The Grand Babylon Hotel
17. The Release Of Prince Eugen
'EUGEN,' Prince Aribert called softly. At the sound of his own name the young
man in the cellar feebly raised his head and stared up at the grating which
separated him from his two rescuers. But his features showed no recognition. He
gazed in an aimless, vague, silly manner for a few seconds, his eyes blinking
under the glare of the lantern, and then his head slowly drooped again on to his
chest. He was dressed in a dark tweed travelling suit, and Racksole observed
that one sleeve - the left - was torn across the upper part of the cuff, and that
there were stains of dirt on the left shoulder. A soiled linen collar, which had lost
all its starch and was half unbuttoned, partially encircled the captive's neck; his
brown boots were unlaced; a cap, a handkerchief, a portion of a watch-chain,
and a few gold coins lay on the floor. Racksole flashed the lantern into the
corners of the cellar, but he could discover no other furniture except the chair on
which the Hereditary Prince of Posen sat and a small deal table on which were a
plate and a cup.
'Eugen,' cried Prince Aribert once more, but this time his forlorn nephew made no
response whatever, and then Aribert added in a low voice to Racksole: 'Perhaps
he cannot see us clearly.'
'But he must surely recognize your voice,' said Racksole, in a hard, gloomy tone.
There was a pause, and the two men above ground looked at each other
hesitatingly. Each knew that they must enter that cellar and get Prince Eugen out
of it, and each was somehow afraid to take the next step.
'Thank God he is not dead!' said Aribert.
'He may be worse than dead!' Racksole replied.
'Worse than - What do you mean?'
'I mean - he may be mad.'
'Come,' Aribert almost shouted, with a sudden access of energy - a wild impulse
for action. And, snatching the lantern from Racksole, he rushed into the dark
room where they had heard the conversation of Miss Spencer and the lady in the
red hat. For a moment Racksole did not stir from the threshold of the window.
'Come,' Prince Aribert repeated, and there was an imperious command in his
utterance. 'What are you afraid of?'
'I don't know,' said Racksole, feeling stupid and queer; 'I don't know.'
Then he marched heavily after Prince Aribert into the room. On the mantelpiece
were a couple of candles which had been blown out, and in a mechanical,
unthinking way, Racksole lighted them, and the two men glanced round the
room. It presented no peculiar features: it was just an ordinary room, rather
small, rather mean, rather shabby, with an ugly wallpaper and ugly pictures in
ugly frames. Thrown over a chair was a man's evening-dress jacket. The door
was closed. Prince Aribert turned the knob, but he could not open it.
'It's locked,' he said. 'Evidently they know we're here.'
'Nonsense,' said Racksole brusquely; 'how can they know?' And, taking hold of
the knob, he violently shook the door, and it opened. 'I told you it wasn't locked,'
he added, and this small success of opening the door seemed to steady the man.