Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett - HTML preview
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Little Lord Fauntleroy
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Little Lord Fauntleroy
Chapter I.............................................................................................................................. 3
Chapter II ............................................................................................................................ 9
Chapter III......................................................................................................................... 25
Chapter IV......................................................................................................................... 29
Chapter V .......................................................................................................................... 37
Chapter VI......................................................................................................................... 50
Chapter VII ....................................................................................................................... 65
Chapter VIII ...................................................................................................................... 70
Chapter IX......................................................................................................................... 75
Chapter X .......................................................................................................................... 79
Chapter XI......................................................................................................................... 90
Chapter XII ....................................................................................................................... 97
Chapter XIII .................................................................................................................... 103
Chapter XIV.................................................................................................................... 107
Chapter XV ..................................................................................................................... 110
Cedric himself knew nothing whatever about it. It had never been even mentioned to him. He knew that his papa had been an Englishman, because his mamma had told him so; but then his papa had died when he was so little a boy that he could not remember very much about him, except that he was big, and had blue eyes and a long mustache, and that it was a splendid thing to be carried around the room on his shoulder. Since his papa's death, Cedric had found out that it was best not to talk to his mamma about him. When his father was ill, Cedric had been sent away, and when he had returned, everything was over; and his mother, who had been very ill, too, was only just beginning to sit in her chair by the window. She was pale and thin, and all the dimples had gone from her pretty face, and her eyes looked large and mournful, and she was dressed in black."Dearest," said Cedric (his papa had called her that always, and so the little boy had learned to say it),--"dearest, is my papa better?" He felt her arms tremble, and so he turned his curly head and looked in her face. There was something in it that made him feel that he was going to cry. "Dearest," he said, "is he well?"
Then suddenly his loving little heart told him that he'd better put both his arms around her neck and kiss her again and again, and keep his soft cheek close to hers; and he did so, and she laid her face on his shoulder and cried bitterly, holding him as if she could never let him go again."Yes, he is well," she sobbed; "he is quite, quite well, but we--we have no one left but each other. No one at all."
Then, little as he was, he understood that his big, handsome young papa would not come back any more; that he was dead, as he had heard of other people being, although he could not comprehend exactly what strange thing had brought all this sadness about. It was because his mamma always cried when he spoke of his papa that he secretly made up his mind it was better not to speak of him very often to her, and he found out, too, that it was better not to let her sit still and look into the fire or out of the window without moving or talking. He and his mamma knew very few people, and lived what might have been thought very lonely lives, although Cedric did not know it was lonely until he grew older and heard why it was they had no visitors. Then he was told that his mamma was an orphan, and quite alone in the world when his papa had married her. She was very pretty, and had been living as companion to a rich old lady who was not kind to her, and one day Captain Cedric Errol, who was calling at the house, saw her run up the stairs with tears on her eyelashes; and she looked so sweet and innocent and sorrowful that the Captain could not forget her. And after many strange things had happened, they knew each other well and loved each other dearly, and were married, although their marriage brought them the ill-will of several persons. The one who was most angry of all, however, was the Captain's father, who lived in England, and was a very rich and important old nobleman, with a very bad temper and a very violent dislike to America and Americans. He had two sons older than Captain Cedric; and it was the law that the elder of these sons should inherit the family title and estates, which were very rich and splendid; if the eldest son died, the next one would be heir; so, though he was a member of such a great family, there was little chance that Captain Cedric would be very rich himself.
But it so happened that Nature had given to the youngest son gifts which she had not bestowed upon his elder brothers. He had a beautiful face and a fine, strong, graceful figure; he had a bright smile and a sweet, gay voice; he was brave and generous, and had the kindest heart in the world, and seemed to have the power to make every one love him. And it was not so with his elder brothers; neither of them was handsome, or very kind, or clever. When they were boys at Eton, they were not popular; when they were at college, they cared nothing for study, and wasted both time and money, and made few real friends. The old Earl, their father, was constantly disappointed and humiliated by them; his heir was no honor to his noble name, and did not promise to end in being anything but a selfish, wasteful, insignificant man, with no manly or noble qualities. It was very bitter, the old Earl thought, that the son who was only third, and would have only a very small fortune, should be the one who had all the gifts, and all the charms, and all the strength and beauty. Sometimes he almost hated the handsome young man because he seemed to have the good things which should have gone with the stately title and the magnificent estates; and yet, in the depths of his proud, stubborn old heart, he could not help caring very much for his youngest son. It was in one of his fits of petulance that he sent him off to travel in America; he thought he would send him away for a while, so that he should not be made angry by constantly contrasting him with his brothers, who were at that time giving him a great deal of trouble by their wild ways.
But, after about six months, he began to feel lonely, and longed in secret to see his son again, so he wrote to Captain Cedric and ordered him home. The letter he wrote crossed on its way a letter the Captain had just written to his father, telling of his love for the pretty American girl, and of his intended marriage; and when the Earl received that letter he was furiously angry. Bad as his temper was, he had never given way to it in his life as he gave way to it when he read the Captain's letter. His valet, who was in the room when it came, thought his lordship would have a fit of apoplexy, he was so wild with anger. For an hour he raged like a tiger, and then he sat down and wrote to his son, and ordered him never to come near his old home, nor to write to his father or brothers again. He told him he might live as he pleased, and die where he pleased, that he should be cut off from his family forever, and that he need never expect help from his father as long as he lived.
The Captain was very sad when he read the letter; he was very fond of England, and he dearly loved the beautiful home where he had been born; he had even loved his illtempered old father, and had sympathized with him in his disappointments; but he knew he need expect no kindness from him in the future. At first he scarcely knew what to do; he had not been brought up to work, and had no business experience, but he had courage and plenty of determination. So he sold his commission in the English army, and after some trouble found a situation in New York, and married. The change from his old life in England was very great, but he was young and happy, and he hoped that hard work would do great things for him in the future. He had a small house on a quiet street, and his little boy was born there, and everything was so gay and cheerful, in a simple way, that he was never sorry for a moment that he had married the rich old lady's pretty companion just because she was so sweet and he loved her and she loved him. She was very sweet, indeed, and her little boy was like both her and his father. Though he was born in so quiet and cheap a little home, it seemed as if there never had been a more fortunate baby. In the first place, he was always well, and so he never gave any one trouble; in the second place, he had so sweet a temper and ways so charming that he was a pleasure to every one; and in the third place, he was so beautiful to look at that he was quite a picture. Instead of being a bald-headed baby, he started in life with a quantity of soft, fine, gold-colored hair, which curled up at the ends, and went into loose rings by the time he was six months old; he had big brown eyes and long eyelashes and a darling little face; he had so strong a back and such splendid sturdy legs, that at nine months he learned suddenly to walk; his manners were so good, for a baby, that it was delightful to make his acquaintance. He seemed to feel that every one was his friend, and when any one spoke to him, when he was in his carriage in the street, he would give the stranger one sweet, serious look with the brown eyes, and then follow it with a lovely, friendly smile; and the consequence was, that there was not a person in the neighborhood of the quiet street where he lived-even to the groceryman at the corner, who was considered the crossest creature alive-who was not pleased to see him and speak to him. And every month of his life he grew handsomer and more interesting.
When he was old enough to walk out with his nurse, dragging a small wagon and wearing a short white kilt skirt, and a big white hat set back on his curly yellow hair, he was so handsome and strong and rosy that he attracted every one's attention, and his nurse would come home and tell his mamma stories of the ladies who had stopped their carriages to look at and speak to him, and of how pleased they were when he talked to them in his cheerful little way, as if he had known them always. His greatest charm was this cheerful, fearless, quaint little way of making friends with people. I think it arose from his having a very confiding nature, and a kind little heart that sympathized with every one, and wished to make every one as comfortable as he liked to be himself. It made him very quick to understand the feelings of those about him. Perhaps this had grown on him, too, because he had lived so much with his father and mother, who were always loving and considerate and tender and well-bred. He had never heard an unkind or uncourteous word spoken at home; he had always been loved and caressed and treated tenderly, and so his childish soul was full of kindness and innocent warm feeling. He had always heard his mamma called by pretty, loving names, and so he used them himself when he spoke to her; he had always seen that his papa watched over her and took great care of her, and so he learned, too, to be careful of her.
So when he knew his papa would come back no more, and saw how very sad his mamma was, there gradually came into his kind little heart the thought that he must do what he could to make her happy. He was not much more than a baby, but that thought was in his mind whenever he climbed upon her knee and kissed her and put his curly head on her neck, and when he brought his toys and picture-books to show her, and when he curled up quietly by her side as she used to lie on the sofa. He was not old enough to know of anything else to do, so he did what he could, and was more of a comfort to her than he could have understood.
"Oh, Mary!" he heard her say once to her old servant; "I am sure he is trying to help me in his innocent way--I know he is. He looks at me sometimes with a loving, wondering little look, as if he were sorry for me, and then he will come and pet me or show me something. He is such a little man, I really think he knows."
As he grew older, he had a great many quaint little ways which amused and interested people greatly. He was so much of a companion for his mother that she scarcely cared for any other. They used to walk together and talk together and play together. When he was quite a little fellow, he learned to read; and after that he used to lie on the hearth-rug, in the evening, and read aloud--sometimes stories, and sometimes big books such as older people read, and sometimes even the newspaper; and often at such times Mary, in the kitchen, would hear Mrs. Errol laughing with delight at the quaint things he said. "And; indade," said Mary to the groceryman, "nobody cud help laughin' at the quare little ways of him--and his ould-fashioned sayin's! Didn't he come into my kitchen the noight the new Prisident was nominated and shtand afore the fire, lookin' loike a pictur', wid his hands in his shmall pockets, an' his innocent bit of a face as sayrious as a jedge? An' sez he to me: `Mary,' sez he, `I'm very much int'rusted in the 'lection,' sez he. `I'm a 'publican, an' so is Dearest. Are you a 'publican, Mary?' `Sorra a bit,' sez I; `I'm the bist o' dimmycrats!' An' he looks up at me wid a look that ud go to yer heart, an' sez he: `Mary,' sez he, `the country will go to ruin.' An' nivver a day since thin has he let go by widout argyin' wid me to change me polytics."
Mary was very fond of him, and very proud of him, too. She had been with his mother ever since he was born; and, after his father's death, had been cook and housemaid and nurse and everything else. She was proud of his graceful, strong little body and his pretty manners, and especially proud of the bright curly hair which waved over his forehead and fell in charming love-locks on his shoulders. She was willing to work early and late to help his mamma make his small suits and keep them in order.
"'Ristycratic, is it?" she would say. "Faith, an' I'd loike to see the choild on Fifth AveyNOO as looks loike him an' shteps out as handsome as himself. An' ivvery man, woman, and choild lookin' afther him in his bit of a black velvet skirt made out of the misthress's ould gownd; an' his little head up, an' his curly hair flyin' an' shinin'. It's loike a young lord he looks."
Cedric did not know that he looked like a young lord; he did not know what a lord was. His greatest friend was the groceryman at the corner--the cross groceryman, who was never cross to him. His name was Mr. Hobbs, and Cedric admired and respected him very much. He thought him a very rich and powerful person, he had so many things in his store,--prunes and figs and oranges and biscuits,--and he had a horse and wagon. Cedric was fond of the milkman and the baker and the apple-woman,, but he liked Mr.Hobbs best of all, and was on terms of such intimacy with him that he went to see him every day, and often sat with him quite a long time, discussing the topics of the hour. It was quite surprising how many things they found to talk about--the Fourth of July, for instance. When they began to talk about the Fourth of July there really seemed no end to it. Mr. Hobbs had a very bad opinion of "the British," and he told the whole story of the Revolution, relating very wonderful and patriotic stories about the villainy of the enemy and the bravery of the Revolutionary heroes, and he even generously repeated part of the Declaration of Independence.
Cedric was so excited that his eyes shone and his cheeks were red and his curls were all rubbed and tumbled into a yellow mop. He could hardly wait to eat his dinner after he went home, he was so anxious to tell his mamma. It was, perhaps, Mr. Hobbs who gave him his first interest in politics. Mr. Hobbs was fond of reading the newspapers, and so Cedric heard a great deal about what was going on in Washington; and Mr. Hobbs would tell him whether the President was doing his duty or not. And once, when there was an election, he found it all quite grand, and probably but for Mr. Hobbs and Cedric the country might have been wrecked.
Mr. Hobbs took him to see a great torchlight procession, and many of the men who carried torches remembered afterward a stout man who stood near a lamp-post and held on his shoulder a handsome little shouting boy, who waved his cap in the air. It was not long after this election, when Cedric was between seven and eight years old, that the very strange thing happened which made so wonderful a change in his life. It was quite curious, too, that the day it happened he had been talking to Mr. Hobbs about England and the Queen, and Mr. Hobbs had said some very severe things about the aristocracy, being specially indignant against earls and marquises. It had been a hot morning; and after playing soldiers with some friends of his, Cedric had gone into the store to rest, and had found Mr. Hobbs looking very fierce over a piece of the Illustrated London News, which contained a picture of some court ceremony.
"Ah," he said, "that's the way they go on now; but they'll get enough of it some day, when those they've trod on rise and blow 'em up sky-high,--earls and marquises and all! It's coming, and they may look out for it!"Cedric had perched himself as usual on the high stool and pushed his hat back, and put his hands in his pockets in delicate compliment to Mr. Hobbs. "Did you ever know many marquises, Mr. Hobbs?" Cedric inquired,--"or earls?" "No," answered Mr. Hobbs, with indignation; "I guess not. I'd like to catch one of 'em inside here; that's all! I'll have no grasping tyrants sittin' 'round on my cracker-barrels!" And he was so proud of the sentiment that he looked around proudly and mopped his forehead. "Perhaps they wouldn't be earls if they knew any better," said Cedric, feeling some vague sympathy for their unhappy condition. "Wouldn't they!" said Mr. Hobbs. "They just glory in it! It's in 'em. They're a bad lot." They were in the midst of their conversation, when Mary appeared. Cedric thought she had come to buy some sugar, perhaps, but she had not. She looked almost pale and as if she were excited about something. "Come home, darlint," she said; "the misthress is wantin' yez." Cedric slipped down from his stool. "Does she want me to go out with her, Mary?" he asked. "Good-morning, Mr. Hobbs. I'll see you again." He was surprised to see Mary staring at him in a dumfounded fashion, and he wondered why she kept shaking her head. "What's the matter, Mary?" he said. "Is it the hot weather?" "No," said Mary; "but there's strange things happenin' to us." "Has the sun given Dearest a headache?" he inquired anxiously.
But it was not that. When he reached his own house there was a coupe standing before the door. and some one was in the little parlor talking to his mamma. Mary hurried him upstairs and put on his best summer suit of cream-colored flannel, with the red scarf around his waist, and combed out his curly locks."Lords, is it?" he heard her say. "An' the nobility an' gintry. Och! bad cess to them! Lords, indade--worse luck."
It was really very puzzling, but he felt sure his mamma would tell him what all the excitement meant, so he allowed Mary to bemoan herself without asking many questions. When he was dressed, he ran downstairs and went into the parlor. A tall, thin old gentleman with a sharp face was sitting in an arm-chair. His mother was standing near by with a pale face, and he saw that there were tears in her eyes."Oh! Ceddie!" she cried out, and ran to her little boy and caught him in her arms and kissed him in a frightened, troubled way. "Oh! Ceddie, darling!" The tall old gentleman rose from his chair and looked at Cedric with his sharp eyes. He rubbed his thin chin with his bony hand as he looked. He seemed not at all displeased. "And so," he said at last, slowly,--"and so this is little Lord Fauntleroy."
There was never a more amazed little boy than Cedric during the week that followed; there was never so strange or so unreal a week. In the first place, the story his mamma told him was a very curious one. He was obliged to hear it two or three times before he could understand it. He could not imagine what Mr. Hobbs would think of it. It began with earls: his grandpapa, whom he had never seen, was an earl; and his eldest uncle, if he had not been killed by a fall from his horse, would have been an earl, too, in time; and after his death, his other uncle would have been an earl, if he had not died suddenly, in Rome, of a fever. After that, his own papa, if he had lived, would have been an earl, but, since they all had died and only Cedric was left, it appeared that HE was to be an earl after his grandpapa's death--and for the present he was Lord Fauntleroy.He turned quite pale when he was first told of it. "Oh! Dearest!" he said, "I should rather not be an earl. None of the boys are earls. Can't I NOT be one?"
But it seemed to be unavoidable. And when, that evening, they sat together by the open window looking out into the shabby street, he and his mother had a long talk about it. Cedric sat on his footstool, clasping one knee in his favorite attitude and wearing a bewildered little face rather red from the exertion of thinking. His grandfather had sent for him to come to England, and his mamma thought he must go.
"Because," she said, looking out of the window with sorrowful eyes, "I know your papa would wish it to be so, Ceddie. He loved his home very much; and there are many things to be thought of that a little boy can't quite understand. I should be a selfish little mother if I did not send you. When you are a man, you will see why."Ceddie shook his head mournfully. "I shall be very sorry to leave Mr. Hobbs," he said. "I'm afraid he'll miss me, and I shall miss him. And I shall miss them all."
