en-es  3-THE GRAND BABYLON HÔTEL By Arnold Bennett Medium
Capítulo tres - A las tres de la mañana. El Sr.REGINALD DIMMOCK probó por sí mismo, a pesar de su extrema juventud, ser un hombre de mundo y de experiencia y un conversador experimentado.
La conversación entre él y Nella Racksole nunca parecía decaer. Hablaron sobre San Petersburgo, el hielo en el Neva, el tenor de la ópera que había sido exiliado en Siberia, la calidad del té ruso, la dulzura del champán ruso y otros aspectos de la existencia de los moscovitas. Agotada Rusia, Nella resumió ligeramente sus propias acciones desde que se había encontrado con el joven en la capital del zar, y este recital llevó el tema a Londres, donde permaneció hasta que se comió el último trozo de bistec. Theodore Racksole notó que el señor Dimmock proporcionaba muy escasa información sobre sus propios movimientos, tanto pasados ​​como futuros. Consideró al joven como un típico parásito de las cortes, y se preguntó cómo había obtenido su puesto de compañero del Príncipe Aribert de Posen, y quién podría ser el Príncipe Aribert de Posen. El millonario pensó que una vez había oído hablar de Posen, pero no estaba seguro; más bien creía que era uno de esos estados alemanes pequeños y anodinos, de los cuales cinco de cada seis sujetos son funcionarios del palacio y el resto carboneros o posaderos. Hasta que la comida estuvo a punto de terminar, Racksole dijo poco... tal vez sus pensamientos estaban demasiado ocupados con el guiño de Jules al Sr. Dimmock, pero cuando el café siguió a los helados, decidió que podría ser de igual manera, en interés del hotel, descubrir algo acerca del amigo de su hija. Nunca cuestionó ni por un instante el derecho de ella a poseer a sus propios amigos; siempre la había dejado en la libertad más asombrosa, confiando en su buen sentido heredado para mantenerla fuera de las jugarretas; pero, aparte del guiño, se sintió sorprendido por la actitud de Nella hacia el Sr. Dimmock, una actitud en la que se mezclaba un desdén amable con un evidente deseo de tranquilizar y agradar.

'Nella me dice, Sr. Dimmock, que usted tiene un puesto confidencial con el príncipe Aribert de Posen', dijo Racksole. 'Perdonará la ignorancia de un estadounidense, pero ¿el Príncipe Aribert es un príncipe que reina?... lo que creo que llaman en Europa, un príncipe reinante?'. 'Su Alteza no es un príncipe reinante, ni es probable que lo sea', respondió Dimmock. 'El Gran Trono Ducal de Posen está ocupado por el sobrino de su alteza, el Gran Duque Eugen'.'¿El sobrino?' dijo Nella, sorprendida.

''¿Por qué no, querida dama?''. ''Pero seguro que el Principe Aribert es muy joven''.''El principe, por unos de esos caprichos del azar que ocurren algunas veces en la historia de las familias, tiene exactamente la misma edad que el Gran Duque.
El padre del difunto gran duque se casó dos veces. De ahí la juventud del tío''. ''¡Que hermoso ser el tío de alguien de su misma edad!''. Pero supongo que no es divertido para el Príncipe Aribert. ¿Supongo que tiene que ser muy respetuoso y obediente, y todo eso, a su sobrino?'. 'El Gran Duque y mi sereno señor son como hermanos. Por el momento, claro, el Príncipe Aribert es nominalmente el heredero del trono, pero sin duda sabe que el Gran Duque va a casarse pronto con una pariente cercana del Emperador, y si hay una familia...' el Sr. Dimmock se detuvo y se encogió de hombros. 'El Gran Duque', siguió, sin finalizar su última frase, 'preferiría que el Príncipe Aribert fuera su sucesor. Realmente, no quiere casarse. Entre nosotros, estrictamente entre nosotros, él considera el matrimonio como un aburrimiento. Pero, por supuesto, siendo un Gran Duque alemán, tiene que casarse. Se lo debe a su país, a Posen''. ''¿Cómo de grande es Posen?'', preguntó Racksole francamente.

'Padre', se interpuso Nella riendo, 'no debes hacer esas preguntas inapropiadas. Deberías haber adivinado que no es protocolar preguntar sobre el tamaño de un ducado alemán'. 'Estoy seguro', dijo Dimmock, con una sonrisa educada, 'que al Gran Duque le causa tanta gracia como a cualquiera el tamaño de su territorio. Olvidé la superficie exacta, pero recuerdo que una vez que el príncipe Aribert y yo la atravesamos caminando y regresamos en un solo día'. '¿Entonces el Gran Duque no puede viajar muy lejos dentro de sus propios dominios?
¿Puedes decir que el sol se pone en su imperio?'. 'Así es', dijo Dimmock.

'A menos que el tiempo esté nublado', añadió Nella. '¿El Gran Duque está siempre satisfecho con quedarse en casa?'. 'Por el contrario, es un gran viajero, mucho más que el príncipe Aribert.

Le puedo decir, lo que nadie sabe en este momento, fuera de este hotel, que su Alteza Real, el Gran Duque, con una pequeña suite, estará aquí mañana'. '¿En Londres?', preguntó Nella.

