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Nutty regarded his beaming countenance with a lowering hostility. The indecency of anyone being cheerful at such a time struck him forcibly. He would have liked mankind to have preserved till further notice a hushed gloom. He glared at the young man.

Elizabeth, such was her absorption in her thoughts, was not even aware of his presence till he spoke to her.

'I beg your pardon, is this Flack's?'

She looked up and met that sunny eyeglass.

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'This is Flack's,' she said.

'Thank you,' said the young man.

The automobile, a stout, silent man at the helm, throbbed in the nervous way automobiles have when standing still, suggesting somehow that it were best to talk quick, as they can give you only a few minutes before dashing on to keep some other appointment. Either this or a natural volatility lent a breezy rapidity to the visitor's speech. He looked at Elizabeth across the gate, which it had not occurred to her to open, as if she were just what he had expected her to be and a delight to his eyes, and burst into speech.

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'My name's Nichols--J. Nichols. I expect you remember getting a letter from me a week or two ago?'

The name struck Elizabeth as familiar. But he had gone on to identify himself before she could place it in her mind.

'Lawyer, don't you know. Wrote you a letter telling you that your Uncle Ira Nutcombe had left all his money to Lord Dawlish.'

'Oh, yes,' said Elizabeth, and was about to invite him to pass the barrier, when he began to speak again.

'You know, I want to explain that letter. Wrote it on a sudden impulse, don't you know. The more I have to do with the law, the more it seems to hit me that a lawyer oughtn't to act on impulse. At the moment, you see, it seemed to me the decent thing to do--put you out of your misery, and so forth--stop your entertaining hopes never to be realized, what? and all that sort of thing. You see, it was like this: Bill--I mean Lord Dawlish--is a great pal of mine, a dear old chap. You ought to know him. Well, being in the know, you understand, through your uncle having deposited the will with us, I gave Bill the tip directly I heard of Mr Nutcombe's death. I sent him a telephone message to come to the office, and I said: "Bill, old man, this old buster"--I beg your pardon, this old gentleman--"has left you all his money." Quite informal, don't you know, and at the same time, in the same informal spirit, I wrote you the letter.' He dammed the torrent for a moment. 'By the way, of course you are Miss Elizabeth Boyd, what?'

The young man seemed relieved.

'I'm glad of that,' he said. 'Funny if you hadn't been. You'd have wondered what on earth I was talking about.'

In spite of her identity, this was precisely what Elizabeth was doing. Her mind, still under a cloud, had been unable to understand one word of Mr Nichols's discourse. Judging from his appearance, which was that of a bewildered hosepipe or a snake whose brain is being momentarily overtaxed, Nutty was in the same difficulty. He had joined the group at the gate, abandoning the pebble which he had been kicking in the background, and was now leaning on the top bar, a picture of silent perplexity.