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....I say, with a discreet cough and breakfast on a tray. You are too stunned by the lack of dynamic entrance to give me any backchat, and I can begin to recap while you settle into your toast.

So we are now on p. 35 of Elsie woes. As I've mentioned, the books can be fun, so long as you replace entire strips of dialogue and characterization, and Elsie is frequently a sympathetic, if slightly warped, character who has a few unhealthy mechanisms for resisting a hostile environment. Even when she's absolutely pestilential and it's impossible to save her from her own course, she's just eight. So we-the-reader, having watched her struggle this far with an absentee dad, don't want her to have to deal with a cruel or abusive parent, much less a bizarre one who will create a heavily pathological relationship.

My foreshadowing is almost as subtle as Martha Finley's, man.

"O mammy, mammy!" exclaimed Elsie, jumping up and down, and
clapping her hands for joy, as she came in from her afternoon
ride, "just think! papa, dear papa, will be here to-morrow

She seemed wild with delight; but suddenly sobered down, and a
look of care stole over the little face, as the torturing question
recurred to her mind, "_Will he love me?_"

There's the windup. Here's the pitch. Walter, if you have forgotten, is also Daddy Dinsmore's brother, and younger than Arthur:

Presently little feet were heard running rapidly down the hall,
and Walter, throwing open the door, called out, "Elsie, he's
come!" and catching her hand, hurried her along to the parlor

"Stop, stop, Walter," she gasped as they reached it; and she
leaned against the wall, her heart throbbing so wildly she could
scarcely breathe.

"What is the matter?" said he, "are you ill? come along;" and
pushing the door open, he rushed in, dragging her after him.

So over-wrought were the child's feelings that she nearly fainted;
everything in the room seemed to be turning round, and for an
instant she scarcely knew where she was.

But a strange voice asked, "And who is this?" and looking up as
her grandfather pronounced her name, she saw a stranger standing
before her--very handsome, and very youthful-looking, in spite of
a heavy dark beard and mustache--who exclaimed hastily, "What!
this great girl _my_ child? really it is enough to make a man
feel old."

1. She's eight.

2. This is how Daddy Dinsmore first sees Elsie: as a reflection on him. She's not a person, she's a teeny measuring stick with a blonde wig stuck on top.

Then, taking her hand, he stooped and coldly kissed her lips.

She was trembling violently, and the very depth of her feelings
kept her silent and still; her hand lay still in his, cold and

He held it an instant, at the same time gazing searchingly into
her face; then dropped it, saying in a tone of displeasure, "I am
not an ogre, that you need be so afraid of me; but there, you may
go; I will not keep you in terror any longer."

He knows that he has left her with people who will tell her that her mother's marriage and her birth was a mistake. This man's father has regularly expressed in her hearing that she is not actually her father's child. His pique that she does not act like a small puppy is baffling, unless we again consider that he doesn't think of her as a person in her own right and doesn't want to.

Does he get more tolerable? Let's check about 80 pages on, when Lora races to save Elsie from an undeserved punishment:

Seeing it was useless to try to move him, Lora turned away and
hurried to Horace's room, which, in her haste, she entered without
knocking, he having fortunately neglected to fasten the door. She
was just in time; he had a small riding whip in his hand, and
Elsie stood beside him pale as death, too much frightened even to
cry, and trembling so that she could scarcely stand.


"O papa, papa!" she sobbed, "my own papa, you do not love me; me,
your own little girl. Oh! my heart will break. O mamma, mamma! if
I could only go to you; for there is no one here to love me, and I
am so lonely, oh! _so_ lonely and desolate."

And thus Chloe found her, when she came in an hour later, weeping
and sobbing out such broken exclamations of grief and anguish.

She was much surprised, but comprehending at once how her child
was suffering, she raised her up in her strong arms, and laying
the little head lovingly against her bosom, she smoothed the
tangled hair, kissed the tear-swollen eyes, and bathed the
throbbing temples...

In short: Chloe is about the only person that anyone is likely to come away thinking well of.

The servant returned in a moment, saying that Miss Elsie had a bad
headache and did not want any supper. Mr. Horace Dinsmore paused
in the conversation he was carrying on with his father, to listen
to the servant's announcement. "I hope she is not a sickly child,"
said he, addressing Adelaide; "is she subject to such attacks?"

"Not very," replied his sister dryly, for she had seen the
meeting, and felt really sorry for Elsie's evident disappointment;
"I imagine crying has brought this on."

He colored violently, and said in a tone of great displeasure,
"Truly, the return of a parent _is_ a cause for grief; yet I
hardly expected my presence to be quite so distressing to my only
child. I had no idea that she had already learned to dislike me so

"She doesn't," said Adelaide, "she has been looking and longing
for your return ever since I have known her."

"Then she has certainly been disappointed in me; her grief is not
at all complimentary, explain it as you will."

Her grief is not complimentary.

Her grief is not complimentary.

You never bother to say hello to your child in all her life, you show up one day, she stands there staring and then cries after you send her off, and your concern is that your ego now has a booboo? How does this man function? What does he do? Is he a model? Is he a diplomatic? Is he just a young plantation heir who can afford to go push piles of money around making brr-brr motions with his lips? Was he raised in a dark box? All questions that we will not, on deeper consideration, care about.

So the next day, Elsie finds her father unexpectedly:

He looked up as she entered.

"Good-morning, papa," she said, in half-trembling tones.

