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- The Great Impersonation - 10/50 -
my desire that we met at all. The Prince fought like a madman and slipped, after a wild lunge, on to the point of my stationary sword."
"Let that pass," Seaman said. "I am not of your order and I probably do not understand the etiquette of these matters. I simply look upon you as a culprit in the eyes of our master, and I feel that he has a right to demand from you much in the way of personal sacrifice."
"Perhaps you will tell me," Dominey demanded, "what more he would have? I have spent weary years in a godless and fever-ridden country, raising up for our arms a great troop of natives. I have undertaken other political commissions in the Colony which may bear fruit. I am to take up the work for which I was originally intended, for which I was given an English education. I am to repair to England, and, under such identity as I might assume after consultation with you at Cape Town, I am to render myself so far as possible a /persona grata/ in that country. I do not wait for our meeting. I see a great chance and I make use of it. I transform myself into an English country gentleman, and I think you will admit that I have done so with great success."
"All that you say is granted," Seaman agreed. "You met me at Cape Town in your new identity, and you certainly seemed to wear it wonderfully. You have made it uncommonly expensive, but we do not grudge money."
"I could not return home to a poverty-stricken domain," Dominey pointed out. "I should have held no place whatever in English social life, and I should have received no welcome from those with whom I imagine you desire me to stand well."
"Again I make no complaints," Seaman declared. "There is no bottom to our purse, nor any stint. Neither must there be any stint to our loyalty," he added gravely.
"In this instance," Dominey protested, "it is not a matter of loyalty. Everard Dominey cannot throw himself at the feet of the Princess Eiderstrom, well-known to be one of the most passionate women in Europe, whilst her love affair with Leopold Von Ragastein is still remembered. Remember that the question of our identities might crop up any day. We were friends over here in England, at school and at college, and there are many who still remember the likeness between us. Perfectly though I may play my part, here and there there may be doubts. There will be doubts no longer if I am to be dragged at the chariot wheels of the Princess."
Seaman was silent for a moment.
"There is reason in what you say," he admitted presently. "It is for a few months only. What is your proposition?"
"That you see the Princess in my place at once," Dominey suggested eagerly. "Point out to her that for the present, for political reasons, I am and must remain Everard Dominey, to her as to the rest of the world. Let her be content with such measure of friendship and admiration as Sir Everard Dominey might reasonably offer to a beautiful woman whom he met to-day for the first time, and I am entirely and with all my heart at her service. But let her remember that even between us two, in the solitude of her room as in the drawing-room where we might meet, it can be Everard Dominey only until my mission is ended. You think, perhaps, that I lay unnecessary stress upon this. I do not. I know the Princess and I know myself."
Seaman glanced at the clock. "At what hour was your appointment?"
"It was not an appointment, it was a command," Dominey replied. "I was told to be at Belgrave Square at seven o'clock."
"I will have an understanding with the Princess," promised Seaman, as he took up his hat. "Dine with me downstairs at eight o'clock on my return."
Dominey, descending about an hour later, found his friend Seaman already established at a small, far-away table set in one of the recesses of the grill room. He was welcomed with a little wave of the hand, and cocktails were at once ordered.
"I have done your errand," Seaman announced. "Since my visit I am bound to admit that I realise a little more fully your anxiety."
"You probably had not met the Princess before?"
"I had not. I must confess that I found her a lady of somewhat overpowering temperament. I fancy, my young friend," Seaman continued, with a twitch at the corner of his lips, "that somewhere about August next year you will find your hands full."
"August next year can take care of itself," was the cool reply.
"In the meantime," Seaman continued, "the Princess understands the situation and is, I think, impressed. She will at any rate do nothing rash. You and she will meet within the course of the next few hours, but on reasonable terms. To proceed! As I drove back here after my interview with the Princess, I decided that it was time you made the acquaintance of the person who is chiefly responsible for your presence here."
"Precisely! You have maintained, my young friend," Seaman went on after a brief pause, during which one waiter had brought their cocktails and another received their order for dinner, "a very discreet and laudable silence with regard to those further instructions which were promised to you immediately you should arrive in London. Those instructions will never be committed to writing. They are here."
Seaman touched his forehead and drained the remaining contents of his glass.
"My instructions are to trust you absolutely," Dominey observed, "and, until the greater events stir, to concentrate the greater part of my energies in leading the natural life of the man whose name and place I have taken."
"Quite so," Seaman acquiesced.
He glanced around the room for a moment or two, as though interested in the people. Satisfied at last that there was no chance of being overheard, he continued:
"The first idea you have to get out of your head, my dear friend, if it is there, is that you are a spy. You are nothing of the sort. You are not connected with our remarkably perfect system of espionage in the slightest degree. You are a free agent in all that you may choose to say or do. You can believe in Germany or fear her--whichever you like. You can join your cousin's husband in his crusade for National Service, or you can join me in my efforts to cement the bonds of friendship and affection between the citizens of the two countries. We really do not care in the least. Choose your own part. Give yourself thoroughly into the life of Sir Everard Dominey, Baronet, of Dominey Hall, Norfolk, and pursue exactly the course which you think Sir Everard himself would be likely to take."
"This," Dominey admitted, "is very broad-minded."
"It is common sense," was the prompt reply. "With all your ability, you could not in six months' time appreciably affect the position either way. Therefore, we choose to have you concentrate the whole of your energies upon one task and one task only. If there is anything of the spy about your mission here, it is not England or the English which are to engage your attention. We require you to concentrate wholly and entirely upon Terniloff."
Dominey was startled.
"Terniloff?" he repeated. "I expected to work with him, but--"
"Empty your mind of all preconceived ideas," Seaman enjoined. "What your duties are with regard to Terniloff will grow upon you gradually as the situation develops."
"As yet," Dominey remarked, "I have not even made his acquaintance."
"I was on the point of telling you, earlier in our conversation, that I have made an appointment for you to see him at eleven o'clock to-night at the Embassy. You will go to him at that hour. Remember, you know nothing, you are waiting for instructions. Let speech remain with him alone. Be particularly careful not to drop him a hint of your knowledge of what is coming. You will find him absolutely satisfied with the situation, absolutely content. Take care not to disturb him. He is a missioner of peace. So are you."
"I begin to understand," Dominey said thoughtfully.
"You shall understand everything when the time comes for you to take a hand," Seaman promised, "and do not in your zeal forget, my friend, that your utility to our great cause will depend largely upon your being able to establish and maintain your position as an English gentleman. So far all has gone well?"
"Perfectly, so far as I am concerned," Dominey replied. "You must remember, though, that there is your end to keep up. Berlin will be receiving frantic messages from East Africa as to my disappearance. Not even my immediate associates were in the secret."
"That is all understood," Seaman assured his companion. "A little doctor named Schmidt has spent many marks of the Government money in frantic cables. You must have endeared yourself to him."
"He was a very faithful associate."
"He has been a very troublesome friend. It seems that the natives got their stories rather mixed up concerning your namesake, who apparently died in the bush, and Schmidt continually emphasised your promise to let him hear from Cape Town. However, all this has been dealt with satisfactorily. The only real dangers are over here, and so far you seem to have encountered the principal ones."
"I have at any rate been accepted," Dominey declared, "by my nearest living relative, and incidentally I have discovered the one far-seeing person in England who knows what is in store for us."
Seaman was momentarily anxious.
"Whom do you mean?"
"The Duke of Worcester, my cousin's husband, of whom you were speaking just now."
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