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- The Great Impersonation - 4/50 -
wistfully. "It seems strange, though, to meet right out here, far away even from the by-ways of life, just to shake hands and pass on. I am sick to death of niggers and animals."
"It is Fate," Von Ragastein decided. "Where I go, I must go alone. Farewell, dear friend! We will drink the toast we drank our last night in your rooms at Magdalen. That Sanscrit man translated it for us: 'May each find what he seeks!' We must follow our star."
Dominey laughed a little bitterly. He pointed to a light glowing fitfully in the bush.
"My will-o'-the-wisp," he muttered recklessly, "leading where I shall follow--into the swamps!"
A few minutes later Dominey threw himself upon his couch, curiously and unaccountably drowsy. Von Ragastein, who had come in to wish him good night, stood looking down at him for several moments with significant intentness. Then, satisfied that his guest really slept, he turned and passed through the hanging curtain of dried grasses into the next banda, where the doctor, still fully dressed, was awaiting him. They spoke together in German and with lowered voices. Von Ragastein had lost something of his imperturbability.
"Everything progresses according to my orders?" he demanded.
"Everything, Excellency! The boys are being loaded, and a runner has gone on to Wadihuan for ponies to be prepared."
"They know that I wish to start at dawn?"
"All will be prepared, Excellency."
Von Ragastein laid his hand upon the doctor's shoulder.
"Come outside, Schmidt," he said. "I have something to tell you of my plans."
The two men seated themselves in the long, wicker chairs, the doctor in an attitude of strict attention. Von Ragastein turned his head and listened. From Dominey's quarters came the sound of deep and regular breathing.
"I have formed a great plan, Schmidt," Von Ragastein proceeded. "You know what news has come to me from Berlin?"
"Your Excellency has told me a little," the doctor reminded him.
"The Day arrives," Von Ragastein pronounced, his voice shaking with deep emotion. He paused a moment in thought and continued, "the time, even the month, is fixed. I am recalled from here to take the place for which I was destined. You know what that place is? You know why I was sent to an English public school and college?"
"I can guess."
"I am to take up my residence in England. I am to have a special mission. I am to find a place for myself there as an Englishman. The means are left to my ingenuity. Listen, Schmidt. A great idea has come to me."
The doctor lit a cigar.
"I listen, Excellency."
Von Ragastein rose to his feet. Not content with the sound of that regular breathing, he made his way to the opening of the banda and gazed in at Dominey's slumbering form. Then he returned.
"It is something which you do not wish the Englishman to hear?" the doctor asked.
"We speak in German."
"Languages," was the cautions reply, "happen to be that man's only accomplishment. He can speak German as fluently as you or I. That, however, is of no consequence. He sleeps and he will continue to sleep. I mixed him a sleeping draught with his whisky and soda."
"Ah!" the doctor grunted.
"My principal need in England is an identity," Von Ragastein pointed out. "I have made up my mind. I shall take this Englishman's. I shall return to England as Sir Everard Dominey."
"There is a remarkable likeness between us, and Dominey has not seen an Englishman who knows him for eight or ten years. Any school or college friends whom I may encounter I shall be able to satisfy. I have stayed at Dominey. I know Dominey's relatives. To-night he has babbled for hours, telling me many things that it is well for me to know."
"What about his near relatives?"
"He has none nearer than cousins."
Von Ragastein paused and turned his head. The deep breathing inside the banda had certainly ceased. He rose to his feet and, stealing uneasily to the opening, gazed down upon his guest's outstretched form. To all appearance, Dominey still slept deeply. After a moment or two's watch, Von Ragastein returned to his place.
"Therein lies his tragedy," he confided, dropping his voice a little lower. "She is insane--insane, it seems, through a shock for which he was responsible. She might have been the only stumbling block, and she is as though she did not exist."
"It is a great scheme," the doctor murmured enthusiastically.
"It is a wonderful one! That great and unrevealed Power, Schmidt, which watches over our country and which will make her mistress of the world, must have guided this man to us. My position in England will be unique. As Sir Everard Dominey I shall be able to penetrate into the inner circles of Society--perhaps, even, of political life. I shall be able, if necessary, to remain in England even after the storm bursts."
"Supposing," the doctor suggested, "this man Dominey should return to England?"
Von Ragastein turned his head and looked towards his questioner.
"He must not," he pronounced.
"So!" the doctor murmured.
Late in the afternoon of the following day, Dominey, with a couple of boys for escort and his rifle slung across his shoulder, rode into the bush along the way he had come. The little fat doctor stood and watched him, waving his hat until he was out of sight. Then he called to the orderly.
"Heinrich," he said, "you are sure that the Herr Englishman has the whisky?"
"The water bottles are filled with nothing else, Herr Doctor," the man replied.
"There is no water or soda water in the pack?"
"Not one drop, Herr Doctor."
"How much food?"
"One day's rations."
"The beef is salt?"
"It is very salt, Herr Doctor."
"And the compass?"
"It is ten degrees wrong."
"The boys have their orders?"
"They understand perfectly, Herr Doctor. If the Englishman does not drink, they will take him at midnight to where His Excellency will be encamped at the bend of the Blue River."
The doctor sighed. He was not at heart an unkindly man.
"I think," he murmured, "it will be better for the Englishman that he drinks."
Mr. John Lambert Mangan of Lincoln's Inn gazed at the card which a junior clerk had just presented in blank astonishment, an astonishment which became speedily blended with dismay.
"Good God, do you see this, Harrison?" he exclaimed, passing it over to his manager, with whom he had been in consultation. "Dominey--Sir Everard Dominey--back here in England!"
The head clerk glanced at the narrow piece of pasteboard and sighed.
"I'm afraid you will find him rather a troublesome client, sir," he remarked.
His employer frowned. "Of course I shall," he answered testily. "There isn't an extra penny to be had out of the estates--you know that, Harrison. The last two quarters' allowance which we sent to Africa came out of the timber. Why the mischief didn't he stay where he was!"
"What shall I tell the gentleman, sir?" the boy enquired.
"Oh, show him in!" Mr. Mangan directed ill-temperedly. "I suppose I shall have to see him sooner or later. I'll finish these affidavits after lunch, Harrison."
The solicitor composed his features to welcome a client who, however troublesome his affairs had become, still represented a family who had
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