The Grand Babylon Hotel

Author: Arnold Bennett

Chapter Fifteen End of the Yacht Adventure

WE must now return to Nella Racksole and Prince Aribert of Posen on board the yacht without a name. The Prince’s first business was to make Jules, otherwise Mr Tom Jackson, perfectly secure by means of several pieces of rope. Although Mr Jackson had been stunned into a complete unconsciousness, and there was a contused wound under his ear, no one could say how soon he might not come to himself and get very violent. So the Prince, having tied his arms and legs, made him fast to a stanchion.

’I hope he won’t die,’ said Nella. ’He looks very white.’

’The Mr Jacksons of this world,’ said Prince Aribert sententiously, ’never die till they are hung. By the way, I wonder how it is that no one has interfered with us. Perhaps they are discreetly afraid of my revolver - of your revolver, I mean.’

Both he and Nella glanced up at the imperturbable steersman, who kept the yacht’s head straight out to sea. By this time they were about a couple of miles from the Belgian shore.

Addressing him in French, the Prince ordered the sailor to put the yacht about, and make again for Ostend Harbour, but the fellow took no notice whatever of the summons. The Prince raised the revolver, with the idea of frightening the steersman, and then the man began to talk rapidly in a mixture of French and Flemish. He said that he had received Jules’ strict orders not to interfere in any way, no matter what might happen on the deck of the yacht. He was the captain of the yacht, and he had to make for a certain English port, the name of which he could not divulge: he was to keep the vessel at full steam ahead under any and all circumstances. He seemed to be a very big, a very strong, and a very determined man, and the Prince was at a loss what course of action to pursue. He asked several more questions, but the only effect of them was to render the man taciturn and ill-humoured.

In vain Prince Aribert explained that Miss Nella Racksole, daughter of millionaire Racksole, had been abducted by Mr Tom Jackson; in vain he flourished the revolver threateningly; the surly but courageous captain said merely that that had nothing to do with him; he had instructions, and he should carry them out. He sarcastically begged to remind his interlocutor that he was the captain of the yacht.

’It won’t do to shoot him, I suppose,’ said the Prince to Nella. ’I might bore a hole into his leg, or something of that kind.’

’It’s rather risky, and rather hard on the poor captain, with his extraordinary sense of duty,’ said Nella. ’And, besides, the whole crew might turn on us. No, we must think of something else.’

’I wonder where the crew is,’ said the Prince.

Just then Mr Jackson, prone and bound on the deck, showed signs of recovering from his swoon. His eyes opened, and he gazed vacantly around. At length he caught sight of the Prince, who approached him with the revolver well in view.

’It’s you, is it?’ he murmured faintly. ’What are you doing on board? Who’s tied me up like this?’

’See here!’ replied the Prince, ’I don’t want to have any arguments, but this yacht must return to Ostend at once, where you will be given up to the authorities.’

’Really!’ snarled Mr Tom Jackson. ’Shall I!’ Then he called out in French to the man at the wheel, ’Hi André! let these two be put off in the dinghy.’

It was a peculiar situation. Certain of nothing but the possession of Nella’s revolver, the Prince scarcely knew whether to carry the argument further, and with stronger measures, or to accept the situation with as much dignity as the circumstances would permit.

’Let us take the dinghy,’ said Nella; ’we can row ashore in an hour.’

He felt that she was right. To leave the yacht in such a manner seemed somewhat ignominious, and it certainly involved the escape of that profound villain, Mr Thomas Jackson. But what else could be done? The Prince and Nella constituted one party on the vessel; they knew their own strength, but they did not know the strength of their opponents. They held the hostile ringleader bound and captive, but this man had proved himself capable of giving orders, and even to gag him would not help them if the captain of the yacht persisted in his obstinate course. Moreover, there was a distinct objection to promiscuous shooting; the Prince felt that; there was no knowing how promiscuous shooting might end.

’We will take the dinghy,’ said the Prince quickly, to the captain.

