Little Lord Fauntleroy
Frances Hodgson Burnett
Part 4 out of 4
to the Castle quite cowed her. She was infuriated, but she was
cowed. The Earl would not receive her, but I advised him to go
with me to the Dorincourt Arms, where she is staying. When she
saw him enter the room, she turned white, though she flew into a
rage at once, and threatened and demanded in one breath."
The fact was that the Earl had stalked into the room and stood,
looking like a venerable aristocratic giant, staring at the woman
from under his beetling brows, and not condescending a word. He
simply stared at her, taking her in from head to foot as if she
were some repulsive curiosity. He let her talk and demand until
she was tired, without himself uttering a word, and then he said:
"You say you are my eldest son's wife. If that is true, and if
the proof you offer is too much for us, the law is on your side.
In that case, your boy is Lord Fauntleroy. The matter will be
sifted to the bottom, you may rest assured. If your claims are
proved, you will be provided for. I want to see nothing of
either you or the child so long as I live. The place will
unfortunately have enough of you after my death. You are exactly
the kind of person I should have expected my son Bevis to
And then he turned his back upon her and stalked out of the room
as he had stalked into it.
Not many days after that, a visitor was announced to Mrs. Errol,
who was writing in her little morning room. The maid, who
brought the message, looked rather excited; her eyes were quite
round with amazement, in fact, and being young and inexperienced,
she regarded her mistress with nervous sympathy.
"It's the Earl hisself, ma'am!" she said in tremulous awe.
When Mrs. Errol entered the drawing-room, a very tall,
majestic-looking old man was standing on the tiger-skin rug. He
had a handsome, grim old face, with an aquiline profile, a long
white mustache, and an obstinate look.
"Mrs. Errol, I believe?" he said.
"Mrs. Errol," she answered.
"I am the Earl of Dorincourt," he said.
He paused a moment, almost unconsciously, to look into her
uplifted eyes. They were so like the big, affectionate, childish
eyes he had seen uplifted to his own so often every day during
the last few months, that they gave him a quite curious
"The boy is very like you," he said abruptly.
"It has been often said so, my lord," she replied, "but I have
been glad to think him like his father also."
As Lady Lorridaile had told him, her voice was very sweet, and
her manner was very simple and dignified. She did not seem in
the least troubled by his sudden coming.
"Yes," said the Earl. "he is like--my son--too." He put his
hand up to his big white mustache and pulled it fiercely. "Do
you know," he said, "why I have come here?"
"I have seen Mr. Havisham," Mrs. Errol began, "and he has told
me of the claims which have been made----"
"I have come to tell you," said the Earl, "that they will be
investigated and contested, if a contest can be made. I have
come to tell you that the boy shall be defended with all the
power of the law. His rights----"
The soft voice interrupted him.
"He must have nothing that is NOT his by right, even if the law
can give it to him," she said.
"Unfortunately the law can not," said the Earl. "If it could,
it should. This outrageous woman and her child----"
"Perhaps she cares for him as much as I care for Cedric, my
lord," said little Mrs. Errol. "And if she was your eldest
son's wife,her son is Lord Fauntleroy, and mine is not."
She was no more afraid of him than Cedric had been, and she
looked at him just as Cedric would have looked, and he, having
been an old tyrant all his life, was privately pleased by it.
People so seldom dared to differ from him that there was an
entertaining novelty in it.
"I suppose," he said, scowling slightly, "that you would much
prefer that he should not be the Earl of Dorincourt."
Her fair young face flushed.
"It is a very magnificent thing to be the Earl of Dorincourt, my
lord," she said. "I know that, but I care most that he should
be what his father was--brave and just and true always."
"In striking contrast to what his grandfather was, eh?" said
his lordship sardonically.
"I have not had the pleasure of knowing his grandfather,"
replied Mrs. Errol, "but I know my little boy believes----" She
stopped short a moment, looking quietly into his face, and then
she added, "I know that Cedric loves you."
"Would he have loved me," said the Earl dryly, "if you had
told him why I did not receive you at the Castle?"
"No," answered Mrs. Errol, "I think not. That was why I did
not wish him to know."
"Well," said my lord brusquely, "there are few women who would
not have told him."
