The crotchety old man is softened and soothed by his grandson, and responds to his many direct questions with surprising patience. Eventually he allows the small child to make decisions he would never have made himself: letting impoverished tenants with small children stay in their cottage even when the rent hasn’t been paid.
The magic of the book is that the boy manages to be supremely good but never prissy or boring. Somehow, his authenticity and innocence protect him from seeming like a ‘goody-two-shoes’.
‘You don’t wear your coronet all the time?’ remarked Lord Fauntleroy respectfully.
‘No,’ replied the Earl with his grim smile; ‘it is not becoming to me.’
‘Mr Hobbs said you always wore it,’ said Cedric; ‘but after he thought it over, he said he supposed you must sometimes take it off to put your hat on.’
‘Yes,’ said the Earl, ‘I take it off occasionally.’
Source: Frances Hodgson Burnett, Little Lord Fauntleroy (London: Collins Classics, 2012), p. 69
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