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Title: The Great Impersonation
Author: E. Phillips Oppenheim
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Language: English
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Great Impersonation
Author: E. Phillips Oppenheim


First published 1920.


* * *



THE GREAT IMPERSONATION



CHAPTER I

The trouble from which great events were to come began when Everard
Dominey, who had been fighting his way through the scrub for the last
three quarters of an hour towards those thin, spiral wisps of smoke,
urged his pony to a last despairing effort and came crashing through
the great oleander shrub to pitch forward on his head in the little
clearing. It developed the next morning, when he found himself for the
first time for many months on the truckle bed, between linen sheets,
with a cool, bamboo-twisted roof between him and the relentless sun. He
raised himself a little in the bed.

"Where the mischief am I?" he demanded.

A black boy, seated cross-legged in the entrance of the banda, rose to
his feet, mumbled something and disappeared. In a few moments the tall,
slim figure of a European, in spotless white riding clothes, stooped
down and came over to Dominey's side.

"You are better?" he enquired politely.

"Yes, I am," was the somewhat brusque rejoinder. "Where the mischief am
I, and who are you?"

The newcomer's manner stiffened. He was a person of dignified carriage,
and his tone conveyed some measure of rebuke.

"You are within half a mile of the Iriwarri River, if you know where
that is," he replied,--"about seventy-two miles southeast of the
Darawaga Settlement."

"The devil! Then I am in German East Africa?"

"Without a doubt."

"And you are German?"

"I have that honour."

Dominey whistled softly.

"Awfully sorry to have intruded," he said. "I left Marlinstein two and a
half months ago, with twenty boys and plenty of stores. We were doing
a big trek after lions. I took some new Askaris in and they made
trouble,--looted the stores one night and there was the devil to pay.
I was obliged to shoot one or two, and the rest deserted. They took my
compass, damn them, and I'm nearly a hundred miles out of my bearings.
You couldn't give me a drink, could you?"

"With pleasure, if the doctor approves," was the courteous answer.
"Here, Jan!"

The boy sprang up, listened to a word or two of brief command in his
own language, and disappeared through the hanging grass which led into
another hut. The two men exchanged glances of rather more than ordinary
interest. Then Dominey laughed.

"I know what you're thinking," he said. "It gave me quite a start when
you came in. We're devilishly alike, aren't we?"

"There is a very strong likeness between us," the other admitted.

Dominey leaned his head upon his hand and studied his host. The likeness
was clear enough, although the advantage was all in favour of the man
who stood by the side of the camp bedstead with folded arms. Everard
Dominey, for the first twenty-six years of his life, had lived as an
ordinary young Englishman of his position,--Eton, Oxford, a few years
in the Army, a few years about town, during which he had succeeded in
making a still more hopeless muddle of his already encumbered estates: a
few months of tragedy, and then a blank. Afterwards ten years--at first
in the cities, then in the dark places of Africa--years of which no man
knew anything. The Everard Dominey of ten years ago had been, without a
doubt, good-looking. The finely shaped features remained, but the
eyes had lost their lustre, his figure its elasticity, his mouth its
firmness. He had the look of a man run prematurely to seed, wasted by
fevers and dissipation. Not so his present companion. His features were
as finely shaped, cast in an even stronger though similar mould. His
eyes were bright and full of fire, his mouth and chin firm, bespeaking a
man of deeds, his tall figure lithe and supple. He had the air of being
in perfect health, in perfect mental and physical condition, a man who
lived with dignity and some measure of content, notwithstanding the
slight gravity of his expression.

"Yes," the Englishman muttered, "there's no doubt about the likeness,
though I suppose I should look more like you than I do if I'd taken care
of myself. But I haven't. That's the devil of it. I've gone the other
way; tried to chuck my life away and pretty nearly succeeded, too."

The dried grasses were thrust on one side, and the doctor entered,--a
little round man, also clad in immaculate white, with yellow-gold hair
and thick spectacles. His countryman pointed towards the bed.

"Will you examine our patient, Herr Doctor, and prescribe for him what
is necessary? He has asked for drink. Let him have wine, or whatever
is good for him. If he is well enough, he will join our evening meal. I
present my excuses. I have a despatch to write."

The man on the couch turned his head and watched the departing figure
with a shade of envy in his eyes.

"What is my preserver's name?" he asked the doctor.

The latter looked as though the questions were irreverent.

"It is His Excellency the Major-General Baron Leopold Von Ragastein."

"All that!" Dominey muttered. "Is he the Governor, or something of that
sort?"

"He is Military Commandant of the Colony," the doctor replied. "He has
also a special mission here."

"Damned fine-looking fellow for a German," Dominey remarked, with
unthinking insolence.

The doctor was unmoved. He was feeling his patient's pulse. He concluded
his examination a few minutes later.

"You have drunk much whisky lately, so?" he asked.

"I don't know what the devil it's got to do with you," was the curt
reply, "but I drink whisky whenever I can get it. Who wouldn't in this
pestilential climate!"

The doctor shook his head.

"The climate is good as he is treated," he declared. "His Excellency
drinks nothing but light wine and seltzer water. He has been here for
five years, not only here but in the swamps, and he has not been ill one
day."

"Well, I have been at death's door a dozen times," the Englishman
rejoined a little recklessly, "and I don't much mind when I hand in my
checks, but until that time comes I shall drink whisky whenever I can
get it."

"The cook is preparing you some luncheon," the doctor announced, "and
it will do you good to eat. I cannot give you whisky at this moment, but
you can have some hock and seltzer with bay leaves."

"Send it along," was the enthusiastic reply. "What a constitution I must
have, doctor! The smell of that cooking outside is making me ravenous."

"Your constitution is still sound if you would only respect it," was the
comforting assurance.

"Anything been heard of the rest of my party?" Dominey enquired.

"Some bodies of Askaris have been washed up from the river," the doctor
informed him, "and two of your ponies have been eaten by lions. You
will excuse. I have the wounds of a native to dress, who was bitten last
night by a jaguar."

The traveller, left alone, lay still in the hut, and his thoughts
wandered backwards. He looked out over the bare, scrubby stretch of
land which had been cleared for this encampment to the mass of bush and
flowering shrubs beyond, mysterious and impenetrable save for that rough
elephant track along which he had travelled; to the broad-bosomed river,
blue as the sky above, and to the mountains fading into mist beyond.
The face of his host had carried him back into the past. Puzzled
reminiscence tugged at the strings of memory. It came to him later on
at dinner time, when they three, the Commandant, the doctor and himself,
sat at a little table arranged just outside the hut, that they might
catch the faint breeze from the mountains, herald of the swift-falling
darkness. Native servants beat the air around them with bamboo fans to
keep off the insects, and the air was faint almost to noxiousness with
the perfume of some sickly, exotic shrub.

"Why, you're Devinter!" he exclaimed suddenly,--"Sigismund Devinter! You
were at Eton with me--Horrock's House--semi-final in the racquets."

"And Magdalen afterwards, number five in the boat."

"And why the devil did the doctor here tell me that your name was Von
Ragastein?"

"Because it happens to be the truth," was the somewhat measured reply.
"Devinter is my family name, and the one by which I was known when in
England. When I succeeded to the barony and estates at my uncle's death,
however, I was compelled to also take the title."

"Well, it's a small world!" Dominey exclaimed. "What brought you out
here really--lions or elephants?"

"Neither."

"You mean to say that you've taken up this sort of political business
just for its own sake, not for sport?"

"Entirely so. I do not use a sporting rifle once a month, except for
necessity. I came to Africa for different reasons."

Dominey drank deep of his hock and seltzer and leaned back, watching the
fireflies rise above the tall-bladed grass, above the stumpy clumps of
shrub, and hang like miniature stars in the clear, violet air.

"What a world!" he soliloquised. "Siggy Devinter, Baron Von Ragastein,
out here, slaving for God knows what, drilling niggers to fight God
knows whom, a political machine, I suppose, future Governor-General of
German Africa, eh? You were always proud of your country, Devinter."

"My country is a country to be proud of," was the solemn reply.

"Well, you're in earnest, anyhow," Dominey continued, "in earnest
about something. And I--well, it's finished with me. It would have been
finished last night if I hadn't seen the smoke from your fires, and I
don't much care--that's the trouble. I go blundering on. I suppose
the end will come somehow, sometime--Can I have some rum or whisky,
Devinter--I mean Von Ragastein--Your Excellency--or whatever I ought
to say? You see those wreaths of mist down by the river? They'll mean
malaria for me unless I have spirits."

"I have something better than either," Von Ragastein replied. "You shall
give me your opinion of this."

The orderly who stood behind his master's chair, received a whispered
order, disappeared into the commissariat hut and came back presently
with a bottle at the sight of which the Englishman gasped.

"Napoleon!" he exclaimed.

"Just a few bottles I had sent to me," his host explained. "I am
delighted to offer it to some one who will appreciate it."

"By Jove, there's no mistake about that!" Dominey declared, rolling it
around in his glass. "What a world! I hadn't eaten for thirty hours
when I rolled up here last night, and drunk nothing but filthy water
for days. To-night, fricassee of chicken, white bread, cabinet hock and
Napoleon brandy. And to-morrow again--well, who knows? When do you move
on, Von Ragastein?"

"Not for several days."

"What the mischief do you find to do so far from headquarters, if you
don't shoot lions or elephants?" his guest asked curiously.

"If you really wish to know," Von Ragastein replied, "I am annoying your
political agents immensely by moving from place to place, collecting
natives for drill."

"But what do you want to drill them for?" Dominey persisted. "I heard
some time ago that you have four times as many natives under arms as we
have. You don't want an army here. You're not likely to quarrel with us
or the Portuguese."

"It is our custom," Von Ragastein declared a little didactically, "in
Germany and wherever we Germans go, to be prepared not only for what is
likely to happen but for what might possibly happen."

"A war in my younger days, when I was in the Army," Dominey mused,
"might have made a man of me."

"Surely you had your chance out here?"

Dominey shook his head.

"My battalion never left the country," he said. "We were shut up in
Ireland all the time. That was the reason I chucked the army when I was
really only a boy."

Later on they dragged their chairs a little farther out into the
darkness, smoking cigars and drinking some rather wonderful coffee. The
doctor had gone off to see a patient, and Von Ragastein was thoughtful.
Their guest, on the other hand, continued to be reminiscently
discursive.

"Our meeting," he observed, lazily stretching out his hand for his
glass, "should be full of interest to the psychologist. Here we are,
brought together by some miraculous chance to spend one night of our
lives in an African jungle, two human beings of the same age, brought
up together thousands of miles away, jogging on towards the eternal
blackness along lines as far apart as the mind can conceive."

"Your eyes are fixed," Von Ragastein murmured, "upon that very blackness
behind which the sun will rise at dawn. You will see it come up from
behind the mountains in that precise spot, like a new and blazing
world."

"Don't put me off with allegories," his companion objected petulantly.
"The eternal blackness exists surely enough, even if my metaphor is
faulty. I am disposed to be philosophical. Let me ramble on. Here am I,
an idler in my boyhood, a harmless pleasure-seeker in my youth till
I ran up against tragedy, and since then a drifter, a drifter with a
slowly growing vice, lolling through life with no definite purpose, with
no definite hope or wish, except," he went on a little drowsily, "that I
think I'd like to be buried somewhere near the base of those mountains,
on the other side of the river, from behind which you say the sun comes
up every morning like a world on fire."

"You talk foolishly," Von Ragastein protested. "If there has been
tragedy in your life, you have time to get over it. You are not yet
forty years old."

"Then I turn and consider you," Dominey continued, ignoring altogether
his friend's remark. "You are only my age, and you look ten years
younger. Your muscles are hard, your eyes are as bright as they were in
your school days. You carry yourself like a man with a purpose. You rise
at five every morning, the doctor tells me, and you return here, worn
out, at dusk. You spend every moment of your time drilling those filthy
blacks. When you are not doing that, you are prospecting, supervising
reports home, trying to make the best of your few millions of acres of
fever swamps. The doctor worships you but who else knows? What do you do
it for, my friend?"

"Because it is my duty," was the calm reply.

"Duty! But why can't you do your duty in your own country, and live a
man's life, and hold the hands of white men, and look into the eyes of
white women?"

"I go where I am needed most," Von Ragastein answered. "I do not enjoy
drilling natives, I do not enjoy passing the years as an outcast from
the ordinary joys of human life. But I follow my star."

"And I my will-o'-the-wisp," Dominey laughed mockingly. "The whole
thing's as plain as a pikestaff. You may be a dull dog--you always were
on the serious side--but you're a man of principle. I'm a slacker."

"The difference between us," Von Ragastein pronounced, "is something
which is inculcated into the youth of our country and which is not
inculcated into yours. In England, with a little money, a little birth,
your young men expect to find the world a playground for sport, a garden
for loves. The mightiest German noble who ever lived has his work to do.
It is work which makes fibre, which gives balance to life."

Dominey sighed. His cigar, dearly prized though it had been, was cold
between his fingers. In that perfumed darkness, illuminated only by the
faint gleam of the shaded lamp behind, his face seemed suddenly white
and old. His host leaned towards him and spoke for the first time in the
kindlier tones of their youth.

"You hinted at tragedy, my friend. You are not alone. Tragedy also has
entered my life. Perhaps if things had been otherwise, I should have
found work in more joyous places, but sorrow came to me, and I am here."

A quick flash of sympathy lit up Dominey's face.

"We met trouble in a different fashion," he groaned.



CHAPTER II

Dominey slept till late the following morning, and when he woke at last
from a long, dreamless slumber, he was conscious of a curious
quietness in the camp. The doctor, who came in to see him, explained it
immediately after his morning greeting.

"His Excellency," he announced, "has received important despatches from
home. He has gone to meet an envoy from Dar-es-Salaam. He will be away
for three days. He desired that you would remain his guest until his
return."

"Very good of him," Dominey murmured. "Is there any European news?"

"I do not know," was the stolid reply. "His Excellency desired me to
inform you that if you cared for a short trip along the banks of the
river, southward, there are a dozen boys left and some ponies. There are
plenty of lion, and rhino may be met with at one or two places which the
natives know of."

Dominey bathed and dressed, sipped his excellent coffee, and lounged
about the place in uncertain mood. He unburdened himself to the doctor
as they drank tea together late in the afternoon.

"I am not in the least keen on hunting," he confessed, "and I feel like
a horrible sponge, but all the same I have a queer sort of feeling that
I'd like to see Von Ragastein again. Your silent chief rather fascinates
me, Herr Doctor. He is a man. He has something which I have lost."

"He is a great man," the doctor declared enthusiastically. "What he sets
his mind to do, he does."

"I suppose I might have been like that," Dominey sighed, "if I had had
an incentive. Have you noticed the likeness between us, Herr Doctor?"

The latter nodded.

"I noticed it from the first moment of your arrival," he assented. "You
are very much alike yet very different. The resemblance must have been
still more remarkable in your youth. Time has dealt with your features
according to your deserts."

"Well, you needn't rub it in," Dominey protested irritably.

"I am rubbing nothing in," the doctor replied with unruffled calm. "I
speak the truth. If you had been possessed of the same moral stamina as
His Excellency, you might have preserved your health and the things that
count. You might have been as useful to your country as he is to his."

"I suppose I am pretty rocky?"

"Your constitution has been abused. You still, however, have much
vitality. If you cared to exercise self-control for a few months, you
would be a different man.--You must excuse. I have work."

Dominey spent three restless days. Even the sight of a herd of elephants
in the river and that strange, fierce chorus of night sounds, as beasts
of prey crept noiselessly around the camp, failed to move him. For the
moment his love of sport, his last hold upon the world of real things,
seemed dead. What did it matter, the killing of an animal more or
less? His mind was fixed uneasily upon the past, searching always for
something which he failed to discover. At dawn he watched for that
strangely wonderful, transforming birth of the day, and at night he sat
outside the banda, waiting till the mountains on the other side of
the river had lost shape and faded into the violet darkness. His
conversation with Von Ragastein had unsettled him. Without knowing
definitely why, he wanted him back again. Memories that had long since
ceased to torture were finding their way once more into his brain.
On the first day he had striven to rid himself of them in the usual
fashion.

"Doctor, you've got some whisky, haven't you?" he asked.

The doctor nodded.

"There is a case somewhere to be found," he admitted. "His Excellency
told me that I was to refuse you nothing, but he advises you to drink
only the white wine until his return."

"He really left that message?"

"Precisely as I have delivered it."

The desire for whisky passed, came again but was beaten back, returned
in the night so that he sat up with the sweat pouring down his face and
his tongue parched. He drank lithia water instead. Late in the afternoon
of the third day, Von Ragastein rode into the camp. His clothes were
torn and drenched with the black mud of the swamps, dust and dirt were
thick upon his face. His pony almost collapsed as he swung himself off.
Nevertheless, he paused to greet his guest with punctilious courtesy,
and there was a gleam of real satisfaction in his eyes as the two men
shook hands.

"I am glad that you are still here," he said heartily. "Excuse me while
I bathe and change. We will dine a little earlier. So far I have not
eaten to-day."

"A long trek?" Dominey asked curiously.

"I have trekked far," was the quiet reply.

At dinner time, Von Ragastein was one more himself, immaculate in white
duck, with clean linen, shaved, and with little left of his fatigue.
There was something different in his manner, however, some change which
puzzled Dominey. He was at once more attentive to his guest, yet further
removed from him in spirit and sympathy. He kept the conversation with
curious insistence upon incidents of their school and college days, upon
the subject of Dominey's friends and relations, and the later episodes
of his life. Dominey felt himself all the time encouraged to talk about
his earlier life, and all the time he was conscious that for some reason
or other his host's closest and most minute attention was being given
to his slightest word. Champagne had been served and served freely, and
Dominey, up to the very gates of that one secret chamber, talked volubly
and without reserve. After the meal was over, their chairs were dragged
as before into the open. The silent orderly produced even larger cigars,
and Dominey found his glass filled once more with the wonderful brandy.
The doctor had left them to visit the native camp nearly a quarter of a
mile away, and the orderly was busy inside, clearing the table. Only the
black shapes of the servants were dimly visible as they twirled their
fans,--and overhead the gleaming stars. They were alone.

"I've been talking an awful lot of rot about myself," Dominey said.
"Tell me a little about your career now and your life in Germany before
you came out here?"

Von Ragastein made no immediate reply, and a curious silence ebbed and
flowed between the two men. Every now and then a star shot across
the sky. The red rim of the moon rose a little higher from behind the
mountains. The bush stillness, always the most mysterious of silences,
seemed gradually to become charged with unvoiced passion. Soon the
animals began to call around them, creeping nearer and nearer to the
fire which burned at the end of the open space.

"My friend," Von Ragastein said at last, speaking with the air of a man
who has spent much time in deliberation, "you speak to me of Germany,
of my homeland. Perhaps you have guessed that it is not duty alone
which has brought me here to these wild places. I, too, left behind me a
tragedy."

Dominey's quick impulse of sympathy was smothered by the stern, almost
harsh repression of the other's manner. The words seemed to have been
torn from his throat. There was no spark of tenderness or regret in his
set face.

"Since the day of my banishment," he went on, "no word of this matter
has passed my lips. To-night it is not weakness which assails me, but
a desire to yield to the strange arm of coincidence. You and I,
schoolmates and college friends, though sons of a different country,
meet here in the wilderness, each with the iron in our souls. I shall
tell you the thing which happened to me, and you shall speak to me of
your own curse."

"I cannot!" Dominey groaned.

"But you will," was the stern reply. "Listen."

An hour passed, and the voices of the two men had ceased. The howling
of the animals had lessened with the paling of the fires, and a slow,
melancholy ripple of breeze was passing through the bush and lapping the
surface of the river. It was Von Ragastein who broke through what might
almost have seemed a trance. He rose to his feet, vanished inside the
banda, and reappeared a moment or two later with two tumblers. One he
set down in the space provided for it in the arm of his guest's chair.

"To-night I break what has become a rule with me," he announced. "I
shall drink a whisky and soda. I shall drink to the new things that may
yet come to both of us."

"You are giving up your work here?" Dominey asked curiously.

"I am part of a great machine," was the somewhat evasive reply. "I have
nothing to do but obey."

A flicker of passion distorted Dominey's face, flamed for a moment in
his tone.

"Are you content to live and die like this?" he demanded. "Don't you
want to get back to where a different sort of sun will warm your heart
and fill your pulses? This primitive world is in its way colossal,
but it isn't human, it isn't a life for humans. We want streets, Von
Ragastein, you and I. We want the tide of people flowing around us, the
roar of wheels and the hum of human voices. Curse these animals! If I
live in this country much longer, I shall go on all fours."

"You yield too much to environment," his companion observed. "In the
life of the cities you would be a sentimentalist."

"No city nor any civilised country will ever claim me again," Dominey
sighed. "I should never have the courage to face what might come."

Von Ragastein rose to his feet. The dim outline of his erect form was in
a way majestic. He seemed to tower over the man who lounged in the chair
before him.

"Finish your whisky and soda to our next meeting, friend of my school
days," he begged. "To-morrow, before you awake, I shall be gone."

"So soon?"

"By to-morrow night," Von Ragastein replied, "I must be on the other
side of those mountains. This must be our farewell."

Dominey was querulous, almost pathetic. He had a sudden hatred of
solitude.

"I must trek westward myself directly," he protested, "or eastward, or
northward--it doesn't so much matter. Can't we travel together?"

Von Ragastein shook his head.

"I travel officially, and I must travel alone," he replied. "As for
yourself, they will be breaking up here to-morrow, but they will lend
you an escort and put you in the direction you wish to take. This, alas,
is as much as I can do for you. For us it must be farewell."

"Well, I can't force myself upon you," Dominey said a little 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.

"It is."

"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."

"So!"

"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."

"No wife?"

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."



CHAPTER III

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
been valued patrons of the firm for several generations. He was prepared
to greet a seedy-looking and degenerate individual, looking older than
his years. Instead, he found himself extending his hand to one of the
best turned out and handsomest men who had ever crossed the threshold
of his not very inviting office. For a moment he stared at his visitor,
speechless. Then certain points of familiarity--the well-shaped nose,
the rather deep-set grey eyes--presented themselves. This surprise
enabled him to infuse a little real heartiness into his welcome.

"My dear Sir Everard!" he exclaimed. "This is a most unexpected
pleasure--most unexpected! Such a pity, too, that we only posted a draft
for your allowance a few days ago. Dear me--you'll forgive my saying
so--how well you look!"

Dominey smiled as he accepted an easy chair.

"Africa's a wonderful country, Mangan," he remarked, with just that
faint note of patronage in his tone which took his listener back to the
days of his present client's father.

"It--pardon my remarking it--has done wonderful things for you, Sir
Everard. Let me see, it must be eleven years since we met."

Sir Everard tapped the toes of his carefully polished brown shoes with
the end of his walking stick.

"I left London," he murmured reminiscently, "in April, nineteen hundred
and two. Yes, eleven years, Mr. Mangan. It seems queer to find myself in
London again, as I dare say you can understand."

"Precisely," the lawyer murmured. "I was just wondering--I think that
last remittance we sent to you could be stopped. I have no doubt you
will be glad of a little ready money," he added, with a confident smile.

"Thanks, I don't think I need any just at present," was the amazing
answer. "We'll talk about financial affairs a little later on."

Mr. Mangan metaphorically pinched himself. He had known his present
client even during his school days, had received a great many visits
from him at different times, and could not remember one in which the
question of finance had been dismissed in so casual a manner.

"I trust," he observed chiefly for the sake of saying something, "that
you are thinking of settling down here for a time now?"

"I have finished with Africa, if that is what you mean," was the
somewhat grave reply. "As to settling down here, well, that depends a
little upon what you have to tell me."

The lawyer nodded.

"I think," he said, "that you may make yourself quite easy as regards
the matter of Roger Unthank. Nothing has ever been heard of him since
the day you left England."

"His--body has not been found?"

"Nor any trace of it."

There was a brief silence. The lawyer looked hard at Dominey, and
Dominey searchingly back again at the lawyer.

"And Lady Dominey?" the former asked at length.

"Her ladyship's condition is, I believe, unchanged," was the somewhat
guarded reply.

"If the circumstances are favourable," Dominey continued, after another
moment's pause, "I think it very likely that I may decide to settle down
at Dominey Hall."

The lawyer appeared doubtful.

"I am afraid," he said, "you will be very disappointed in the condition
of the estate, Sir Everard. As I have repeatedly told you in our
correspondence, the rent roll, after deducting your settlement upon Lady
Dominey, has at no time reached the interest on the mortgages, and we
have had to make up the difference and send you your allowance out of
the proceeds of the outlying timber."

"That is a pity," Dominey replied, with a frown. "I ought, perhaps,
to have taken you more into my confidence. By the by," he added,
"when--er--about when did you receive my last letter?"

"Your last letter?" Mr. Mangan repeated. "We have not had the privilege
of hearing from you, Sir Everard, for over four years. The only
intimation we had that our payments had reached you was the exceedingly
prompt debit of the South African bank."

"I have certainly been to blame," this unexpected visitor confessed. "On
the other hand, I have been very much absorbed. If you haven't happened
to hear any South African gossip lately, Mangan, I suppose it will be a
surprise to you to hear that I have been making a good deal of money."

"Making money?" the lawyer gasped. "You making money, Sir Everard?"

"I thought you'd be surprised," Dominey observed coolly. "However,
that's neither here nor there. The business object of my visit to you
this morning is to ask you to make arrangements as quickly as possible
for paying off the mortgages on the Dominey estates."

Mr. Mangan was a lawyer of the new-fashioned school,--Harrow and
Cambridge, the Bath Club, racquets and fives, rather than gold and
lawn tennis. Instead of saying "God bless my soul!" he exclaimed "Great
Scott!" dropped a very modern-looking eyeglass from his left eye, and
leaned back in his chair with his hands in his pockets.

"I have had three or four years of good luck," his client continued. "I
have made money in gold mines, in diamond mines and in land. I am
afraid that if I had stayed out another year, I should have descended
altogether to the commonplace and come back a millionaire."

"My heartiest congratulations!" Mr. Mangan found breath to murmur.
"You'll forgive my being so astonished, but you are the first Dominey
I ever knew who has ever made a penny of money in any sort of way, and
from what I remember of you in England--I'm sure you'll forgive my being
so frank--I should never have expected you to have even attempted such a
thing."

Dominey smiled good-humouredly.

"Well," he said, "if you inquire at the United Bank of Africa, you will
find that I have a credit balance there of something over a hundred
thousand pounds. Then I have also--well, let us say a trifle more,
invested in first-class mines. Do me the favour of lunching with me,
Mr. Mangan, and although Africa will never be a favourite topic of
conversation with me, I will tell you about some of my speculations."

The solicitor groped around for his hat.

"I will send the boy for a taxi," he faltered.

"I have a car outside," this astonishing client told him. "Before we
leave, could you instruct your clerk to have a list of the Dominey
mortgages made out, with the terminable dates and redemption values?"

"I will leave instructions," Mr. Mangan promised. "I think that the
total amount is under eighty thousand pounds."

Dominey sauntered through the office, an object of much interest to the
little staff of clerks. The lawyer joined him on the pavement in a few
minutes.

"Where shall we lunch?" Dominey asked. "I'm afraid my clubs are a little
out of date. I am staying at the Carlton."

"The Carlton grill room is quite excellent," Mr. Mangan suggested.

"They are keeping me a table until half-past one," Dominey replied. "We
will lunch there, by all means."

They drove off together, the returned traveller gazing all the time out
of the window into the crowded streets, the lawyer a little thoughtful.

"While I think of it, Sir Everard," the latter said, as they drew near
their destination. "I should be glad of a short conversation with you
before you go down to Dominey."

"With regard to anything in particular?"

"With regard to Lady Dominey," the lawyer told him a little gravely.

A shadow rested on his companion's face.

"Is her ladyship very much changed?"

"Physically, she is in excellent health, I believe. Mentally I believe
that there is no change. She has unfortunately the same rather violent
prejudice which I am afraid influenced your departure from England."

"In plain words," Dominey said bitterly, "she has sworn to take my life
if ever I sleep under the same roof."

"She will need, I am afraid, to be strictly watched," the lawyer
answered evasively. "Still, I think you ought to be told that time does
not seem to have lessened her tragical antipathy."

"She regards me still as the murderer of Roger Unthank?" Dominey asked,
in a measured tone.

"I am afraid she does."

"And I suppose that every one else has the same idea?"

"The mystery," Mr. Mangan admitted, "has never been cleared up. It is
well known, you see, that you fought in the park and that you staggered
home almost senseless. Roger Unthank has never been seen from that day
to this."

"If I had killed him," Dominey pointed out, "why was his body not
found?"

The lawyer shook his head.

"There are all sorts of theories, of course," he said, "but for one
superstition you may as well be prepared. There is scarcely a man or
a woman for miles around Dominey who doesn't believe that the ghost of
Roger Unthank still haunts the Black Wood near where you fought."

"Let us be quite clear about this," Dominey insisted. "If the body
should ever be found, am I liable, after all these years, to be indicted
for manslaughter?"

"I think you may make your mind quite at ease," the lawyer assured him.
"In the first place, I don't think you would ever be indicted."

"And in the second?"

"There isn't a human being in that part of Norfolk would ever believe
that the body of man or beast, left within the shadow of the Black Wood,
would ever be seen or heard of again!"



CHAPTER IV

Mr. Mangan, on their way into the grill room, loitered for a few minutes
in the small reception room, chatting with some acquaintances, whilst
his host, having spoken to the _maitre d'hotel_ and ordered a cocktail
from a passing waiter, stood with his hands behind his back, watching
the inflow of men and women with all that interest which one might be
supposed to feel in one's fellows after a prolonged absence. He had
moved a little to one side to allow a party of young people to make
their way through the crowded chamber, when he was conscious of a woman
standing alone on the topmost of the three thickly carpeted stairs.
Their eyes met, and hers, which had been wandering around the room as
though in search of some acquaintance, seemed instantly and fervently
held. To the few loungers about the room, ignorant of any special
significance in that studied contemplation of the man on the part of
the woman, their two personalities presented an agreeable, almost a
fascinating study. Dominey was six feet two in height and had to its
fullest extent the natural distinction of his class, together with
the half military, half athletic bearing which seemed to have been so
marvellously restored to him. His complexion was no more than becomingly
tanned; his slight moustache, trimmed very close to the upper lip, was
of the same ruddy brown shade as his sleekly brushed hair. The woman,
who had commenced now to move slowly towards him, save that her cheeks,
at that moment, at any rate, were almost unnaturally pale, was of the
same colouring. Her red-gold hair gleamed beneath her black hat. She
was tall, a Grecian type of figure, large without being coarse, majestic
though still young. She carried a little dog under one arm and a plain
black silk bag, on which was a coronet in platinum and diamonds, in
the other hand. The major-domo who presided over the room, watching her
approach, bowed with more than his usual urbanity. Her eyes, however,
were still fixed upon the person who had engaged so large a share of her
attention. She came towards him, her lips a little parted.

"Leopold!" she faltered. "The Holy Saints, why did you not let me know!"

Dominey bowed very slightly. His words seemed to have a cut and dried
flavour.

"I am so sorry," he replied, "but I fear that you make a mistake. My
name is not Leopold."

She stood quite still, looking at him with the air of not having heard a
word of his polite disclaimer.

"In London, of all places," she murmured. "Tell me, what does it mean?"

"I can only repeat, madam," he said, "that to my very great regret I
have not the honour of your acquaintance."

She was puzzled, but absolutely unconvinced.

"You mean to deny that you are Leopold Von Ragastein?" she asked
incredulously. "You do not know me?"

"Madam," he answered, "it is not my great pleasure. My name is
Dominey--Everard Dominey."

She seemed for a moment to be struggling with some embarrassment which
approached emotion. Then she laid her fingers upon his sleeve and drew
him to a more retired corner of the little apartment.

"Leopold," she whispered, "nothing can make it wrong or indiscreet for
you to visit me. My address is 17, Belgrave Square. I desire to see you
to-night at seven o'clock."

"But, my dear lady," Dominey began--

Her eyes suddenly glowed with a new light.

"I will not be trifled with," she insisted. "If you wish to succeed in
whatever scheme you have on hand, you must not make an enemy of me. I
shall expect you at seven o'clock."

She passed away from him into the restaurant. Mr. Mangan, now freed from
his friends, rejoined his host, and the two men took their places at the
side table to which they were ushered with many signs of attention.

"Wasn't that the Princess Eiderstrom with whom you were talking?" the
solicitor asked curiously.

"A lady addressed me by mistake," Dominey explained. "She mistook me,
curiously enough, for a man who used to be called my double at Oxford.
Sigismund Devinter he was then, although I think he came into a title
later on."

"The Princess is quite a famous personage," Mr. Mangan remarked, "one of
the richest widows in Europe. Her husband was killed in a duel some six
or seven years ago."

Dominey ordered the luncheon with care, slipping into a word or two of
German once to assist the waiter, who spoke English with difficulty. His
companion smiled.

"I see that you have not forgotten your languages out there in the
wilds."

"I had no chance to," Dominey answered. "I spent five years on the
borders of German East Africa, and I traded with some of the fellows
there regularly."

"By the by," Mr. Mangan enquired, "what sort of terms are we on with the
Germans out there?"

"Excellent, I should think," was the careless reply. "I never had any
trouble."

"Of course," the lawyer continued, "this will all be new to you, but
during the last few years Englishmen have become divided into two
classes--the people who believe that the Germans wish to go to war and
crush us, and those who don't."

"Then since my return the number of the 'don'ts' has been increased by
one."

"I am amongst the doubtfuls myself," Mr. Mangan remarked. "All the same,
I can't quite see what Germany wants with such an immense army, and why
she is continually adding to her fleet."

Dominey paused for a moment to discuss the matter of a sauce with the
head waiter. He returned to the subject a few minutes later on, however.

"Of course," he pointed out, "my opinions can only come from a study of
the newspapers and from conversations with such Germans as I have met
out in Africa, but so far as her army is concerned, I should have said
that Russia and France were responsible for that, and the more powerful
it is, the less chance of any European conflagration. Russia might at
any time come to the conclusion that a war is her only salvation against
a revolution, and you know the feeling in France about Alsace-Lorraine
as well as I do. The Germans themselves say that there is more interest
in military matters and more progress being made in Russia to-day than
ever before."

"I have no doubt that you are right," agreed Mr. Mangan. "It is a matter
which is being a great deal discussed just now, however. Let us speak
of your personal plans. What do you intend to do for the next few weeks,
say? Have you been to see any of your relatives yet?"

"Not one," Dominey replied. "I am afraid that I am not altogether keen
about making advances."

Mr. Mangan coughed. "You must remember that during the period of your
last residence in London," he said, "you were in a state of chronic
impecuniosity. No doubt that rather affected the attitude of some of
those who would otherwise have been more friendly."

"I should be perfectly content never to see one of them again," declared
Dominey, with perfect truth.

"That, of course, is impossible," the lawyer protested. "You must go and
see the Duchess, at any rate. She was always your champion."

"The Duchess was always very kind to me," Dominey admitted doubtfully,
"but I am afraid she was rather fed up before I left England."

Mr. Mangan smiled. He was enjoying a very excellent lunch, which it
seemed hard to believe was ordered by a man just home from the wilds of
Africa, and he thoroughly enjoyed talking about duchesses.

"Her Grace," he began--

"Well?"

The lawyer had paused, with his eyes glued upon the couple at a
neighbouring table. He leaned across towards his companion.

"The Duchess herself, Sir Everard, just behind you, with Lord St. Omar."

"This place must certainly be the rendezvous of all the world," Dominey
declared, as he held out his hand to a man who had approached their
table. "Seaman, my friend, welcome! Let me introduce you to my friend
and legal adviser, Mr. Mangan--Mr. Seaman."

Mr. Seaman was a short, fat man, immaculately dressed in most
conventional morning attire. He was almost bald, except for a little
tuft on either side, and a few long, fair hairs carefully brushed back
over a shining scalp. His face was extraordinarily round except towards
his chin, where it came to a point; his eyes bright and keen, his mouth
the mouth of a professional humourist. He shook hands with the lawyer
with an _empressement_ which was scarcely English.

"Within the space of half an hour," Dominey continued, "I find a
princess who desires to claim my acquaintance; a cousin," he dropped his
voice a little, "who lunches only a few tables away, and the man of whom
I have seen the most during the last ten years amidst scenes a little
different from these, eh, Seaman?"

Seaman accepted the chair which the waiter had brought and sat down. The
lawyer was immediately interested.

"Do I understand, then," he asked, addressing the newcomer, "that you
knew Sir Everard in Africa?"

Seaman beamed. "Knew him?" he repeated, and with the first words of his
speech the fact of his foreign nationality was established. "There was
no one of whom I knew so much. We did business together--a great deal of
business--and when we were not partners, Sir Everard generally got the
best of it."

Dominey laughed. "Luck generally comes to a man either early or late
in life. My luck came late. I think, Seaman, that you must have been my
mascot. Nothing went wrong with me during the years that we did business
together."

Seaman was a little excited. He brushed upright with the palm of his
hand one of those little tufts of hair left on the side of his head, and
he laid his plump fingers upon the lawyer's shoulder.

"Mr. Mangan," he said, "you listen to me. I sell this man the
controlling interests in a mine, shares which I have held for four and
a half years and never drew a penny dividend. I sell them to him, I say,
at par. Well, I need the money and it seems to me that I had given the
shares a fair chance. Within five weeks--five weeks, sir," he repeated,
struggling to attune his voice to his civilised surroundings, "those
shares had gone from par to fourteen and a half. To-day they stand at
twenty. He gave me five thousand pounds for those shares. To-day
he could walk into your stock market and sell them for one hundred
thousand. That is the way money is made in Africa, Mr. Mangan, where
innocents like me are to be found every day."

Dominey poured out a glass of wine and passed it to their visitor.

"Come," he said, "we all have our ups and downs. Africa owes you
nothing, Seaman."

"I have done well in my small way," Seaman admitted, fingering the stem
of his wineglass, "but where I have had to plod, Sir Everard here has
stood and commanded fate to pour her treasures into his lap."

The lawyer was listening with a curious interest and pleasure to this
half bantering conversation. He found an opportunity now to intervene.

"So you two were really friends in Africa?" he remarked, with a queer
and almost inexplicable sense of relief.

"If Sir Everard permits our association to be so called," Seaman
replied. "We have done business together in the great cities--in
Johannesburg and Pretoria, in Kimberley and Cape Town--and we have
prospected together in the wild places. We have trekked the veldt and
been lost to the world for many months at a time. We have seen the real
wonders of Africa together, as well as her tawdry civilisation."

"And you, too," Mr. Mangan asked, "have you retired?"

Seaman's smile was almost beatific.

"The same deal," he said, "which brought Sir Everard's fortune to
wonderful figures brought me that modest sum which I had sworn to
reach before I returned to England. It is true. I have retired from
money-making. It is now that I take up again my real life's work."

"If you are going to talk about your hobby," Dominey observed, "you had
better order them to serve your lunch here."

"I had finished my lunch before you came in," his friend replied. "I
drink another glass of wine with you, perhaps. Afterwards a liqueur--who
can say? In this climate one is favoured, one can drink freely. Sir
Everard and I, Mr. Mangan, have been in places where thirst is a thing
to be struggled against, where for months a little weak brandy and water
was our chief dissipation."

"Tell me about this hobby?" the lawyer enquired.

Dominey intervened promptly. "I protest. If he begins to talk of that,
he'll be here all the afternoon."

Seaman held out his hands and rolled his head from side to side.

"But I am not so unreasonable," he objected. "Just one word--so?
Very well, then," he proceeded quickly, with the air of one fearing
interruption. "This must be clear to you, Mr. Mangan. I am a German
by birth, naturalised in England for the sake of my business, loving
Germany, grateful to England. One third of my life I have lived in
Berlin, one third at Forest Hill here in London, and in the city, one
third in Africa. I have watched the growth of commercial rivalries and
jealousies between the two nations. There is no need for them. They
might lead to worse things. I would brush them all away. My aim is to
encourage a league for the promotion of more cordial social and business
relations between the people of Great Britain and the people of the
German Empire. There! Have I wasted much of your time? Can I not speak
of my hobby without a flood of words?"

"Conciseness itself," Mangan admitted, "and I compliment you most
heartily upon your scheme. If you can get the right people into it, it
should prove a most valuable society."

"In Germany I have the right people. All Germans who live for their
country and feel for their country loathe the thought of war. We want
peace, we want friends, and, to speak as man to man," he concluded,
tapping the lawyer upon the coat sleeve, "England is our best customer."

"I wish one could believe," the latter remarked, "that yours was the
popular voice in your country."

Seaman rose reluctantly to his feet.

"At half-past two," he announced, glancing at his watch, "I have an
appointment with a woollen manufacturer from Bradford. I hope to get him
to join my council."

He bowed ceremoniously to the lawyer, nodded to Dominey with the
familiarity of an old friend, and made his bustling, good-humoured way
out of the room.

"A sound business man, I should think," was the former's comment. "I
wish him luck with his League. You yourself, Sir Everard, will need to
develop some new interests. Why not politics?"

"I really expect to find life a little difficult at first," admitted
Dominey, with a shrug of his shoulders. "I have lost many of the tastes
of my youth, and I am very much afraid that my friends over here will
call me colonial. I can't fancy myself doing nothing down in Norfolk all
the rest of my days. Perhaps I shall go into Parliament."

"You must forgive my saying," his companion declared impulsively, "that
I never knew ten years make such a difference in a man in my life."

"The colonies," Dominey pronounced, "are a kill or cure sort of
business. You either take your drubbing and come out a stronger man, or
you go under. I had the very narrowest escape from going under myself,
but I just pulled together in time. To-day I wouldn't have been without
my hard times for anything in the world."

"If you will permit me," Mr. Mangan said, with an inherited pomposity,
"on our first meeting under the new conditions, I should like to offer
you my hearty congratulations, not only upon what you have accomplished
but upon what you have become."

"And also, I hope," Dominey rejoined, smiling a little seriously and
with a curious glint in his eyes, "upon what I may yet accomplish."

The Duchess and her companion had risen to their feet, and the former,
on her way out, recognising her solicitor, paused graciously.

"How do you do, Mr. Mangan?" she said. "I hope you are looking after
those troublesome tenants of mine in Leicestershire?"

"We shall make our report in due course, Duchess," Mangan assured her.
"Will you permit me," he added, "to bring back to your memory a relative
who has just returned from abroad--Sir Everard Dominey?"

Dominey had risen to his feet a moment previously and now extended his
hand. The Duchess, who was a tall, graceful woman, with masses of fair
hair only faintly interspersed with gray, very fine brown eyes, the
complexion of a girl, and, to quite her own confession, the manners of a
kitchen maid, stared at him for a moment without any response.