When Mr. Havisham--who was the family lawyer of the Earl of Dorincourt, and who had been sent by him to bring Lord Fauntleroy to England--came the next day, Cedric heard many things. But, somehow, it did not console him to hear that he was to be a very rich man when he grew up, and that he would have castles here and castles there, and great parks and deep mines and grand estates and tenantry. He was troubled about his friend, Mr. Hobbs, and he went to see him at the store soon after breakfast, in great anxiety of mind.
He found him reading the morning paper, and he approached him with a grave demeanor. He really felt it would be a great shock to Mr. Hobbs to hear what had befallen him, and on his way to the store he had been thinking how it would be best to break the news."Hello!" said Mr. Hobbs. "Mornin'!"
"Good-morning," said Cedric. He did not climb up on the high stool as usual, but sat down on a cracker-box and clasped his knee, and was so silent for a few moments that Mr. Hobbs finally looked up inquiringly over the top of his newspaper."Hello!" he said again. Cedric gathered all his strength of mind together. "Mr. Hobbs," he said, "do you remember what we were talking about yesterday morning?" "Well," replied Mr. Hobbs,--"seems to me it was England." "Yes," said Cedric; "but just when Mary came for me, you know?" Mr. Hobbs rubbed the back of his head. "We WAS mentioning Queen Victoria and the aristocracy." "Yes," said Cedric, rather hesitatingly, "and--and earls; don't you know?" "Why, yes," returned Mr. Hobbs; "we DID touch 'em up a little; that's so!"
Cedric flushed up to the curly bang on his forehead. Nothing so embarrassing as this had ever happened to him in his life. He was a little afraid that it might be a trifle embarrassing to Mr. Hobbs, too."You said," he proceeded, "that you wouldn't have them sitting 'round on your crackerbarrels." "So I did!" returned Mr. Hobbs, stoutly. "And I meant it. Let 'em try it--that's all!" "Mr. Hobbs," said Cedric, "one is sitting on this box now!" Mr. Hobbs almost jumped out of his chair. "What!" he exclaimed. "Yes," Cedric announced, with due modesty; "I am one--or I am going to be. I won't deceive you." Mr. Hobbs looked agitated. He rose up suddenly and went to look at the thermometer.
"The mercury's got into your head!" he exclaimed, turning back to examine his young friend's countenance. "It IS a hot day! How do you feel? Got any pain? When did you begin to feel that way?"He put his big hand on the little boy's hair. This was more embarrassing than ever.
"Thank you," said Ceddie; "I'm all right. There is nothing the matter with my head. I'm sorry to say it's true, Mr. Hobbs. That was what Mary came to take me home for. Mr. Havisham was telling my mamma, and he is a lawyer."
Mr. Hobbs sank into his chair and mopped his forehead with his handkerchief.
"I couldn't easily remember it, so I wrote it down on this," he said. And he read aloud slowly: "`John Arthur Molyneux Errol, Earl of Dorincourt.' That is his name, and he lives in a castle--in two or three castles, I think. And my papa, who died, was his youngest son; and I shouldn't have been a lord or an earl if my papa hadn't died; and my papa wouldn't have been an earl if his two brothers hadn't died. But they all died, and there is no one but me,--no boy,--and so I have to be one; and my grandpapa has sent for me to come to England."
Mr. Hobbs seemed to grow hotter and hotter. He mopped his forehead and his bald spot and breathed hard. He began to see that something very remarkable had happened; but when he looked at the little boy sitting on the cracker-box, with the innocent, anxious expression in his childish eyes, and saw that he was not changed at all, but was simply as he had been the day before, just a handsome, cheerful, brave little fellow in a blue suit and red neck-ribbon, all this information about the nobility bewildered him. He was all the more bewildered because Cedric gave it with such ingenuous simplicity, and plainly without realizing himself how stupendous it was."Wha--what did you say your name was?" Mr. Hobbs inquired. "It's Cedric Errol, Lord Fauntleroy," answered Cedric. "That was what Mr. Havisham called me. He said when I went into the room: `And so this is little Lord Fauntleroy!'" "Well," said Mr. Hobbs, "I'll be--jiggered!" This was an exclamation he always used when he was very much astonished or excited. He could think of nothing else to say just at that puzzling moment.
Cedric felt it to be quite a proper and suitable ejaculation. His respect and affection for Mr. Hobbs were so great that he admired and approved of all his remarks. He had not seen enough of society as yet to make him realize that sometimes Mr. Hobbs was not quite conventional. He knew, of course, that he was different from his mamma, but, then, his mamma was a lady, and he had an idea that ladies were always different from gentlemen.He looked at Mr. Hobbs wistfully. "England is a long way off, isn't it?" he asked. "It's across the Atlantic Ocean," Mr. Hobbs answered. "That's the worst of it," said Cedric. "Perhaps I shall not see you again for a long time. I don't like to think of that, Mr. Hobbs." "The best of friends must part," said Mr. Hobbs. "Well," said Cedric, "we have been friends for a great many years, haven't we?" "Ever since you was born," Mr. Hobbs answered. "You was about six weeks old when you was first walked out on this street." "Ah," remarked Cedric, with a sigh, "I never thought I should have to be an earl then!" "You think," said Mr. Hobbs, "there's no getting out of it?"
"I'm afraid not," answered Cedric. "My mamma says that my papa would wish me to do it. But if I have to be an earl, there's one thing I can do: I can try to be a good one. I'm not going to be a tyrant. And if there is ever to be another war with America, I shall try to stop it."
His conversation with Mr. Hobbs was a long and serious one. Once having got over the first shock, Mr. Hobbs was not so rancorous as might have been expected; he endeavored to resign himself to the situation, and before the interview was at an end he had asked a great many questions. As Cedric could answer but few of them, he endeavored to answer them himself, and, being fairly launched on the subject of earls and marquises and lordly estates, explained many things in a way which would probably have astonished Mr. Havisham, could that gentleman have heard it.
But then there were many things which astonished Mr. Havisham. He had spent all his life in England, and was not accustomed to American people and American habits. He had been connected professionally with the family of the Earl of Dorincourt for nearly forty years, and he knew all about its grand estates and its great wealth and importance; and, in a cold, business-like way, he felt an interest in this little boy, who, in the future, was to be the master and owner of them all,--the future Earl of Dorincourt. He had known all about the old Earl's disappointment in his elder sons and all about his fierce rage at Captain Cedric's American marriage, and he knew how he still hated the gentle little widow and would not speak of her except with bitter and cruel words. He insisted that she was only a common American girl, who had entrapped his son into marrying her because she knew he was an earl's son. The old lawyer himself had more than half believed this was all true. He had seen a great many selfish, mercenary people in his life, and he had not a good opinion of Americans. When he had been driven into the cheap street, and his coupe had stopped before the cheap, small house, he had felt actually shocked. It seemed really quite dreadful to think that the future owner of Dorincourt Castle and Wyndham Towers and Chorlworth, and all the other stately splendors, should have been born and brought up in an insignificant house in a street with a sort of greengrocery at the corner. He wondered what kind of a child he would be, and what kind of a mother he had. He rather shrank from seeing them both. He had a sort of pride in the noble family whose legal affairs he had conducted so long, and it would have annoyed him very much to have found himself obliged to manage a woman who would seem to him a vulgar, money-loving person, with no respect for her dead husband's country and the dignity of his name. It was a very old name and a very splendid one, and Mr. Havisham had a great respect for it himself, though he was only a cold, keen, businesslike old lawyer.
When Mary handed him into the small parlor, he looked around it critically. It was plainly furnished, but it had a home-like look; there were no cheap, common ornaments, and no cheap, gaudy pictures; the few adornments on the walls were in good taste. and about the room were many pretty things which a woman's hand might have made.
"Not at all bad so far," he had said to himself; "but perhaps the Captain's taste predominated." But when Mrs. Errol came into the room, he began to think she herself might have had something to do with it. If he had not been quite a self-contained and stiff old gentleman, he would probably have started when he saw her. She looked, in the simple black dress, fitting closely to her slender figure, more like a young girl than the mother of a boy of seven. She had a pretty, sorrowful, young face, and a very tender, innocent look in her large brown eyes,--the sorrowful look that had never quite left her face since her husband had died. Cedric was used to seeing it there; the only times he had ever seen it fade out had been when he was playing with her or talking to her, and had said some old-fashioned thing, or used some long word he had picked up out of the newspapers or in his conversations with Mr. Hobbs. He was fond of using long words, and he was always pleased when they made her laugh, though he could not understand why they were laughable; they were quite serious matters with him. The lawyer's experience taught him to read people's characters very shrewdly, and as soon as he saw Cedric's mother he knew that the old Earl had made a great mistake in thinking her a vulgar, mercenary woman. Mr. Havisham had never been married, he had never even been in love, but he divined that this pretty young creature with the sweet voice and sad eyes had married Captain Errol only because she loved him with all her affectionate heart, and that she had never once thought it an advantage that he was an earl's son. And he saw he should have no trouble with her, and he began to feel that perhaps little Lord Fauntleroy might not be such a trial to his noble family, after all. The Captain had been a handsome fellow, and the young mother was very pretty, and perhaps the boy might be well enough to look at.When he first told Mrs. Errol what he had come for, she turned very pale.
"Oh!" she said; "will he have to be taken away from me? We love each other so much! He is such a happiness to me! He is all I have. I have tried to be a good mother to him." And her sweet young voice trembled, and the tears rushed into her eyes. "You do not know what he has been to me!" she said.The lawyer cleared his throat.
"I am obliged to tell you," he said, "that the Earl of Dorincourt is not--is not very friendly toward you. He is an old man, and his prejudices are very strong. He has always especially disliked America and Americans, and was very much enraged by his son's marriage. I am sorry to be the bearer of so unpleasant a communication, but he is very fixed in his determination not to see you. His plan is that Lord Fauntleroy shall be educated under his own supervision; that he shall live with him. The Earl is attached to Dorincourt Castle, and spends a great deal of time there. He is a victim to inflammatory gout, and is not fond of London. Lord Fauntleroy will, therefore, be likely to live chiefly at Dorincourt. The Earl offers you as a home Court Lodge, which is situated pleasantly, and is not very far from the castle. He also offers you a suitable income. Lord Fauntleroy will be permitted to visit you; the only stipulation is, that you shall not visit him or enter the park gates. You see you will not be really separated from your son, and I assure you, madam, the terms are not so harsh as--as they might have been. The advantage of such surroundings and education as Lord Fauntleroy will have, I am sure you must see, will be very great."He felt a little uneasy lest she should begin to cry or make a scene, as he knew some women would have done. It embarrassed and annoyed him to see women cry. But she did not. She went to the window and stood with her face turned away for a few moments, and he saw she was trying to steady herself.
"Captain Errol was very fond of Dorincourt," she said at last. "He loved England, and everything English. It was always a grief to him that he was parted from his home. He was proud of his home, and of his name. He would wish--I know he would wish that his son should know the beautiful old places, and be brought up in such a way as would be suitable to his future position."Then she came back to the table and stood looking up at Mr. Havisham very gently.
"My husband would wish it," she said. "It will be best for my little boy. I know--I am sure the Earl would not be so unkind as to try to teach him not to love me; and I know-even if he tried--that my little boy is too much like his father to be harmed. He has a warm, faithful nature, and a true heart. He would love me even if he did not see me; and so long as we may see each other, I ought not to suffer very much.""She thinks very little of herself," the lawyer thought. "She does not make any terms for herself."
"Madam," he said aloud, "I respect your consideration for your son. He will thank you for it when he is a man. I assure you Lord Fauntleroy will be most carefully guarded, and every effort will be used to insure his happiness. The Earl of Dorincourt will be as anxious for his comfort and well-being as you yourself could be.""I hope," said the tender little mother, in a rather broken voice, "that his grandfather will love Ceddie. The little boy has a very affectionate nature; and he has always been loved."
Mr. Havisham cleared his throat again. He could not quite imagine the gouty, fierytempered old Earl loving any one very much; but he knew it would be to his interest to be kind, in his irritable way, to the child who was to be his heir. He knew, too, that if Ceddie were at all a credit to his name, his grandfather would be proud of him.
"Lord Fauntleroy will be comfortable, I am sure," he replied. "It was with a view to his happiness that the Earl desired that you should be near enough to him to see him frequently."He did not think it would be discreet to repeat the exact words the Earl had used, which were in fact neither polite nor amiable.
Mr. Havisham preferred to express his noble patron's offer in smoother and more courteous language.
He had another slight shock when Mrs. Errol asked Mary to find her little boy and bring him to her, and Mary told her where he was.
"Sure I'll foind him aisy enough, ma'am," she said; "for it's wid Mr. Hobbs he is this minnit, settin' on his high shtool by the counther an' talkin' pollytics, most loikely, or enj'yin' hisself among the soap an' candles an' pertaties, as sinsible an' shwate as ye plase.""Mr. Hobbs has known him all his life," Mrs. Errol said to the lawyer. "He is very kind to Ceddie, and there is a great friendship between them."
Remembering the glimpse he had caught of the store as he passed it, and having a recollection of the barrels of potatoes and apples and the various odds and ends, Mr. Havisham felt his doubts arise again. In England, gentlemen's sons did not make friends of grocerymen, and it seemed to him a rather singular proceeding. It would be very awkward if the child had bad manners and a disposition to like low company. One of the bitterest humiliations of the old Earl's life had been that his two elder sons had been fond of low company. Could it be, he thought, that this boy shared their bad qualities instead of his father's good qualities?
He was thinking uneasily about this as he talked to Mrs. Errol until the child came into the room. When the door opened, he actually hesitated a moment before looking at Cedric. It would, perhaps, have seemed very queer to a great many people who knew him, if they could have known the curious sensations that passed through Mr. Havisham when he looked down at the boy, who ran into his mother's arms. He experienced a revulsion of feeling which was quite exciting. He recognized in an instant that here was one of the finest and handsomest little fellows he had ever seen.
His beauty was something unusual. He had a strong, lithe, graceful little body and a manly little face; he held his childish head up, and carried himself with a brave air; he was so like his father that it was really startling; he had his father's golden hair and his mother's brown eyes, but there was nothing sorrowful or timid in them. They were innocently fearless eyes; he looked as if he had never feared or doubted anything in his life.
"He is the best-bred-looking and handsomest little fellow I ever saw," was what Mr. Havisham thought. What he said aloud was simply, "And so this is little Lord Fauntleroy."
And, after this, the more he saw of little Lord Fauntleroy, the more of a surprise he found him. He knew very little about children, though he had seen plenty of them in England-fine, handsome, rosy girls and boys, who were strictly taken care of by their tutors and governesses, and who were sometimes shy, and sometimes a trifle boisterous, but never very interesting to a ceremonious, rigid old lawyer. Perhaps his personal interest in little Lord Fauntleroy's fortunes made him notice Ceddie more than he had noticed other children; but, however that was, he certainly found himself noticing him a great deal.
Cedric did not know he was being observed, and he only behaved himself in his ordinary manner. He shook hands with Mr. Havisham in his friendly way when they were introduced to each other, and he answered all his questions with the unhesitating readiness with which he answered Mr. Hobbs. He was neither shy nor bold, and when Mr. Havisham was talking to his mother, the lawyer noticed that he listened to the conversation with as much interest as if he had been quite grown up."He seems to be a very mature little fellow," Mr. Havisham said to the mother.
"I think he is, in some things," she answered. "He has always been very quick to learn, and he has lived a great deal with grownup people. He has a funny little habit of using long words and expressions he has read in books, or has heard others use, but he is very fond of childish play. I think he is rather clever, but he is a very boyish little boy, sometimes."
The next time Mr. Havisham met him, he saw that this last was quite true. As his coupe turned the corner, he caught sight of a group of small boys, who were evidently much excited. Two of them were about to run a race, and one of them was his young lordship, and he was shouting and making as much noise as the noisiest of his companions. He stood side by side with another boy, one little red leg advanced a step."One, to make ready!" yelled the starter. "Two, to be steady. Three--and away!"
Mr. Havisham found himself leaning out of the window of his coupe with a curious feeling of interest. He really never remembered having seen anything quite like the way in which his lordship's lordly little red legs flew up behind his knickerbockers and tore over the ground as he shot out in the race at the signal word. He shut his small hands and set his face against the wind; his bright hair streamed out behind."Hooray, Ced Errol!" all the boys shouted, dancing and shrieking with excitement. "Hooray, Billy Williams! Hooray, Ceddie! Hooray, Billy! Hooray! 'Ray! 'Ray!"
"I really believe he is going to win," said Mr. Havisham. The way in which the red legs flew and flashed up and down, the shrieks of the boys, the wild efforts of Billy Williams, whose brown legs were not to be despised, as they followed closely in the rear of the red legs, made him feel some excitement. "I really--I really can't help hoping he will win!" he said, with an apologetic sort of cough. At that moment, the wildest yell of all went up from the dancing, hopping boys. With one last frantic leap the future Earl of Dorincourt had reached the lamp-post at the end of the block and touched it, just two seconds before Billy Williams flung himself at it, panting."Three cheers for Ceddie Errol!" yelled the little boys. "Hooray for Ceddie Errol!" Mr. Havisham drew his head in at the window of his coupe and leaned back with a dry smile. "Bravo, Lord Fauntleroy!" he said.
