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This time, you roll, and I land on the plate with the spring under it that lies hidden under the blankets. While I'm recovering, you get up, blink at the clock, shuffle to the kitchen, get your own cereal, toast, fruit, and orange juice, and are sitting there waiting when I stagger out.

"But you realize now I have to aim for you," I say.

"I've got plans," you answer,

"Is there whipped cream?" I ask, eyeing the cold frying pan.

"No," you say serenely. "Are you doing this every morning?"

"Not every morning, but there's still a lot of dry setup to go and repetition and stuff, and I wanna get to the carriage ride," I say, pouring a glass of orange juice and settling down. "Now for a nice steaming cup of exposition!"

Because the next few pages are an expodump. Rose is impressed with how Twu Christwian Elsie is. We learn that Mammy* taught Elsie, and so did a Scottish servant (IIRC we meet this woman later, and she sounds exactly like you think she does) and so did the Holy Spirit. These first two explain why Elsie's doctrine is so, well, servile, because that was their survival mindset. There are other, less pleasant explanations. We will get to those.

We also learn the entire family shuns or victimizes Elsie to one degree or another, to the point where her grandfather has just about disowned her and calls her the child of her other grandfather. We also get this:

It often cost her a struggle, and
had she possessed less of the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit,
her life had been wretched indeed.


Well, no, her grandfather would be able to distance her from himself much less effectively, and probably like her more. We were told this last update. This update, we learn that Elsie's father, absentee dad extraordinaire, is coming home. Elsie is so love-starved and has idealized her father (who she has learned about mostly from her father's slave, who wouldn't ever do less than mythologize him because it might cost her dearly if she didn't) to such a degree that she's over the moon at the idea he might come home and possibly love her like his own daughter.

....Elsie suddenly relapsed into silence, for at that moment Mrs.
Dinsmore entered the room, and it was seldom that she could utter
a word in her presence without being reproved and told that
"children should be seen and not heard," though her own were
allowed to talk as much as they pleased.


We will see scenes where Elsie is talking in Mrs. Dinsmore's presence. We've already seen one, when Elsie defended herself in the schoolroom. Anyway, that scene wraps and we find something is eating Arthur. He shuns Elsie when she asks what's wrong, but:

While searching for...her pencil, she heard
Lora's and Arthur's voices on the veranda.

She did not notice what they were saying, until her own name
struck her ear.

"Elsie is the only person," Lora was saying, "who can, and
probably will, help you; for she has plenty of money, and she is
so kind and generous; but, if I were you, I should be ashamed to
ask her, after the way you acted toward her."

"I wish I hadn't teased her so yesterday," replied Arthur,
disconsolately, "but it's such fun, I can't help it sometimes."

"Well, I know I wouldn't ask a favor of anybody I had treated so,"
said Lora, walking away.


...and Arthur doesn't.

Oh, sure, this is all about to blow up into a Big Deal, and later interactions between Arthur and Elsie will make little sense after this one, and this exchange is going to mark the prismatic fracturing of the characterization of Arthur. But knowing how he has treated Elsie, and feeling this obliges him to not ask her for favors, he shuts the heck up and she has to come get this party started.

Elsie sat still a few moments, working at her drawing and
wondering all the time what it was Arthur wanted, and thinking how
glad she would be of an opportunity of returning him good for
evil. She did not like, though, to seek his confidence, but
presently hearing him heave a deep sigh, she rose and went out on
the veranda.

He was leaning on the railing in an attitude of dejection, his
head bent down and his eyes fixed on the floor. She went up to
him, and laying her hand softly on his shoulder, said, in the
sweet, gentle tones natural to her. "What ails you, Arthur? Can I
do anything for you? I will be very glad if I can."


So this begins as a Moral Quest for Elsie.

"No--yes--" he answered hesitatingly; "I wouldn't like to ask you
after--after--"

"Oh! never mind," said Elsie, quickly; "I do not care anything
about that now. I had the ride to-day, and that was better still,
because I went with Aunt Adelaide and Miss Allison. Tell me what
you want."

Thus encouraged, Arthur replied, "I saw a beautiful little ship
yesterday when I was in the city; it was only five dollars, and
I've set my heart on having it, but my pocket money's all gone,
and papa won't give me a cent until next month's allowance is due;
and by that time the ship will be gone, for it's such a beauty
somebody'll be sure to buy it."

"Won't your mamma buy it for you?" asked Elsie.