"Sir Everard Dominey?" she repeated. "Everard? Ridiculous!"

Dominey's extended hand was at once withdrawn, and the tentative smile
faded from his lips. The lawyer plunged into the breach.

"I can assure your Grace," he insisted earnestly, "that there is no
doubt whatever about Sir Everard's identity. He only returned from
Africa during the last few days."

The Duchess's incredulity remained, wholly good-natured but ministered
to by her natural obstinacy.

"I simply cannot bring myself to believe it," she declared. "Come, I'll
challenge you. When did we meet last?"

"At Worcester House," was the prompt reply. "I came to say good-bye to
you."

The Duchess was a little staggered. Her eyes softened, a faint smile
played at the corners of her lips. She was suddenly a very attractive
looking woman.

"You came to say good-bye," she repeated, "and?"

"I am to take that as a challenge?" Dominey asked, standing very upright
and looking her in the eyes.

"As you will."

"You were a little kinder to me," he continued, "than you are to-day.
You gave me--this," he added, drawing a small picture from his
pocketbook, "and you permitted--"

"For heaven's sake, put that thing away," she cried, "and don't say
another word! There's my grown-up nephew, St. Omar, paying his
bill almost within earshot. Come and see me at half-past three this
afternoon, and don't be a minute late. And, St. Omar," she went
on, turning to the young man who stood now by her side, "this is a
connection of yours--Sir Everard Dominey. He is a terrible person, but
do shake hands with him and come along. I am half an hour late for my
dressmaker already."

Lord St. Omar chuckled vaguely, then shook hands with his new-found
relative, nodded affably to the lawyer and followed his aunt out of the
room. Mangan's expression was beatific.

"Sir Everard," he exclaimed, "God bless you! If ever a woman got what
she deserved! I've seen a duchess blush--first time in my life!"



CHAPTER V

Worcester House was one of those semi-palatial residences set down
apparently for no reason whatever in the middle of Regent's Park. It had
been acquired by a former duke at the instigation of the Regent, who was
his intimate friend, and retained by later generations in mute protest
against the disfiguring edifices which had made a millionaire's highway
of Park Lane. Dominey, who was first scrutinised by an individual in
buff waistcoat and silk hat at the porter's lodge, was interviewed by a
major-domo in the great stone hall, conducted through an extraordinarily
Victorian drawing-room by another myrmidon in a buff waistcoat, and
finally ushered into a tiny little boudoir leading out of a larger
apartment and terminating in a conservatory filled with sweet-smelling
exotics. The Duchess, who was reclining in an easy-chair, held out her
hand, which her visitor raised to his lips. She motioned him to a seat
by her side and once more scrutinised him with unabashed intentness.

"There's something wrong about you, you know," she declared.

"That seems very unfortunate," he rejoined, "when I return to find you
wholly unchanged."

"Not bad," she remarked critically. "All the same, I have changed. I am
not in the least in love with you any longer."

"It was the fear of that change in you," he sighed, "which kept me for
so long in the furthest corners of the world."

She looked at him with a severity which was obviously assumed.

"Look here," she said, "it is better for us to have a perfectly clear
understanding upon one point. I know the exact position of your affairs,
and I know, too, that the two hundred a year which your lawyer has been
sending out to you came partly out of a few old trees and partly out of
his own pocket. How you are going to live over here I cannot imagine,
but it isn't the least use expecting Henry to do a thing for you. The
poor man has scarcely enough pocket money to pay his travelling expenses
when he goes lecturing."

"Lecturing?" Dominey repeated. "What's happened to poor Henry?"

"My husband is an exceedingly conscientious man," was the dignified
reply. "He goes from town to town with Lord Roberts and a secretary,
lecturing on national defence."

"Dear Henry was always a little cranky, wasn't he?" Dominey observed.
"Let me put your mind at rest on that other matter, though, Caroline. I
can assure you that I have come back to England not to borrow money but
to spend it."

His cousin shook her head mournfully. "And a few minutes ago I was
nearly observing that you had lost your sense of humour!"

"I am in earnest," he persisted. "Africa has turned out to be my
Eldorado. Quite unexpectedly, I must admit, I came in for a considerable
sum of money towards the end of my stay there. I am paying off the
mortgages at Dominey at once, and I want Henry to jot down on paper at
once those few amounts he was good enough to lend me in the old days."

Caroline, Duchess of Worcester, sat perfectly still for a moment with
her mouth open, a condition which was entirely natural but unbecoming.

"And you mean to tell me that you really are Everard Dominey?" she
exclaimed.

"The weight of evidence is rather that way," he murmured.

He moved his chair deliberately a little nearer, took her hand and
raised it to his lips. Her face was perilously near to his. She drew a
little back--and too abruptly.

"My dear Everard," she whispered, "Henry is in the house! Besides--Yes,
I suppose you must be Everard. Just now there was something in your eyes
exactly like his. But you are so stiff. Have you been drilling out there
or anything?"

He shook his head.

"One spends half one's time in the saddle."

"And you are really well off?" she asked again wonderingly.

"If I had stayed there another year," he replied, "and been able to
marry a Dutch Jewess, I should have qualified for Park Lane."

She sighed.

"It's too wonderful. Henry will love having his money back."

"And you?"

She looked positively distressed.

"You've lost all your manners," she complained. "You make love like a
garden rake. You should have leaned towards me with a quiver in your
voice when you said those last two words, and instead of that you look
as though you were sitting at attention, with a positive glint of steel
in your eyes."

"One sees a woman once in a blue moon out there," he pleaded.

She shook her head. "You've changed. It was a sixth sense with you to
make love in exactly the right tone, to say exactly the right thing in
the right manner."

"I shall pick it up," he declared hopefully, "with a little assistance."

She made a little grimace.

"You won't want an old woman like me to assist you, Everard. You'll have
the town at your feet. You'll be able to frivol with musical comedy,
flirt with our married beauties, or--I'm sorry, Everard, I forgot."

"You forgot what?" he asked steadfastly.

"I forgot the tragedy which finally drove you abroad. I forgot your
marriage. Is there any change in your wife?"

"Not much, I am afraid."

"And Mr. Mangan--he thinks that you are safe over here?"

"Perfectly."

She looked at him earnestly. Perhaps she had never admitted, even to
herself, how fond she had been of this scapegrace cousin.

"You'll find that no one will have a word to say against you," she told
him, "now that you are wealthy and regenerate. They'll forget everything
you want them to. When will you come and dine here and meet all your
relatives?"

"Whenever you are kind enough to ask me," he answered. "I thought of
going down to Dominey to-morrow."

She looked at him with a new thing in her eyes--something of fear,
something, too, of admiration.

"But--your wife?"

"She is there, I believe," he said. "I cannot help it. I have been an
exile from my home long enough."

"Don't go," she begged suddenly. "Why not be brave and have her removed.
I know how tender-hearted you are, but you have your future and your
career to consider. For her sake, too, you ought not to give her the
opportunity--"

Dominey could never make up his mind whether the interruption which came
at that moment was welcome or otherwise. Caroline suddenly broke off
in her speech and glanced warningly towards the larger room. A tall,
grey-haired man, dressed in old-fashioned clothes and wearing a
pince-nez, had lifted the curtains. He addressed the Duchess in a thin,
reedy voice.

"My dear Caroline," he began,--"ah, you must forgive me. I did not know
that you were engaged. We will not stay, but I should like to present to
you a young friend of mine who is going to help me at the meeting this
evening."

"Do bring him in," his wife replied, her voice once more attuned to its
natural drawl. "And I have a surprise for you too, Henry--a very great
surprise, I think you will find it!"

Dominey rose to his feet--a tall, commanding figure--and stood waiting
the approach of the newcomer. The Duke advanced, looking at him
enquiringly. A young man, very obviously a soldier in mufti, was
hovering in the background.

"I must plead guilty to the surprise," the Duke confessed courteously.
"There is something exceedingly familiar about your face, sir, but I
cannot remember having had the privilege of meeting you."

"You see," Caroline observed, "I am not the only one, Everard, who did
not accept you upon a glance. This is Everard Dominey, Henry, returned
from foreign exile and regenerated in every sense of the word."

"How do you do?" Dominey said, holding out his hand. "I seem to be
rather a surprise to every one, but I hope you haven't quite forgotten
me."

"God bless my soul!" the Duke exclaimed. "You don't mean to say that
you're really Everard Dominey?"

"I am he, beyond a doubt," was the calm assurance.

"Most amazing!" the Duke declared, as he shook hands. "Most amazing! I
never saw such a change in my life. Yes, yes, I see--same complexion,
of course--nose and eyes--yes, yes! But you seem taller, and you carry
yourself like a soldier. Dear, dear me! Africa has done wonderfully by
you. Delighted, my dear Everard! Delighted!"

"You'll be more delighted still when you hear the rest of the news," his
wife remarked drily. "In the meantime, do present your friend."

"Precisely so," the Duke acquiesced, turning to the young man in the
background. "Most sorry, my dear Captain Bartram. The unexpected return
of a connection of my wife must be my apology for this lapse of manners.
Let me present you to the Duchess. Captain Bartram is just back from
Germany, my dear, and is an enthusiastic supporter of our cause.--Sir
Everard Dominey."

Caroline shook hands kindly with her husband's protege, and Dominey
exchanged a solemn handshake with him.

"You, too, are one of those, then, Captain Bartram, who are convinced
that Germany has evil designs upon us?" the former said, smiling.

"I have just returned from Germany after twelve months' stay there,"
the young soldier replied. "I went with an open mind. I have come
back convinced that we shall be at war with Germany within a couple of
years."

The Duke nodded vigorously.

"Our young friend is right," he declared. "Three times a week for many
months I have been drumming the fact into the handful of wooden-headed
Englishmen who have deigned to come to our meetings. I have made myself
a nuisance to the House of Lords and the Press. It is a terrible thing
to realise how hard it is to make an Englishman reflect, so long as he
is making money and having a good time.--You are just back from Africa,
Everard?"

"Within a week, sir."

"Did you see anything of the Germans out there? Were you anywhere near
their Colony?"

"I have been in touch with them for some years," Dominey replied.

"Most interesting!" his questioner exclaimed. "You may be of service to
us, Everard. You may, indeed! Now tell me, isn't it true that they have
secret agents out there, trying to provoke unsettlement and disquiet
amongst the Boers? Isn't it true that they apprehend a war with England
before very long and are determined to stir up the Colony against us?"

"I am very sorry," Dominey replied, "but I am not a politician in any
shape or form. All the Germans whom I have met out there seem a most
peaceful race of men, and there doesn't seem to be the slightest
discontent amongst the Boers or any one else."

The Duke's face fell. "This is very surprising."

"The only people who seem to have any cause for discontent," Dominey
continued, "are the English settlers. I didn't commence to do any good
myself there till a few years ago, but I have heard some queer stories
about the way our own people were treated after the war."

"What you say about South Africa, Sir Everard," the young soldier
remarked, "is naturally interesting, but I am bound to say that it is in
direct opposition to all I have heard."

"And I," the Duke echoed fervently.

"I have lived there for the last eleven years," Dominey continued, "and
although I spent the earlier part of that time trekking after big game,
lately I am bound to confess that every thought and energy I possess
have been centered upon money-making. For that reason, perhaps, my
observations may have been at fault. I shall claim the privilege of
coming to one of your first meetings, Duke, and of trying to understand
this question."

His august connection blinked at him a little curiously for a moment
behind his glasses.

"My dear Everard," he said, "forgive my remarking it, but I find you
more changed than I could have believed possible."

"Everard is changed in more ways than one," his wife observed, with
faint irony.

Dominey, who had risen to leave, bent over her hand.

"What about my dinner party, sir?" she added.

"As soon as I return from Norfolk," he replied.

"Dominey Hall will really find you?" she asked a little curiously.

"Most certainly!"

There was again that little flutter of fear in her eyes, followed by a
momentary flash of admiration. Dominey shook hands gravely with his host
and nodded to Bertram. The servant whom the Duchess had summoned stood
holding the curtains on one side.

"I shall hope to see you again shortly, Duke," Dominey said, as he
completed his leave-taking. "There is a little matter of business to be
adjusted between us. You will probably hear from Mr. Mangan in a day or
two."

The Duke gazed after the retreating figure of this very amazing visitor.
When the curtains had fallen he turned to his wife.

"A little matter of business," he repeated. "I hope you have explained
to Everard, my dear, that although, of course, we are very glad to see
him back again, it is absolutely hopeless for him to look to me for any
financial assistance at the present moment."

Caroline smiled.

"Everard was alluding to the money he already owes you," she explained.
"He intends to repay it at once. He is also paying off the Dominey
mortgages. He has apparently made a fortune in Africa."

The Duke collapsed into an easy-chair.

"Everard pay his debts?" he exclaimed. "Everard Dominey pay off the
mortgages?"

"That is what I understand," his wife acquiesced.

The Duke clutched at the last refuge of a weak but obstinate man. His
mouth came together like a rat-trap.

"There's something wrong about it somewhere," he declared.



CHAPTER VI

Dominey spent a very impatient hour that evening in his sitting-room at
the Carlton, waiting for Seaman. It was not until nearly seven that the
latter appeared.

"Are you aware," Dominey asked him, "that I am expected to call upon the
Princess Eiderstrom at seven o'clock?"

"I have your word for it," Seaman replied, "but I see no tragedy in the
situation. The Princess is a woman of sense and a woman of political
insight. While I cannot recommend you to take her entirely into your
confidence, I still think that a middle course can be judiciously
pursued."

"Rubbish!" Dominey exclaimed. "As Leopold Von Ragastein, the Princess
has indisputable claims upon me and my liberty, claims which would
altogether interfere with the career of Everard Dominey."

With methodical neatness, Seaman laid his hat, gloves and walking stick
upon the sideboard. He then looked into the connecting bedroom, closed
and fastened the door and extended himself in an easy-chair.

"Sit opposite to me, my friend," he said. "We will talk together."

Dominey obeyed a little sullenly. His companion, however, ignored his
demeanour.

"Now, my friend," he said, beating upon the palm of one hand with the
forefinger of his other, "I am a man of commerce and I do things in a
business way. Let us take stock of our position. Three months ago this
very week, we met by appointment at a certain hotel in Cape Town."

"Only three months," Dominey muttered.

"We were unknown to one another," Seaman continued. "I had only heard of
the Baron Von Ragastein as a devoted German citizen and patriot, engaged
in an important enterprise in East Africa by special intercession of the
Kaiser, on account of a certain unfortunate happening in Hungary."

"I killed a man in a duel," Dominey said slowly, with his eyes fixed
upon his companion's. "It was not an unforgivable act."

"There are duels and duels. A fight between two young men, in defence of
the honour of or to gain the favour of a young lady in their own station
of life, has never been against the conventions of the Court. On the
other hand, to become the lover of the wife of one of the greatest
nobles in Hungary, and to secure possession by killing the husband
in the duel which his honour makes a necessity is looked upon very
differently."

"I had no wish to kill the Prince," Dominey protested, "nor was it at 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."

"Terniloff?"

"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."

The little man's face relaxed.

"He reminds me of the geese who saved the Capitol," he said, "a
brainless man obsessed with one idea. It is queer how often these
fanatics discover the truth. That reminds me," he added, taking a small
memorandum book from his waistcoat pocket and glancing it through. "His
Grace has a meeting to-night at the Holborn Town Hall. I shall make one
of my usual interruptions."

"If he has so small a following, why don't you leave him alone?" Dominey
enquired.

"There are others associated with him," was the placid reply, "who
are not so insignificant. Besides, when I interrupt I advertise my own
little hobby."

"These--we English are strange people," Dominey remarked, glancing
around the room after a brief but thoughtful pause. "We advertise
and boast about our colossal wealth, and yet we are incapable of
the slightest self-sacrifice in order to preserve it. One would have
imagined that our philosophers, our historians, would warn us in
irresistible terms, by unanswerable scientific deduction, of what was
coming."

"My compliments to your pronouns," Seaman murmured, with a little bow.
"Apropos of what you were saying, you will never make an Englishman--I
beg your pardon, one of your countrymen--realise anything unpleasant.
He prefers to keep his head comfortably down in the sand. But to leave
generalities, when do you think of going to Norfolk?"

"Within the next few days," Dominey replied.

"I shall breathe more freely when you are securely established
there," his companion declared. "Great things wait upon your complete
acceptance, in the country as well as in town, as Sir Everard Dominey.
You are sure that you perfectly understand your position there as
regards your--er--domestic affairs?"

"I understand all that is necessary," was the somewhat stiff reply.

"All that is necessary is not enough," Seaman rejoined irritably.
"I thought that you had wormed the whole story out of that drunken
Englishman?"

"He told me most of it. There were just one or two points which lay
beyond the limits where questioning was possible."

Seaman frowned angrily.

"In other words," he complained, "you remembered that you were a
gentleman and not that you were a German."

"The Englishman of a certain order," Dominey pronounced, "even though
he be degenerate, has a certain obstinacy, generally connected with one
particular thing, which nothing can break. We talked together on that
last night until morning; we drank wine and brandy. I tore the story of
my own exile from my breast and laid it bare before him. Yet I knew all
the time, as I know now, that he kept something back."

There was a brief pause. During the last few minutes a certain
tension had crept in between the two men. With it, their personal
characteristics seemed to have become intensified. Dominey was more
than ever the aristocrat; Seaman the plebian schemer, unabashed and
desperately in earnest. He leaned presently a little way across the
table. His eyes had narrowed but they were as bright as steel. His teeth
were more prominent than usual.

"You should have dragged it from his throat," he insisted. "It is not
your duty to nurse fine personal feelings. Heart and soul you stand
pledged to great things. I cannot at this moment give you any idea what
you may not mean to us after the trouble has come, if you are able to
play your part still in this country as Everard Dominey of Dominey
Hall. I know well enough that the sense of personal honour amongst the
Prussian aristocracy is the finest in the world, and yet there is not a
single man of your order who should not be prepared to lie or cheat
for his country's sake. You must fall into line with your fellows. Once
more, it is not only your task with regard to Terniloff which makes
your recognition as Everard Dominey so important to us. It is the things
which are to come later.--Come, enough of this subject. I know that you
understand. We grow too serious. How shall you spend your evening until
eleven o'clock? Remember you did not leave England an anchorite, Sir
Everard. You must have your amusements. Why not try a music hall?"

"My mind is too full of other things," Dominey objected.

"Then come with me to Holborn," the little man suggested. "It will amuse
you. We will part at the door, and you shall sit at the back of the
hall, out of sight. You shall hear the haunting eloquence of your
cousin-in-law. You shall hear him trying to warn the men and women of
England of the danger awaiting them from the great and rapacious German
nation. What do you say?"

"I will come," Dominey replied in spiritless fashion. "It will be better
than a music hall, at any rate. I am not at all sure, Seaman, that
the hardest part of my task over here will not be this necessity for
self-imposed amusements."

His companion struck the table gently but impatiently with his clenched
fist.

"Man, you are young!" he exclaimed. "You are like the rest of us. You
carry your life in your hands. Don't nourish past griefs. Cast the
memory of them away. There's nothing which narrows a man more than
morbidness. You have a past which may sometimes bring the ghosts
around you, but remember the sin was not wholly yours, and there is
an atonement which in measured fashion you may commence whenever you
please. I have said enough about that. Greatness and gaiety go hand in
hand. There! You see, I was a philosopher before I became a professor of
propaganda. Good! You smile. That is something gained, at any rate. Now
we will take a taxicab to Holborn and I will show you something really
humorous."

At the entrance to the town hall, the two men, at Seaman's instigation,
parted, making their way inside by different doors. Dominey found a
retired seat under a balcony, where he was unlikely to be recognised
from the platform. Seaman, on the other hand, took up a more prominent
position at the end of one of the front rows of benches. The meeting was
by no means overcrowded, over-enthusiastic, over-anything. There were
rows of empty benches, a good many young couples who seemed to have
come in for shelter from the inclement night, a few sturdy,
respectable-looking tradesmen who had come because it seemed to be the
respectable thing to do, a few genuinely interested, and here and
there, although they were decidedly in the minority, a sprinkling of
enthusiasts. On the platform was the Duke, with civic dignitaries on
either side of him; a distinguished soldier, a Member of Parliament, a
half-dozen or so of nondescript residents from the neighbourhood, and
Captain Bartram. The meeting was on the point of commencement as Dominey
settled down in his corner.

First of all the Duke rose, and in a few hackneyed but earnest sentences
introduced his young friend Captain Bartram. The latter, who sprang at
once into the middle of his subject, was nervous and more than a
little bitter. He explained that he had resigned his commission and
was therefore free to speak his mind. He spoke of enormous military
preparations in Germany and a general air of tense expectation. Against
whom were these preparations? Without an earthly doubt against Germany's
greatest rival, whose millions of young men, even in this hour of
danger, preferred playing or watching football or cricket on Saturday
afternoons to realising their duty. The conclusion of an ill-pointed but
earnest speech was punctuated by the furtive entrance into the hall of
a small boy selling evening newspapers, and there was a temporary
diversion from any interest in the proceedings on the part of the
younger portion of the audience, whilst they satisfied themselves as to
the result of various Cup Ties. The Member of Parliament then descended
upon them in a whirlwind of oratory and in his best House of Commons
style. He spoke of black clouds and of the cold breeze that went before
the coming thunderstorm. He pointed to the collapse of every great
nation throughout history who had neglected the arts of self-defence. He
appealed to the youth of the nation to prepare themselves to guard their
womenkind, their homes, the sacred soil of their country, and at that
point was interrupted by a drowsy member of the audience with stentorian
lungs, who seemed just at that moment to have waked up.

"What about the Navy, guv'nor?"

The orator swept upon the interrupter in his famous platform manner. The
Navy, he declared, could be trusted at all times to do its duty, but
it could not fight on sea and land. Would the young man who had just
interrupted do his, and enroll his name for drill and national service
that evening?--and so on. The distinguished soldier, who was suffering
from a cold, fired off a few husky sentences only, to the tune of
rounds of applause. The proceedings were wound up by the Duke, who was
obviously, with the exception of the distinguished soldier, much more
in earnest than any of them, and secured upon the whole a respectful
attention. He brought in a few historical allusions, pleaded for a
greater spirit of earnestness and citizenship amongst the men of
the country, appealed even to the women to develop their sense of
responsibility, and sat down amidst a little burst of quite enthusiastic
applause.--The vote of thanks to the chairman was on the point of being
proposed when Mr. Seaman, standing up in his place, appealed to the
chairman for permission to say a few words. The Duke, who had had some
experience with Mr. Seaman before, looked at him severely, but the
smile with which Mr. Seaman looked around upon the audience was so
good-natured and attractive, that he had no alternative but to
assent. Seaman scrambled up the steps on to the platform, coughed
apologetically, bowed to the Duke, and took possession of the meeting.
After a word or two of compliment to the chairman, he made his
confession. He was a German citizen--he was indeed one of that
bloodthirsty race. (Some laughter.) He was also, and it was his excuse
for standing there, the founder and secretary of a league, doubtless
well known to them, a league for promoting more friendly relations
between the business men of Germany and England. Some of the remarks
which he had heard that evening had pained him deeply. Business often
took him to Germany, and as a German he would be doing less than his
duty if he did not stand up there and tell them that the average German
loved the Englishman like a brother, that the object of his life was to
come into greater kinship with him, that Germany even at that moment,
was standing with hand outstretched to her relatives across the North
Sea, begging for a deeper sympathy, begging for a larger understanding.
(Applause from the audience, murmurs of dissent from the platform.) And
as to those military preparations of which they had heard so much (with
a severe glance at Captain Bartram), let them glance for one moment at
the frontiers of Germany, let them realise that eastwards Germany was
being continually pressed by an ancient and historic foe of enormous
strength. He would not waste their time telling them of the political
difficulties which Germany had had to face during the last generation.
He would simply tell them this great truth,--the foe for whom Germany
was obliged to make these great military preparations was Russia.
If ever they were used it would be against Russia, and at Russia's
instigation.--In his humble way he was striving for the betterment
of relations between the dearly beloved country of his birth and
the equally beloved country of his adoption. Such meetings as these,
instituted, as it seemed to him, for the propagation of unfair and
unjustified suspicions, were one of the greatest difficulties in his
way. He could not for a moment doubt that these gentlemen upon the
platform were patriots. They would prove it more profitably, both to
themselves and their country, if they abandoned their present prejudiced
and harmful campaign and became patrons of his Society.

Seaman's little bow to the chairman was good-humoured, tolerant, a
little wistful. The Duke's few words, prefaced by an indignant protest
against the intrusion of a German propagandist into an English patriotic
meeting, did nothing to undo the effect produced by this undesired
stranger. When the meeting broke up, it was doubtful whether a single
adherent had been gained to the cause of National Service. The Duke went
home full of wrath, and Seaman chuckled with genuine merriment as he
stepped into the taxi which Dominey had secured, at the corner of the
street.

"I promised you entertainment," he observed. "Confess that I have kept
my word."

Dominey smiled enigmatically. "You certainly succeeded in making fools
of a number of respectable and well-meaning men."

"The miracle of it extends further," Seaman agreed. "To-night, in
its small way, is a supreme example of the transcendental follies of
democracy. England is being slowly choked and strangled with too much
liberty. She is like a child being overfed with jam. Imagine, in our
dear country, an Englishman being allowed to mount the platform and
spout, undisturbed, English propaganda in deadly opposition to German
interests. The so-called liberty of the Englishman is like the cuckoo
in his political nest. Countries must be governed. They cannot govern
themselves. The time of war will prove all that."

"Yet in any great crisis of a nation's history," Dominey queried,
"surely there is safety in a multitude of counsellors?"

"There would be always a multitude of counsellors," Seaman replied, "in
Germany as in England. The trouble for this country is that they would
be all expressed publicly and in the press, each view would have its
adherents, and the Government be split up into factions. In Germany,
the real destinies of the country are decided in secret. There are
counsellors there, too, earnest and wise counsellors, but no one knows
their varying views. All that one learns is the result, spoken through
the lips of the Kaiser, spoken once and for all."

Dominey was showing signs of a rare interest in his companion's
conversation. His eyes were bright, his usually impassive features
seemed to have become more mobile and strained. He laid his hand on
Seaman's arm.

"Listen," he said, "we are in London, alone in a taxicab, secure against
any possible eavesdropping. You preach the advantage of our Kaiser-led
country. Do you really believe that the Kaiser is the man for the task
which is coming?"

Seaman's narrow eyes glittered. He looked at his companion in
satisfaction. His forehead was puckered, his eternal smile gone. He was
the man of intellect.

"So you are waking up from the lethargy of Africa, my friend!" he
exclaimed. "You are beginning to think. As you ask me, so shall I
answer. The Kaiser is a vain, bombastic dreamer, the greatest egotist
who ever lived, with a diseased personality, a ceaseless craving for the
limelight. But he has also the genius for government. I mean this: he
is a splendid medium for the expression of the brain power of his
counsellors. Their words will pass through his personality, and he will
believe them his. What is more, they will sound like his. He will see
himself the knight in shining armour. All Europe will bow down before
this self-imagined Caesar, and no one except we who are behind will
realise the ass's head. There is no one else in this world whom I have
ever met so well fitted to lead our great nation on to the destiny she
deserves.--And now, my friend, to-morrow, if you like, we will speak of
these matters again. To-night, you have other things to think about.
You are going into the great places where I never penetrate. You have an
hour to change and prepare. At eleven o'clock the Prince Von Terniloff
will expect you."



CHAPTER VII

There had been a dinner party and a very small reception afterwards
at the great Embassy in Carlton House Terrace. The Ambassador, Prince
Terniloff, was bidding farewell to his wife's cousin, the Princess
Eiderstrom, the last of his guests. She drew him on one side for a
moment.

"Your Excellency," she said, "I have been hoping for a word with you all
the evening."

"And I with you, dear Stephanie," he answered. "It is very early. Let us
sit down for a moment."

He led her towards a settee but she shook her head.

"You have an appointment at half-past eleven," she said. "I wish you to
keep it."

"You know, then?"

"I lunched to-day at the Carleton grill room. In the reception-room I
came face to face with Leopold Von Ragastein."

The Ambassador made no remark. It seemed to be his wish to hear first
all that his companion had to say. After a moment's pause she continued:

"I spoke to him, and he denied himself. To me! I think that those were
the most terrible seconds of my life. I have never suffered more. I
shall never suffer so much again."

"It was most unfortunate," the Prince murmured sympathetically.

"This evening," she went on, "I received a visit from a man whom I took
at first to be an insignificant member of the German bourgeoisie. I
learnt something of his true position later. He came to me to explain
that Leopold was engaged in this country on secret service, that he
was passing under the name which he gave me,--Sir Everard Dominey, an
English baronet, long lost in Africa. You know of this?"

"I know that to-night I am receiving a visit from Sir Everard Dominey."

"He is to work under your auspices?"

"By no means," the Prince rejoined warmly. "I am not favourably inclined
towards this network of espionage. The school of diplomacy in which I
have been brought up tries to work without such ignoble means."

"One realises that," she said. "Leopold is coming, however, to-night, to
pay his respects to you."

"He is waiting for me now in my study," the Ambassador asserted.

"You will do me the service of conveying to him a message from me,"
she continued. "This man Seaman pointed out to me the unwisdom of any
association between myself and Leopold, under present conditions. I
listened to all that he had to say. I reserved my decision. I have
now considered the matter. I will compromise with necessity. I will be
content with the acquaintance of Sir Everard Dominey, but that I will
have."

"For myself," the Ambassador reflected, "I do not even know what Von
Ragastein's mission over here is, but if in Berlin they decide that, for
the more complete preservation of his incognito, association between you
and him is undesirable--"

She laid her fingers upon his arm.

"Stop!" she ordered. "I am not of Berlin. I am not a German. I am not
even an Austrian. I am Hungarian, and though I am willing to study your
interests, I am not willing to place them before my own life. I make
terms, but I do not surrender. Those terms I will discuss with Leopold.
Ah, be kind to me!" she went on, with a sudden change of voice. "Since
these few minutes at midday I have lived in a dream. Only one thing can
quiet me. I must speak to him. I must decide with him what I will do.
You will help?"

"An acquaintance between you and Sir Everard Dominey," he admitted, "is
certainly a perfectly natural thing."

"Look at me," she begged.

He turned and looked into her face. Underneath her beautiful eyes were
dark lines; there was something pitiful about the curve of her mouth. He
remembered that although she had carried herself throughout the evening
with all the dignity which was second nature to her, he had overheard
more than one sympathetic comment upon her appearance.

"I can see that you are suffering," he remarked kindly.

"My eyes are hot, and inside I am on fire," she continued. "I must speak
to Leopold. Freda has asked me to stay and talk to her for an hour. My
car waits. Arrange that he drives me home. Oh! believe me, dear friend,
I am a very human woman, and there is nothing in the world to be gained
by treating me as though I were of wood or stone. To-night I can see
him without observation. If you refuse, I shall take other means. I
will make no promises. I will not even promise that I will not call out
before him in the streets that he is a liar, that his life is a lie. I
will call him Leopold Von Ragastein--"

"Hush!" he begged her. "Stephanie, you are nervous. I have not yet
answered your entreaty."

"You consent?"

"I consent," he promised. "After our interview, I shall bring the young
man to Freda's room and present him. You will be there. He can offer you
his escort."

She suddenly stooped and kissed his hand. An immense relief was in her
face.

"Now I will keep you no longer. Freda is waiting for me."

The Ambassador strolled thoughtfully away into his own den at the back
of the house, where Dominey was waiting for him.

"I am glad to see you," the former said, holding out his hand. "For five
minutes I desire to talk to your real self. After that, for the rest of
your time in England, I will respect your new identity."

Dominey bowed in silence. His host pointed to the sideboard.

"Come," he continued, "there are cigars and cigarettes at your elbow,
whisky and soda on the sideboard. Make yourself at home in that chair
there. Africa has rally changed you very little. Do you remember our
previous meeting, in Saxony?"

"I remember it perfectly, your Excellency."

"His Majesty knew how to keep Court in those days," the Ambassador went
on. "One was tempted to believe oneself at an English country party.
However, that much of the past. You know, of course, that I entirely
disapprove of your present position here?"

"I gathered as much, your Excellency."

"We will have no reserves with one another," the Prince declared,
lighting a cigar. "I know quite well that you form part of a network of
espionage in this country which I consider wholly unnecessary. That is
simply a question of method. I have no doubt that you are here with the
same object as I am, the object which the Kaiser has declared to me with
his own lips is nearest to his heart--to cement the bonds of friendship
between Germany and England."

"You believe, sir, that that is possible?"

"I am convinced of it," was the earnest reply. "I do not know what the
exact nature of your work over here is to be, but I am glad to have
an opportunity of putting before you my convictions. I believe that
in Berlin the character of some of the leading statesmen here has been
misunderstood and misrepresented. I find on all sides of me an earnest
and sincere desire for peace. I have convinced myself that there is not
a single statesman in this country who is desirous of war with Germany."

Dominey was listening intently, with the air of one who hears unexpected
things.

"But, your Excellency," he ventured, "what about the matter from our
point of view? There are a great many in our country, whom you and I
know of, who look forward to a war with England as inevitable. Germany
must become, we all believe, the greatest empire in the world. She must
climb there, as one of our friends once said, with her foot upon the
neck of the British lion."

"You are out of date," the Ambassador declared earnestly. "I see now why
they sent you to me. Those days have passed. There is room in the world
for Great Britain and for Germany. The disintegration of Russia in the
near future is a certainty. It is eastward that we must look for any
great extension of territory."

"These things have been decided?"

"Absolutely! They form the soul of my mission here. My mandate is one of
peace, and the more I see of English statesmen and the more I understand
the British outlook, the more sanguine I am as to the success of my
efforts. This is why all this outside espionage with which Seaman is so
largely concerned seems to me at times unwise and unnecessary."

"And my own mission?" Dominey enquired.

"Its nature," the Prince replied, "is not as yet divulged, but if, as I
have been given to understand, it is to become closely connected with my
own, then I am very sure you will presently find that its text also is
Peace."

Dominey rose to his feet, prepared to take his leave.

"These matters will be solved for us," he murmured.

"There is just one word more, on a somewhat more private matter,"
Terniloff said in an altered tone. "The Princess Eiderstrom is
upstairs."

"In this house?"

"Waiting for a word with you. Our friend Seaman has been with her this
evening. I understand that she is content to subscribe to the present
situation. She makes one condition, however."

"And that?"

"She insists upon it that I present Sir Everard Dominey."

The latter did not attempt to conceal his perturbation.

"I need scarcely point out to you, sir," he protested, "that any
association between the Princess and myself is likely to largely
increase the difficulties of my position here."

The Ambassador sighed.

"I quite appreciate that," he admitted. "Both Seaman and I have
endeavoured to reason with her, but, as you are doubtless aware, the
Princess is a woman of very strong will. She is also very powerfully
placed here, and it is the urgent desire of the Court at Berlin to
placate in every way the Hungarian nobility. You will understand, of
course, that I speak from a political point of view only. I cannot
ignore the fact of your unfortunate relations with the late Prince, but
in considering the present position you will, I am sure, remember the
greater interests."

His visitor was silent for a moment.

"You say that the Princess is waiting here?"

"She is with my wife and asks for your escort home. My wife also looks
forward to the pleasure of renewing her acquaintance with you."

"I shall accept your Excellency's guidance in the matter," Dominey
decided.

The Princess Terniloff was a woman of world culture, an artist, and
still an extremely attractive woman. She received the visitor whom her
husband brought to her in a very charming little room furnished after
the style of the simplest French period, and she did her best to relieve
the strain of what she understood must be a somewhat trying moment.

"We are delighted to welcome you to London, Sir Everard Dominey," she
said, taking his hand, "and I hope that we shall often see you here. I
want to present you to my cousin, who is interested in you, I must tell
you frankly, because of your likeness to a very dear friend of hers.
Stephanie, this is Sir Everard Dominey--the Princess Eiderstrom."

Stephanie, who was seated upon the couch from which her cousin had just
risen, held out her hand to Dominey, who made her a very low and formal
bow. Her gown was of unrelieved black. Wonderful diamonds flashed around
her neck, and she wore also a tiara fashioned after the Hungarian style,
a little low on her forehead. Her manner and tone still indicated some
measure of rebellion against the situation.

"You have forgiven me for my insistence this morning?" she asked. "It
was hard for me to believe that you were not indeed the person for whom
I mistook you."

"Other people have spoken to me of the likeness," Dominey replied. "It
is a matter of regret to me that I can claim to be no more than a simple
Norfolk baronet."

"Without any previous experience of European Courts?"

"Without any at all."

"Your German is wonderfully pure for an untravelled man."

"Languages were the sole accomplishment I brought away from my misspent
school days."

"You are not going to bury yourself in Norfolk, Sir Everard?" the
Princess Terniloff enquired.

"Norfolk is very near London these days," Dominey replied, "and I have
experienced more than my share of solitude during the last few years. I
hope to spend a portion of my time here."

"You must dine with us one night," the Princess insisted, "and tell us
about Africa. My husband would be so interested."

"You are very kind."

Stephanie rose slowly to her feet, leaned gracefully over and kissed her
hostess on both cheeks, and submitted her hand to the Prince, who raised
it to his lips. Then she turned to Dominey.

"Will you be so kind as to see me home?" she asked. "Afterwards, my car
can take you on wherever you choose to go."

"I shall be very happy," Dominey assented.

He, too, made his farewells. A servant in the hall handed him his hat
and coat, and he took his place in the car by Stephanie's side. She
touched the electric switch as they glided off. The car was in darkness.

"I think," she murmured, "that I could not have borne another moment of
this juggling with words. Leopold--we are alone!"

He caught the flash of her jewels, the soft brilliance of her eyes as
she leaned towards him. His voice sounded, even to himself, harsh and
strident.

"You mistake, Princess. My name is not Leopold. I am Everard Dominey."

"Oh, I know that you are very obstinate," she said softly, "very
obstinate and very devoted to your marvellous country, but you have a
soul, Leopold; you know that there are human duties as great as any your
country ever imposed upon you. You know what I look for from you, what I
must find from you or go down into hell, ashamed and miserable."

He felt his throat suddenly dry.

"Listen," he muttered, "until the hour strikes, I must remain to you as
to the world, alone or in a crowd--Everard Dominey. There is one way and
one way only of carrying through my appointed task."

She gave a little hysterical sob.

"Wait," she begged. "I will answer you in a moment. Give me your hand."

He opened the fingers which he had kept clenched together, and he felt
the hot grip of her hand, holding his passionately, drawing it toward
her until the fingers of her other hand, too, fell upon it. So she sat
for several moments.

"Leopold," she continued presently, "I understand. You are afraid that
I shall betray our love. You have reason. I am full of impulses and
passion, as you know, but I have restraint. What we are to one another
when we are alone, no soul in this world need know. I will be careful.
I swear it. I will never even look at you as though my heart ached for
your notice, when we are in the presence of other people. You shall come
and see me as seldom as you wish. I will receive you only as often as
you say. But don't treat me like this. Tell me you have come back. Throw
off this hideous mask, if it be only for a moment."

He sat quite still, although her hands were tearing at his, her lips and
eyes beseeching him.

"Whatever may come afterwards," he pronounced inexorably, "until the
time arrives I am Everard Dominey. I cannot take advantage of your
feelings for Leopold Von Ragastein. He is not here. He is in Africa.
Perhaps some day he will come back to you and be all that you wish."

She flung his hands away. He felt her eyes burning into his, this time
with something more like furious curiosity.

"Let me look at you," she cried. "Let me be sure. Is this just some
ghastly change, or are you an imposter? My heart is growing chilled. Are
you the man I have waited for all these years? Are you the man to whom
I have given my lips, for whose sake I offered up my reputation as a
sacrifice, the man who slew my husband and left me?"

"I was exiled," he reminded her, his own voice shaking with emotion.
"You know that. So far as other things are concerned, I am exiled now. I
am working out my expiation."

She leaned back in her seat with an air of exhaustion. Her eyes closed.
Then the car drove in through some iron gates and stopped in front
of her door, which was immediately opened. A footman hurried out. She
turned to Dominey.

"You will not enter," she pleaded, "for a short time?"

"If you will permit me to pay you a visit, it will give me great
pleasure," he answered formally. "I will call, if I may, on my return
from Norfolk."

She gave him her hand with a sad smile.

"Let my people take you wherever you want to go," she invited, "and
remember," she added, dropping her voice, "I do not admit defeat. This
is not the last word between us."

She disappeared in some state, escorted through the great front door of
one of London's few palaces by an attractive major-domo and footman in
the livery of her House. Dominey drove back to the Carlton, where in the
lounge he found the band playing, crowds still sitting around, amongst
whom Seaman was conspicuous, in his neat dinner clothes and with his
cherubic air of inviting attention from prospective new acquaintances.
He greeted Dominey enthusiastically.

"Come," he exclaimed, "I am weary of solitude! I have seen scarcely a
face that I recognise. My tongue is parched with inaction. I like to
talk, and there has been no one to talk to. I might as well have opened
up my little house in Forest Hill."

"I'll talk to you if you like," Dominey promised a little grimly,
glancing at the clock and hastily ordering a whisky and soda. "I
will begin by telling you this," he added, lowering his tone. "I
have discovered the greatest danger I shall have to face during my
enterprise."

"What is that?"

"A woman--the Princess Eiderstrom."

Seaman lit one of his inevitable cigars and threw one of his short, fat
legs over the other. He gazed for a moment with an air of satisfaction
at his small foot, neatly encased in court shoes.

"You surprise me," he confessed. "I have considered the matter. I cannot
see any great difficulty."

"Then you must be closing your eyes to it willfully," Dominey retorted,
"or else you are wholly ignorant of the Princess's temperament and
disposition."

"I believe I appreciate both," Seaman replied, "but I still do not see
any peculiar difficulty in the situation. As an English nobleman
you have a perfect right to enjoy the friendship of the Princess
Eiderstrom."

"And I thought you were a man of sentiment!" Dominey scoffed. "I
thought you understood a little of human nature. Stephanie Eiderstrom is
Hungarian born and bred. Even race has never taught her self-restraint.
You don't seriously suppose that after all these years, after all she
has suffered--and she has suffered--she is going to be content with an
emasculated form of friendship? I talk to you without reserve, Seaman.
She has made it very plain to-night that she is going to be content with
nothing of the sort."

"What takes place between you in private," Seaman began--

"Rubbish!" his companion interrupted. "The Princess is an impulsive, a
passionate, a distinctly primitive woman, with a good deal of the wild
animal in her still. Plots or political necessities are not likely to
count a snap of the fingers with her."

"But surely," Seaman protested, "she must understand that your country
has claimed you for a great work?"

Dominey shook his head.