As his carriage stopped before the door of Mrs. Errol's house, the victor and the vanquished were coming toward it, attended by the clamoring crew. Cedric walked by Billy Williams and was speaking to him. His elated little face was very red, his curls clung to his hot, moist forehead, his hands were in his pockets.
"You see," he was saying, evidently with the intention of making defeat easy for his unsuccessful rival, "I guess I won because my legs are a little longer than yours. I guess that was it. You see, I'm three days older than you, and that gives me a 'vantage. I'm three days older."
And this view of the case seemed to cheer Billy Williams so much that he began to smile on the world again, and felt able to swagger a little, almost as if he had won the race instead of losing it. Somehow, Ceddie Errol had a way of making people feel comfortable. Even in the first flush of his triumphs, he remembered that the person who was beaten might not feel so gay as he did, and might like to think that he MIGHT have been the winner under different circumstances.
That morning Mr. Havisham had quite a long conversation with the winner of the race--a conversation which made him smile his dry smile, and rub his chin with his bony hand several times.
Mrs. Errol had been called out of the parlor, and the lawyer and Cedric were left together. At first Mr. Havisham wondered what he should say to his small companion. He had an idea that perhaps it would be best to say several things which might prepare Cedric for meeting his grandfather, and, perhaps, for the great change that was to come to him. He could see that Cedric had not the least idea of the sort of thing he was to see when he reached England, or of the sort of home that waited for him there. He did not even know yet that his mother was not to live in the same house with him. They had thought it best to let him get over the first shock before telling him.
Mr. Havisham sat in an arm-chair on one side of the open window; on the other side was another still larger chair, and Cedric sat in that and looked at Mr. Havisham. He sat well back in the depths of his big seat, his curly head against the cushioned back, his legs crossed, and his hands thrust deep into his pockets, in a quite Mr. Hobbs-like way. He had been watching Mr. Havisham very steadily when his mamma had been in the room, and after she was gone he still looked at him in respectful thoughtfulness. There was a short silence after Mrs. Errol went out, and Cedric seemed to be studying Mr. Havisham, and Mr. Havisham was certainly studying Cedric. He could not make up his mind as to what an elderly gentleman should say to a little boy who won races, and wore short knickerbockers and red stockings on legs which were not long enough to hang over a big chair when he sat well back in it.But Cedric relieved him by suddenly beginning the conversation himself. "Do you know," he said, "I don't know what an earl is?" "Don't you?" said Mr. Havisham. "No," replied Ceddie. "And I think when a boy is going to be one, he ought to know. Don't you?" "Well--yes," answered Mr. Havisham.
"Would you mind," said Ceddie respectfully--"would you mind 'splaining it to me?" (Sometimes when he used his long words he did not pronounce them quite correctly.) "What made him an earl?""A king or queen, in the first place," said Mr. Havisham. "Generally, he is made an earl because he has done some service to his sovereign, or some great deed." "Oh!" said Cedric; "that's like the President." "Is it?" said Mr. Havisham. "Is that why your presidents are elected?"
"Yes," answered Ceddie cheerfully. "When a man is very good and knows a great deal, he is elected president. They have torch-light processions and bands, and everybody makes speeches. I used to think I might perhaps be a president, but I never thought of being an earl. I didn't know about earls," he said, rather hastily, lest Mr. Havisham might feel it impolite in him not to have wished to be one,--"if I'd known about them, I dare say I should have thought I should like to be one""It is rather different from being a president," said Mr. Havisham. "Is it?" asked Cedric. "How? Are there no torch-light processions?" Mr. Havisham crossed his own legs and put the tips of his fingers carefully together. He thought perhaps the time had come to explain matters rather more clearly. "An earl is--is a very important person," he began. "So is a president!" put in Ceddie. "The torch-light processions are five miles long, and they shoot up rockets, and the band plays! Mr. Hobbs took me to see them." "An earl," Mr. Havisham went on, feeling rather uncertain of his ground, "is frequently of very ancient lineage----" "What's that?" asked Ceddie. "Of very old family--extremely old."
"Ah!" said Cedric, thrusting his hands deeper into his pockets. "I suppose that is the way with the apple-woman near the park. I dare say she is of ancient lin-lenage. She is so old it would surprise you how she can stand up. She's a hundred, I should think, and yet she is out there when it rains, even. I'm sorry for her, and so are the other boys. Billy Williams once had nearly a dollar, and I asked him to buy five cents' worth of apples from her every day until he had spent it all. That made twenty days, and he grew tired of apples after a week; but then--it was quite fortunate--a gentleman gave me fifty cents and I bought apples from her instead. You feel sorry for any one that's so poor and has such ancient lin-lenage. She says hers has gone into her bones and the rain makes it worse."Mr. Havisham felt rather at a loss as he looked at his companion's innocent, serious little face.
"I am afraid you did not quite understand me," he explained. "When I said `ancient lineage' I did not mean old age; I meant that the name of such a family has been known in the world a long time; perhaps for hundreds of years persons bearing that name have been known and spoken of in the history of their country."
"Like George Washington," said Ceddie. "I've heard of him ever since I was born, and he was known about, long before that. Mr. Hobbs says he will never be forgotten. That's because of the Declaration of Independence, you know, and the Fourth of July. You see, he was a very brave man."
"The first Earl of Dorincourt," said Mr. Havisham solemnly, "was created an earl four hundred years ago."
"Well, well!" said Ceddie. "That was a long time ago! Did you tell Dearest that? It would int'rust her very much. We'll tell her when she comes in. She always likes to hear cur'us things. What else does an earl do besides being created?""A great many of them have helped to govern England. Some of them have been brave men and have fought in great battles in the old days."
"I should like to do that myself," said Cedric. "My papa was a soldier, and he was a very brave man--as brave as George Washington. Perhaps that was because he would have been an earl if he hadn't died. I am glad earls are brave. That's a great 'vantage--to be a brave man. Once I used to be rather afraid of things--in the dark, you know; but when I thought about the soldiers in the Revolution and George Washington--it cured me."
"There is another advantage in being an earl, sometimes," said Mr. Havisham slowly, and he fixed his shrewd eyes on the little boy with a rather curious expression. "Some earls have a great deal of money."He was curious because he wondered if his young friend knew what the power of money was. "That's a good thing to have," said Ceddie innocently. "I wish I had a great deal of money." "Do you?" said Mr. Havisham. "And why?"
"Well," explained Cedric, "there are so many things a person can do with money. You see, there's the apple-woman. If I were very rich I should buy her a little tent to put her stall in, and a little stove, and then I should give her a dollar every morning it rained, so that she could afford to stay at home. And then--oh! I'd give her a shawl. And, you see, her bones wouldn't feel so badly. Her bones are not like our bones; they hurt her when she moves. It's very painful when your bones hurt you. If I were rich enough to do all those things for her, I guess her bones would be all right.""Ahem!" said Mr. Havisham. "And what else would you do if you were rich?"
"Oh! I'd do a great many things. Of course I should buy Dearest all sorts of beautiful things, needle-books and fans and gold thimbles and rings, and an encyclopedia, and a carriage, so that she needn't have to wait for the street-cars. If she liked pink silk dresses, I should buy her some, but she likes black best. But I'd, take her to the big stores, and tell her to look 'round and choose for herself. And then Dick----""Who is Dick?" asked Mr. Havisham.
"Dick is a boot-black," said his young; lordship, quite warming up in his interest in plans so exciting. "He is one of the nicest boot-blacks you ever knew. He stands at the corner of a street down-town. I've known him for years. Once when I was very little, I was walking out with Dearest, and she bought me a beautiful ball that bounced, and I was carrying it and it bounced into the middle of the street where the carriages and horses were, and I was so disappointed, I began to cry--I was very little. I had kilts on. And Dick was blacking a man's shoes, and he said `Hello!' and he ran in between the horses and caught the ball for me and wiped it off with his coat and gave it to me and said, `It's all right, young un.' So Dearest admired him very much, and so did I, and ever since then, when we go down-town, we talk to him. He says `Hello!' and I say `Hello!' and then we talk a little, and he tells me how trade is. It's been bad lately.""And what would you like to do for him?" inquired the lawyer, rubbing his chin and smiling a queer smile. "Well," said Lord Fauntleroy, settling himself in his chair with a business air, "I'd buy Jake out." "And who is Jake?" Mr. Havisham asked.
"He's Dick's partner, and he is the worst partner a fellow could have! Dick says so. He isn't a credit to the business, and he isn't square. He cheats, and that makes Dick mad. It would make you mad, you know, if you were blacking boots as hard as you could, and being square all the time, and your partner wasn't square at all. People like Dick, but they don't like Jake, and so sometimes they don't come twice. So if I were rich, I'd buy Jake out and get Dick a `boss' sign--he says a `boss' sign goes a long way; and I'd get him some new clothes and new brushes, and start him out fair. He says all he wants is to start out fair."
There could have been nothing more confiding and innocent than the way in which his small lordship told his little story, quoting his friend Dick's bits of slang in the most candid good faith. He seemed to feel not a shade of a doubt that his elderly companion would be just as interested as he was himself. And in truth Mr. Havisham was beginning to be greatly interested; but perhaps not quite so much in Dick and the apple-woman as in this kind little lordling, whose curly head was so busy, under its yellow thatch, with good-natured plans for his friends, and who seemed somehow to have forgotten himself altogether."Is there anything----" he began. "What would you get for yourself, if you were rich?"
"Lots of things!" answered Lord Fauntleroy briskly; "but first I'd give Mary some money for Bridget--that's her sister, with twelve children, and a husband out of work. She comes here and cries, and Dearest gives her things in a basket, and then she cries again, and says: `Blessin's be on yez, for a beautiful lady.' And I think Mr. Hobbs would like a gold watch and chain to remember me by, and a meerschaum pipe. And then I'd like to get up a company.""A company!" exclaimed Mr. Havisham.
"Like a Republican rally," explained Cedric, becoming quite excited. "I'd have torches and uniforms and things for all the boys and myself, too. And we'd march, you know, and drill. That's what I should like for myself, if I were rich."The door opened and Mrs. Errol came in.
"I am sorry to have been obliged to leave you so long," she said to Mr. Havisham; "but a poor woman, who is in great trouble, came to see me."
"This young gentleman," said Mr. Havisham, "has been telling me about some of his friends, and what he would do for them if he were rich."
"Bridget is one of his friends," said Mrs. Errol; "and it is Bridget to whom I have been talking in the kitchen. She is in great trouble now because her husband has rheumatic fever."Cedric slipped down out of his big chair.
"I think I'll go and see her," he said, "and ask her how he is. He's a nice man when he is well. I'm obliged to him because he once made me a sword out of wood. He's a very talented man."He ran out of the room, and Mr. Havisham rose from his chair. He seemed to have something in his mind which he wished to speak of. He hesitated a moment, and then said, looking down at Mrs. Errol:
"Before I left Dorincourt Castle, I had an interview with the Earl, in which he gave me some instructions. He is desirous that his grandson should look forward with some pleasure to his future life in England, and also to his acquaintance with himself. He said that I must let his lordship know that the change in his life would bring him money and the pleasures children enjoy; if he expressed any wishes, I was to gratify them, and to tell him that his grand-father had given him what he wished. I am aware that the Earl did not expect anything quite like this; but if it would give Lord Fauntleroy pleasure to assist this poor woman, I should feel that the Earl would be displeased if he were not gratified."For the second time, he did not repeat the Earl's exact words. His lordship had, indeed, said:
"Make the lad understand that I can give him anything he wants. Let him know what it is to be the grandson of the Earl of Dorincourt. Buy him everything he takes a fancy to; let him have money in his pockets, and tell him his grandfather put it there."
His motives were far from being good, and if he had been dealing with a nature less affectionate and warm-hearted than little Lord Fauntleroy's, great harm might have been done. And Cedric's mother was too gentle to suspect any harm. She thought that perhaps this meant that a lonely, unhappy old man, whose children were dead, wished to be kind to her little boy, and win his love and confidence. And it pleased her very much to think that Ceddie would be able to help Bridget. It made her happier to know that the very first result of the strange fortune which had befallen her little boy was that he could do kind things for those who needed kindness. Quite a warm color bloomed on her pretty young face.
"Oh!" she said, "that was very kind of the Earl; Cedric will be so glad! He has always been fond of Bridget and Michael. They are quite deserving. I have often wished I had been able to help them more. Michael is a hard-working man when he is well, but he has been ill a long time and needs expensive medicines and warm clothing and nourishing food. He and Bridget will not be wasteful of what is given them."
Mr. Havisham put his thin hand in his breast pocket and drew forth a large pocket-book. There was a queer look in his keen face. The truth was, he was wondering what the Earl of Dorincourt would say when he was told what was the first wish of his grandson that had been granted. He wondered what the cross, worldly, selfish old nobleman would think of it.
"I do not know that you have realized," he said, "that the Earl of Dorincourt is an exceedingly rich man. He can afford to gratify any caprice. I think it would please him to know that Lord Fauntleroy had been indulged in any fancy. If you will call him back and allow me, I shall give him five pounds for these people.""That would be twenty-five dollars!" exclaimed Mrs. Errol. "It will seem like wealth to them. "I can scarcely believe that it is true." "It is quite true," said Mr. Havisham, with his dry smile. "A great change has taken place in your son's life, a great deal of power will lie in his hands." "Oh!" cried his mother. "And he is such a little boy--a very little boy. How can I teach him to use it well? It makes me half afraid. My pretty little Ceddie!" The lawyer slightly cleared his throat. It touched his worldly, hard old heart to see the tender, timid look in her brown eyes.
"I think, madam," he said, "that if I may judge from my interview with Lord Fauntleroy this morning, the next Earl of Dorincourt will think for others as well as for his noble self. He is only a child yet, but I think he may be trusted."Then his mother went for Cedric and brought him back into the parlor. Mr. Havisham heard him talking before he entered the room.
"It's infam-natory rheumatism," he was saying, "and that's a kind of rheumatism that's dreadful. And he thinks about the rent not being paid, and Bridget says that makes the inf'ammation worse. And Pat could get a place in a store if he had some clothes."His little face looked quite anxious when he came in. He was very sorry for Bridget. "Dearest said you wanted me," he said to Mr. Havisham. "I've been talking to Bridget." Mr. Havisham looked down at him a moment. He felt a little awkward and undecided. As Cedric's mother had said, he was a very little boy. "The Earl of Dorincourt----" he began, and then he glanced involuntarily at Mrs. Errol. Little Lord Fauntleroy's mother suddenly kneeled down by him and put both her tender arms around his childish body.
"Ceddie," she said, "the Earl is your grandpapa, your own papa's father. He is very, very kind, and he loves you and wishes you to love him, because the sons who were his little boys are dead. He wishes you to be happy and to make other people happy. He is very rich, and he wishes you to have everything you would like to have. He told Mr. Havisham so, and gave him a great deal of money for you. You can give some to Bridget now; enough to pay her rent and buy Michael everything. Isn't that fine, Ceddie? Isn't he good?" And she kissed the child on his round cheek, where the bright color suddenly flashed up in his excited amazement.
He looked from his mother to Mr. Havisham.
"Bridget!" they heard him shout, as he tore into the kitchen. "Bridget, wait a minute! Here's some money. It's for you, and you can pay the rent. My grandpapa gave it to me. It's for you and Michael!""Oh, Master Ceddie!" cried Bridget, in an awe-stricken voice. "It's twinty-foive dollars is here. Where be's the misthress?" "I think I shall have to go and explain it to her," Mrs. Errol said.
So she, too, went out of the room and Mr. Havisham was left alone for a while. He went to the window and stood looking out into the street reflectively. He was thinking of the old Earl of Dorincourt, sitting in his great, splendid, gloomy library at the castle, gouty and lonely, surrounded by grandeur and luxury, but not really loved by any one, because in all his long life he had never really loved any one but himself; he had been selfish and self-indulgent and arrogant and passionate; he had cared so much for the Earl of Dorincourt and his pleasures that there had been no time for him to think of other people; all his wealth and power, all the benefits from his noble name and high rank, had seemed to him to be things only to be used to amuse and give pleasure to the Earl of Dorincourt; and now that he was an old man, all this excitement and self-indulgence had only brought him ill health and irritability and a dislike of the world, which certainly disliked him. In spite of all his splendor, there was never a more unpopular old nobleman than the Earl of Dorincourt, and there could scarcely have been a more lonely one. He could fill his castle with guests if he chose. He could give great dinners and splendid hunting parties; but he knew that in secret the people who would accept his invitations were afraid of his frowning old face and sarcastic, biting speeches. He had a cruel tongue and a bitter nature, and he took pleasure in sneering at people and making them feel uncomfortable, when he had the power to do so, because they were sensitive or proud or timid.
Mr. Havisham knew his hard, fierce ways by heart, and he was thinking of him as he looked out of the window into the narrow, quiet street. And there rose in his mind, in sharp contrast, the picture of the cheery, handsome little fellow sitting in the big chair and telling his story of his friends, Dick and the apple-woman, in his generous, innocent, honest way. And he thought of the immense income, the beautiful, majestic estates, the wealth, and power for good or evil, which in the course of time would lie in the small, chubby hands little Lord Fauntleroy thrust so deep into his pockets."It will make a great difference," he said to himself. "It will make a great difference."