'Sí'. '¿En este hotel?'. 'Sí'. '¡Oh! ¡Qué agradable!'. ' Es por eso que su humilde servidor está aquí esta noche, una especie de guardia avanzada. ' Pero entendí', dijo Racksole, 'que usted estaba... eh... adjunto al príncipe Aribert, el tío. .' 'Lo estoy. El príncipe Aribert también estará aquí. El Gran Duque y el Príncipe tienen negocios acerca de importantes inversiones relacionadas con el acuerdo matrimonial del Gran Duque... En los más altos círculos, usted entiende'. 'Para una persona tan reservada', pensó Racksole, 'eres bastante comunicativo'. Luego dijo en voz alta: '¿Saldremos a la terraza?'. Cuando cruzaban el comedor, Jules detuvo al señor Dimmock y le entregó una carta. 'Acaba de llegar, señor, por mensajero', dijo Jules.

Nella se quedó atrás por un segundo con su padre. 'Déjame sola un poco tiempo con este chico,...eres un buen padre', murmuró en su oído.

'Soy solo una clave, un don nadie obediente', replicó Racksole, pellizcando su brazo furtivamente. 'Trátame como eso. Úsame como quieras. Voy a cuidar de mi hotel'. Y poco después desapareció.

Nella y Dimmock se sentaron juntos en la terraza, bebiendo bebidas con hielo.
Hacían una pareja atrativa, disimulada entre las plantas que florecían por orden de un florista de Chelsea. La gente que pasaba remarcó en privado que por lo que parecía, había un aire de romance en esta conversación. Quizás lo hubo, pero hubiera sido necesario un conocimiento más íntimo del carácter de Nella Racksole para predecir qué forma tomaría el romance.

Jules mismo sirvió las bebidas, y a las diez llegó con otra nota Ofreciendo mil perdones, Reginald Dimmock, después de mirar la nota, se disculpó bajo pretexto de un asunto urgente para su Alteza Serenísima, tío del Gran Duque de Posen. Preguntó si prodría llamar al Sr. Racksole o acompañar a la Srta. Racksole hacia su padre. Pero la Srta. Racksole dijo alegremente que no necesitaba una escolta y que se iba a acostar. Añadió que su padre y ella siempre intentaban ser independientes uno del otro.

Justo entonces Theodore Racksole había encontrado una vez más su camino a la habitación privada del Sr. Babylon. Antes de llegar allí, sin embargo, había descubierto que de alguna misteriosa forma, la noticia del cambio de propietario se había abierto paso hasta los estratos más bajos del cosmos del hotel. Los corredores zumbaban con ella, e incluso se veía a la servidumbre discutiendo el tema como si les importara.

'Tenga un puro, Sr. Racksole', dijo el cortés Sr. Babylon, 'y un trago del más viejo coñac de toda Europa'. En pocos minutos los dos estaban charlando con entusiasmo, rápidamente. Felix Babylon estaba asombrado ante la capacidad de Racksole para absorber los detalles de la administración del hotel. Y en cuanto a Racksole, se dio cuenta enseguida de que Felix Babylon tenía que ser un príncipe de los gerentes de hotel. Nunca se le había ocurrido a Racksole antes que gestionar un hotel, incluso un gran hotel, pudiera ser un asunto especialmente interesante, o que pudiera hacer exigencias excesivas al cerebro del gerente; pero se dio cuenta de que había subestimado las posibilidades de un hotel. El negocio del Grand Babylon era enorme. A Racksole, con toda su genialidad para la organización, le llevó exactamente media hora dominar los detallas del trabajo de lavandería del hotel.
Y el trabajo de lavandería era solo un sector de actividad entre muchos, y uno muy grande. El mecanismo de verificación de los suministros, y del establecimiento de una relación media entre las cosas crudas recibidas en la cocina y el número de comidas servidas en la sala comedor y en las habitaciones privadas, era muy complicado y delicado. Cuando Racksole lo había entendido, inmediatamente sugirió algunos mejoramientos, y esto condujo a una larga discusión teórica, y la discusión condujo a digresiones y es cuando Felix Babylon, en un momento de distracción, bostezó.

Racksole miró al reloj dorado en la alta repisa.

'¡Santo Dios!', dijo. 'Son las tres. Sr. Babylon, acepte mis disculpas por retenerlo hasta una hora tan absurda'. 'Hace muchos años que no pasaba una velada tan agradable. Usted me ha dejado montar mi pasatiempo para alegrar mi corazón. Soy yo quien debería disculparse'. Racksole se levantó.

'Me gustaría preguntarle una cuestión', dijo Babylon. '¿Ha tenido algo que ver con hoteles antes?'. 'Nunca', dijo Racksole.

' Entonces se ha equivocado de vocación. Podría haber sido el más grande de todos los gerentes de hotel. Habría sido más grande que yo, y soy sin igual, aunque solo administro un hotel, y algunos administran una docena. Sr. Racksole, ¿por qué nunca ha dirigido un hotel?'. 'El cielo lo sabe', se rió, 'pero usted me adula, señor Babylon'. '¿Yo? ¿Adular? Usted no me conoce. No halago a nadie, excepto, quizás, de vez en cuando, a un huésped excepcionalmente distinguido. En cuyo caso doy instrucciones adecuadas sobre la factura'. 'Hablando de huéspedes distinguidos, me dicen que un par de príncipes alemanes vendrán mañana'. 'Así es'. '¿Alguien hace algo? ¿Uno los recibe formalmente... haciendo una reverencia en el vestíbulo de entrada o algo por el estilo?' . 'No necesariamente. No, a menos que uno lo desee. El moderno propietario de un hotel no es como un posadero de la Edad Media, e incluso los príncipes no esperan verlo a menos que algo salga mal. De hecho, aunque el Gran Duque de Posen y el príncipe Aribert me han honrado antes quedándose aquí, nunca los he visto.
Encontrará que se han hecho todos los arreglos'. Hablaron un poco más y luego Racksole se despidió. 'Permítame acompañarlo a su habitación. Los ascensores estarán cerrados y el lugar estará desierto.

