The Grand Babylon Hotel

23. Further Events In The Cellar
'WELL, Father,' Nella greeted her astounded parent. 'You should make sure that
you have got hold of the right person before you use all that terrible muscular
force of yours. I do believe you have broken my shoulder bone.' She rubbed her
shoulder with a comical expression of pain, and then stood up before the two
men. The skirt of her dark grey dress was torn and dirty, and the usually trim
Nella looked as though she had been shot down a canvas fire-escape.
Mechanically she smoothed her frock, and gave a straightening touch to her hair.
'Good evening, Miss Racksole,' said Felix Babylon, bowing formally. 'This is an
unexpected pleasure.' Felix 's drawing-room manners never deserted him upon
any occasion whatever.
'May I inquire what you are doing in my wine cellar, Nella Racksole?' said the
millionaire a little stiffly He was certainly somewhat annoyed at having mistaken
his daughter for a criminal; moreover, he hated to be surprised, and upon this
occasion he had been surprised beyond any ordinary surprise; lastly, he was not
at all pleased that Nella should be observed in that strange predicament by a
'I will tell you,' said Nella. 'I had been reading rather late in my room - the night
was so close. I heard Big Ben strike half-past twelve, and then I put the book
down, and went out on to the balcony of my window for a little fresh air before
going to bed. I leaned over the balcony very quietly - you will remember that I am
on the third floor now - and looked down below into the little sunk yard which
separates the wall of the hotel from Salisbury Lane. I was rather astonished to
see a figure creeping across the yard. I knew there was no entrance into the
hotel from that yard, and besides, it is fifteen or twenty feet below the level of the
street. So I watched. The figure went close up against the wall, and disappeared
from my view. I leaned over the balcony as far as I dared, but I couldn't see him. I
could hear him, however.'
'What could you hear?' questioned Racksole sharply.
'It sounded like a sawing noise,' said Nella; 'and it went on for quite a long time -
nearly a quarter of an hour, I should think - a rasping sort of noise.'
'Why on earth didn't you come and warn me or someone else in the hotel?'
asked Racksole.
'Oh, I don't know, Dad,' she replied sweetly. 'I had got interested in it, and I
thought I would see it out myself. Well, as I was saying, Mr Babylon,'
she continued, addressing her remarks to Felix , with a dazzling smile, 'that noise
went on for quite a long time. At last it stopped, and the figure reappeared from
under the wall, crossed the yard, climbed up the opposite wall by some means or
other, and so over the railings into Salisbury Lane. I felt rather relieved then,
because I knew he hadn't actually broken into the hotel. He walked down
Salisbury Lane very slowly. A policeman was just coming up. "Goodnight,
officer," I heard him say to the policeman, and he asked him for a match. The
policeman supplied the match, and the other man lighted a cigarette, and
proceeded further down the lane. By cricking your neck from my window, Mr