Cedric and his mother came back soon after. Cedric was in high spirits. He sat down in his own chair, between his mother and the lawyer, and fell into one of his quaint attitudes, with his hands on his knees. He was glowing with enjoyment of Bridget's relief and rapture.
"She cried!" he said. "She said she was crying for joy! I never saw any one cry for joy before. My grandpapa must be a very good man. I didn't know he was so good a man. It's more--more agreeabler to be an earl than I thought it was. I'm almost glad--I'm almost QUITE glad I'm going to be one."
Cedric's good opinion of the advantages of being an earl increased greatly during the next week. It seemed almost impossible for him to realize that there was scarcely anything he might wish to do which he could not do easily; in fact, I think it may be said that he did not fully realize it at all. But at least he understood, after a few conversations with Mr. Havisham, that he could gratify all his nearest wishes, and he proceeded to gratify them with a simplicity and delight which caused Mr. Havisham much diversion. In the week before they sailed for England he did many curious things. The lawyer long after remembered the morning they went down-town together to pay a visit to Dick, and the afternoon they so amazed the apple-woman of ancient lineage by stopping before her stall and telling her she was to have a tent, and a stove, and a shawl, and a sum of money which seemed to her quite wonderful.
"For I have to go to England and be a lord," explained Cedric, sweet-temperedly. "And I shouldn't like to have your bones on my mind every time it rained. My own bones never hurt, so I think I don't know how painful a person's bones can be, but I've sympathized with you a great deal, and I hope you'll be better."
"She's a very good apple-woman," he said to Mr. Havisham, as they walked away, leaving the proprietress of the stall almost gasping for breath, and not at all believing in her great fortune. "Once, when I fell down and cut my knee, she gave me an apple for nothing. I've always remembered her for it. You know you always remember people who are kind to you."It had never occurred to his honest, simple little mind that there were people who could forget kindnesses.
The interview with Dick was quite exciting. Dick had just been having a great deal of trouble with Jake, and was in low spirits when they saw him. His amazement when Cedric calmly announced that they had come to give him what seemed a very great thing to him, and would set all his troubles right, almost struck him dumb. Lord Fauntleroy's manner of announcing the object of his visit was very simple and unceremonious. Mr. Havisham was much impressed by its directness as he stood by and listened. The statement that his old friend had become a lord, and was in danger of being an earl if he lived long enough, caused Dick to so open his eyes and mouth, and start, that his cap fell off. When he picked it up, he uttered a rather singular exclamation. Mr. Havisham thought it singular, but Cedric had heard it before."I soy!" he said, "what're yer givin' us?" This plainly embarrassed his lordship a little, but he bore himself bravely.
"Everybody thinks it not true at first," he said. "Mr. Hobbs thought I'd had a sunstroke. I didn't think I was going to like it myself, but I like it better now I'm used to it. The one who is the earl now, he's my grandpapa; and he wants me to do anything I like. He's very kind, if he IS an earl; and he sent me a lot of money by Mr. Havisham, and I've brought some to you to buy Jake out."
And the end of the matter was that Dick actually bought Jake out, and found himself the possessor of the business and some new brushes and a most astonishing sign and outfit. He could not believe in his good luck any more easily than the apple-woman of ancient lineage could believe in hers; he walked about like a boot-black in a dream; he stared at his young benefactor and felt as if he might wake up at any moment. He scarcely seemed to realize anything until Cedric put out his hand to shake hands with him before going away.
"Well, good-bye," he said; and though he tried to speak steadily, there was a little tremble in his voice and he winked his big brown eyes. "And I hope trade'll be good. I'm sorry I'm going away to leave you, but perhaps I shall come back again when I'm an earl. And I wish you'd write to me, because we were always good friends. And if you write to me, here's where you must send your letter." And he gave him a slip of paper. "And my name isn't Cedric Errol any more; it's Lord Fauntleroy and--and good-bye, Dick."
Dick winked his eyes also, and yet they looked rather moist about the lashes. He was not an educated boot-black, and he would have found it difficult to tell what he felt just then if he had tried; perhaps that was why he didn't try, and only winked his eyes and swallowed a lump in his throat.
"I wish ye wasn't goin' away," he said in a husky voice. Then he winked his eyes again. Then he looked at Mr. Havisham, and touched his cap. "Thanky, sir, fur bringin' him down here an' fur wot ye've done, He's--he's a queer little feller," he added. "I've allers thort a heap of him. He's such a game little feller, an'--an' such a queer little un."
And when they turned away he stood and looked after them in a dazed kind of way, and there was still a mist in his eyes, and a lump in his throat, as he watched the gallant little figure marching gayly along by the side of its tall, rigid escort.
Until the day of his departure, his lordship spent as much time as possible with Mr. Hobbs in the store. Gloom had settled upon Mr. Hobbs; he was much depressed in spirits. When his young friend brought to him in triumph the parting gift of a gold watch and chain, Mr. Hobbs found it difficult to acknowledge it properly. He laid the case on his stout knee, and blew his nose violently several times.
"There's something written on it," said Cedric,--"inside the case. I told the man myself what to say. `From his oldest friend, Lord Fauntleroy, to Mr. Hobbs. When this you see, remember me.' I don't want you to forget me."Mr. Hobbs blew his nose very loudly again. "I sha'n't forget you," he said, speaking a trifle huskily, as Dick had spoken; "nor don't you go and forget me when you get among the British arrystocracy."
"I shouldn't forget you, whoever I was among," answered his lordship. "I've spent my happiest hours with you; at least, some of my happiest hours. I hope you'll come to see me sometime. I'm sure my grandpapa would be very much pleased. Perhaps he'll write and ask you, when I tell him about you. You--you wouldn't mind his being an earl, would you, I mean you wouldn't stay away just because he was one, if he invited you to come?""I'd come to see you," replied Mr. Hobbs, graciously.
So it seemed to be agreed that if he received a pressing invitation from the earl to come and spend a few months at Dorincourt Castle, he was to lay aside his republican prejudices and pack his valise at once.
At last all the preparations were complete; the day came when the trunks were taken to the steamer, and the hour arrived when the carriage stood at the door. Then a curious feeling of loneliness came upon the little boy. His mamma had been shut up in her room for some time; when she came down the stairs, her eyes looked large and wet, and her sweet mouth was trembling. Cedric went to her, and she bent down to him, and he put his arms around her, and they kissed each other. He knew something made them both sorry, though he scarcely knew what it was; but one tender little thought rose to his lips.
And then, it seemed almost directly, they were on the steamer in the midst of the wildest bustle and confusion; carriages were driving down and leaving passengers; passengers were getting into a state of excitement about baggage which had not arrived and threatened to be too late; big trunks and cases were being bumped down and dragged about; sailors were uncoiling ropes and hurrying to and fro; officers were giving orders; ladies and gentlemen and children and nurses were coming on board,--some were laughing and looked gay, some were silent and sad, here and there two or three were crying and touching their eyes with their handkerchiefs. Cedric found something to interest him on every side; he looked at the piles of rope, at the furled sails, at the tall, tall masts which seemed almost to touch the hot blue sky; he began to make plans for conversing with the sailors and gaining some information on the subject of pirates.
It was just at the very last, when he was standing leaning on the railing of the upper deck and watching the final preparations, enjoying the excitement and the shouts of the sailors and wharfmen, that his attention was called to a slight bustle in one of the groups not far from him. Some one was hurriedly forcing his way through this group and coming toward him. It was a boy, with something red in his hand. It was Dick. He came up to Cedric quite breathless.
"I've run all the way," he said. "I've come down to see ye off. Trade's been prime! I bought this for ye out o' what I made yesterday. Ye kin wear it when ye get among the swells. I lost the paper when I was tryin' to get through them fellers downstairs. They didn't want to let me up. It's a hankercher."He poured it all forth as if in one sentence. A bell rang, and he made a leap away before Cedric had time to speak. "Good-bye!" he panted. "Wear it when ye get among the swells." And he darted off and was gone.
A few seconds later they saw him struggle through the crowd on the lower deck, and rush on shore just before the gang-plank was drawn in. He stood on the wharf and waved his cap.
Cedric held the handkerchief in his hand. It was of bright red silk ornamented with purple horseshoes and horses' heads.
There was a great straining and creaking and confusion. The people on the wharf began to shout to their friends, and the people on the steamer shouted back:
And the big steamer moved away, and the people cheered again, and Cedric's mother drew the veil over her eyes, and on the shore there was left great confusion; but Dick saw nothing save that bright, childish face and the bright hair that the sun shone on and the breeze lifted, and he heard nothing but the hearty childish voice calling "Good-bye, Dick!" as little Lord Fauntleroy steamed slowly away from the home of his birth to the unknown land of his ancestors.
It was during the voyage that Cedric's mother told him that his home was not to be hers; and when he first understood it, his grief was so great that Mr. Havisham saw that the Earl had been wise in making the arrangements that his mother should be quite near him, and see him often; for it was very plain he could not have borne the separation otherwise. But his mother managed the little fellow so sweetly and lovingly, and made him feel that she would be so near him, that, after a while, he ceased to be oppressed by the fear of any real parting.
"My house is not far from the Castle, Ceddie," she repeated each time the subject was referred to--"a very little way from yours, and you can always run in and see me every day, and you will have so many things to tell me! and we shall be so happy together! It is a beautiful place. Your papa has often told me about it. He loved it very much; and you will love it too.""I should love it better if you were there," his small lordship said, with a heavy little sigh. He could not but feel puzzled by so strange a state of affairs, which could put his "Dearest" in one house and himself in another. The fact was that Mrs. Errol had thought it better not to tell him why this plan had been made.
"I should prefer he should not be told," she said to Mr. Havisham. "He would not really understand; he would only be shocked and hurt; and I feel sure that his feeling for the Earl will be a more natural and affectionate one if he does not know that his grandfather dislikes me so bitterly. He has never seen hatred or hardness, and it would be a great blow to him to find out that any one could hate me. He is so loving himself, and I am so dear to him! It is better for him that he should not be told until he is much older, and it is far better for the Earl. It would make a barrier between them, even though Ceddie is such a child."
So Cedric only knew that there was some mysterious reason for the arrangement, some reason which he was not old enough to understand, but which would be explained when he was older. He was puzzled; but, after all, it was not the reason he cared about so much; and after many talks with his mother, in which she comforted him and placed before him the bright side of the picture, the dark side of it gradually began to fade out, though now and then Mr. Havisham saw him sitting in some queer little old-fashioned attitude, watching the sea, with a very grave face, and more than once he heard an unchildish sigh rise to his lips.
"I don't like it," he said once as he was having one of his almost venerable talks with the lawyer. "You don't know how much I don't like it; but there are a great many troubles in this world, and you have to bear them. Mary says so, and I've heard Mr. Hobbs say it too. And Dearest wants me to like to live with my grandpapa, because, you see, all his children are dead, and that's very mournful. It makes you sorry for a man, when all his children have died--and one was killed suddenly."
One of the things which always delighted the people who made the acquaintance of his young lordship was the sage little air he wore at times when he gave himself up to conversation;--combined with his occasionally elderly remarks and the extreme innocence and seriousness of his round childish face, it was irresistible. He was such a handsome, blooming, curly-headed little fellow, that, when he sat down and nursed his knee with his chubby hands, and conversed with much gravity, he was a source of great entertainment to his hearers. Gradually Mr. Havisham had begun to derive a great deal of private pleasure and amusement from his society."And so you are going to try to like the Earl," he said.
"Yes," answered his lordship. "He's my relation, and of course you have to like your relations; and besides, he's been very kind to me. When a person does so many things for you, and wants you to have everything you wish for, of course you'd like him if he wasn't your relation; but when he's your relation and does that, why, you're very fond of him.""Do you think," suggested Mr. Havisham, "that he will be fond of you?"
"Well," said Cedric, "I think he will, because, you see, I'm his relation, too, and I'm his boy's little boy besides, and, well, don't you see--of course he must be fond of me now, or he wouldn't want me to have everything that I like, and he wouldn't have sent you for me.""Oh!" remarked the lawyer, "that's it, is it?" "Yes," said Cedric, "that's it. Don't you think that's it, too? Of course a man would be fond of his grandson."
The people who had been seasick had no sooner recovered from their seasickness, and come on deck to recline in their steamer-chairs and enjoy themselves, than every one seemed to know the romantic story of little Lord Fauntleroy, and every one took an interest in the little fellow, who ran about the ship or walked with his mother or the tall, thin old lawyer, or talked to the sailors. Every one liked him; he made friends everywhere. He was ever ready to make friends. When the gentlemen walked up and down the deck, and let him walk with them, he stepped out with a manly, sturdy little tramp, and answered all their jokes with much gay enjoyment; when the ladies talked to him, there was always laughter in the group of which he was the center; when he played with the children, there was always magnificent fun on hand. Among the sailors he had the heartiest friends; he heard miraculous stories about pirates and shipwrecks and desert islands; he learned to splice ropes and rig toy ships, and gained an amount of information concerning "tops'ls" and "mains'ls," quite surprising. His conversation had, indeed, quite a nautical flavor at times, and on one occasion he raised a shout of laughter in a group of ladies and gentlemen who were sitting on deck, wrapped in shawls and overcoats, by saying sweetly, and with a very engaging expression:"Shiver my timbers, but it's a cold day!"
It surprised him when they laughed. He had picked up this sea-faring remark from an "elderly naval man" of the name of Jerry, who told him stories in which it occurred frequently. To judge from his stories of his own adventures, Jerry had made some two or three thousand voyages, and had been invariably shipwrecked on each occasion on an island densely populated with bloodthirsty cannibals. Judging, also, by these same exciting adventures, he had been partially roasted and eaten frequently and had been scalped some fifteen or twenty times.
"That is why he is so bald," explained Lord Fauntleroy to his mamma. "After you have been scalped several times the hair never grows again. Jerry's never grew again after that last time, when the King of the Parromachaweekins did it with the knife made out of the skull of the Chief of the Wopslemumpkies. He says it was one of the most serious times he ever had. He was so frightened that his hair stood right straight up when the king flourished his knife, and it never would lie down, and the king wears it that way now, and it looks something like a hair-brush. I never heard anything like the asperiences Jerry has had! I should so like to tell Mr. Hobbs about them!"
Sometimes, when the weather was very disagreeable and people were kept below decks in the saloon, a party of his grown-up friends would persuade him to tell them some of these "asperiences" of Jerry's, and as he sat relating them with great delight and fervor, there was certainly no more popular voyager on any ocean steamer crossing the Atlantic than little Lord Fauntleroy. He was always innocently and good-naturedly ready to do his small best to add to the general entertainment, and there was a charm in the very unconsciousness of his own childish importance.
"Jerry's stories int'rust them very much," he said to his mamma. "For my part--you must excuse me, Dearest--but sometimes I should have thought they couldn't be all quite true, if they hadn't happened to Jerry himself; but as they all happened to Jerry --well, it's very strange, you know, and perhaps sometimes he may forget and be a little mistaken, as he's been scalped so often. Being scalped a great many times might make a person forgetful."
It was eleven days after he had said good-bye to his friend Dick before he reached Liverpool; and it was on the night of the twelfth day that the carriage in which he and his mother and Mr. Havisham had driven from the station stopped before the gates of Court Lodge. They could not see much of the house in the darkness. Cedric only saw that there was a drive-way under great arching trees, and after the carriage had rolled down this drive-way a short distance, he saw an open door and a stream of bright light coming through it.
Mary had come with them to attend her mistress, and she had reached the house before them. When Cedric jumped out of the carriage he saw one or two servants standing in the wide, bright hall, and Mary stood in the door-way.Lord Fauntleroy sprang at her with a gay little shout. "Did you get here, Mary?" he said. "Here's Mary, Dearest," and he kissed the maid on her rough red cheek.
"I am glad you are here, Mary," Mrs. Errol said to her in a low voice. "It is such a comfort to me to see you. It takes the strangeness away." And she held out her little hand, which Mary squeezed encouragingly. She knew how this first "strangeness" must feel to this little mother who had left her own land and was about to give up her child.
The English servants looked with curiosity at both the boy and his mother. They had heard all sorts of rumors about them both; they knew how angry the old Earl had been, and why Mrs. Errol was to live at the lodge and her little boy at the castle; they knew all about the great fortune he was to inherit, and about the savage old grandfather and his gout and his tempers."He'll have no easy time of it, poor little chap," they had said among themselves. But they did not know what sort of a little lord had come among them; they did not quite understand the character of the next Earl of Dorincourt.
He pulled off his overcoat quite as if he were used to doing things for himself, and began to look about him. He looked about the broad hall, at the pictures and stags' antlers and curious things that ornamented it. They seemed curious to him because he had never seen such things before in a private house."Dearest," he said, "this is a very pretty house, isn't it? I am glad you are going to live here. It's quite a large house."
It was quite a large house compared to the one in the shabby New York street, and it was very pretty and cheerful. Mary led them upstairs to a bright chintz-hung bedroom where a fire was burning, and a large snow-white Persian cat was sleeping luxuriously on the white fur hearth-rug.