En cuanto a mí, duermo aquí', y el Sr. Babylon señaló una puerta interna.

'No, gracias', dijo Racksole, 'déjeme explorar mi propio hotel sin compañía.
Creo que puedo encontrar mi habitación'. Cuando se adentró en los pasillos, Racksole no estaba tan seguro de que podría encontrar su propia habitación. EL número era el 107, pero había olvidado si estaba en el primer o en el segundo piso.

Yendo en ascensor uno no es consciente de los pisos. Pasó por varias puertas de ascensor, pero no vio señales de escaleras; las escaleras de los hoteles se han pasado de moda en un hotel respetable y, aunque los arquitectos de hoteles continúan construyendo escaleras por el amor a los viejos tiempos, estas están escondidas en rincones remotos donde no es probable que su presencia ofenda la vista del público consentido y cosmopolita. El hotel parecía vasto, misterioso, desierto. Una lámpara eléctrica brillaba de vez en cuando con largos intervalos. El fino calzado de los pies de Racksole no hacía ningún ruido sobre las alfombras densas y caminaba confortablemente de una parte a la otra, divertido y bastante sorprendido por las sensaciones extrañas de noche y misterio que se habían apoderado de él súbitamente. Imaginó que podía oír miles de ronquidos bajando tranquilamente de los reinos superiores. Por fin encontró una escalera, muy oscura y estrecha y rápidamente, estuvo en el primer piso. Descubrió pronto que los números de las habitaciones en este piso no iban más allá de setenta. Encontró otra escalera y subió al segundo piso. Viendo la decoración de las paredes, reconoció este piso como el suyo y, como estaba andando a lo largo del largo pasillo, dio un meditativo silbido de satisfacción. Pensó que había oído un paso en el pasillo transverso e instintivamente se escondió en un cubículo donde había un gabinete de servicio y una silla. Escuchó un paso. Espiando con cuidado, vio un trozo de cinta blanca que no había percibido antes, y que había sido atado en la manija de la puerta de una de las habitaciones. Después vino un hombre a la vuelta de la esquina del pasillo transverso, y Racksole se echó atrás. Era Jules... Jules con las manos en los bolsillos y un sombrero chambergo sobre los ojos, pero en otros aspectos, vestido como de costumbre.

Racksole, en ese instante, recordó vívidamente lo que Félix Babylon le había dicho en su primera entrevista. Deseó haber traído su revólver. No sabía por qué sentiría la conveniencia de un revólver en un hotel de Londres de la más límpida e irreprochable fama, pero sí lo deseable de tal instrumento de ataque y defensa. Decidió en privado que, si Jules pasaba su recoveco, lo agarraria por la garganta y, de ese modo, le haría algunas preguntas sencillas a este camarero tan sospechoso. Pero Jules se había detenido. El millonario hizo otra discreta observación. Jules, con infinita delicadeza, estaba girando el pomo de la puerta a la que estaba atada la cinta blanca. La puerta cedió lentamente y Jules desapareció dentro de la habitación. Tras un breve intervalo, reapareció Jules, el merodeador nocturno, cerró la puerta tan suavemente como la había abierto, quitó la cinta, volvió sobre sus pasos y desapareció por el pasillo transversal.

'Esto es curioso' dijo Racksole; '¡bastante curioso!'. Se le ocurrió mirar el número de la habitación, y se acercó a la puerta.

'¡Bueno, demonios!' murmuró, sorprendido.

El número era el 111, ¡la habitación de su hija! Trató abrirla, pero la puerta estaba cerrada. Corriendo hacia su propia habitación, número 107, tomó un par de pistolas ( del tipo hechas para millonarios) y siguió a Jules por el pasillo transverso. Al final de este pasillo había una ventana; la ventana estaba abierta; y Jules estaba mirando inocentemente por la ventana. Diez pasos silenciosos y Theodore Racksole estaba sobre él.

'Una palabra, amigo', dijo el millonario, agitando sin cuidado la pistola en el aire. Jules estaba sin duda sorprendido, pero con un admirable autocontrol recuperó sus faculdades en un segundo.

'¿Señor?' dijo Jules.

'Solo quiero que me informe de qué diablos estaba usted haciendo en la número 111 hace un momento'. 'Me pidieron que fuera allí', fue su tranquila respuesta.

'Usted es un mentiroso, y no uno muy inteligente. Esa es la habitación de mi hija.
Ahora... cuente todo, antes de que decida si dispararle o arrojarlo a la calle'. 'Discúlpeme, señor, la número 111 está ocupada por un caballero'. 'Le advierto que contradecirme es un serio error de juicio, amigo mío. No lo haga de nuevo. Vamos a ir juntos a la habitación y usted deberá demostrar que el ocupante es un caballero, y no mi hija'. 'Imposible, señor', dijo Jules.

