The Grand Babylon Hotel

29. Theodore Is Called To The Rescue
AS Nella passed downstairs from the top storey with her father - the lifts had not
yet begun to work - she drew him into her own room, and closed the door.
'What's this all about?' he asked, somewhat mystified, and even alarmed by the
extreme seriousness of her face.
'Dad,' the girl began. 'you are very rich, aren't you? very, very rich?' She smiled
anxiously, timidly. He did not remember to have seen that expression on her face
before. He wanted to make a facetious reply, but checked himself.
'Yes,' he said, 'I am. You ought to know that by this time.'
'How soon could you realize a million pounds?'
'A million - what?' he cried. Even he was staggered by her calm reference to this
gigantic sum. 'What on earth are you driving at?'
'A million pounds, I said. That is to say, five million dollars. How soon could you
realize as much as that?'
'Oh!' he answered, 'in about a month, if I went about it neatly enough. I could
unload as much as that in a month without scaring Wall Street and other places.
But it would want some arrangement.'
'Useless!' she exclaimed. 'Couldn't you do it quicker, if you really had to?'
'If I really had to, I could fix it in a week, but it would make things lively, and I
should lose on the job.'
'Couldn't you,' she persisted, 'couldn't you go down this morning and raise a
million, somehow, if it was a matter of life and death?'
He hesitated. 'Look here, Nella,' he said, 'what is it you've got up your sleeve?'
'Just answer my question, Dad, and try not to think that I'm a stark, staring
'I rather expect I could get a million this morning, even in London. But it would
cost pretty dear. It might cost me fifty thousand pounds, and there would be the
dickens of an upset in New York - a sort of grand universal slump in my holdings.'
'Why should New York know anything about it?'
'Why should New York know anything about it!' he repeated. 'My girl, when
anyone borrows a million sovereigns the whole world knows about it. Do you
reckon that I can go up to the Governors of the Bank of England and say, "Look
here, lend Theodore Racksole a million for a few weeks, and he'll give you an
IOU and a covering note on stocks"?'
'But you could get it?' she asked again.
'If there's a million in London I guess I could handle it,' he replied.
'Well, Dad,' and she put her arms round his neck, 'you've just got to go out and
fix it. See? It's for me. I've never asked you for anything really big before. But I do
now. And I want it so badly.'
He stared at her. 'I award you the prize,' he said, at length. 'You deserve it for
colossal and immense coolness. Now you can tell me the true inward meaning of
all this rigmarole. What is it?'
'I want it for Prince Eugen,' she began, at first hesitatingly, with pauses.