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The Little Warrior   By: (1881-1975)

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THE LITTLE WARRIOR

CHAPTER ONE

1.

Freddie Rooke gazed coldly at the breakfast table. Through a gleaming eye glass he inspected the revolting object which Parker, his faithful man, had placed on a plate before him.

"Parker!" His voice had a ring of pain.

"Sir?"

"What's this?"

"Poached egg, sir."

Freddie averted his eyes with a silent shudder.

"It looks just like an old aunt of mine," he said. "Remove it!"

He got up, and, wrapping his dressing gown about his long legs, took up a stand in front of the fireplace. From this position he surveyed the room, his shoulders against the mantelpiece, his calves pressing the club fender. It was a cheerful oasis in a chill and foggy world, a typical London bachelor's breakfast room. The walls were a restful gray, and the table, set for two, a comfortable arrangement in white and silver.

"Eggs, Parker," said Freddie solemnly, "are the acid test!"

"Yes, sir?"

"If, on the morning after, you can tackle a poached egg, you are all right. If not, not. And don't let anybody tell you otherwise."

"No, sir."

Freddie pressed the palm of his hand to his brow, and sighed.

"It would seem, then, that I must have revelled a trifle whole heartedly last night. I was possibly a little blotto. Not whiffled, perhaps, but indisputably blotto. Did I make much noise coming in?"

"No, sir. You were very quiet."

"Ah! A dashed bad sign!"

Freddie moved to the table, and poured himself a cup of coffee.

"The cream jug is to your right, sir," said the helpful Parker.

"Let it remain there. Cafe noir for me this morning. As noir as it can jolly well stick!" Freddie retired to the fireplace and sipped delicately. "As far as I can remember, it was Ronny Devereux' birthday or something . . ."

"Mr Martyn's, I think you said, sir."

"That's right. Algy Martyn's birthday, and Ronny and I were the guests. It all comes back to me. I wanted Derek to roll along and join the festivities he's never met Ronny but he gave it a miss. Quite right! A chap in his position has responsibilities. Member of Parliament and all that. Besides," said Freddie earnestly, driving home the point with a wave of his spoon, "he's engaged to be married. You must remember that, Parker!"

"I will endeavor to, sir."

"Sometimes," said Freddie dreamily, "I wish I were engaged to be married. Sometimes I wish I had some sweet girl to watch over me and . . . No, I don't, by Jove! It would give me the utter pip! Is Sir Derek up yet, Parker?"

"Getting up, sir."

"See that everything is all right, will you? I mean as regards the foodstuffs and what not. I want him to make a good breakfast. He's got to meet his mother this morning at Charing Cross. She's legging it back from the Riviera."

"Indeed, sir?"

Freddie shook his head.

"You wouldn't speak in that light, careless tone if you knew her! Well, you'll see her tonight. She's coming here to dinner."

"Yes, sir."

"Miss Mariner will be here, too. A foursome. Tell Mrs Parker to pull up her socks and give us something pretty ripe. Soup, fish, all that sort of thing. She knows. And let's have a stoup of malvoisie from the oldest bin. This is a special occasion!"

"Her ladyship will be meeting Miss Mariner for the first time, sir?"

"You've put your finger on it! Absolutely the first time on this or any stage! We must all rally round and make the thing a success."

"I am sure Mrs Parker will strain every nerve, sir." Parker moved to the door, carrying the rejected egg, and stepped aside to allow a tall, well built man of about thirty to enter. "Good morning, Sir Derek."

"Morning, Parker."

Parker slid softly from the room. Derek Underhill sat down at the table. He was a strikingly handsome man, with a strong, forceful face, dark, lean and cleanly shaven. He was one of those men whom a stranger would instinctively pick out of a crowd as worthy of note. His only defect was that his heavy eyebrows gave him at times an expression which was a little forbidding. Women, however, had never been repelled by it... Continue reading book >>




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