"It was the house-kaper up at the Castle, ma'am, sint her to yez," explained Mary. "It's herself is a kind-hearted lady an' has had iverything done to prepar' fur yez. I seen her meself a few minnits, an' she was fond av the Capt'in, ma'am, an' graivs fur him; and she said to say the big cat slapin' on the rug moight make the room same homeloike to yez. She knowed Capt'in Errol whin he was a bye--an' a foine handsum' bye she ses he was, an' a foine young man wid a plisint word fur every one, great an' shmall. An' ses I to her, ses I: `He's lift a bye that's loike him, ma'am, fur a foiner little felly niver sthipped in shoe-leather."'
When they were ready, they went downstairs into another big bright room; its ceiling was low, and the furniture was heavy and beautifully carved, the chairs were deep and had high massive backs, and there were queer shelves and cabinets with strange, pretty ornaments on them. There was a great tiger-skin before the fire, and an arm-chair on each side of it. The stately white cat had responded to Lord Fauntleroy's stroking and followed him downstairs, and when he threw himself down upon the rug, she curled herself up grandly beside him as if she intended to make friends. Cedric was so pleased that he put his head down by hers, and lay stroking her, not noticing what his mother and Mr. Havisham were saying.They were, indeed, speaking in a rather low tone. Mrs. Errol looked a little pale and agitated. "He need not go to-night?" she said. "He will stay with me to-night?"
"Yes," answered Mr. Havisham in the same low tone; "it will not be necessary for him to go to-night. I myself will go to the Castle as soon as we have dined, and inform the Earl of our arrival."
Mrs. Errol glanced down at Cedric. He was lying in a graceful, careless attitude upon the black-and-yellow skin; the fire shone on his handsome, flushed little face, and on the tumbled, curly hair spread out on the rug; the big cat was purring in drowsy content,--she liked the caressing touch of the kind little hand on her fur.Mrs. Errol smiled faintly.
"His lordship does not know all that he is taking from me," she said rather sadly. Then she looked at the lawyer. "Will you tell him, if you please," she said, "that I should rather not have the money?""The money!" Mr. Havisham exclaimed. "You can not mean the income he proposed to settle upon you!"
"Yes," she answered, quite simply; "I think I should rather not have it. I am obliged to accept the house, and I thank him for it, because it makes it possible for me to be near my child; but I have a little money of my own,--enough to live simply upon,--and I should rather not take the other. As he dislikes me so much, I should feel a little as if I were selling Cedric to him. I am giving him up only because I love him enough to forget myself for his good, and because his father would wish it to be so."Mr. Havisham rubbed his chin. "This is very strange," he said. "He will be very angry. He won't understand it."
"I think he will understand it after he thinks it over," she said. "I do not really need the money, and why should I accept luxuries from the man who hates me so much that he takes my little boy from me--his son's child?"Mr. Havisham looked reflective for a few moments. "I will deliver your message," he said afterward. And then the dinner was brought in and they sat down together, the big cat taking a seat on a chair near Cedric's and purring majestically throughout the meal.
When, later in the evening, Mr. Havisham presented himself at the Castle, he was taken at once to the Earl. He found him sitting by the fire in a luxurious easy-chair, his foot on a gout-stool. He looked at the lawyer sharply from under his shaggy eyebrows, but Mr. Havisham could see that, in spite of his pretense at calmness, he was nervous and secretly excited."Well," he said; "well, Havisham, come back, have you? What's the news?" "Lord Fauntleroy and his mother are at Court Lodge," replied Mr. Havisham. "They bore the voyage very well and are in excellent health." The Earl made a half-impatient sound and moved his hand restlessly. "Glad to hear it," he said brusquely. "So far, so good. Make yourself comfortable. Have a glass of wine and settle down. What else?" "His lordship remains with his mother to-night. To-morrow I will bring him to the
The Earl's elbow was resting on the arm of his chair; he put his hand up and shielded his eyes with it.
"Well," he said; "go on. You know I told you not to write to me about the matter, and I know nothing whatever about it. What kind of a lad is he? I don't care about the mother; what sort of a lad is he?"Mr. Havisham drank a little of the glass of port he had poured out for himself, and sat holding it in his hand. "It is rather difficult to judge of the character of a child of seven," he said cautiously. The Earl's prejudices were very intense. He looked up quickly and uttered a rough word. "A fool, is he?" he exclaimed. "Or a clumsy cub? His American blood tells, does it?" "I do not think it has injured him, my lord," replied the lawyer in his dry, deliberate fashion. "I don't know much about children, but I thought him rather a fine lad."
His manner of speech was always deliberate and unenthusiastic, but he made it a trifle more so than usual. He had a shrewd fancy that it would be better that the Earl should judge for himself, and be quite unprepared for his first interview with his grandson."Healthy and well-grown?" asked my lord. "Apparently very healthy, and quite well-grown," replied the lawyer. "Straight-limbed and well enough to look at?" demanded the Earl.
A very slight smile touched Mr. Havisham's thin lips. There rose up before his mind's eye the picture he had left at Court Lodge,--the beautiful, graceful child's body lying upon the tiger-skin in careless comfort--the bright, tumbled hair spread on the rug--the bright, rosy boy's face.
"Rather a handsome boy, I think, my lord, as boys go," he said, "though I am scarcely a judge, perhaps. But you will find him somewhat different from most English children, I dare say.""I haven't a doubt of that," snarled the Earl, a twinge of gout seizing him. "A lot of impudent little beggars, those American children; I've heard that often enough."
"It is not exactly impudence in his case," said Mr. Havisham. "I can scarcely describe what the difference is. He has lived more with older people than with children, and the difference seems to be a mixture of maturity and childishness.""American impudence!" protested the Earl. "I've heard of it before. They call it precocity and freedom. Beastly, impudent bad manners; that's what it is!"
Mr. Havisham drank some more port. He seldom argued with his lordly patron,--never when his lordly patron's noble leg was inflamed by gout. At such times it was always better to leave him alone. So there was a silence of a few moments. It was Mr. Havisham who broke it.
"I have a message to deliver from Mrs. Errol," he remarked.
"All done for effect!" snapped his noble lordship. "She wants to wheedle me into seeing her. She thinks I shall admire her spirit. I don't admire it! It's only American independence! I won't have her living like a beggar at my park gates. As she's the boy's mother, she has a position to keep up, and she shall keep it up. She shall have the money, whether she likes it or not!""She won't spend it," said Mr. Havisham.
"I don't care whether she spends it or not!" blustered my lord. "She shall have it sent to her. She sha'n't tell people that she has to live like a pauper because I have done nothing for her! She wants to give the boy a bad opinion of me! I suppose she has poisoned his mind against me already!""No," said Mr. Havisham. "I have another message, which will prove to you that she has not done that." "I don't want to hear it!" panted the Earl, out of breath with anger and excitement and gout. But Mr. Havisham delivered it.
"She asks you not to let Lord Fauntleroy hear anything which would lead him to understand that you separate him from her because of your prejudice against her. He is very fond of her, and she is convinced that it would cause a barrier to exist between you. She says he would not comprehend it, and it might make him fear you in some measure, or at least cause him to feel less affection for you. She has told him that he is too young to understand the reason, but shall hear it when he is older. She wishes that there should be no shadow on your first meeting."
The Earl sank back into his chair. His deep-set fierce old eyes gleamed under his beetling brows.
"Not one word, my lord," replied the lawyer coolly. "That I can assure you. The child is prepared to believe you the most amiable and affectionate of grandparents. Nothing-absolutely nothing has been said to him to give him the slightest doubt of your perfection. And as I carried out your commands in every detail, while in New York, he certainly regards you as a wonder of generosity.""He does, eh?" said the Earl.
"I give you my word of honor," said Mr. Havisham, "that Lord Fauntleroy's impressions of you will depend entirely upon yourself. And if you will pardon the liberty I take in making the suggestion, I think you will succeed better with him if you take the precaution not to speak slightingly of his mother.""Pooh, pooh!" said the Earl. "The youngster is only seven years old!" "He has spent those seven years at his mother's side," returned Mr. Havisham; "and she has all his affection."
It was late in the afternoon when the carriage containing little Lord Fauntleroy and Mr. Havisham drove up the long avenue which led to the castle. The Earl had given orders that his grandson should arrive in time to dine with him; and for some reason best known to himself, he had also ordered that the child should be sent alone into the room in which he intended to receive him. As the carriage rolled up the avenue, Lord Fauntleroy sat leaning comfortably against the luxurious cushions, and regarded the prospect with great interest. He was, in fact, interested in everything he saw. He had been interested in the carriage, with its large, splendid horses and their glittering harness; he had been interested in the tall coachman and footman, with their resplendent livery; and he had been especially interested in the coronet on the panels, and had struck up an acquaintance with the footman for the purpose of inquiring what it meant.
When the carriage reached the great gates of the park, he looked out of the window to get a good view of the huge stone lions ornamenting the entrance. The gates were opened by a motherly, rosy-looking woman, who came out of a pretty, ivy-covered lodge. Two children ran out of the door of the house and stood looking with round, wide-open eyes at the little boy in the carriage, who looked at them also. Their mother stood courtesying and smiling, and the children, on receiving a sign from her, made bobbing little courtesies too."Does she know me?" asked Lord Fauntleroy. "I think she must think she knows me." And he took off his black velvet cap to her and smiled. "How do you do?" he said brightly. "Good-afternoon!" The woman seemed pleased, he thought. The smile broadened on her rosy face and a kind look came into her blue eyes. "God bless your lordship!" she said. "God bless your pretty face! Good luck and happiness to your lordship! Welcome to you!" Lord Fauntleroy waved his cap and nodded to her again as the carriage rolled by her. "I like that woman," he said. "She looks as if she liked boys. I should like to come here and play with her children. I wonder if she has enough to make up a company?"
Mr. Havisham did not tell him that he would scarcely be allowed to make playmates of the gate-keeper's children. The lawyer thought there was time enough for giving him that information.
The carriage rolled on and on between the great, beautiful trees which grew on each side of the avenue and stretched their broad, swaying branches in an arch across it. Cedric had never seen such trees,--they were so grand and stately, and their branches grew so low down on their huge trunks. He did not then know that Dorincourt Castle was one of the most beautiful in all England; that its park was one of the broadest and finest, and its trees and avenue almost without rivals. But he did know that it was all very beautiful. He liked the big, broad-branched trees, with the late afternoon sunlight striking golden lances through them. He liked the perfect stillness which rested on everything. He felt a great, strange pleasure in the beauty of which he caught glimpses under and between the sweeping boughs--the great, beautiful spaces of the park, with still other trees standing sometimes stately and alone, and sometimes in groups. Now and then they passed places where tall ferns grew in masses, and again and again the ground was azure with the bluebells swaying in the soft breeze. Several times he started up with a laugh of delight as a rabbit leaped up from under the greenery and scudded away with a twinkle of short white tail behind it. Once a covey of partridges rose with a sudden whir and flew away, and then he shouted and clapped his hands."It's a beautiful place, isn't it?" he said to Mr. Havisham. "I never saw such a beautiful place. It's prettier even than Central Park." He was rather puzzled by the length of time they were on their way. "How far is it," he said, at length, "from the gate to the front door?" "It is between three and four miles," answered the lawyer. "That's a long way for a person to live from his gate," remarked his lordship.
Every few minutes he saw something new to wonder at and admire. When he caught sight of the deer, some couched in the grass, some standing with their pretty antlered heads turned with a half-startled air toward the avenue as the carriage wheels disturbed them, he was enchanted."Has there been a circus?" he cried; "or do they live here always? Whose are they?" "They live here," Mr. Havisham told him. "They belong to the Earl, your grandfather."
It was not long after this that they saw the castle. It rose up before them stately and beautiful and gray, the last rays of the sun casting dazzling lights on its many windows. It had turrets and battlements and towers; a great deal of ivy grew upon its walls; all the broad, open space about it was laid out in terraces and lawns and beds of brilliant flowers.
"It's the most beautiful place I ever saw!" said Cedric, his round face flushing with pleasure. "It reminds any one of a king's palace. I saw a picture of one once in a fairybook."
He saw the great entrance-door thrown open and many servants standing in two lines looking at him. He wondered why they were standing there, and admired their liveries very much. He did not know that they were there to do honor to the little boy to whom all this splendor would one day belong,--the beautiful castle like the fairy king's palace, the magnificent park, the grand old trees, the dells full of ferns and bluebells where the hares and rabbits played, the dappled, large-eyed deer couching in the deep grass. It was only a couple of weeks since he had sat with Mr. Hobbs among the potatoes and canned peaches, with his legs dangling from the high stool; it would not have been possible for him to realize that he had very much to do with all this grandeur. At the head of the line of servants there stood an elderly woman in a rich, plain black silk gown; she had gray hair and wore a cap. As he entered the hall she stood nearer than the rest, and the child thought from the look in her eyes that she was going to speak to him. Mr. Havisham, who held his hand, paused a moment."This is Lord Fauntleroy, Mrs. Mellon," he said. "Lord Fauntleroy, this is Mrs. Mellon, who is the housekeeper." Cedric gave her his hand, his eyes lighting up. "Was it you who sent the cat?" he said. "I'm much obliged to you, ma'am." Mrs. Mellon's handsome old face looked as pleased as the face of the lodge-keeper's wife had done. "I should know his lordship anywhere," she said to Mr. Havisham. "He has the Captain's face and way. It's a great day, this, sir."
Cedric wondered why it was a great day. He looked at Mrs. Mellon curiously. It seemed to him for a moment as if there were tears in her eyes, and yet it was evident she was not unhappy. She smiled down on him."The cat left two beautiful kittens here," she said; "they shall be sent up to your lordship's nursery." Mr. Havisham said a few words to her in a low voice. "In the library, sir," Mrs. Mellon replied. "His lordship is to be taken there alone."
A few minutes later, the very tall footman in livery, who had escorted Cedric to the library door, opened it and announced: "Lord Fauntleroy, my lord," in quite a majestic tone. If he was only a footman, he felt it was rather a grand occasion when the heir came home to his own land and possessions, and was ushered into the presence of the old Earl, whose place and title he was to take.
Cedric crossed the threshold into the room. It was a very large and splendid room, with massive carven furniture in it, and shelves upon shelves of books; the furniture was so dark, and the draperies so heavy, the diamond-paned windows were so deep, and it seemed such a distance from one end of it to the other, that, since the sun had gone down, the effect of it all was rather gloomy. For a moment Cedric thought there was nobody in the room, but soon he saw that by the fire burning on the wide hearth there was a large easy-chair and that in that chair some one was sitting--some one who did not at first turn to look at him.
But he had attracted attention in one quarter at least. On the floor, by the arm-chair, lay a dog, a huge tawny mastiff, with body and limbs almost as big as a lion's; and this great creature rose majestically and slowly, and marched toward the little fellow with a heavy step.Then the person in the chair spoke. "Dougal," he called, "come back, sir."
But there was no more fear in little Lord Fauntleroy's heart than there was unkindness--he had been a brave little fellow all his life. He put his hand on the big dog's collar in the most natural way in the world, and they strayed forward together, Dougal sniffing as he went.
And then the Earl looked up. What Cedric saw was a large old man with shaggy white hair and eyebrows, and a nose like an eagle's beak between his deep, fierce eyes. What the Earl saw was a graceful, childish figure in a black velvet suit, with a lace collar, and with love-locks waving about the handsome, manly little face, whose eyes met his with a look of innocent good-fellowship. If the Castle was like the palace in a fairy story, it must be owned that little Lord Fauntleroy was himself rather like a small copy of the fairy prince, though he was not at all aware of the fact, and perhaps was rather a sturdy young model of a fairy. But there was a sudden glow of triumph and exultation in the fiery old Earl's heart as he saw what a strong, beautiful boy this grandson was, and how unhesitatingly he looked up as he stood with his hand on the big dog's neck. It pleased the grim old nobleman that the child should show no shyness or fear, either of the dog or of himself.Cedric looked at him just as he had looked at the woman at the lodge and at the housekeeper, and came quite close to him. "Are you the Earl?" he said. "I'm your grandson, you know, that Mr. Havisham brought. I'm Lord Fauntleroy."
He held out his hand because he thought it must be the polite and proper thing to do even with earls. "I hope you are very well," he continued, with the utmost friendliness. "I'm very glad to see you."
The Earl shook hands with him, with a curious gleam in his eyes; just at first, he was so astonished that he scarcely knew what to say. He stared at the picturesque little apparition from under his shaggy brows, and took it all in from head to foot."Glad to see me, are you?" he said. "Yes," answered Lord Fauntleroy, "very."
There was a chair near him, and he sat down on it; it was a high-backed, rather tall chair, and his feet did not touch the floor when he had settled himself in it, but he seemed to be quite comfortable as he sat there, and regarded his august relative intently but modestly."I've kept wondering what you would look like," he remarked. "I used to lie in my berth in the ship and wonder if you would be anything like my father." "Am I?" asked the Earl. "Well," Cedric replied, "I was very young when he died, and I may not remember exactly how he looked, but I don't think you are like him." "You are disappointed, I suppose?" suggested his grandfather.