He suddenly began to walk up and down the room, pulling his great
mustache more violently than ever.
"Yes, he is fond of me," he said, "and I am fond of him. I
can't say I ever was fond of anything before. I am fond of him.
He pleased me from the first. I am an old man, and was tired of
my life. He has given me something to live for. I am proud of
him. I was satisfied to think of his taking his place some day
as the head of the family."
He came back and stood before Mrs. Errol.
"I am miserable," he said. "Miserable!"
He looked as if he was. Even his pride could not keep his voice
steady or his hands from shaking. For a moment it almost seemed
as if his deep, fierce eyes had tears in them. "Perhaps it is
because I am miserable that I have come to you," he said, quite
glaring down at her. "I used to hate you; I have been jealous
of you. This wretched, disgraceful business has changed that.
After seeing that repulsive woman who calls herself the wife of
my son Bevis, I actually felt it would be a relief to look at
you. I have been an obstinate old fool, and I suppose I have
treated you badly. You are like the boy, and the boy is the
first object in my life. I am miserable, and I came to you
merely because you are like the boy, and he cares for you, and I
care for him. Treat me as well as you can, for the boy's sake."
He said it all in his harsh voice, and almost roughly, but
somehow he seemed so broken down for the time that Mrs. Errol was
touched to the heart. She got up and moved an arm-chair a little
"I wish you would sit down," she said in a soft, pretty,
sympathetic way. "You have been so much troubled that you are
very tired, and you need all your strength."
It was just as new to him to be spoken to and cared for in that
gentle, simple way as it was to be contradicted. He was reminded
of "the boy" again, and he actually did as she asked him.
Perhaps his disappointment and wretchedness were good discipline
for him; if he had not been wretched he might have continued to
hate her, but just at present he found her a little soothing.
Almost anything would have seemed pleasant by contrast with Lady
Fauntleroy; and this one had so sweet a face and voice, and a
pretty dignity when she spoke or moved. Very soon, through the
quiet magic of these influences, he began to feel less gloomy,
and then he talked still more.
"Whatever happens," he said, "the boy shall be provided for.
He shall be taken care of, now and in the future."
Before he went away, he glanced around the room.
"Do you like the house?" he demanded.
"Very much," she answered.
"This is a cheerful room," he said. "May I come here again
and talk this matter over?"
"As often as you wish, my lord," she replied.
And then he went out to his carriage and drove away, Thomas and
Henry almost stricken dumb upon the box at the turn affairs had
OF course, as soon as the story of Lord Fauntleroy and the
difficulties of the Earl of Dorincourt were discussed in the
English newspapers, they were discussed in the American
newspapers. The story was too interesting to be passed over
lightly, and it was talked of a great deal. There were so many
versions of it that it would have been an edifying thing to buy
all the papers and compare them. Mr. Hobbs read so much about it
that he became quite bewildered. One paper described his young
friend Cedric as an infant in arms,--another as a young man at
Oxford, winning all the honors, and distinguishing himself by
writing Greek poems; one said he was engaged to a young lady of
great beauty, who was the daughter of a duke; another said he had
just been married; the only thing, in fact, which was NOT said
was that he was a little boy between seven and eight, with
handsome legs and curly hair. One said he was no relation to the
Earl of Dorincourt at all, but was a small impostor who had sold
newspapers and slept in the streets of New York before his mother
imposed upon the family lawyer, who came to America to look for
the Earl's heir. Then came the descriptions of the new Lord
Fauntleroy and his mother. Sometimes she was a gypsy, sometimes
an actress, sometimes a beautiful Spaniard; but it was always
agreed that the Earl of Dorincourt was her deadly enemy, and
would not acknowledge her son as his heir if he could help it,
and as there seemed to be some slight flaw in the papers she had
produced, it was expected that there would be a long trial, which
would be far more interesting than anything ever carried into
court before. Mr. Hobbs used to read the papers until his head
was in a whirl, and in the evening he and Dick would talk it all
over. They found out what an important personage an Earl of
Dorincourt was, and what a magnificent income he possessed, and
how many estates he owned, and how stately and beautiful was the
Castle in which he lived; and the more they learned, the more
excited they became.
"Seems like somethin' orter be done," said Mr. Hobbs. "Things
like them orter be held on to--earls or no earls."
