BURNETT FRANCES

Title:LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Subject:ENGLISH FICTION Scarica il testo


LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
BY FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT




I

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
...

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