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Отель «Гранд Вавилон»

Книга для чтения на английском языке
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Арнольд Беннетт — известный английский писатель, драматург и литературный критик. «Отель Гранд Вавилон» — экстравагантный криминальный роман, описывающий жизнь высшего сообщества. Благодаря этой книге к Беннетту пришло мировое признание. Книга повествует о самоуверенном баловне судьбы, миллионере из Соединенных Штатов Америки, который покупает один из лучших лондонских отелей, чьими постояльцами являются члены королевского двора и знатные семьи Старого Света. Чем обернется ему покупка — милой забавой или шквалом непредсказуемых, порой трагичных, событий? А ведь бывший владелец отеля «Гранд Вавилон» его предупреждал...
Беннетт, А. Отель «Гранд Вавилон» : книга для чтения на английском языке : художественная литература / А. Беннетт. - Санкт-Петербург : КАРО, 2020. - 288 с. - (Detective Story). - ISBN 978-5-9925-1490-2. - Текст : электронный. - URL: https://znanium.com/catalog/product/1864346 (дата обращения: 19.05.2024). – Режим доступа: по подписке.
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Arnold BENNETT

THE GRAND  

BABYLON HOTEL

DETECTIVE STORY

УДК 372.8:821.111
ББК 81.2 Англ 
 
Б46

ISBN 978-5-9925-1490-2

Беннетт, Арнольд.

Б46        Отель «Гранд Вавилон» : книга для чтения на ан
глийском языке. / А. Беннетт. — Санкт-Петербург : 
КАРО, 2020. — 288 с. — (Detective Story)

ISBN 978-5-9925-1490-2.

Арнольд Беннетт — известный английский писатель, 

драматург и литературный критик. «Отель Гранд Вавилон» — экстравагантный криминальный роман, описывающий жизнь высшего сообщества. Благодаря этой книге к Беннетту пришло мировое признание.

Книга повествует о самоуверенном баловне судьбы, 

миллионере из Соединенных Штатов Америки, который 
покупает один из лучших лондонских отелей, чьими постояльцами являются члены королевского двора и знатные 
семьи Старого Света. Чем обернется ему покупка — милой 
забавой или шквалом непредсказуемых, порой трагичных, 
событий? А ведь бывший владелец отеля «Гранд Вавилон» 
его предупреждал...

УДК 372.8:821.111 

ББК 81.2 Англ 

© Каро, 2020
Все права защищены

Chapter One

THE MILLIONAIRE AND THE WAITER

‘YES, sir?’
Jules, the celebrated head waiter of the Grand Babylon, 

was bending formally towards the alert, middle-aged man 
who had just entered the smoking-room and dropped into 
a basket-chair in the corner by the conservatory. It was 7.45 
on a particularly sultry June night, and dinner was about to 
be served at the Grand Babylon. Men of all sizes, ages, and 
nationalities, but every one alike arrayed in faultless evening 
dress, were dotted about the large, dim apartment. A faint 
odour of flowers came from the conservatory, and the tinkle 
of a fountain. The waiters, commanded by Jules, moved softly 
across the thick Oriental rugs, balancing their trays with the 
dexterity of jugglers, and receiving and executing orders with 
that air of profound importance of which only really first-class 
waiters have the secret. The atmosphere was an atmosphere 
of serenity and repose, characteristic of the Grand Babylon. 
It seemed impossible that anything could occur to mar the 
peaceful, aristocratic monotony of existence in that perfectlymanaged establishment. Yet on that night was to happen the 
mightiest upheaval that the Grand Babylon had ever known.

‘Yes, sir?’ repeated Jules, and this time there was 

a shade of august disapproval in his voice: it was not usual 
for him to have to address a customer twice.

‘Oh!’ said the alert, middle-aged man, looking up at 

length. Beautifully ignorant of the identity of the great Jules, he allowed his grey eyes to twinkle as he caught sight 
of the expression on the waiter’s face. ‘Bring me an Angel 
Kiss.’

‘Pardon, sir?’
‘Bring me an Angel Kiss, and be good enough to lose 

no time.’

‘If it’s an American drink, I fear we don’t keep it, sir.’ 

The voice of Jules fell icily distinct, and several men glanced 
round uneasily, as if to deprecate the slightest disturbance 
of their calm. The appearance of the person to whom Jules 
was speaking, however, reassured them somewhat, for he 
had all the look of that expert, the travelled Englishman, 
who can differentiate between one hotel and another by 
instinct, and who knows at once where he may make a fuss 
with propriety, and where it is advisable to behave exactly 
as at the club. The Grand Babylon was a hotel in whose 
smoking-room one behaved as though one was at one’s 
club.

