Little Lord Fauntleroy – Chapter 4

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.