"She is not a German," he pointed out. "On the contrary, like a great
many other Hungarians, I think she rather dislikes Germany and Germans.
Her only concern is the personal question between us. She considers that
every moment of the rest of my life should be devoted to her."

"Perhaps it is as well," Seaman remarked, "that you have arranged to go
down to-morrow to Dominey. I will think out a scheme. Something must be
done to pacify her."

The lights were being put out. The two men rose a little unwillingly.
Dominey felt singularly indisposed for sleep, but anxious at the same
time to get rid of his companion. They strolled into the darkened hall
of the hotel together.

"I will deal with the matter for you as well as I can," Seaman promised.
"To my mind, your greatest difficulty will be encountered to-morrow. You
know what you have to deal with down at Dominey."

Dominey's face was very set and grave.

"I am prepared," he said.

Seaman still hesitated.

"Do you remember," he asked, "that when we talked over your plans at
Cape Town, you showed me a picture of--of Lady Dominey?"

"I remember."

"May I have one more look at it?"

Dominey, with fingers that trembled a little, drew from the breast
pocket of his coat a leather case, and from that a worn picture. The
two men looked at it side by side beneath one of the electric standards
which had been left burning. The face was the face of a girl, almost a
child, and the great eyes seemed filled with a queer, appealing light.
There was something of the same suggestion to be found in the lips, a
certain helplessness, an appeal for love and protection to some stronger
being.

Seaman turned away with a little grunt, and commented:

"Permitting myself to reassume for a moment or two the ordinary
sentiments of an ordinary human being, I would sooner have a dozen of
your Princesses to deal with than the original of that picture."



CHAPTER VIII

"Your ancestral home," Mr. Mangan observed, as the car turned the first
bend in the grass-grown avenue and Dominey Hall came into sight. "Damned
fine house, too!"

His companion made no reply. A storm had come up during the last few
minutes, and, as though he felt the cold, he had dragged his hat over
his eyes and turned his coat collar up to his ears. The house, with its
great double front, was now clearly visible--the time-worn,
Elizabethan, red brick outline that faced the park southwards, and the
stone-supported, grim and weather-stained back which confronted the
marshes and the sea. Mr. Mangan continued to make amiable conversation.

"We have kept the old place weathertight, somehow or other," he said,
"and I don't think you'll miss the timber much. We've taken it as far as
possible from the outlying woods."

"Any from the Black Wood?" Dominey asked, without turning his head.

"Not a stump," he replied, "and for a very excellent reason. Not one of
the woodmen would ever go near the place."

"The superstition remains then?"

"The villagers are absolutely rabid about it. There are at least a dozen
who declare that they have seen the ghost of Roger Unthank, and a score
or more who will swear by all that is holy that they have heard his call
at night."

"Does he still select the park and the terrace outside the house for his
midnight perambulations?" Dominey enquired.

The lawyer hesitated.

"The idea is, I believe," he said, "that the ghost makes his way out
from the wood and sits on the terrace underneath Lady Dominey's window.
All bunkum, of course, but I can assure you that every servant and
caretaker we've had there has given notice within a month. That is the
sole reason why I haven't ventured to recommend long ago that you should
get rid of Mrs. Unthank."

"She is still in attendance upon Lady Dominey, then?"

"Simply because we couldn't get any one else to stay there," the lawyer
explained, "and her ladyship positively declines to leave the Hall.
Between ourselves, I think it's time a change was made. We'll have a
chat after dinner, if you've no objection.--You see, we've left all the
trees in the park," he went on, with an air of satisfaction. "Beautiful
place, this, in the springtime. I was down last May for a night, and I
never saw such buttercups in my life. The cows here were almost up
to their knees in pasture, and the bluebells in the home woods were
wonderful. The whole of the little painting colony down at Flankney
turned themselves loose upon the place last spring."

"Some of the old wall is down, I see," Dominey remarked with a frown, as
he gazed towards the enclosed kitchen garden.

Mr. Mangan was momentarily surprised.

"That wall has been down, to my knowledge, for twenty years," he
reminded his companion.

Dominey nodded. "I had forgotten," he muttered.

"We wrote you, by the by," the lawyer continued, "suggesting the sale
of one or two of the pictures, to form a fund for repairs, but thank
goodness you didn't reply! We'll have some workpeople here as soon as
you've decided what you'd like done. I'm afraid," he added, as they
turned in through some iron gates and entered the last sweep in front of
the house, "you won't find many familiar faces to welcome you.
There's Loveybond, the gardener, whom you would scarcely remember, and
Middleton, the head keeper, who has really been a godsend so far as the
game is concerned. No one at all indoors, except--Mrs. Unthank."

The car drew up at that moment in front of the great porch. There was
nothing in the shape of a reception. They had even to ring the bell
before the door was opened by a manservant sent down a few days
previously from town. In the background, wearing a brown velveteen coat,
with breeches and leggings of corduroy, stood an elderly man with white
side whiskers and skin as brown as a piece of parchment, leaning heavily
upon a long ash stick. Half a dozen maidservants, new importations, were
visible in the background, and a second man was taking possession of the
luggage. Mr. Mangan took charge of the proceedings.

"Middleton," he said, resting his hand upon the old man's shoulder,
"here's your master come back again. Sir Everard was very pleased to
hear that you were still here; and you, Loveybond."

The old man grasped the hand which Dominey stretched out with both of
his.

"I'm right glad you're back again, Squire," he said, looking at him with
curious intentness, "and yet the words of welcome stick in my throat."

"Sorry you feel like that about it, Middleton," Dominey said pleasantly.
"What is the trouble about my coming back?"

"That's no trouble, Squire," the old man replied. "That's a
joy--leastways to us. It's what it may turn out to be for you which
makes one hold back like."

Dominey drew himself more than ever erect--a commanding figure in the
little group.

"You will feel better about it when we have had a day or two with the
pheasants, Middleton," he said reassuringly. "You have not changed much,
Loveybond," he added, turning to the man who had fallen a little into
the background, very stiff and uncomfortable in his Sunday clothes.

"I thankee, Squire," the latter replied a little awkwardly, with a
motion of his hand towards his forehead. "I can't say the same for you,
sir. Them furrin parts has filled you out and hardened you. I'll take
the liberty of saying that I should never have recognised you, sir, and
that's sure."

"This is Parkins," Mr. Mangan went on, pushing his way once more into
the foreground, "the butler whom I engaged in London. And--"

There was a queer and instantaneous silence. The little group of
maidservants, who had been exchanging whispered confidences as to their
new master's appearance, were suddenly dumb. All eyes were turned in
one direction. A woman whose advent had been unperceived, but who had
evidently issued from one of the recesses of the hall, stood suddenly
before them all. She was as thin as a lath, dressed in severe black,
with grey hair brushed back from her head and not even a white collar
at her neck. Her face was long and narrow, her features curiously large,
her eyes filled with anger. She spoke very slowly, but with some trace
in her intonation of a north-country dialect.

"There's no place in this house for you, Everard Dominey," she said,
standing in front of him as though to bar his progress. "I wrote last
night to stop you, but you've shown indecent haste in coming. There's
no place here for a murderer. Get back where you came from, back to your
hiding."

"My good woman!" Mangan gasped. "This is really too much!"

"I've not come to bandy words with lawyers," the woman retorted. "I've
come to speak to him. Can you face me, Everard Dominey, you who murdered
my son and made a madwoman of your wife?"

The lawyer would have answered her, but Dominey waved him aside.

"Mrs. Unthank," he said sternly, "return to your duties at once, and
understand that this house is mine, to enter or leave when I choose."

She was speechless for a moment, amazed at the firmness of his words.

"The house may be yours, Sir Everard Dominey," she said threateningly,
"but there's one part of it at least in which you won't dare to show
yourself."

"You forget yourself, woman," he replied coldly. "Be so good as to
return to your mistress at once, announce my coming, and say that I wait
only for her permission before presenting myself in her apartments."

The woman laughed, unpleasantly, horribly. Her eyes were fixed upon
Dominey curiously.

"Those are brave words," she said. "You've come back a harder man. Let
me look at you."

She moved a foot or two to where the light was better. Very slowly
a frown developed upon her forehead. The longer she looked, the less
assured she became.

"There are things in your face I miss," she muttered.

Mr. Mangan was glad of an opportunity of asserting himself.

"The fact is scarcely important, Mrs. Unthank," he said angrily. "If you
will allow me to give you a word of advice, you will treat your master
with the respect to which his position here entitles him."

Once more the woman blazed up.

"Respect! What respect have I for the murderer of my son? Respect! Well,
if he stays here against my bidding, perhaps her ladyship will show him
what respect means."

She turned around and disappeared. Every one began bustling about the
luggage and talking at once. Mr. Mangan took his patron's arm and led
him across the hall.

"My dear Sir Everard," he said anxiously, "I am most distressed that
this should have occurred. I thought that the woman would probably
be sullen, but I had no idea that she would dare to attempt such an
outrageous proceeding."

"She is still, I presume, the only companion whom Lady Dominey will
tolerate?" Dominey enquired with a sigh.

"I fear so," the lawyer admitted. "Nevertheless we must see Doctor
Harrison in the morning. It must be understood distinctly that if she is
suffered to remain, she adopts an entirely different attitude. I never
heard anything so preposterous in all my life. I shall pay her a visit
myself after dinner.--You will feel quite at home here in the library,
Sir Everard," Mr. Mangan went on, throwing open the door of a very
fine apartment on the seaward side of the house. "Grand view from these
windows, especially since we've had a few of the trees cut down. I
see that Parkins has set out the sherry. Cocktails, I'm afraid, are an
institution you will have to inaugurate down here. You'll be grateful to
me when I tell you one thing, Sir Everard. We've been hard pressed
more than once, but we haven't sold a single bottle of wine out of the
cellars."

Dominey accepted the glass of sherry which the lawyer had poured out
but made no movement towards drinking it. He seemed during the last few
minutes to have been wrapped in a brown study.

"Mangan," he asked a little abruptly, "is it the popular belief down
here that I killed Roger Unthank?"

The lawyer set down the decanter and coughed.

"A plain answer," Dominey insisted.

Mr. Mangan adapted himself to the situation. He was beginning to
understand his client.

"I am perfectly certain, Sir Everard," he confessed, "that there isn't
a soul in these parts who isn't convinced of it. They believe that there
was a fight and that you had the best of it."

"Forgive me," Dominey continued, "if I seem to ask unnecessary
questions. Remember that I spent the first portion of my exile in Africa
in a very determined effort to blot out the memory of everything that
had happened to me earlier in life. So that is the popular belief?"

"The popular belief seems to match fairly well with the facts," Mr.
Mangan declared, wielding the decanter again in view of his client's
more reasonable manner. "At the time of your unfortunate visit to the
Hall Miss Felbrigg was living practically alone at the Vicarage after
her uncle's sudden death there, with Mrs. Unthank as housekeeper. Roger
Unthank's infatuation for her was patent to the whole neighbourhood and
a source of great annoyance in Miss Felbrigg. I am convinced that at no
time did Lady Dominey give the young man the slightest encouragement."

"Has any one ever believed the contrary?" Dominey demanded.

"Not a soul," was the emphatic reply. "Nevertheless, when you came down,
fell in love with Miss Felbrigg and carried her off, every one felt that
there would be trouble."

"Roger Unthank was a lunatic," Dominey pronounced deliberately. "His
behaviour from the first was the behaviour of a madman."

"The Eugene Aram type of village schoolmaster gradually drifting into
positive insanity," Mangan acquiesced. "So far, every one is agreed. The
mystery began when he came back from his holidays and heard the news."

"The sequel was perfectly simple," Dominey observed. "We met at the
north end of the Black Wood one evening, and he attacked me like a
madman. I suppose I had to some extent the best of it, but when I got
back to the Hall my arm was broken, I was covered with blood, and half
unconscious. By some cruel stroke of fortune, almost the first person
I saw was Lady Dominey. The shock was too much for her--she
fainted--and--"

"And has never been quite herself since," the lawyer concluded. "Most
tragic!"

"The cruel part of it was," Dominey went on, standing before the window,
his hands clasped behind his back, "that my wife from that moment
developed a homicidal mania against me--I, who had fought in the most
absolute self-defence. That was what drove me out of the country,
Mangan--not the fear of being arrested for having caused the death of
Roger Unthank. I'd have stood my trial for that at any moment. It was
the other thing that broke me up."

"Quite so," Mangan murmured sympathetically. "As a matter of fact,
you were perfectly safe from arrest, as it happened. The body of Roger
Unthank has never been found from that day to this."

"If it had--"

"You must have been charged with either murder or manslaughter."

Dominey abandoned his post at the window and raised his glass of sherry
to his lips. The tragical side of these reminiscences seemed, so far as
he was concerned, to have passed.

"I suppose," he remarked, "it was the disappearance of the body which
has given rise to all this talk as to his spirit still inhabiting the
Black Wood."

"Without a doubt," the lawyer acquiesced. "The place had a bad name
already, as you know. As it is, I don't suppose there's a villager here
would cross the park in that direction after dark."

Dominey glanced at his watch and led the way from the room.

"After dinner," he promised, "I'll tell you a few West African
superstitions which will make our local one seem anemic."



CHAPTER IX

"I certainly offer you my heartiest congratulations upon your cellars,
Sir Everard," his guest said, as he sipped his third glass of port that
evening. "This is the finest glass of seventy I've drunk for a long
time, and this new fellow I've sent you down--Parkins--tells me there's
any quantity of it."

"It has had a pretty long rest," Dominey observed.

"I was looking through the cellar-book before dinner," the lawyer went
on, "and I see that you still have forty-seven and forty-eight, and a
small quantity of two older vintages. Something ought to be done about
those."

"We will try one of them to-morrow night," Dominey suggested. "We might
spend half an hour or so in the cellars, if we have any time to spare."

"And another half an hour," Mr. Mangan said gravely, "I should like to
spend in interviewing Mrs. Unthank. Apart from any other question, I do
not for one moment believe that she is the proper person to be entrusted
with the care of Lady Dominey. I made up my mind to speak to you on this
subject, Sir Everard, as soon as we had arrived here."

"Mrs. Unthank was old Mr. Felbrigg's housekeeper and my wife's nurse
when she was a child," Dominey reminded his companion. "Whatever her
faults may be, I believe she is devoted to Lady Dominey."

"She may be devoted to your wife," the lawyer admitted, "but I am
convinced that she is your enemy. The situation doesn't seem to me to be
consistent. Mrs. Unthank is firmly convinced that, whether in fair fight
or not, you killed her son. Lady Dominey believes that, too, and it
was the sight of you after the fight that sent her insane. I cannot but
believe that it would be far better for Lady Dominey to have some one
with her unconnected with this unfortunate chapter of your past."

"We will consult Doctor Harrison to-morrow," Dominey said. "I am very
glad you came down with me, Mangan," he went on, after a minute's
hesitation. "I find it very difficult to get back into the atmosphere
of those days. I even find it hard sometimes," he added, with a curious
little glance across the table, "to believe that I am the same man."

"Not so hard as I have done more than once," Mr. Mangan confessed.

"Tell me exactly in what respects you consider me changed?" Dominey
insisted.

"You seem to have lost a certain pliability, or perhaps I ought to
call it looseness of disposition," he admitted. "There are many things
connected with the past which I find it almost impossible to associate
with you. For a trifling instance," he went on, with a slight smile,
inclining his head towards his host's untasted glass. "You don't drink
port like any Dominey I ever knew."

"I'm afraid that I never acquired the taste for port," Dominey observed.

The lawyer gazed at him with raised eyebrows.

"Not acquired the taste for port," he repeated blankly.

"I should have said reacquired," Dominey hastened to explain. "You see,
in the bush we drank a simply frightful amount of spirits, and that
vitiates the taste for all wine."

The lawyer glanced enviously at his host's fine bronzed complexion and
clear eyes.

"You haven't the appearance of ever having drunk anything, Sir Everard,"
he observed frankly. "One finds it hard to believe the stories that were
going about ten or fifteen years ago."

"The Dominey constitution, I suppose!"

The new butler entered the room noiselessly and came to his master's
chair.

"I have served coffee in the library, sir," he announced. "Mr.
Middleton, the gamekeeper, has just called, and asks if he could have
a word with you before he goes to bed to-night, sir. He seems in a very
nervous and uneasy state."

"He can come to the library at once," Dominey directed; "that is, if you
are ready for your coffee, Mangan."

"Indeed I am," the lawyer assented, rising. "A great treat, that wine.
One thing the London restaurants can't give us. Port should never be
drunk away from the place where it was laid down."

The two men made their way across the very fine hall, the walls of which
had suffered a little through lack of heating, into the library, and
seated themselves in easy-chairs before the blazing log fire. Parkins
silently served them with coffee and brandy. He had scarcely left the
room before there was a timid knock and Middleton made his somewhat
hesitating entrance.

"Come in and close the door," Dominey directed. "What is it, Middleton?
Parkins says you wish to speak to me."

The man came hesitatingly forward. He was obviously distressed and
uneasy, and found speech difficult. His face glistened with the rain
which had found its way, too, in long streaks down his velveteen coat.
His white hair was wind-tossed and disarranged.

"Bad night," Dominey remarked.

"It's to save its being a worse one that I'm here, Squire," the old man
replied hoarsely. "I've come to ask you a favour and to beg you to grant
it for your own sake. You'll not sleep in the oak room to-night?"

"And why not?" Dominey asked.

"It's next her ladyship's."

"Well?"

The old man was obviously perturbed, but his master, as though of
a purpose, refused to help him. He glanced at Mangan and mumbled to
himself.

"Say exactly what you wish to, Middleton," Dominey invited. "Mr. Mangan
and his father and grandfather have been solicitors to the estate for a
great many years. They know all our family history."

"I can't get rightly into touch with you, Squire, and that's a fact,"
Middleton went on despairingly. "The shape of you seems larger and your
voice harder. I don't seem to be so near to you as I'd wished, to say
what's in my heart."

"I have had a rough time Middleton," Dominey reminded him. "No wonder I
have changed! Never mind, speak to me just as man to man."

"It was I who first met you, Squire," the old man went on, "when
you tottered home that night across the park, with your arm hanging
helplessly by your side, and the blood streaming down your face and
clothes, and the red light in your eyes--murderous fire, they called it.
I heard her ladyship go into hysterics. I saw her laugh and sob like a
maniac, and, God help us! that's what she's been ever since."

The two men were silent. Middleton had raised his voice, speaking with
fierce excitement. It was obvious that he had only paused for breath. He
had more to say.

"I was by your side, Squire," he went on, "when her ladyship caught up
the knife and ran at you, and, as you well know, it was I, seizing her
from behind, that saved a double tragedy that night, and it was I who
went for the doctor the next morning, when she'd stolen into your room
in the night and missed your throat by a bare inch. I heard her call
to you, heard her threat. It was a madwoman's threat, Squire, but her
ladyship is a madwoman at this moment, and with a knife in her hand
you'll never be safe in this house."

"We must see," Dominey said quietly, "that she is not allowed to get
possession of any weapon."

"Aye! Make sure of that," Middleton scoffed, "with Mother Unthank by her
side! Her ladyship's mad because of the horror of that night, but Mother
Unthank is mad with hate, and there isn't a week passes," the old man
went on, his voice dropping lower and his eyes burning, "that Roger
Unthank's spirit don't come and howl for your blood beneath their
window. If you stay here this night, Squire, come over and sleep in the
little room they've got ready for you on the other side of the house."

Mr. Mangan had lost his smooth, after-dinner appearance. His face was
rumpled, and his coffee was growing cold. This was a very different
thing from the vague letters and rumours which had reached him from time
to time and which he had put out of his mind with all the contempt of
the materialist.

"It is very good of you to warn me, Middleton," Dominey said, "but I can
lock my door, can I not?"

"Lock the door of the oak room!" was the scornful reply. "And what good
would that do? You know well enough that the wall's double on three
sides, and there are more secret entrances than even I know of. The
oak room's not for you this night, Squire. It's hoping to get you there
that's keeping them quiet."

"Tell us what you mean, Middleton," the lawyer asked, with ill-assumed
indifference, "when you spoke of the howling of Roger Unthank's spirit?"

The old man turned patiently around.

"Just that, sir," he replied. "It's round the house most weeks. Except
for me odd nights, and Mrs. Unthank, there's been scarcely a servant
would sleep in the Hall for years. Some of the maids they do come up
from the village, but back they go before nightfall, and until morning
there isn't a living soul would cross the path--no, not for a hundred
pounds."

"A howl, you call it?" Mr. Mangan observed.

"That's mostly like a dog that's hurt itself," Middleton explained
equably, "like a dog, that is, with a touch of human in its throat, as
we've all heard in our time, sir. You'll hear it yourself, sir, maybe
to-night or to-morrow night."

"You've heard it then, Middleton?" his master asked.

"Why, surely, sir," the old man replied in surprise. "Most weeks for the
last ten years."

"Haven't you ever got up and gone out to see what it was?"

The old man shook his head.

"But I knew right well what that was, sir," he said, "and I'm not one
for looking on spirits. Spirits there are that walk this world, as we
well know, and the spirit of Roger Unthank walks from between the Black
Wood and those windows, come every week of the year. But I'm not for
looking at him. There's evil comes of that. I turn over in my bed, and I
stop my ears, but I've never yet raised a blind."

"Tell me, Middleton," Dominey asked, "is Lady Dominey terrified at
these--er--visitations?"

"That I can't rightly say, sir. Her ladyship's always sweet and gentle,
with kind words on her lips for every one, but there's the terror there
in her eyes that was lit that night when you staggered into the hall,
Squire, and I've never seen it properly quenched yet, so to speak. She
carries fear with her, but whether it's the fear of seeing you again, or
the fear of Roger Unthank's spirit, I could not tell."

Dominey seemed suddenly to become possessed of a strange desire to
thrust the whole subject away. He dismissed the old man kindly but
a little abruptly, accompanying him to the corridor which led to the
servants' quarters and talking all the time about the pheasants. When he
returned, he found that his guest had emptied his second glass of brandy
and was surreptitiously mopping his forehead.

"That," the latter remarked, "is the class of old retainer who lives too
long. If I were a Dominey of the Middle Ages, I think a stone around his
neck and the deepest well would be the sensible way of dealing with him.
He made me feel positively uncomfortable."

"I noticed it," Dominey remarked, with a faint smile. "I'm not going to
pretend that it was a pleasant conversation myself."

"I've heard some ghost stories," Mangan went on, "but a spook that comes
and howls once a week for ten years takes some beating."

Dominey poured himself out a glass of brandy with a steady hand.

"You've been neglecting things here, Mangan," he complained. "You ought
to have come down and exorcised that ghost. We shall have those smart
maidservants of yours off to-morrow, I suppose, unless you and I can get
a little ghost-laying in first."

Mr. Mangan began to feel more comfortable. The brandy and the warmth of
the burning logs were creeping into his system.

"By the by, Sir Everard," he enquired, a little later on, "where are you
going to sleep to-night?"

Dominey stretched himself out composedly.

"There is obviously only one place for me," he replied. "I can't
disappoint any one. I shall sleep in the oak room."



CHAPTER X

For the first few tangled moments of nightmare, slowly developing into a
live horror, Dominey fancied himself back in Africa, with the hand of an
enemy upon his throat. Then a rush of awakened memories--the silence of
the great house, the mysterious rustling of the heavy hangings around
the black oak four-poster on which he lay, the faint pricking of
something deadly at his throat--these things rolled back the curtain of
unreality, brought him acute and painful consciousness of a situation
almost appalling. He opened his eyes, and although a brave and callous
man he lay still, paralysed with the fear which forbids motion. The dim
light of a candle, recently lit, flashed upon the bodkin-like dagger
held at his throat. He gazed at the thin line of gleaming steel,
fascinated. Already his skin had been broken, a few drops of blood
were upon the collar of his pyjamas. The hand which held that deadly,
assailing weapon--small, slim, very feminine, curving from somewhere
behind the bed curtain--belonged to some unseen person. He tried to
shrink farther back upon the pillow. The hand followed him, displaying
glimpses now of a soft, white-sleeved arm. He lay quite still, the
muscles of his right arm growing tenser as he prepared for a snatch at
those cruel fingers. Then a voice came,--a slow, feminine and rather
wonderful voice.

"If you move," it said, "you will die. Remain quite still."

Dominey was fully conscious now, his brain at work, calculating his
chances with all the cunning of the trained hunter who seeks to avoid
death. Reluctantly he was compelled to realise that no movement of his
could be quick enough to prevent the driving of that thin stiletto into
his throat, if his hidden assailant should keep her word. So he lay
still.

"Why do you want to kill me?" he asked, a little tensely.

There was no reply, yet somehow he knew that he was being watched. Ever
so slightly those curtains around which the arm had come, were being
parted. Through the chink some one was looking at him. The thought came
that he might call out for help, and once more his unseen enemy read his
thought.

"You must be very quiet," the voice said,--that voice which it was
difficult for him to believe was not the voice of a child. "If you even
speak above a whisper, it will be the end. I wish to look at you."

A little wider the crack opened, and then he began to feel hope. The
hand which held the stiletto was shaking, he heard something which
sounded like quick breathing from behind the curtains--the breathing of
a woman astonished or terrified--and then, so suddenly that for several
seconds he could not move or take advantage of the circumstance, the
hand with its cruel weapon was withdrawn around the curtain and a woman
began to laugh, softly at first, and then with a little hysterical sob
thrusting its way through that incongruous note of mirth.

He lay upon the bed as though mesmerised, finding at his first effort
that his limbs refused their office, as might the limbs of one lying
under the thrall of a nightmare. The laugh died away, there was a sound
like a scraping upon the wall, the candle was suddenly blown out. Then
his nerve began to return and with it his control over his limbs. He
crawled to the side of the bed remote from the curtains, stole to the
little table on which he had left his revolver and an electric torch,
snatched at them, and, with the former in his right hand, flashed a
little orb of light into the shadows of the great apartment. Once more
something like terror seized him. The figure which had been standing
by the side of his bed had vanished. There was no hiding place in view.
Every inch of the room was lit up by the powerful torch he carried, and,
save for himself, the room was empty. The first moment of realisation
was chill and unnerving. Then the slight smarting of the wound at
his throat became convincing proof to him that there was nothing
supernatural about this visit. He lit up half-a-dozen of the candles
distributed about the place and laid down his torch. He was ashamed to
find that his forehead was dripping with perspiration.

"One of the secret passages, of course," he muttered to himself,
stooping for a moment to examine the locked, folding doors which
separated his room from the adjoining one. "Perhaps, when one reflects,
I have run unnecessary risks."

Dominey was standing at the window, looking out at the tumbled grey
waters of the North Sea, when Parkins brought him hot water and tea in
the morning. He thrust his feet into slippers and held out his arms for
a dressing-gown.

"Find out where the nearest bathroom is, Parkins," he ordered, "and
prepare it. I have quite forgotten my way about here."

"Very good, sir."

The man was motionless for a moment, staring at the blood on
his master's pyjamas. Dominey glanced down at it and turned the
dressing-gown up to his throat.

"I had a slight accident this morning," he remarked carelessly. "Any
ghost alarms last light?"

"None that I heard of, sir," the man replied. "I am afraid we should
have difficulty in keeping the young women from London, if they heard
what I heard the night of my arrival."

"Very terrible, was it?" Dominey asked with a smile.

Parkins' expression remained immovable. There was in his tone, however,
a mute protest against his master's levity.

"The cries were the most terrible I have ever heard, sir," he said. "I
am not a nervous person, but I found them most disturbing."

"Human or animal?"

"A mixture of both, I should say, sir."

"You should camp out for the night on the skirts of an African forest,"
Dominey remarked. "There you get a whole orchestra of wild animals,
every one of them trying to freeze your blood up."

"I was out in South Africa during the Boer War, sir," Parkins replied,
"and I went big game hunting with my master afterwards. I do not think
that any animal was ever born in Africa with so terrifying a cry as we
heard the night before last."

"We must look into the matter," Dominey muttered.

"I have already prepared a bath, sir, at the end of the corridor," the
man announced. "If you will allow me, I will show you the way."

Dominey, when he descended about an hour later, found his guest awaiting
him in the smaller dining-room, which looked out eastwards towards
the sea, a lofty apartment with great windows and with an air of faded
splendour which came from the ill-cared-for tapestries, hanging in
places from the wall. Mr. Mangan had, contrary to his expectations,
slept well and was in excellent spirits. The row of silver dishes upon
the sideboard inspired him with an added cheerfulness.

"So there were no ghosts walking last night?" he remarked, as he took
his place at the table. "Wonderful thing this absolute quiet is after
London. Give you my word, I never heard a sound from the moment my head
touched the pillow until I woke a short while ago."

Dominey returned from the sideboard, carrying also a well-filled plate.

"I had a pretty useful night's rest myself," he observed.

Mangan raised his eyeglass and gazed at his host's throat.

"Cut yourself?" he queried.

"Razor slipped," Dominey told him. "You get out of the use of those
things in Africa."

"You've managed to give yourself a nasty gash," Mr. Mangan observed
curiously.

"Parkins is going to send up for a new set of safety razors for me,"
Dominey announced. "About our plans for the day,--I've ordered the car
for two-thirty this afternoon, if that suits you. We can look around the
place quietly this morning. Mr. Johnson is sleeping over at a farmhouse
near here. We shall pick him up en route. And I have told Lees, the
bailiff, to come with us too."

Mr. Mangan nodded his approval.

"Upon my word," he confessed, "it will be a joy to me to go and see some
of these fellows without having to put 'em off about repairs and that
sort of thing. Johnson has had the worst of it, poor chap, but there
are one or two of them took it into their heads to come up to London and
worry me at the office."

"I intend that there shall be no more dissatisfaction amongst my
tenants."

Mr. Mangan set off for another prowl towards the sideboard.

"Satisfied tenants you never will get in Norfolk," he declared. "I
must admit, though, that some of them have had cause to grumble lately.
There's a fellow round by Wells who farms nearly eight hundred acres--"

He broke off in his speech. There was a knock at the door, not an
ordinary knock at all, but a measured, deliberate tapping, three times
repeated.

"Come in," Dominey called out.

Mrs. Unthank entered, severer, more unattractive than ever in the hard
morning light. She came to the end of the table, facing the place where
Dominey was seated.

"Good morning, Mrs. Unthank," he said.

She ignored the greeting.

"I am the bearer of a message," she announced.

"Pray deliver it," Dominey replied.

"Her ladyship would be glad for you to visit her in her apartment at
once."

Dominey leaned back in his chair. His eyes were fixed upon the face of
the woman whose antagonism to himself was so apparent. She stood in the
path of a long gleam of morning sunlight. The wrinkles in her face, her
hard mouth, her cold, steely eyes were all clearly revealed.

"I am not at all sure," he said, with a purpose in the words, "that
any further meeting between Lady Dominey and myself is at present
desirable."

If he had thought to disturb this messenger by his suggestion, he was
disappointed.

"Her ladyship desires me to assure you," she added, with a note of
contempt in her tone, "that you need be under no apprehension."

Dominey admitted defeat and poured himself out some more coffee. Neither
of the two noticed that his fingers were trembling.

"Her ladyship is very considerate," he said. "Kindly say that I shall
follow you in a few minutes."

Dominey, following within a very few minutes of his summons, was ushered
into an apartment large and sombrely elegant, an apartment of faded
white and gold walls, of chandeliers glittering with lustres, of Louise
Quinze furniture, shabby but priceless. To his surprise, although he
scarcely noticed it at the time, Mrs. Unthank promptly disappeared. He
was from the first left alone with the woman whom he had come to visit.

She was sitting up on her couch and watching his approach. A woman?
Surely only a child, with pale cheeks, large, anxious eyes, and masses
of brown hair brushed back from her forehead. After all, was he indeed
a strong man, vowed to great things? There was a queer feeling in
his throat, almost a mist before his eyes. She seemed so fragile, so
utterly, sweetly pathetic. And all the time there was the strange light,
or was it want of light, in those haunting eyes. His speech of greeting
was never spoken.

"So you have come to see me, Everard," she said, in a broken tone. "You
are very brave."

He possessed himself of her hand, the hand which a few hours ago had
held a dagger to his throat, and kissed the waxenlike fingers. It fell
to her side like a lifeless thing. Then she raised it and began rubbing
softly at the place where his lips had fallen.

"I have come to see you at your bidding," he replied, "and for my
pleasure."

"Pleasure!" she murmured, with a ghastly little smile. "You have learnt
to control your words, Everard. You have slept here and you live. I have
broken my word. I wonder why?"

"Because," he pleaded, "I have not deserved that you should seek my
life."

"That sounds strangely," she reflected. "Doesn't it say somewhere in the
Bible--'A life for a life'? You killed Roger Unthank."

"I have killed other men since in self-defence," Dominey told her.
"Sometimes it comes to a man that he must slay or be slain. It was Roger
Unthank--"

"I shall not talk about him any longer," she decided quite calmly. "The
night before last, his spirit was calling to me below my window. He
wants me to go down into Hell and live with him. The very thought is
horrible."

"Come," Dominey said, "we shall speak of other things. You must tell me
what presents I can buy you. I have come back from Africa rich."

"Presents?"

For a single wonderful moment, hers was the face of a child who had been
offered toys. Her smile of anticipation was delightful, her eyes had
lost that strange vacancy. Then, before he could say another word, it
all came back again.

"Listen to me," she said. "This is important. I have sent for you
because I do not understand why, quite suddenly last night, after I had
made up my mind, I lost the desire to kill you. It is gone now. I am
not sure about myself any longer. Draw your chair nearer to mine. Or no,
come to my side, here at the other end of the sofa."

She moved her skirts to make room for him. When he sat down, he felt a
strange trembling through all his limbs.

"Perhaps," she went on, "I shall break my oath. Indeed, I have already
broken it. Let me look at you, my husband. It is a strange thing to own
after all these years--a husband."

Dominey felt as though he were breathing an atmosphere of turgid and
poisoned sweetness. There was a flavour of unreality about the whole
situation,--the room, this child woman, her beauty, her deliberate,
halting speech and the strange things she said.

"You find me changed?" he asked.

"You are very wonderfully changed. You look stronger, you are perhaps
better-looking, yet there is something gone from your face which I
thought one never lost."

"You," he said cautiously, "are more beautiful than ever, Rosamund."

She laughed a little drearily.

"Of what use has my beauty been to me, Everard, since you came to my
little cottage and loved me and made me love you, and took me away from
Dour Roger? Do you remember the school chidden used to call him Dour
Roger?--But that does not matter. Do you know, Everard, that since you
left me my feet have not passed outside these gardens?"

"That can be altered when you wish," he said quickly. "You can visit
where you will. You can have a motor-car, even a house in town. I shall
bring some wonderful doctors here, and they will make you quite strong
again."

Her large eyes were lifted almost piteously to his.

"But how can I leave here?" she asked plaintively. "Every week,
sometimes oftener, he calls to me. If I went away, his spirit would
break loose and follow me. I must be here to wave my hand; then he goes
away."

Dominey was conscious once more of that strange and most unexpected fit
of emotion. He was unrecognisable even to himself. Never before in his
life had his heart beaten as it was beating now. His eyes, too, were
hot. He had travelled around the word in search of new things, only
to find them in this strange, faded chamber, side by side with this
suffering woman. Nevertheless, he said quietly:

"We must send you some place where the people are kinder and where life
is pleasanter. Perhaps you love music and to see beautiful pictures. I
think that we must try and keep you from thinking."

She sighed in a perplexed fashion.

"I wish that I could get it out of my blood that I want to kill you.
Then you could take me right away. Other married people have lived
together and hated each other. Why shouldn't we? We may forget even to
hate."

Dominey staggered to his feet, walked to a window, threw it open and
leaned out for a moment. Then he closed it and came back. This new
element in the situation had been a shock to him. All the time she was
watching him composedly.

"Well?" she asked, with a strange little smile. "What do you say? Would
you like to hold as a wife's the hand which frightened you so last
night?"

She held it out to him, soft and warm. Her fingers even returned the
pressure of his. She looked at him pleasantly, and once more he felt
like a man who has wandered into a strange country and has lost his
bearings.

"I want you so much to be happy," he said hoarsely, "but you are not
strong yet, Rosamund. We cannot decide anything in a hurry."

"How surprised you are to find that I am willing to be nice to you!" she
murmured. "But why not? You cannot know why I have so suddenly changed
my mind about you--and I have changed it. I have seen the truth these
few minutes. There is a reason, Everard, why I should not kill you."

"What is it?" he demanded.

She shook her head with all the joy of a child who keeps a secret.

"You are clever," she said. "I will leave you to find it out. I am
excited now, and I want you to go away for a little time. Please send
Mrs. Unthank to me."

The prospect of release was a strange relief, mingled still more
strangely with regret. He lingered over her hand.

"If you walk in your sleep to-night, then," he begged, "you will leave
your dagger behind?"

"I have told you," she answered, as though surprised, "that I have
abandoned my intention. I shall not kill you. Even though I may walk
in my sleep--and sometimes the nights are so long--it will not be your
death I seek."



CHAPTER XI

Dominey left the room like a man in a dream, descended the stairs to his
own part of the house, caught up a hat and stick and strode out into the
sea mist which was fast enveloping the gardens. There was all the chill
of the North Pole in that ice-cold cloud of vapour, but nevertheless his
forehead remained hot, his pulses burning. He passed out of the postern
gate which led from the walled garden on to a broad marsh, with dikes
running here and there, and lapping tongues of sea water creeping in
with the tide. He made his way seaward with uncertain steps until he
reached a rough and stony road; here he hesitated for a moment, looked
about him, and then turned back at right angles. Soon he came to a
little village, a village of ancient cottages, with seasoned, red-brick
tiles, trim little patches of garden, a church embowered with tall
elm trees, a triangular green at the cross-roads. On one side a low,
thatched building,--the Dominey Arms; on another, an ancient, square
stone house, on which was a brass plate. He went over and read the name,
rang the bell, and asked the trim maidservant who answered it, for the
doctor. Presently, a man of youthful middle-age presented himself in the
surgery and bowed. Dominey was for a moment at a loss.

"I came to see Doctor Harrison," he ventured.

"Doctor Harrison retired from practice some years ago," was the
courteous reply. "I am his nephew. My name is Stillwell."

"I understood that Doctor Harrison was still in the neighbourhood,"
Dominey said. "My name is Dominey--Sir Everard Dominey."

"I guessed as much," the other replied. "My uncle lives with me here,
and to tell you the truth he was hoping that you would come and see him.
He retains one patient only," Doctor Stillwell added, in a graver tone.
"You can imagine who that would be."

His caller bowed. "Lady Dominey, I presume."

The young doctor opened the door and motioned to his guest to precede
him.

"My uncle has his own little apartment on the other side of the house,"
he said. "You must let me take you to him."

They moved across the pleasant white stone hall into a small apartment
with French windows leading out to a flagged terrace and tennis lawn. An
elderly man, broad-shouldered, with weather-beaten face, grey hair, and
of somewhat serious aspect, looked around from the window before which
he was standing examining a case of fishing flies.

"Uncle, I have brought an old friend in to see you," his nephew
announced.

The doctor glanced expectantly at Dominey, half moved forward as though
to greet him, then checked himself and shook his head doubtfully.

"You certainly remind me very much of an old friend, sir," he said, "but
I can see now that you are not he. I do not believe that I have ever
seen you before in my life."

There was a moment's somewhat tense silence. Then Dominey advanced a
little stiffly and held out his hand.

"Come, Doctor," he said. "I can scarcely have changed as much as all
that. Even these years of strenuous life--"

"You mean to tell me that I am speaking to Everard Dominey?" the doctor
interposed.

"Without a doubt!"

The doctor shook hands coolly. His was certainly not the enthusiastic
welcome of an old family attendant to the representative of a great
family.

"I should certainly never have recognised you," he confessed.

"My presence here is nevertheless indisputable," Dominey continued.
"Still attracted by your old pastime, I see, Doctor?"

"I have only taken up fly fishing," the other replied drily, "since I
gave up shooting."

There was another somewhat awkward pause, which the younger man
endeavoured to bridge over.

"Fishing, shooting, golf," he said; "I really don't know what we poor
medical practitioners would do in the country without sport."

"I shall remind you of that later," Dominey observed. "I am told that
the shooting is one of the only glories that has not passed away from
Dominey."

"I shall look forward to the reminder," was the prompt response.

His uncle, who had been bending once more over the case of flies, turned
abruptly around.

"Arthur," he said, addressing his nephew, "you had better start on your
round. I dare say Sir Everard would like to speak to me privately."

"I wish to speak to you certainly," Dominey admitted, "but only
professionally. There is no necessity--"

"I am late already, if you will excuse me," Doctor Stillwell
interrupted. "I will be getting on. You must excuse my uncle, Sir
Everard," he added in a lower tone, drawing him a little towards the
door, "if his manners are a little gruff. He is devoted to Lady Dominey,
and I sometimes think that he broods over her case too much."

Dominey nodded and turned back into the room to find the doctor, his
hands in his old-fashioned breeches pockets, eyeing him steadfastly.

"I find it very hard to believe," he said a little curtly, "that you are
really Everard Dominey."

"I am afraid you will have to accept me as a fact, nevertheless."

"Your present appearance," the old man continued, eyeing him
appraisingly, "does not in any way bear out the description I had of you
some years ago. I was told that you had become a broken-down drunkard."

"The world is full of liars," Dominey said equably. "You appear to have
met with one, at least."

"You have not even," the doctor persisted, "the appearance of a man who
has been used to excesses of any sort."

"Good old stock, ours," his visitor observed carelessly. "Plenty of
two-bottle men behind my generation."

"You have also gained courage since the days when you fled from England.
You slept at the Hall last night?"

"Where else? I also, if you want to know, occupied my own
bedchamber--with results," Dominey added, throwing his head a little
back, to display the scar on his throat, "altogether insignificant."

"That's just your luck," the doctor declared. "You've no right to have
gone there without seeing me; no right, after all that has passed, to
have even approached your wife."

"You seem rather a martinet as regards my domestic affairs," Dominey
observed.

"That's because I know your history," was the blunt reply.

Uninvited Dominey seated himself in an easy-chair.

"You were never my friend, Doctor," he said. "Let me suggest that we
conduct this conversation on a purely professional basis."

"I was never your friend," came the retort, "because I have known you
always as a selfish brute; because you were married to the sweetest
woman on God's earth, gave up none of your bad habits, frightened her
into insanity by reeling home with another man's blood on your hands,
and then stayed away for over ten years instead of making an effort to
repair the mischief you had done."

"This," observed Dominey, "is history, dished up in a somewhat partial
fashion. I repeat my suggestion that we confine our conversation to the
professional."

"This is my house," the other rejoined, "and you came to see me. I shall
say exactly what I like to you, and if you don't like it you can get
out. If it weren't for Lady Dominey's sake, you shouldn't have passed
this threshold."

