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Little Lord Fauntleroy Frances Hodgson Burnett

Chapter IV

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"American impudence!" protested the Earl. "I've heard of it before. They call it precocity and freedom. Beastly, impudent bad manners; that's what it is!"

Mr. Havisham drank some more port. He seldom argued with his lordly patron,--never when his lordly patron's noble leg was inflamed by gout. At such times it was always better to leave him alone. So there was a silence of a few moments. It was Mr. Havisham who broke it.

"I have a message to deliver from Mrs. Errol," he remarked.

"I don't want any of her messages!" growled his lordship; "the less I hear of her the better."

"This is a rather important one," explained the lawyer. "She prefers not to accept the income you proposed to settle on her."

The Earl started visibly.

"What's that?" he cried out. "What's that?"

Mr. Havisham repeated his words.

"She says it is not necessary, and that as the relations between you are not friendly----"

"Not friendly!" ejaculated my lord savagely; "I should say they were not friendly! I hate to think of her! A mercenary, sharp-voiced American! I don't wish to see her."

"My lord," said Mr. Havisham, "you can scarcely call her mercenary. She has asked for nothing. She does not accept the money you offer her."

"All done for effect!" snapped his noble lordship. "She wants to wheedle me into seeing her. She thinks I shall admire her spirit. I don't admire it! It's only American independence! I won't have her living like a beggar at my park gates. As she's the boy's mother, she has a position to keep up, and she shall keep it up. She shall have the money, whether she likes it or not!"

"She won't spend it," said Mr. Havisham.

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"I don't care whether she spends it or not!" blustered my lord. "She shall have it sent to her. She sha'n't tell people that she has to live like a pauper because I have done nothing for her! She wants to give the boy a bad opinion of me! I suppose she has poisoned his mind against me already!"

"No," said Mr. Havisham. "I have another message, which will prove to you that she has not done that."

"I don't want to hear it!" panted the Earl, out of breath with anger and excitement and gout.

But Mr. Havisham delivered it.

"She asks you not to let Lord Fauntleroy hear anything which would lead him to understand that you separate him from her because of your prejudice against her. He is very fond of her, and she is convinced that it would cause a barrier to exist between you. She says he would not comprehend it, and it might make him fear you in some measure, or at least cause him to feel less affection for you. She has told him that he is too young to understand the reason, but shall hear it when he is older. She wishes that there should be no shadow on your first meeting."

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Little Lord Fauntleroy
Frances Hodgson Burnett

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