But there really was nothing they could do but each write a
letter to Cedric, containing assurances of their friendship and
sympathy. They wrote those letters as soon as they could after
receiving the news; and after having written them, they handed
them over to each other to be read.
This is what Mr. Hobbs read in Dick's letter:
"DERE FREND: i got ure letter an Mr. Hobbs got his an we are
sory u are down on ure luck an we say hold on as longs u kin an
dont let no one git ahed of u. There is a lot of ole theves wil
make al they kin of u ef u dont kepe ure i skined. But this is
mosly to say that ive not forgot wot u did fur me an if there
aint no better way cum over here an go in pardners with me.
Biznes is fine an ile see no harm cums to u Enny big feler that
trise to cum it over u wil hafter setle it fust with Perfessor
So no more at present
And this was what Dick read in Mr. Hobbs's letter:
"DEAR SIR: Yrs received and wd say things looks bad. I believe
its a put up job and them thats done it ought to be looked after
sharp. And what I write to say is two things. Im going to look
this thing up. Keep quiet and Ill see a lawyer and do all I can
And if the worst happens and them earls is too many for us theres
a partnership in the grocery business ready for you when yure old
enough and a home and a friend in
"Well," said Mr. Hobbs, "he's pervided for between us, if he
aint a earl."
"So he is," said Dick. "I'd ha' stood by him. Blest if I
didn't like that little feller fust-rate."
The very next morning, one of Dick's customers was rather
surprised. He was a young lawyer just beginning practice--as
poor as a very young lawyer can possibly be, but a bright,
energetic young fellow, with sharp wit and a good temper. He had
a shabby office near Dick's stand, and every morning Dick blacked
his boots for him, and quite often they were not exactly
water-tight, but he always had a friendly word or a joke for
That particular morning, when he put his foot on the rest, he had
an illustrated paper in his hand--an enterprising paper, with
pictures in it of conspicuous people and things. He had just
finished looking it over, and when the last boot was polished, he
handed it over to the boy.
"Here's a paper for you, Dick," he said; "you can look it over
when you drop in at Delmonico's for your breakfast. Picture of
an English castle in it, and an English earl's daughter-in-law.
Fine young woman, too,--lots of hair,--though she seems to be
raising rather a row. You ought to become familiar with the
nobility and gentry, Dick. Begin on the Right Honorable the Earl
of Dorincourt and Lady Fauntleroy. Hello! I say, what's the
The pictures he spoke of were on the front page, and Dick was
staring at one of them with his eyes and mouth open, and his
sharp face almost pale with excitement.
"What's to pay, Dick?" said the young man. "What has
Dick really did look as if something tremendous had happened. He
pointed to the picture, under which was written:
"Mother of Claimant (Lady Fauntleroy)."
It was the picture of a handsome woman, with large eyes and heavy
braids of black hair wound around her head.
"Her!" said Dick. "My, I know her better 'n I know you!"
The young man began to laugh.
"Where did you meet her, Dick?" he said. "At Newport? Or
when you ran over to Paris the last time?"
Dick actually forgot to grin. He began to gather his brushes and
things together, as if he had something to do which would put an
end to his business for the present.
"Never mind," he said. "I know her! An I've struck work for
And in less than five minutes from that time he was tearing
through the streets on his way to Mr. Hobbs and the corner store.
Mr. Hobbs could scarcely believe the evidence of his senses when
he looked across the counter and saw Dick rush in with the paper
in his hand. The boy was out of breath with running; so much out
of breath, in fact, that he could scarcely speak as he threw the
paper down on the counter.
"Hello!" exclaimed Mr. Hobbs. "Hello! What you got there?"
"Look at it!" panted Dick. "Look at that woman in the
picture! That's what you look at! SHE aint no 'ristocrat, SHE
aint!" with withering scorn. "She's no lord's wife. You may
eat me, if it aint Minna--MINNA! I'd know her anywheres, an' so
'd Ben. Jest ax him."
Mr. Hobbs dropped into his seat.
"I knowed it was a put-up job," he said. "I knowed it; and
they done it on account o' him bein' a 'Merican!"
