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Little Lord Fauntleroy (1914) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • The earl of Dorincourt is a descendant of a long line of illustrious ancestors whose escutcheon has never been stained by dishonor of any kind. His oldest son and heir, Bevis, grows up to be a dissolute and weak-willed wastrel, while his second son, Maurice, an idle spendthrift, is little better. Only the third son, Cedric Errol, inherits the good qualities of his father. The worthlessness of his heir is the cause of great grief to the Earl. The reflection that the Earldom will descend to one who will drag the honored name of Dorincourt in the mire is so galling that it usurps every other thought in his mind. For this reason the good qualities of his gentle youngest son irritates him, and in order to get the young fellow out of his sight he sends him to America. About the same time, Bevis, tired of the dissipations of London and Paris, goes to New York in search of fresh sensations. Here he is entrapped into marriage by Minna, an adventuress, who had deserted her husband. Bevis does not know of this, neither is he aware that she has a child whom she has put out of the way by leaving it in charge of some low-class friends of hers. At home, Maurice, the second son, plunges heavily on the turf. At one race he backs the favorites and loses a very large sum. In the meantime, Cedric has married a charming American girl, and with wife and baby enjoys the delights of a happy home. But his father is prejudiced against Americans, and is convinced that Cedric has been entrapped by "a vulgar money-loving American woman." He therefore writes a letter in which he stops the allowance he has regularly sent his son. Soon after this, Maurice, the second son, meets with a fatal hunting accident in England. Four years elapse. Cedric, never robust, is now in the grip of a wasting and incurable malady. In a pathetic scene, he calls his little son to him and bids him always look after his mother. Soon after this he dies. Bevis at this time is living a fast life in Italy with Minna. As the result of his intemperance he has a sudden stroke and falls back in a fit, in which, in a few minutes, he expires. Minna wastes no time over tears, but instantly makes plans to feather her own nest. She writes to the Earl asking for funds and claiming the title of Lady Dorincourt. The old nobleman, in spite of the blows dealt him by misfortune in the deaths of all his sons, instructs his lawyer, Mr. Havisham, to fetch young Cedric, now little Lord Fauntleroy, and heir to the Earldom, from America. Little Cedric Errol is about six years old he has never forgotten his promise to his dead father to look after his mother. Despite the Dorincourt blood in him, Cedric has none of that empty and selfish pride which mars his grandfather's character. He has made friends with everyone, and his particular chums are Mr. Hobbs, an elderly grocer; Dick, a bootblack, and his mother's Irish cook, Bridget. Mr. Havisham calls on Mrs. Errol and tells her the latter's conditions with regard to Cedric, namely, that he is to live alone with his grandfather, though at the house he will provide for her; she is to be allowed an occasional visit from him. Mrs. Errol has just learned that, owing to misappropriation of funds, her small income has almost entirely vanished, and she realizes that it will be quite impossible for her to bring up her boy in the way he should be brought up. Parting from him will be a terrible wrench, but for his sake she conquers her natural reluctance with the thought, "My husband would wish it." Cedric is sent for and introduced to Mr. Havisham, who is surprised and delighted with him, and tells him that the Earl has instructed him to satisfy any immediate wish that he (Cedric) may have. Cedric tells of the troubles of Bridget, the cook, who cannot afford medical attendance for her invalid husband. Mr. Havisham gives him money and he rushes down to the kitchen and relieves Bridget's wants. Later, Cedric, learning that he is to live alone with the Earl, remonstrates but is won over by his mother, who dilates on the many good qualities of the Earl. Mrs. Errol and Cedric, escorted by Mr. Havisham, arrive at Dorincourt Towers. Cedric with his faculty of making instant friends gets upon good terms with a huge Newfoundland dog, which takes to him at once. The Earl unwillingly consents to see his son's widow. She delivers an unfinished letter that his son wrote him before dying, also a photograph of the young man. The old man's emotion masters him as he gazes at the photograph of the only one of his sons who had not disgraced him. To hide his feelings he blusters at Mrs. Errol, who retires with dignity after requesting permission to bid good-bye to her boy, Cedric, with that frankness which is one of his most attractive characteristics, introduces himself to the Earl, who watches him with interest, and is affected at the child's likeness to his father. Cedric, looking through the window, sees Higgins, a tenant of the estate, pleading with the butler on the lawn for permission to see the Earl. He calls the latter's attention. The old man, desiring to find out how his grandson will act, asks Cedric to call Higgins in. He then introduces Higgins to him, explaining that he has a wife and several children, all of whom have been ill. Little Lord Fauntleroy shakes Higgins by the hand sympathetically, and learning that he is worried over paying his rent, gets permission from the Earl to write to his agent telling him not to interfere with Higgins. Dinner is announced. Cedric notices that the Earl rises in pain, and offers his shoulder, saying, "Lean on me. Grandpa." The old man, desiring to test his pluck, does so; they exit. The fierce old man takes to the boy, and can hardly bear him out of his sight. One day, after returning from some riding lessons, he enters the library, where the Earl is reading a document. The little fellow is evidently worried and he lies at full length on the rug in a thoughtful attitude. Asked what he is thinking of, he responds, "I am thinking of mother." The Earl, realizing the child's love for his mother, makes her, through him, a present of a brougham. Cedric, in delight, is driven off to fetch her, and takes her for a happy drive. All this time the adventuress, Minna, has been preparing a pretty little plot. Her plans being ready, she appears with her child at Dorincourt Towers. Producing her marriage license in proof that she was actually wedded to Bevis, she boldly announces that her son is the issue of that union, and that she claims for him the title of Lord Fauntleroy. Her manner is insolent and boastful, but the Earl, though he orders her from the house, feels that she has a strong case, and is full of gloomy foreboding. The old man now realizes his love for his grandson, and the thought of seeing another take his place as little Lord Fauntleroy nearly breaks his heart. He instructs Mr. Havisham to contest Minna's claim. The case excites much interest in the papers. One account, containing Minna's photograph, finds its way to New York, and is seen by Dick Tipton, Cedric's bootboy friend, who recognizes in it the likeness of the runaway wife of his brother, Ben. On the advice of Mr. Hobbs, he sends the newspaper cutting to Ben, who determines to leave the "Wild West," where he has made his pile, and proceed to England to regain possession of his little son. Mr. Hobbs precedes him there, and calling on the Earl, offers his entire savings towards the expense of fighting for Cedric's rights. The old nobleman is deeply touched at such disinterestedness, though he does not find it necessary to avail himself of it. In honor of Cedric's eighth birthday his grandfather gives a fete to the tenants of the estate, to which Mrs. Errol and Mr. Hobbs are invited guests. In the midst of the merry-making, Minna, accompanied by her offspring, forces her way into the grounds, bent on making a scene. She is extremely insolent to the Earl, but her tirade is interrupted by the dramatic arrival of her husband, Ben, who exposes the fraudulency of her case and claims his son. The Earl invites Mrs. Errol to take up her residence permanently under his roof, and thus peace and happiness come to Dorincourt at last.

  • An American boy turns out to be the long-lost heir of a British fortune. He is sent to live with the cold and unsentimental lord who oversees the trust.


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