The Great Impersonation HTML version
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."