'Eso es imposible', dijo Racksole, y tomó a Jules por la manga. El millonario sabía con certeza que Nella ocupaba la número 111, porque había examinado la habitación con ella, y él mismo había visto que sus maletas y su sirvienta y ella misma habían llegado bien allí. 'Ahora abra la puerta', susurró Racksole, cuando llegaron a la número 111.

'Tengo que llamar'. 'Eso es precisamente lo que no tiene que hacer. Ábrala. Sin duda tiene su llave maestra'. Confrontado con el revolver, Jules obedeció de inmediato, aunque con un gesto despectivo, como si no fuera responsable por esta atrocidad contra el decoro de la vida del hotel. Racksole entró. La habitación estaba intensamente iluminada.

'Un visitante, que insiste en verle, señor', dijo Jules, y huyó.

El señor Reginald Dimmock, todavía en traje de etiqueta, y fumando un cigarrillo, se levantó apresuradamente de una mesa.

'Hola, estimado Sr. Racksole, este es un imprevisto...eh...placer'.'¿Dónde está mi hija? Esta es su habitación'. '¿Entendí lo que dijo, Sr. Racksole?'. 'Me atrevo a observar que esta es la habitación de la Srta Racksole'. 'Querido señor', contestó Dimmock, 'tiene que estar loco para soñar tal cosa.

Solo mi respeto por su hija me detiene de expulsarlo violentamente'. Una pequeña mancha en medio del puente de la nariz del millonario se volvió blanca de repente.

'Con su permiso', dijo con una voz calma y baja, 'examinaré el vestidor y el baño'. 'Solo escúcheme por un momento', Dimmock pidió con tono más suave.

'Le escucharé más tarde, mi joven amigo', dijo Racksole y procedió a buscar en el baño y el vestidor, sin ningún resultado. ''A menos que mi actitud sea malinterpretada, Sr. Dimmock, puedo decirle que tengo una total confianza en mi hija, quien es muy capaz de cuidarse como cualquier mujer que he encontrado, pero, desde que usted entró en el hotel, hubo dos o tres incidentes bastante misteriosos. Es todo'. Sintiendo una corriente de aire en el hombro, Racksole giró hacia la ventana. 'Por ejemplo', añadió, 'puedo ver que esta ventana está rota, muy rota, y desde el exterior.

Ahora, ¿cómo pudo ocurir?'.'Si usted tiene la amabilidad de escuchar la razón, Sr.Racksole, 'dijo Dimmock de su manera más diplomática, 'voy a intentar explicarle las cosas Consideré ofensiva su primera pregunta cuando entró en mi habitación, pero ahora veo que tenía alguna justificación'. Sonrió cortésmente. 'Pasaba por este corredor hacia las once de la noche, cuando encontré a la señorita Racksole en un inconveniente con los empleados del hotel. La señorita Racksole se retiraba a descansar en esta habitación cuando una gran piedra, que debe haber sido arrojada desde el terraplén, rompió la ventana, como puede ver. Aparte de la incomodidad de la ventana rota, no quiso quedarse en la habitación. Argumentó que donde una piedra había venido otra podría seguir. Por eso insistió en que le cambiaran la habitación. Los empleados decían que no había otra habitación disponible con un vestidor y un baño adjuntos, y su hija insistió en estos asuntos. Inmediatamente me ofrecí a intercambiar las habitaciones con ella. Ella me hizo el honor de aceptar mi oferta. Nuestras respectivas pertenencias fueron movidas... y eso es todo. La Srta.Racksole en este momento está durmiendo, creo, en la No. 124’. Theodore Racksole miró al joven por unos segundos en silencio.

Hubo un golpe leve en la puerta.

'Entre', dijo Racksole en voz alta.

Alguien empujó la puerta para abrirla, pero permaneció en el tapete. Era la doncella de Nella, en bata.

