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.”