"Oh, no," responded Cedric politely. "Of course you would like any one to look like your father; but of course you would enjoy the way your grandfather looked, even if he wasn't like your father. You know how it is yourself about admiring your relations."
The Earl leaned back in his chair and stared. He could not be said to know how it was about admiring his relations. He had employed most of his noble leisure in quarreling violently with them, in turning them out of his house, and applying abusive epithets to them; and they all hated him cordially."Any boy would love his grandfather," continued Lord Fauntleroy, "especially one that had been as kind to him as you have been." Another queer gleam came into the old nobleman's eyes. "Oh!" he said, "I have been kind to you, have I?" "Yes," answered Lord Fauntleroy brightly; "I'm ever so much obliged to you about Bridget, and the apple-woman, and Dick." "Bridget!" exclaimed the Earl. "Dick! The apple-woman!" "Yes!" explained Cedric; "the ones you gave me all that money for--the money you told Mr. Havisham to give me if I wanted it." "Ha!" ejaculated his lordship. "That's it, is it? The money you were to spend as you liked. What did you buy with it? I should like to hear something about that." He drew his shaggy eyebrows together and looked at the child sharply. He was secretly curious to know in what way the lad had indulged himself.
"Oh!" said Lord Fauntleroy, "perhaps you didn't know about Dick and the apple-woman and Bridget. I forgot you lived such a long way off from them. They were particular friends of mine. And you see Michael had the fever----""Who's Michael?" asked the Earl.
"Michael is Bridget's husband, and they were in great trouble. When a man is sick and can't work and has twelve children, you know how it is. And Michael has always been a sober man. And Bridget used to come to our house and cry. And the evening Mr. Havisham was there, she was in the kitchen crying, because they had almost nothing to eat and couldn't pay the rent; and I went in to see her, and Mr. Havisham sent for me and he said you had given him some money for me. And I ran as fast as I could into the kitchen and gave it to Bridget; and that made it all right; and Bridget could scarcely believe her eyes. That's why I'm so obliged to you.""Oh!" said the Earl in his deep voice, "that was one of the things you did for yourself, was it? What else?"
Dougal had been sitting by the tall chair; the great dog had taken its place there when Cedric sat down. Several times it had turned and looked up at the boy as if interested in the conversation. Dougal was a solemn dog, who seemed to feel altogether too big to take life's responsibilities lightly. The old Earl, who knew the dog well, had watched it with secret interest. Dougal was not a dog whose habit it was to make acquaintances rashly, and the Earl wondered somewhat to see how quietly the brute sat under the touch of the childish hand. And, just at this moment, the big dog gave little Lord Fauntleroy one more look of dignified scrutiny, and deliberately laid its huge, lion-like head on the boy's black-velvet knee.The small hand went on stroking this new friend as Cedric answered: "Well, there was Dick," he said. "You'd like Dick, he's so square." This was an Americanism the Earl was not prepared for. "What does that mean?" he inquired.
Lord Fauntleroy paused a moment to reflect. He was not very sure himself what it meant. He had taken it for granted as meaning something very creditable because Dick had been fond of using it.
"I think it means that he wouldn't cheat any one," he exclaimed; "or hit a boy who was under his size, and that he blacks people's boots very well and makes them shine as much as he can. He's a perfessional bootblack.""And he's one of your acquaintances, is he?" said the Earl. "He is an old friend of mine," replied his grandson. "Not quite as old as Mr. Hobbs, but quite old. He gave me a present just before the ship sailed."
He put his hand into his pocket and drew forth a neatly folded red object and opened it with an air of affectionate pride. It was the red silk handkerchief with the large purple horse-shoes and heads on it.
"He gave me this," said his young lordship. "I shall keep it always. You can wear it round your neck or keep it in your pocket. He bought it with the first money he earned after I bought Jake out and gave him the new brushes. It's a keepsake. I put some poetry in Mr. Hobbs's watch. It was, `When this you see, remember me.' When this I see, I shall always remember Dick."
The sensations of the Right Honorable the Earl of Dorincourt could scarcely be described. He was not an old nobleman who was very easily bewildered, because he had seen a great deal of the world; but here was something he found so novel that it almost took his lordly breath away, and caused him some singular emotions. He had never cared for children; he had been so occupied with his own pleasures that he had never had time to care for them. His own sons had not interested him when they were very young-though sometimes he remembered having thought Cedric's father a handsome and strong little fellow. He had been so selfish himself that he had missed the pleasure of seeing unselfishness in others, and he had not known how tender and faithful and affectionate a kind-hearted little child can be, and how innocent and unconscious are its simple, generous impulses. A boy had always seemed to him a most objectionable little animal, selfish and greedy and boisterous when not under strict restraint; his own two eldest sons had given their tutors constant trouble and annoyance, and of the younger one he fancied he had heard few complaints because the boy was of no particular importance. It had never once occurred to him that he should like his grandson; he had sent for the little Cedric because his pride impelled him to do so. If the boy was to take his place in the future, he did not wish his name to be made ridiculous by descending to an uneducated boor. He had been convinced the boy would be a clownish fellow if he were brought up in America. He had no feeling of affection for the lad; his only hope was that he should find him decently well-featured, and with a respectable share of sense; he had been so disappointed in his other sons, and had been made so furious by Captain Errol's American marriage, that he had never once thought that anything creditable could come of it. When the footman had announced Lord Fauntleroy, he had almost dreaded to look at the boy lest he should find him all that he had feared. It was because of this feeling that he had ordered that the child should be sent to him alone. His pride could not endure that others should see his disappointment if he was to be disappointed. His proud, stubborn old heart therefore had leaped within him when the boy came forward with his graceful, easy carriage, his fearless hand on the big dog's neck. Even in the moments when he had hoped the most, the Earl had never hoped that his grandson would look like that. It seemed almost too good to be true that this should be the boy he had dreaded to see--the child of the woman he so disliked--this little fellow with so much beauty and such a brave, childish grace! The Earl's stern composure was quite shaken by this startling surprise.
And then their talk began; and he was still more curiously moved, and more and more puzzled. In the first place, he was so used to seeing people rather afraid and embarrassed before him, that he had expected nothing else but that his grandson would be timid or shy. But Cedric was no more afraid of the Earl than he had been of Dougal. He was not bold; he was only innocently friendly, and he was not conscious that there could be any reason why he should be awkward or afraid. The Earl could not help seeing that the little boy took him for a friend and treated him as one, without having any doubt of him at all. It was quite plain as the little fellow sat there in his tall chair and talked in his friendly way that it had never occurred to him that this large, fierce-looking old man could be anything but kind to him, and rather pleased to see him there. And it was plain, too, that, in his childish way, he wished to please and interest his grandfather. Cross, and hardhearted, and worldly as the old Earl was, he could not help feeling a secret and novel pleasure in this very confidence. After all, it was not disagreeable to meet some one who did not distrust him or shrink from him, or seem to detect the ugly part of his nature; some one who looked at him with clear, unsuspecting eyes,--if it was only a little boy in a black velvet suit.
So the old man leaned back in his chair, and led his young companion on to telling him still more of himself, and with that odd gleam in his eyes watched the little fellow as he talked. Lord Fauntleroy was quite willing to answer all his questions and chatted on in his genial little way quite composedly. He told him all about Dick and Jake, and the applewoman, and Mr. Hobbs; he described the Republican Rally in all the glory of its banners and transparencies, torches and rockets. In the course of the conversation, he reached the Fourth of July and the Revolution, and was just becoming enthusiastic, when he suddenly recollected something and stopped very abruptly."What is the matter?" demanded his grandfather. "Why don't you go on?"
Lord Fauntleroy moved rather uneasily in his chair. It was evident to the Earl that he was embarrassed by the thought which had just occurred to him.
"I was just thinking that perhaps you mightn't like it," he replied. "Perhaps some one belonging to you might have been there. I forgot you were an Englishman."
"I was born in America," he protested. "You have to be an American if you are born in America. I beg your pardon," with serious politeness and delicacy, "for contradicting you. Mr. Hobbs told me, if there were another war, you know, I should have to--to be an American."The Earl gave a grim half laugh--it was short and grim, but it was a laugh. "You would, would you?" he said.
He hated America and Americans, but it amused him to see how serious and interested this small patriot was. He thought that so good an American might make a rather good Englishman when he was a man.They had not time to go very deep into the Revolution again--and indeed Lord Fauntleroy felt some delicacy about returning to the subject--before dinner was announced. Cedric left his chair and went to his noble kinsman. He looked down at his gouty foot.
"Would you like me to help you?" he said politely. "You could lean on me, you know. Once when Mr. Hobbs hurt his foot with a potato-barrel rolling on it, he used to lean on me."
The big footman almost periled his reputation and his situation by smiling. He was an aristocratic footman who had always lived in the best of noble families, and he had never smiled; indeed, he would have felt himself a disgraced and vulgar footman if he had allowed himself to be led by any circumstance whatever into such an indiscretion as a smile. But he had a very narrow escape. He only just saved himself by staring straight over the Earl's head at a very ugly picture.The Earl looked his valiant young relative over from head to foot. "Do you think you could do it?" he asked gruffly.
"I THINK I could," said Cedric. "I'm strong. I'm seven, you know. You could lean on your stick on one side, and on me on the other. Dick says I've a good deal of muscle for a boy that's only seven."
He shut his hand and moved it upward to his shoulder, so that the Earl might see the muscle Dick had kindly approved of, and his face was so grave and earnest that the footman found it necessary to look very hard indeed at the ugly picture.
Cedric gave him his stick and began to assist him to rise. Usually, the footman did this, and was violently sworn at when his lordship had an extra twinge of gout. The Earl was not a very polite person as a rule, and many a time the huge footmen about him quaked inside their imposing liveries.
But this evening he did not swear, though his gouty foot gave him more twinges than one. He chose to try an experiment. He got up slowly and put his hand on the small shoulder presented to him with so much courage. Little Lord Fauntleroy made a careful step forward, looking down at the gouty foot."Just lean on me," he said, with encouraging good cheer. "I'll walk very slowly."
If the Earl had been supported by the footman he would have rested less on his stick and more on his assistant's arm. And yet it was part of his experiment to let his grandson feel his burden as no light weight. It was quite a heavy weight indeed, and after a few steps his young lordship's face grew quite hot, and his heart beat rather fast, but he braced himself sturdily, remembering his muscle and Dick's approval of it."Don't be afraid of leaning on me," he panted. "I'm all right--if--if it isn't a very long way."
It was not really very far to the dining-room, but it seemed rather a long way to Cedric, before they reached the chair at the head of the table. The hand on his shoulder seemed to grow heavier at every step, and his face grew redder and hotter, and his breath shorter, but he never thought of giving up; he stiffened his childish muscles, held his head erect, and encouraged the Earl as he limped along.
"Does your foot hurt you very much when you stand on it?" he asked. "Did you ever put it in hot water and mustard? Mr. Hobbs used to put his in hot water. Arnica is a very nice thing, they tell me."
The big dog stalked slowly beside them, and the big footman followed; several times he looked very queer as he watched the little figure making the very most of all its strength, and bearing its burden with such good-will. The Earl, too, looked rather queer, once, as he glanced sidewise down at the flushed little face. When they entered the room where they were to dine, Cedric saw it was a very large and imposing one, and that the footman who stood behind the chair at the head of the table stared very hard as they came in.But they reached the chair at last. The hand was removed from his shoulder, and the Earl was fairly seated. Cedric took out Dick's handkerchief and wiped his forehead.
"It's a warm night, isn't it?" he said. "Perhaps you need a fire because--because of your foot, but it seems just a little warm to me."
His delicate consideration for his noble relative's feelings was such that he did not wish to seem to intimate that any of his surroundings were unnecessary.
And he rubbed his damp curls rather vigorously with the gorgeous handkerchief. His own chair was placed at the other end of the table, opposite his grandfather's. It was a chair with arms, and intended for a much larger individual than himself; indeed, everything he had seen so far,--the great rooms, with their high ceilings, the massive furniture, the big footman, the big dog, the Earl himself,--were all of proportions calculated to make this little lad feel that he was very small, indeed. But that did not trouble him; he had never thought himself very large or important, and he was quite willing to accommodate himself even to circumstances which rather overpowered him.
Perhaps he had never looked so little a fellow as when seated now in his great chair, at the end of the table. Notwithstanding his solitary existence, the Earl chose to live in some state. He was fond of his dinner, and he dined in a formal style. Cedric looked at him across a glitter of splendid glass and plate, which to his unaccustomed eyes seemed quite dazzling. A stranger looking on might well have smiled at the picture,--the great stately room, the big liveried servants, the bright lights, the glittering silver and glass, the fiercelooking old nobleman at the head of the table and the very small boy at the foot. Dinner was usually a very serious matter with the Earl--and it was a very serious matter with the cook, if his lordship was not pleased or had an indifferent appetite. To-day, however, his appetite seemed a trifle better than usual, perhaps because he had something to think of beside the flavor of the entrees and the management of the gravies. His grandson gave him something to think of. He kept looking at him across the table. He did not say very much himself, but he managed to make the boy talk. He had never imagined that he could be entertained by hearing a child talk, but Lord Fauntleroy at once puzzled and amused him, and he kept remembering how he had let the childish shoulder feel his weight just for the sake of trying how far the boy's courage and endurance would go, and it pleased him to know that his grandson had not quailed and had not seemed to think even for a moment of giving up what he had undertaken to do."You don't wear your coronet all the time?" remarked Lord Fauntleroy respectfully. "No," replied the Earl, with his grim smile; "it is not becoming to me." "Mr. Hobbs said you always wore it," said Cedric; "but after he thought it over, he said he supposed you must sometimes take it off to put your hat on." "Yes," said the Earl, "I take it off occasionally." And one of the footmen suddenly turned aside and gave a singular little cough behind his hand.
Cedric finished his dinner first, and then he leaned back in his chair and took a survey of the room.
"You must be very proud of your house," he said, "it's such a beautiful house. I never saw anything so beautiful; but, of course, as I'm only seven, I haven't seen much."
"I should think any one would be proud of it," replied Lord Fauntleroy. "I should be proud of it if it were my house. Everything about it is beautiful. And the park, and those trees,--how beautiful they are, and how the leaves rustle!"Then he paused an instant and looked across the table rather wistfully. "It's a very big house for just two people to live in, isn't it?" he said. "It is quite large enough for two," answered the Earl. "Do you find it too large?" His little lordship hesitated a moment. "I was only thinking," he said, "that if two people lived in it who were not very good companions, they might feel lonely sometimes." "Do you think I shall make a good companion?" inquired the Earl. "Yes," replied Cedric, "I think you will. Mr. Hobbs and I were great friends. He was the best friend I had except Dearest." The Earl made a quick movement of his bushy eyebrows. "Who is Dearest?" "She is my mother," said Lord Fauntleroy, in a rather low, quiet little voice.
Perhaps he was a trifle tired, as his bed-time was nearing, and perhaps after the excitement of the last few days it was natural he should be tired, so perhaps, too, the feeling of weariness brought to him a vague sense of loneliness in the remembrance that to-night he was not to sleep at home, watched over by the loving eyes of that "best friend" of his. They had always been "best friends," this boy and his young mother. He could not help thinking of her, and the more he thought of her the less was he inclined to talk, and by the time the dinner was at an end the Earl saw that there was a faint shadow on his face. But Cedric bore himself with excellent courage, and when they went back to the library, though the tall footman walked on one side of his master, the Earl's hand rested on his grandson's shoulder, though not so heavily as before.When the footman left them alone, Cedric sat down upon the hearth-rug near Dougal. For a few minutes he stroked the dog's ears in silence and looked at the fire. The Earl watched him. The boy's eyes looked wistful and thoughtful, and once or twice he gave a little sigh. The Earl sat still, and kept his eyes fixed on his grandson. "Fauntleroy," he said at last, "what are you thinking of?"
Fauntleroy looked up with a manful effort at a smile. "I was thinking about Dearest," he said; "and--and I think I'd better get up and walk up and down the room."
He rose up, and put his hands in his small pockets, and began to walk to and fro. His eyes were very bright, and his lips were pressed together, but he kept his head up and walked firmly. Dougal moved lazily and looked at him, and then stood up. He walked over to the child, and began to follow him uneasily. Fauntleroy drew one hand from his pocket and laid it on the dog's head."He's a very nice dog," he said. "He's my friend. He knows how I feel." "How do you feel?" asked the Earl.
It disturbed him to see the struggle the little fellow was having with his first feeling of homesickness, but it pleased him to see that he was making so brave an effort to bear it well. He liked this childish courage."Come here," he said. Fauntleroy went to him.
"I never was away from my own house before," said the boy, with a troubled look in his brown eyes. "It makes a person feel a strange feeling when he has to stay all night in another person's castle instead of in his own house. But Dearest is not very far away from me. She told me to remember that--and--and I'm seven--and I can look at the picture she gave me."He put his hand in his pocket, and brought out a small violet velvet-covered case. "This is it," he said. "You see, you press this spring and it opens, and she is in there!"