'Saludos de la Srta. Racksole y mil perdones, pero se dejó un libro suyo en la repisa de la chimenea de esta habitación. No puede dormir y desea leer'. 'Sr. Dimmock, le ofrezco mis disculpas, mis disculpas formales', dijo Racksole, cuando la muchacha se fue con el libro. 'Buenas noches'. 'Por favor no lo mencione' dijo Dimmock suavemente...y se inclinó.
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Conversation between him and Nella Racksole seemed never to flag.
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The late Grand Duke’s father was twice married.
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But I suppose it is no fun for Prince Aribert.
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He really doesn’t want to marry.
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Between ourselves, strictly between ourselves, he regards marriage as rather a bore.
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But, of course, being a German Grand Duke, he is bound to marry.
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He owes it to his country, to Posen.’ ‘How large is Posen?’ asked Racksole bluntly.
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‘Father,’ Nella interposed laughing, ‘you shouldn’t ask such inconvenient questions.
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You may say that the sun does set on his empire?’ ‘It does,’ said Dimmock.
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‘Unless the weather is cloudy,’ Nella put in.
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‘Yes.’ ‘In this hotel?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Oh!
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Prince Aribert will also be here.
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‘Just come, sir, by messenger,’ said Jules.
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Nella dropped behind for a second with her father.
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‘Treat me as such.
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Use me as you like.
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I will go and look after my hotel’ And soon afterwards he disappeared.
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Nella and Mr Dimmock sat together on the terrace, sipping iced drinks.
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Jules himself served the liquids, and at ten o’clock he brought another note.
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He asked if he might fetch Mr Racksole, or escort Miss Racksole to her father.
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She added that her father and herself always endeavoured to be independent of each other.
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Just then Theodore Racksole had found his way once more into Mr Babylon’s private room.
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And as for Racksole he soon realized that Felix Babylon must be a prince of hotel managers.
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The business of the Grand Babylon was enormous.
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Racksole looked at the gilt clock on the high mantelpiece.
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‘Great Scott!’ he said.
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‘It’s three o’clock.
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You have let me ride my hobby to my heart’s content.
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It is I who should apologize.’ Racksole rose.
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‘I should like to ask you one question,’ said Babylon.
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‘Then you have missed your vocation.
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You could have been the greatest of all hotel-managers.
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Flatter?
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You do not know me.
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Not unless one wishes.
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‘Let me see you to your room.
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The lifts will be closed and the place will be deserted.
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As for myself, I sleep here,’ and Mr Babylon pointed to an inner door.
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‘No, thanks,’ said Racksole; ‘let me explore my own hotel unaccompanied.
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The number was 107, but he had forgotten whether it was on the first or second floor.
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Travelling in a lift, one is unconscious of floors.
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The hotel seemed vast, uncanny, deserted.
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An electric light glowed here and there at long intervals.
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He fancied he could hear a thousand snores peacefully descending from the upper realms.
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He soon discovered that the numbers of the rooms on this floor did not get beyond seventy.
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He encountered another staircase and ascended to the second floor.
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He did hear a step.
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Then a man came round the corner of the transverse corridor, and Racksole drew back.
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He wished he had brought his revolver.
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But Jules had stopped.
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The millionaire made another cautious observation.
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The door slowly yielded and Jules disappeared within the room.
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‘Well, I’m d--d!’ he murmured wonderingly.
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unit 117
The number was 111, his daughter’s room!
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unit 118
He tried to open it, but the door was locked.
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unit 119
Rushing to his own room, No.
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unit 122
Ten silent strides, and Theodore Racksole was upon him.
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unit 123
‘One word, my friend,’ the millionaire began, carelessly waving the revolver in the air.
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unit 125
‘Sir?’ said Jules.
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unit 126
‘I just want to be informed, what the deuce you were doing in No.
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unit 127
111 a moment ago.’ ‘I had been requested to go there,’ was the calm response.
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unit 128
‘You are a liar, and not a very clever one.
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unit 129
That is my daughter’s room.
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unit 132
Don’t do it again.
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unit 134
‘Scarcely that,’ said Racksole, and he took Jules by the sleeve.
1 Translations, 2 Upvotes, Last Activity 3 days, 11 hours ago
unit 135
The millionaire knew for a certainty that Nella occupied No.
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unit 137
‘Now open the door,’ whispered Racksole, when they reached No.111.
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unit 138
‘I must knock.’ ‘That is just what you mustn’t do.
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unit 139
Open it.
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unit 141
Racksole entered.
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unit 142
The room was brilliantly lighted.
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unit 143
‘A visitor, who insists on seeing you, sir,’ said Jules, and fled.
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unit 144
Mr Reginald Dimmock, still in evening dress, and smoking a cigarette, rose hurriedly from a table.
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‘Hello, my dear Mr Racksole, this is an unexpected--ah--pleasure.’ ‘Where is my daughter?
2 Translations, 1 Upvotes, Last Activity 3 days, 12 hours ago
unit 151
That is all.’ Feeling a draught of air on his shoulder, Racksole turned to the window.
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unit 157
Apart from the discomfort of the broken window, she did not care to remain in the room.
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unit 158
She argued that where one stone had come another might follow.
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unit 159
She therefore insisted on her room being changed.
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unit 161
I at once offered to exchange apartments with her.
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unit 162
She did me the honour to accept my offer.
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unit 163
Our respective belongings were moved--and that is all.
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unit 164
Miss Racksole is at this moment, I trust, asleep in No.
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unit 165
124.’ Theodore Racksole looked at the young man for a few seconds in silence.
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unit 166
There was a faint knock at the door.
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unit 167
‘Come in,’ said Racksole loudly.
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unit 168
Someone pushed open the door, but remained standing on the mat.
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unit 169
It was Nella’s maid, in a dressing-gown.
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unit 172
‘Good night.’ ‘Pray don’t mention it,’ said Dimmock suavely--and bowed him out.
2 Translations, 3 Upvotes, Last Activity 2 days, 15 hours ago
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by soybeba 1 week, 3 days ago

Texto extraído de The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Grand Babylon Hotel, by Arnold Bennett http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2813/2813-0.txt

by soybeba 1 week, 3 days ago

Chapter Three AT THREE A.M.