"Done it!" cried Dick, with disgust. "SHE done it, that's who
done it. She was allers up to her tricks; an' I'll tell yer wot
come to me, the minnit I saw her pictur. There was one o' them
papers we saw had a letter in it that said somethin' 'bout her
boy, an' it said he had a scar on his chin. Put them two
together--her 'n' that there scar! Why, that there boy o' hers
aint no more a lord than I am! It's BEN'S boy,--the little chap
she hit when she let fly that plate at me."
Professor Dick Tipton had always been a sharp boy, and earning
his living in the streets of a big city had made him still
sharper. He had learned to keep his eyes open and his wits about
him, and it must be confessed he enjoyed immensely the excitement
and impatience of that moment. If little Lord Fauntleroy could
only have looked into the store that morning, he would certainly
have been interested, even if all the discussion and plans had
been intended to decide the fate of some other boy than himself.
Mr. Hobbs was almost overwhelmed by his sense of responsibility,
and Dick was all alive and full of energy. He began to write a
letter to Ben, and he cut out the picture and inclosed it to him,
and Mr. Hobbs wrote a letter to Cedric and one to the Earl. They
were in the midst of this letter-writing when a new idea came to
"Say," he said, "the feller that give me the paper, he's a
lawyer. Let's ax him what we'd better do. Lawyers knows it
Mr. Hobbs was immensely impressed by this suggestion and Dick's
"That's so!" he replied. "This here calls for lawyers."
And leaving the store in the care of a substitute, he struggled
into his coat and marched down-town with Dick, and the two
presented themselves with their romantic story in Mr. Harrison's
office, much to that young man's astonishment.
If he had not been a very young lawyer, with a very enterprising
mind and a great deal of spare time on his hands, he might not
have been so readily interested in what they had to say, for it
all certainly sounded very wild and queer; but he chanced to want
something to do very much, and he chanced to know Dick, and Dick
chanced to say his say in a very sharp, telling sort of way.
"And," said Mr. Hobbs, "say what your time's worth a' hour and
look into this thing thorough, and I'LL pay the damage,--Silas
Hobbs, corner of Blank street, Vegetables and Fancy Groceries."
"Well," said Mr. Harrison, "it will be a big thing if it turns
out all right, and it will be almost as big a thing for me as for
Lord Fauntleroy; and, at any rate, no harm can be done by
investigating. It appears there has been some dubiousness about
the child. The woman contradicted herself in some of her
statements about his age, and aroused suspicion. The first
persons to be written to are Dick's brother and the Earl of
Dorincourt's family lawyer."
And actually, before the sun went down, two letters had been
written and sent in two different directions--one speeding out of
New York harbor on a mail steamer on its way to England, and the
other on a train carrying letters and passengers bound for
California. And the first was addressed to T. Havisham, Esq.,
and the second to Benjamin Tipton.
And after the store was closed that evening, Mr. Hobbs and Dick
sat in the back-room and talked together until midnight.
It is astonishing how short a time it takes for very wonderful
things to happen. It had taken only a few minutes, apparently,
to change all the fortunes of the little boy dangling his red
legs from the high stool in Mr. Hobbs's store, and to transform
him from a small boy, living the simplest life in a quiet street,
into an English nobleman, the heir to an earldom and magnificent
wealth. It had taken only a few minutes, apparently, to change
him from an English nobleman into a penniless little impostor,
with no right to any of the splendors he had been enjoying. And,
surprising as it may appear, it did not take nearly so long a
time as one might have expected, to alter the face of everything
again and to give back to him all that he had been in danger of
It took the less time because, after all, the woman who had
called herself Lady Fauntleroy was not nearly so clever as she
was wicked; and when she had been closely pressed by Mr.
Havisham's questions about her marriage and her boy, she had made
one or two blunders which had caused suspicion to be awakened;
and then she had lost her presence of mind and her temper, and in
her excitement and anger had betrayed herself still further. All
the mistakes she made were about her child. There seemed no
doubt that she had been married to Bevis, Lord Fauntleroy, and
had quarreled with him and had been paid to keep away from him;
but Mr. Havisham found out that her story of the boy's being born
in a certain part of London was false; and just when they all
were in the midst of the commotion caused by this discovery,
there came the letter from the young lawyer in New York, and Mr.