A bell rang below, and a sailor and the Negro boy appeared on deck. The pulsations of the screw grew less rapid. The yacht stopped. The dinghy was lowered. As the Prince and Nella prepared to descend into the little cock-boat Mr Tom Jackson addressed Nella, all bound as he lay.

’Good-bye,’ he said, ’I shall see you again, never fear.’ .

In another moment they were in the dinghy, and the dinghy was adrift. The yacht’s screw chumed the water, and the beautiful vessel slipped away from them. As it receded a figure appeared at the stem. It was Mr Thomas Jackson.

He had been released by his minions. He held a white handkerchief to his ear, and offered a calm, enigmatic smile to the two forlorn but victorious occupants of the dinghy. Jules had been defeated for once in his life; or perhaps it would be more just to say that he had been out-manoeuvred. Men like Jules are incapable of being defeated. It was characteristic of his luck that now, in the very hour when he had been caught red-handed in a serious crime against society, he should be effecting a leisurely escape - an escape which left no clue behind.

The sea was utterly calm and blue in the morning sun. The dinghy rocked itself lazily in the swell of the yacht’s departure. As the mist cleared away the outline of the shore became more distinct, and it appeared as if Ostend was distant scarcely a cable’s length. The white dome of the great Kursaal glittered in the pale turquoise sky, and the smoke of steamers in the harbour could be plainly distinguished. On the offing was a crowd of brown-sailed fishing luggers returning with the night’s catch. The many-hued bathing-vans could be counted on the distant beach. Everything seemed perfectly normal. It was difficult for either Nella or her companion to realize that anything extraordinary had happened within the last hour. Yet there was the yacht, not a mile off, to prove to them that something very extraordinary had, in fact, happened. The yacht was no vision, nor was that sinister watching figure at its stern a vision, either.

’I suppose Jules was too surprised and too feeble to inquire how I came to be on board his yacht,’ said the Prince, taking the oars.

’Oh! How did you?’ asked Nella, her face lighting up. ’Really, I had almost forgotten that part of the affair.’

’I must begin at the beginning and it will take some time,’ answered the Prince. ’Had we not better postpone the recital till we get ashore?’

’I will row and you shall talk,’ said Nella. ’I want to know now.’

He smiled happily at her, but gently declined to yield up the oars.

’Is it not sufficient that I am here?’ he said.

’It is sufficient, yes,’ she replied, ’but I want to know.’

With a long, easy stroke he was pulling the dinghy shorewards. She sat in the stern-sheets.

’There is no rudder,’ he remarked, ’so you must direct me. Keep the boat’s head on the lighthouse. The tide seems to be running in strongly; that will help us. The people on shore will think that we have only been for a little early morning excursion.’

’Will you kindly tell me how it came about that you were able to save my life, Prince?’ she said.

’Save your life, Miss Racksole? I didn’t save your life; I merely knocked a man down.’

’You saved my life,’ she repeated. ’That villain would have stopped at nothing. I saw it in his eye.’

’Then you were a brave woman, for you showed no fear of death.’ His admiring gaze rested full on her. For a moment the oars ceased to move.

She gave a gesture of impatience.

’It happened that I saw you last night in your carriage,’ he said. ’The fact is, I had not had the audacity to go to Berlin with my story. I stopped in Ostend to see whether I could do a little detective work on my own account.

It was a piece of good luck that I saw you. I followed the carriage as quickly as I could, and I just caught a glimpse of you as you entered that awful house. I knew that Jules had something to do with that house. I guessed what you were doing. I was afraid for you. Fortunately I had surveyed the house pretty thoroughly. There is an entrance to it at the back, from a narrow lane. I made my way there. I got into the yard at the back, and I stood under the window of the room where you had the interview with Miss Spencer. I heard everything that was said. It was a courageous enterprise on your part to follow Miss Spencer from the Grand Babylon to Ostend. Well, I dared not force an entrance, lest I might precipitate matters too suddenly, and involve both of us in a difficulty. I merely kept watch. Ah, Miss Racksole! you were magnificent with Miss Spencer; as I say, I could hear every word, for the window was slightly open. I felt that you needed no assistance from me. And then she cheated you with a trick, and the revolver came flying through the window. I picked it up, I thought it would probably be useful. There was a silence. I did not guess at first that you had fainted. I thought that you had escaped. When I found out the truth it was too late for me to intervene. There were two men, both desperate, besides Miss Spencer - ’

’Who was the other man?’ asked Nella.