"Then for her sake," Dominey suggested in a softer tone, "can't you
forget how thoroughly you disapprove of me? I am here now with only
one object: I want you to point out to me any way in which we can work
together for the improvement of my wife's health."

"There can be no question of a partnership between us."

"You refuse to help?"

"My help isn't worth a snap of the fingers. I have done all I can for
her physically. She is a perfectly sound woman. The rest depends upon
you, and you alone, and I am not very hopeful about it."

"Upon me?" Dominey repeated, a little taken aback.

"Fidelity," the doctor grunted, "is second nature with all good women.
Lady Dominey is a good woman, and she is no exception to the rule. Her
brain is starved because her heart is aching for love. If she could
believe in your repentance and reform, if any atonement for the past
were possible and were generously offered, I cannot tell what the result
might be. They tell me that you are a rich man now, although heaven
knows, when one considers what a lazy, selfish fellow you were, that
sounds like a miracle. You could have the great specialists down. They
couldn't help, but it might salve your conscience to pay them a few
hundred guineas."

"Would you meet them?" Dominey asked anxiously. "Tell me whom to send
for?"

"Pooh! Those days are finished with me," was the curt reply. "I would
meet none of them. I am a doctor no longer. I have become a villager. I
go to see Lady Dominey as an old friend."

"Give me your advice," Dominey begged. "Is it of any use sending for
specialists?"

"Just for the present, none at all."

"And what about that horrible woman, Mrs. Unthank?"

"Part of your task, if you are really going to take it up. She stands
between your wife and the sun."

"Then why have you suffered her to remain there all those years?"
Dominey demanded.

"For one thing, because there has been no one to replace her," the
doctor replied, "and for another, because Lady Dominey, believing that
you slew her son, has some fantastic idea of giving her a home and
shelter as a kind of expiation."

"You think there is no affection between the two?" Dominey asked.

"Not a scrap," was the blunt reply, "except that Lady Dominey is of so
sweet and gentle a nature--"

The doctor paused abruptly. His visitor's fingers had strayed across his
throat.

"That's a different matter," the former continued fiercely. "That's just
where the weak spot in her brain remains. If you ask me, I believe it's
pandered to by Mrs. Unthank. Come to think of it," he went on, "the
Domineys were never cowards. If you've got your courage back, send Mrs.
Unthank away, sleep with your doors wide open. If a single night passes
without Lady Dominey coming to your room with a knife in her hand, she
will be cured in time of that mania at any rate. Dare you do that?"

Dominey's hesitation was palpable,--also his agitation. The doctor
grinned contemptuously.

"Still afraid!" he scoffed.

"Not in the way you imagine," his visitor replied. "My wife has already
promised to make no further attempt upon my life."

"Well, you can cure her if you want to," the doctor declared, "and if
you do, you will have the sweetest companion for life any man could
have. But you'll have to give up the idea of town houses and racing and
yachting, and grouse moors in Scotland, and all those sort of things I
suppose you've been looking forward to. You'll have for some time, at
any rate, to give every moment of your time to your wife."

Dominey moved uneasily in his chair.

"For the next few months," he said, "that would be impossible."

"Impossible!"

The doctor repeated the word, seemed to roll it round in his mouth with
a sort of wondering scorn.

"I am not quite the idler I used to be," Dominey explained, frowning.
"Nowadays, you cannot make money without assuming responsibilities. I am
clearing off the whole of the mortgages upon the Dominey estates within
the next few months."

"How you spend your time is your affair, not mine," the doctor muttered.
"All I say about the matter is that your wife's cure, if ever it comes
to pass, is in your hands. And now--come over to me here, in the light
of this window. I want to look at you."

Dominey obeyed with a little shrug of the shoulders. There was no
sunshine, but the white north light was in its way searching. It showed
the sprinkling of grey in his ruddy-brown hair, the suspicion of it in
his closely trimmed moustache, but it could find no weak spot in his
steady eyes, in the tan of his hard, manly complexion, or even in the
set of his somewhat arrogant lips. The old doctor took up his box of
flies again and jerked his head towards the door.

"You are a miracle," he said, "and I hate miracles. I'll come and see
Lady Dominey in a day or so."



CHAPTER XII

Dominey spent a curiously placid, and, to those with whom he was brought
into contact, an entirely satisfactory afternoon. With Mr. Mangan by
his side, murmuring amiable platitudes, and Mr. Johnson, his agent,
opposite, revelling in the unusual situation of a satisfied landlord and
delighted tenants, he made practically the entire round of the Dominey
estates. They reached home late, but Dominey, although he seemed to
be living in another world, was not neglectful of the claims of
hospitality. Probably for the first time in their lives, Mr. Johnson
and Lees, the bailiff, watched the opening of a magnum of champagne. Mr.
Johnson cleared his throat as he raised his glass.

"It isn't only on my own account, Sir Everard," he said, "that I drink
your hearty good health. I have your tenants too in my mind. They've
had a rough time, some of them, and they've stood it like white men.
So here's from them and me to you, sir, and may we see plenty of you in
these parts."

Mr. Lees associated himself with these sentiments, and the glasses were
speedily emptied and filled again.

"I suppose you know, Sir Everard," the agent observed, "that what you've
promised to do to-day will cost a matter of ten to fifteen thousand
pounds."

Dominey nodded.

"Before I go to bed to-night," he said, "I shall send a cheque for
twenty thousand pounds to the estate account at your bank at Wells. The
money is there waiting, put aside for just that one purpose and--well,
you may just as well have it."

Agent and bailiff leaned back in the tonneau of their motor-car, half an
hour later, with immense cigars in their mouths and a pleasant, rippling
warmth in their veins. They had the sense of having drifted into
fairyland. Their philosophy, however, met the situation.

"It's a fair miracle," Mr. Lees declared.

"A modern romance," Mr. Johnson, who read novels, murmured. "Hello,
here's a visitor for the Hall," he added, as a car swept by them.

"Comfortable-looking gent, too," Mr. Lees remarked.

The "comfortable-looking gent" was Otto Seaman, who presented himself at
the Hall with a small dressing-bag and a great many apologies.

"Found myself in Norwich, Sir Everard," he explained. "I have done
business there all my life, and one of my customers needed looking
after. I finished early, and when I found that I was only thirty miles
off you, I couldn't resist having a run across. If it is in any way
inconvenient to put me up for the night, say so--"

"My dear fellow!" Dominey interrupted. "There are a score of rooms
ready. All that we need is to light a fire, and an old-fashioned
bed-warmer will do the rest. You remember Mr. Mangan?"

The two men shook hands, and Seaman accepted a little refreshment after
his drive. He lingered behind for a moment after the dressing bell had
rung.

"What time is that fellow going?" he asked.

"Nine o'clock to-morrow morning," Dominey replied.

"Not a word until then," Seaman whispered back. "I must not seem to
be hanging after you too much--I really did not want to come--but the
matter is urgent."

"We can send Mangan to bed early," Dominey suggested.

"I am the early bird myself," was the weary reply. "I was up all last
night. To-morrow morning will do."

Dinner that night was a pleasant and social meal. Mr. Mangan especially
was uplifted. Everything to do with the Domineys for the last fifteen
years had reeked of poverty. He had really had a hard struggle to
make both ends meet. There had been disagreeable interviews with angry
tenants, formal interviews with dissatisfied mortgagees, and remarkably
little profit at the end of the year to set against these disagreeable
episodes. The new situation was almost beatific. The concluding touch,
perhaps, was in Parkins' congratulatory whisper as he set a couple of
decanters upon the table.

"I have found a bin of Cockburn's _fifty-one_, sir," he announced,
including the lawyer in his confidential whisper. "I thought you
might like to try a couple of bottles, as Mr. Mangan seems rather a
connoisseur, sir. The corks appear to be in excellent condition."

"After this," Mr. Mangan sighed, "it will be hard to get back to the
austere life of a Pall Mall club!"

Seaman, very early in the evening, pleaded an extraordinary sleepiness
and retired, leaving his host and Mangan alone over the port. Dominey,
although an attentive host, seemed a little abstracted. Even Mr. Mangan,
who was not an observant man, was conscious that a certain hardness,
almost arrogance of speech and manner, seemed temporarily to have left
his patron.

"I can't tell you, Sir Everard," he said, as he sipped his first
glass of wine, "what a pleasure it is to me to see, as it were, this
recrudescence of an old family. If I might be allowed to say so, there's
only one thing necessary to round the whole business off, as it were."

"And that?" Dominey asked unthinkingly.

"The return of Lady Dominey to health. I was one of the few, you may
remember, privileged to make her acquaintance at the time of your
marriage."

"I paid a visit this morning," Dominey said, "to the doctor who has been
in attendance upon her since her marriage. He agrees with me that there
is no reason why Lady Dominey should not, in course of time, be restored
to perfect health."

"I take the liberty of finishing my glass to that hope, Sir Everard,"
the lawyer murmured.

Both glasses were set down empty, only the stem of Dominey's was snapped
in two. Mr. Mangan expressed his polite regrets.

"This old glass," he murmured, looking at his own admiringly, "becomes
very fragile."

Dominey did not answer. His brain had served him a strange trick. In
the shadows of the room he had fancied that he could see Stephanie
Eiderstrom holding out her arms, calling to him to fulfill the pledges
of long ago, and behind her--

"Have you ever been in love, Mangan?" Dominey asked his companion.

"I, sir? Well, I'm not sure," the man of the world replied, a little
startled by the abruptness of the question. "It's an old-fashioned way
of looking at things now, isn't it?"

Dominey relapsed into thoughtfulness.

"I suppose so," he admitted.



That night a storm rolled up from somewhere across that grey waste of
waters, a storm heralded by a wind which came booming over the marshes,
shaking the latticed windows of Dominey Place, shrieking and wailing
amongst its chimneys and around its many corners. Black clouds leaned
over the land, and drenching streams of rain dashed against the
loose-framed sashes of the windows. Dominey lit the tall candles in
his bedroom, fastened a dressing-gown around him, threw himself into an
easy-chair, and, fixing an electric reading lamp by his side, tried to
read. Very soon the book slipped from his fingers. He became suddenly
tense and watchful. His eyes counted one by one the panels in the wall
by the left-hand side of the bed. The familiar click was twice repeated.
For a moment a dark space appeared. Then a woman, stooping low, glided
into the room. She came slowly towards him, drawn like a moth towards
that semicircle of candle. Her hair hung down her back like a girl's,
and the white dressing-gown which floated diaphanously about her was
unexpectedly reminiscent of Bond Street.

"You are not afraid?" she asked anxiously. "See, I have nothing in my
hands. I almost think that the desire has gone. You remember the little
stiletto I had last night? To-day I threw it into the well. Mrs. Unthank
was very angry with me."

"I am not afraid," he assured her, "but--"

"Ah, but you will not scold me?" she begged. "It is the storm which
terrifies me."

He drew a low chair for her into the little circle of light and arranged
some cushions. As she sank into it, she suddenly looked up at him and
smiled, a smile of rare and wonderful beauty. Dominey felt for a moment
something like the stab of a knife at his heart.

"Sit here and rest," he invited. "There is nothing to fear."

"In my heart I know that," she answered simply. "These storms are part
of our lives. They come with birth, and they shake the world when death
seizes us. One should not be afraid, but I have been so ill, Everard.
Shall I call you Everard still?"

"Why not?" he asked.

"Because you are not like Everard to me any more," she told him,
"because something has gone from you, and something has come to you. You
are not the same man. What is it? Had you troubles in Africa? Did you
learn what life was like out there?"

He sat looking at her for a moment, leaning back in his chair, which
he had pushed a few feet into the shadows. Her hair was glossy and
splendid, and against it her skin seemed whiter and more delicate than
ever. Her eyes were lustrous but plaintive, and with something of the
child's fear of harm in them. She looked very young and very fragile to
have been swayed through the years by an evil passion.

"I learnt many things there, Rosamund," he told her quietly. "I learnt
a little of the difference between right doing and wrongdoing. I learnt,
too, that all the passions of life burn themselves out, save one alone."

She twisted the girdle of her dressing-gown in her fingers for a
moment. His last speech seemed to have been outside the orbit of her
comprehension or interest.

"You need not be afraid of me any more, Everard," she said, a little
pathetically.

"I have no fear of you," he answered.

"Then why don't you bring your chair forward and come and sit a little
nearer to me?" she asked, raising her eyes. "Do you hear the wind, how
it shrieks at us? Oh, I am afraid!"

He moved forward to her side, and took her hand gently in his. Her
fingers responded at once to his pressure. When he spoke, he scarcely
recognised his own voice. It seemed to him thick and choked.

"The wind shall not hurt you, or anything else," he promised. "I have
come back to take care of you."

She sighed, smiled like a tired child, and her eyes closed as her head
fell farther back amongst the cushions.

"Stay just like that, please," she begged. "Something quite new is
coming to me. I am resting. It is the sweetest rest I ever felt. Don't
move, Everard. Let my fingers stay in yours--so."

The candles burned down in their sockets, the wind rose to greater
furies, and died away only as the dawn broke through the storm clouds.
A pale light stole into the room. Still the woman slept, and still her
fingers seemed to keep their clutch upon his hand. Her breathing was all
the time soft and regular. Her silky black eyelashes lay motionless upon
her pale cheeks. Her mouth--a very perfectly shaped mouth--rested in
quiet lines. Somehow he realised that about this slumber there was a new
thing. With hot eyes and aching limbs he sat through the night. Dream
after dream rose up and passed away before that little background of
tapestried wall. When she opened her eyes and looked at him, the same
smile parted her lips as the smile which had come there when she had
passed away to sleep.

"I am so rested," she murmured. "I feel so well. I have had dreams,
beautiful dreams."

The fire had burned out, and the room was chilly.

"You must go back to your own room now," he said.

Very slowly her fingers relaxed. She held out her arms.

"Carry me," she begged. "I am only half awake. I want to sleep again."

He lifted her up. Her fingers closed around his neck, her head fell back
with a little sigh of content. He tried the folding doors, and, finding
some difficulty in opening them carried her out into the corridor, into
her own room, and laid her upon the untouched bed.

"You are quite comfortable?" he asked.

"Quite," she murmured drowsily. "Kiss me, Everard."

Her hands drew his face down. His lips rested upon her forehead. Then he
drew the bedclothes over her and fled.



CHAPTER XIII

There was a cloud on Seaman's good-humoured face as, muffled up in
their overcoats, he and his host walked up and down the terrace the
next morning, after the departure of Mr. Mangan. He disclosed his mind a
little abruptly.

"In a few minutes," he said, "I shall come to the great purpose of my
visit. I have great and wonderful news for you. But it will keep."

"The time for action has arrived?" Dominey asked curiously. "I hope you
will remember that as yet I am scarcely established here."

"It is with regard to your establishment here," Seaman explained drily,
"that I desire to say a word. We have seen much of one another since we
met in Cape Town. The passion and purpose of my life you have been able
to judge. Of those interludes which are necessary to a human being,
unless his system is to fall to pieces as dry dust, you have also seen
something. I trust you will not misunderstand me when I say that apart
from the necessities of my work, I am a man of sentiment."

"I am prepared to admit it," Dominey murmured a little idly.

"You have undertaken a great enterprise. It was, without a doubt, a
miraculous piece of fortune which brought the Englishman, Dominey,
to your camp just at the moment when you received your orders from
headquarters. Your self-conceived plan has met with every encouragement
from us. You will be placed in a unique position to achieve your final
purpose. Now mark my words and do not misunderstand me. The very keynote
of our progress is ruthlessness. To take even a single step forward
towards the achievement of that purpose is worth the sacrifice of all
the scruples and delicacies conceivable. But when a certain course
of action is without profit to our purpose, I see ugliness in it. It
distresses me."

"What the devil do you mean?" Dominey demanded.

"I sleep with one ear open," Seaman replied.

"Well?"

"I saw you leave your room early this morning," Seaman continued,
"carrying Lady Dominey in your arms."

There were little streaks of pallor underneath the tan in Dominey's
face. His eyes were like glittering metal. It was only when he had
breathed once or twice quickly that he could command his voice.

"What concern is this of yours?" he demanded.

Seaman gripped his companion's arm.

"Look here," he said, "we are too closely allied for bluff. I am here to
help you fill the shoes of another man, so far as regards his estates,
his position, and character, which, by the by, you are rehabilitating. I
will go further. I will admit that it is not my concern to interfere in
any ordinary amour you might undertake, but--I shall tell you this, my
friend, to your face--that to deceive a lady of weak intellect, however
beautiful, to make use of your position as her supposed husband, is not,
save in the vital interests of his country, the action of a Prussian
nobleman."

Dominey's passion seemed to have burned itself out without expression.
He showed not the slightest resentment at his companion's words.

"Have no fear, Seaman," he enjoined him. "The situation is delicate, but
I can deal with it as a man of honour."

"You relieve me," Seaman confessed. "You must admit that the spectacle
of last night was calculated to inspire me with uneasiness."

"I respect you for your plain words," Dominey declared. "The fact is,
that Lady Dominey was frightened of the storm last night and found
her way into my room. You may be sure that I treated her with all the
respect and sympathy which our positions demanded."

"Lady Dominey," Seaman remarked meditatively, "seems to be curiously
falsifying certain predictions."

"In what way?"

"The common impression in the neighbourhood here is that she is a maniac
chiefly upon one subject--her detestation of you. She has been known to
take an oath that you should die if you slept in this house again. You
naturally, being a brave man, ignored all this, yet in the morning after
your first night here there was blood upon your night clothes."

Dominey's eyebrows were slowly raised.

"You are well served here," he observed, with involuntary sarcasm.

"That, for your own sake as well as ours, is necessary," was the terse
reply. "To continue, people of unsound mind are remarkably tenacious
of their ideas. There was certainly nothing of the murderess in her
demeanour towards you last night. Cannot you see that a too friendly
attitude on her part might become fatal to our schemes?"

"In what way?"

"If ever your identity is doubted," Seaman explained, "the probability
of which is, I must confess, becoming less every day, the fact that Lady
Dominey seems to have so soon forgotten all her enmity towards you would
be strong presumptive evidence that you are not the man you claim to
be."

"Ingenious," Dominey assented, "and very possible. All this time,
however, we speak on what you yourself admit to be a side issue."

"You are right," Seaman confessed. "Very well, then, listen. A great
moment has arrived for you, my friend."

"Explain if you please."

"I shall do so. You have seen proof, during the last few days, that you
have an organisation behind you to whom money is dross. It is the same
in diplomacy as in war. Germany will pay the price for what she intends
to achieve. Ninety thousand pounds was yesterday passed to the credit of
your account for the extinction of certain mortgages. In a few months'
or a few years' time, some distant Dominey will benefit to that extent.
We cannot recover the money. It is just an item in our day by day
expenses."

"It was certainly a magnificent way of establishing me," Dominey
admitted.

"Magnificent, but safest in the long run," Seaman declared. "If you
had returned a poor man, everybody's hand would have been against you;
suspicions, now absolutely unkindled, might have been formed; and, more
important, perhaps, than either, you would not have been able to take
your place in Society, which is absolutely necessary for the furtherance
of our scheme."

"Is it not almost time," Dominey enquired, "that the way was made a
little clearer for me?"

"That would have been my task this morning," Seaman replied, "but for
the news I bring. In passing, however, let me promise you this. You will
never be asked to stoop to the crooked ways of the ordinary spy. We want
you for a different purpose."

"And the news?"

"What must be the greatest desire in your heart," Seaman said solemnly,
"is to be granted. The Kaiser has expressed a desire to see you, to give
you his instructions in person."

Dominey stopped short upon the terrace. He withdrew his arm from his
companion's and stared at him blankly.

"The Kaiser?" he exclaimed. "You mean that I am to go to Germany?"

"We shall start at once," Seaman replied. "Personally, I do not consider
the proceeding discreet or necessary. It has been decided upon, however,
without consulting me."

"I consider it suicidal," Dominey protested. "What explanation can
I possibly make for going to Germany, of all countries in the world,
before I have had time to settle down here?"

"That of itself will not be difficult," his companion pointed out. "Many
of the mines in which a share has been bought in your name are being run
with German capital. It is easy to imagine that a crisis has arisen
in the management of one of them. We require the votes of our fellow
shareholders. You need not trouble your head about that. And think of
the wonder of it! If only for a single day your sentence of banishment
is lifted. You will breathe the air of the Fatherland once more."

"It will be wonderful," Dominey muttered.

"It will be for you," Seaman promised, "a breath of the things that are
to come. And now, action. How I love action! That time-table, my friend,
and your chauffeur."

It was arranged that the two men should leave during the morning for
Norwich by motor-car and thence to Harwich. Dominey, having changed into
travelling clothes, sent a messenger for Mrs. Unthank, who came to him
presently in his study. He held out a chair to her, which she declined,
however, to take.

"Mrs. Unthank," he said, "I should like to know why you have been
content to remain my wife's attendant for the last ten years?"

Mrs. Unthank was startled by the suddenness of the attack.

"Lady Dominey has needed me," she answered, after a moment's pause.

"Do you consider," he asked, "that you have been the best possible
companion for her?"

"She has never been willing to accept any other," the woman replied.

"Are you very devoted to my wife?" he enquired.

Mrs. Unthank, grim and fierce though she was and appeared to be, was
obviously disconcerted by Dominey's line of questions.

"If I weren't," she demanded, "should I have been here all these years?"

"I scarcely see," he continued, "what particular claim my wife has had
upon you. I understand, moreover, that you are one of those who firmly
believe that I killed your son. Is this attendance upon my wife a
Christian act, then--the returning of good for evil?"

"Exactly what do you want to say to me, Sir Everard?" she asked harshly.

"I wish to say this," Dominey replied, "that I am determined to bring
about my wife's restoration to health. For that reason I am going to
have specialists down here, and above all things to change for a time
her place of residence. My own feeling is that she will stand a much
better chance of recovery without your attendance."

"You would dare to send me away?" the woman demanded.

"That is my intention," Dominey confessed. "I have not spoken to Lady
Dominey yet, but I hope that very soon my influence over her will be
such that she will be content to obey my wishes. I look upon your future
from the financial point of view, as my care. I shall settle upon you
the sum of three hundred pounds a year."

The woman showed her first sign of weakness. She began to shake. There
was a curious look of fear in her eyes.

"I can't leave this place, Sir Everard," she cried. "I must stay here!"

"Why?" he demanded.

"Lady Dominey couldn't do without me," she answered sullenly.

"That," he replied, "is for her to decide. Personally, from enquiries
I have made, I believe that you have encouraged in her that ridiculous
superstition about the ghost of your son. I also believe that you have
kept alive in her that spirit of unreasonable hatred which she has felt
towards me."

"Unreasonable, you call it?" the woman almost shouted. "You, who came
home to her with the blood on your hands of the man whom, if only you
had kept away, she might one day have loved? Unreasonable, you call it?"

"I have finished what I had to say, Mrs. Unthank," Dominey declared. "I
am compelled by important business to leave here for two or three
days. On my return I shall embark upon the changes with which I have
acquainted you. In the meantime," he added, watching a curious change in
the woman's expression, "I have written this morning to Doctor Harrison,
asking him to come up this afternoon and to keep Lady Dominey under his
personal observation until my return."

She stood quite still, looking at him. Then she came a little nearer and
leaned forward, as though studying his face.

"Eleven years," she muttered, "do change many men, but I never knew a
man made out of a weakling."

"I have nothing more to say to you," Dominey replied, "except to let you
know that I am coming to see my wife in the space of a few minutes."



The motor-horn was already sounding below when Dominey was admitted to
his wife's apartment. She was dressed in a loose gown of a warm crimson
colour, and she had the air of one awaiting his arrival expectantly. The
passion of hatred seemed to have passed from her pale face and from the
depths of her strangely soft eyes. She held out her hands towards him.
Her brows were a little puckered. The disappointment of a child lurked
in her manner.

"You are going away?" she murmured.

"In a very few moments," he told her. "I have been waiting to see you
for an hour."

She made a grimace.

"It was Mrs. Unthank. I think that she hid my things on purpose. I was
so anxious to see you."

"I want to talk to you about Mrs. Unthank," he said. "Should you be very
unhappy if I sent her away and found some one younger and kinder to be
your companion?"

The idea seemed to be outside the bounds of her comprehension.

"Mrs. Unthank would never go," she declared. "She stays here to listen
to the voice. All night long sometimes she waits and listens, and it
doesn't come. Then she hears it, and she is rested."

"And you?" he asked.

"I am afraid," she confessed. "But then, you see, I am not very strong."

"You are not fond of Mrs. Unthank?" he enquired anxiously.

"I don't think so," she answered, in a perplexed tone. "I think I am
very much afraid of her. But it is no use, Everard! She would never go
away."

"When I return," Dominey said, "we shall see."

She took his arm and linked her hands through it.

"I am so sorry that you are going," she murmured. "I hope you will soon
come back. Will you come back--my husband?"

Dominey's nails cut into the flesh of his clenched hands.

"I will come back within three days," he promised.

"Do you know," she went on confidentially, "something has come into my
mind lately. I spoke about it yesterday, but I did not tell you what it
was. You need never be afraid of me any more. I understand."

"What do you understand?" he demanded huskily.

"The knowledge must have come to me," she went on, dropping her voice
a little and whispering almost in his ear, "at the very moment when my
dagger rested upon your throat, when I suddenly felt the desire to kill
die away. You are very like him sometimes, but you are not Everard. You
are not my husband at all. You are another man."

Dominey gave a little gasp. They both turned towards the door. Mrs.
Unthank was standing there, her gaunt, hard face lit up with a gleam
of something which was like triumph, her eyes glittering. Her lips, as
though involuntarily, repeated her mistress' last words.

"Another man!"



CHAPTER XIV

There were times during their rapid journey when Seaman, studying his
companion, became thoughtful. Dominey seemed, indeed, to have passed
beyond the boundaries of any ordinary reserve, to have become like a man
immeshed in the toils of a past so absorbing that he moved as though in
a dream, speaking only when necessary and comporting himself generally
like one to whom all externals have lost significance. As they embarked
upon the final stage of their travels, Seaman leaned forward in his seat
in the sombrely upholstered, overheated compartment.

"Your home-coming seems to depress you, Von Ragastein," he said.

"It was not my intention," Dominey replied, "to set foot in Germany
again for many years."

"The past still bites?"

"Always."

The train sped on through long chains of vineyard-covered hills, out
into a stretch of flat country, into forests of pines, in the midst
of which were great cleared spaces, where, notwithstanding the closely
drawn windows, the resinous odour from the fallen trunks seemed to
permeate the compartment. Presently they slackened speed. Seaman glanced
at his watch and rose.

"Prepare yourself, my friend," he said. "We descend in a few minutes."

Dominey glanced out of the window.

"But where are we?" he enquired.

"Within five minutes of our destination."

"But there is not a house in sight," Dominey remarked wonderingly.

"You will be received on board His Majesty's private train," Seaman
announced. "The Kaiser, with his staff, is making one of his military
tours. We are honoured by being permitted to travel back with him as far
as the Belgian frontier."

They had come to a standstill now. A bearded and uniformed official
threw open the door of their compartment, and they stepped on to the
narrow wooden platform of a small station which seemed to have been
recently built of fresh pine planks. The train, immediately they had
alighted, passed on. Their journey was over.

A brief conversation was carried on between Seaman and the official,
during which Dominey took curious note of his surroundings. Around the
station, half hidden in some places by the trees and shrubs, was drawn
a complete cordon of soldiers, who seemed to have recently disembarked
from a military train which stood upon a siding. In the middle of it was
a solitary saloon carriage, painted black, with much gold ornamentation,
and having emblazoned upon the central panel the royal arms of Germany.
Seaman, when he had finished his conversation, took Dominey by the arm
and led him across the line towards it. An officer received them at the
steps and bowed punctiliously to Dominey, at whom he gazed with much
interest.

"His Majesty will receive you at once," he announced. "Follow me."

They boarded the train and passed along a richly carpeted corridor.
Their guide paused and pointed to a small retiring-room, where several
men were seated.

"Herr Seaman will find friends there," he said. "His Imperial Majesty
will receive him for a few minutes later. The Baron Von Ragastein will
come this way."

Dominey was ushered now into the main saloon. His guide motioned him to
remain near the entrance, and, himself advancing a few paces, stood at
the salute before a seated figure who was bending over a map, which a
stern-faced man in the uniform of a general had unrolled before him. The
Kaiser glanced up at the sound of footsteps and whispered something in
the general's ear. The latter clicked his heels together and retired.
The Kaiser beckoned Dominey to advance.

"The Baron Von Ragastein, your Majesty," the young officer murmured.

Dominey stood at attention for a moment and bowed a little awkwardly.
The Kaiser smiled.

"It pleases me," he said, "to see a German officer ill at ease without
his uniform. Count, you will leave us. Baron Von Ragastein, be seated."

"Sir Everard Dominey, at your service, Majesty," Dominey replied, as he
took the chair to which his august host pointed.

"Thorough in all things, I see," the latter observed. "Sit there and be
at your ease. Good reports have reached me of your work in Africa."

"I did my best to execute your Majesty's will," Dominey ventured.

"You did so well," the Kaiser pronounced, "that my counsellors were
unanimous in advising your withdrawal to what will shortly become the
great centre of interest. From the moment of receiving our commands you
appear to have displayed initiative. I gather that your personation of
this English baronet has been successfully carried through?"

"Up to the present, your Majesty."

"Important though your work in Africa was," the Kaiser continued, "your
present task is a far greater one. I wish to speak to you for these few
minutes without reserve. First, though, drink a toast with me."

From a mahogany stand at his elbow, the Kaiser drew out a long-necked
bottle of Moselle, filled two very beautiful glasses, passed one to his
companion and raised the other.

"To the Fatherland!" he said.

"To the Fatherland!" Dominey repeated.

They set down their glasses, empty. The Kaiser threw back the grey
military cloak which he was wearing, displaying a long row of medals and
decorations. His fingers still toyed with the stem of his wineglass. He
seemed for a moment to lose himself in thought. His hard and somewhat
cruel mouth was tightly closed; there was a slight frown upon his
forehead. He was sitting upright, taking no advantage of the cushioned
back of his easy-chair, his eyes a little screwed up, the frown
deepening. For quite five minutes there was complete silence. One
might have gathered that, turning aside from great matters, he had been
devoting himself entirely to the scheme in which Dominey was concerned.

"Von Ragastein," he said at last, "I have sent for you to have a few
words concerning your habitation in England. I wish you to receive your
impressions of your mission from my own lips."

"Your Majesty does me great honour," Dominey murmured.

"I wish you to consider yourself," the Kaiser continued, "as entirely
removed from the limits, the authority and the duties of my espionage
system. From you I look for other things. I desire you to enter into the
spirit of your assumed position. As a typical English country gentleman
I desire you to study the labour question, the Irish question, the
progress of this National Service scheme, and other social movements of
which you will receive notice in due time. I desire a list compiled
of those writers who, in the Reviews, or by means of fiction, are
encouraging the suspicions which I am inclined to fancy England has
begun to entertain towards the Fatherland. These things are all on
the fringe of your real mission. That, I believe, our admirable friend
Seaman has already confided to you. It is to seek the friendship, if
possible the intimacy, of Prince Terniloff."

The Kaiser paused, and once more his eyes wandered to the landscape
which rolled away from the plate-glass windows of the car. They were
certainly not the eyes of a dreamer, and yet in those moments they
seemed filled with brooding pictures.

"The Princess has already received me graciously," Dominey confided.

"Terniloff is the dove of peace," the Kaiser pronounced. "He carries
the sprig of olive in his mouth. My statesmen and counsellors would have
sent to London an ambassador with sterner qualities. I preferred not.
Terniloff is the man to gull fools, because he is a fool himself. He is
a fit ambassador for a country which has not the wit to arm itself on
land as well as by sea, when it sees a nation, mightier, more cultured,
more splendidly led than its own, creeping closer every day."

"The English appear to put their whole trust in their navy, your
Majesty," Dominey observed tentatively.

The eyes of his companion flashed. His lips curled contemptuously.

"Fools!" he exclaimed. "Of what use will their navy be when my sword is
once drawn, when I hold the coast towns of Calais and Boulogne, when
my cannon command the Straits of Dover! The days of insular nations are
passed, passed as surely as the days of England's arrogant supremacy
upon the seas."

The Kaiser refilled his glass and Dominey's.

"In some months' time, Von Ragastein," he continued, "you will
understand why you have been enjoined to become the friend and companion
of Terniloff. You will understand your mission a little more clearly
than you do now. Its exact nature waits upon developments. You can at
all times trust Seaman."

Dominey bowed and remained silent. His companion continued after another
brief spell of silent brooding.

"Von Ragastein," he said, "my decree of banishment against you was a
just one. The morals of my people are as sacred to me as my oath to win
for them a mightier empire. You first of all betrayed the wife of one of
the most influential noblemen of a State allied to my own, and then, in
the duel that followed, you slew him."

"It was an accident, your Majesty," Dominey pleaded. "I had no intention
of even wounding the Prince."

The Kaiser frowned. All manner of excuses were loathsome to him.

"The accident should have happened the other way," he rejoined sharply.
"I should have lost a valuable servant, but it was your life which was
forfeit, and not his. Still, they tell me that your work in Africa
was well and thoroughly done. I give you this one great chance of
rehabilitation. If your work in England commends itself to me, the
sentence of exile under which you suffer shall be rescinded."

"Your Majesty is too good," Dominey murmured. "The work, for its own
sake, will command my every effort, even without the hope of reward."

"That," the Kaiser said, "is well spoken. It is the spirit, I believe,
with which every son of my Empire regards the future. I think that they,
too, more especially those who surround my person, have felt something
of that divine message which has come to me. For many years I have, for
the sake of my people, willed peace. Now that the time draws near when
Heaven has shown me another duty, I have no fear but that every loyal
German will bow his head before the lightnings which will play around
my sword and share with me the iron will to wield it. Your audience
is finished, Baron Von Ragastein. You will take your place with the
gentlemen of my suite in the retiring-room. We shall proceed within a
few minutes and leave you at the Belgian frontier."

Dominey rose, bowed stiffly and backed down the carpeted way. The Kaiser
was already bending once more over the map. Seaman, who was waiting
outside the door of the anteroom, called him in and introduced him to
several members of the suite. One, a young man with a fixed monocle,
scars upon his face, and a queer, puppet-like carriage, looked at him a
little strangely.

"We met some years ago in Munich, Baron," he remarked.

"I acknowledge no former meetings with any one in this country," Dominey
replied stiffly. "I obey the orders of my Imperial master when I wipe
from my mind every episode or reminiscence of my former days."

The young man's face cleared, and Seaman, by his side, who had knitted
his brows thoughtfully, nodded understandingly.

"You are certainly a good actor, Baron," he declared. "Even your German
has become a little English. Sit down and join us in a glass of beer.
Luncheon will be served to us here in a few minutes. You will not be
recalled to the Presence until we set you down."

Dominey bowed stiffly and took his place with the others. The train had
already started. Dominey gazed thoughtfully out of the window. Seaman,
who was waiting about for his audience, patted him on the arm.

"Dear friend," he said, "I sympathise with you. You sorrow because your
back is now to Berlin. Still, remember this, that the day is not far off
when the sentence of exile against you will be annulled. You will have
expiated that crime which, believe me, although I do not venture to
claim a place amongst them, none of your friends and equals have ever
regarded in the same light as His Imperial Majesty."

A smiling steward, in black livery with white facings, made his
appearance and served them with beer in tall glasses. The senior officer
there, who had now seated himself opposite to Dominey, raised his glass
and bowed.

"To the Baron Von Ragastein," he said, "whose acquaintance I regret not
having made before to-day. May we soon welcome him back, a brother in
arms, a companion in great deeds! Hoch!"



CHAPTER XV

Sir Everard Dominey, Baronet, the latest and most popular recruit to
Norfolk sporting society, stood one afternoon, some months after his
return from Germany, at the corner of the long wood which stretched from
the ridge of hills behind almost to the kitchen gardens of the Hall. At
a reasonable distance on his left, four other guns were posted. On one
side of him stood Middleton, leaning on his ash stick and listening
to the approach of the beaters; on the other, Seaman, curiously out of
place in his dark grey suit and bowler hat. The old keeper, whom time
seemed to have cured of all his apprehensions, was softly garrulous and
very happy.

"That do seem right to have a Squire Dominey at this corner," he
observed, watching a high cock pheasant come crashing down over their
heads. "I mind when the Squire, your father, sir, gave up this corner
one day to Lord Wendermere, whom folks called one of the finest pheasant
shots in England, and though they streamed over his head like starlings,
he'd nowt but a few cripples to show for his morning's work."

"Come out with a bit of a twist from the left, don't they?" Dominey
remarked, repeating his late exploit.

"They do that, sir," the old man assented, "and no one but a Dominey
seems to have learnt the knack of dealing with them proper. That foreign
Prince, so they say, is well on to his birds, but I wouldn't trust him
at this corner."

The old man moved off a few paces to some higher ground, to watch
the progress of the beaters through the wood. Seaman turned to his
companion, and there was a note of genuine admiration in his tone.

"My friend," he declared, "You are a miracle. You seem to have developed
the Dominey touch even in killing pheasants."

"You must remember that I have shot higher ones in Hungary," was the
easy reply.

"I am not a sportsman," Seaman admitted. "I do not understand sport. But
I do know this: there is an old man who has lived on this land since the
day of his birth, who has watched you shoot, reverently, and finds even
the way you hold your gun familiar."

"That twist of the birds," Dominey explained, "is simply a local
superstition. The wood ends on the slant, and they seem to be flying
more to the left than they really are."

Seaman gazed steadfastly for a moment along the side of the wood.

"Her Grace is coming," he said. "She seems to share the Duke's dislike
of me, and she is too great a lady to conceal her feelings. Just one
word before I go. The Princess Eiderstrom arrives this afternoon."

Dominey frowned, then, warned by the keeper's shout, turned around and
killed a hare.

"My friend," he said, with a certain note of challenge in his tone, "I
am not certain that you have told me all that you know concerning the
Princess's visit."

Seaman was thoughtful for a brief space of time.

"You are right," he admitted, "I have not. It is a fault which I will
repair presently."

He strolled away to the next stand, where Mr. Mangan was displaying an
altogether different standard of proficiency. The Duchess came up to
Dominey a few minutes later.

"I told Henry I shouldn't stop with him another moment," she declared.
"He has fired off about forty cartridges and wounded one hare."

"Henry is not keen," Dominey remarked, "although I think you are a
little hard on him, are you not? I saw him bring down a nice cock just
now. So far as regards the birds, it really does not matter. They are
all going home."

The Duchess was very smartly tailored in clothes of brown leather
mixture. She wore thick shoes and gaiters and a small hat. She was
looking very well but a little annoyed.

"I hear," she said, "that Stephanie is coming to-day."

Dominey nodded, and seemed for a moment intent on watching the flight of
a pigeon which kept tantalisingly out of range.

"She is coming down for a few days," he assented. "I am afraid that she
will be bored to death."

"Where did you become so friendly with her?" his cousin asked curiously.

"The first time we ever met," Dominey replied, "was in the Carlton grill
room, a few days after I landed in England. She mistook me for some one
else, and we parted with the usual apologies. I met her the same night
at Carlton House Terrace--she is related to the Terniloffs--and we came
across one another pretty often after that, during the short time I was
in town."

"Yes," the Duchess murmured meditatively. "That is another of the little
surprises you seem to have all ready dished up for us. How on earth did
you become so friendly with the German Ambassador?"

Dominey smiled tolerantly.

"Really," he replied, "there is not anything so very extraordinary about
it, is there? Mr. Seaman, my partner in one or two mining enterprises,
took me to call upon him. He is very interested in East Africa,
politically and as a sportsman. Our conversations seemed to interest
him and led to a certain intimacy--of which I may say that I am proud. I
have the greatest respect and liking for the Prince."

"So have I," Caroline agreed. "I think he's charming. Henry declares
that he must be either a fool or a knave."

"Henry is blinded by prejudice," Dominey declared a little impatiently.
"He cannot imagine a German who feasts with any one else but the devil."

"Don't get annoyed, dear," she begged, resting her fingers for a moment
upon his coat sleeve. "I admire the Prince immensely. He is absolutely
the only German I ever met whom one felt instinctively to be a
gentleman.--Now what are you smiling at?"

Dominey turned a perfectly serious face towards her. "Not guilty," he
pleaded.

"I saw you smile."

"It was just a quaint thought. You are rather sweeping, are you not,
Caroline?"

"I'm generally right," she declared.--"To return to the subject of
Stephanie."

"Well?"

"Do you know whom she mistook you for in the Carlton grill room?"

"Tell me?" he answered evasively.

"She mistook you for a Baron Leopold Von Ragastein," Caroline continued
drily. "Von Ragastein was her lover in Hungary. He fought a duel with
her husband and killed him. The Kaiser was furious and banished him to
East Africa."

Dominey picked up his shooting-stick and handed his gun to Middleton.
The beaters were through the wood.

"Yes, I remember now," he said. "She addressed me as Leopold."

"I still don't see why it was necessary to invite her here," his
companion observed a little petulantly. "She may--call you Leopold
again!"

"If she does, I shall be deaf," Dominey promised. "But seriously, she is
a cousin of the Princess Terniloff, and the two women are devoted to one
another. The Princess hates shooting parties, so I thought they could
entertain one another."

"Bosh! Stephanie will monopolise you all the time! That's what's she's
coming for."

"You are not suggesting that she intends seriously to put me in the
place of my double?" Dominey asked, with mock alarm.

"Oh, I shouldn't wonder! And she's an extraordinarily attractive woman.
I'm full of complaints, Everard. There's that other horrible little man,
Seaman. You know that the very sight of him makes Henry furious. I am
quite sure that he never expected to sit down at the same table with
him."

"I am really sorry about that," Dominey assured her, "but you see His
Excellency takes a great interest in him on account of this Friendship
League, of which Seaman is secretary, and he particularly asked to have
him here."

"Well, you must admit that the situation is a little awkward for Henry,"
she complained. "Next to Lord Roberts, Henry is practically the leader
of the National Service movement here; he hates Germany and distrusts
every German he ever met, and in a small house party like this we meet
the German Ambassador and a man who is working hard to lull to sleep the
very sentiments which Henry is endeavouring to arouse."

"It sounds very pathetic," Dominey admitted, with a smile, "but even
Henry likes Terniloff, and after all it is stimulating to meet one's
opponents sometimes."

"Of course he likes Terniloff," Caroline assented, "but he hates the
things he stands for. However, I'd have forgiven you everything if only
Stephanie weren't coming. That woman is really beginning to irritate me.
She always seems to be making mysterious references to some sentimental
past in which you both are concerned, and for which there can be no
foundation at all except your supposed likeness to her exiled lover.
Why, you never met her until that day at the Carlton!"

