The Grand Babylon Hotel

16. The Woman With The Red Hat
'THERE is one thing, Prince, that we have just got to settle straight off,'
said Theodore Racksole.
They were all three seated - Racksole, his daughter, and Prince Aribert - round a
dinner table in a private room at the Hôtel Wellington. Racksole had duly arrived
by the afternoon boat, and had been met on the quay by the other two. They had
dined early, and Racksole had heard the full story of the adventures by sea and
land of Nella and the Prince. As to his own adventure of the previous night he
said very little, merely explaining, with as little detail as possible, that Dimmock's
body had come to light.
'What is that?' asked the Prince, in answer to Racksole's remark.
'We have got to settle whether we shall tell the police at once all that has
occurred, or whether we shall proceed on our own responsibility. There can be
no doubt as to which course we ought to pursue. Every consideration of
prudence points to the advisability of taking the police into our confidence, and
leaving the matter entirely in their hands.'
'Oh, Papa!' Nella burst out in her pouting, impulsive way. 'You surely can't think
of such a thing. Why, the fun has only just begun.'
'Do you call last night fun?' questioned Racksole, gazing at her solemnly.
'Yes, I do,' she said promptly. 'Now.'
'Well, I don't,' was the millionaire's laconic response; but perhaps he was thinking
of his own situation in the lift.
'Do you not think we might investigate a little further,' said the Prince judiciously,
as he cracked a walnut, 'just a little further - and then, if we fail to accomplish
anything, there would still be ample opportunity to consult the police?'
'How do you suggest we should begin?' asked Racksole.
'Well, there is the house which Miss Racksole so intrepidly entered last evening' -
he gave her the homage of an admiring glance; 'you and I, Mr Racksole, might
examine that abode in detail.'
'Certainly. We might do something.'
'We might do too much.'
'For example?'
'We might shoot someone, or get ourselves mistaken for burglars. If we
outstepped the law, it would be no excuse for us that we had been acting in a
good cause.'
'True,' said the Prince. 'Nevertheless - ' He stopped.
'Nevertheless you have a distaste for bringing the police into the business.
You want the hunt all to yourself. You are on fire with the ardour of the chase. Is
not that it? Accept the advice of an older man, Prince, and sleep on this affair. I
have little fancy for nocturnal escapades two nights together. As for you, Nella,
off with you to bed. The Prince and I will have a yarn over such fluids as can be
obtained in this hole.'
'Papa,' she said, 'you are perfectly horrid to-night.'