The Great Impersonation HTML version

Chapter 5
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
"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."