"No, she says she hasn't the money to spare just now. You know
it's near the end of the month, and they've all spent their
allowances except Louise, and she says she'll not lend her money
to such a spendthrift as I am."


There's the windup. Now the pitch:

Elsie drew out her purse,

Nice and straightforward. She will now loan him the money, even when he's just admitted he won't ask and has been regarded as not so safe a trustee. This will cement his feelings of shame for how he's treated her, and he will remember them instead of remembering how much fun it is to tease her. Maybe this will help set the stage for a better future!

and seemed just about to put it into his
hand; but, apparently changing her mind, she hesitated a moment,
and then returning it to her pocket, said, with a half smile, "I
don't know, Arthur; five dollars is a good deal for a little girl
like me to lay out at once. I must think about it a little."


Or she can dangle it in front of his nose and yank it away, I guess?

"I don't ask you to _give_ it," he replied scornfully; "I'll
pay it back in two weeks."

"Well, I will see by to-morrow morning," she said, darting away,
while he sent an angry glance after her, muttering the word
"stingy" between his teeth.


First step of a Moral Quest: seek out a chance to create a situation full of bad feeling.

Elsie ran down to the kitchen, asking of one and another of the
servants as she passed, "Where's Pompey?" The last time she put
the question to Phoebe, the cook, but was answered by Pompey
himself.


Second step of a Moral Quest: find someone who's busy and give them another bit of work to do.

Elsie motioned to him to come close to her, and then putting her
purse into his hands, she told him in a whisper of Arthur's wish,
and directed him to purchase the coveted toy, and bring it to her,
if possible, without letting any one else know anything about it.
"And keep half a dollar for yourself, Pompey, to pay you for your
trouble," she added in conclusion.


Elsie scores back a point for herself for compensating him. It's also impossible to guess Pompey's age; he refers to himself as "a child" and then says he's "the man" to do the job.

The tea-bell rang, and Elsie hastened away to answer the summons.
She looked across the table at Arthur with a pleasant smile on her
countenance, but he averted his eyes with an angry scowl; and with
a slight sigh she turned away her head, and did not look at him
again during the meal.


This has to get AS BIG AND CONFUSED AND DRAMATIC AS POSSIBLE. It's a Moral Quest, dammit! And Arthur does have good reason to feel slightly embarrassed, distrusted, and toyed with, so I'm not sure what she's got to sigh about.

Pompey executed his commission faithfully; and when Elsie returned
to her own room after her evening hour with Miss Rose, Chloe
pointed out the little ship standing on the mantel.

"Oh! it's a little beauty," cried Elsie, clapping her hands and
dancing up and down with delight; "how Arthur will be pleased!
Now, mammy, can you take it to the school-room, and put it on
Master Arthur's desk, without anybody seeing you?"


I'm cutting a bit...

So Elsie went to bed very happy in the thought of the pleasure
Arthur would have in receiving her present.


He would have had a lot of pleasure in borrowing five bucks. Possibly more, because then he doesn't have all this time to think about what a fuss Elsie is making. I know it was more then, but, well, read on...

She was hurrying down to the breakfast-room the next morning, a
little in advance of Miss Rose, who had stopped to speak to
Adelaide, when Arthur came running up behind her, having just come
in by a side door from the garden, and seizing her round the
waist, he said, "Thank you, Elsie; you're a real good girl! She
sails beautifully. I've been trying her on the pond. But it
mustn't be a _present;_ you must let me pay you back when I
get my allowance."

"Oh! no, Arthur, that would spoil it all," she answered quickly;
"you are entirely welcome, and you know my allowance is so large
that half the time I have more money than I know how to spend."


Er. I'm not sure the subtext of "unlike someone who always has to borrow money, I'm too dang rich to worry about it!" was advisable. If she hadn't been so obnoxious about the rest of it, I'd forgive it as an eight-year-old not having the self-awareness or social savvy to realize her implications. But she's just a little snot.

"I should like to see the time that would be the case with me,"
said he, laughing.


Here Arthur is sure as hell a better sport than me. Arthur's characterization is a many-splendored thing.

Then in a lower tone, "Elsie, I'm sorry I
teased you so. I'll not do it again soon."

Elsie answered him with a grateful look, as she stepped past him
and quietly took her place at the table.


Could have had the same result yesterday with less drama and no simmering bad feeling overnight. Big whoop. But what happens next? "Arthur kept his word" and doesn't tease Elsie, and her lessons go smoothly besides the part where her teacher wants her to suffer. Summary: Arthur has a bit of trouble keeping his balances straight, but he admits it and he tries to be responsible. He's also honorable when he's given his word and he feels ashamed of himself when he's done something wrong, every time.

