
suffered by them. His reasons for such a course were threefold - first, he felt
depressed and uneasy; second, he didn't like the name of Sampson Levi; and,
third, he had a desire to show these so-called plutocrats that their wealth was
nothing to him, that they could not do what they chose with Theodore Racksole,
and that for two pins Theodore Racksole would buy them up, and the whole
Kaffir Circus to boot. But something wamed him that though such a high-handed
proceeding might be tolerated in America, that land of freedom, it would never be
tolerated in England. He felt instinctively that in England there are things you
can't do, and that this particular thing was one of them. So the ball went forward,
and neither Mr nor Mrs Sampson Levi had ever the least suspicion what a narrow
escape they had had of looking very foolish in the eyes of the thousand or so
guests invited by them to the Gold Room of the Grand Babylon that evening.
The Gold Room of the Grand Babylon was built for a ballroom. A balcony,
supported by arches faced with gilt and lapis-lazulo, ran around it, and from this
vantage men and maidens and chaperons who could not or would not dance
might survey the scene. Everyone knew this, and most people took advantage of
it. What everyone did not know - what no one knew - was that higher up than the
balcony there was a little barred window in the end wall from which the hotel
authorities might keep a watchful eye, not only on the dancers, but on the
occupants of the balcony itself.
It may seem incredible to the uninitiated that the guests at any social gathering
held in so gorgeous and renowned an apartment as the Gold Room of the Grand
Babylon should need the observation of a watchful eye. Yet so it was. Strange
matters and unexpected faces had been descried from the little window, and
more than one European detective had kept vigil there with the most eminently
satisfactory results.
At eleven o'clock Theodore Racksole, afflicted by vexation of spirit, found himself
gazing idly through the little barred window. Nella was with him.
Together they had been wandering about the corridors of the hotel, still strange
to them both, and it was quite by accident that they had lighted upon the small
room which had a surreptitious view of Mr and Mrs Sampson Levi's ball. Except
 
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