"She was a complete stranger to me," Dominey asserted.

"Then all I can say is that you have been unusually rapid if you've
managed to create a past in something under three months!" Caroline
pronounced suspiciously. "I call her coming here a most bare-faced
proceeding, especially as this is practically a bachelor establishment."

They had arrived at the next stand, and conversation was temporarily
suspended. A flight of wild duck were put out from a pool in the wood,
and for a few minutes every one was busy. Middleton watched his master
with unabated approval.

"You're most as good as the old Squire with them high duck, Sir
Everard," he said. "That's true very few can touch 'em when they're
coming out nigh to the pheasants. They can't believe in the speed of
'em."

"Do you think Sir Everard shoots as well as he did before he went to
Africa?" Caroline asked.

Middleton touched his hat and turned to Seaman, who was standing in the
background.

"Better, your Grace," he answered, "as I was saying to this gentleman
here, early this morning. He's cooler like and swings more level. I'd
have known his touch on a gun anywhere, though."

There was a glint of admiration in Seaman's eyes. The beaters came
through the wood, and the little party of guns gossiped together while
the game was collected. Terniloff, his usual pallor chased away by
the bracing wind and the pleasure of the sport, was affable and even
loquacious. He had great estates of his own in Saxony and was explaining
to the Duke his manner of shooting them. Middleton glanced at his
horn-rimmed watch.

"There's another hour's good light, sir," he said. "Would you care about
a partridge drive, or should we do through the home copse?"

"If I might make a suggestion," Terniloff observed diffidently, "most
of the pheasants went into that gloomy-looking wood just across the
marshes."

There was a moment's rather curious silence. Dominey had turned and was
looking towards the wood in question, as though fascinated by its almost
sinister-like blackness and density. Middleton had dropped some game he
was carrying and was muttering to himself.

"We call that the Black Wood," Dominey said calmly, "and I am rather
afraid that the pheasants who find their way there claim sanctuary. What
do you think, Middleton?"

The old man turned his head slowly and looked at his master. Somehow
or other, every scrap of colour seemed to have faded out of his bronzed
face. His eyes were filled with that vague horror of the supernatural
common amongst the peasant folk of various localities. His voice shook.
The old fear was back again.

"You wouldn't put the beaters in there, Squire?" he faltered; "not that
there's one of them would go."

"Have we stumbled up against a local superstition?" the Duke enquired.

"That's not altogether local, your Grace," Middleton replied, "as the
Squire himself will tell you. I doubt whether there's a beater in all
Norfolk would go through the Black Wood, if you paid him red gold for
it.--Here, you lads."

He turned to the beaters, who were standing waiting for instructions a
few yards away. There were a dozen of them, stalwart men for the most
part, clad in rough smocks and breeches and carrying thick sticks.

"There's one of the gentlemen here," Middleton announced, addressing
them, "who wants to know if you'd go through the Black Wood of Dominey
for a sovereign apiece?--Watch their faces, your Grace.--Now then,
lads?"

There was no possibility of any mistake. The very suggestion seemed
to have taken the healthy sunburn from their cheeks. They fumbled with
their sticks uneasily. One of them touched his hat and spoke to Dominey.

"I'm one as 'as seen it, sir, as well as heard," he said. "I'd sooner
give up my farm than go nigh the place."

Caroline suddenly passed her arm through Dominey's. There was a note of
distress in her tone.

"Henry, you're an idiot!" she exclaimed. "It was my fault, Everard. I'm
so sorry. Just for one moment I had forgotten. I ought to have stopped
Henry at once. The poor man has no memory."

Dominey's arm responded for a moment to the pressure of her fingers.
Then he turned to the beaters.

"Well, no one is going to ask you to go to the Black Wood," he promised.
"Get round to the back of Hunt's stubbles, and bring them into the roots
and then over into the park. We will line the park fence. How is that,
Middleton?"

The keeper touched his hat and stepped briskly off.

"I'll just have a walk with them myself, sir," he said. "Them birds
do break at Fuller's corner. I'll see if I can flank them. You'll know
where to put the guns, Squire."

Dominey nodded. One and all the beaters were walking with most
unaccustomed speed towards their destination. Their backs were towards
the Black Wood. Terniloff came up to his host.

"Have I, by chance, been terribly tactless?" he asked.

Dominey shook his head.

"You asked a perfectly natural question, Prince," he replied. "There is
no reason why you should not know the truth. Near that wood occurred the
tragedy which drove me from England for so many years."

"I am deeply grieved," the Prince began--

"It is false sentiment to avoid allusions to it," Dominey interrupted.
"I was attacked there one night by a man who had some cause for offence
against me. We fought, and I reached home in a somewhat alarming state.
My condition terrified my wife so much that she has been an invalid
ever since. But here is the point which has given birth to all these
superstitions, and which made me for many years a suspected person. The
man with whom I fought has never been seen since."

Terniloff was at once too fascinated by the story and puzzled by his
host's manner of telling it to maintain his apologetic attitude.

"Never seen since!" he repeated.

"My own memory as to the end of our fight is uncertain," Dominey
continued. "My impression is that I left my assailant unconscious upon
the ground."

"Then it is his ghost, I imagine, who haunts the Black Wood?"

Dominey shook himself as one who would get rid of an unwholesome
thought.

"The wood itself, Prince," he explained, as they walked along, "is a
noisome place. There are quagmires even in the middle of it, where a man
may sink in and be never heard of again. Every sort of vermin abounds
there, every unclean insect and bird are to be found in the thickets. I
suppose the character of the place has encouraged the local superstition
in which every one of those men firmly believes."

"They absolutely believe the place to be haunted, then?"

"The superstition goes further," Dominey continued. "Our locals say that
somewhere in the heart of the wood, where I believe that no human being
for many years has dared to penetrate, there is living in the spiritual
sense some sort of a demon who comes out only at night and howls
underneath my windows."

"Has any one ever seen it?"

"One or two of the villagers; to the best of my belief, no one else,"
Dominey replied.

Terniloff seemed on the point of asking more questions, but the Duke
touched him on the arm and drew him to one side, as though to call his
attention to the sea fogs which were rolling up from the marshes.

"Prince," he whispered, "the details of that story are inextricably
mixed up with the insanity of Lady Dominey. I am sure you understand."

The Prince, a diplomatist to his fingertips, appeared shocked, although
a furtive smile still lingered upon his lips.

"I regret my faux pas most deeply," he murmured. "Sir Everard," he went
on, "you promised to tell me of some of your days with a shotgun in
South Africa. Isn't there a bird there which corresponds with your
partridges?"

Dominey smiled.

"If you can kill the partridges which Middleton is going to send over
in the next ten minutes," he said, "you could shoot anything of the sort
that comes along in East Africa, with a catapult. If you will stand just
a few paces there to the left, Henry, Terniloff by the gate, Stillwell
up by the left-hand corner, Mangan next, Eddy next, and I shall be just
beyond towards the oak clump. Will you walk with me, Caroline?"

His cousin took his arm as they walked off and pressed it.

"Everard, I congratulate you," she said. "You have conquered your nerve
absolutely. You did a simple and a fine thing to tell the whole story.
Why, you were almost matter-of-fact. I could even have imagined you were
telling it about some one else."

Her host smiled enigmatically.

"Curious that it should have struck you like that," he remarked. "Do
you know, when I was telling it I had the same feeling.--Do you mind
crouching down a little now? I am going to blow the whistle."



CHAPTER XVI

Even in the great dining-room of Dominey Hall, the mahogany table which
was its great glory was stretched that evening to its extreme capacity.
Besides the house party, which included the Right Honourable Gerald
Watson, a recently appointed Cabinet Minister, there were several guests
from the neighbourhood--the Lord Lieutenant of the County and other
notabilities. Caroline, with the Lord Lieutenant on one side of her and
Terniloff on the other played the part of hostess adequately but without
enthusiasm. Her eyes seldom left for long the other end of the table,
where Stephanie, at Dominey's left hand, with her crown of exquisitely
coiffured red-gold hair, her marvellous jewellery, her languorous grace
of manner, seemed more like one of the beauties of an ancient Venetian
Court than a modern Hungarian Princess gowned in the Rue de la Paix.
Conversation remained chiefly local and concerned the day's sport and
kindred topics. It was not until towards the close of the meal that the
Duke succeeded in launching his favourite bubble.

"I trust, Everard," he said, raising his voice a little as he turned
towards his host, "that you make a point of inculcating the principles
of National Service into your tenantry here."

Dominey's reply was a little dubious.

"I am afraid they do not take to the idea very kindly in this part of
the world," he confessed. "Purely agricultural districts are always a
little difficult."

"It is your duty as a landowner," the Duke insisted, "to alter their
point of view. There is not the slightest doubt," he added, looking
belligerently over the top of his _pince nez_ at Seaman, who was seated
at the opposite side of the table, "that before long we shall find
ourselves--and in a shocking state of unpreparedness, mind you--at war
with Germany."

Lady Maddeley, the wife of the Lord Lieutenant, who sat at his side,
seemed a little startled. She was probably one of the only people
present who was not aware of the Duke's foible.

"Do you really think so?" she asked. "The Germans seem such civilised
people, so peaceful and domestic in their home life, and that sort of
thing."

The Duke groaned. He glanced down the table to be sure that Prince
Terniloff was out of hearing.

"My dear Lady Maddeley," he declared, "Germany is not governed like
England. When the war comes, the people will have had nothing to do with
it. A great many of them will be just as surprised as you will be, but
they will fight all the same."

Seaman, who had kept silence during the last few moments with great
difficulty, now took up the Duke's challenge.

"Permit me to assure you, madam," he said, bowing across the table,
"that the war with Germany of which the Duke is so afraid will never
come. I speak with some amount of knowledge because I am a German by
birth, although naturalised in this country. I have as many and as dear
friends in Berlin as in London, and with the exception of my recent
absence in Africa, where I had the pleasure to meet our host, I spent a
great part of my time going back and forth between the two capitals. I
have also the honour to be the secretary of a society for the promotion
of a better understanding between the citizens of Germany and England."

"Rubbish!" the Duke exclaimed. "The Germans don't want a better
understanding. They only want to fool us into believing that they do."

Seaman looked a little pained. He stuck to his guns, however.

"His Grace and I," he observed, "are old opponents on this subject."

"We are indeed," the Duke agreed. "You may be an honest man, Mr. Seaman,
but you are a very ignorant one upon this particular topic."

"You are probably both right in your way," Dominey intervened, very much
in the manner of a well-bred host making his usual effort to smooth over
two widely divergent points of view. "There is no doubt a war party in
Germany and a peace party, statesmen who place economic progress first,
and others who are tainted with a purely military lust for conquest.
In this country it is very hard for us to strike a balance between the
two."

Seaman beamed his thanks upon his host.

"I have friends," he said impressively, "in the very highest circles
of Germany, who are continually encouraging my work here, and I have
received the benediction of the Kaiser himself upon my efforts to
promote a better feeling in this country. And if you will forgive my
saying so, Duke, it is such ill-advised and ill-founded statements as
you are constantly making about my country which is the only bar to a
better understanding between us."

"I have my views," the Duke snapped, "and they have become convictions.
I shall continue to express them at all times and with all the eloquence
at my command."

The Ambassador, to whom portions of this conversation had now become
audible, leaned a little forward in his place.

"Let me speak first as a private individual," he begged, "and express my
well-studied opinion that war between our two countries would be simply
race suicide, an indescribable and an abominable crime. Then I will
remember what I represent over here, and I will venture to add in
my ambassadorial capacity that I come with an absolute and heartfelt
mandate of peace. My task over here is to secure and ensure it."

Caroline flashed a warning glance at her husband.

"How nice of you to be so frank, Prince!" she said. "The Duke sometimes
forgets, in the pursuit of his hobby, that a private dinner table is not
a platform. I insist upon it that we discuss something of more genuine
interest."

"There isn't a more vital subject in the world," the Duke declared,
resigning himself, however, to silence.

"We will speak," the Ambassador suggested, "of the way in which our host
brought down those tall pheasants."

"You will tell me, perhaps," Seaman suggested to the lady to his right,
"how you English women have been able to secure for yourselves so much
more liberty than our German wives enjoy?"

"Later on," Stephanie whispered to her host, with a little tremble in
her voice, "I have a surprise for you."

After dinner, Dominey's guests passed naturally enough to the
relaxations which each preferred. There were two bridge tables,
Terniloff and the Cabinet Minister played billiards, and Seaman, with a
touch which amazed every one, drew strange music from the yellow keys
of the old-fashioned grand piano in the drawing-room. Stephanie and her
host made a slow progress through the hall and picture gallery. For some
time their conversation was engaged solely with the objects to which
Dominey drew his companion's attention. When they had passed out of
possible hearing, however, of any of the other guests, Stephanie's
fingers tightened upon her companion's arm.

"I wish to speak to you alone," she said, "without the possibility of
any one overhearing."

Dominey hesitated and looked behind.

"Your guests are well occupied," she continued a little impatiently,
"and in any case I am one of them. I claim your attention."

Dominey threw open the door of the library and turned on a couple of the
electric lights. She made her way to the great open fireplace, on which
a log was burning, looked down into the shadows of the room and back
again at her host's face.

"For one moment," she begged, "turn on all the lights. I wish to be sure
that we are alone."

Dominey did as he was bidden. The furthermost corners of the room, with
its many wings of book-filled shelves, were illuminated. She nodded.

"Now turn them all out again except this one," she directed, "and wheel
me up an easy-chair. No, I choose this settee. Please seat yourself by
my side."

"Is this going to be serious?" he asked, with some slight disquietude.

"Serious but wonderful," she murmured, lifting her eyes to his. "Will
you please listen to me, Leopold?"

She was half curled up in a corner of the settee, her head resting
slightly upon her long fingers, her brown eyes steadily fixed upon her
companion. There was an atmosphere about her of serious yet of tender
things. Dominey's face seemed to fall into more rigid lines as he
realised the appeal of her eyes.

"Leopold," she began, "I left this country a few weeks ago, feeling that
you were a brute, determined never to see you again, half inclined to
expose you before I went as an impostor and a charlatan. Germany
means little to me, and a patriotism which took no account of human
obligations left me absolutely unresponsive. I meant to go home
and never to return to London. My heart was bruised, and I was very
unhappy."

She paused, but her companion made no sign. She paused for so long,
however, that speech became necessary.

"You are speaking, Princess," he said calmly, "to one who is not
present. My name is no longer Leopold."

She laughed at him with a curious mixture of tenderness and bitterness.

"My friend," she continued, "I am terrified to think, besides your name,
how much of humanity you have lost in your new identity. To proceed
it suited my convenience to remain for a few days in Berlin, and I was
therefore compelled to present myself at Potsdam. There I received a
great surprise. Wilhelm spoke to me of you, and though, alas! my heart
is still bruised, he helped me to understand."

"Is this wise?" he asked a little desperately.

She ignored his words.

"I was taken back into favour at Court," she went on. "For that I owe to
you my thanks. Wilhelm was much impressed by your recent visit to him,
and by the way in which you have established yourself here. He spoke
also with warm commendation of your labours in Africa, which he seemed
to appreciate all the more as you were sent there an exile. He asked
me, Leopold," she added, dropping her voice a little, "if my feelings
towards you remained unchanged."

Dominey's face remained unrelaxed. Persistently he refused the challenge
of her eyes.

"I told him the truth," she proceeded. "I told him how it all began, and
how it must last with me--to the end. We spoke even of the duel. I told
him what both your seconds had explained to me,--that turn of the wrist,
Conrad's wild lunge, how he literally threw himself upon the point of
your sword. Wilhelm understands and forgives, and he has sent you this
letter."

She drew a small grey envelope from her pocket. On the seal were the
Imperial Hohenzollern arms. She passed it to him.

"Leopold," she whispered, "please read that."

He shook his head, although he accepted the letter with reluctant
fingers.

"Read the superscription," she directed.

He obeyed her. It was addressed in a strange, straggling handwriting to
_Sir Everard Dominey, Baronet_. He broke the seal unwillingly and drew
out the letter. It was dated barely a fortnight back. There was neither
beginning or ending; just a couple of sentences scrawled across the
thick notepaper:


"It is my will that you offer your hand in marriage to the Princess
Stephanie of Eiderstrom. Your union shall be blessed by the Church and
approved by my Court.

"WILHELM."


Dominey sat as a man enthralled with silence. She watched him.

"Not on your knees yet?" she asked, with faint but somewhat resentful
irony. "Can it be, Leopold, that you have lost your love for me? You
have changed so much and in so many ways. Has the love gone?"

Even to himself his voice sounded harsh and unnatural, his words
instinct with the graceless cruelty of a clown.

"This is not practical," he declared. "Think! I am as I have been
addressed here, and as I must remain yet for months to come--Everard
Dominey, an Englishman and the owner of this house--the husband of Lady
Dominey."

"Where is your reputed wife?" Stephanie demanded, frowning.

"In the nursing home where she has been for the last few months," he
replied. "She has already practically recovered. She cannot remain there
much longer."

"You must insist upon it that she does."

"I ask you to consider the suspicions which would be excited by such a
course," Dominey pleaded earnestly, "and further, can you explain to me
in what way I, having already, according to belief of everybody, another
wife living, can take advantage of this mandate?"

She looked at him wonderingly.

"You make difficulties? You sit there like the cold Englishman whose
place you are taking, you whose tears have fallen before now upon my
hand, whose lips--"

"You speak of one who is dead," Dominey interrupted, "dead until the
coming of great events may bring him to life again. Until that time your
lover must be dumb."

Then her anger blazed out. She spoke incoherently, passionately, dragged
his face down to hers and clenched her fist the next moment as though
she would have struck it. She broke down with a storm of tears.

"Not so hard--not so hard, Leopold!" she implored. "Oh! yours is a
great task, and you must carry it through to the end, but we have his
permission--there can be found a way--we could be married secretly. At
least your lips--your arms! My heart is starved, Leopold."

He rose to his feet. Her arms were still twined about his neck, her lips
hungry for his kisses, her eyes shining up into his.

"Have pity on me, Stephanie," he begged. "Until our time has come there
is dishonour even in a single kiss. Wait for the day, the day you know
of."

She unwound her arms and shivered slightly. Her hurt eyes regarded him
wonderingly.

"Leopold," she faltered, "what has changed you like this? What has dried
up all the passion in you? You are a different man. Let me look at you."

She caught him by the shoulders, dragged him underneath the electric
globe, and stood there gazing into his face. The great log upon the
hearth was spluttering and fizzing. Through the closed door came the
faint wave of conversation and laughter from outside. Her breathing was
uneven, her eyes were seeking to rend the mask from his face.

"Can you have learnt to care for any one else?" she muttered. "There
were no women in Africa. This Rosamund Dominey, your reputed wife--they
tell me that she is beautiful, that you have been kindness itself to
her, that her health has improved since your coming, that she adores
you. You wouldn't dare--"

"No," he interrupted, "I should not dare."

"Then what are you looking at?" she demanded. "Tell me that?"

Her eyes were following the shadowed picture which had passed out of the
room. He saw once more the slight, girlish form, the love-seeking light
in those pleading dark eyes, the tremulous lips, the whole sweet appeal
for safety from a frightened child to him, the strong man. He felt the
clinging touch of those soft fingers laid upon his, the sweetness of
those marvellously awakened emotions, so cruelly and drearily stifled
through a cycle of years. The woman's passion by his side seemed
suddenly tawdry and unreal, the seeking of her lips for his something
horrible. His back was towards the door, and it was her cry of angry
dismay which first apprised him of a welcome intruder. He swung around
to find Seaman standing upon the threshold--Seaman, to him a very angel
of deliverance.

"I am indeed sorry to intrude, Sir Everard," the newcomer declared, with
a shade of genuine concern on his round, good-humoured face. "Something
has happened which I thought you ought to know at once. Can you spare me
a moment?"

The Princess swept past them without a word of farewell or a backward
glance. She had the carriage and the air of an insulted queen. A shade
of deeper trouble came into Seaman's face as he stepped respectfully to
one side.

"What is it that has happened?" Dominey demanded.

"Lady Dominey has returned," was the quiet reply.



CHAPTER XVII

It seemed to Dominey that he had never seen anything more pathetic than
that eager glance, half of hope, half of apprehension, flashed upon him
from the strange, tired eyes of the woman who was standing before
the log fire in a little recess of the main hall. By her side stood a
pleasant, friendly looking person in the uniform of a nurse; a yard or
two behind, a maid carrying a jewel case. Rosamund, who had thrown back
her veil, had been standing with her foot upon the fender. Her whole
expression changed as Dominey came hastily towards her with outstretched
hands.

"My dear child," he exclaimed, "welcome home!"

"Welcome?" she repeated, with a glad catch in her throat. "You mean it?"

With a self-control of which he gave no sign, he touched the lips which
were raised so eagerly to his as tenderly and reverently as though this
were some strange child committed to his care.

"Of course I mean it," he answered heartily. "But what possessed you to
come without giving us notice? How was this, nurse?"

"Her ladyship has had no sleep for two nights," the latter replied. "She
has been so much better that we dreaded the thought of a relapse, so
Mrs. Coulson, our matron, thought it best to let her have her own
way about coming. Instead of telegraphing to you, unfortunately, we
telegraphed to Doctor Harrison, and I believe he is away."

"Is it very wrong of me?" Rosamund asked, clinging to Dominey's arm.
"I had a sudden feeling that I must get back here. I wanted to see you
again. Every one has been so sweet and kind at Falmouth, especially
Nurse Alice here, but they weren't quite the same thing. You are not
angry? These people who are staying here will not mind?"

"Of course not," he assured her cheerfully. "They will be your guests.
To-morrow you must make friends with them all."

"There was a very beautiful woman," she said timidly, "with red hair,
who passed by just now. She looked very angry. That was not because I
have come?"

"Why should it be?" he answered. "You have a right here--a better right
than any one."

She drew a long sigh of contentment.

"Oh, but this is wonderful!" she cried. "And you dear,--I shall call you
Everard, mayn't I?--you look just as I hoped you might. Will you take me
upstairs, please? Nurse, you can follow us."

She leaned heavily on his arm and even loitered on the way, but her
steps grew lighter as they approached her own apartment. Finally, as
they reached the corridor, she broke away from him and tripped on with
the gaiety almost of a child to the door of her room. Then came a little
cry of disappointment as she flung open the door. Several maids were
there, busy with a refractory fire and removing the covers from the
furniture, but the room was half full of smoke and entirely unprepared.

"Oh, how miserable!" she exclaimed. "Everard, what shall I do?"

He threw open the door of his own apartment. A bright fire was burning
in the grate, the room was warm and comfortable. She threw herself with
a little cry of delight into the huge Chesterfield drawn up to the edge
of the hearthrug.

"I can stay here, Everard, can't I, until you come up to bed?" she
pleaded. "And then you can sit and talk to me, and tell me who is here
and all about the people. You have no idea how much better I am. All my
music has come back to me, and they say that I play bridge ever so well.
I shall love to help you entertain."

The maid was slowly unfastening her mistress's boots. Rosamund held up
her foot for him to feel.

"See how cold I am!" she complained. "Please rub it. I am going to have
some supper up here with nurse. Will one of you maids please go down
and see about it? What a lot of nice new things you have, Everard!" she
added, looking around. "And that picture of me from the drawing-room, on
the table!" she cried, her eyes suddenly soft with joy. "You dear thing!
What made you bring that up?"

"I wanted to have it here," he told her.

"I'm not so nice as that now," she sighed, a little wistfully.

"Do not believe it," he answered. "You have not changed in the least.
You will be better-looking still when you have been here for a few
months."

She looked at him almost shyly--tenderly, yet still with that gleam of
aloofness in her eyes.

"I think," she murmured, "I shall be just what you want me to be. I
think you could make me just what you want. Be very kind to me, please,"
she begged, stretching her arms out to him. "I suppose it is because I
have been ill so long, but I feel so helpless, and I love your strength
and I want you to take care of me. Your own hands are quite cold," she
added anxiously. "You look pale, too. You're not ill, Everard?"

"I am very well," he assured her, struggling to keep his voice
steady. "Forgive me now, won't you, if I hurry away. There are guests
here--rather important guests. To-morrow you must come and see them
all."

"And help you?"

"And help me."



Dominey made his escape and went reeling down the corridor. At the top
of the great quadrangular landing he stopped and stood with half-closed
eyes for several moments. From downstairs he could hear the sound of
pleasantly raised voices, the music of a piano in the distance,
the click of billiard balls. He waited until he had regained his
self-possession. Then, as he was on the point of descending, he saw
Seaman mounting the stairs. At a gesture he waited for him, waited until
he came, and, taking him by the arm, led him to a great settee in a dark
corner. Seaman had lost his usual blitheness. The good-humoured smile
played no longer about his lips.

"Where is Lady Dominey?" he asked.

"In my room, waiting until her own is prepared."

Seaman's manner was unusually grave.

"My friend," he said, "you know very well that when we walk in the great
paths of life I am unscrupulous. In those other hours, alas! I have a
weakness,--I love women."

"Well?" Dominey muttered.

"I will admit," the other continued, "that you are placed in a delicate
and trying position. Lady Dominey seems disposed to offer to you the
affection which, notwithstanding their troubles together, she doubtless
felt for her husband. I risk your anger, my friend, but I warn you to be
very careful how you encourage her."

A light flashed in Dominey's eyes. For the moment angry words seemed
to tremble upon his lips. Seaman's manner, however, was very gentle. He
courted no offence.

"If you were to take advantage of your position with--with any other,
I would shrug my shoulders and stand on one side, but this mad
Englishman's wife, or rather his widow, has been mentally ill. She is
still weak-minded, just as she is tender-hearted. I watched her as she
passed through the hall with you just now. She turns to you for love
as a flower to the sun after a long spell of cold, wet weather. Von
Ragastein, you are a man of honour. You must find means to deal with
this situation, however difficult it may become."

Dominey had recovered from his first wave of weakness. His companion's
words excited no sentiment of anger. He was conscious even of regarding
him with a greater feeling of kindness than ever before.

"My friend," he said, "you have shown me that you are conscious of one
dilemma in which I find myself placed, and which I confess is exercising
me to the utmost. Let me now advise you of another. The Princess
Eiderstrom has brought me an autograph letter from the Kaiser,
commanding me to marry her."

"The situation," Seaman declared grimly, "but for its serious side,
would provide all the elements for a Palais Royal farce. For the
present, however, you have duties below. I have said the words which
were thumping against the walls of my heart."

Their descent was opportune. Some of the local guests were preparing to
make their departure, and Dominey was in time to receive their adieux.
They all left messages for Lady Dominey, spoke of a speedy visit to
her, and expressed themselves as delighted to hear of her return and
recovery. As the last car rolled away, Caroline took her host's arm and
led him to a chimney seat by the huge log fire in the inner hall.

"My dear Everard," she said, "you really are a very terrible person."

"Exactly why?" he demanded.

"Your devotion to my sex," she continued, "is flattering but far too
catholic. Your return to England appears to have done what we understood
to be impossible--restored your wife's reason. A fiery-headed Hungarian
Princess has pursued you down here, and has now gone to her room in
a tantrum because you left her side for a few minutes to welcome your
wife. And there remains our own sentimental little flirtation, a broken
and, alas, a discarded thing! There is no doubt whatever, Everard, that
you are a very bad lot."

"You are distressing me terribly," Dominey confessed, "but all the same,
after a somewhat agitated evening I must admit that I find it pleasant
to talk with some one who is not wielding the lightnings. May I have a
whisky and soda?"

"Bring me one, too, please," Caroline begged. "I fear that it will
seriously impair the note which I had intended to strike in our
conversation, but I am thirsty. And a handful of those Turkish
cigarettes, too. You can devote yourself to me with a perfectly clear
conscience. Your most distinguished guest has found a task after his own
heart. He has got Henry in a corner of the billiard-room and is
trying to convince him of what I am sure the dear man really believes
himself--that Germany's intentions towards England are of a particularly
dove-like nature. Your Right Honourable guest has gone to bed, and Eddy
Pelham is playing billiards with Mr. Mangan. Every one is happy. You
can devote yourself to soothing my wounded vanity, to say nothing of my
broken heart."

"Always gibing at me," Dominey grumbled.

"Not always," she answered quietly, raising her eyes for a moment.
"There was a time, Everard, before that terrible tragedy--the last time
you stayed at Dunratter--when I didn't gibe."

"When, on the contrary, you were sweetness itself," he reflected.

She sighed reminiscently.

"That was a wonderful month," she murmured. "I think it was then for
the first time that I saw traces of something in you which I suppose
accounts for your being what you are to-day."

"You think that I have changed, then?"

She looked him in the eyes.

"I sometimes find it difficult to believe," she admitted, "that you are
the same man."

He turned away to reach for his whisky and soda.

"As a matter of curiosity," he asked, "why?"

"To begin with, then," she commented, "you have become almost a
precisian in your speech. You used to be rather slangy at times."

"What else?"

"You used always to clip your final g's."

"Shocking habit," he murmured. "I cured myself of that by reading aloud
in the bush. Go on, please?"

"You carry yourself so much more stiffly. Sometimes you have the air of
being surprised that you are not in uniform."

"Trifles, all these things," he declared. "Now for something serious?"

"The serious things are pretty good," she admitted. "You used to drink
whiskys and sodas at all hours of the day, and quite as much wine as was
good for you at dinner time. Now, although you are a wonderful host, you
scarcely take anything yourself."

"You should see me at the port," he told her, "when you ladies are well
out of the way! Some more of the good, please?"

"All your best qualities seem to have come to the surface," she went on,
"and I think that the way you have come back and faced it all is simply
wonderful. Tell me, if that man's body should be discovered after all
these years, would you be charged with manslaughter?"

He shook his head. "I do not think so, Caroline."

"Everard."

"Well?"

"Did you kill Roger Unthank?"

A portion of the burning log fell on to the hearth. Then there was
silence. They heard the click of the billiard balls in the adjoining
room. Dominey leaned forward and with a pair of small tongs replaced the
burning wood upon the fire. Suddenly he felt his hands clasped by his
companion's.

"Everard dear," she said, "I am so sorry. You came to me a little tired
to-night, didn't you? I think that you needed sympathy, and here I am
asking you once more that horrible question. Forget it, please. Talk
to me like your old dear self. Tell me about Rosamund's return. Is she
really recovered, do you think?"

"I saw her only for a few minutes," Dominey replied, "but she seemed to
me absolutely better. I must say that the weekly reports I have received
from the nursing home quite prepared me for a great improvement. She is
very frail, and her eyes still have that restless look, but she talks
quite coherently."

"What about that horrible woman?"

"I have pensioned Mrs. Unthank. To my surprise I hear that she is still
living in the village."

"And your ghost?"

"Not a single howl all the time that Rosamund has been away."

"There is one thing more," Caroline began hesitatingly.

That one thing lacked forever the clothing of words. There came a
curious, almost a dramatic interruption. Through the silence of the hall
there pealed the summons of the great bell which hung over the front
door. Dominey glanced at the clock in amazement.

"Midnight!" he exclaimed. "Who on earth can be coming here at this time
of night!"

Instinctively they both rose to their feet. A manservant had turned the
great key, drawn the bolts, and opened the door with difficulty. Little
flakes of snow and a gust of icy wind swept into the hall, and following
them the figure of a man, white from head to foot, his hair tossed with
the wind, almost unrecognisable after his struggle.

"Why, Doctor Harrison!" Dominey cried, taking a quick step forward.
"What brings you here at this time of night!"

The doctor leaned upon his stick for a moment. He was out of breath, and
the melting snow was pouring from his clothes on to the oak floor. They
relieved him of his coat and dragged him towards the fire.

"I must apologise for disturbing you at such an hour," he said, as he
took the tumbler which Dominey pressed into his hand. "I have only just
received Lady Dominey's telegram. I had to see you--at once."



CHAPTER XVIII

The doctor, with his usual bluntness, did not hesitate to make it known
that this unusual visit was of a private nature. Caroline promptly
withdrew, and the two men were left alone in the great hall. The lights
in the billiard-room and drawing-room were extinguished. Every one in
the house except a few servants had retired.

"Sir Everard," the doctor began, "this return of Lady Dominey's has
taken me altogether by surprise. I had intended to-morrow morning to
discuss the situation with you."

"I am most anxious to hear your report," Dominey said.

"My report is good," was the confident answer. "Although I would not
have allowed her to have left the nursing home so suddenly had I known,
there was nothing to keep her there. Lady Dominey, except for one
hallucination, is in perfect health, mentally and physically."

"And this one hallucination?"

"That you are not her husband."

Dominey was silent for a moment. Then he laughed a little unnaturally.

"Can a person be perfectly sane," he asked, "and yet be subject to
an hallucination which must make the whole of her surroundings seem
unreal?"

"Lady Dominey is perfectly sane," the doctor answered bluntly, "and as
for that hallucination, it is up to you to dispel it."

"Perhaps you can give me some advice?" Dominey suggested.

"I can, and I am going to be perfectly frank with you," the doctor
replied. "To begin with then, there are certain obvious changes in you
which might well minister to Lady Dominey's hallucination. For instance,
you have been in England now some eight months, during which time you
have reveled an entirely new personality. You seem to have got rid
of every one of your bad habits, you drink moderately, as a gentleman
should, you have subdued your violent temper, and you have collected
around you, where your personality could be the only inducement, friends
of distinction and interest. This is not at all what one expected from
the Everard Dominey who scuttled out of England a dozen years ago."

"You are excusing my wife," Dominey remarked.

"She needs no excuses," was the brusque reply. "She has been a
long-enduring and faithful woman, suffering from a cruel illness,
brought on, to take the kindest view if it, through your clumsiness and
lack of discretion. Like all good women, forgiveness is second nature to
her. It has now become her wish to take her proper place in life."

"But if her hallucination continues," Dominey asked, "if she seriously
doubts that I am indeed her husband, how can she do that?"

"That is the problem you and I have to face," the doctor said sternly.
"The fact that your wife has been willing to return here to you, whilst
still subject to that hallucination, is a view of the matter which I
can neither discuss nor understand. I am here to-night, though, to lay
a charge upon you. You have to remember that your wife needs still one
step towards a perfect recovery, and until that step has been surmounted
you have a very difficult but imperative task."

Dominey set his teeth for a moment. He felt the doctor's keen grey eyes
glowing from under his shaggy eyebrows as he leaned forward, his hands
upon his knees.

"You mean," Dominey suggested quietly, "that until that hallucination
has passed we must remain upon the same terms as we have done since my
arrival home."

"You've got it," the doctor assented. "It's a tangled-up position, but
we've got to deal with it--or rather you have. I can assure you," he
went on, "that all her other delusions have gone. She speaks of the
ghost of Roger Unthank, of the cries in the night, of his mysterious
death, as parts of a painful past. She is quite conscious of her several
attempts upon your life and bitterly regrets them. Now we come to
the real danger. She appears to be possessed of a passionate devotion
towards you, whilst still believing that you are not her husband."

Dominey pushed his chair back from the fire as though he felt the heat.
His eyes seemed glued upon the doctor's.

"I do not pretend," the latter continued gravely, "to account for that,
but it is my duty to warn you, Sir Everard, that that devotion may
lead her to great lengths. Lady Dominey is naturally of an exceedingly
affectionate disposition, and this return to a stronger condition
of physical health and a fuller share of human feelings has probably
reawakened all those tendencies which her growing fondness for you and
your position as her reputed husband make perfectly natural. I warn you,
Sir Everard, that you may find your position an exceedingly difficult
one, but, difficult though it may be, there is a plain duty before you.
Keep and encourage your wife's affection if you can, but let it be a
charge upon you that whilst the hallucination remains that affection
must never pass certain bounds. Lady Dominey is a good and sweet woman.
If she woke up one morning with that hallucination still in her mind,
and any sense of guilt on her conscience, all our labours for these last
months might well be wasted, and she herself might very possibly end her
days in a madhouse."

"Doctor," Dominey said firmly. "I appreciate every word you say. You can
rely upon me."

The doctor looked at him.

"I believe I can," he admitted, with a sigh of relief. "I am glad of
it."

"There is just one more phase of the position," Dominey went on, after a
pause. "Supposing this hallucination of hers should pass? Supposing she
should suddenly become convinced that I am her husband?"

"In that case," the doctor replied earnestly, "the position would be
exactly reversed, and it would be just as important for you not to check
the affection which she might offer to you as it would be in the other
case for you not to accept it. The moment she realises, with her present
predispositions, that you really are her lawful husband, that moment
will be the beginning of a new life for her."

Somehow they both seemed to feel that the last words had been spoken.
After a brief pause, the doctor helped himself to a farewell drink,
filled his pipe and stood up. The car which Dominey had ordered from the
garage was already standing at the door. It was curious how both of them
seemed disinclined to refer again even indirectly to the subject which
they had been discussing.

"Very good of you to send me back," the doctor said gruffly. "I started
out all right, but it was a drear walk across the marshes."

"I am very grateful to you for coming," Dominey replied, with obvious
sincerity. "You will come and have a look at the patient in a day or
two?"

"I'll stroll across as soon as you've got rid of some of this houseful,"
the doctor promised. "Good night!"

The two men parted, and curiously enough Dominey was conscious that
with those few awkward words of farewell some part of the incipient
antagonism between them had been buried. Left to himself, he wandered
for some moments up and down the great, dimly lit hall. A strange
restlessness seemed to have fastened itself upon him. He stood for a
time by the dying fire, watching the grey ashes, stirred uneasily by the
wind which howled down the chimney. Then he strolled to a different
part of the hall, and one by one he turned on, by means of the electric
switches, the newly installed lights which hung above the sombre oil
pictures upon the wall. He looked into the faces of some of these dead
Domineys, trying to recall what he had heard of their history, and
dwelling longest upon a gallant of the Stuart epoch, whose misdeeds had
supplied material for every intimate chronicler of those days. When at
last the sight of a sleepy manservant hovering in the background forced
his steps upstairs, he still lingered for a few moments in the corridor
and turned the handle of his bedroom door with almost reluctant fingers.
His heart gave a great jump as he realised that there was some one
there. He stood for a moment upon the threshold, then laughed shortly to
himself at his foolish imagining. It was his servant who was patiently
awaiting his arrival.

"You can go to bed, Dickens," he directed. "I shall not want you again
to-night. We shoot in the morning."

The man silently took his leave, and Dominey commenced his preparations
for bed. He was in no humour for sleep, however, and, still attired in
his shirt and trousers, he wrapped a dressing-gown around him, drew a
reading lamp to his side, and threw himself into an easy-chair, a book
in his hand. It was some time before he realised that the volume was
upside down, and even when he had righted it, the words he saw had no
meaning for him. All the time a queer procession of women's faces was
passing before his eyes--Caroline, with her half-flirtatious, wholly
sentimental _bon camaraderie_; Stephanie, with her voluptuous figure
and passion-lit eyes; and then, blotting the others utterly out of his
thoughts and memory, Rosamund, with all the sweetness of life shining
out of her eager face. He saw her as she had come to him last, with that
little unspoken cry upon her tremulous lips, and the haunting appeal in
her soft eyes. All other memories faded away. They were as though they
had never been. Those dreary years of exile in Africa, the day by day
tension of his precarious life, were absolutely forgotten. His heart was
calling all the time for an unknown boon. He felt himself immeshed in a
world of cobwebs, of weakness more potent than all his boasted strength.
Then he suddenly felt that the madness which he had begun to fear had
really come. It was the thing for which he longed yet dreaded most--the
faint click, the soft withdrawal of the panel, actually pushed back by a
pair of white hands. Rosamund herself was there. Her eyes shone at him,
mystically, wonderfully. Her lips were parted in a delightful smile, a
smile in which there was a spice of girlish mischief. She turned for
a moment to close the panel. Then she came towards him with her finger
upraised.

"I cannot sleep," she said softly. "Do you mind my coming for a few
minutes?"

"Of course not," he answered. "Come and sit down."

She curled up in his easy-chair.

"Just for a moment," she murmured contentedly. "Give me your hands,
dear. But how cold! You must come nearer to the fire yourself."

He sat on the arm of her chair, and she stroked his head with her hands.

"You were not afraid, then?" she asked, "when you saw me come through
the panel?"

"I should never be afraid of any harm that you might bring me, dear," he
assured her.

"Because all that foolishness is really gone," she continued eagerly.
"I know that whatever happened to poor Roger, it was not you who killed
him. Even if I heard his ghost calling again to-night, I should have no
fear. I can't think why I ever wanted to hurt you, Everard. I am sure
that I always loved you."

His arm went very softly around her. She responded to his embrace
without hesitation. Her cheek rested upon his shoulder, he felt the
warmth of her arm through her white, fur-lined dressing-gown.

"Why do you doubt any longer then," he asked hoarsely, "that I am your
husband?"

She sighed.

"Ah, but I know you are not," she answered. "Is it wrong of me to feel
what I do for you, I wonder? You are so like yet so unlike him. He is
dead. He died in Africa. Isn't it strange that I should know it? But I
do!"

"But who am I then?" he whispered.

She looked at him pitifully.

"I do not know," she confessed, "but you are kind to me, and when I feel
you are near I am happy. It is because I wanted to see you that I would
not stay any longer at the nursing home. That must mean that I am very
fond of you."

"You are not afraid," he asked, "to be here alone with me?"

She put her other arm around his neck and drew his face down.

"I am not afraid," she assured him. "I am happy. But, dear, what is the
matter? A moment ago you were cold. Now your head is wet, your hands are
burning. Are you not happy because I am here?"

Her lips were seeking his. His own touched them for a moment. Then he
kissed her on both cheeks. She made a little grimace.

"I am afraid," she said, "that you are not really fond of me."

"Can't you believe," he asked hoarsely, "that I am really Everard--your
husband? Look at me. Can't you feel that you have loved me before?"

She shook her head a little sadly.

"No, you are not Everard," she sighed; "but," she added, her eyes
lighting up, "you bring me love and happiness and life, and--"

A few seconds before, Dominey felt from his soul that he would have
welcomed an earthquake, a thunderbolt, the crumbling of the floor
beneath his feet to have been spared the torture of her sweet
importunities. Yet nothing so horrible as this interruption which really
came could ever have presented itself before his mind. Half in his arms,
with her head thrown back, listening--he, too, horrified, convulsed for
a moment even with real physical fear--they heard the silence of the
night broken by that one awful cry, the cry of a man's soul in torment,
imprisoned in the jaws of a beast. They listened to it together until
its echoes died away. Then what was, perhaps, the most astonishing thing
of all, she nodded her head slowly, unperturbed, unterrified.

"You see," she said, "I must go back. He will not let me stay here.
He must think that you are Everard. It is only I who know that you are
not."