Her grandfather would sometimes look at her as,
without a frown or a pout, she would give up her own wishes to
Enna, and shaking his head, say, "She's no Dinsmore, or she would
know how to stand up for her own rights better than that. _I_
don't like such tame-spirited people. She's not Horace's child; it
never was an easy matter to impose upon or conquer him. He was a
boy of spirit."


So now we know why Elsie doesn't like her grandfather: he says her Mamma lied. I can just picture her coming into the same room as him, intentionally, to play with something she knows Enna will want. Elsie Dinsmore: Guerilla of Goodness.

Exchange between Rose and Adelaide:

"I must say I sometimes think that, as
papa says, there is something mean-spirited and cowardly in always
giving up to other people."

"It would indeed be cowardly and wrong to give up
_principle_," replied Rose, "but surely it is noble and
generous to give up our own wishes to another, where no principle
is involved."


Rose, again, is visiting to live on slave labor.

"Certainly, you are right," said Adelaide, musingly. "And now I
recollect that, readily as Elsie gives up her own wishes to others
on ordinary occasions, I have never known her to sacrifice
principle; but, on the contrary, she has several times made mamma
excessively angry by refusing to romp and play with Enna on the
Sabbath, or to deceive papa when questioned with regard to some of
Arthur's misdeeds; yet she has often borne the blame of his
faults, when she might have escaped by telling of him. Elsie is
certainly very different from any of the rest of us, and if it is
piety that makes her what she is, I think piety is a very lovely
thing."


Or she's holding herself apart from you because she doesn't really like any of you that much... but since Adelaide never seems to approach past this moment of admiration, that I can recall, it won't have much impact on the book that she praises this. It's more a moment of backpat to go with your martyrdom porn.

Did someone say martyrdom porn? Well!

Elsie worked on silently for some time, then suddenly holding up
her purse, she exclaimed, "See, mammy, it is all done but putting
on the tassel! Isn't it pretty? and won't dear Miss Allison be
pleased with it?"

It really was very pretty indeed, of crimson and gold, and
beautifully knit...


Yay!

At this moment Enna opened the door and came in.

Elsie hastily attempted to conceal the purse by thrusting it into
her pocket, but it was too late, for Enna had seen it, and running
toward her, cried out, "Now, Elsie, just give that to me!"

"No, Enna," replied Elsie, mildly, "I cannot let you have it,
because it is for Miss Rose."

"I will have it," exclaimed the child, resolutely, "and if you
don't give it to me at once I shall just go and tell mamma."

"I will let you take it in your hand a few moments to look at it,
if you will be careful not to soil it, Enna," said Elsie, in the
same gentle tone; "and if you wish, I will get some more silk and
beads, and make you one just like it; but I cannot give you this,
because I would not have time to make another for Miss Rose."

"No, I shall just have that one; and I shall have it to keep,"
said Enna, attempting to snatch it out of Elsie's hand.

But Elsie held it up out of her reach, and after trying several
times in vain to get it, Enna left the room, crying and screaming
with passion.


Chloe and Elsie realize a storm is in the offing.

Mrs. Dinsmore entered, leading the sobbing Enna by the hand; her
face was flushed with passion, and addressing Elsie in tones of
violent anger, she asked, "What is the meaning of all this, you
good-for-nothing hussy? Why are you always tormenting this poor
child? Where is that paltry trifle that all this fuss is about?
let me see it this instant."

Elsie drew the purse from her pocket, saying in tearful, trembling
tones, "It is a purse I was making for Miss Rose, ma'am; and I
offered to make another just like it for Enna; but I cannot give
her this one, because there would not be time to make another
before Miss Rose goes away."

"You _can_ not give it to her, indeed! You _will_ not,
you mean; but I say you _shall;_ and I'll see if I'm not
mistress in my own house. Give it to the child this instant; I'll
not have her crying her eyes out that you may be humored in all
your whims. There are plenty of handsomer ones to be had in the
city, and if you are too mean to make her a present of it, I'll
buy you another to-morrow."


If she's too mean to make a present of it, why not buy Enna a better one?

