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HOME > Biographical > The Man Who Found Himself > CHAPTER IV THE HUNDRED-POUND NOTE—continued
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Mudd departed and Bobby made for the coffee-room.

He entered and looked around. A good many people were breakfasting in the big room, the ordinary English breakfast crowd at a big hotel; family parties, lone men and lone women, some reading letters, some papers, and all, somehow, with an air of divorcement from home.

Simon was there, seated at a little table on the right and enjoying himself. Now, and in his right mind, Simon gave Bobby another shock. Could it be possible that this pleasant-faced, jovial-looking gentleman, so well-dressed and à la mode, was Uncle Simon? What an improvement! So it seemed at first glance.

Simon looked up from his sausages—he was having sausages, saw Bobby—and with his unfailing memory of pleasant things, even dimly seen, recognised him as the man of last night.

"Hullo," said Simon, as the other came up to[Pg 130] the table, "there you are again. Had breakfast?"

"No," said Bobby. "I'll sit here if I may." He drew a chair to the second place that was laid and took his seat.

"Have sausages," said Simon. "Nothing beats sausages."

Bobby ordered sausages, though he would have preferred anything else. He didn't want to argue.

"Nothing beats sausages," said Uncle Simon again.

Bobby concurred.

Then the conversation languished, just as it may between two old friends or boon companions who have no need to keep up talk.

"Feeling all right this morning?" ventured Bobby.

"Never felt better in my life," replied the other. "Never felt better in my life. How did you manage to get home?"

"Oh, I got home all right."

Simon scarcely seemed to hear this comforting declaration; scrambled eggs had been placed before him.

Bobby, in sudden contemplation of a month of this business, almost forgot his sausages. The true horror of Uncle Simon appeared to[Pg 131] him now for the first time. You see, he knew all the facts of the case. An ordinary person, unknowing, would have accepted Simon as all right, but it seemed to Bobby, now, that it would have been much better if his companion had been decently and honestly mad, less uncanny. He was obviously sane, though a bit divorced from things; obviously sane, and eating scrambled eggs after sausages with the abandon of a schoolboy on a holiday after a long term at a cheap school; sane, and enjoying himself after a night like that—yet he was Simon Pettigrew.

Then he noticed that Simon's eyes were constantly travelling, despite the scrambled eggs, in a given direction. A pretty young girl was breakfasting with a family party a little way off—that was the direction.

There was a mother, a father, something that looked like an uncle, what appeared to be an aunt, and what appeared to be May dressed in a washing silk blouse and plain skirt.

November was glancing at May.

Bobby remembered Miss Rossignol and felt a bit comforted; then he began to feel uncomfortable: the aunt was looking fixedly at Simon. His admiration had evidently been noted by Watchfulness; then the uncle seemed to take notice.

Bobby, blushing, tried to make conversation, and only got replies. Then, to his relief, the family, having finished breakfast, withdrew, and Simon became himself again, cheerful and burning for the pleasures of the day before him, the pleasures to be got from London, money, and youth.

His conversation told this, and that he desired to include Bobby in the scheme of things, and the young man could not help remembering Thackeray's little story of how, coming up to London, he met a young Oxford man in the railway carriage, a young man half-tipsy with the prospect of a day in town and a "tear round"—with the prospect, nothing more.

"What are you going to do now?" asked Bobby, as the other rose from the table.

"Shaved," said Simon; "come along and get shaved; can't go about like this."

Bobby was already shaved, but he followed the other outside to a barber's and sat reading a Daily Mirror and waiting whilst Simon was operated on. The latter, having been shaved, had his hair brushed and trimmed, and all the time during these processes the barber spake in this wise, Simon turning the monologue to a duologue.