She slipped from the chair, kissed him, and, walking quite firmly across
the floor, touched the spring and passed through the panel. Even then
she turned around and waved a little good-bye to him. There was no sign
of fear in her face; only a little dumb disappointment. The panel glided
to and shut out the vision of her. Dominey held his head like a man who
fears madness.



CHAPTER XIX

Dawn the next morning was heralded by only a thin line of red parting
the masses of black-grey snow clouds which still hung low down in the
east. The wind had dropped, and there was something ghostly about the
still twilight as Dominey issued from the back regions and made his way
through the untrodden snow round to the side of the house underneath
Rosamund's window. A little exclamation broke from his lips as he stood
there. From the terraced walks, down the steps, and straight across the
park to the corner of the Black Wood, were fresh tracks. The cry had
been no fantasy. Somebody or something had passed from the Black Wood
and back again to this spot in the night.

Dominey, curiously excited by his discovery, examined the footmarks
eagerly, then followed them to the corner of the wood. Here and there
they puzzled him. They were neither like human footsteps nor the track
of any known animal. At the edge of the wood they seemed to vanish into
the heart of a great mass of brambles, from which here and there the
snow had been shaken off. There was no sign of any pathway; if ever
there had been one, the neglect of years had obliterated it. Bracken,
brambles, shrubs and bushes had grown up and degenerated, only to be
succeeded by a ranker and more dense form of undergrowth. Many of the
trees, although they were still plentiful, had been blown down and left
to rot on the ground. The place was silent except for the slow drip of
falling snow from the drooping leaves. He took one more cautious step
forward and found himself slowly sinking. Black mud was oozing up
through the snow where he had set his feet. He was just able to scramble
back. Picking his way with great caution, he commenced a leisurely
perambulation of the whole of the outside of the wood.

Heggs, the junior keeper, an hour or so later, went over the gun rack
once more, tapped the empty cases, and turned towards Middleton, who was
sitting in a chair before the fire, smoking his pipe.

"I can't find master's number two gun, Mr. Middleton," he announced.
"That's missing."

"Look again, lad," the old keeper directed, removing the pipe from his
mouth. "The master was shooting with it yesterday. Look amongst those
loose 'uns at the far end of the rack. It must be somewhere there."

"Well, that isn't," the young man replied obstinately.

The door of the room was suddenly opened, and Dominey entered with the
missing gun under his arm. Middleton rose to his feet at once and laid
down his pipe. Surprise kept him temporarily silent.

"I want you to come this way with me for a moment," his master ordered.

The keeper took up his hat and stick and followed. Dominey led him to
where the tracks had halted on the gravel outside Rosamund's window and
pointed across to the Black Wood.

"What do you make of those?" he enquired.

Middleton did not hesitate. He shook his head gravely.

"Was anything heard last night, sir?"

"There was an infernal yell underneath this window."

"That was the spirit of Roger Unthank, for sure," Middleton pronounced,
with a little shudder. "When he do come out of that wood, he do call."

"Spirits," his master pointed out, "do not leave tracks like that
behind."

Middleton considered the matter.

"They do say hereabout," he confided, "that the spirit of Roger Unthank
have been taken possession of by some sort of great animal, and that it
do come here now and then to be fed."

"By whom?" Dominey enquired patiently.

"Why, by Mrs. Unthank."

"Mrs. Unthank has not been in this house for many months. From the day
she left until last night, so far as I can gather, nothing has been
heard of this ghost, or beast, or whatever it is."

"That do seem queer, surely," Middleton admitted.

Dominey followed the tracks with his eyes to the wood and back again.

"Middleton," he said, "I am learning something about spirits. It seems
that they not only make tracks, but they require feeding. Perhaps if
that is so they can feel a charge of shot inside them."

The old man seemed for a moment to stiffen with slow horror.

"You wouldn't shoot at it, Squire?" he gasped.

"I should have done so this morning if I had had a chance," Dominey
replied. "When the weather is a little drier, I am going to make my way
into that wood, Middleton, with a rifle under my arm."

"Then as God's above, you'll never come out, Squire!" was the solemn
reply.

"We will see," Dominey muttered. "I have hacked my way through some
queer country in Africa."

"There's nowt like this wood in the world, sir," the old man asserted
doggedly. "The bottom's rotten from end to end and the top's all
poisonous. The birds die there on the trees. It's chockful of reptiles
and unclean things, with green and purple fungi, two feet high, with
poison in the very sniff of them. The man who enters that wood goes to
his grave."

"Nevertheless," Dominey said firmly, "within a very short time I am
going to solve the mystery of this nocturnal visitor."

They returned to the house, side by side. Just before they entered,
Dominey turned to his companion.

"Middleton," he said, "you keep up the good old customs, I suppose, and
spend half an hour at the 'Dominey Arms' now and then?"

"Most every night of my life, sir," the old man replied, "from eight
till nine. I'm a man of regular habits, and that do seem right to
me that with the work done right and proper a man should have his
relaxation."

"That is right, John," Dominey assented. "Next time you are there, don't
forget to mention that I am going to have that wood looked through. I
should like it to get about, you understand?"

"That'll fair flummox the folk," was the doubtful reply, "but I'll let
'em know, Squire. There'll be a rare bit of talk, I can promise you
that."

Dominey handed over his gun, went to his room, bathed and changed, and
descended for breakfast. There was a sudden hush as he entered, which he
very well understood. Every one began to talk about the prospect of
the day's sport. Dominey helped himself from the sideboard and took his
place at the table.

"I hope," he said, "that our very latest thing in ghosts did not disturb
anybody."

"We all seem to have heard the same thing," the Cabinet Minister
observed, with interest,--"a most appalling and unearthly cry. I have
lately joined every society connected with spooks and find them a
fascinating study."

"If you want to investigate," Dominey observed, as he helped himself to
coffee, "you can bring out a revolver and prowl about with me one night.
From the time when I was a kid, before I went to Eton, up till when
I left here for Africa, we had a series of highly respectable and
well-behaved ghosts, who were a credit to the family and of whom we were
somewhat proud. This latest spook, however, is something quite outside
the pale."

"Has he a history?" Mr. Watson asked with interest.

"I am informed," Dominey replied, "that he is the spirit of a
schoolmaster who once lived here, and for whose departure from the world
I am supposed to be responsible. Such a spook is neither a credit nor a
comfort to the family."

Their host spoke with such an absolute absence of emotion that every one
was conscious of a curious reluctance to abandon a subject full of such
fascinating possibilities. Terniloff was the only one, however, who made
a suggestion.

"We might have a battue in the wood," he proposed.

"I am not sure," Dominey told them, "that the character of the wood is
not more interesting than the ghost who is supposed to dwell in it. You
remember how terrified the beaters were yesterday at the bare suggestion
of entering it? For generations it has been held unclean. It is
certainly most unsafe. I went in over my knees on the outskirts of it
this morning. Shall we say half-past ten in the gun room?"

Seaman followed his host out of the room.

"My friend," he said, "you must not allow these local circumstances to
occupy too large a share of your thoughts. It is true that these are the
days of your relaxation. Still, there is the Princess for you to think
of. After all, she has us in her power. The merest whisper in Downing
Street, and behold, catastrophe!"

Dominey took his friend's arm.

"Look here, Seaman," he rejoined, "it's easy enough to say there is the
Princess to be considered, but will you kindly tell me what on earth
more I can do to make her see the position? Necessity demands that I
should be on the best of terms with Lady Dominey and I should not make
myself in any way conspicuous with the Princess."

"I am not sure," Seaman reflected, "that the terms you are on with Lady
Dominey matter very much to any one. So far as regards the Princess, she
is an impulsive and passionate person, but she is also _grande dame_ and
a diplomatist. I see no reason why you should not marry her secretly in
London, in the name of Everard Dominey, and have the ceremony repeated
under your rightful name later on."

They had paused to help themselves to cigarettes, which were displayed
with a cabinet of cigars on a round table in the hall. Dominey waited
for a moment before he answered.

"Has the Princess confided to you that that is her wish?" he asked.

"Something of the sort," Seaman acknowledged. "She wishes the
suggestion, however, to come from you."

"And your advice?"

Seaman blew out a little cloud of cigar smoke.

"My friend," he confessed, "I am a little afraid of the Princess. I ask
you no questions as to your own feelings with regard to her. I take it
for granted that as a man of honour it will be your duty to offer her
your hand in marriage, sooner or later. I see no harm in anticipating a
few months, if by that means we can pacify her. Terniloff would arrange
it at the Embassy. He is devoted to her, and it will strengthen your
position with him."

Dominey turned away towards the stairs.

"We will discuss this again before we leave," he said gloomily.

Dominey was admitted at once by her maid into his wife's sitting-room.
Rosamund, in a charming morning robe of pale blue lined with grey
fur, had just finished breakfast. She held out her hands to him with a
delighted little cry of welcome.

"How nice of you to come, Everard!" she exclaimed. "I was hoping I
should see you for a moment before you went off."

He raised her fingers to his lips and sat down by her side. She seemed
entirely delighted by his presence, and he felt instinctively that she
was quite unaffected by the event of the night before.

"You slept well?" he enquired.

"Perfectly," she answered.

He tackled the subject bravely, as he had made up his mind to on every
opportunity.

"You do not lie awake thinking of our nocturnal visitor, then?"

"Not for one moment. You see," she went on conversationally, "if you
were really Everard, then I might be frightened, for some day or other I
feel that if Everard comes here, the spirit of Roger Unthank will do him
some sort of mischief."

"Why?" he asked.

"You don't know about these things, of course," she went on, "but Roger
Unthank was in love with me, although I had scarcely ever spoken to him,
before I married Everard. I think I told you that much yesterday, didn't
I? After I was married, the poor man nearly went out of his mind. He
gave up his work and used to haunt the park here. One evening Everard
caught him and they fought, and Roger Unthank was never seen again. I
think that any one around here would tell you," she went on, dropping
her voice a little, "that Everard killed Roger and threw him into one
of those swampy places near the Black Wood, where a body sinks and sinks
and nothing is ever seen of it again."

"I do not believe he did anything of the sort," Dominey declared.

"Oh, I don't know," she replied doubtfully. "Everard had a terrible
temper, and that night he came home covered with blood, looking--awful!
It was the night when I was taken ill."

"Well no more tragedies," he insisted. "I have come up to remind you
that we have guests here. When are you coming down to see them?"

She laughed like a child.

"You say 'we' just as though you were really my husband," she declared.

"You must not tell any one else of your fancy," he warned her.

She acquiesced at once.

"Oh, I quite understand," she assured him. "I shall be very, very
careful. And, Everard, you have such clever guests, not at all the sort
of people my Everard would have had here, and I have been out of the
world for so long, that I am afraid I sha'n't be able to talk to them.
Nurse Alice is tremendously impressed. I am sure I should be terrified
to sit at the end of the table, and Caroline will hate not being hostess
any longer. Let me come down at tea-time and after dinner, and slip into
things gradually. You can easily say that I am still an invalid, though
of course I'm not at all."

"You shall do exactly as you choose," he promised, as he took his leave.

So when the shooting party tramped into the hall that afternoon, a
little weary, but flushed with exercise and the pleasure of the day's
sport, they found, seated in a corner of the room, behind the
great round table upon which tea was set out, a rather pale but
extraordinarily childlike and fascinating woman, with large, sweet eyes
which seemed to be begging for their protection and sympathy as she rose
hesitatingly to her feet. Dominey was by her side in a moment, and his
first few words of introduction brought every one around her. She said
very little, but what she said was delightfully natural and gracious.

"It has been so kind of you," she said to Caroline, "to help my husband
entertain his guests. I am very much better, but I have been ill for so
long that I have forgotten a great many things, and I should be a very
poor hostess. But I want to make tea for you, please, and I want you all
to tell me how many pheasants you have shot."

Terniloff seated himself on the settee by her side.

"I am going to help you in this complicated task," he declared. "I am
sure those sugar tongs are too heavy for you to wield alone."

She laughed at him gaily.

"But I am not really delicate at all," she assured him. "I have had a
very bad illness, but I am quite strong again."

"Then I will find some other excuse for sitting here," he said. "I will
tell you all about the high pheasants your husband killed, and about the
woodcock he brought down after we had all missed it."

"I shall love to hear about that," she assented. "How much sugar,
please, and will you pass those hot muffins to the Princess? And please
touch that bell. I shall want more hot water. I expect you are all very
thirsty. I am so glad to be here with you."



CHAPTER XX

Arm in arm, Prince Terniloff and his host climbed the snow-covered
slope at the back of a long fir plantation, towards the little beflagged
sticks which indicated their stand. There was not a human being in
sight, for the rest of the guns had chosen a steeper but somewhat less
circuitous route.

"Von Ragastein," the Ambassador said, "I am going to give myself the
luxury of calling you by your name. You know my one weakness, a weakness
which in my younger days very nearly drove me out of diplomacy. I detest
espionage in every shape and form even where it is necessary. So far as
you are concerned, my young friend," he went on, "I think your position
ridiculous. I have sent a private despatch to Potsdam, in which I have
expressed that opinion."

"So far," Dominey remarked, "I have not been overworked."

"My dear young friend," the Prince continued, "you have not been
overworked because there has been no legitimate work for you to do.
There will be none. There could be no possible advantage accruing
from your labours here to compensate for the very bad effect which
the discovery of your true name and position would have in the English
Cabinet."

"I must ask you to remember," Dominey begged, "that I am here as a blind
servant of the Fatherland. I simply obey orders."

"I will grant that freely," the Prince consented. "But to continue. I
am now at the end of my first year in this country. I feel able to
congratulate myself upon a certain measure of success. From that part
of the Cabinet with whom I have had to do, I have received nothing but
encouragement in my efforts to promote a better understanding between
our two countries."

"The sky certainly seems clear enough just now," agreed Dominey.

"I have convinced myself," the Prince said emphatically, "that there is
a genuine and solid desire for peace with Germany existing in Downing
Street. In every argument I have had, in every concession I have
asked for, I have been met with a sincere desire to foster the growing
friendship between our countries. I am proud of my work here, Von
Ragastein. I believe that I have brought Germany and England nearer
together than they have been since the days of the Boer War."

"You are sure, sir," Dominey asked, "that you are not confusing personal
popularity with national sentiment?"

"I am sure of it," the Ambassador answered gravely. "Such popularity
as I may have achieved here has been due to an appreciation of the
more healthy state of world politics now existing. It has been my great
pleasure to trace the result of my work in a manuscript of memoirs,
which some day, when peace is firmly established between our two
countries, I shall cause to be published. I have put on record there
evidences of the really genuine sentiment in favour of peace which I
have found amongst the present Cabinet."

"I should esteem it an immense privilege," Dominey said, "to be given a
private reading of these memoirs."

"That may be arranged," was the suave reply. "In the meantime, Von
Ragastein, I want you to reconsider your position here."

"My position is not voluntary," Dominey repeated. "I am acting under
orders."

"Precisely," the other acquiesced, "but matters have changed very
much during the last six months. Even at the risk of offending France,
England is showing wonderful pliability with regard to our claims in
Morocco. Every prospect of disagreement between our two countries upon
any vital matter has now disappeared."

"Unless," Dominey said thoughtfully, "the desire for war should come,
not from Downing Street but from Potsdam."

"We serve an honourable master," Terniloff declared sternly, "and he has
shown me his mind. His will is for peace, and for the great triumphs
to which our country is already entitled by reason of her supremacy in
industry, in commerce, in character and in genius. These are the weapons
which will make Germany the greatest Power in the world. No empire has
ever hewn its way to permanent glory by the sword alone. We have reached
our stations, I see. Come to me after this drive is finished, my host.
All that I have said so far has been by way of prelude."

The weather had turned drier, the snow was crisp, and a little party of
women from the Hall reached the guns before the beaters were through the
wood. Caroline and Stephanie both took their places by Dominey's side.
The former, however, after a few minutes passed on to Terniloff's stand.
Stephanie and Dominey were alone for the first time since their stormy
interview in the library.

"Has Maurice been talking to you?" she asked a little abruptly.

"His Excellency and I are, to tell you the truth," Dominey confessed,
"in the midst of a most interesting conversation."

"Has he spoken to you about me?"

"Your name has not yet been mentioned."

She made a little grimace. In her wonderful furs and Russian turban hat
she made a rather striking picture against the background of snow.

"An interesting conversation in which my name has not been mentioned!"
she repeated satirically.

"I think you were coming into it before very long," Dominey assured her.
"His Excellency warned me that all he had said so far was merely the
prelude to a matter of larger importance."

Stephanie smiled.

"Dear Maurice is so diplomatic," she murmured. "I am perfectly certain
he is going to begin by remonstrating you for your shocking treatment of
me."

Their conversation was interrupted for a few minutes by the sport.
Dominey called the faithful Middleton to his side for a further supply
of cartridges. Stephanie bided her time, which came when the beaters at
last emerged from the wood.

"Shocking," Stephanie repeated reverting to their conversation, "is the
mildest word in my vocabulary which I can apply to your treatment of me.
Honestly, Leopold, I feel bruised all over inside. My pride is humbled."

"It is because you look at the matter only from a feminine point of
view," Dominey persisted.

"And you," she answered in a low tone, "once the fondest and the most
passionate of lovers, only from a political one. You think a great deal
of your country, Leopold. Have I no claims upon you?"

"Upon Everard Dominey, none," he insisted. "When the time comes, and
Leopold Von Ragastein can claim all that is his right, believe me, you
will have no cause to complain of coldness or dilatoriness. He will have
only one thought, only one hope--to end the torture of these years of
separation as speedily as may be."

The strained look passed from her face. Her tone became more natural.

"But, dear," she pleaded, "there is no need to wait. Your Sovereign
gives you permission. Your political chief will more than endorse it."

"I am on the spot," Dominey replied, "and believe me I know what is
safest and best. I cannot live as two men and keep my face steadfast to
the world. The Prince, however, has not spoken to me yet. I will hear
what he has to say."

Stephanie turned a little haughtily away.

"You are putting me in the position of a supplicant!" she exclaimed.
"To-night we must have an understanding."

The little party moved on all together to another cover. Rosamund had
joined them and hung on to Dominey's arm with delight. The brisk walk
across the park had brought colour to her cheeks. She walked with all
the free and vigorous grace of a healthy woman. Dominey found himself
watching her, as she deserted him a little later on to stand by
Terniloff's side, with a little thrill of tangled emotions. He felt a
touch on his arm. Stephanie, who was passing with another of the guns,
paused to whisper in his ear:

"There might be a greater danger--one that has evaded even your cautious
mind--in overplaying your part!"

Dominey was taken possession of by Caroline on their walk to the next
stand. She planted herself on a shooting stick by his side and commenced
to take him roundly to task.

"My dear Everard," she said, "you are one of the most wonderful examples
of the reformed rake I ever met! You have even acquired respectability.
For heaven's sake, don't disappoint us all!"

"I seem to be rather good at that," Dominey observed a little drearily.

"Well, you are the master of your own actions, are you not?" she asked.
"What I want to say in plain words is, don't go and make a fool of
yourself with Stephanie."

"I have not the least intention of doing anything of the sort."

"Well, she has! Mark my words, Everard, I know that woman. She is clever
and brilliant and anything else you like, but for some reason or other
she has set her mind upon you. She looks at dear little Rosamund as
though she hadn't a right to exist. Don't look so sorry for yourself.
You must have encouraged her."

Dominey was silent. Fortunately, the exigencies of the next few minutes
demanded it. His cousin waited patiently until there came a pause in the
shooting.

"Now let me hear what you have to say for yourself, sir? So far as I can
see, you've been quite sweet to your wife, and she adores you. If you
want to have an affair with the Princess, don't begin it here. You'll
have your wife ill again if you make her jealous."

"My dear Caroline, there will be no affair between Stephanie and me. Of
that you may rest assured."

"You mean to say that this is altogether on her side, then?" Caroline
persisted.

"You exaggerate her demeanour," he replied, "but even if what you
suggest were true--"

"Oh, I don't want a lot of protestations!" she interrupted. "I am not
saying that you encourage her much, because I don't believe you do. All
I want to point out is that, having really brought your wife back almost
to health, you must be extraordinarily and wonderfully careful. If you
want to talk nonsense with Stephanie, do it in Belgrave Square."

Dominey was watching the gyrations of a falling pheasant. His left hand
was stretched out towards the cartridge bag which Caroline was holding.
He clasped her fingers for a moment before he helped himself.

"You are rather a dear," he said. "I would not do anything to hurt
Rosamund for the world."

"If you can't get rid of your old tricks altogether and must flirt," she
remarked, "well, I'm always somewhere about. Rosamund wouldn't mind me,
because there are a few grey hairs in my sandy ones.--And here comes
your man across the park--looks as though he had a message for you. So
long as nothing has happened to your cook, I feel that I could face ill
tidings with composure."

Dominey found himself watching with fixed eyes the approach of his
rather sad-faced manservant through the snow. Parkins was not dressed
for such an enterprise, nor did he seem in any way to relish it. His was
the stern march of duty, and, curiously enough, Dominey felt from the
moment he caught sight of him that he was in some respects a messenger
of Fate. Yet the message which he delivered, when at last he reached his
master's side, was in no way alarming.

"A person of the name of Miller has arrived here, sir," he announced,
"from Norwich. He is, I understand, a foreigner of some sort, who
has recently landed in this country. I found it a little difficult to
understand him, but her Highness's maid conversed with him in German,
and I understand that he either is or brings you a message from a
certain Doctor Schmidt, with whom you were acquainted in Africa."

The warning whistle blew at that moment, and Dominey swung round and
stood at attention. His behaviour was perfectly normal. He let a hen
pheasant pass over his head, and brought down a cock from very nearly
the limit distance. He reloaded before he turned to Parkins.

"Is this person in a hurry?" he said.

"By no means, sir," the man replied. "I told him that you would not be
back until three or four o'clock, and he is quite content to wait."

Dominey nodded.

"Look after him yourself then, Parkins," he directed. "We shall not be
shooting late to-day. Very likely I will send Mr. Seaman back to talk to
him."

The man raised his hat respectfully and turned back towards the house.
Caroline was watching her companion curiously.

"Do you find many of your acquaintances in Africa look you up, Everard?"
she asked.

"Except for Seaman," Dominey replied, looking through the barrels of his
gun, "who really does not count because we crossed together, this is my
first visitor from the land of fortune. I expect there will be plenty of
them by and by, though. Colonials have a wonderful habit of sticking to
one another."



CHAPTER XXI

There was nothing in the least alarming about the appearance of Mr.
Ludwig Miller. He had been exceedingly well entertained in the butler's
private sitting-room and had the air of having done full justice to the
hospitality which had been offered him. He rose to his feet at Dominey's
entrance and stood at attention. But for some slight indications of
military training, he would have passed anywhere as a highly respectable
retired tradesman.

"Sir Everard Dominey?" he enquired.

Dominey nodded assent. "That is my name. Have I seen you before?"

The man shook his head. "I am a cousin of Doctor Schmidt. I arrived in
the Colony from Rhodesia, after your Excellency had left."

"And how is the doctor?"

"My cousin is, as always, busy but in excellent health," was the reply.
"He sends his respectful compliments and his good wishes. Also this
letter."

With a little flourish the man produced an envelope inscribed:


To Sir Everard Dominey, Baronet,

Dominey Hall,

In the County of Norfolk,

England.


Dominey broke the seal just as Seaman entered.

"A messenger here from Doctor Schmidt, an acquaintance of mine in East
Africa," he announced. "Mr. Seaman came home from South Africa with me,"
he explained to his visitor.

The two men looked steadily into each other's eyes. Dominey watched
them, fascinated. Neither betrayed himself by even the fall of an
eyelid. Yet Dominey, his perceptive powers at their very keenest in this
moment which instinct told him was one of crisis, felt the unspoken,
unbetokened recognition which passed between them. Some commonplace
remark was uttered and responded to. Dominey read the few lines which
seemed to take him back for a moment to another world:


"Honoured and Honourable Sir,

"I send you my heartiest and most respectful greeting. Of the progress
of all matters here you will learn from another source.

"I recommend to your notice and kindness my cousin, the bearer of this
letter--Mr. Ludwig Miller. He will lay before you certain circumstances
of which it is advisable for you to have knowledge. You may speak freely
with him. He is in all respects to be trusted.

"KARL SCHMIDT." (Signed)


"Your cousin is a little mysterious," Dominey remarked, as he passed the
letter to Seaman. "Come, what about these circumstances?"

Ludwig Miller looked around the little room and then at Seaman. Dominey
affected to misunderstand his hesitation.

"Our friend here knows everything," he declared. "You can speak to him
as to myself."

The man began as one who has a story to tell.

"My errand here is to warn you," he said, "that the Englishman whom
you left for dead at Big Bend, on the banks of the Blue River, has been
heard of in another part of Africa."

Dominey shook his head incredulously. "I hope you have not come all this
way to tell me that! The man was dead."

"My cousin himself," Miller continued, "was hard to convince. The man
left his encampment with whisky enough to kill him, thirst enough to
drink it all, and no food."

"So I found him," Dominey assented, "deserted by his boys and raving. To
silence him forever was a child's task."

"The task, however, was unperformed," the other persisted. "From three
places in the colony he has been heard of, struggling to make his way to
the coast."

"Does he call himself by his own name?" Dominey asked.

"He does not," Miller admitted. "My cousin, however, desired me to point
out to you the fact that in any case he would probably be shy of doing
so. He is behaving in an absurd manner; he is in a very weakly state;
and without a doubt he is to some degree insane. Nevertheless, the fact
remains that he is in the Colony, or was three months ago, and that if
he succeeds in reaching the coast you may at any time be surprised by
a visit from him here. I am sent to warn you in order that you may take
whatever steps may be necessary and not be placed at a disadvantage if
he should appear."

"This is queer news you have brought us, Miller," Seaman said
thoughtfully.

"It is news which greatly disturbed Doctor Schmidt," the man replied.
"He has had the natives up one after another for cross-examination.
Nothing can shake their story."

"If we believed it," Seaman continued, "this other European, if he had
business in this direction, might walk in here at any moment."

"It was to warn you of that possibility that I am here."

"How much do you know personally," Seaman asked, "of the existent
circumstances?"

The man shook his head vaguely.

"I know nothing," he admitted. "I went out to East Africa some years
ago, and I have been a trader in Mozambique in a small way. I supplied
outfits for officers and hospitals and sportsmen. Now and then I have
to return to Europe to buy fresh stock. Doctor Schmidt knew that, and he
came to see me just before I sailed. He first thought of writing a very
long letter. Afterwards he changed his mind. He wrote only these few
lines I brought, but he told me those other things."

"You have remembered all that he told you?" Dominey asked.

"I can think of nothing else," was the reply, after a moment's pause.
"The whole affair has been a great worry to Doctor Schmidt. There are
things connected with it which he has never understood, things connected
with it which he has always found mysterious."

"Hence your presence here, Johann Wolff?" Seaman asked, in an altered
tone.

The visitor's expression remained unchanged except for the faint
surprise which shone out of his blue eyes.

"Johann Wolff," he repeated. "That is not my name. I am Ludwig Miller,
and I know nothing of this matter beyond what I have told you. I am just
a messenger."

"Once in Vienna and twice in Cracow, my friend, we have met," Seaman
reminded him softly but very insistently.

The other shook his head gently. "A mistake. I have been in Vienna once
many years ago, but Cracow never."

"You have no idea with whom you are talking?"

"Herr Seaman was the name, I understood."

"It is a very good name," Seaman scoffed. "Look here and think."

He undid his coat and waistcoat and displayed a plain vest of chamois
leather. Attached to the left-hand side of it was a bronze decoration,
with lettering and a number. Miller stared at it blankly and shook his
head.

"Information Department, Bureau Twelve, password--'The Day is coming,'"
Seaman continued, dropping his voice.

His listener shook his head and smiled with the puzzled ignorance of a
child.

"The gentleman mistakes me for some one else," he replied. "I know
nothing of these things."

Seaman sat and studied this obstinate visitor for several minutes
without speaking, his finger tips pressed together, his eyebrows gently
contracted. His vis-a-vis endured this scrutiny without flinching, calm,
phlegmatic, the very prototype of the bourgeois German of the tradesman
class.

"Do you propose," Dominey enquired, "to stay in these parts long?"

"One or two days--a week, perhaps," was the indifferent answer. "I have
a cousin in Norwich who makes toys. I love the English country. I spend
my holiday here, perhaps."

"Just so," Seaman muttered grimly. "The English country under a foot of
snow! So you have nothing more to say to me, Johann Wolff?"

"I have executed my mission to his Excellency," was the apologetic
reply. "I am sorry to have caused displeasure to you, Herr Seaman."

The latter rose to his feet. Dominey had already turned towards the
door.

"You will spend the night here, of course, Mr. Miller?" he invited.
"I dare say Mr. Seaman would like to have another talk with you in the
morning."

"I shall gladly spend the night here, your Excellency," was the polite
reply. "I do not think that I have anything to say, however, which would
interest your friend."

"You are making a great mistake, Wolff," Seaman declared angrily. "I
am your superior in the Service, and your attitude towards me is
indefensible."

"If the gentleman would only believe," the culprit begged, "that he is
mistaking me for some one else!"

There was trouble in Seaman's face as the two men made their way to
the front of the house and trouble in his tone as he answered his
companion's query.

"What do you think of that fellow and his visit?"

"I do not know what to think, but there is a great deal that I
know," Seaman replied gravely. "The man is a spy, a favourite in the
Wilhelmstrasse and only made use of on important occasions. His name is
Wolff--Johann Wolff."

"And this story of his?"

"You ought to be the best judge of that."

"I am," Dominey assented confidently. "Without the shadow of a doubt I
threw the body of the man I killed into the Blue River and watched it
sink."

"Then the story is a fake," Seaman decided. "For some reason or other we
have come under the suspicion of our own secret service."

Seaman, as they emerged into the hall, was summoned imperiously to her
side by the Princess Eiderstrom. Dominey disappeared for a moment
and returned presently, having discarded some of his soaked shooting
garments. He was followed by his valet, bearing a note upon a silver
tray.

"From the person in Mr. Parkins' room--to Mr. Seaman, sir," the man
announced, in a low tone.

Dominey took it from the salver with a little nod. Then he turned to
where the youngest and most frivolous of his guests were in the act of
rising from the tea table.

"A game of pills, Eddy," he proposed. "They tell me that pool is one of
your greatest accomplishments."

"I'm pretty useful," the young man confessed, with a satisfied chuckle.
"Give you a black at snooker, what?"

Dominey took his arm and led him into the billiard-room.

"You will give me nothing, young fellow," he replied. "Set them up, and
I will show you how I made a living for two months at Johannesberg!"



CHAPTER XXII

The evening at Dominey hall was practically a repetition of the previous
one, with a different set of guests from the outer world. After dinner,
Dominey was absent for a few minutes and returned with Rosamund upon his
arm. She received the congratulations of her neighbours charmingly, and
a little court soon gathered around her. Doctor Harrison, who had been
dining, remained upon the outskirts, listening to her light-hearted
and at times almost brilliant chatter with grave and watchful interest.
Dominey, satisfied that she was being entertained, obeyed Terniloff's
gestured behest and strolled with him to a distant corner of the hall.

"Let me now, my dear host," the Prince began, with some eagerness in
his tone, "continue and, I trust, conclude the conversation to which all
that I said this morning was merely the prelude."

"I am entirely at your service," murmured his host.

"I have tried to make you understand that from my own point of view--and
I am in a position to know something--the fear of war between this
country and our own has passed. England is willing to make all
reasonable sacrifices to ensure peace. She wants peace, she intends
peace, therefore there will be peace. Therefore, I maintain, my young
friend, it is far better for you to disappear at once from this false
position."

"I am scarcely my own master," Dominey replied. "You yourself must know
that. I am here as a servant under orders."

"Join your protests with mine," the Prince suggested. "I will make a
report directly I get back to London. To my mind, the matter is urgent.
If anything should lead to the discovery of your false position in this
country, the friendship between us which has become a real pleasure to
me must seriously undermine my own position."

Dominey had risen to his feet and was standing on the hearthrug, in
front of a fire of blazing logs. The Ambassador was sitting with crossed
legs in a comfortable easy-chair, smoking one of the long, thin cigars
which were his particular fancy.

"Your Excellency," Dominey said, "there is just one fallacy in all that
you have said."

"A fallacy?"

"You have come to the absolute conclusion," Dominey continued, "that
because England wants peace there will be peace. I am of Seaman's mind.
I believe in the ultimate power of the military party of Germany. I
believe that in time they will thrust their will upon the Kaiser, if he
is not at the present moment secretly in league with them. Therefore, I
believe that there will be war."

"If I shared that belief with you, my friend," the Ambassador said
quietly, "I should consider my position here one of dishonour. My
mandate is for peace, and my charge is from the Kaiser's lips."

Stephanie, with the air of one a little weary of the conversation, broke
away from a distant group and came towards them. Her beautiful eyes
seemed tired, she moved listlessly, and she even spoke with less than
her usual assurance.

"Am I disturbing a serious conversation?" she asked. "Send me away if I
am."

"His Excellency and I," Dominey observed, "have reached a cul-de-sac
in our argument,--the blank wall of good-natured but fundamental
disagreement."

"Then I shall claim you for a while," Stephanie declared, taking
Dominey's arm. "Lady Dominey has attracted all the men to her circle,
and I am lonely."

The Prince bowed.

"I deny the cul-de-sac," he said, "but I yield our host! I shall seek my
opponent at billiards."

He turned away and Stephanie sank into his vacant place.

"So you and my cousin," she remarked, as she made room for Dominey to
sit by her side, "have come to a disagreement."

"Not an unfriendly one," her host assured her.

"That I am sure of. Maurice seems, indeed, to have taken a wonderful
liking to you. I cannot remember that you ever met before, except for
that day or two in Saxony?"

"That is so. The first time I exchanged any intimate conversation with
the Prince was in London. I have the utmost respect and regard for him,
but I cannot help feeling that the pleasant intimacy to which he has
admitted me is to a large extent owing to the desire of our friends
in Berlin. So far as I am concerned I have never met any one, of any
nation, whose character I admire more."

"Maurice lives his life loftily. He is one of the few great aristocrats
I have met who carries his nobility of birth into his simplest thought
and action. There is just one thing," she added, "which would break his
heart."

"And that?"

"The subject upon which you two disagree--a war between Germany and this
country."

"The Prince is an idealist," Dominey said. "Sometimes I wonder why
he was sent here, why they did not send some one of a more intriguing
character."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"You agree with that great Frenchman," she observed, "that no ambassador
can remain a gentleman--politically."

"Well, I have never been a diplomat, so I cannot say," Dominey replied.

"You have many qualifications, I should think," she observed cuttingly.

"Such as?"

"You are absolutely callous, absolutely without heart or sympathy where
your work is concerned."

"I do not admit it," he protested.

"I go back to London to-morrow," she continued, "a very miserable and
unhappy woman. I take with me the letter which should have brought me
happiness. The love for which I have sacrificed my life has failed me.
Not even the whip of a royal command, not even all that I have to offer,
can give me even five seconds of happiness."

"All that I have pleaded for," Dominey reminded her earnestly, "is
delay."

"And what delay do you think," she asked, with a sudden note of passion
in her tone, "would the Leopold Von Ragastein of six years ago have
pleaded for? Delay! He found words then which would have melted an
iceberg. He found words the memory of which comes to me sometimes in the
night and which mock me. He had no country then save the paradise where
lovers walk, no ruler but a queen, and I was she. And now--"

Dominey felt a strange pang of distress. She saw the unusual softening
in his face, and her eyes lit up.

"Just for a moment," she broke off, "you were like Leopold. As a rule,
you know, you are not like him. I think that you left him somewhere in
Africa and came home in his likeness."

"Believe that for a little time," Dominey begged earnestly.

"What if it were true?" she asked abruptly. "There are times when I
do not recognise you. There are words Leopold used to use which I have
never heard from your lips. Is not West Africa the sorcerer's paradise?
Perhaps you are an imposter, and the man I love is there still, in
trouble--perhaps ill. You play the part of Everard Dominey like a very
king of actors. Perhaps before you came here you played the part of
Leopold. You are not my Leopold. Love cannot die as you would have me
believe."

"Now," he said coolly, "you are coming round to my way of thinking.
I have been assuring you, from the very first moment we met at the
Carlton, that I was not your Leopold--that I was Everard Dominey."

"I shall put you to the test," she exclaimed suddenly, rising to her
feet. "Your arm, if you please."

She led him across the hall to where little groups of people were
gossiping, playing bridge, and Seaman, the center of a little group of
gullible amateur speculators, was lecturing on mines. They stopped to
say a word or two here and there, but Stephanie's fingers never left her
companion's arm. They passed down a corridor hung with a collection of
wonderful sporting prints in which she affected some interest, into a
small gallery which led into the ballroom. Here they were alone. She
laid her hands upon his shoulders and looked up into his eyes. Her lips
drew nearer to his.

"Kiss me--upon the lips, Leopold," she ordered.

"There is no Leopold here," he replied; "you yourself have said it."

She came a little nearer. "Upon the lips," she whispered.

He held her, stooped down, and their lips met. Then she stood apart
from him. Her eyes were for a moment closed, her hands were extended as
though to prevent any chance of his approaching her again.

"Now I know the truth," she muttered.

Dominey found an opportunity to draw Seaman away from his little group
of investment-seeking friends.

"My friend," he said, "trouble grows."

"Anything more from Schmidt's supposed emissary?" Seaman asked quickly.

"No. I am going to keep away from him this evening, and I advise you to
do the same. The trouble is with the Princess."

"With the Princess," declared Seaman. "I think you have blundered. I
quite appreciate your general principles of behaving internally and
externally as though you were the person whom you pretend to be. It is
the very essence of all successful espionage. But you should know when
to make exceptions. I see grave objections myself to your obeying the
Kaiser's behest. On the other hand, I see no objection whatever to your
treating the Princess in a more human manner, to your visiting her in
London, and giving her more ardent proofs of your continued affection."

"If I once begin--"

"Look here," Seaman interrupted, "the Princess is a woman of the world.
She knows what she is doing, and there is a definite tie between you. I
tell you frankly that I could not bear to see you playing the idiot for
a moment with Lady Dominey, but with the Princess, scruples don't enter
into the question at all. You should by no means make an enemy of her."

"Well, I have done it," Dominey acknowledged. "She has gone off to
bed now, and she is leaving early to-morrow morning. She thinks I have
borrowed some West African magic, that I have left her lover's soul out
there and come home in his body."

"Well, if she does," Seaman declared, "you are out of your troubles."

"Am I!" Dominey replied gloomily. "First of all, she may do a lot of
mischief before she goes. And then, supposing by any thousand to one
chance the story of this cousin of Schmidt's should be true, and she
should find Dominey out there, still alive? The Princess is not of
German birth, you know. She cares nothing for Germany's future. As
a matter of fact, I think, like a great many Hungarians, she prefers
England. They say that an Englishman has as many lives as a cat.
Supposing that chap Dominey did come to life again and she brings him
home? You say yourself that you do not mean to make much use of me until
after the war has started. In the parlance of this country of idioms,
that will rather upset the apple cart, will it not?"

"Has the Princess a suite of rooms here?" Seaman enquired.

"Over in the west wing. Good idea! You go and see what you can do with
her. She will not think of going to bed at this time of night."

Seaman nodded.

"Leave it to me," he directed. "You go out and play the host."

Dominey played the host first and then the husband. Rosamund welcomed
him with a little cry of pleasure.

"I have been enjoying myself so much, Everard!" she exclaimed.
"Everybody has been so kind, and Mr. Mangan has taught me a new
Patience."

"And now, I think," Doctor Harrison intervened a little gruffly, "it's
time to knock off for the evening."

She turned very sweetly to Everard.

"Will you take me upstairs?" she begged. "I have been hoping so much
that you would come before Doctor Harrison sent me off."

"I should have been very disappointed if I had been too late," Dominey
assured her. "Now say good night to everybody."

"Why, you talk to me as though I were a child," she laughed. "Well,
good-bye, everybody, then. You see, my stern husband is taking me off.
When are you coming to see me, Doctor Harrison?"

"Nothing to see you for," was the gruff reply. "You are as well as any
woman here."

"Just a little unsympathetic, isn't he?" she complained to Dominey.
"Please take me through the hall, so that I can say good-bye to every
one else. Is the Princess Eiderstrom there?"

"I am afraid that she has gone to bed," Dominey answered, as they passed
out of the room. "She said something about a headache."

"She is very beautiful," Rosamund said wistfully. "I wish she looked as
though she liked me a little more. Is she very fond of you, Everard?"

"I think that I am rather in her bad books just at present," Dominey
confessed.

"I wonder! I am very observant, and I have seen her looking at you
sometimes--Of course," Rosamund went on, "as I am not really your wife
and you are not really my husband, it is very stupid of me to feel
jealous, isn't it, Everard?"

"Not a bit," he answered. "If I am not your husband, I will not be
anybody else's."

"I love you to say that," she admitted, with a little sigh, "but it
seems wrong somewhere. Look how cross the Duchess looks! Some one must
have played the wrong card."

Rosamund's farewells were not easily made; Terniloff especially seemed
reluctant to let her go. She excused herself gracefully, however,
promising to sit up a little later the next evening. Dominey led the way
upstairs, curiously gratified at her lingering progress. He took her
to the door of her room and looked in. The nurse was sitting in an
easy-chair, reading, and the maid was sewing in the background.

"Well, you look very comfortable here," he declared cheerfully. "Pray do
not move, nurse."

Rosamund held his hands, as though reluctant to let him go. Then she
drew his face down and kissed him.

"Yes," she said a little plaintively, "it's very comfortable.--Everard?"

"Yes, dear?"

She drew his head down and whispered in his ear.

"May I come in and say good night for two minutes?"

He smiled--a wonderfully kind smile--but shook his head.

"Not to-night, dear," he replied. "The Prince loves to sit up late, and
I shall be downstairs with him. Besides, that bully of a doctor of yours
insists upon ten hours' sleep."

She sighed like a disappointed child.

"Very well." She paused for a moment to listen. "Wasn't that a car?" she
asked.

"Some of our guests going early, I dare say," he replied, as he turned
away.



CHAPTER XXIII

Seaman did not at once start on his mission to the Princess. He made
his way instead to the servants' quarters and knocked at the door of the
butler's sitting-room. There was no reply. He tried the handle in vain.
The door was locked. A tall, grave-faced man in sombre black came out
from an adjoining apartment.

"You are looking for the person who arrived this evening from abroad,
sir?" he enquired.

"I am," Seaman replied. "Has he locked himself in?"

"He has left the Hall, sir!"

"Left!" Seaman repeated. "Do you mean gone away for good?"

