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You scream and drop a plate.

"Sorry!" I say.


"Well, I didn't want to always be waking you up, so I thought I'd catch you at dinner instead... are those green beans?"

We now know what will happen, but we have oodles to get through. Did I mention this beast is a mite repetitive? That's okay, I will skim and hit the highlights:

"Where are you going, daughter?" Mr. Dinsmore asked, as Elsie
gently withdrew her hand from his on leaving the dining-room.

"To my room, papa," she replied.

"Come with me," he said; "I want you."

"What do you want me for, papa?" she asked, as he sat down and
took her on his knee.

"What for? why to keep, to love, and to look at," he said
laughing. "I have been away from my little girl so long, that now
I want her close by my side, or on my knee, all the time. Do you
not like to be with me?"

It's so... nearly okay. It backs up, takes a running jump at normal, and splatters on the rocks of Way Too Frickin' Needy, with a side of emotional manipulation of an eight-year-old.

"_Dearly_ well, my own darling papa," she answered, flinging
her little arms around his neck, and laying her head on his

He fondled her, and chatted with her for some time, then, still
keeping her on his knee, took up a book and began to read.

Okay, Daddy D. is bored with giving his daughter his undivided attention.

At length she ventured to ask softly, "Papa, may I go to my own
room now?"

"What for?" he asked; "are you tired of my company?"

MAYBE SHE IS BORED. SHE DOES NOT HAVE A BOOK. It doesn't say he's put the book down, even. But Elsie just explains she wants devotional time, which he accepts graciously:

"I don't understand you, Elsie," he said; "you surely can have no
better friend than your own father; and can it be _possible_
that you love any one else better than you love me?... Well, you may go;
but only for a little while, mind," he answered, giving her a kiss, and setting
her down. "Nay," he added hastily, "stay as long as you like; if you feel it a
punishment to be kept here with me, I would rather do without you."

FIX ALL HIS EMOTIONAL NEEDS, EIGHT-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER. Otherwise he's going to have to be passive-aggressive like never before and reject you first like he's used to doing.

Elsie goes and comes back with a book of her own and this nearly gets normal on us. Hey, it's been a while since we've had-

"Put away your book now, daughter; it is growing too dark for you to
read without straining your eyes."

"Please, papa, let me finish the paragraph first; may I?" she asked.

"No; you must always obey the instant I speak to you."

Then we have several pages of Elsie perfectly reciting a poem about Jesus or something followed by a footnote!

[Footnote: These beautiful words are not mine, nor do I know
either the name of the author or where they were originally

Slick work getting away with that one, Finley. Okay, let's try one more mad lunge at normal:

"O papa! I do want to be all that Jesus would have me! just like
Him; so like Him that everybody who knows me will see the likeness
and know that I belong to Him."

"Nay, you belong to me," he said, leaning over her and patting her
cheek. "Hush! not a syllable from your lips. I will have no
gainsaying of my words," he added, with a mixture of authority and
playfulness, as she seemed about to reply. "Now shut your eyes and
go to sleep; I will have no more talking to-night."

And let's watch the text contort painfully on the rocks again. I said before I'd let my imaginary child read this book. It's because I'm anti-censorship, not because the kid's going to find more than two marginally okay ideas between the first and last cover.

Carry Howard, which is supposed to be short for Caroline, appears suddenly. Who? I don't know, one of Elsie's friends. You know, her amazing off-screen friends like Lucy and... Lucy's brother and this girl, who evanesce when she's supposed to be unloved and friendless and come rally around as BFFs when she's not. Haul Howard asks for, and gets, a curl of her hair to make a bracelet. This will be relevant later, but having noted it, we will vault over it like gazelles. You know what we need? More emphasis on total obedience:

"No, daughter; I am sorry to disappoint you, but I am afraid you
are too young to be trusted on such an expedition with only a
servant. You must wait until to-morrow, when I can take you

"But, papa, we want to go to-day. Oh! please do say yes; we want
to go so very much, and I'm sure we could do very nicely by

Her arm was around his neck, and both tone and look were very

"My little daughter forgets that when papa says no, she is never
to ask again."

...Mr. Dinsmore explained, and Adelaide at once offered to take
charge of the little girls, saying that she intended shopping a
little in the city herself that very afternoon.

"Thank you," said her brother, looking very much pleased; "that
obviates the difficulty entirely."

Poor Original Adelaide, nobody misses her. Anyway, that was one more conflict set up and fallen over because it was a sucky conflict and yet Finley has no other way of generating interest. Feminists do hate this book. We like good books. Onward! We are vaulting along and will not be stopped!

"Indeed, Miss Adelaide!" exclaimed Carry, somewhat indignantly,
"you forget the----"

But Elsie's little hand was suddenly placed over her mouth, and
Carry laughed pleasantly, saying, "Ah! I forgot, I mustn't tell."

For such a meek, mild-mannered, genteel little thing, Elsie sure is fond of physically muffling her playmates. I hope Lucy bites her the next time she tries that on.

"I love you all the better for never letting me
have my own way, but always making me obey and keep to rules."

"I don't doubt it, daughter," he said, "for I have often noticed
that spoiled, petted children, usually have very little love for
their parents, or indeed for any one but themselves. But I must
put you in your bed, or you will be in danger of taking cold."

Leap! Splat! It would be so close to normal if it weren't assembled of all the little pathological bits we're so familiar with by now.

Chapter heading!

"You play the spaniel,
And think with wagging of your tongue to win me."
--SHAKESPEARE's _Henry Eighth_.

Finley is getting so good at filling me with unease.