He had come close to the Earl's chair, and, as he drew forth the little case, he leaned against the arm of it, and against the old man's arm, too, as confidingly as if children had always leaned there."There she is," he said, as the case opened; and he looked up with a smile.
The Earl knitted his brows; he did not wish to see the picture, but he looked at it in spite of himself; and there looked up at him from it such a pretty young face--a face so like the child's at his side--that it quite startled him."I suppose you think you are very fond of her," he said.
"Yes," answered Lord Fauntleroy, in a gentle tone, and with simple directness; "I do think so, and I think it's true. You see, Mr. Hobbs was my friend, and Dick and Bridget and Mary and Michael, they were my friends, too; but Dearest--well, she is my CLOSE friend, and we always tell each other everything. My father left her to me to take care of, and when I am a man I am going to work and earn money for her."
"What do you think of doing?" inquired his grandfather. His young lordship slipped down upon the hearth-rug, and sat there with the picture still in his hand. He seemed to be reflecting seriously, before he answered."I did think perhaps I might go into business with Mr. Hobbs," he said; "but I should LIKE to be a President." "We'll send you to the House of Lords instead," said his grandfather. "Well," remarked Lord Fauntleroy, "if I COULDN'T be a President, and if that is a good business, I shouldn't mind. The grocery business is dull sometimes." Perhaps he was weighing the matter in his mind, for he sat very quiet after this, and looked at the fire for some time.
The Earl did not speak again. He leaned back in his chair and watched him. A great many strange new thoughts passed through the old nobleman's mind. Dougal had stretched himself out and gone to sleep with his head on his huge paws. There was a long silence.
In about half an hour's time Mr. Havisham was ushered in. The great room was very still when he entered. The Earl was still leaning back in his chair. He moved as Mr. Havisham approached, and held up his hand in a gesture of warning--it seemed as if he had scarcely intended to make the gesture--as if it were almost involuntary. Dougal was still asleep, and close beside the great dog, sleeping also, with his curly head upon his arm, lay little Lord Fauntleroy.
When Lord Fauntleroy wakened in the morning,--he had not wakened at all when he had been carried to bed the night before,--the first sounds he was conscious of were the crackling of a wood fire and the murmur of voices."You will be careful, Dawson, not to say anything about it," he heard some one say. "He does not know why she is not to be with him, and the reason is to be kept from him."
"If them's his lordship's orders, mem," another voice answered, they'll have to be kep', I suppose. But, if you'll excuse the liberty, mem, as it's between ourselves, servant or no servant, all I have to say is, it's a cruel thing,--parting that poor, pretty, young widdered cre'tur' from her own flesh and blood, and him such a little beauty and a nobleman born. James and Thomas, mem, last night in the servants' hall, they both of 'em say as they never see anythink in their two lives--nor yet no other gentleman in livery--like that little fellow's ways, as innercent an' polite an' interested as if he'd been sitting there dining with his best friend,--and the temper of a' angel, instead of one (if you'll excuse me, mem), as it's well known, is enough to curdle your blood in your veins at times. And as to looks, mem, when we was rung for, James and me, to go into the library and bring him upstairs, and James lifted him up in his arms, what with his little innercent face all red and rosy, and his little head on James's shoulder and his hair hanging down, all curly an' shinin', a prettier, takiner sight you'd never wish to see. An' it's my opinion, my lord wasn't blind to it neither, for he looked at him, and he says to James, `See you don't wake him!' he says."Cedric moved on his pillow, and turned over, opening his eyes.
There were two women in the room. Everything was bright and cheerful with gayflowered chintz. There was a fire on the hearth, and the sunshine was streaming in through the ivy-entwined windows. Both women came toward him, and he saw that one of them was Mrs. Mellon, the housekeeper, and the other a comfortable, middle-aged woman, with a face as kind and good-humored as a face could be."Good-morning, my lord," said Mrs. Mellon. "Did you sleep well?" His lordship rubbed his eyes and smiled. "Good-morning," he said. "I didn't know I was here." "You were carried upstairs when you were asleep," said the housekeeper. "This is your bedroom, and this is Dawson, who is to take care of you." Fauntleroy sat up in bed and held out his hand to Dawson, as he had held it out to the Earl. "How do you do, ma'am?" he said. "I'm much obliged to you for coming to take care of me." "You can call her Dawson, my lord," said the housekeeper with a smile. "She is used to being called Dawson."
"MISS Dawson, or MRS. Dawson?" inquired his lordship. "Just Dawson, my lord," said Dawson herself, beaming all over. "Neither Miss nor Missis, bless your little heart ! Will you get up now, and let Dawson dress you, and then have your breakfast in the nursery?"
"I learned to dress myself many years ago, thank you," answered Fauntleroy. "Dearest taught me. `Dearest' is my mamma. We had only Mary to do all the work,--washing and all,--and so of course it wouldn't do to give her so much trouble. I can take my bath, too, pretty well if you'll just be kind enough to 'zamine the corners after I'm done."Dawson and the housekeeper exchanged glances. "Dawson will do anything you ask her to," said Mrs. Mellon. "That I will, bless him," said Dawson, in her comforting, good-humored voice. "He shall dress himself if he likes, and I'll stand by, ready to help him if he wants me." "Thank you," responded Lord Fauntleroy; "it's a little hard sometimes about the buttons, you know, and then I have to ask somebody."
He thought Dawson a very kind woman, and before the bath and the dressing were finished they were excellent friends, and he had found out a great deal about her. He had discovered that her husband had been a soldier and had been killed in a real battle, and that her son was a sailor, and was away on a long cruise, and that he had seen pirates and cannibals and Chinese people and Turks, and that he brought home strange shells and pieces of coral which Dawson was ready to show at any moment, some of them being in her trunk. All this was very interesting. He also found out that she had taken care of little children all her life, and that she had just come from a great house in another part of England, where she had been taking care of a beautiful little girl whose name was Lady Gwyneth Vaughn."And she is a sort of relation of your lordship's," said Dawson. "And perhaps sometime you may see her." "Do you think I shall?" said Fauntleroy. "I should like that. I never knew any little girls, but I always like to look at them."
When he went into the adjoining room to take his breakfast, and saw what a great room it was, and found there was another adjoining it which Dawson told him was his also, the feeling that he was very small indeed came over him again so strongly that he confided it to Dawson, as he sat down to the table on which the pretty breakfast service was arranged."I am a very little boy," he said rather wistfully, "to live in such a large castle, and have so many big rooms,--don't you think so?" "Oh! come!" said Dawson, "you feel just a little strange at first, that's all; but you'll get over that very soon, and then you'll like it here. It's such a beautiful place, you know."
"It's a very beautiful place, of course," said Fauntleroy, with a little sigh; "but I should like it better if I didn't miss Dearest so. I always had my breakfast with her in the morning, and put the sugar and cream in her tea for her, and handed her the toast. That made it very sociable, of course."
"Oh, well!" answered Dawson, comfortingly, "you know you can see her every day, and there's no knowing how much you'll have to tell her. Bless you! wait till you've walked about a bit and seen things,--the dogs, and the stables with all the horses in them. There's one of them I know you'll like to see----"
"Is there?" exclaimed Fauntleroy; "I'm very fond of horses. I was very fond of Jim. He was the horse that belonged to Mr. Hobbs' grocery wagon. He was a beautiful horse when he wasn't balky.""Well," said Dawson, "you just wait till you've seen what's in the stables. And, deary me, you haven't looked even into the very next room yet!" "What is there?" asked Fauntleroy. "Wait until you've had your breakfast, and then you shall see," said Dawson.
At this he naturally began to grow curious, and he applied himself assiduously to his breakfast. It seemed to him that there must be something worth looking at, in the next room; Dawson had such a consequential, mysterious air."Now, then," he said, slipping off his seat a few minutes later; "I've had enough. Can I go and look at it?" Dawson nodded and led the way, looking more mysterious and important than ever. He began to be very much interested indeed.
When she opened the door of the room, he stood upon the threshold and looked about him in amazement. He did not speak; he only put his hands in his pockets and stood there flushing up to his forehead and looking in.He flushed up because he was so surprised and, for the moment, excited. To see such a place was enough to surprise any ordinary boy.
The room was a large one, too, as all the rooms seemed to be, and it appeared to him more beautiful than the rest, only in a different way. The furniture was not so massive and antique as was that in the rooms he had seen downstairs; the draperies and rugs and walls were brighter; there were shelves full of books, and on the tables were numbers of toys,--beautiful, ingenious things,--such as he had looked at with wonder and delight through the shop windows in New York."It looks like a boy's room," he said at last, catching his breath a little. "Whom do they belong to?" "Go and look at them," said Dawson. "They belong to you!"
"To me!" he cried; "to me? Why do they belong to me? Who gave them to me?" And he sprang forward with a gay little shout. It seemed almost too much to be believed. "It was Grandpapa!" he said, with his eyes as bright as stars. "I know it was Grandpapa!"
"Yes, it was his lordship," said Dawson; "and if you will be a nice little gentleman, and not fret about things, and will enjoy yourself, and be happy all the day, he will give you anything you ask for."
It was a tremendously exciting morning. There were so many things to be examined, so many experiments to be tried; each novelty was so absorbing that he could scarcely turn from it to look at the next. And it was so curious to know that all this had been prepared for himself alone; that, even before he had left New York, people had come down from London to arrange the rooms he was to occupy, and had provided the books and playthings most likely to interest him.
Dawson's face wore an uncertain expression for a moment. She had not a very high opinion of his lordship the Earl. She had not been in the house many days, but she had been there long enough to hear the old nobleman's peculiarities discussed very freely in the servants' hall.
"An' of all the wicious, savage, hill-tempered hold fellows it was ever my hill-luck to wear livery hunder," the tallest footman had said, "he's the wiolentest and wust by a long shot."
And this particular footman, whose name was Thomas, had also repeated to his companions below stairs some of the Earl's remarks to Mr. Havisham, when they had been discussing these very preparations.
"Give him his own way, and fill his rooms with toys," my lord had said. "Give him what will amuse him, and he'll forget about his mother quickly enough. Amuse him, and fill his mind with other things, and we shall have no trouble. That's boy nature."
So, perhaps, having had this truly amiable object in view, it did not please him so very much to find it did not seem to be exactly this particular boy's nature. The Earl had passed a bad night and had spent the morning in his room; but at noon, after he had lunched, he sent for his grandson.
Fauntleroy answered the summons at once. He came down the broad staircase with a bounding step; the Earl heard him run across the hall, and then the door opened and he came in with red cheeks and sparkling eyes.
"I was waiting for you to send for me," he said. "I was ready a long time ago. I'm EVER so much obliged to you for all those things! I'm EVER so much obliged to you! I have been playing with them all the morning.""Oh!" said the Earl, "you like them, do you?"
"I like them so much--well, I couldn't tell you how much!" said Fauntleroy, his face glowing with delight. "There's one that's like baseball, only you play it on a board with black and white pegs, and you keep your score with some counters on a wire. I tried to teach Dawson, but she couldn't quite understand it just at first--you see, she never played baseball, being a lady; and I'm afraid I wasn't very good at explaining it to her. But you know all about it, don't you?"
"I'm afraid I don't," replied the Earl. "It's an American game, isn't it? Is it something like cricket?"
"I never saw cricket," said Fauntleroy; "but Mr. Hobbs took me several times to see baseball. It's a splendid game. You get so excited! Would you like me to go and get my game and show it to you? Perhaps it would amuse you and make you forget about your foot. Does your foot hurt you very much this morning?"
"Then perhaps you couldn't forget it," said the little fellow anxiously. "Perhaps it would bother you to be told about the game. Do you think it would amuse you, or do you think it would bother you?""Go and get it," said the Earl.
It certainly was a novel entertainment this,--making a companion of a child who offered to teach him to play games,--but the very novelty of it amused him. There was a smile lurking about the Earl's mouth when Cedric came back with the box containing the game, in his arms, and an expression of the most eager interest on his face."May I pull that little table over here to your chair?" he asked. "Ring for Thomas," said the Earl. "He will place it for you." "Oh, I can do it myself," answered Fauntleroy. "It's not very heavy."
"Very well," replied his grandfather. The lurking smile deepened on the old man's face as he watched the little fellow's preparations; there was such an absorbed interest in them. The small table was dragged forward and placed by his chair, and the game taken from its box and arranged upon it.
"It's very interesting when you once begin," said Fauntleroy. "You see, the black pegs can be your side and the white ones mine. They're men, you know, and once round the field is a home run and counts one--and these are the outs--and here is the first base and that's the second and that's the third and that's the home base."
He entered into the details of explanation with the greatest animation. He showed all the attitudes of pitcher and catcher and batter in the real game, and gave a dramatic description of a wonderful "hot ball" he had seen caught on the glorious occasion on which he had witnessed a match in company with Mr. Hobbs. His vigorous, graceful little body, his eager gestures, his simple enjoyment of it all, were pleasant to behold.
When at last the explanations and illustrations were at an end and the game began in good earnest, the Earl still found himself entertained. His young companion was wholly absorbed; he played with all his childish heart; his gay little laughs when he made a good throw, his enthusiasm over a "home run," his impartial delight over his own good luck and his opponent's, would have given a flavor to any game.
If, a week before, any one had told the Earl of Dorincourt that on that particular morning he would be forgetting his gout and his bad temper in a child's game, played with black and white wooden pegs, on a gayly painted board, with a curly-headed small boy for a companion, he would without doubt have made himself very unpleasant; and yet he certainly had forgotten himself when the door opened and Thomas announced a visitor. The visitor in question, who was an elderly gentleman in black, and no less a person than the clergyman of the parish, was so startled by the amazing scene which met his eye, that he almost fell back a pace, and ran some risk of colliding with Thomas.
There was, in fact, no part of his duty that the Reverend Mr. Mordaunt found so decidedly unpleasant as that part which compelled him to call upon his noble patron at the Castle. His noble patron, indeed, usually made these visits as disagreeable as it lay in his lordly power to make them. He abhorred churches and charities, and flew into violent rages when any of his tenantry took the liberty of being poor and ill and needing assistance. When his gout was at its worst, he did not hesitate to announce that he would not be bored and irritated by being told stories of their miserable misfortunes; when his gout troubled him less and he was in a somewhat more humane frame of mind, he would perhaps give the rector some money, after having bullied him in the most painful manner, and berated the whole parish for its shiftlessness and imbecility. But, whatsoever his mood, he never failed to make as many sarcastic and embarrassing speeches as possible, and to cause the Reverend Mr. Mordaunt to wish it were proper and Christian-like to throw something heavy at him. During all the years in which Mr. Mordaunt had been in charge of Dorincourt parish, the rector certainly did not remember having seen his lordship, of his own free will, do any one a kindness, or, under any circumstances whatever, show that he thought of any one but himself.
He had called to-day to speak to him of a specially pressing case, and as he had walked up the avenue, he had, for two reasons, dreaded his visit more than usual. In the first place, he knew that his lordship had for several days been suffering with the gout, and had been in so villainous a humor that rumors of it had even reached the village--carried there by one of the young women servants, to her sister, who kept a little shop and retailed darning-needles and cotton and peppermints and gossip, as a means of earning an honest living. What Mrs. Dibble did not know about the Castle and its inmates, and the farm-houses and their inmates, and the village and its population, was really not worth being talked about. And of course she knew everything about the Castle, because her sister, Jane Shorts, was one of the upper housemaids, and was very friendly and intimate with Thomas.
"And the way his lordship do go on!" said Mrs. Dibble, over the counter, "and the way he do use language, Mr. Thomas told Jane herself, no flesh and blood as is in livery could stand--for throw a plate of toast at Mr. Thomas, hisself, he did, not more than two days since, and if it weren't for other things being agreeable and the society below stairs most genteel, warning would have been gave within a' hour!"
And the rector had heard all this, for somehow the Earl was a favorite black sheep in the cottages and farm-houses, and his bad behavior gave many a good woman something to talk about when she had company to tea.And the second reason was even worse, because it was a new one and had been talked about with the most excited interest.
Who did not know of the old nobleman's fury when his handsome son the Captain had married the American lady? Who did not know how cruelly he had treated the Captain, and how the big, gay, sweet-smiling young man, who was the only member of the grand family any one liked, had died in a foreign land, poor and unforgiven? Who did not know how fiercely his lordship had hated the poor young creature who had been this son's wife, and how he had hated the thought of her child and never meant to see the boy--until his two sons died and left him without an heir? And then, who did not know that he had looked forward without any affection or pleasure to his grandson's coming, and that he had made up his mind that he should find the boy a vulgar, awkward, pert American lad, more likely to disgrace his noble name than to honor it?
The proud, angry old man thought he had kept all his thoughts secret. He did not suppose any one had dared to guess at, much less talk over what he felt, and dreaded; but his servants watched him, and read his face and his ill-humors and fits of gloom, and discussed them in the servants' hall. And while he thought himself quite secure from the common herd, Thomas was telling Jane and the cook, and the butler, and the housemaids and the other footmen that it was his opinion that "the hold man was wuss than usual athinkin' hover the Capting's boy, an' hanticipatin' as he won't be no credit to the fambly. An' serve him right," added Thomas; "hit's 'is hown fault. Wot can he iggspect from a child brought up in pore circumstances in that there low Hamerica?"
