The Grand Babylon Hotel

21. The Return Of Félix Babylon
ON the evening of Prince Eugen's fateful interview with Mr Sampson Levi,
Theodore Racksole was wandering somewhat aimlessly and uneasily about the
entrance hail and adjacent corridors of the Grand Babylon. He had returned from
Ostend only a day or two previously, and had endeavoured with all his might to
forget the affair which had carried him there - to regard it, in fact, as done with.
But he found himself unable to do so. In vain he remarked, under his breath, that
there were some things which were best left alone: if his experience as a
manipulator of markets, a contriver of gigantic schemes in New York, had taught
him anything at all, it should surely have taught him that. Yet he could not feel
reconciled to such a position. The mere presence of the princes in his hotel
roused the fighting instincts of this man, who had never in his whole career been
beaten. He had, as it were, taken up arms on their side, and if the princes of
Posen would not continue their own battle, nevertheless he, Theodore Racksole,
wanted to continue it for them. To a certain extent, of course, the battle had been
won, for Prince Eugen had been rescued from an extremely difficult and
dangerous position, and the enemy - consisting of Jules, Rocco, Miss Spencer,
and perhaps others - had been put to flight. But that, he conceived, was not
enough; it was very far from being enough. That the criminals, for criminals they
decidedly were, should still be at large, he regarded as an absurd anomaly. And
there was another point: he had said nothing to the police of all that had
occurred. He disdained the police, but he could scarcely fail to perceive that if the
police should by accident gain a clue to the real state of the case he might be
placed rather awkwardly, for the simple reason that in the eyes of the law it
amounted to a misdemeanour to conceal as much as he had concealed. He
asked himself, for the thousandth time, why he had adopted a policy of
concealment from the police, why he had become in any way interested in the
Posen matter, and why, at this present moment, he should be so anxious to
prosecute it further? To the first two questions he replied, rather lamely, that he
had been influenced by Nella, and also by a natural spirit of adventure; to the
third he replied that he had always been in the habit of carrying things through,
and was now actuated by a mere childish, obstinate desire to carry this one
through. Moreover, he was spendidly conscious of his perfect ability to carry it
through. One additional impulse he had, though he did not admit it to himself,
being by nature adverse to big words, and that was an abstract love of justice,
the Anglo-Saxon's deep-found instinct for helping the right side to conquer, even
when grave risks must thereby be run, with no corresponding advantage.
He was turning these things over in his mind as he walked about the vast hotel
on that evening of the last day in July. The Society papers had been stating for a
week past that London was empty, but, in spite of the Society papers, London
persisted in seeming to be just as full as ever. The Grand Babylon was certainly
not as crowded as it had been a month earlier, but it was doing a very passable
business. At the close of the season the gay butterflies of the social community
have a habit of hovering for a day or two in the big hotels before they flutter away