And really, what is she doing? I've known people stupid and petty enough to act like this, but in her other conversations she doesn't seem so stupid or petty. I know she's supposed to be all jealous because Elsie will grow up to be more desirable a match than her own daughters, but there's so many ways around that one it's not even funny. Just hire a religious teacher for Elsie, then have him talk about plainness of dress and the virtues of potato sacks over the head, and throw all your balls and parties on the Sabbath, and you're golden. Or send her off to a religious school, where she'll be happy as a pig in mud. It's not all bad, either. You have all the cachet of a beautiful young heiress in the house to draw in the aristocrat boys, but she's gonna cry about her sins killing Jesus and come off as crazy, and your plantation-heiress daughters will look sane and desirable by comparison.

Unlike a woman who feels that a girl not giving her daughter a piece of craftwork will unseat her as mistress of the house.

"But that would not be my work, and this is," replied Elsie, still
retaining the purse, loath to let it go.

"Nonsense! what difference will that make to Miss Rose?" said Mrs.
Dinsmore; and snatching it out of her hand, she gave it to Enna,
saying, "There, my pet, you shall have it. Elsie is a naughty,
mean, stingy girl, but she shan't plague you while your mamma's
about."


It's like she wants Elsie to grow up with an eye to outshining Enna. And why didn't Elsie take the purse to Miss Rose's room as soon as Enna left? "Miss Rose, I'm making something for you, and I'm almost done. Can I sit here and finish it?" There's no way Enna's mom would have acted like this in front of a friend. Anyway, Elsie cries for a little while before Chloe reminds her she was making another purse for her father, and she'll have time to start that over. Elsie thinks about it. It's blue and gold, but she doesn't have the beads for it. I am picturing Daddy Dinsmore as straight with fabulous taste in clutches. Anyway, Chloe goes off to get the beads. Another crushing setback! Miss Rose leaves earlier than expected, the next day. Another easy solution! Elsie stays up late. Besides the obvious injustice, I'm not entirely sure why this conflict exists, frankly.

"O Miss Rose! _dear, dear_ Miss Rose, what shall I do without
you?" sobbed the little girl. "I shall have nobody to love me now
but mammy."

"You have another and a better friend, dear Elsie, who has said,
'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,'" whispered Rose, with
another tender caress.


Aw. Yeah, it's glurgy, but the sad eight-year-old is sad that her only friend is leaving, and that's sad.

Elsie drew out the purse and put it in her friend's hand, saying:
"It is all my own work, dear Miss Rose; I thought you would value
it more for that."

"And indeed I shall, darling," replied Rose, with tears of
pleasure in her eyes. "It is beautiful in itself, but I shall
value it ten times more because it is your gift, and the work of
your own dear little hands."


So she leaves and Elsie is sad, but then Elsie learns her father is coming.

Horace Dinsmore was, like his father, an upright, moral man, who
paid an outward respect to the forms of religion, but cared
nothing for the vital power of godliness; trusted entirely to his
morality, and looked upon Christians as hypocrites and deceivers.
He had been told that his little Elsie was one of these, and,
though he would not have acknowledged it even to himself, it had
prejudiced him against her. Then, too, in common with all the
Dinsmores, he had a great deal of family pride; and, though old
Mr. Grayson had been a man of sterling worth, intelligent, honest,
and pious, and had died very wealthy, yet because he was known to
have begun life as a poor boy, the whole family were accustomed to
speak as though Horace had stooped very much in marrying his
heiress.

And Horace himself had come to look upon his early marriage as a
piece of boyish folly, of which he was rather ashamed; and so
constantly had Mr. Dinsmore spoken in his letters of Elsie as "old
Grayson's grandchild," that he had got into the habit of looking
upon her as a kind of disgrace to him; especially as she had
always been described to him as a disagreeable, troublesome child.

He had loved his wife with all the warmth of his passionate
nature, and had mourned bitterly over her untimely death; but
years of study, travel and worldly pleasures had almost banished
her image from his mind, and he seldom thought of her except in
connection with the child for whom he felt a secret dislike.


He is even more odious than he sounds. And he will be around for books and books and books. And oh man, he will bring the skeevy. I... one thing at a time. We'll stop here for today. Enjoy your breakfast.



*No. I think I'll call her Chloe from now on. She was introduced as Mammy, but the text never capitalizes Mammy, which leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It also makes me sad to think of the subtext of a slave woman with a sold-away slave husband who, when a child is given into her keeping, is so devoted she feels she must sleep in the same room. I know it's supposed to be shiny happy glossy varnish. I can't help but wonder if she thinks she'll be sold to certain death if something happens to Elsie, or if she did once have but lose a child.

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January 2012

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