The doctor sighed. He was not at heart an unkindly man.
“I think,” he murmured, “it will be better for the Englishman that he drinks.”
Mr. John Lambert Mangan of Lincoln’s Inn gazed at the card which a junior clerk had just presented in blank astonishment, an astonishment which became speedily blended with dismay.
“Good God, do you see this, Harrison?” he exclaimed, passing it over to his manager, with whom he had been in consultation. “Dominey—Sir Everard Dominey—back here in England!”
The head clerk glanced at the narrow piece of pasteboard and sighed.
“I’m afraid you will find him rather a troublesome client, sir,” he remarked.
His employer frowned. “Of course I shall,” he answered testily. “There isn’t an extra penny to be had out of the estates—you know that, Harrison. The last two quarters’ allowance which we sent to Africa came out of the timber. Why the mischief didn’t he stay where he was!”
“What shall I tell the gentleman, sir?” the boy enquired.
“Oh, show him in!” Mr. Mangan directed ill-temperedly. “I suppose I shall have to see him sooner or later. I’ll finish these affidavits after lunch, Harrison.”
The solicitor composed his features to welcome a client who, however troublesome his affairs had become, still represented a family who had 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.