Hobbs's letters also.
What an evening it was when those letters arrived, and when Mr.
Havisham and the Earl sat and talked their plans over in the
"After my first three meetings with her," said Mr. Havisham,
"I began to suspect her strongly. It appeared to me that the
child was older than she said he was, and she made a slip in
speaking of the date of his birth and then tried to patch the
matter up. The story these letters bring fits in with several of
my suspicions. Our best plan will be to cable at once for these
two Tiptons,--say nothing about them to her,--and suddenly
confront her with them when she is not expecting it. She is only
a very clumsy plotter, after all. My opinion is that she will be
frightened out of her wits, and will betray herself on the
And that was what actually happened. She was told nothing, and
Mr. Havisham kept her from suspecting anything by continuing to
have interviews with her, in which he assured her he was
investigating her statements; and she really began to feel so
secure that her spirits rose immensely and she began to be as
insolent as might have been expected.
But one fine morning, as she sat in her sitting-room at the inn
called "The Dorincourt Arms," making some very fine plans for
herself, Mr. Havisham was announced; and when he entered, he was
followed by no less than three persons--one was a sharp-faced boy
and one was a big young man and the third was the Earl of
She sprang to her feet and actually uttered a cry of terror. It
broke from her before she had time to check it. She had thought
of these new-comers as being thousands of miles away, when she
had ever thought of them at all, which she had scarcely done for
years. She had never expected to see them again. It must be
confessed that Dick grinned a little when he saw her.
"Hello, Minna!" he said.
The big young man--who was Ben--stood still a minute and looked
"Do you know her?" Mr. Havisham asked, glancing from one to the
"Yes," said Ben. "I know her and she knows me." And he
turned his back on her and went and stood looking out of the
window, as if the sight of her was hateful to him, as indeed it
was. Then the woman, seeing herself so baffled and exposed, lost
all control over herself and flew into such a rage as Ben and
Dick had often seen her in before. Dick grinned a trifle more as
he watched her and heard the names she called them all and the
violent threats she made, but Ben did not turn to look at her.
"I can swear to her in any court," he said to Mr. Havisham,
"and I can bring a dozen others who will. Her father is a
respectable sort of man, though he's low down in the world. Her
mother was just like herself. She's dead, but he's alive, and
he's honest enough to be ashamed of her. He'll tell you who she
is, and whether she married me or not"
Then he clenched his hand suddenly and turned on her.
"Where's the child?" he demanded. "He's going with me! He is
done with you, and so am I!"
And just as he finished saying the words, the door leading into
the bedroom opened a little, and the boy, probably attracted by
the sound of the loud voices, looked in. He was not a handsome
boy, but he had rather a nice face, and he was quite like Ben,
his father, as any one could see, and there was the
three-cornered scar on his chin.
Ben walked up to him and took his hand, and his own was
"Yes," he said, "I could swear to him, too. Tom," he said to
the little fellow, "I'm your father; I've come to take you away.
Where's your hat?"
The boy pointed to where it lay on a chair. It evidently rather
pleased him to hear that he was going away. He had been so
accustomed to queer experiences that it did not surprise him to
be told by a stranger that he was his father. He objected so
much to the woman who had come a few months before to the place
where he had lived since his babyhood, and who had suddenly
announced that she was his mother, that he was quite ready for a
change. Ben took up the hat and marched to the door.
"If you want me again," he said to Mr. Havisham, "you know
where to find me."
He walked out of the room, holding the child's hand and not
looking at the woman once. She was fairly raving with fury, and
the Earl was calmly gazing at her through his eyeglasses, which
he had quietly placed upon his aristocratic, eagle nose.
"Come, come, my young woman," said Mr. Havisham. "This won't
do at all. If you don't want to be locked up, you really must
And there was something so very business-like in his tones that,
probably feeling that the safest thing she could do would be to
get out of the way, she gave him one savage look and dashed past
him into the next room and slammed the door.
"We shall have no more trouble with her," said Mr. Havisham.
And he was right; for that very night she left the Dorincourt
Arms and took the train to London, and was seen no more.
When the Earl left the room after the interview, he went at once
to his carriage.
"To Court Lodge," he said to Thomas.