"Apparently, sir. I do not understand his language myself, but I
believe he considered his reception here, for some reason or other,
unfavourable. He took advantage of the car which went down to the
station for the evening papers and caught the last train."

Seaman was silent for a moment. The news was a shock to him.

"What is your position here?" he asked his informant.

"My name is Reynolds, sir," was the respectful reply. "I am Mr. Pelham's
servant."

"Can you tell me why, if this man has left the door here is locked?"

"Mr. Parkins locked it before he went out, sir. He accompanied--Mr.
Miller, I think his name was--to the station."

Seaman had the air of a man not wholly satisfied.

"Is it usual to lock up a sitting-room in this fashion?" he asked.

"Mr. Parkins always does it, sir. The cabinets of cigars are kept there,
also the wine-cellar key and the key of the plate chest. None of the
other servants use the room except at Mr. Parkins' invitation."

"I understand," Seaman said, as he turned away. "Much obliged for your
information, Reynolds. I will speak to Mr. Parkins later."

"I will let him know that you desire to see him, sir."

"Good night, Reynolds!"

"Good night, sir!"

Seaman passed back again to the crowded hall and billiard-room,
exchanged a few remarks here and there, and made his way up the southern
flight of stairs toward the west wing. Stephanie consented without
hesitation to receive him. She was seated in front of the fire, reading
a novel, in a boudoir opening out of her bedroom.

"Princess," Seaman declared, with a low bow, "we are in despair at your
desertion."

She put down her book.

"I have been insulted in this house," she said. "To-morrow I leave it."

Seaman shook his head reproachfully.

"Your Highness," he continued, "believe me, I do not wish to presume
upon my position. I am only a German tradesman, admitted to the circles
like these for reasons connected solely with the welfare of my country.
Yet I know much, as it happens, of the truth of this matter, the matter
which is causing you distress. I beg you to reconsider your decision.
Our friend here is, I think, needlessly hard upon himself. So much the
greater will be his reward when the end comes. So much the greater will
be the rapture with which he will throw himself on his knees before
you."

"Has he sent you to reason with me?"

"Not directly. I am to a certain extent, however, his major-domo in this
enterprise. I brought him from Africa. I have watched over him from the
start. Two brains are better than one. I try to show him where to avoid
mistakes, I try to point out the paths of danger and of safety."

"I should imagine Sir Everard finds you useful," she remarked calmly.

"I hope he does."

"It has doubtless occurred to you," she continued, "that our friend has
accommodated himself wonderfully to English life and customs?"

"You must remember that he was educated here. Nevertheless, his aptitude
has been marvellous."

"One might almost call it supernatural," she agreed. "Tell me, Mr.
Seaman, you seem to have been completely successful in the installation
of our friend here as Sir Everard. What is going to be his real value to
you? What work will he do?"

"We are keeping him for the big things. You have seen our gracious
master lately?" he added hesitatingly.

"I know what is at the back of your mind," she replied. "Yes! Before the
summer is over I am to pack up my trunks and fly. I understand."

"It is when that time comes," Seaman said impressively, "that we expect
Sir Everard Dominey, the typical English country gentleman, of whose
loyalty there has never been a word of doubt, to be of use to us. Most
of our present helpers will be under suspicion. The authorised staff of
our secret service can only work underneath. You can see for yourself
the advantage we gain in having a confidential correspondent who can day
by day reflect the changing psychology of the British mind in all its
phases. We have quite enough of the other sort of help arranged for.
Plans of ships, aerodromes and harbours, sailings of convoys, calling up
of soldiers--all these are the A B C of our secret service profession.
We shall never ask our friend here for a single fact, but, from his town
house in Berkeley Square, the host of Cabinet Ministers, of soldiers, of
the best brains of the country, our fingers will never leave the pulse
of Britain's day by day life."

Stephanie threw herself back in her easy-chair and clasped her hands
behind her head.

"These things you are expecting from our present host?"

"We are, and we expect to get them. I have watched him day by day. My
confidence in him has grown."

Stephanie was silent. She sat looking into the fire. Seaman, keenly
observant as always, realised the change in her, yet found something of
mystery in her new detachment of manner.

"Your Highness," he urged, "I am not here to speak on behalf of the man
who at heart is, I know, your lover. He will plead his own cause when
the time comes. But I am here to plead for patience, I am here to
implore you to take no rash step, to do nothing which might imperil in
any way his position here. I stand outside the gates of the world which
your sex can make a paradise. I am no judge of the things that happen
there. But in your heart I feel there is bitterness, because the man
for whom you care has chosen to place his country first. I implore your
patience, Princess. I implore you to believe what I know so well,--that
it is the sternest sense of duty only which is the foundation of Leopold
Von Ragastein's obdurate attitude."

"What are you afraid that I shall do?" she asked curiously.

"I am afraid of nothing--directly."

"Indirectly, then? Answer me, please."

"I am afraid," he admitted frankly, "that in some corner of the world,
if not in this country, you might whisper a word, a scoffing or an angry
sentence, which would make people wonder what grudge you had against a
simple Norfolk baronet. I would not like that word to be spoken in
the presence of any one who knew your history and realised the rather
amazing likeness between Sir Everard Dominey and Baron Leopold Von
Ragastein."

"I see," Stephanie murmured, a faint smile parting her lips. "Well, Mr.
Seaman, I do not think that you need have many fears. What I shall carry
away with me in my heart is not for you or any man to know. In a few
days I shall leave this country."

"You are going back to Berlin--to Hungary?"

She shook her head, beckoned her maid to open the door, and held out her
hand in token of dismissal.

"I am going to take a sea voyage," she announced. "I shall go to
Africa."



The morrow was a day of mild surprises. Eddy Pelham's empty place was
the first to attract notice, towards the end of breakfast time.

"Where's the pink and white immaculate?" the Right Honourable gentleman
asked. "I miss my morning wonder as to how he tied his tie."

"Gone," Dominey replied, looking round from the sideboard.

"Gone?" every one repeated.

"I should think such a thing has never happened to him before," Dominey
observed. "He was wanted in town."

"Fancy any one wanting Eddy for any serious purpose!" Caroline murmured.

"Fancy any one wanting him badly enough to drag him out of bed in the
middle of the night with a telephone call and send him up to town by the
breakfast train from Norwich!" their host continued. "I thought we had
started a new ghost when he came into my room in a purple dressing-gown
and broke the news."

"Who wanted him?" the Duke enquired. "His tailor?"

"Business of importance was his pretext," Dominey replied.

There was a little ripple of good-humoured laughter.

"Does Eddy do anything for a living?" Caroline asked, yawning.

"Mr. Pelham is a director of the Chelsea Motor Works," Mangan told them.
"He received a small legacy last year, and his favourite taxicab man was
the first to know about it."

"You're not suggesting," she exclaimed, "that it is business of that
sort which has taken Eddy away!"

"I should think it most improbable," Mangan confessed. "As a matter of
fact, he asked me the other day if I knew where their premises were."

"We shall miss him," she acknowledged. "It was quite one of the events
of the day to see his costume after shooting."

"His bridge was reasonably good," the Duke commented.

"He shot rather well the last two days," Mangan remarked.

"And he had told me confidentially," Caroline concluded, "that he was
going to wear brown to-day. Now I think Eddy would have looked nice in
brown."

The missing young man's requiem was finished by the arrival of the local
morning papers. A few moments later Dominey rose and left the room.
Seaman, who had been unusually silent, followed him.

"My friend," he confided, "I do not know whether you have heard, but
there was a curious disappearance from the Hall last night."

"Whose?" Dominey asked, pausing in the act of selecting a cigarette.

"Our friend Miller, or Wolff--Doctor Schmidt's emissary," Seaman
announced, "has disappeared."

"Disappeared?" Dominey repeated. "I suppose he is having a prowl round
somewhere."

"I have left it to you to make more careful enquiries," Seaman replied.
"All I can tell you is that I made up my mind last night to interview
him once more and try to fathom his very mysterious behaviour. I
found the door of your butler's sitting-room locked, and a very civil
fellow--Mr. Pelham's valet he turned out to be--told me that he had left
in the car which went for the evening papers."

"I will go and make some enquiries," Dominey decided, after a moment's
puzzled consideration.

"If you please," Seaman acquiesced. "The affair disconcerts me because I
do not understand it. When there is a thing which I do not understand, I
am uncomfortable."

Dominey vanished into the nether regions, spent half an hour with
Rosamund, and saw nothing of his disturbed guest again until they were
walking to the first wood. They had a moment together after Dominey had
pointed out the stands.

"Well?" Seaman enquired.

"Our friend," Dominey announced, "apparently made up his mind to go
quite suddenly. A bed was arranged for him--or rather it is always
there--in a small apartment opening out of the butler's room, on
the ground floor. He said nothing about leaving until he saw Parkins
preparing to go down to the station with the chauffeur. Then he insisted
upon accompanying him, and when he found there was a train to Norwich he
simply bade them both good night. He left no message whatever for either
you or me."

Seaman was thoughtful.

"There is no doubt," he said, "that his departure was indicative of a
certain distrust in us. He came to find out something, and I suppose he
found it out. I envy you your composure, my friend. We live on the brink
of a volcano, and you shoot pheasants."

"We will try a partridge for a change," Dominey observed, swinging round
as a single Frenchman with a dull whiz crossed the hedge behind them
and fell a little distance away, a crumpled heap of feathers. "Neat, I
think?" he added, turning to his companion.

"Marvellous!" Seaman replied, with faint sarcasm. "I envy your nerve."

"I cannot take this matter very seriously," Dominey acknowledged. "The
fellow seemed to me quite harmless."

"My anxieties have also been aroused in another direction," Seaman
confided.

"Any other trouble looming?" Dominey asked.

"You will find yourself minus another guest when you return this
afternoon."

"The Princess?"

"The Princess," Seaman assented. "I did my best with her last night, but
I found her in a most peculiar frame of mind. We are to be relieved of
any anxiety concerning her for some time, however. She has decided to
take a sea voyage."

"Where to?"

"Africa!"

Dominey paused in the act of inserting a cartridge into his gun. He
turned slowly around and looked into his companion's expressionless
face.

"Why the mischief is she going out there?" he asked.

"I can no more tell you that," Seaman replied, "than why Johann Wolff
was sent over here to spy upon our perfect work. I am most unhappy, my
friend. The things which I understand, however threatening they are, I
do not fear. Things which I do not understand oppress me."

Dominey laughed quietly.

"Come," he said, "there is nothing here which seriously threatens our
position. The Princess is angry, but she is not likely to give us away.
This man Wolff could make no adverse report about either of us. We are
doing our job and doing it well. Let our clear consciences console us."

"That is well," Seaman replied, "but I feel uneasy. I must not stay here
longer. Too intimate an association between you and me is unwise."

"Well, I think I can be trusted," Dominey observed, "even if I am to be
left alone."

"In every respect except as regards the Princess," Seaman admitted,
"your deportment has been most discreet."

"Except as regards the Princess," Dominey repeated irritably. "Really,
my friend, I cannot understand your point of view in this matter.
You could not expect me to mix up a secret honeymoon with my present
commitments!"

"There might surely have been some middle way?" Seaman persisted. "You
show so much tact in other matters."

"You do not know the Princess," Dominey muttered.



Rosamund joined them for luncheon, bringing news of Stephanie's sudden
departure, with notes and messages for everybody. Caroline made a little
grimace at her host.

"You're in trouble!" she whispered in his ear. "All the same, I approve.
I like Stephanie, but she is an exceedingly dangerous person."

"I wonder whether she is," Dominey mused.

"I think men have generally found her so," Caroline replied. "She had
one wonderful love affair, which ended, as you know, in her husband
being killed in a duel and her lover being banished from the country.
Still, she's not quite the sort of woman to be content with a banished
lover. I fancied I noticed distinct signs of her being willing to
replace him whilst she has been down here!"

"I feel as though a blight had settled upon my house party," Dominey
remarked with bland irrelevancy. "First Eddy, then Mr. Ludwig Miller,
and now Stephanie."

"And who on earth was Mr. Ludwig Miller, after all?" Caroline enquired.

"He was a fat, flaxen-haired German who brought me messages from old
friends in Africa. He had no luggage but a walking stick, and he seems
to have upset the male part of my domestics last night by accepting a
bed and then disappearing!"

"With the plate?"

"Not a thing missing. Parkins spent an agonised half hour, counting
everything. Mr. Ludwig appears to be one of those unsolved mysteries
which go to make up an imperfect world."

"Well, we've had a jolly time," Caroline said reminiscently. "To-morrow
Henry and I are off, and I suppose the others. I must say on the whole I
am delighted with our visit."

"You are very gracious," Dominey murmured.

"I came, perhaps, expecting to see a little more of you," she went
on deliberately, "but there is a very great compensation for my
disappointment. I think your wife, Everard, is worth taking trouble
about. She is perfectly sweet, and her manners are most attractive."

"I am very glad you think that," he said warmly.

She looked away from him.

"Everard," she sighed, "I believe you are in love with your wife."

There was a strange, almost a terrible mixture of expressions in his
face as he answered,--a certain fear, a certain fondness, a certain
almost desperate resignation. Even his voice, as a rule so slow and
measured, shook with an emotion which amazed his companion.

"I believe I am," he muttered. "I am afraid of my feelings for her. It
may bring even another tragedy down upon us."

"Don't talk rubbish!" Caroline exclaimed. "What tragedy could come
between you now? You've recovered your balance. You are a strong,
steadfast person, just fitted to be the protector of anything so sweet
and charming as Rosamund. Tragedy, indeed! Why don't you take her
down to the South of France, Everard, and have your honeymoon all over
again?"

"I can't do that just yet."

She studied him curiously. There were times when he seemed wholly
incomprehensible to her.

"Are you still worried about that Unthank affair?" she asked.

He hesitated for a moment.

"There is still an aftermath to our troubles," he told her, "one cloud
which leans over us. I shall clear it up in time,--but other things may
happen first."

"You take yourself very seriously, Everard," she observed, looking at
him with a puzzled expression. "One would think that there was a side
of your life, and a very important one, which you kept entirely to
yourself. Why do you have that funny little man Seaman always round with
you? You're not being blackmailed or anything, are you?"

"On the contrary," he told her, "Seaman was the first founder of my
fortunes."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"I have made a little money once or twice on the Stock Exchange," she
remarked, "but I didn't have to carry my broker about in my pocket
afterwards."

"Seaman is a good-hearted little fellow, and he loves companionship. He
will drift away presently, and one won't see anything of him for ages."

"Henry began to wonder," she concluded drily, "whether you were going to
stand for Parliament on the Anglo-German alliance ticket."

Dominey laughed as he caught Middleton's reproachful eye in the doorway
of the farmer's kitchen in which they were hunching. He gave the signal
to rise.

"I have had some thoughts of Parliament," he admitted, "but--well, Henry
need not worry."



CHAPTER XXIV

The next morning saw the breaking-up of Dominey's carefully arranged
shooting party. The Prince took his host's arm and led him to one side
for a few moments, as the cars were being loaded up. His first few words
were of formal thanks. He spoke then more intimately.

"Von Ragastein," he said, "I desire to refer back for a moment to our
conversation the other day."

Dominey shook his head and glanced behind.

"I know only one name here, Prince."

"Dominey, then. I will confess that you play and carry the part through
perfectly. I have known English gentlemen all my life, and you have
the trick of the thing. But listen. I have already told you of my
disapproval of this scheme in which you are the central figure."

"It is understood," Dominey assented.

"That," the Prince continued, "is a personal matter. What I am now going
to say to you is official. I had despatches from Berlin last night. They
concern you."

Dominey seemed to stiffen a little.

"Well?"

"I am given to understand," the Ambassador continued, "that you
practically exist only in the event of that catastrophe which I, for
one, cannot foresee. I am assured that if your expose should take place
at any time, your personation will be regarded as a private enterprise,
and there is nothing whatever to connect you with any political work."

"Up to the present that is absolutely so," Dominey agreed.

"I am further advised to look upon you as my unnamed and unsuspected
successor here, in the event of war. For that reason I am begged to
inaugurate terms of intimacy with you, to treat you with the utmost
confidence, and, if the black end should come, to leave in your hands
all such unfulfilled work as can be continued in secrecy and silence. I
perhaps express myself in a somewhat confused manner."

"I understand perfectly," Dominey replied. "The authorities have changed
their first idea as to my presence here. They want to keep every shadow
of suspicion away from me, so that in the event of war I shall have
an absolutely unique position, an unsuspected yet fervently patriotic
German, living hand in glove with the upper classes of English Society.
One can well imagine that there would be work for me."

"Our understanding is mutual," Terniloff declared. "What I have to say
to you, therefore, is that I hope you will soon follow us to London
and give me the opportunity of offering you the constant hospitality of
Carlton House Gardens."

"You are very kind, Prince," Dominey said. "My instructions are, as soon
as I have consolidated my position here--an event which I fancy I may
consider attained--to establish myself in London and to await orders. I
trust that amongst other things you will then permit me to examine the
memoirs you spoke of the other day."

"Naturally, and with the utmost pleasure," the Ambassador assented.
"They are a faithful record of my interviews and negotiations with
certain Ministers here, and they reflect a desire and intention for
peace which will, I think, amaze you. I venture now upon a somewhat
delicate question," he continued, changing the subject of their
conversation abruptly, as they turned back along the terrace. "Lady
Dominey will accompany you?"

"Of that I am not sure," Dominey replied thoughtfully. "I have noticed,
Prince, if I may be allowed to say so, your chivalrous regard for that
lady. You will permit me to assure you that in the peculiar position in
which I am placed I shall never forget that she is the wife of Everard
Dominey."

Terniloff shook hands heartily.

"I wanted to hear that from you," he admitted. "You I felt instinctively
were different, but there are many men of our race who are willing
enough to sacrifice a woman without the slightest scruple, either for
their passions or their policy. I find Lady Dominey charming."

"She will never lack a protector in me," Dominey declared.

There were more farewells and, soon after, the little procession of cars
drove off. Rosamund herself was on the terrace, bidding all her guests
farewell. She clung to Dominey's arm when at last they turned back into
the empty hall.

"What dear people they were, Everard!" she exclaimed. "I only wish that
I had seen more of them. The Duchess was perfectly charming to me, and I
never knew any one with such delightful manners as Prince Terniloff. Are
you going to miss them very much, dear?"

"Not a bit," he answered. "I think I shall take a gun now and stroll
down the meadows and across the rough ground. Will you come with me, or
will you put on one of your pretty gowns and entertain me downstairs at
luncheon? It is a very long time since we had a meal alone together."

She shook her head a little sadly.

"We never have had," she answered. "You know that, Everard, and alas! I
know it. But we are going on pretending, aren't we?"

He raised her fingers to his lips and kissed them.

"You shall pretend all that you like, dear Rosamund," he promised, "and
I will be the shadow of your desires. No! No tears!" he added quickly,
as she turned away. "Remember there is nothing but happiness for you
now. Whoever I am or am not, that is my one aim in life."

She clutched at his hand passionately, and suddenly, as though finding
it insufficient, twined her arms around his neck and kissed him.

"Let me come with you," she begged. "I can't bear to let you go. I'll be
very quiet. Will you wait ten minutes for me?"

"Of course," he answered.

He strolled down towards the gun room, stood by the fire for a moment,
and then wandered out into the courtyard, where Middleton and a couple
of beaters were waiting for him with the dogs. He had scarcely taken
a step towards them, however, when he stopped short. To his amazement
Seaman was there, standing a little on one side, with his eyes fixed
upon the windows of the servants' quarters.

"Hullo, my friend!" he exclaimed. "Why, I thought you went by the early
train from Thursford Station?"

"Missed it by two minutes," Seaman replied with a glance towards the
beaters. "I knew all the cars were full for the eleven o'clock, so I
thought I'd wait till the afternoon."

"And where have you been to for the last few hours, then?"

Seaman had reached his side now and was out of earshot of the others.

"Trying to solve the mystery of Johann Wolff's sudden departure last
night. Come and walk down the avenue with me a short way."

"A very short distance, then. I am expecting Lady Dominey."

They passed through the thin iron gates and paced along one of the back
entrances to the Hall.

"Do not think me indiscreet," Seaman began. "I returned without the
knowledge of any one, and I kept out of the way until they had all gone.
It is what I told you before. Things which I do not understand
depress me, and behold! I have found proof this morning of a further
significance in Wolff's sudden departure."

"Proceed," Dominey begged.

"I learned this morning, entirely by accident, that Mr. Pelham's servant
was either mistaken or willfully deceived me. Wolff did not accompany
your butler to the station."

"And how did you find that out?" Dominey demanded.

"It is immaterial! What is material is that there is a sort of
conspiracy amongst the servants here to conceal the manner of his
leaving. Do not interrupt me, I beg! Early this morning there was a
fresh fall of snow which has now disappeared. Outside the window of the
room which I found locked were the marks of footsteps and the tracks of
a small car."

"And what do you gather from all this?" Dominey asked.

"I gather that Wolff must have had friends in the neighbourhood," Seaman
replied, "or else--"

"Well?"

"My last supposition sounds absurd," Seaman confessed, "but the whole
matter is so incomprehensible that I was going to say--or else he was
forcibly removed."

Dominey laughed softly.

"Wolff would scarcely have been an easy man to abduct, would he," he
remarked, "even if we could hit upon any plausible reason for such a
thing! As a matter of fact, Seaman," he concluded, turning on his heel
a little abruptly as he saw Rosamund standing in the avenue, "I cannot
bring myself to treat this Johann Wolff business seriously. Granted that
the man was a spy, well, let him get on with it. We are doing our job
here in the most perfect and praiseworthy fashion. We neither of us have
the ghost of a secret to hide from his employers."

"In a sense that is true," Seaman admitted.

"Well, then, cheer up," Dominey enjoined. "Take a little walk with us,
and we will see whether Parkins cannot find us a bottle of that old
Burgundy for lunch. How does that sound?"

"If you will excuse me from taking the walk," Seaman begged, "I would
like to remain here until your return."

"You are more likely to do harm," Dominey reminded him, "and set
the servants talking, if you show too much interest in this man's
disappearance."

"I shall be careful," Seaman promised, "but there are certain things
which I cannot help. I work always from instinct, and my instinct is
never wrong. I will ask no more questions of your servants, but I know
that there is something mysterious about the sudden departure of Johann
Wolff."

Dominey and Rosamund returned about one o'clock to find a note from
Seaman, which the former tore open as his companion stood warming her
feet in front of the fire. There were only a few lines:


"I am following an idea. It takes me to London. Let us meet there within
a few days.

"S."


"Has he really gone?" Rosamund asked.

"Back to London."

She laughed happily. "Then we shall lunch _a deux_ after all!
Delightful! I have my wish!"

There was a sudden glow in Dominey's face, a glow which was instantly
suppressed.

"Shall I ever have mine?" he asked, with a queer little break in his
voice.



CHAPTER XXV

Terniloff and Dominey, one morning about six months later, lounged
underneath a great elm tree at Ranelagh, having iced drinks after a
round of golf. Several millions of perspiring Englishmen were at the
same moment studying with dazed wonder the headlines in the midday
papers.

"I suppose," the Ambassador remarked, as he leaned back in his chair
with an air of lazy content, "that I am being accused of fiddling while
Rome burns."

"Every one has certainly not your confidence in the situation," Dominey
rejoined calmly.

"There is no one else who knows quite so much," Terniloff reminded him.

Dominey sipped his drink for a moment or two in silence.

"Have you the latest news of the Russian mobilisation?" he asked. "They
had some startling figures in the city this morning."

The Prince waved his hand.

"My faith is not founded on these extraneous incidents," he replied. "If
Russia mobilises, it is for defence. No nation in the world would
dream of attacking Germany, nor has Germany the slightest intention
of imperilling her coming supremacy amongst the nations by such crude
methods as military enterprise. Servia must be punished, naturally, but
to that, in principle, every nation in Europe is agreed. We shall not
permit Austria to overstep the mark."

"You are at least consistent, Prince," Dominey remarked.

Terniloff smiled.

"That is because I have been taken behind the scenes," he said. "I have
been shown, as is the privilege of ambassadors, the mind of our rulers.
You, my friend," he went on, "spent your youth amongst the military
faction. You think that you are the most important people in Germany.
Well, you are not. The Kaiser has willed it otherwise. By-the-by, I had
yesterday a most extraordinary cable from Stephanie."

Dominey ceased swinging his putter carelessly over the head of a daisy
and turned his head to listen.

"Is she on the way home?"

"She is due in Southampton at any moment now. She wants to know where
she can see me immediately upon her arrival, as she has information of
the utmost importance to give me."

"Did she ever tell you the reason for her journey to Africa?"

"She was most mysterious about it. If such an idea had had any logical
outcome, I should have surmised that she was going there to seek
information as to your past."

"She gave Seaman the same idea," Dominey observed. "I scarcely see what
she has to gain. In Africa, as a matter of fact," he went on, "my life
would bear the strictest investigation."

"The whole affair is singularly foolish," the Prince declared, "Still,
I am not sure that you have been altogether wise. Even accepting your
position, I see no reason why you should not have obeyed the Kaiser's
behest. My experience of your Society here is that love affairs between
men and women moving in the same circles are not uncommon."

"That," Dominey urged, "is when they are all tarred with the same brush.
My behaviour towards Lady Dominey has been culpable enough as it is.
To have placed her in the position of a neglected wife would have been
indefensible. Further, it might have affected the position which it is
in the interests of my work that I should maintain here."

"An old subject," the Ambassador sighed, "best not rediscussed. Behold,
our womenkind!"

Rosamund and the Princess had issued from the house, and the two men
hastened to meet them. The latter looked charming, exquisitely gowned,
and stately in appearance. By her side Rosamund, dressed with the same
success but in younger fashion, seemed almost like a child. They
passed into the luncheon room, crowded with many little parties of
distinguished and interesting people, brilliant with the red livery of
the waiters, the profusion of flowers--all that nameless elegance which
had made the place society's most popular rendezvous. The women, as they
settled into their places, asked a question which was on the lips of a
great many English people of that day.

"Is there any news?"

Terniloff perhaps felt that he was the cynosure of many eager and
anxious eyes. He smiled light-heartedly as he answered:

"None. If there were, I am convinced that it would be good. I have been
allowed to play out my titanic struggle against Sir Everard without
interruption."

"I suppose the next important question to whether it is to be peace or
war is, how did you play?" the Princess asked.

"I surpassed myself," her husband replied, "but of course no ordinary
human golfer is of any account against Dominey. He plays far too well
for any self-respecting Ger--"

The Ambassador broke off and paused while he helped himself to
mayonnaise.

"For any self-respecting German to play against," he concluded.

Luncheon was a very pleasant meal, and a good many people noticed the
vivacity of the beautiful Lady Dominey whose picture was beginning
to appear in the illustrated papers. Afterwards they drank coffee and
sipped liqueurs under the great elm tree on the lawn, listening to the
music and congratulating themselves upon having made their escape
from London. In the ever-shifting panorama of gaily-dressed women and
flannel-clad men, the monotony of which was varied here and there by the
passing of a diplomatist or a Frenchman, scrupulously attired in morning
clothes, were many familiar faces. Caroline and a little group of
friends waved to them from the terrace. Eddy Pelham, in immaculate
white, and a long tennis coat with dark blue edgings, paused to speak to
them on his way to the courts.

"How is the motor business, Eddy?" Dominey asked, with a twinkle in his
eyes.

"So, so! I'm not quite so keen as I was. To tell you the truth," the
young man confided, glancing around and lowering his voice so that no
one should share the momentous information, "I was lucky enough to pick
up a small share in Jere Moore's racing stable at Newmarket, the other
day. I fancy I know a little more about gee-gees than I do about the
inside of motors, what?"

"I should think very possibly that you are right," Dominey assented, as
the young man passed on with a farewell salute.

Terniloff looked after him curiously.

"It is the type of young man, that," he declared, "which we cannot
understand. What would happen to him, in the event of a war? In the
event of his being called upon, say, either to fight or do some work of
national importance for his country?"

"I expect he would do it," Dominey replied. "He would do it pluckily,
whole-heartedly and badly. He is a type of the upper-class young
Englishman, over-sanguine and entirely undisciplined. They expect, and
their country expects for them that in the case of emergency pluck would
take the place of training."

The Right Honourable Gerald Watson stood upon the steps talking to the
wife of the Italian Ambassador. She left him presently, and he came
strolling down the lawn with his hands behind his back and his eyes
seeming to see out past the golf links.

"There goes a man," Terniloff murmured, "whom lately I have found
changed. When I first came here he met me quite openly. I believe, even
now, he is sincerely desirous of peace and amicable relations between
our two countries, and yet something has fallen between us. I cannot
tell what it is. I cannot tell even of what nature it is, but I have an
instinct for people's attitude towards me, and the English are the worst
race in the world at hiding their feelings. Has Mr. Watson, I wonder
come under the spell of your connection, the Duke of Worcester? He
seemed so friendly with both of us down in Norfolk."

Their womenkind left them at that moment to talk to some acquaintances
seated a short distance way. Mr. Watson, passing within a few yards of
them, was brought to a standstill by Dominey's greeting. They talked for
a moment or two upon idle subjects.

"Your news, I trust, continues favourable?" the Ambassador remarked,
observing the etiquette which required him to be the first to leave the
realms of ordinary conversation.

"It is a little negative in quality," the other answered, after a
moment's hesitation. "I am summoned to Downing Street again at six
o'clock."

"I have already confided the result of my morning despatches to the
Prime Minister," Terniloff observed.

"I went through them before I came down here," was the somewhat doubtful
reply.

"You will have appreciated, I hope, their genuinely pacific tone?"
Terniloff asked anxiously.

His interlocutor bowed and then drew himself up. It was obvious that the
strain of the last few days was telling upon him. There were lines about
his mouth, and his eyes spoke of sleepless nights.

"Words are idle things to deal with at a time like this," he said. "One
thing, however, I will venture to say to you, Prince, here and under
these circumstances. There will be no war unless it be the will of your
country."

Terniloff was for a moment unusually pale. It was an episode of
unrecorded history. He rose to his feet and raised his hat.

"There will be no war," he said solemnly.

The Cabinet Minister passed on with a lighter step. Dominey, more
clearly than ever before, understood the subtle policy which had chosen
for his great position a man as chivalrous and faithful and yet as
simple-minded as Terniloff. He looked after the retreating figure of the
Cabinet Minister with a slight smile at the corner of his lips.

"In a time like this," he remarked significantly, "one begins
to understand why one of our great writers--was it Bernhardi, I
wonder?--has written that no island could ever breed a race of
diplomatists."

"The seas which engirdle this island," the Ambassador said thoughtfully,
"have brought the English great weal, as they may bring to her much woe.
The too-nimble brain of the diplomat has its parallel of insincerity in
the people whose interests he seems to guard. I believe in the honesty
of the English politicians, I have placed that belief on record in the
small volume of memoirs which I shall presently entrust to you. But
we talk too seriously for a summer afternoon. Let us illustrate to the
world our opinion of the political situation and play another nine holes
at golf."

Dominey rose willingly to his feet, and the two men strolled away
towards the first tee.

"By the by," Terniloff asked, "what of our cheerful little friend
Seaman? He ought to be busy just now."

"Curiously enough, he is returning from Germany to-night," Dominey
announced. "I expect him at Berkeley square. He is coming direct to me."



CHAPTER XXVI

These were days, to all dwellers in London, of vivid impressions, of
poignant memories, reasserting themselves afterwards with a curious
sense of unreality, as though belonging to another set of days and
another world. Dominey long remembered his dinner that evening in the
sombre, handsomely furnished dining-room of his town house in Berkeley
Square. Although it lacked the splendid proportions of the banqueting
hall at Dominey, it was still a fine apartment, furnished in the
Georgian period, with some notable pictures upon the walls, and with a
wonderful ceiling and fireplace. Dominey and Rosamund dined alone, and
though the table had been reduced to its smallest proportions, the space
between them was yet considerable. As soon as Parkins had gravely put
the port upon the table, Rosamund rose to her feet and, instead of
leaving the room, pointed for the servant to place a chair for her by
Dominey's side.

"I shall be like your men friends, Everard," she declared, "when the
ladies have left, and draw up to your side. Now what do we do? Tell
stories? I promise you that I will be a wonderful listener."

"First of all you drink half a glass of this port," he declared, filling
her glass, "then you peel me one of those peaches, and we divide it.
After which we listen for a ring at the bell. To-night I expect a
visitor."

"A visitor?"

"Not a social one," he assured her. "A matter of business which I fear
will take me from you for the rest of the evening. So let us make the
most of the time until he comes."

She commenced her task with the peach, talking to him all the time a
little gravely, a sweet and picturesque picture of a graceful and very
desirable woman, her delicate shape and artistic fragility more than
ever accentuated by the sombreness of the background.

"Do you know, Everard," she said, "I am so happy in London here
with you, and I feel all the time so strong and well. I can read and
understand the books which were a maze of print to me before. I can
see the things in the pictures, and feel the thrill of the music, which
seemed to come to me, somehow, before, all dislocated and discordant.
You understand, dear?"

"Of course," he answered gravely.

"I do not wonder," she went on, "that Doctor Harrison is proud of me for
a patient, but there are many times when I feel a dull pain in my heart,
because I know that, whatever he or anybody else might say, I am not
quite cured."

"Rosamund dear," he protested.

"Ah, but don't interrupt," she insisted, depositing his share of the
peach upon his plate. "How can I be cured when all the time there is the
problem of you, the problem which I am just as far off solving as ever I
was? Often I find myself comparing you with the Everard whom I married."

"Do I fail so often to come up to his standard?" he asked.

"You never fail," she answered, looking at him with brimming eyes.
"Of course, he was very much more affectionate," she went on, after a
moment's pause. "His kisses were not like yours. And he was far fonder
of having me with him. Then, on the other hand, often when I wanted him
he was not there, he did wild things, mad things; he seemed to forget
me altogether. It was that," she went on, "that was so terrible. It was
that which made me so nervous. I think that I should even have been able
to stand those awful moments when he came back to me, covered with blood
and reeling, if it had not been that I was already almost a wreck. You
know, he killed Roger Unthank that night. That is why he was never able
to come back."

"Why do you talk of these things to-night, Rosamund," Dominey begged.

"I must, dear," she insisted, laying her fingers upon his hand and
looking at him curiously. "I must, even though I see how they distress
you. It is wonderful that you should mind so much, Everard, but you do,
and I love you for it."

"Mind?" he groaned. "Mind!"

"You are so like him and yet so different," she went on meditatively.
"You drink so little wine, you are always so self-controlled, so
serious. You live as though you had a life around you of which others
knew nothing. The Everard I remember would never have cared about being
a magistrate or going into Parliament. He would have spent his time
racing or yachting, hunting or shooting, as the fancy took him. And
yet--"

"And yet what?" Dominey asked, a little hoarsely.

"I think he loved me better than you," she said very sadly.

"Why?" he demanded.

"I cannot tell you," she answered, with her eyes upon her plate, "but I
think that he did."

Dominey walked suddenly to the window and leaned out. There were drops
of moisture upon his forehead, he felt the fierce need of air. When he
came back she was still sitting there, still looking down.

"I have spoken to Doctor Harrison about it," she went on, her voice
scarcely audible. "He told me that you probably loved more than you
dared to show, because someday the real Everard might come back."

"That is quite true," he reminded her softly. "He may come back at any
moment."

She gripped his hand, her voice shook with passion. She leaned towards
him, her other arm stole around his neck.

"But I don't want him to come back!" she cried. "I want you!"

Dominey sat for a moment motionless, like a figure of stone. Through the
wide-flung, blind-shielded windows came the raucous cry of a newsboy,
breaking the stillness of the summer evening. And then another and
sharper interruption,--the stopping of a taxicab outside, the firm,
insistent ringing of the front doorbell. Recollection came to Dominey,
and a great strength. The fire which had leaped up within him was thrust
back. His response to her wave of passion was infinitely tender.

"Dear Rosamund," he said, "that front doorbell summons me to rather an
important interview. Will you please trust in me a little while longer?
Believe me, I am not in any way cold. I am not indifferent. There is
something which you will have to be told,--something with which I never
reckoned, something which is beginning to weigh upon me night and day.
Trust me, Rosamund, and wait!"

She sank back into her chair with a piquant and yet pathetic little
grimace.

"You tell me always to wait," she complained. "I will be patient, but
you shall tell me this. You are so kind to me. You make or mar my life.
You must care a little? Please?"

He was standing up now. He kissed her hands fondly. His voice had all
the old ring in it.

"More than for any woman on earth, dear Rosamund!"



Seaman, in a light grey suit, a panama, and a white beflowered tie, had
lost something of the placid urbanity of a few months ago. He was hot
and tired with travel. There were new lines in his face and a queer
expression of anxiety about his eyes, at the corners of which little
wrinkles had begun to appear. He responded to Dominey's welcome with a
fervour which was almost feverish, scrutinised him closely, as though
expecting to find some change, and finally sank into an easy-chair with
a little gesture of relief. He had been carrying a small, brown despatch
case, which he laid on the carpet by his side.

"You have news?" Dominey asked.

"Yes," was the momentous reply, "I have news."

Dominey rang the bell. He had already surmised, from the dressing-case
and coats in the hall, that his visitor had come direct from the
station.

"What will you have?" he enquired.

"A bottle of hock with seltzer water, and ice if you have it," Seaman
replied. "Also a plate of cold meat, but it must be served here.
And afterwards the biggest cigar you have. I have indeed news, news
disturbing, news magnificent, news astounding."

Dominey gave some orders to the servant who answered his summons. For a
few moments they spoke trivialities of the journey. When everything was
served, however, and the door closed, Seaman could wait no longer. His
appetite, his thirst, his speech, seemed all stimulated to swift action.

"We are of the same temperament," he said. "That I know. We will speak
first of what is more than disturbing--a little terrifying. The mystery
of Johann Wolff has been solved."

"The man who came to us with messages from Schmidt in South Africa?"
Dominey asked. "I had almost forgotten about him."

"The same. What was at the back of his visit to us that night I cannot
even now imagine. Neither is it clear why he held aloof from me, who
am his superior in practically the same service. There we are, from the
commencement, confronted with a very singular happening, but scarcely
so singular as the denouement. Wolff vanished from your house that night
into an English fortress."

"It seems incredible," Dominey declared bluntly.

"It is nevertheless true," Seaman insisted. "No member of our service
is allowed to remain more than one month without communicating his
existence and whereabouts to headquarters. No word has been received
from Wolff since that night in January. On the other hand, indirect
information has reached us that he is in durance over here."

"But such a thing is against the law, unheard of," Dominey protested.
"No country can keep the citizen of another country in prison without
formulating a definite charge or bringing him up for trial."

Seaman smiled grimly.

"That's all very well in any ordinary case," he said. "Wolff has been
a marked man for years, though. Wilhelmstrasse would soon make fuss
enough, if it were of any use, but it would not be. There are one or
two Englishmen in German prisons at the present moment, concerning whose
welfare the English Foreign Office has not even thought it worth while
to enquire. What troubles me more than the actual fact of Wolff's
disappearance is the mystery of his visit to you and his apprehension
practically on the spot."

"They must have tracked him down there," Dominey remarked.

"Yes, but they couldn't thrust a pair of tongs into your butler's
sitting-room, extract Johann Wolff, and set him down inside Norwich
Castle or whatever prison he may be in," Seaman objected. "However, the
most disquieting feature about Wolff is that it introduces something we
don't understand. For the rest, we have many men as good, and better,
and the time for their utility is past. You are our great hope now,
Dominey."

"It is to be, then?"

Seaman took a long and ecstatic draught of his hock and seltzer.

"It is to be," he declared solemnly. "There was never any doubt about
it. If Russia ceases to mobilise to-morrow, if every statesman in Servia
crawls to Vienna with a rope around his neck, the result would still
be the same. The word has gone out. The whole of Germany is like a vast
military camp. It comes exactly twelve months before the final day
fixed by our great authorities, but the opportunity is too great, too
wonderful for hesitation. By the end of August we shall be in Paris."

"You bring news indeed!" Dominey murmured, standing for a moment by the
opened window.

"I have been received with favour in the very loftiest circles," Seaman
continued. "You and I both stand high in the list of those to whom great
rewards shall come. His Majesty approves altogether of your reluctance
to avail yourself of his permission to wed the Princess Eiderstrom. 'Von
Ragastein has decided well,' he declared. 'These are not the days for
marriage or giving in marriage. These, the most momentous days the world
has ever known, the days when an empire shall spring into being, the
mightiest since the Continents fell into shape and the stars looked down
upon this present world.' Those are the words of the All Highest. In
his eyes the greatest of all attributes is singleness of purpose.
You followed your own purpose, contrary to my advice, contrary to
Terniloff's. You will gain by it."

Seaman finished his meal in due course, and the tray was removed. Soon
the two men were alone again, Seaman puffing out dense volumes of smoke,
gripping his cigar between his teeth, brandishing it sometimes in his
hand to give effect to his words. A little of his marvellous caution
seemed to have deserted him. For the first time he spoke directly to his
companion.

"Von Ragastein," he said, "it is a great country, ours. It is a
wonderful empire we shall build. To-night I am on fire with the mighty
things. I have a list of instructions for you, many details. They can
wait. We will talk of our future, our great and glorious destiny as the
mightiest nation who has ever earned for herself the right to govern the
world. You would think that in Germany there was excitement. There is
none. The task of every one is allotted, their work made clear to them.
Like a mighty piece of gigantic machinery, we move towards war. Every
regiment knows its station, every battery commander knows his positions,
every general knows his exact line of attack. Rations, clothing,
hospitals, every unit of which you can think, has its movements
calculated out for it to the last nicety."

"And the final result?" Dominey asked. "Is that also calculated?"

Seaman, with trembling fingers, unlocked the little despatch box which
stood by his side and took from it jealously a sheet of linen-backed
parchment.

"You, my friend," he said, "are one of the first to gaze upon this. This
will show you the dream of our Kaiser. This will show you the framework
of the empire that is to be."

He laid out a map upon the table. The two men bent over it. It was a map
of Europe, in which England, a diminished France, Spain, Portugal and
Italy, were painted in dark blue. For the rest, the whole of the space
included between two liens, one from Hamburg to Athens, the other from
Finland to the Black Sea, was painted a deep scarlet, with here and
there portions of it in slightly lighter colouring. Seaman laid his palm
upon the map.

"There lies our future Empire," he said solemnly and impressively.

"Explain it to me," Dominey begged.

"Broadly speaking, everything between those two lines belongs to the new
German Empire. Poland, Courland, Lithuania, and the Ukraine will possess
a certain degree of autonomous government, which will practically amount
to nothing. Asia is there at our feet. No longer will Great Britain
control the supplies of the world. Raw materials of every description
will be ours. Leather, tallow, wheat, oil, fats, timber--they are all
there for us to draw upon. And for wealth--India and China! What more
could you have, my friend?"