He started a little--for it was the first time he had ever been
addressed by that title, and it sounded strange to his ears--gave
her a glance of mingled curiosity and interest, half held out his
hand, but drawing it back again, simply said, "Good-morning,
Elsie," and returned to his paper.

Yes! After she didn't know what to do yesterday, it is clearly time to send her mixed signals and then obviously ignore her! Good call, Daddy Dinsmore.

Elsie stood irresolutely in the middle of the floor, wanting, yet
not daring to go to him.

Because he is ignoring her.

But just at that instant the door opened, and Enna, looking rosy
and happy, came running in, and rushing up to her brother, climbed
upon his knee, and put her arms around his neck, saying, "Good-
morning, brother Horace. I want a kiss."

"You shall have it, little pet," said he, throwing down his paper.

Then, kissing her several times and hugging her in his arms, he
said, "_You_ are not afraid of me, are you? nor sorry that I
have come home?"

"No, indeed," said Enna.

He glanced at Elsie as she stood looking at them, her large soft
eyes full of tears. She could not help feeling that Enna had her
place, and was receiving the caresses that should have been
lavished upon herself.

"Jealous," thought her father; "I cannot bear jealous people;" and
he gave her a look of displeasure that cut her to the heart, and
she turned quickly away and left the room to hide the tears she
could no longer keep back.

Later in the book we will see this man ill and dying. It's one of the high points.

Her father took no further notice of her, and she did not dare
trust herself to look at him. The servants filled her plate, and
she ate in silence, feeling it a great relief that all were too
busily engaged in talking and eating to pay any attention to her.
She scarcely raised her eyes from her plate, and did not know how
often a strange gentleman, who sat nearly opposite, fixed his upon

As she left the room at the conclusion of the meal, he asked,
while following her with his eyes, "Is that one of your sisters,

"No," said he, coloring slightly; "she is my daughter."

"Ah, indeed!" said his friend. "I remember to have heard that you
had a child, but had forgotten it. Well, you have no reason to be
ashamed of her; she is lovely, perfectly lovely! has the sweetest
little face I ever saw."

"Will you ride, Travilla?" asked Mr. Dinsmore hastily, as though
anxious to change the subject.

Oh, Daddy Dinsmore. Thank you for making it clear that Elsie is in your eyes only a reflection on you. We are already so tired of your fail, and there is still so much of it! If you recall, Daddy D. is in later books going to marry Elsie off to his BFF right there, along with enough virginity freakout and purity glurge to gild a thousand chastity belts, so it's also kind of hilarious that he doesn't want to talk about how awesome she is right now.

So Travilla is established already as being important to Daddy Dinsmore, probably based on the fact that his social set, background, and face make Daddy D. look good if he comes and stands beside him. This means that he's in a good position to start being a pervtastic companion plausible ally to Elsie. And, conveniently, a handy plot contrivance! Behold as he finds Elsie playing the piano and promptly questions her about recent developments:

"Your papa has been absent a long time, and I suppose you must
have quite forgotten him."

"No, sir, not _forgotten_, for I never had seen him."

"Indeed!" said he, in a tone of surprise; "then, since he is an
entire stranger to you, I suppose you cannot have much affection
for him?"

Elsie raised her large, dark eyes to his face, with an expression
of astonishment. "Not love papa, my own dear papa, who has no
child but me? Oh! sir, how could you think that?"

"Ah! I see I was mistaken," said he, smiling; "I thought you could
hardly care for him at all; but do you think that he loves you?"

Elsie dropped her face into her hands, and burst into an agony of

The young gentleman looked extremely vexed with himself.

Yes. Yes, that was such a surprise, creeper, based on everything you've heard it's certainly a shock you got past her emotional boundaries with that one. You keep your comforting hands to yourself, mister. We know what you're up to. PS: ACT MORE.

Elsie now dried her tears, rose and closed the instrument. He
assisted her, and then asked if she would not take a little walk
with him in the garden. She complied, and, feeling really very
sorry for the wound he had so thoughtlessly inflicted, as well as
interested in his little companion, he exerted all his powers to
entertain her...

I can't tell Finley trying to pretend she's writing normal stuff from Finley thinking she's writing normal stuff. Does this feel stilted because it's uneasy, or because it's just plain stilted? Also, how much help does she need closing a piano? Is it a baby grand with the stick top or something?

Elsie, having been thrown very much upon her own resources for
amusement, and having a natural love for books, and constant
access to her grandfather's well-stocked library, had read many
more, and with much more thought, than most children of her age,
so that Mr. Travilla found her a not uninteresting companion, and
was often surprised at the intelligence shown by her questions and

She's eight. I read all sorts of things past my depth when I was little... and you could tell, because I might understand that such and such happened, but hell if the implications or historical context appeared in my conversation. There's not many ways a grown man can find an eight-year-old reading things too old for her interesting enough to want to stay in her sole company. In fact, there's very few.

"Really, Dinsmore," said Mr. Travilla, as they stood together near
one of the windows of the drawing-room soon after dinner, "your
little girl is remarkably intelligent, as well as remarkably
pretty; and I have discovered that she has quite a good deal of
musical talent."

There! Daddy D. now knows that Elsie reflects well on him. His response?

"Indeed! I think it is quite a pity that she does not belong to
you, Travilla, instead of me, since you seem to appreciate her so
much more highly," replied the father, laughing.

"I wish she did," said his friend.


Okay. Okay. That's enough for today. That is more than enough for today. It is now time to stop reading Elsie Dinsmore.


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January 2012

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