MR REGINALD DIMMOCK proved himself, despite his extreme youth, to be a man of the world and of experiences, and a practised talker.
Conversation between him and Nella Racksole seemed never to flag. They chattered about St Petersburg, and the ice on the Neva, and the tenor at the opera who had been exiled to Siberia, and the quality of Russian tea, and the sweetness of Russian champagne, and various other aspects of Muscovite existence. Russia exhausted, Nella lightly outlined her own doings since she had met the young man in the Tsar’s capital, and this recital brought the topic round to London, where it stayed till the final piece of steak was eaten. Theodore Racksole noticed that Mr Dimmock gave very meagre information about his own movements, either past or future. He regarded the youth as a typical hanger-on of Courts, and wondered how he had obtained his post of companion to Prince Aribert of Posen, and who Prince Aribert of Posen might be. The millionaire thought he had once heard of Posen, but he wasn’t sure; he rather fancied it was one of those small nondescript German States of which five-sixths of the subjects are Palace officials, and the rest charcoal-burners or innkeepers. Until the meal was nearly over, Racksole said little--perhaps his thoughts were too busy with Jules’ wink to Mr Dimmock, but when ices had been followed by coffee, he decided that it might be as well, in the interests of the hotel, to discover something about his daughter’s friend. He never for an instant questioned her right to possess her own friends; he had always left her in the most amazing liberty, relying on her inherited good sense to keep her out of mischief; but, quite apart from the wink, he was struck by Nella’s attitude towards Mr Dimmock, an attitude in which an amiable scorn was blended with an evident desire to propitiate and please.

‘Nella tells me, Mr Dimmock, that you hold a confidential position with Prince Aribert of Posen,’ said Racksole. ‘You will pardon an American’s ignorance, but is Prince Aribert a reigning Prince--what, I believe, you call in Europe, a Prince Regnant?’

‘His Highness is not a reigning Prince, nor ever likely to be,’ answered Dimmock. ‘The Grand Ducal Throne of Posen is occupied by his Highness’s nephew, the Grand Duke Eugen.’

‘Nephew?’ cried Nella with astonishment.

‘Why not, dear lady?’

‘But Prince Aribert is surely very young?’

‘The Prince, by one of those vagaries of chance which occur sometimes in the history of families, is precisely the same age as the Grand Duke.
The late Grand Duke’s father was twice married. Hence this youthfulness on the part of an uncle.’

‘How delicious to be the uncle of someone as old as yourself! But I suppose it is no fun for Prince Aribert. I suppose he has to be frightfully respectful and obedient, and all that, to his nephew?’

‘The Grand Duke and my Serene master are like brothers. At present, of course, Prince Aribert is nominally heir to the throne, but as no doubt you are aware, the Grand Duke will shortly marry a near relative of the Emperor’s, and should there be a family--’ Mr Dimmock stopped and shrugged his straight shoulders. ‘The Grand Duke,’ he went on, without finishing the last sentence, ‘would much prefer Prince Aribert to be his successor. He really doesn’t want to marry. Between ourselves, strictly between ourselves, he regards marriage as rather a bore. But, of course, being a German Grand Duke, he is bound to marry. He owes it to his country, to Posen.’

‘How large is Posen?’ asked Racksole bluntly.

‘Father,’ Nella interposed laughing, ‘you shouldn’t ask such inconvenient questions. You ought to have guessed that it isn’t etiquette to inquire about the size of a German Dukedom.’

‘I am sure,’ said Dimmock, with a polite smile, ‘that the Grand Duke is as much amused as anyone at the size of his territory. I forget the exact acreage, but I remember that once Prince Aribert and myself walked across it and back again in a single day.’

‘Then the Grand Duke cannot travel very far within his own dominions?
You may say that the sun does set on his empire?’

‘It does,’ said Dimmock.

‘Unless the weather is cloudy,’ Nella put in. ‘Is the Grand Duke content always to stay at home?’

‘On the contrary, he is a great traveller, much more so than Prince Aribert.

I may tell you, what no one knows at present, outside this hotel, that his Royal Highness the Grand Duke, with a small suite, will be here to-morrow.’

‘In London?’ asked Nella.

‘Yes.’

‘In this hotel?’

‘Yes.’

‘Oh! How lovely!’

‘That is why your humble servant is here to-night--a sort of advance guard.’

‘But I understood,’ Racksole said, ‘that you were--er--attached to Prince Aribert, the uncle.’

‘I am. Prince Aribert will also be here. The Grand Duke and the Prince have business about important investments connected with the Grand Duke’s marriage settlement.... In the highest quarters, you understand.’

‘For so discreet a person,’ thought Racksole, ‘you are fairly communicative.’ Then he said aloud: ‘Shall we go out on the terrace?’

As they crossed the dining-room Jules stopped Mr Dimmock and handed him a letter. ‘Just come, sir, by messenger,’ said Jules.

Nella dropped behind for a second with her father. ‘Leave me alone with this boy a little--there’s a dear parent,’ she whispered in his ear.

‘I am a mere cypher, an obedient nobody,’ Racksole replied, pinching her arm surreptitiously. ‘Treat me as such. Use me as you like. I will go and look after my hotel’ And soon afterwards he disappeared.

Nella and Mr Dimmock sat together on the terrace, sipping iced drinks.
They made a handsome couple, bowered amid plants which blossomed at the
command of a Chelsea wholesale florist. People who passed by remarked privately that from the look of things there was the beginning of a romance in that conversation. Perhaps there was, but a more intimate acquaintance with the character of Nella Racksole would have been necessary in order to predict what precise form that romance would take.

Jules himself served the liquids, and at ten o’clock he brought another note. Entreating a thousand pardons, Reginald Dimmock, after he had glanced at the note, excused himself on the plea of urgent business for his Serene master, uncle of the Grand Duke of Posen. He asked if he might fetch Mr Racksole, or escort Miss Racksole to her father. But Miss Racksole said gaily that she felt no need of an escort, and should go to bed. She added that her father and herself always endeavoured to be independent of each other.