"Yes, sir, glorious weather, isn't it? [Pg 133]London's pretty full, too, for the time of year—fuller than I've seen for a long time. Ever tried face massage, sir? Most comforting. Can be applied by yourself. Can sell you a complete outfit, Parker's face cream and all, two pound ten. Thank you, sir. Staying in the Charing Cross 'Otel? I'll have it sent to your room. Yes, sir, the 'otel is full. There's a deal of money being spent in London, sir. Raise your chin, sir, a leetle more. Ever try a Gillette razor, sir? Useful should you wish to shave in a 'urry; beautiful plated. This is it, sir—one guinea—shines like silver, don't it? Thank you, sir, I'll send it up with the other. Yes, sir, it's most convenient havin' a barber's close to the 'otel. I supply most of the 'otel people with toilet rekisites. 'Air's a little thin on the top, sir; didn't mean no offence, sir, maybe it's the light. Dry, that's what it is; it's the 'ot weather. Now, I'd recommend Coolers' Lotion followed after application by Goulard's Brillantine. Oh, Lord, no, sir! Them brillantines is no use. Goulard's is the only real; costs a bit more, but then, cheap brillantine is rewin. Thank you, sir. And how are you off for 'air brushes, sir? There's a pair of bargains in that show-case—travellers' samples—I can let you have, silver-plated, as good as you'll get in London and 'arf[Pg 134] the price. Shine, don't they? And feel the bristles—real 'og. Thank you, sir. Two ten—one one—one four—two ten—and a shillin' for the 'air cut and shave. No, sir, I can't change an 'undred-pound note. A ten? Yes, I can manage a ten. Thank you, sir."

Seven pounds and sixpence for a hair-cut and shave—with accompaniments. Bobby, tongue-tied and aghast, rose up.

"'Air cut, sir?" asked the barber.

"No, thanks," replied Bobby.

Simon, having glanced at himself in the mirror, picked up his straw hat and walking-stick, and taking the arm of his companion, out they walked.

"Where are you going?" asked Bobby.

"Anywhere," replied the other; "I want to get some change."

"Why, you've got change!"

Simon unlinked, and in the face of the Strand and the passers-by produced from his pocket two hundred-pound notes, three or four one-pound notes, and a ten-pound note; searching in his pockets to see what gold he had, he dropped a hundred-pound note, which Bobby quickly recovered.

"Mind!" said Bobby. "You'll have those notes snatched."

"That's all right," said Simon.

He replaced the money in his pocket, and his companion breathed again.

Bobby had borrowed five pounds from Tozer in view of possibilities.

"Look here," said he, "what's the good of staying in London a glorious day like this? Let's go somewhere quiet and enjoy ourselves—Richmond or Greenwich or somewhere. I'll pay expenses and you need not bother about change."

"No, you won't," said Simon. "You're going to have some fun along with me. What's the matter with London?"

Bobby couldn't say.

Renouncing the idea of the country, without any other idea to replace it except to keep his companion walking and away from shops and bars and girls, he let himself be led. They were making back towards Charing Cross. At the Bureau de Change Simon went in, the idea of changing a hundred-pound note pursuing him. He wanted elbow-room for enjoyment, but the Bureau refused to make change. The note was all right; perhaps it was Simon that was the doubtful quantity. He had quite a little quarrel over the matter and came out arm-in-arm with his companion and flushed.

"Come along," said Bobby, a new idea striking him. "We'll get change somewhere."

From Charing Cross, through Cockspur Street, then through Pall Mall and up St. James's Street they went, stopping at every likely and unlikely place to find change. Engaged so, Simon at least was not spending money or taking refreshment. They tried at shipping offices, at insurance offices, at gun-shops and tailors, till the weary Bobby began to loathe the business, began to feel that both he and his companion were under suspicion and almost that the business they were on was doubtful.

Simon, however, seemed to pursue it with zest and, now, without anger. It seemed to Bobby as though he enjoyed being refused, as it gave him another chance of entering another shop and showing that he had a hundred-pound note to change—a horrible foolish satisfaction that put a new edge to the affair. Simon was swanking.

"Look here,", said the unfortunate, at last, "wasn............
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