2taJ

2taJ

The next moment he was even more surprised, for Elizabeth, making nothing of the barrier of the gate, had rushed past him and was even now climbing into his automobile.

'Take me to the station, at once,' she was crying to the stout, silent man, whom not even these surprising happenings had shaken from his attitude of well-fed detachment.

The stout man, ceasing to be silent, became interrogative.

'Take me to the station. I must catch the eleven o'clock train.'

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The stout man was not a rapid thinker. He enveloped her in a stodgy gaze. It was only too plain to Elizabeth that he was a man who liked to digest one idea slowly before going on to absorb the next. Jerry Nichols had told him to drive to Flack's. He had driven to Flack's. Here he was at Flack's. Now this young woman was telling him to drive to the station. It was a new idea, and he bent himself to the Fletcherizing of it.

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'I'll give you ten dollars if you get me there by eleven,' shouted Elizabeth.

The car started as if it were some living thing that had had a sharp instrument jabbed into it. Once or twice in his life it had happened to the stout man to encounter an idea which he could swallow at a gulp. This was one of them.

Mr Nichols, following the car with a wondering eye, found that Nutty was addressing him.

'Is this really true?' said Nutty.

'Absolute gospel.'

A wild cry, a piercing whoop of pure joy, broke the summer stillness.

'Come and have a drink, old man!' babbled Nutty. 'This wants celebrating!' His face fell. 'Oh, I was forgetting! I'm on the wagon.'

'On the wagon?'

'Sworn off, you know. I'm never going to touch another drop as long as I live. I began to see things--monkeys!'

'I had a pal,' said Mr Nichols, sympathetically, 'who used to see kangaroos.'

Nutty seized him by the arm, hospitable though handicapped.

'Come and have a bit of bread and butter, or a slice of cake or something, and a glass of water. I want to tell you a lot more about Uncle Ira, and I want to hear all about your end of it. Gee, what a day!'

'"The maddest, merriest of all the glad New Year,"' assented Mr Nichols. 'A slice of that old 'eighty-seven cake. Just the thing!'