Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Little Lord Fauntleroy online

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Produced by Charles Keller and David Widger


By Frances Hodgson Burnett


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 ill-tempered 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

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 Avey-NOO 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

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.

"Did you ever know many marquises, Mr. Hobbs?" Cedric inquired, - "or

"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,

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


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

"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

"Why, yes," returned Mr. Hobbs; "we DID touch 'em up a little; that's

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 cracker-barrels."

"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

"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

Mr. Hobbs sank into his chair and mopped his forehead with his

"ONE of us has got a sunstroke!" he exclaimed.

"No," returned Cedric, "we haven't. We shall have to make the best of
it, Mr. Hobbs. Mr. Havisham came all the way from England to tell us
about it. My grandpapa sent him."

Mr. Hobbs stared wildly at the innocent, serious little face before him.

"Who is your grandfather?" he asked.

Cedric put his hand in his pocket and carefully drew out a piece of
paper, on which something was written in his own round, irregular hand.

"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

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Online LibraryFrances Hodgson BurnettLittle Lord Fauntleroy → online text (page 1 of 13)