"To Court Lodge," said Thomas to the coachman as he mounted the
box; "an' you may depend on it, things are taking a uniggspected
When the carriage stopped at Court Lodge, Cedric was in the
drawing-room with his mother.
The Earl came in without being announced. He looked an inch or
so taller, and a great many years younger. His deep eyes
"Where," he said, "is Lord Fauntleroy?"
Mrs. Errol came forward, a flush rising to her cheek.
"Is it Lord Fauntleroy?" she asked. "Is it, indeed!"
The Earl put out his hand and grasped hers.
"Yes," he answered, "it is."
Then he put his other hand on Cedric's shoulder.
"Fauntleroy," he said in his unceremonious, authoritative way,
"ask your mother when she will come to us at the Castle."
Fauntleroy flung his arms around his mother's neck.
"To live with us!" he cried. "To live with us always!"
The Earl looked at Mrs. Errol, and Mrs. Errol looked at the Earl.
His lordship was entirely in earnest. He had made up his mind to
waste no time in arranging this matter. He had begun to think it
would suit him to make friends with his heir's mother.
"Are you quite sure you want me?" said Mrs. Errol, with her
soft, pretty smile.
"Quite sure," he said bluntly. "We have always wanted you,
but we were not exactly aware of it. We hope you will come."
Ben took his boy and went back to his cattle ranch in California,
and he returned under very comfortable circumstances. Just
before his going, Mr. Havisham had an interview with him in which
the lawyer told him that the Earl of Dorincourt wished to do
something for the boy who might have turned out to be Lord
Fauntleroy, and so he had decided that it would be a good plan to
invest in a cattle ranch of his own, and put Ben in charge of it
on terms which would make it pay him very well, and which would
lay a foundation for his son's future. And so when Ben went
away, he went as the prospective master of a ranch which would be
almost as good as his own, and might easily become his own in
time, as indeed it did in the course of a few years; and Tom, the
boy, grew up on it into a fine young man and was devotedly fond
of his father; and they were so successful and happy that Ben
used to say that Tom made up to him for all the troubles he had
But Dick and Mr. Hobbs--who had actually come over with the
others to see that things were properly looked after--did not
return for some time. It had been decided at the outset that the
Earl would provide for Dick, and would see that he received a
solid education; and Mr. Hobbs had decided that as he himself had
left a reliable substitute in charge of his store, he could
afford to wait to see the festivities which were to celebrate
Lord Fauntleroy's eighth birthday. All the tenantry were
invited, and there were to be feasting and dancing and games in
the park, and bonfires and fire-works in the evening.
"Just like the Fourth of July!" said Lord Fauntleroy. "It
seems a pity my birthday wasn't on the Fourth, doesn't it? For
then we could keep them both together."
It must be confessed that at first the Earl and Mr. Hobbs were
not as intimate as it might have been hoped they would become, in
the interests of the British aristocracy. The fact was that the
Earl had known very few grocery-men, and Mr. Hobbs had not had
many very close acquaintances who were earls; and so in their
rare interviews conversation did not flourish. It must also be
owned that Mr. Hobbs had been rather overwhelmed by the splendors
Fauntleroy felt it his duty to show him.
The entrance gate and the stone lions and the avenue impressed
Mr. Hobbs somewhat at the beginning, and when he saw the Castle,
and the flower-gardens, and the hot-houses, and the terraces, and
the peacocks, and the dungeon, and the armor, and the great
staircase, and the stables, and the liveried servants, he really
was quite bewildered. But it was the picture gallery which
seemed to be the finishing stroke.
"Somethin' in the manner of a museum?" he said to Fauntleroy,
when he was led into the great, beautiful room.
"N--no--!" said Fauntleroy, rather doubtfully. "I don't THINK
it's a museum. My grandfather says these are my ancestors."
"Your aunt's sisters!" ejaculated Mr. Hobbs. "ALL of 'em?
Your great-uncle, he MUST have had a family! Did he raise 'em
And he sank into a seat and looked around him with quite an
agitated countenance, until with the greatest difficulty Lord
Fauntleroy managed to explain that the walls were not lined
entirely with the portraits of the progeny of his great-uncle.
He found it necessary, in fact, to call in the assistance of Mrs.
