Little Lord Fauntleroy HTML version
Lord Dorincourt had occasion to wear his grim smile many a time as the days passed by.
Indeed, as his acquaintance with his grandson progressed, he wore the smile so often that
there were moments when it almost lost its grimness. There is no denying that before
Lord Fauntleroy had appeared on the scene, the old man had been growing very tired of
his loneliness and his gout and his seventy years. After so long a life of excitement and
amusement, it was not agreeable to sit alone even in the most splendid room, with one
foot on a gout-stool, and with no other diversion than flying into a rage, and shouting at a
frightened footman who hated the sight of him. The old Earl was too clever a man not to
know perfectly well that his servants detested him, and that even if he had visitors, they
did not come for love of him--though some found a sort of amusement in his sharp,
sarcastic talk, which spared no one. So long as he had been strong and well, he had gone
from one place to another, pretending to amuse himself, though he had not really enjoyed
it; and when his health began to fail, he felt tired of everything and shut himself up at
Dorincourt, with his gout and his newspapers and his books. But he could not read all the
time, and he became more and more "bored," as he called it. He hated the long nights and
days, and he grew more and more savage and irritable. And then Fauntleroy came; and
when the Earl saw him, fortunately for the little fellow, the secret pride of the grandfather
was gratified at the outset. If Cedric had been a less handsome little fellow, the old man
might have taken so strong a dislike to him that he would not have given himself the
chance to see his grandson's finer qualities. But he chose to think that Cedric's beauty and
fearless spirit were the results of the Dorincourt blood and a credit to the Dorincourt rank.
And then when he heard the lad talk, and saw what a well-bred little fellow he was,
notwithstanding his boyish ignorance of all that his new position meant, the old Earl liked
his grandson more, and actually began to find himself rather entertained. It had amused
him to give into those childish hands the power to bestow a benefit on poor Higgins. My
lord cared nothing for poor Higgins, but it pleased him a little to think that his grandson
would be talked about by the country people and would begin to be popular with the
tenantry, even in his childhood. Then it had gratified him to drive to church with Cedric
and to see the excitement and interest caused by the arrival. He knew how the people
would speak of the beauty of the little lad; of his fine, strong, straight body; of his erect
bearing, his handsome face, and his bright hair, and how they would say (as the Earl had
heard one woman exclaim to another) that the boy was "every inch a lord." My lord of
Dorincourt was an arrogant old man, proud of his name, proud of his rank, and therefore
proud to show the world that at last the House of Dorincourt had an heir who was worthy
of the position he was to fill.
The morning the new pony had been tried, the Earl had been so pleased that he had
almost forgotten his gout. When the groom had brought out the pretty creature, which
arched its brown, glossy neck and tossed its fine head in the sun, the Earl had sat at the
open window of the library and had looked on while Fauntleroy took his first riding
lesson. He wondered if the boy would show signs of timidity. It was not a very small
pony, and he had often seen children lose courage in making their first essay at riding.
Fauntleroy mounted in great delight. He had never been on a pony before, and he was in
the highest spirits. Wilkins, the groom, led the animal by the bridle up and down before
the library window.
"He's a well plucked un, he is," Wilkins remarked in the stable afterward with many
grins. "It weren't no trouble to put HIM up. An' a old un wouldn't ha' sat any straighter
when he WERE up. He ses--ses he to me, `Wilkins,' he ses, `am I sitting up straight?