‘I didn’t suppose you did keep it, but you can mix it, 

I guess, even in this hotel.’

‘This isn’t an American hotel, sir.’ The calculated inso
lence of the words was cleverly masked beneath an accent 
of humble submission.

The alert, middle-aged man sat up straight, and gazed 

placidly at Jules, who was pulling his famous red sidewhiskers.

‘Get a liqueur glass,’ he said, half curtly and half with 

good-humoured tolerance, ‘pour into it equal quantities 
of maraschino, cream, and crème de menthe. Don’t stir 
it; don’t shake it. Bring it to me. And, I say, tell the bartender—’

‘Bar-tender, sir?’
‘Tell the bar-tender to make a note of the recipe, as 

I shall probably want an Angel Kiss every evening before 
dinner so long as this weather lasts.’

‘I will send the drink to you, sir,’ said Jules distantly. 

That was his parting shot, by which he indicated that he 
was not as other waiters are, and that any person who 
treated him with disrespect did so at his own peril.

A few minutes later, while the alert, middle-aged man 

was tasting the Angel Kiss, Jules sat in conclave with Miss 
Spencer, who had charge of the bureau of the Grand Babylon. This bureau was a fairly large chamber, with two sliding glass partitions which overlooked the entrance-hall 
and the smoking-room. Only a small portion of the clerical 
work of the great hotel was performed there. The place 
served chiefly as the lair of Miss Spencer, who was as well 
known and as important as Jules himself. Most modern 
hotels have a male clerk to superintend the bureau. But 
the Grand Babylon went its own way. Miss Spencer had 
been bureau clerk almost since the Grand Babylon had first 

raised its massive chimneys to heaven, and she remained 
in her place despite the vagaries of other hotels. Always 
admirably dressed in plain black silk, with a small diamond 
brooch, immaculate wrist-bands, and frizzed yellow hair, 
she looked now just as she had looked an indefinite number of years ago. Her age—none knew it, save herself and 
perhaps one other, and none cared. The gracious and alluring contours of her figure were irreproachable; and in 
the evenings she was a useful ornament of which any hotel 
might be innocently proud. Her knowledge of Bradshaw, 
of steamship services, and the programmes of theatres 
and music-halls was unrivalled; yet she never travelled, 
she never went to a theatre or a music-hall. She seemed 
to spend the whole of her life in that official lair of hers, 
imparting information to guests, telephoning to the various 
departments, or engaged in intimate conversations with 
her special friends on the staff, as at present.

‘Who’s Number 107?’ Jules asked this black-robed lady.
Miss Spencer examined her ledgers.
‘Mr Theodore Racksole, New York.’
‘I thought he must be a New Yorker,’ said Jules, after 

a brief, significant pause, ‘but he talks as good English as 
you or me. Says he wants an “Angel Kiss”—maraschino and 
cream, if you please—every night. I’ll see he doesn’t stop 
here too long.’

Miss Spencer smiled grimly in response. The notion 

of referring to Theodore Racksole as a ‘New Yorker’ appealed to her sense of humour, a sense in which she was 

not entirely deficient. She knew, of course, and she knew 
that Jules knew, that this Theodore Racksole must be the 
unique and only Theodore Racksole, the third richest man 
in the United States, and therefore probably in the world. 
Nevertheless she ranged herself at once on the side of Jules.

Just as there was only one Racksole, so there was only 

one Jules, and Miss Spencer instinctively shared the latter’s 
indignation at the spectacle of any person whatsoever, millionaire or Emperor, presuming to demand an ‘Angel Kiss’, 
that unrespectable concoction of maraschino and cream, 
within the precincts of the Grand Babylon. In the world of 
hotels it was currently stated that, next to the proprietor, 
there were three gods at the Grand Babylon—Jules, the 
head waiter, Miss Spencer, and, most powerful of all, Rocco, 
the renowned chef, who earned two thousand a year, and 
had a chalet on the Lake of Lucerne. All the great hotels in 
Northumberland Avenue and on the Thames Embankment 
had tried to get Rocco away from the Grand Babylon, but 
without success. Rocco was well aware that even he could 
rise no higher than the maître d’hôtel of the Grand Babylon, 
which, though it never advertised itself, and didn’t belong 
to a limited company, stood an easy first among the hotels 
of Europe—first in expensiveness, first in exclusiveness, 
first in that mysterious quality known as ‘style’.