Mellon, who knew all about the pictures, and could tell who
painted them and when, and who added romantic stories of the
lords and ladies who were the originals. When Mr. Hobbs once
understood, and had heard some of these stories, he was very much
fascinated and liked the picture gallery almost better than
anything else; and he would often walk over from the village,
where he staid at the Dorincourt Arms, and would spend half an
hour or so wandering about the gallery, staring at the painted
ladies and gentlemen, who also stared at him, and shaking his
head nearly all the time.
"And they was all earls!" he would say, "er pretty nigh it!
An' HE'S goin' to be one of 'em, an' own it all!"
Privately he was not nearly so much disgusted with earls and
their mode of life as he had expected to be, and it is to be
doubted whether his strictly republican principles were not
shaken a little by a closer acquaintance with castles and
ancestors and all the rest of it. At any rate, one day he
uttered a very remarkable and unexpected sentiment:
"I wouldn't have minded bein' one of 'em myself!" he
said--which was really a great concession.
What a grand day it was when little Lord Fauntleroy's birthday
arrived, and how his young lordship enjoyed it! How beautiful
the park looked, filled with the thronging people dressed in
their gayest and best, and with the flags flying from the tents
and the top of the Castle! Nobody had staid away who could
possibly come, because everybody was really glad that little Lord
Fauntleroy was to be little Lord Fauntleroy still, and some day
was to be the master of everything. Every one wanted to have a
look at him, and at his pretty, kind mother, who had made so many
friends. And positively every one liked the Earl rather better,
and felt more amiably toward him because the little boy loved and
trusted him so, and because, also, he had now made friends with
and behaved respectfully to his heir's mother. It was said that
he was even beginning to be fond of her, too, and that between
his young lordship and his young lordship's mother, the Earl
might be changed in time into quite a well-behaved old nobleman,
and everybody might be happier and better off.
What scores and scores of people there were under the trees, and
in the tents, and on the lawns! Farmers and farmers' wives in
their Sunday suits and bonnets and shawls; girls and their
sweethearts; children frolicking and chasing about; and old dames
in red cloaks gossiping together. At the Castle, there were
ladies and gentlemen who had come to see the fun, and to
congratulate the Earl, and to meet Mrs. Errol. Lady Lorredaile
and Sir Harry were there, and Sir Thomas Asshe and his daughters,
and Mr. Havisham, of course, and then beautiful Miss Vivian
Herbert, with the loveliest white gown and lace parasol, and a
circle of gentlemen to take care of her--though she evidently
liked Fauntleroy better than all of them put together. And when
he saw her and ran to her and put his arm around her neck, she
put her arms around him, too, and kissed him as warmly as if he
had been her own favorite little brother, and she said:
"Dear little Lord Fauntleroy! dear little boy! I am so glad!
I am so glad!"
And afterward she walked about the grounds with him, and let him
show her everything. And when he took her to where Mr. Hobbs and
Dick were, and said to her, "This is my old, old friend Mr.
Hobbs, Miss Herbert, and this is my other old friend Dick. I
told them how pretty you were, and I told them they should see
you if you came to my birthday,"--she shook hands with them
both, and stood and talked to them in her prettiest way, asking
them about America and their voyage and their life since they had
been in England; while Fauntleroy stood by, looking up at her
with adoring eyes, and his cheeks quite flushed with delight
because he saw that Mr. Hobbs and Dick liked her so much.
"Well," said Dick solemnly, afterward, "she's the daisiest gal
I ever saw! She's--well, she's just a daisy, that's what she is,
'n' no mistake!"
Everybody looked after her as she passed, and every one looked
after little Lord Fauntleroy. And the sun shone and the flags
fluttered and the games were played and the dances danced, and as
the gayeties went on and the joyous afternoon passed, his little
lordship was simply radiantly happy.
The whole world seemed beautiful to him.