"You take my breath away. But what about Austria?"

Seaman's grin was almost sardonic.

"Austria," he said, "must already feel her doom creeping upon her. There
is no room in middle Europe for two empires, and the House of Hapsburg
must fall before the House of Hohenzollern. Austria, body and soul, must
become part of the German Empire. Then further down, mark you. Roumania
must become a vassal state or be conquered. Bulgaria is already ours.
Turkey, with Constantinople, is pledged. Greece will either join us
or be wiped out. Servia will be blotted from the map; probably also
Montenegro. These countries which are painted in fainter red, like
Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece, become vassal states, to be absorbed one by
one as opportunity presents itself."

Dominey's finger strayed northward.

"Belgium," he observed, "has disappeared."

"Belgium we shall occupy and enslave," Seaman replied. "Our line of
advance into France lies that way, and we need her ports to dominate the
Thames. Holland and the Scandinavian countries, as you observe are
left in the lighter shade of red. If an opportunity occurs, Holland and
Denmark may be incited to take the field against us. If they do so,
it means absorption. If they remain, as they probably will, scared
neutrals, they will none the less be our vassal states when the last gun
has been fired."

"And Norway and Sweden?"

Seaman looked down at the map and smiled.

"Look at them," he said. "They lie at our mercy. Norway has her western
seaboard, and there might always be the question of British aid so far
as she is concerned. But Sweden is ours, body and soul. More than any
other of these vassal states, it is our master's plan to bring her into
complete subjection. We need her lusty manhood, the finest cannon food
in the world, for later wars, if indeed such a thing should be. She has
timber and minerals which we also need. But there--it is enough. First
of all men in this country, my friend, you Von Ragastein, have gazed
upon this picture of the future."

"This is marvellously conceived," Dominey muttered, "but what of Russian
with her millions? How is it that we propose, notwithstanding her
countless millions of men, to help ourselves to her richest provinces,
to drive a way through the heart of her empire?"

"This," Seaman replied, "is where genius steps in. Russia has been ripe
for a revolution any time for the last fifteen years. We have secret
agents now in every city and country place and throughout the army. We
shall teach Russia how to make herself a free country."

Dominey shivered a little with an almost involuntary repulsion. For the
second time that almost satyr-like grin on Seaman's face revolted him.

"And what of my own work?"

Seaman helped himself to a liqueur. He was, as a rule, a moderate man,
but this was the third time he had replenished his glass since his hasty
meal.

"My brain is weary, friend," he admitted, passing his hand over his
forehead. "I have a great fatigue. The thoughts jump about. This last
week has been one of fierce excitements. Everything, almost your
daily life, has been planned. We shall go over it within a day or so.
Meanwhile, remember this. It is our great aim to keep England out of the
war."

"Terniloff is right, then, after all!" Dominey exclaimed.

Seaman laughed scornfully.

"If we want England out of the war," he pointed out, "it is not that we
desire her friendship. It is that we may crush her the more easily
when Calais, Boulogne and Havre are in our hands. That will be in three
months' time. Then perhaps our attitude towards England may change a
little! Now I go."

Dominey folded up the map with reluctance. His companion shook his head.
It was curious that he, too, for the first time in his life upon the
same day, addressed his host differently.

"Baron Von Ragastein," he said, "there are six of those maps in
existence. That one is for you. Lock it away and guard it as though it
were your greatest treasure on earth, but when you are alone, bring it
out and study it. It shall be your inspiration, it shall lighten your
moments of depression, give you courage when you are in danger; it shall
fill your mind with pride and wonder. It is yours."

Dominey folded it carefully up, crossed the room, unlocked a little safe
and deposited it therein.

"I shall guard it, according to your behest, as my greatest treasure,"
he assured his departing guest, with a fervour which surprised even
himself.



CHAPTER XXVII

There was something dramatic, in the most lurid sense of the word, about
the brief telephone message which Dominey received, not so many hours
later, from Carlton House Terrace. In a few minutes he was moving
through the streets, still familiar yet already curiously changed.
Men and women were going about their business as usual, but an air of
stupefaction was everywhere apparent. Practically every loiterer was
studying a newspaper, every chance acquaintance had stopped to
confer with his fellows. War, alternately the joke and bogey of the
conversationalist, stretched her grey hands over the sunlit city. Even
the lightest-hearted felt a thrill of apprehension at the thought of the
horrors that were to come. In a day or two all this was to be changed.
People went about then counting the Russian millions; the steamroller
fetish was to be evolved. The most peaceful stockbroker or shopkeeper,
who had never even been to a review in his life, could make calculations
of man power with a stump of pencil on the back of an old envelope,
which would convince the greatest pessimist that Germany and Austria
were outnumbered by at least three to one. But on this particular
morning, people were too stunned for calculations. The incredible had
happened. The long-discussed war--the nightmare of the nervous, the
derision of the optimist--had actually materialised. The happy-go-luck
years of peace and plenty had suddenly come to an end. Black tragedy
leaned over the land.

Dominey, avoiding acquaintances as far as possible, his own mind in a
curious turmoil, passed down St. James's Street and along Pall Mall and
presented himself at Carlton House Terrace. Externally, the great
white building, with its rows of flower boxes, showed no signs of undue
perturbation. Inside, however, the anteroom was crowded with callers,
and it was only by the intervention of Terniloff's private secretary,
who was awaiting him, that Dominey was able to reach the inner
sanctum where the Ambassador was busy dictating letters. He broke off
immediately his visitor was announced and dismissed every one, including
his secretaries. Then he locked the door.

"Von Ragastein," he groaned, "I am a broken man!"

Dominey grasped his hand sympathetically. Terniloff seemed to have aged
years even in the last few hours.

"I sent for you," he continued, "to say farewell, to say farewell and
make a confession. You were right, and I was wrong. It would have better
if I had remained and played the country farmer on my estates. I was
never shrewd enough to see until now that I have been made the cat's-paw
of the very men whose policy I always condemned."

His visitor still remained silent. There was so little that he could
say.

"I have worked for peace," Terniloff went on, "believing that my country
wanted peace. I have worked for peace with honourable men who were just
as anxious as I was to secure it. But all the time those for whom I
laboured were making faces behind my back. I was nothing more nor
less than their tool. I know now that nothing in this world could have
hindered what is coming."

"Every one will at least realise," Dominey reminded him, "that you did
your best for peace."

"That is one reason why I sent for you," was the agitated reply. "Not
long ago I spoke of a little volume, a diary which I have been keeping
of my work in this country. I promised to show it to you. You have asked
me for it several times lately. I am going to show it to you now. It is
written up to yesterday. It will tell you of all my efforts and how they
were foiled. It is an absolutely faithful narrative of my work here, and
the English response to it."

The Prince crossed the room, unlocked one of the smaller safes, which
stood against the side of the wall, withdrew a morocco-bound volume the
size of a small portfolio, and returned to Dominey.

"I beg you," he said earnestly, "to read this with the utmost care and
to await my instructions with regard to it. You can judge, no doubt,"
he went on a little bitterly, "why I give it into your keeping. Even the
Embassy here is not free from our own spies, and the existence of these
memoirs is known. The moment I reach Germany, their fate is assured. I
am a German and a patriot, although my heart is bitter against those who
are bringing this blot upon our country. For that reason, these memoirs
must be kept in a safe place until I see a good use for them."

"You mean if the governing party in German should change?"

"Precisely! They would then form at once my justification, and place
English diplomacy in such a light before the saner portion of my fellow
countrymen that an honourable peace might be rendered possible. Study
them carefully, Von Ragastein. Perhaps even your own allegiance to the
Party you serve may waver for a moment as you read."

"I serve no Party," Dominey said quietly, "only my Country."

Terniloff sighed.

"Alas! there is no time for us to enter into one of our old arguments on
the ethics of government. I must send you away, Von Ragastein. You have
a terrible task before you. I am bound to wish you Godspeed. For myself
I shall not raise my head again until I have left England."

"There is no other commission?" Dominey asked. "No other way in which I
can serve you?"

"None," Terniloff answered sadly. "I am permitted to suffer no
inconveniences. My departure is arranged for as though I were royalty.
Yet believe me, my friend, every act of courtesy and generosity which I
receive in these moments, bites into my heart. Farewell!"

Dominey found a taxicab in Pall Mall and drove back to Berkeley Square.
He found Rosamund with a little troop of dogs, just entering the
gardens, and crossed to her side.

"Dear," he asked, taking her arm, "would you mind very much coming down
to Norfolk for a few days?"

"With you?" she asked quickly.

"Yes! I want to be in retreat for a short time. There are one or two
things I must settle before I take up some fresh work."

"I should love it," she declared enthusiastically. "London is getting so
hot, and every one is so excited."

"I shall order the touring car at three o'clock," Dominey told her. "We
shall get home about nine. Parkins and your maid can go down by train.
Does that suit you?"

"Delightfully!"

He took her arm and they paced slowly along the hot walk.

"Rosamund dear," he said, "the time has come which many people have been
dreading. We are at war."

"I know," she murmured.

"You and I have had quite a happy time together, these last few months,"
he went on, "even though there is still that black cloud between us. I
have tried to treat you as kindly and tenderly as though I were really
your husband and you were indeed my wife."

"You're not going away?" she cried, startled. "I couldn't bear that! No
one could ever be so sweet as you have been to me."

"Dear," he said, "I want you to think--of your husband--of Everard. He
was a soldier once for a short time, was he not? What do you think he
would have done now that this terrible war has come?"

"He would have done what you will do," she answered, with the slightest
possible tremor in her tone. "He would have become a soldier again, he
would have fought for his country."

"And so must I--fight for my country," he declared. "That is why I must
leave you for an hour now while I make some calls. I shall be back
to luncheon. Directly afterwards we must start. I have many things to
arrange first, though. Life is not going to be very easy for the next
few days."

She held on to his arm. She seemed curiously reluctant to let him go.

"Everard," she said, "when we are at Dominey shall I be able to see
Doctor Harrison?"

"Of course," he assured her.

"There is something I want to say to him," she confided, "something I
want to ask you, too. Are you the same person, Everard, when you are in
town as when you are in the country?"

He was a little taken aback at her question--asked, too, with such
almost plaintive seriousness. The very aberration it suggested seemed
altogether denied by her appearance. She was wearing a dress of black
and white muslin, a large black hat, Paris shoes. Her stockings, her
gloves, all the trifling details of her toilette, were carefully chosen,
and her clothes themselves gracefully and naturally worn. Socially, too,
she had been amazingly successful. Only the week before, Caroline had
come to him with a little shrug of the shoulders.

"I have been trying to be kind to Rosamund," she said, "and finding
out instead how unnecessary it is. She is quite the most popular of the
younger married women in our set. You don't deserve such luck, Everard."

"You know the proverb about the old roue," he had replied.

His mind had wandered for a moment. He realised Rosamund's question with
a little start.

"The same person, dear?" he repeated. "I think so. Don't I seem so to
you?"

She shook her head.

"I am not sure," she answered, a little mysteriously. "You see, in the
country I still remember sometimes that awful night when I so nearly
lost my reason. I have never seen you as you looked that night."

"You would rather not go back, perhaps?"

"That is the strange part of it," she replied. "There is nothing in the
world I want so much to do. There's an empty taxi, dear," she added,
as they reached the gate. "I shall go in and tell Justine about the
packing."



CHAPTER XXVIII

Within the course of the next few days, a strange rumour spread through
Dominey and the district,--from the farm labourer to the farmer, from
the school children to their homes, from the village post-office to the
neighbouring hamlets. A gang of woodmen from a neighbouring county,
with an engine and all the machinery of their craft, had started to work
razing to the ground everything in the shape of tree or shrub at
the north end of the Black Wood. The matter of the war was promptly
forgotten. Before the second day, every man, woman and child in the
place had paid an awed visit to the outskirts of the wood, had listened
to the whirr of machinery, had gazed upon the great bridge of planks
leading into the wood, had peered, in the hope of some strange discovery
into the tents of the men who were camping out. The men themselves were
not communicative, and the first time the foreman had been known to
open his mouth was when Dominey walked down to discuss progress, on the
morning after his arrival.

"It's a dirty bit of work, sir," he confided. "I don't know as I ever
came across a bit of woodland as was so utterly, hopelessly rotten. Why,
the wood crumbles when you touch it, and the men have to be within reach
of one another the whole of the time, though we've a matter of five
hundred planks down there."

"Come across anything unusual yet?"

"We ain't come across anything that isn't unusual so far, sir. My men
are all wearing extra leggings to keep them from being bitten by them
adders--as long as my arm, some of 'em. And there's fungus there which,
when you touch it, sends out a smell enough to make a man faint. We
killed a cat the first day, as big and as fierce as a young tigress.
It's a queer job, sir."

"How long will it take?"

"Matter of three weeks, sir, and when we've got the timber out you'll be
well advised to burn it. It's not worth a snap of the fingers.--Begging
your pardon, sir," the man went on, "the old lady in the distance there
hangs about the whole of the time. Some of my men are half scared of
her."

Dominey swung around. On a mound a little distance away in the park,
Rachael Unthank was standing. In her rusty black clothes, unrelieved
by any trace of colour, her white cheeks and strange eyes, even in the
morning light she was a repellent figure. Dominey strolled across to
her.

"You see, Mrs. Unthank," he began--

She interrupted him. Her skinny hand was stretched out towards the wood.

"What are those men doing, Sir Everard Dominey?" she demanded. "What is
your will with the wood?"

"I am carrying out a determination I came to in the winter," Dominey
replied. "Those men are going to cut and hew their way from one end of
the Black Wood to the other, until not a tree or a bush remains upright.
As they cut, they burn. Afterwards, I shall have it drained. We may live
to see a field of corn there, Mrs. Unthank."

"You will dare to do this?" she asked hoarsely.

"Will you dare to tell me why I should not, Mrs. Unthank?"

She relapsed into silence, and Dominey passed on. But that night, as
Rosamund and he were lingering over their dessert, enjoying the strange
quiet and the wonderful breeze which crept in at the open window,
Parkins announced a visitor.

"Mrs. Unthank is in the library, sir," he announced. "She would be glad
if you could spare her five minutes."

Rosamund shivered slightly, but nodded as Dominey glanced towards her
enquiringly.

"Don't let me see her, please," she begged. "You must go, of
course.--Everard!"

"Yes, dear?"

"I know what you are doing out there, although you have never said a
word to me about it," she continued, with an odd little note of passion
in her tone. "Don't let her persuade you to stop. Let them cut and burn
and hew till there isn't room for a mouse to hide. You promise?"

"I promise," he answered.

Mrs. Unthank was making every effort to keep under control her fierce
discomposure. She rose as Dominey entered the room and dropped an
old-fashioned curtsey.

"Well, Mrs. Unthank," he enquired, "what can I do for you?"

"It's about the wood again, sir," she confessed. "I can't bear it. All
night long I seem to hear those axes, and the calling of the men."

"What is your objection, Mrs. Unthank, to the destruction of the Black
Wood?" Dominey asked bluntly. "It is nothing more nor less than a
noisome pest-hole. Its very presence there, after all that she has
suffered, is a menace to Lady Dominey's nerves. I am determined to sweep
it from the face of the earth."

The forced respect was already beginning to disappear from her manner.

"There's evil will come to you if you do, Sir Everard," she declared
doggedly.

"Plenty of evil has come to me from that wood as it is," he reminded
her.

"You mean to disturb the spirit of him whose body you threw there?" she
persisted.

Dominey looked at her calmly. Some sort of evil seemed to have lit in
her face. Her lips had shrunk apart, showing her yellow teeth. The fire
in her narrowed eyes was the fire of hatred.

"I am no murderer, Mrs. Unthank," he said. "Your son stole out from the
shadow of that wood, attacked me in a cowardly manner, and we fought.
He was mad when he attacked me, he fought like a madman, and,
notwithstanding my superior strength, I was glad to get away alive. I
never touched his body. It lay where he fell. If he crept into the wood
and died there, then his death was not at my door. He sought for my life
as I never sought for his."

"You'd done him wrong," the woman muttered.

"That again is false. His passion for Lady Dominey was uninvited and
unreciprocated. Her only feeling concerning him was one of fear; that
the whole countryside knows. Your son was a lonely, a morose and an
ill-living man, Mrs. Unthank. If either of us had murder in our hearts,
it was he, not I. And as for you," Dominey went on, after a moment's
pause, "I think that you have had your revenge, Mrs. Unthank. It was you
who nursed my wife into insanity. It was you who fed her with the
horror of your son's so-called spirit. I think that if I had stayed away
another two years, Lady Dominey would have been in a mad-house to-day."

"I would to Heaven!" the woman cried, "that you'd rotted to death in
Africa!"

"You carry your evil feelings far, Mrs. Unthank," he replied. "Take my
advice. Give up this foolish idea that the Black Wood is still the home
of your son's spirit. Go and live on your annuity in another part of the
country and forget."

He moved across the room to throw open a window. Her eyes followed him
wonderingly.

"I have heard a rumour," she said slowly; "there has been a word spoken
here and there about you. I've had my doubts sometimes. I have them
again every time you speak. Are you really Everard Dominey?"

He swung around and faced her.

"Who else?"

"There's one," she went on, "has never believed it, and that's her
ladyship. I've heard strange talk from the people who've come under your
masterful ways. You're a harder man than the Everard Dominey I remember.
What if you should be an impostor?"

"You have only to prove that, Mrs. Unthank," Dominey replied, "and a
portion, at any rate, of the Black Wood may remain standing. You will
find it a little difficult, though.--You must excuse my ringing the
bell. I see no object in asking you to remain longer."

She rose unwillingly to her feet. Her manner was sullen and unyielding.

"You are asking for the evil things," she warned him.

"Be assured," Dominey answered, "that if they come I shall know how to
deal with them."



Dominey found Rosamund and Doctor Harrison, who had walked over from the
village, lingering on the terrace. He welcomed the latter warmly.

"You are a godsend, Doctor," he declared. "I have been obliged to leave
my port untasted for want of a companion. You will excuse us for a
moment Rosamund?"

She nodded pleasantly, and the doctor followed his host into the
dining-room and took his seat at the table where the dessert still
remained.

"Old woman threatening mischief?" the latter asked, with a keen glance
from under his shaggy grey eyebrows.

"I think she means it," Dominey replied, as he filled his guest's glass.
"Personally," he went on, after a moment's pause, "the present situation
is beginning to confirm an old suspicion of mine. I am a hard and fast
materialist, you know, Doctor, in certain matters, and I have not the
slightest faith in the vindictive mother, terrified to death lest the
razing of a wood of unwholesome character should turn out into the cold
world the spirit of her angel son."

"What do you believe?" the doctor asked bluntly.

"I would rather not tell you at the present moment," Dominey answered.
"It would sound too fantastic."

"Your note this afternoon spoke of urgency," the doctor observed.

"The matter is urgent. I want you to do me a great favour--to remain
here all night."

"You are expecting something to happen?"

"I wish, at any rate, to be prepared."

"I'll stay, with pleasure," the doctor promised. "You can lend me some
paraphernalia, I suppose? And give me a shake-down somewhere near Lady
Dominey's. By-the-by," he began, and hesitated.

"I have followed your advice, or rather your orders," Dominey
interrupted, a little harshly. "It has not always been easy, especially
in London, where Rosamund is away from these associations.--I am hoping
great things from what may happen to-night, or very soon."

The doctor nodded sympathetically.

"I shouldn't wonder if you weren't on the right track," he declared.

Rosamund came in through the window to them and seated herself by
Dominey's side.

"Why are you two whispering like conspirators?" she demanded.

"Because we are conspirators," he replied lightly. "I have persuaded
Doctor Harrison to stay the night. He would like a room in our wing.
Will you let the maids know, dear?"

She nodded thoughtfully.

"Of course! There are several rooms quite ready. Mrs. Midgeley thought
that we might be bringing down some guests. I am quite sure that we can
make Doctor Harrison comfortable."

"No doubt about that, Lady Dominey," the doctor declared. "Let me be as
near to your apartment as possible."

There was a shade of anxiety in her face.

"You think that to-night something will happen?" she asked.

"To-night, or one night very soon," Dominey assented. "It is just as
well for you to be prepared. You will not be afraid, dear? You will have
the doctor on one side of you and me on the other."

"I am only afraid of one thing," she answered a little enigmatically. "I
have been so happy lately."



Dominey, changed into ordinary morning clothes, with a thick cord tied
round his body, a revolver in his pocket, and a loaded stick in his
hand, spent the remainder of the night and part of the early morning
concealed behind a great clump of rhododendrons, his eyes fixed upon the
shadowy stretch of park which lay between the house and the Black Wood.
The night was moonless but clear, and when his eyes were once accustomed
to the pale but sombre twilight, the whole landscape and the moving
objects upon it were dimly visible. The habits of his years of bush
life seemed instinctively, in those few hours of waiting, to have
reestablished themselves. Every sense was strained and active; every
night sound--of which the hooting of some owls, disturbed from their
lurking place in the Black Wood, was predominant--heard and accounted
for. And then, just as he had glanced at his watch and found that it was
close upon two o'clock, came the first real intimation that something
was likely to happen. Moving across the park towards him he heard the
sound of a faint patter, curious and irregular in rhythm, which came
from behind a range of low hillocks. He raised himself on his hands and
knees to watch. His eyes were fastened upon a certain spot,--a stretch
of the open park between himself and the hillocks. The patter ceased and
began again. Into the open there came a dark shape, the irregularity of
its movements swiftly explained. It moved at first upon all fours, then
on two legs, then on all fours again. It crept nearer and nearer, and
Dominey, as he watched, laid aside his stick. It reached the terrace,
paused beneath Rosamund's window, now barely half a dozen yards from
where he was crouching. Deliberately he waited, waited for what he knew
must soon come. Then the deep silence of the breathless night was broken
by that familiar, unearthly scream. Dominey waited till even its echoes
had died away. Then he ran a few steps, bent double, and stretched out
his hands. Once more, for the last time, that devil's cry broke the deep
stillness of the August morning, throbbing a little as though with a new
fear, dying away as though the fingers which crushed it back down the
straining throat had indeed crushed with it the last flicker of some
unholy life.

When Doctor Harrison made his hurried appearance, a few moments later,
he found Dominey seated upon the terrace, furiously smoking a cigarette.
On the ground, a few yards away, lay something black and motionless.

"What is it?" the doctor gasped.

For the first time Dominey showed some signs of a lack of self-control.
His voice was choked and uneven.

"Go and look at it, Doctor," he said. "It's tied up, hand and foot. You
can see where the spirit of Roger Unthank has hidden itself."

"Bosh!" the doctor answered, with grim contempt. "It's Roger Unthank
himself. The beast!"

A little stream of servants came running out. Dominey gave a few orders
quickly.

"Ring up the garage," he directed, "and I shall want one of the men to
go into Norwich to the hospital. Doctor, will you go up and see Lady
Dominey?"

The habits of a lifetime broke down. Parkins, the immaculate, the
silent, the perfect automaton, asked an eager question.

"What is it, sir?"

There was the sound of a window opening overhead. At that moment Parkins
would not have asked in vain for an annuity. Dominey glanced at the
little semicircle of servants and raised his voice.

"It is the end, I trust, of these foolish superstitions about Roger
Unthank's ghost. There lies Roger Unthank, half beast, half man. For
some reason or other--some lunatic's reason, of course--he has chosen to
hide himself in the Black Wood all these years. His mother, I presume,
has been his accomplice and taken him food. He is still alive but in a
disgusting state."

There was a little awed murmur. Dominey's voice had become quite matter
of fact.

"I suppose," he continued, "his first idea was to revenge himself upon
us and this household, by whom he imagined himself badly treated. The
man, however, was half a madman when he came to the neighbourhood and
has behaved like one ever since.--Johnson," Dominey continued, singling
out a sturdy footman with sound common sense, "get ready to take this
creature into Norwich Hospital. Say that if I do not come in during the
day, a letter of explanation will follow from me. The rest of you, with
the exception of Parkins, please go to bed."

With little exclamations of wonder they began to disperse. Then one
of them paused and pointed across the park. Moving with incredible
swiftness came the gaunt, black figure of Rachael Unthank, swaying
sometimes on her feet, yet in their midst before they could realise it.
She staggered to the prostrate body and threw herself upon her knees.
Her hands rested upon the unseen face, her eyes glared across at
Dominey.

"So you've got him at last!" she gasped.

"Mrs. Unthank," Dominey said sternly, "you are in time to accompany your
son to the hospital at Norwich. The car will be here in two minutes.
I have nothing to say to you. Your own conscience should be sufficient
punishment for keeping that poor creature alive in such a fashion and
ministering during my absence to his accursed desire for vengeance."

"He would have died if I hadn't brought him food," she muttered. "I have
wept all the tears a woman's broken heart could wring out, beseeching
him to come back to me."

"Yet," Dominey insisted, "you shared his foul plot for vengeance against
a harmless woman. You let him come and make his ghoulish noises, night
by night, under these windows, without a word of remonstrance. You knew
very well what their accursed object was--you, with a delicate woman in
your charge who trusted you. You are an evil pair, but of the two you
are worse than your half-witted son."

The woman made no reply. She was still on her knees, bending over the
prostrate figure, from whose lips now came a faint moaning. Then the
lights of the car flashed out as it left the garage, passed through the
iron gates and drew up a few yards away.

"Help him in," Dominey ordered. "You can loosen his cords, Johnson, as
soon as you have started. He has very little strength. Tell them at the
hospital I shall probably be there during the day, or to-morrow."

With a little shiver the two men stooped to their task. Their prisoner
muttered to himself all the time, but made no resistance. Rachael
Unthank, as she stepped in to take her place by his side, turned once
more to Dominey. She was a broken woman.

"You're rid of us," she sobbed, "perhaps forever.--You've said harsh
things of both of us. Roger isn't always--so bad. Sometimes he's more
gentle than at others. You'd have thought then that he was just a baby,
living there for love of the wind and the trees and the birds. If he
comes to--"

Her voice broke. Dominey's reply was swift and not unkind. He pointed to
the window above.

"If Lady Dominey recovers, you and your son are forgiven. If she never
recovers, I wish you both the blackest corner of hell."

The car drove off. Doctor Harrison met Dominey on the threshold as he
turned towards the house.

"Her ladyship is unconscious now," he announced. "Perhaps that is a good
sign. I never liked that unnatural calm. She'll be unconscious, I think,
for a great many hours. For God's sake, come and get a whisky and soda
and give me one!"



The early morning sunshine lay upon the park when the two men at last
separated. They stood for a moment looking out. From the Black Wood came
the whirr of a saw. The little troop of men had left their tents. The
crash of a fallen tree heralded their morning's work.

"You are still going on with that?" the doctor asked.

"To the very last stump of a tree, to the last bush, to the last cluster
of weeds," Dominey replied, with a sudden passion in his tone. "I will
have that place razed to the bare level of the earth, and I will have
its poisonous swamps sucked dry. I have hated that foul spot," he went
on, "ever since I realised what suffering it meant to her. My reign here
may not be long, Doctor--I have my own tragedy to deal with--but those
who come after me will never feel the blight of that accursed place."

The doctor grunted. His inner thoughts he kept to himself.

"Maybe you're right," he conceded.



CHAPTER XXIX

The heat of a sulphurous afternoon--a curious parallel in its presage
of coming storm to the fast-approaching crisis in Dominey's own
affairs--had driven Dominey from his study on to the terrace. In a chair
by his side lounged Eddy Pelham, immaculate in a suit of white flannels.
It was the fifth day since the mystery of the Black Wood had been
solved.

"Ripping, old chap, of you to have me down here," the young man remarked
amiably, his hand stretching out to a tumbler which stood by his side.
"The country, when you can get ice, is a paradise in this weather,
especially when London's so full of ghastly rumours and all that sort of
thing. What's the latest news of her ladyship?"

"Still unconscious," Dominey replied. "The doctors, however, seem
perfectly satisfied. Everything depends on her waking moments."

The young man abandoned the subject with a murmur of hopeful sympathy.
His eyes were fixed upon a little cloud of dust in the distance.

"Expecting visitors to-day?" he asked.

"Should not be surprised," was the somewhat laconic answer.

The young man stood up, yawned and stretched himself.

"I'll make myself scarce," he said. "Jove!" he added approvingly,
lingering for a moment. "Jolly well cut, the tunic of your uniform,
Dominey! If a country in peril ever decides to waive the matter of my
indifferent physique and send me out to the rescue, I shall go to your
man."

Dominey smiled.

"Mine is only the local Yeomanry rig-out," he replied. "They will nab
you for the Guards!"

Dominey stepped back through the open windows into his study as Pelham
strolled off. He was seated at his desk, poring over some letters,
when a few minutes later Seaman was ushered into the room. For a single
moment his muscles tightened, his frame became tense. Then he realised
his visitor's outstretched hands of welcome and he relaxed. Seaman was
perspiring, vociferous and excited.

"At last!" He exclaimed. "Donner und!--My God Dominey, what is this?"

"Thirteen years ago," Dominey explained, "I resigned a commission in the
Norfolk Yeomanry. That little matter, however, has been adjusted. At a
crisis like this--"

"My friend, you are wonderful!" Seaman interrupted solemnly. "You are a
man after my own heart, you are thorough, you leave nothing undone. That
is why," he added, lowering his voice a little, "we are the greatest
race in the world. Drink before everything, my friend," he went on,
"drink I must have. What a day! The very clouds that hide the sun are
full of sulphurous heat."

Dominey rang the bell, ordered hock and seltzer and ice. Seaman drank
and threw himself into an easy-chair.

"There is no fear of your being called out of the country because of
that, I hope?" he asked a little anxiously, nodding his head towards his
companion's uniform.

"Not at present," Dominey answered. "I am a trifle over age to go with
the first batch or two. Where have you been?"

Seaman hitched his chair a little nearer.

"In Ireland," he confided. "Sorry to desert you as I did, but you do not
begin to count for us just yet. There was just a faint doubt as to what
they were doing to do about internment. That is why I had to get the
Irish trip off my mind."

"What has been decided?"

"The Government has the matter under consideration," Seaman replied,
with a chuckle. "I can certainly give myself six months before I need to
slip off. Now tell me, why do I find you down here?"

"After Terniloff left," Dominey explained, "I felt I wanted to get away.
I have been asked to start some recruiting work down here."

"Terniloff--left his little volume with you?"

"Yes!"

"Where is it?"

"Safe," Dominey replied.

Seaman mopped his forehead.

"It needs to be," he muttered. "I have orders to see it destroyed.
We can talk of that presently. Sometimes, when I am away from you, I
tremble. It may sound foolish, but you have in your possession just the
two things--that map and Von Terniloff's memoirs--which would wreck our
propaganda in every country of the world."

"Both are safe," Dominey assured him. "By the by, my friend," he went
on, "do you know that you yourself are forgetting your usual caution?"

"In what respect?" Seaman demanded quickly.

"As you stooped to sit down just now, I distinctly saw the shape of your
revolver in your hip pocket. You know as well as I do that with your
name and the fact that you are only a naturalised Englishman, it is
inexcusably foolish to be carrying firearms about just now."

Seaman thrust his hand into his pocket and threw the revolver upon the
table.

"You are quite right," he acknowledged. "Take care of it for me. I took
it with me to Ireland, because one never knows what may happen in that
amazing country."

Dominey swept it carelessly into the drawer of the desk at which he was
sitting.

"Our weapons, from now on," Seaman continued, "must be the weapons of
guile and craft. You and I will have, alas! to see less of one another,
Dominey. In many ways it is unfortunate that we have not been able to
keep England out of this for a few more months. However, the situation
must be dealt with as it exists. So far as you are concerned you
have practically secured yourself against suspicion. You will hold a
brilliant and isolated place amongst those who are serving the great
War Lord. When I do approach you, it will be for sympathy and assistance
against the suspicions of those far-seeing Englishmen!"

Dominey nodded.

"You will stay the night?" he asked.

"If I may," Seaman assented. "It is the last time for many months when
it will be wise for us to meet on such intimate terms. Perhaps our dear
friend Parkins will take vinous note of the occasion."

"In other words," Dominey said, "you propose that we shall drink the
Dominey cabinet hock and the Dominey port to the glory of our country."

"To the glory of our country," Seaman echoed. "So be it, my
friend.--Listen."

A car had passed along the avenue in front of the house. There was
the sound of voices in the hall, a knock at the door, the rustle of a
woman's clothes. Parkins, a little disturbed, announced the arrivals.

"The Princess of Eiderstrom and--a gentleman. The Princess said that
her errand with you was urgent, sir," he added, turning apologetically
towards his master.

The Princess was already in the room, and following her a short man in
a suit of sombre black, wearing a white tie, and carrying a black bowler
hat. He blinked across the room through his thick glasses, and Dominey
knew that the end had come. The door was closed behind them. The
Princess came a little further into the room. Her hand was extended
towards Dominey, but not in greeting. Her white finger pointed straight
at him. She turned to her companion.

"Which is that, Doctor Schmidt?" she demanded.

"The Englishman, by God!" Schmidt answered.

The silence which reigned for several seconds was intense and profound.
The coolest of all four was perhaps Dominey. The Princess was pale with
a passion which seemed to sob behind her words.

"Everard Dominey," she cried, "what have you done with my lover? What
have you done with Leopold Von Ragastein?"

"He met with the fate," Dominey replied, "which he had prepared for me.
We fought and I conquered."

"You killed him?"

"I killed him," Dominey echoed. "It was a matter of necessity. His body
sleeps on the bed of the Blue River."

"And your life here has been a lie!"

"On the contrary, it has been the truth," Dominey objected. "I assured
you at the Carlton, when you first spoke to me, and I have assured you a
dozen times since, that I was Everard Dominey. That is my name. That is
who I am."

Seaman's voice seemed to come from a long way off. For the moment the
man had neither courage nor initiative. He seemed as though he had
received some sort of stroke. His mind was travelling backwards.

"You came to me at Cape Town," he muttered; "you had all Von Ragastein's
letters, you knew his history, you had the Imperial mandate."

"Von Ragastein and I exchanged the most intimate confidences in his
camp," Dominey said, "as Doctor Schmidt there knows. I told him my
history, and he told me his. The letters and papers I took from him."

Schmidt had covered his face with his hands for a moment. His shoulders
were heaving.

"My beloved chief!" he sobbed. "My dear devoted master! Killed by that
drunken Englishman!"

"Not so drunk as you fancied him," Dominey said coolly, "not so far gone
in his course of dissipation but that he was able to pull himself up
when the great incentive came."

The Princess looked from one to the other of the two men. Seaman had
still the appearance of a man struggling to extricate himself from some
sort of nightmare.

"My first and only suspicion," he faltered, "was that night when Wolff
disappeared!"

"Wolff's coming was rather a tragedy," Dominey admitted. "Fortunately, I
had a secret service man in the house who was able to dispose of him."

"It was you who planned his disappearance?" Seaman gasped.

"Naturally," Dominey replied. "He knew the truth and was trying all the
time to communicate with you."

"And the money?" Seaman continued, blinking rapidly. "One hundred
thousand pounds, and more?"

"I understood that was a gift," Dominey replied. "If the German Secret
Service, however, cares to formulate a claim and sue me--"

The Princess suddenly interrupted. Her eyes seemed on fire.

"What are you, you two?" she cried, stretching out her hands towards
Schmidt and Seaman. "Are you lumps of earth--clods--creatures without
courage and intelligence? You can let him stand there--the Englishman
who has murdered my lover, who has befooled you? You let him stand there
and mock you, and you do and say nothing! Is his life a sacred thing?
Has he none of your secrets in his charge?"

"The great God above us!" Seaman groaned, with a sudden white horror in
his face. "He has the Prince's memoirs! He has the Kaiser's map!"

"On the contrary," Dominey replied, "both are deposited at the Foreign
Office. We hope to find them very useful a little later on."

Seaman sprang forward like a tiger and went down in a heap as he almost
threw himself upon Dominey's out-flung fist. Schmidt came stealing
across the room, and from underneath his cuff something gleamed.

"You are two to one!" the Princess cried passionately, as both
assailants hesitated. "I would to God that I had a weapon, or that I
were a man!"

"My dear Princess," a good-humoured voice remarked from the window,
"four to two the other way, I think, what?"

Eddy Pelham, his hands in his pockets, but a very alert gleam in his
usually vacuous face, stood in the windowed doorway. From behind him,
two exceedingly formidable-looking men slipped into the room. There was
no fight, not even a struggle. Seaman, who had never recovered from the
shock of his surprise, and was now completely unnerved, was handcuffed
in a moment, and Schmidt disarmed. The latter was the first to break the
curious silence.

"What have I done?" he demanded. "Why am I treated like this?"

"Doctor Schmidt?" Eddy asked pleasantly.

"That is my name, sir," was the fierce reply. "I have just landed from
East Africa. We knew nothing of the war when we started. I came to
expose that man. He is an impostor--a murderer! He has killed a German
nobleman."

"He has committed _lese majeste_!" Seaman gasped. "He has deceived the
Kaiser! He has dared to sit in his presence as the Baron Von Ragastein!"

The young man in flannels glanced across at Dominey and smiled.

"I say, you two don't mean to be funny but you are," he declared. "First
of all, there's Doctor Schmidt accuses Sir Everard here of being an
impostor because he assumed his own name; accuses him of murdering a man
who had planned in cold blood--you were in that, by the by, Schmidt--to
kill him; and then there's our friend here, the secretary of the society
for propagating better relations between the business men of England and
Germany, complaining because Sir Everard carried through in Germany, for
England, exactly what he believed the Baron Von Ragastein was carrying
out here--for Germany. You're a curious, thick-headed race, you
Germans."

"I demand again," Schmidt shouted, "to know by what right I am treated
as a criminal?"

"Because you are one," Eddy answered coolly. "You and Von Ragastein
together planned the murder of Sir Everard Dominey in East Africa, and I
caught you creeping across the floor just now with a knife in your hand.
That'll do for you. Any questions to ask, Seaman?"

"None," was the surly reply.

"You are well-advised," the young man remarked coolly. "Within the last
two days, your house in Forest Hill and your offices in London Wall have
been searched."

"You have said enough," Seaman declared. "Fate has gone against me. I
thank God that our master has abler servants than I and the strength to
crush this island of popinjays and fools!"

"Popinjays seems severe," Eddy murmured, in a hard tone. "However, to
get on with this little matter," he added, turning to one of his two
subordinates. "You will find a military car outside. Take these men over
to the guardroom at the Norwich Barracks. I have arranged for an escort
to see them to town. Tell the colonel I'll be over later in the day."

The Princess rose from the chair into which she had subsided a few
moments before. Dominey turned towards her.

"Princess," he said, "there can be little conversation between us. Yet
I shall ask you to remember this. Von Ragastein planned my death in
cold blood. I could have slain him as an assassin, without the slightest
risk, but I preferred to meet him face to face with the truth upon my
lips. It was his life or mine. I fought for my country's sake, as he did
for his."

The Princess looked at him with glittering eyes.

"I shall hate you to the end of my days," she declared, "because you
have killed the thing I love, but although I am a woman, I know justice.
You were chivalrous towards me. You treated Leopold perhaps better
than he would have treated you. I pray that I shall never see your
face again. Be so good as to suffer me to leave this house at once, and
unattended."

Dominey threw open the windows which led on to the terrace and stood on
one side. She passed by without a glance at him and disappeared. Eddy
came strolling along the terrace a few moments later.

"Nice old ducks, those two, dear heart," he confided. "Seaman has just
offered Forsyth, my burly ruffian in the blue serge suit, a hundred
pounds to shoot him on the pretence that he was escaping."

"And what about Schmidt?"

"Insisted on his rights as an officer and demanded the front seat and a
cigar before the car started! A pretty job, Dominey, and neatly cleaned
up."

Dominey was watching the dust from the two cars which were disappearing
down the avenue.

"Tell me, Eddy," he asked, "there's one thing I have always been curious
about. How did you manage to keep that fellow Wolff when there wasn't a
war on, and he wasn't breaking the law?"

The young man grinned.

"We had to stretch a point there, old dear," he admitted. "Plans of a
fortress, eh?"

"Do you mean to say that he had plans of a fortress upon him?" Dominey
asked.

"Picture post-card of Norwich Castle," the young man confided, "but keep
it dark. Can I have a drink before I get the little car going?"



The turmoil of the day was over, and Dominey, after one silent but
passionate outburst of thankfulness at the passing from his life of this
unnatural restraint, found all his thoughts absorbed by the struggle
which was being fought out in the bedchamber above. The old doctor came
down and joined him at dinner time. He met Dominey's eager glance with a
little nod.

"She's doing all right," he declared.

"No fever or anything?"

"Bless you, no! She's as near as possible in perfect health physically.
A different woman from what she was this time last year, I can tell
you. When she wakes up, she'll either be herself again, without a single
illusion of any sort, or--"

The doctor paused, sipped his wine, emptied his glass and set it down
approvingly.

"Or?" Dominey insisted.

"Or that part of her brain will be more or less permanently affected.
However, I am hoping for the best. Thank heavens you're on the spot!"

They finished their dinner almost in silence. Afterwards, they smoked
for a few minutes upon the terrace. Then they made their way softly
upstairs. The doctor parted with Dominey at the door of the latter's
room.

"I shall remain with her for an hour or so," he said. "After that I
shall leave her entirely to herself. You'll be here in case there's a
change?"

"I shall be here," Dominey promised.



The minutes passed into hours, uncounted, unnoticed. Dominey sat in
his easy-chair, stirred by a tumultuous wave of passionate emotion. The
memory of those earlier days of his return came back to him with
all their poignant longings. He felt again the same tearing at the
heart-strings, the same strange, unnerving tenderness. The great world's
drama, in which he knew that he, too, would surely continue to play his
part, seemed like a thing far off, the concern of another race of men.
Every fibre of his being seemed attuned to the magic and the music of
one wild hope. Yet when there came what he had listened for so long, the
hope seemed frozen into fear. He sat a little forward in his easy-chair,
his hands griping its sides, his eyes fixed upon the slowly widening
crack in the panel. It was as it had been before. She stooped low, stood
up again and came towards him. From behind an unseen hand closed the
panel. She came to him with her arms outstretched and all the wonderful
things of life and love in her shining eyes. That faint touch of the
somnambulist had passed. She came to him as she had never come before.
She was a very real and a very live woman.

"Everard!" she cried.

He took her into his arms. At their first kiss she thrilled from head to
foot. For a moment she laid her head upon his shoulder.

"Oh, I have been so silly!" she confessed. "There were times when I
couldn't believe that you were my Everard--mine! And now I know."

Her lips sought his again, his parched with the desire of years. Along
the corridor, the old doctor tiptoed his way to his room, with a pleased
smile upon his face.



THE END



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