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The offices of Messrs Nichols, Nichols, Nichols, and Nichols were in Lincoln's Inn Fields. The first Nichols had been dead since the reign of King William the Fourth, the second since the jubilee year of Queen Victoria. The remaining brace were Lord Dawlish's friend Jerry and his father, a formidable old man who knew all the shady secrets of all the noble families in England.
Bill walked up the stairs and was shown into the room where Jerry, when his father's eye was upon him, gave his daily imitation of a young man labouring with diligence and enthusiasm at the law. His father being at the moment out at lunch, the junior partner was practising putts with an umbrella and a ball of paper.
Jerry Nichols was not the typical lawyer. At Cambridge, where Bill had first made his acquaintance, he had been notable for an exuberance of which Lincoln's Inn Fields had not yet cured him. There was an airy disregard for legal formalities about him which exasperated his father, an attorney of the old school. He came to the point, directly Bill entered the room, with a speed and levity that would have appalled Nichols Senior, and must have caused the other two Nicholses to revolve in their graves.
'Halloa, Bill, old man,' he said, prodding him amiably in the waistcoat with the ferrule of the umbrella. 'How's the boy? Fine! So'm I. So you got my message? Wonderful invention, the telephone.'
'I've just come from the club.'
'Take a chair.'
'What's the matter?'
Jerry Nichols thrust Bill into a chair and seated himself on the table.
'Now look here, Bill,' he said, 'this isn't the way we usually do this sort of thing, and if the governor were here he would spend an hour and a half rambling on about testators and beneficiary legatees, and parties of the first part, and all that sort of rot. But as he isn't here I want to know, as one pal to another, what you've been doing to an old buster of the name of Nutcombe.'
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