And as the Reverend Mr. Mordaunt walked under the great trees, he remembered that this questionable little boy had arrived at the Castle only the evening before, and that there were nine chances to one that his lordship's worst fears were realized, and twenty-two chances to one that if the poor little fellow had disappointed him, the Earl was even now in a tearing rage, and ready to vent all his rancor on the first person who called--which it appeared probable would be his reverend self.Judge then of his amazement when, as Thomas opened the library door, his ears were greeted by a delighted ring of childish laughter. "That's two out!" shouted an excited, clear little voice. "You see it's two out!"
And there was the Earl's chair, and the gout-stool, and his foot on it; and by him a small table and a game on it; and quite close to him, actually leaning against his arm and his ungouty knee, was a little boy with face glowing, and eyes dancing with excitement. "It's two out!" the little stranger cried. "You hadn't any luck that time, had you?"--And then they both recognized at once that some one had come in.
The Earl glanced around, knitting his shaggy eyebrows as he had a trick of doing, and when he saw who it was, Mr. Mordaunt was still more surprised to see that he looked even less disagreeable than usual instead of more so. In fact, he looked almost as if he had forgotten for the moment how disagreeable he was, and how unpleasant he really could make himself when he tried."Ah!" he said, in his harsh voice, but giving his hand rather graciously. "Good-morning, Mordaunt. I've found a new employment, you see."
He put his other hand on Cedric's shoulder,--perhaps deep down in his heart there was a stir of gratified pride that it was such an heir he had to present; there was a spark of something like pleasure in his eyes as he moved the boy slightly forward."This is the new Lord Fauntleroy," he said. "Fauntleroy, this is Mr. Mordaunt, the rector of the parish."
Fauntleroy looked up at the gentleman in the clerical garments, and gave him his hand. "I am very glad to make your acquaintance, sir," he said, remembering the words he had heard Mr. Hobbs use on one or two occasions when he had been greeting a new customer with ceremony.Cedric felt quite sure that one ought to be more than usually polite to a minister.
Mr. Mordaunt held the small hand in his a moment as he looked down at the child's face, smiling involuntarily. He liked the little fellow from that instant--as in fact people always did like him. And it was not the boy's beauty and grace which most appealed to him; it was the simple, natural kindliness in the little lad which made any words he uttered, however quaint and unexpected, sound pleasant and sincere. As the rector looked at Cedric, he forgot to think of the Earl at all. Nothing in the world is so strong as a kind heart, and somehow this kind little heart, though it was only the heart of a child, seemed to clear all the atmosphere of the big gloomy room and make it brighter.
"I am delighted to make your acquaintance, Lord Fauntleroy," said the rector. "You made a long journey to come to us. A great many people will be glad to know you made it safely."
"It WAS a long way," answered Fauntleroy, "but Dearest, my mother, was with me and I wasn't lonely. Of course you are never lonely if your mother is with you; and the ship was beautiful.""Take a chair, Mordaunt," said the Earl. Mr. Mordaunt sat down. He glanced from Fauntleroy to the Earl. "Your lordship is greatly to be congratulated," he said warmly. But the Earl plainly had no intention of showing his feelings on the subject.
"He is like his father," he said rather gruffly. "Let us hope he'll conduct himself more creditably." And then he added: "Well, what is it this morning, Mordaunt? Who is in trouble now?"This was not as bad as Mr. Mordaunt had expected, but he hesitated a second before he began.
"It is Higgins," he said; "Higgins of Edge Farm. He has been very unfortunate. He was ill himself last autumn, and his children had scarlet fever. I can't say that he is a very good manager, but he has had ill-luck, and of course he is behindhand in many ways. He is in trouble about his rent now. Newick tells him if he doesn't pay it, he must leave the place; and of course that would be a very serious matter. His wife is ill, and he came to me yesterday to beg me to see about it, and ask you for time. He thinks if you would give him time he could catch up again.""They all think that," said the Earl, looking rather black.
Fauntleroy made a movement forward. He had been standing between his grandfather and the visitor, listening with all his might. He had begun to be interested in Higgins at once. He wondered how many children there were, and if the scarlet fever had hurt them very much. His eyes were wide open and were fixed upon Mr. Mordaunt with intent interest as that gentleman went on with the conversation.
"Higgins is a well-meaning man," said the rector, making an effort to strengthen his plea.
"He is very fond of his wife and children, and if the farm is taken from him they may literally starve. He can not give them the nourishing things they need. Two of the children were left very low after the fever, and the doctor orders for them wine and luxuries that Higgins can not afford."At this Fauntleroy moved a step nearer. "That was the way with Michael," he said. The Earl slightly started.
"I forgot YOU!" he said. "I forgot we had a philanthropist in the room. Who was Michael?" And the gleam of queer amusement came back into the old man's deep-set eyes."He was Bridget's husband, who had the fever," answered Fauntleroy; "and he couldn't pay the rent or buy wine and things. And you gave me that money to help him." The Earl drew his brows together into a curious frown, which somehow was scarcely grim at all. He glanced across at Mr. Mordaunt.
"I don't know what sort of landed proprietor he will make," he said. "I told Havisham the boy was to have what he wanted--anything he wanted--and what he wanted, it seems, was money to give to beggars.""Oh! but they weren't beggars," said Fauntleroy eagerly. "Michael was a splendid bricklayer! They all worked." "Oh!" said the Earl, "they were not beggars. They were splendid bricklayers, and bootblacks, and apple-women."
He bent his gaze on the boy for a few seconds in silence. The fact was that a new thought was coming to him, and though, perhaps, it was not prompted by the noblest emotions, it was not a bad thought. "Come here," he said, at last.Fauntleroy went and stood as near to him as possible without encroaching on the gouty foot. "What would YOU do in this case?" his lordship asked.
It must be confessed that Mr. Mordaunt experienced for the moment a curious sensation. Being a man of great thoughtfulness, and having spent so many years on the estate of Dorincourt, knowing the tenantry, rich and poor, the people of the village, honest and industrious, dishonest and lazy, he realized very strongly what power for good or evil would be given in the future to this one small boy standing there, his brown eyes wide open, his hands deep in his pockets; and the thought came to him also that a great deal of power might, perhaps, through the caprice of a proud, self-indulgent old man, be given to him now, and that if his young nature were not a simple and generous one, it might be the worst thing that could happen, not only for others, but for himself."And what would YOU do in such a case?" demanded the Earl. Fauntleroy drew a little nearer, and laid one hand on his knee, with the most confiding air of good comradeship.
"If I were very rich," he said, "and not only just a little boy, I should let him stay, and give him the things for his children; but then, I am only a boy." Then, after a second's pause, in which his face brightened visibly, "YOU can do anything, can't you?" he said."Humph!" said my lord, staring at him. "That's your opinion, is it?" And he was not displeased either. "I mean you can give any one anything," said Fauntleroy. "Who's Newick?" "He is my agent," answered the earl, "and some of my tenants are not over-fond of him." "Are you going to write him a letter now?" inquired Fauntleroy. "Shall I bring you the pen and ink? I can take the game off this table." It plainly had not for an instant occurred to him that Newick would be allowed to do his worst. The Earl paused a moment, still looking at him. "Can you write?" he asked. "Yes," answered Cedric, "but not very well." "Move the things from the table," commanded my lord, "and bring the pen and ink, and a sheet of paper from my desk." Mr. Mordaunt's interest began to increase. Fauntleroy did as he was told very deftly. In a few moments, the sheet of paper, the big inkstand, and the pen were ready. "There!" he said gayly, "now you can write it." "You are to write it," said the Earl. "I!" exclaimed Fauntleroy, and a flush overspread his forehead. "Will it do if I write it? I don't always spell quite right when I haven't a dictionary, and nobody tells me." "It will do," answered the Earl. "Higgins will not complain of the spelling. I'm not the philanthropist; you are. Dip your pen in the ink." Fauntleroy took up the pen and dipped it in the ink-bottle, then he arranged himself in position, leaning on the table. "Now," he inquired, "what must I say?" "You may say, `Higgins is not to be interfered with, for the present,' and sign it, `Fauntleroy,'" said the Earl.
Fauntleroy dipped his pen in the ink again, and resting his arm, began to write. It was rather a slow and serious process, but he gave his whole soul to it. After a while, however, the manuscript was complete, and he handed it to his grandfather with a smile slightly tinged with anxiety."Do you think it will do?" he asked. The Earl looked at it, and the corners of his mouth twitched a little. "Yes," he answered; "Higgins will find it entirely satisfactory." And he handed it to Mr. Mordaunt. What Mr. Mordaunt found written was this: "Dear mr. Newik if you pleas mr. higins is not to be intur feared with for the present and oblige. Yours rispecferly "FAUNTLEROY." "Mr. Hobbs always signed his letters that way," said Fauntleroy; "and I thought I'd better say `please.' Is that exactly the right way to spell `interfered'?" "It's not exactly the way it is spelled in the dictionary," answered the Earl.
"I was afraid of that," said Fauntleroy. "I ought to have asked. You see, that's the way with words of more than one syllable; you have to look in the dictionary. It's always safest. I'll write it over again."And write it over again he did, making quite an imposing copy, and taking precautions in the matter of spelling by consulting the Earl himself.
"Spelling is a curious thing," he said. "It's so often different from what you expect it to be. I used to think `please' was spelled p-l-e-e-s, but it isn't, you know; and you'd think `dear' was spelled d-e-r-e, if you didn't inquire. Sometimes it almost discourages you."
When Mr. Mordaunt went away, he took the letter with him, and he took something else with him also--namely, a pleasanter feeling and a more hopeful one than he had ever carried home with him down that avenue on any previous visit he had made at Dorincourt Castle.When he was gone, Fauntleroy, who had accompanied him to the door, went back to his grandfather. "May I go to Dearest now?" he asked. "I think she will be waiting for me." The Earl was silent a moment. "There is something in the stable for you to see first," he said. "Ring the bell." "If you please," said Fauntleroy, with his quick little flush. "I'm very much obliged; but I think I'd better see it to-morrow. She will be expecting me all the time." "Very well," answered the Earl. "We will order the carriage." Then he added dryly, "It's a pony." Fauntleroy drew a long breath. "A pony!" he exclaimed. "Whose pony is it?" "Yours," replied the Earl. "Mine?" cried the little fellow. "Mine--like the things upstairs?" "Yes," said his grandfather. "Would you like to see it? Shall I order it to be brought around?" Fauntleroy's cheeks grew redder and redder. "I never thought I should have a pony!" he said. "I never thought that! How glad Dearest will be. You give me EVERYthing, don't you?" "Do you wish to see it?" inquired the Earl. Fauntleroy drew a long breath. "I WANT to see it," he said. "I want to see it so much I can hardly wait. But I'm afraid there isn't time." "You MUST go and see your mother this afternoon?" asked the Earl. "You think you can't put it off?" "Why," said Fauntleroy, "she has been thinking about me all the morning, and I have been thinking about her!" "Oh!" said the Earl. "You have, have you? Ring the bell."
As they drove down the avenue, under the arching trees, he was rather silent. But Fauntleroy was not. He talked about the pony. What color was it? How big was it? What was its name? What did it like to eat best? How old was it? How early in the morning might he get up and see it?
"Dearest will be so glad!" he kept saying. "She will be so much obliged to you for being so kind to me! She knows I always liked ponies so much, but we never thought I should have one. There was a little boy on Fifth Avenue who had one, and he used to ride out every morning and we used to take a walk past his house to see him."
He leaned back against the cushions and regarded the Earl with rapt interest for a few minutes and in entire silence.
"I think you must be the best person in the world," he burst forth at last. "You are always doing good, aren't you?--and thinking about other people. Dearest says that is the best kind of goodness; not to think about yourself, but to think about other people. That is just the way you are, isn't it?"
His lordship was so dumfounded to find himself presented in such agreeable colors, that he did not know exactly what to say. He felt that he needed time for reflection. To see each of his ugly, selfish motives changed into a good and generous one by the simplicity of a child was a singular experience.Fauntleroy went on, still regarding him with admiring eyes--those great, clear, innocent eyes!
"You make so many people happy," he said. "There's Michael and Bridget and their ten children, and the apple-woman, and Dick, and Mr. Hobbs, and Mr. Higgins and Mrs. Higgins and their children, and Mr. Mordaunt,--because of course he was glad,--and Dearest and me, about the pony and all the other things. Do you know, I've counted it up on my fingers and in my mind, and it's twenty-seven people you've been kind to. That's a good many--twenty-seven!""And I was the person who was kind to them--was I?" said the Earl.
"Why, yes, you know," answered Fauntleroy. "You made them all happy. Do you know," with some delicate hesitation, "that people are sometimes mistaken about earls when they don't know them. Mr. Hobbs was. I am going to write him, and tell him about it.""What was Mr. Hobbs's opinion of earls?" asked his lordship.
"Well, you see, the difficulty was," replied his young companion, "that he didn't know any, and he'd only read about them in books. He thought--you mustn't mind it--that they were gory tyrants; and he said he wouldn't have them hanging around his store. But if he'd known YOU, I'm sure he would have felt quite different. I shall tell him about you.""What shall you tell him?"
"I shall tell him," said Fauntleroy, glowing with enthusiasm, "that you are the kindest man I ever heard of. And you are always thinking of other people, and making them happy and--and I hope when I grow up, I shall be just like you."
"Just like me!" repeated his lordship, looking at the little kindling face. And a dull red crept up under his withered skin, and he suddenly turned his eyes away and looked out of the carriage window at the great beech-trees, with the sun shining on their glossy, redbrown leaves."JUST like you," said Fauntleroy, adding modestly, "if I can. Perhaps I'm not good enough, but I'm going to try."
The carriage rolled on down the stately avenue under the beautiful, broad-branched trees, through the spaces of green shade and lanes of golden sunlight. Fauntleroy saw again the lovely places where the ferns grew high and the bluebells swayed in the breeze; he saw the deer, standing or lying in the deep grass, turn their large, startled eyes as the carriage passed, and caught glimpses of the brown rabbits as they scurried away. He heard the whir of the partridges and the calls and songs of the birds, and it all seemed even more beautiful to him than before. All his heart was filled with pleasure and happiness in the beauty that was on every side. But the old Earl saw and heard very different things, though he was apparently looking out too. He saw a long life, in which there had been neither generous deeds nor kind thoughts; he saw years in which a man who had been young and strong and rich and powerful had used his youth and strength and wealth and power only to please himself and kill time as the days and years succeeded each other; he saw this man, when the time had been killed and old age had come, solitary and without real friends in the midst of all his splendid wealth; he saw people who disliked or feared him, and people who would flatter and cringe to him, but no one who really cared whether he lived or died, unless they had something to gain or lose by it. He looked out on the broad acres which belonged to him, and he knew what Fauntleroy did not--how far they extended, what wealth they represented, and how many people had homes on their soil. And he knew, too,--another thing Fauntleroy did not,--that in all those homes, humble or well-to-do, there was probably not one person, however much he envied the wealth and stately name and power, and however willing he would have been to possess them, who would for an instant have thought of calling the noble owner "good," or wishing, as this simple-souled little boy had, to be like him.
And it was not exactly pleasant to reflect upon, even for a cynical, worldly old man, who had been sufficient unto himself for seventy years and who had never deigned to care what opinion the world held of him so long as it did not interfere with his comfort or entertainment. And the fact was, indeed, that he had never before condescended to reflect upon it at all; and he only did so now because a child had believed him better than he was, and by wishing to follow in his illustrious footsteps and imitate his example, had suggested to him the curious question whether he was exactly the person to take as a model.
Fauntleroy thought the Earl's foot must be hurting him, his brows knitted themselves together so, as he looked out at the park; and thinking this, the considerate little fellow tried not to disturb him, and enjoyed the trees and the ferns and the deer in silence.
But at last the carriage, having passed the gates and bowled through the green lanes for a short distance, stopped. They had reached Court Lodge; and Fauntleroy was out upon the ground almost before the big footman had time to open the carriage door.The Earl wakened from his reverie with a start. "What!" he said. "Are we here?" "Yes," said Fauntleroy. "Let me give you your stick. Just lean on me when you get out." "I am not going to get out," replied his lordship brusquely. "Not--not to see Dearest?" exclaimed Fauntleroy with astonished face. "`Dearest' will excuse me," said the Earl dryly. "Go to her and tell her that not even a new pony would keep you away."
"She will be disappointed," said Fauntleroy. "She will want to see you very much." "I am afraid not," was the answer. "The carriage will call for you as we come back.--Tell Jeffries to drive on, Thomas."
Thomas closed the carriage door; and, after a puzzled look, Fauntleroy ran up the drive. The Earl had the opportunity--as Mr. Havisham once had--of seeing a pair of handsome, strong little legs flash over the ground with astonishing rapidity. Evidently their owner had no intention of losing any time. The carriage rolled slowly away, but his lordship did not at once lean back; he still looked out. Through a space in the trees he could see the house door; it was wide open. The little figure dashed up the steps; another figure--a little figure, too, slender and young, in its black gown--ran to meet it. It seemed as if they flew together, as Fauntleroy leaped into his mother's arms, hanging about her neck and covering her sweet young face with kisses.