The Grand Babylon Hotel
11. The Court Pawnbroker
'MR SAMPSON LEVI wishes to see you, sir.'
These words, spoken by a servant to Theodore Racksole, aroused the millionaire
from a reverie which had been the reverse of pleasant. The fact was, and it is
necessary to insist on it, that Mr Racksole, owner of the Grand Babylon Hotel,
was by no means in a state of self-satisfaction. A mystery had attached itself to
his hotel, and with all his acumen and knowledge of things in general he was
unable to solve that mystery. He laughed at the fruitless efforts of the police, but
he could not honestly say that his own efforts had been less barren. The public
was talking, for, after all, the disappearance of poor Dimmock's body had got
noised abroad in an indirect sort of way, and Theodore Racksole did not like the
idea of his impeccable hotel being the subject of sinister rumours. He wondered,
grimly, what the public and the Sunday newspapers would say if they were aware
of all the other phenomena, not yet common property: of Miss Spencer's
disappearance, of Jules' strange visits, and of the non-arrival of Prince Eugen of
Posen. Theodore Racksole had worried his brain without result. He had
conducted an elaborate private investigation without result, and he had spent a
certain amount of money without result. The police said that they had a clue; but
Racksole remarked that it was always the business of the police to have a clue,
that they seldom had more than a clue, and that a clue without some sequel to it
was a pretty stupid business. The only sure thing in the whole affair was that a
cloud rested over his hotel, his beautiful new toy, the finest of its kind. The cloud
was not interfering with business, but, nevertheless, it was a cloud, and he
fiercely resented its presence; perhaps it would be more correct to say that he
fiercely resented his inability to dissipate it.
'Mr Sampson Levi wishes to see you, sir,' the servant repeated, having received
no sign that his master had heard him.
'So I hear,' said Racksole. 'Does he want to see me, personally?'
'He asked for you, sir.'
'Perhaps it is Rocco he wants to see, about a menu or something of that kind?'
'I will inquire, sir,' and the servant made a move to withdraw.
'Stop,' Racksole commanded suddenly. 'Desire Mr Sampson Levi to step this
The great stockbroker of the 'Kaffir Circus' entered with a simple unassuming air.
He was a rather short, florid man, dressed like a typical Hebraic financier, with
too much watch-chain and too little waistcoat. In his fat hand he held a gold-
headed cane, and an absolutely new silk hat - for it was Friday, and Mr Levi
purchased a new hat every Friday of his life, holiday times only excepted. He
breathed heavily and sniffed through his nose a good deal, as though he had just
performed some Herculean physical labour. He glanced at the American
millionaire with an expression in which a slight embarrassment might have been
detected, but at the same time his round, red face disclosed a certain frank
admiration and good nature.
'Mr Racksole, I believe - Mr Theodore Racksole. Proud to meet you, sir.'