Situated on the Embankment, the Grand Babylon, de
spite its noble proportions, was somewhat dwarfed by 
several colossal neighbours. It had but three hundred and 
fifty rooms, whereas there are two hotels within a quarter 

of a mile with six hundred and four hundred rooms respectively. On the other hand, the Grand Babylon was the only 
hotel in London with a genuine separate entrance for Royal 
visitors constantly in use. The Grand Babylon counted that 
day wasted on which it did not entertain, at the lowest, 
a German prince or the Maharajah of some Indian State. 
When Felix Babylon—after whom, and not with any reference to London’s nickname, the hotel was christened—
when Felix Babylon founded the hotel in 1869 he had set 
himself to cater for Royalty, and that was the secret of his 
triumphant eminence.

The son of a rich Swiss hotel proprietor and finan
cier, he had contrived to established a connection with 
the officials of several European Courts, and he had not 
spared money in that respect. Sundry kings and not a few 
princesses called him Felix, and spoke familiarly of the 
hotel as ‘Felix’s’; and Felix had found that this was very 
good for trade. The Grand Babylon was managed accordingly. The ‘note’ of its policy was discretion, always discretion, and quietude, simplicity, remoteness. The place was 
like a palace incognito. There was no gold sign over the 
roof, not even an explanatory word at the entrance. You 
walked down a small side street off the Strand, you saw 
a plain brown building in front of you, with two mahogany swing doors, and an official behind each; the doors 
opened noiselessly; you entered; you were in Felix’s. If 
you meant to be a guest, you, or your courier, gave your 
card to Miss Spencer. Upon no consideration did you ask 

for the tariff. It was not good form to mention prices at 
the Grand Babylon; the prices were enormous, but you 
never mentioned them. At the conclusion of your stay 
a bill was presented, brief and void of dry details, and 
you paid it without a word. You met with a stately civility, 
that was all. No one had originally asked you to come; no 
one expressed the hope that you would come again. The 
Grand Babylon was far above such manoeuvres; it defied 
competition by ignoring it; and consequently was nearly 
always full during the season.

If there was one thing more than another that annoyed 

the Grand Babylon—put its back up, so to speak—it was to 
be compared with, or to be mistaken for, an American hotel. 
The Grand Babylon was resolutely opposed to American 
methods of eating, drinking, and lodging—but especially 
American methods of drinking. The resentment of Jules, 
on being requested to supply Mr Theodore Racksole with 
an Angel Kiss, will therefore be appreciated.

‘Anybody with Mr Theodore Racksole?’ asked Jules, 

continuing his conversation with Miss Spencer. He put 
a scornful stress on every syllable of the guest’s name.

‘Miss Racksole—she’s in No. 111.’
Jules paused, and stroked his left whisker as it lay on 

his gleaming white collar.

‘She’s where?’ he queried, with a peculiar emphasis.
‘No. 111. I couldn’t help it. There was no other room 

with a bathroom and dressing-room on that floor.’ Miss 
Spencer’s voice had an appealing tone of excuse.

‘Why didn’t you tell Mr Theodore Racksole and Miss 

Racksole that we were unable to accommodate them?’

‘Because Babs was within hearing.’
Only three people in the wide world ever dreamt of 

applying to Mr Felix Babylon the playful but mean abbreviation—Babs: those three were Jules, Miss Spencer, and 
Rocco. Jules had invented it. No one but he would have had 
either the wit or the audacity to do so.

‘You’d better see that Miss Racksole changes her room 

to-night,’ Jules said after another pause. ‘Leave it to me: 
I’ll fix it. Au revoir! It’s three minutes to eight. I shall take 
charge of the dining-room myself to-night.’

And Jules departed, rubbing his fine white hands slow
ly and meditatively. It was a trick of his, to rub his hands 
with a strange, roundabout motion, and the action denoted 
that some unusual excitement was in the air.

At eight o’clock precisely dinner was served in the im
mense salle à manger, that chaste yet splendid apartment 
of white and gold. At a small table near one of the windows 
a young lady sat alone. Her frocks said Paris, but her face 
unmistakably said New York. It was a self-possessed and 
bewitching face, the face of a woman thoroughly accustomed to doing exactly what she liked, when she liked, how 
she liked: the face of a woman who had taught hundreds of 
gilded young men the true art of fetching and carrying, and 
who, by twenty years or so of parental spoiling, had come 
to regard herself as the feminine equivalent of the Tsar of 
All the Russias. Such women are only made in America, 

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