RTFYwR

RTFYwR

'His only surviving relatives appear to be a nephew and a niece. The nephew dropped out of the running two years ago when his aunt, old Nutcombe's wife, who had divorced old Nutcombe, left him her money. This seems to have soured the old boy on the nephew, for in the first of his wills that I've seen--you remember I told you I had seen three--he leaves the niece the pile and the nephew only gets twenty pounds. Well, so far there's nothing very eccentric about old Nutcombe's proceedings. But wait!

'Six months after he had made that will he came in here and made another. This left twenty pounds to the nephew as before, but nothing at all to the niece. Why, I don't know. There was nothing in the will about her having done anything to offend him during those six months, none of those nasty slams you see in wills about "I bequeath to my only son John one shilling and sixpence. Now perhaps he's sorry he married the cook." As far as I can make out he changed his will just as he did when he left the money to you, purely through some passing whim. Anyway, he did change it. He left the pile to support the movement those people are running for getting the Jews back to Palestine.

'He didn't seem, on second thoughts, to feel that this was quite such a brainy scheme as he had at first, and it wasn't long before he came trotting back to tear up this second will and switch back to the first one--the one leaving the money to the niece. That restoration to sanity lasted till about a month ago, when he broke loose once more and paid his final visit here to will you the contents of his stocking. This morning I see he's dead after a short illness, so you collect. Congratulations!'

Lord Dawlish had listened to this speech in perfect silence. He now rose and began to pace the room. He looked warm and uncomfortable. His demeanour, in fact, was by no means the accepted demeanour of the lucky heir.

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'This is awful!' he said. 'Good Lord, Jerry, it's frightful!'

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'Awful!--being left a million pounds?'

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'Yes, like this. I feel like a bally thief.'

'Why on earth?'

'If it hadn't been for me this girl--what's her name?'

'Her name is Boyd--Elizabeth Boyd.'

'She would have had the whole million if it hadn't been for me. Have you told her yet?'

'She's in America. I was writing her a letter just before you came in--informal, you know, to put her out of her misery. If I had waited for the governor to let her know in the usual course of red tape we should never have got anywhere. Also one to the nephew, telling him about his twenty pounds. I believe in humane treatment on these occasions. The governor would write them a legal letter with so many "hereinbefores" in it that they would get the idea that they had been left the whole pile. I just send a cheery line saying "It's no good, old top. Abandon hope," and they know just where they are. Simple and considerate.'

A glance at Bill's face moved him to further speech.

'I don't see why you should worry, Bill. How, by any stretch of the imagination, can you make out that you are to blame for this Boyd girl's misfortune? It looks to me as if these eccentric wills of old Nutcombe's came in cycles, as it were. Just as he was due for another outbreak he happened to meet you. It's a moral certainty that if he hadn't met you he would have left all his money to a Home for Superannuated Caddies or a Fund for Supplying the Deserving Poor with Niblicks. Why should you blame yourself?'

'I don't blame myself. It isn't exactly that. But--but, well, what would you feel like in my place?'