LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY. 79
" I think I could," said Cedric. " I 'm strong. I 'm seven, you know. You could lean on your stick on one side, and on me on the other. Dick says I 've a good deal of muscle for a boy that 's only seven."
He shut his hand and moved it upward to his shoulder, so that the Earl might see the muscle Dick had kindly approved of, and his face was so grave and earnest that the footman found it necessary to look very hard indeed at the ugly picture. "Well," said the Earl, "you may try."
Cedric gave him his stick and began to assist him to rise. Usually, the footman did this, and was violently sworn at when his lordship had an extra twinge of gout. The Earl was not a very polite person as a rule, and many a time the huge footmen about him quaked inside their imposing liveries.
But this evening he did not swear, though his gouty foot gave him more twinges than one. He chose to try an experiment. He got up slowly and put his hand on the small shoulder presented to him with so much courage. Little Lord Fauntleroy made a careful step forward, looking down at the gouty foot.
"Just lean on me," he said, with encouraging good cheer. "I '11 walk very slowly."
If the Earl had been supported by the footman he would have rested less on his stick and more on his assistant's arm. And yet it was part of his experiment to let his grandson feel his burden as no light weight. It was quite a heavy weight indeed, and after a few steps his young lordship's face grew quite hot, and his heart beat rather fast, but he braced himself sturdily, remembering his muscle and Dick's approval of it.
" Don't be afraid of leaning on me," he panted. " I 'm all right if if it is n't a very long way."
It was not really very far to the dining-room, but it seemed rather a long way to Cedric, before they reached the chair at the