There was some one else who was happy, too,--an old man, who,
though he had been rich and noble all his life, had not often
been very honestly happy. Perhaps, indeed, I shall tell you that
I think it was because he was rather better than he had been that
he was rather happier. He had not, indeed, suddenly become as
good as Fauntleroy thought him; but, at least, he had begun to
love something, and he had several times found a sort of pleasure
in doing the kind things which the innocent, kind little heart of
a child had suggested,--and that was a beginning. And every day
he had been more pleased with his son's wife. It was true, as
the people said, that he was beginning to like her too. He liked
to hear her sweet voice and to see her sweet face; and as he sat
in his arm-chair, he used to watch her and listen as she talked
to her boy; and he heard loving, gentle words which were new to
him, and he began to see why the little fellow who had lived in a
New York side street and known grocery-men and made friends with
boot-blacks, was still so well-bred and manly a little fellow
that he made no one ashamed of him, even when fortune changed him
into the heir to an English earldom, living in an English castle.
It was really a very simple thing, after all,--it was only that
he had lived near a kind and gentle heart, and had been taught to
think kind thoughts always and to care for others. It is a very
little thing, perhaps, but it is the best thing of all. He knew
nothing of earls and castles; he was quite ignorant of all grand
and splendid things; but he was always lovable because he was
simple and loving. To be so is like being born a king.
As the old Earl of Dorincourt looked at him that day, moving
about the park among the people, talking to those he knew and
making his ready little bow when any one greeted him,
entertaining his friends Dick and Mr. Hobbs, or standing near his
mother or Miss Herbert listening to their conversation, the old
nobleman was very well satisfied with him. And he had never been
better satisfied than he was when they went down to the biggest
tent, where the more important tenants of the Dorincourt estate
were sitting down to the grand collation of the day.
They were drinking toasts; and, after they had drunk the health
of the Earl, with much more enthusiasm than his name had ever
been greeted with before, they proposed the health of "Little
Lord Fauntleroy." And if there had ever been any doubt at all as
to whether his lordship was popular or not, it would have been
set that instant. Such a clamor of voices, and such a rattle of
glasses and applause! They had begun to like him so much, those
warm-hearted people, that they forgot to feel any restraint
before the ladies and gentlemen from the castle, who had come to
see them. They made quite a decent uproar, and one or two
motherly women looked tenderly at the little fellow where he
stood, with his mother on one side and the Earl on the other, and
grew quite moist about the eyes, and said to one another:
"God bless him, the pretty little dear!"
Little Lord Fauntleroy was delighted. He stood and smiled, and
made bows, and flushed rosy red with pleasure up to the roots of
his bright hair.
"Is it because they like me, Dearest?" he said to his mother.
"Is it, Dearest? I'm so glad!"
And then the Earl put his hand on the child's shoulder and said
"Fauntleroy, say to them that you thank them for their
Fauntleroy gave a glance up at him and then at his mother.
"Must I?" he asked just a trifle shyly, and she smiled, and so
did Miss Herbert, and they both nodded. And so he made a little
step forward, and everybody looked at him--such a beautiful,
innocent little fellow he was, too, with his brave, trustful
face!--and he spoke as loudly as he could, his childish voice
ringing out quite clear and strong.
"I'm ever so much obliged to you!" he said, "and--I hope
you'll enjoy my birthday--because I've enjoyed it so
much--and--I'm very glad I'm going to be an earl; I didn't think
at first I should like it, but now I do--and I love this place
so, and I think it is beautiful--and--and--and when I am an earl,
I am going to try to be as good as my grandfather."
And amid the shouts and clamor of applause, he stepped back with
a little sigh of relief, and put his hand into the Earl's and
stood close to him, smiling and leaning against his side.
And that would be the very end of my story; but I must add one
curious piece of information, which is that Mr. Hobbs became so
fascinated with high life and was so reluctant to leave his young
friend that he actually sold his corner store in New York, and
settled in the English village of Erlesboro, where he opened a
shop which was patronized by the Castle and consequently was a
great success. And though he and the Earl never became very
intimate, if you will believe me, that man Hobbs became in time
more aristocratic than his lordship himself, and he read the
Court news every morning, and followed all the doings of the
House of Lords! And about ten years after, when Dick, who had
finished his education and was going to visit his brother in
California, asked the good grocer if he did not wish to return to
America, he shook his head seriously.
"Not to live there," he said. "Not to live there; I want to
be near HIM, an' sort o' look after him. It's a good enough
country for them that's young an' stirrin'--but there's faults in
it. There's not an auntsister among 'em--nor an earl!"
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