’I do not know. It was dark. They drove away with you to the harbour. Again I followed. I saw them carry you on board. Before the yacht weighed anchor I managed to climb unobserved into the dinghy. I lay down full length in it, and no one suspected that I was there. I think you know the rest.’

’Was the yacht all ready for sea?’

’The yacht was all ready for sea. The captain fellow was on the bridge, and steam was up.’

’Then they expected me! How could that be?’

’They expected some one. I do not think they expected you.’

’Did the second man go on board?’

’He helped to carry you along the gangway, but he came back again to the carriage. He was the driver.’

’And no one else saw the business?’

’The quay was deserted. You see, the last steamer had arrived for the night.’

There was a brief silence, and then Nella ejaculated, under her breath.

’Truly, it is a wonderful world!’

And it was a wonderful world for them, though scarcely perhaps, in the sense which Nella Racksole had intended. They had just emerged from a highly disconcerting experience. Among other minor inconveniences, they had had no breakfast. They were out in the sea in a tiny boat. Neither of them knew what the day might bring forth. The man, at least, had the most serious anxieties for the safety of his Royal nephew. And yet - and yet - neither of them wished that that voyage of the little boat on the summer tide should come to an end. Each, perhaps unconsciously, had a vague desire that it might last for ever, he lazily pulling, she directing his course at intervals by a movement of her distractingly pretty head. How was this condition of affairs to be explained? Well, they were both young; they both had superb health, and all the ardour of youth; and - they were together.

The boat was very small indeed; her face was scarcely a yard from his. She, in his eyes, surrounded by the glamour of beauty and vast wealth; he, in her eyes, surrounded by the glamour of masculine intrepidity and the brilliance of a throne.

But all voyages come to an end, either at the shore or at the bottom of the sea, and at length the dinghy passed between the stone jetties of the harbour. The Prince rowed to the nearest steps, tied up the boat, and they landed. It was six o’clock in the morning, and a day of gorgeous sunlight had opened. Few people were about at that early hour.

’And now, what next?’ said the Prince. ’I must take you to an hotel.’

’I am in your hands,’ she acquiesced, with a smile which sent the blood racing through his veins. He perceived now that she was tired and overcome, suffering from a sudden and natural reaction.

At the Hôtel Wellington the Prince told the sleepy door-keeper that they had come by the early train from Bruges, and wanted breakfast at once. It was absurdly early, but a common English sovereign will work wonders in any Belgian hotel, and in a very brief time Nella and the Prince were breakfasting on the verandah of the hotel upon chocolate that had been specially and hastily brewed for them.

’I never tasted such excellent chocolate,’ claimed the Prince.

The statement was wildly untrue, for the Hôtel Wellington is not celebrated for its chocolate. Nevertheless Nella replied enthusiastically, ’Nor I.’

Then there was a silence, and Nella, feeling possibly that she had been too ecstatic, remarked in a very matter-of-fact tone: ’I must telegraph to Papa instantly.’

Thus it was that Theodore Racksole received the telegram which drew him away from Detective Marshall.


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Chicago: Arnold Bennett, "Chapter Fifteen End of the Yacht Adventure," The Grand Babylon Hotel, trans. Evans, Sebastian in The Grand Babylon Hotel Original Sources, accessed September 25, 2023,

MLA: Bennett, Arnold. "Chapter Fifteen End of the Yacht Adventure." The Grand Babylon Hotel, translted by Evans, Sebastian, in The Grand Babylon Hotel, Original Sources. 25 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: Bennett, A, 'Chapter Fifteen End of the Yacht Adventure' in The Grand Babylon Hotel, trans. . cited in , The Grand Babylon Hotel. Original Sources, retrieved 25 September 2023, from