Just then Theodore Racksole had found his way once more into Mr Babylon’s private room. Before arriving there, however, he had discovered that in some mysterious manner the news of the change of proprietorship had worked its way down to the lowest strata of the hotel’s cosmos. The corridors hummed with it, and even under-servants were to be seen discussing the thing, just as though it mattered to them.

‘Have a cigar, Mr Racksole,’ said the urbane Mr Babylon, ‘and a mouthful of the oldest cognac in all Europe.’

In a few minutes these two were talking eagerly, rapidly. Felix Babylon was astonished at Racksole’s capacity for absorbing the details of hotel management. And as for Racksole he soon realized that Felix Babylon must be a prince of hotel managers. It had never occurred to Racksole before that to manage an hotel, even a large hotel, could be a specially interesting affair, or that it could make any excessive demands upon the brains of the manager; but he came to see that he had underrated the possibilities of an hotel. The business of the Grand Babylon was enormous. It took Racksole, with all his genius for organization, exactly half an hour to master the details of the hotel laundry-work.
And the laundry-work was but one branch of activity amid scores, and not a very large one at that. The machinery of checking supplies, and of establishing a mean ratio between the raw stuff received in the kitchen and the number of meals served in the salle à manger and the private rooms, was very complicated and delicate. When Racksole had grasped it, he at once suggested some improvements, and this led to a long theoretical discussion, and the discussion led to digressions, and then Felix Babylon, in a moment of absent-mindedness, yawned.

Racksole looked at the gilt clock on the high mantelpiece.

‘Great Scott!’ he said. ‘It’s three o’clock. Mr Babylon, accept my apologies for having kept you up to such an absurd hour.’

‘I have not spent so pleasant an evening for many years. You have let me ride my hobby to my heart’s content. It is I who should apologize.’

Racksole rose.

‘I should like to ask you one question,’ said Babylon. ‘Have you ever had anything to do with hotels before?’

‘Never,’ said Racksole.

‘Then you have missed your vocation. You could have been the greatest of all hotel-managers. You would have been greater than me, and I am unequalled, though I keep only one hotel, and some men have half a dozen. Mr Racksole, why have you never run an hotel?’

‘Heaven knows,’ he laughed, ‘but you flatter me, Mr Babylon.’

‘I? Flatter? You do not know me. I flatter no one, except, perhaps, now and then an exceptionally distinguished guest. In which case I give suitable instructions as to the bill.’

‘Speaking of distinguished guests, I am told that a couple of German princes are coming here to-morrow.’

‘That is so.’

‘Does one do anything? Does one receive them formally--stand bowing in the entrance-hall, or anything of that sort?’

‘Not necessarily. Not unless one wishes. The modern hotel proprietor is not like an innkeeper of the Middle Ages, and even princes do not expect to see him unless something should happen to go wrong. As a matter of fact, though the Grand Duke of Posen and Prince Aribert have both honoured me by staying here before, I have never even set eyes on them.
You will find all arrangements have been made.’

They talked a little longer, and then Racksole said good night. ‘Let me see you to your room. The lifts will be closed and the place will be deserted.

As for myself, I sleep here,’ and Mr Babylon pointed to an inner door.

‘No, thanks,’ said Racksole; ‘let me explore my own hotel unaccompanied.
I believe I can discover my room.’ When he got fairly into the passages, Racksole was not so sure that he could discover his own room. The number was 107, but he had forgotten whether it was on the first or second floor.

Travelling in a lift, one is unconscious of floors. He passed several lift-doorways, but he could see no glint of a staircase; in all self-respecting hotels staircases have gone out of fashion, and though hotel architects still continue, for old sakes’ sake, to build staircases, they are tucked away in remote corners where their presence is not likely to offend the eye of a spoiled and cosmopolitan public. The hotel seemed vast, uncanny, deserted. An electric light glowed here and there at long intervals. On the thick carpets, Racksole’s thinly-shod feet made no sound, and he wandered at ease to and fro, rather amused, rather struck by the peculiar senses of night and mystery which had suddenly come over him. He fancied he could hear a thousand snores peacefully descending from the upper realms. At length he found a staircase, a very dark and narrow one, and presently he was on the first floor. He soon discovered that the numbers of the rooms on this floor did not get beyond seventy. He encountered another staircase and ascended to the second floor. By the decoration of the walls he recognized this floor as his proper home, and as he strolled through the long corridor he whistled a low, meditative whistle of satisfaction. He thought he heard a step in the transverse corridor, and instinctively he obliterated himself in a recess which held a service-cabinet and a chair. He did hear a step. Peeping cautiously out, he perceived, what he had not perceived previously, that a piece of white ribbon had been tied round the handle of the door of one of the bedrooms. Then a man came round the corner of the transverse corridor, and Racksole drew back. It was Jules--Jules with his hands in his pockets and a slouch hat over his eyes, but in other respects attired as usual.

