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CHAPTER VI THE FLIGHT OF THE DRAGON-FLY
One of the pleasantest, yet perhaps most dangerous, points about Simon Pettigrew's condition was his un-English open-heartedness towards strangers—strangers that pleased him. A disposition, in fact, to chum up with anything that appealed to him, without question, without thought. Affable strangers, pretty girls—it was all the same to Simon.

Now, when Bobby Ravenshaw went into the cigar merchant's, leaving Simon outside, he had not noticed particularly a large Dragon-Fly car, claret-coloured and adorned with a tiny monogram on the door-panel, which was standing in front of the shop immediately on the right. It was the property of the Hon. Dick Pugeot, and just as Bobby disappeared into the tobacconist's the Hon. Dick appeared from the doorstep of the next-door shop.

Dick Pugeot, late of the Guards, was a big, yellow man, quite young, perhaps not more[Pg 155] than twenty-five, yet with a serious and fatherly face and an air that gave him another five years of apparent age. This serious and fatherly appearance was deceptive. With the activity of a gnat, a disregard of all consequences, a big fortune, a good heart, and a taste for fun of any sort as long as it kept him moving, Dick Pugeot was generally in trouble of some kind or another. His crave for speed on the road was only equal to his instinct for fastness in other respects, but, up to this, thanks to luck and his own personality, he had, with the exception of a few endorsed licences and other trifles of that sort, always escaped.

But once he had come very near to a real disaster. Some eighteen months ago he found himself involved with a lady, a female shark in the guise of an angel, a—to put it in his own language—"bad 'un."

The bad 'un had him firmly hooked. She was a Countess, too! and fried and eaten he undoubtedly would have been had not the wisdom of an uncle saved him.

"Go to my solicitor, Pettigrew," said the uncle. "If she were an ordinary card-sharper I would advise you to go to Marcus Abraham, but, seeing what she is, Pettigrew is the man. He wouldn't take up an ordinary case of this[Pg 156] sort, but, seeing what she is, and considering that you are my nephew, he'll do it—and he knows all the ins and outs of her family. There's nothing he doesn't know about us."

"Us" meaning people of high degree.

Pugeot went, and Simon took up the case, and in forty-eight hours the fish was off the hook, frantically grateful. He presented Simon with a silver wine-cooler and then forgot him, till this moment, when, coming out of Spud and Simpson's shop, he saw Simon standing on the pavement smoking a cigar and watching the pageant of the street.

Simon's new clothes and holiday air and straw hat put him off for a moment, but it was Pettigrew right enough.

"Hello, Pettigrew!" said Pugeot.

"Hello," said Simon, pleased with the heartiness and appearance of this new friend.

"Why, you look quite gay," said Pugeot. "What are you up to?"

"Out for some fun," said Simon. "What are you up to?"

"Same as you," replied Pugeot, delighted, amused, and surprised at Simon's manner and reply, the vast respect he had for his astuteness greatly amplified by this evidence of mundane leanings. "Get into the car; I've got to call[Pg 157] at Panton Street for a moment, and then we'll go and have luncheon or something."

He opened the car door and Simon hopped in; then he gave the address to the driver and the car drove off.

"Well, I never expected to see you this morning," said Pugeot. "Never can feel grateful enough to you either—you've nothing special to do, have you? Anywhere I can drive you to?"

"I've got to see a girl," said Simon, "but she can wait."

Pugeot laughed.

That explained the summer garb and straw hat, but the frankness came to him with the weest bit of a shock. However, he was used to shocks, and if old Simon Pettigrew was running after girls it was no affair of his. It was a good joke, though, despite the fact that he could never tell it. Pugeot was not the man to tell tales out of school.

"Look here," said Simon, suddenly producing his notes, "I want to change a hundred; been trying to do it in a lot of shops. You can't have any fun without some money."

"Don't you worry," said Pugeot. "This is my show."

"I want to change a hundred," said Simon,[Pg 158] with the persistency of Toddy wanting to see the wheels go round.

"Well, I'll get you change, though you don't really want it. Why, you've got two hundred there—and a tenner!"

"It's not too much to have a good time with."

"Oh my!" said Pugeot. "Well, if you're on the razzle-dazzle, I'm with you, Pettigrew. I feel safe with you, in a way; there's not much you don't know."

"Not much," said Simon, puffing himself.

The car stopped.

"A minute," said Pugeot. Out he jumped, transacted his business, and was back again under five minutes. There was a new light in his sober eye.

"Let's go and have a slap at the Wilderness," said he, lowering his voice a tone. "You know the Wilderness. I can get you in—jolly good fun."

"Right," said Simon.

Pugeot gave an address to the driver and off they went. They stopped in a narrow street and Pugeot led the way into a house.

In the hall of this house he had an interview with a pale-faced individual in black, an evil, weary-looking person who handed Simon a[Pg 159] visitors' book to sign. They then went into a bar, where Simon imbibed a cocktail, and from th............
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