Racksole, at that instant, remembered with a special vividness what Felix Babylon had said to him at their first interview. He wished he had brought his revolver. He didn’t know why he should feel the desirability of a revolver in a London hotel of the most unimpeachable fair fame, but he did feel the desirability of such an instrument of attack and defence. He privately decided that if Jules went past his recess he would take him by the throat and in that attitude put a few plain questions to this highly dubious waiter. But Jules had stopped. The millionaire made another cautious observation. Jules, with infinite
gentleness, was turning the handle of the door to which the white ribbon was attached. The door slowly yielded and Jules disappeared within the room. After a brief interval, the night-prowling Jules reappeared, closed the door as softly as he had opened it, removed the ribbon, returned upon his steps, and vanished down the transverse corridor.

‘This is quaint,’ said Racksole; ‘quaint to a degree!’

It occurred to him to look at the number of the room, and he stole towards it.

‘Well, I’m d--d!’ he murmured wonderingly.

The number was 111, his daughter’s room! He tried to open it, but the door was locked. Rushing to his own room, No. 107, he seized one of a pair of revolvers (the kind that are made for millionaires) and followed after Jules down the transverse corridor. At the end of this corridor was a window; the window was open; and Jules was innocently gazing out of the window. Ten silent strides, and Theodore Racksole was upon him.

‘One word, my friend,’ the millionaire began, carelessly waving the revolver in the air. Jules was indubitably startled, but by an admirable exercise of self-control he recovered possession of his faculties in a second.

‘Sir?’ said Jules.

‘I just want to be informed, what the deuce you were doing in No. 111 a moment ago.’

‘I had been requested to go there,’ was the calm response.

‘You are a liar, and not a very clever one. That is my daughter’s room.
Now--out with it, before I decide whether to shoot you or throw you into the street.’

‘Excuse me, sir, No. 111 is occupied by a gentleman.’

‘I advise you that it is a serious error of judgement to contradict me, my friend. Don’t do it again. We will go to the room together, and you shall prove that the occupant is a gentleman, and not my daughter.’

‘Impossible, sir,’ said Jules.

‘Scarcely that,’ said Racksole, and he took Jules by the sleeve. The millionaire knew for a certainty that Nella occupied No. 111, for he had examined the room with her, and himself seen that her trunks and her maid and herself had arrived there in safety. ‘Now open the door,’ whispered Racksole, when they reached No.111.

‘I must knock.’

‘That is just what you mustn’t do. Open it. No doubt you have your pass-key.’

Confronted by the revolver, Jules readily obeyed, yet with a deprecatory gesture, as though he would not be responsible for this outrage against the decorum of hotel life. Racksole entered. The room was brilliantly lighted.

‘A visitor, who insists on seeing you, sir,’ said Jules, and fled.

Mr Reginald Dimmock, still in evening dress, and smoking a cigarette, rose hurriedly from a table.

‘Hello, my dear Mr Racksole, this is an unexpected--ah--pleasure.’

‘Where is my daughter? This is her room.’

‘Did I catch what you said, Mr Racksole?’

‘I venture to remark that this is Miss Racksole’s room.’

‘My good sir,’ answered Dimmock, ‘you must be mad to dream of such a thing.

Only my respect for your daughter prevents me from expelling you forcibly, for such an extraordinary suggestion.’

A small spot half-way down the bridge of the millionaire’s nose turned suddenly white.

‘With your permission,’ he said in a low calm voice, ‘I will examine the dressing-room and the bath-room.’

‘Just listen to me a moment,’ Dimmock urged, in a milder tone.

‘I’ll listen to you afterwards, my young friend,’ said Racksole, and he proceeded to search the bath-room, and the dressing-room, without any result whatever. ‘Lest my attitude might be open to misconstruction, Mr Dimmock, I may as well tell you that I have the most perfect confidence in my daughter, who is as well able to take care of herself as any woman I ever met, but since you entered it there have been one or two rather mysterious occurrences in this hotel. That is all.’ Feeling a draught of air on his shoulder, Racksole turned to the window. ‘For instance,’ he added, ‘I perceive that this window is broken, badly broken, and from the outside.

Now, how could that have occurred?’

‘If you will kindly hear reason, Mr Racksole,’ said Dimmock in his best diplomatic manner, ‘I will endeavour to explain things to you. I regarded your first question to me when you entered my room as being offensively put, but I now see that you had some justification.’ He smiled politely. ‘I was passing along this corridor about eleven o’clock, when I found Miss Racksole in a difficulty with the hotel servants. Miss Racksole was retiring to rest in this room when a large stone, which must have been thrown from the Embankment, broke the window, as you see. Apart from the discomfort of the broken window, she did not care to remain in the room. She argued that where one stone had come another might follow. She therefore insisted on her room being changed. The servants said that there was no other room available with a dressing-room and bath-room attached, and your daughter made a point of these matters. I at once offered to exchange apartments with her. She did me the honour to accept my offer. Our respective belongings were moved--and that is all. Miss Racksole is at this moment, I trust, asleep in No. 124.’

Theodore Racksole looked at the young man for a few seconds in silence.

There was a faint knock at the door.

‘Come in,’ said Racksole loudly.

Someone pushed open the door, but remained standing on the mat. It was Nella’s maid, in a dressing-gown.

‘Miss Racksole’s compliments, and a thousand excuses, but a book of hers was left on the mantelshelf in this room. She cannot sleep, and wishes to read.’

‘Mr Dimmock, I tender my apologies--my formal apologies,’ said Racksole, when the girl had gone away with the book. ‘Good night.’

‘Pray don’t mention it,’ said Dimmock suavely--and bowed him out.