Elsie's and maybe Enna's childhood friends, who are now piled around like autumn leaves (even Lucy, although she is doing nothing interesting and I honestly missed her the first time through) are all playing. Elsie is playing and hostessing and peacemaking and it's actually kind of cute to read, because this is like... a bit of normal childhood for an eight-year-old with a guardian who constantly puts his oar in with his crazy-

"Elsie," he said, as he caught sight of his little daughter, "go
up to my dressing-room."

There was evidently displeasure and reproof in his tone, and,
entirely unconscious of wrongdoing, Elsie looked up in surprise,
asking, "Why, papa?"

"Because _I bid_ you," he replied; and she silently obeyed,
wondering greatly what she had done to displease her father.

-and never mind.

In the meantime, Elsie sat down alone in her banishment, and tried
to think what she could have done to deserve it.

It was some time before she could form any idea of its cause; but
at length it suddenly came to her recollection that once, several
months before this, her father had found her sitting on the
carpet, and had bade her get up immediately and sit on a chair or
stool, saying, "Never let me see you sitting on the floor, Elsie,
when there are plenty of seats at hand. I consider it a very
unladylike and slovenly trick."

She covered her face with her hands, and sat thus for some
moments, feeling very sorry for her forgetfulness and disobedience;
very penitent on account of it; and then, kneeling down, she asked
forgiveness of God.

A full hour she had been there alone, and the time had seemed very
long, when at last the door opened and her father came in.

Elsie rose and came forward to meet him with the air of one who
had offended and knew she was in disgrace; but putting one of her
little hands in his, she looked up pleadingly into his face,
asking, in a slightly tremulous tone, "Dear papa, are you angry
with me?"

"I am always displeased when you disobey me, Elsie," he replied,
very gravely, laying his other hand on her head.

"I am very sorry I was naughty, papa," she said, humbly, and
casting down her eyes, "but I had quite forgotten that you had
told me not to sit on the floor, and I could not think for a good
while what it was that I had done wrong."

"Is _that_ an excuse for disobedience, Elsie?" he asked in a
tone of grave displeasure.

She's already the little girl with the angry father who's constantly finding fault with her, and all the other little kids say so once he's sent her out of the room. Now she's the little girl who can't play with the others, and is expected to remember one thing when she's surrounded by distractions and peer examples. What is it this time? Carpet rattlesnakes?

"No," said he, "I think you have been a very good girl for quite a
long time. If you were as naughty as Arthur and Enna, I don't know
what I should do with you; whip you every day, I suspect, until I
made a better girl of you. Now you may go down to your mates; but
_remember_, you are not to play jack-stones again."

Father of the Year!

"Doesn't your papa let you eat anything good, Elsie?" asked Mary
Leslie across the table. "He must be cross."

It's the paper plate, isn't it?!

"No, indeed, he is not, Mary, and he lets me eat everything that
he thinks is good for me," Elsie answered with some warmth.

Poor Elsie.

"What _did_ your papa send you away for, Elsie?" whispered
the latter,

"Please don't ask me, Lucy," replied the little girl, blushing
deeply. "Papa always has a good reason for what he does, and he is
just the dearest, kindest, and best father that ever anybody had."

Elsie spoke in an eager, excited, almost angry manner, quite
unusual with her, while the hot tears came into her eyes, for she
knew very well what was Lucy's opinion of her father, and more
than half suspected that she had been making some unkind remark
about him to the others, and she was eager to remove any
unfavorable impression they might have received.

...she just kind of lied. Oh, by omission, but it's still right there. And she seems to know it.And man, she's big on managing what they say, although it wasn't just Lucy talking; it was all three of them.


ANYWAY we now have a creepy little interlude with someone who is neither Travilla or Elsie's father. This woman corners her and compliments her hair, and then we get this:

"You are a very sweet little girl, I am sure, and I shall love you
dearly," she said, kissing her several times. "Ah! I would give
_anything_ if I had such a clear fair complexion and such
rosy cheeks. That makes you blush. Well, I like to see it; blushes
are very becoming. Oh! you needn't pretend you don't know you're
handsome; you're a perfect little beauty. Do tell me, where did
you get such splendid eyes! But I needn't ask, for I have only to
look at your father to see where they came from. Mr. Dinsmore"--to
Elsie's papa, who just then came toward them--"you ought to be
very proud of this child; she is the very image of yourself, and a
perfect little beauty, too."

Okay. Nobody move, nobody panic. Just quietly extend your arm over your head and wave like hell for a doppelganger. If we're lucky, Ms. Stevens here will be replaced and decide to head to a convent or something. Fortunately, her interest turns out not to be really in Elsie but in Elsie's father, so we have more than one way out of this mess. Not the Travilla one, though. And that was our spaniel, thank goodness, so that's taken care of.

Lucy, who was standing at the window, turned quickly round.

"Come, girls," she said, "let us run out and see them off; they're
bringing up the horses. And see, there's Miss Adelaide in her
riding-dress and cap; how pretty she looks! And there's that Miss
Stevens coming out now; hateful thing! I can't bear her! Come,
Elsie and Carry!"

Thank you, Lucy, for that moment of being Lucy. Bless you, we needed that. Elsie's dad gives her a diamond ring. I twitch a lot and remind myself that diamond engagement rings were not much of a custom at this time in history.

So the little girl sat down and tried to drown her impatience in
the pages of a new book--one of her Christmas presents. But Chloe
presently stole softly behind her chair, and, holding up high
above her head some glittering object attached to a pretty gold
chain, let it gradually descend until it rested upon the open

Elsie started and jumped up with an exclamation of surprise...
"Oh! it is papa," cried the little girl, catching it in her hand,
"my own dear, darling papa! oh! how good of him to give it to me!"
and she danced about the room in her delight.

This.. makes me really sad. The first time it was fun, and then I realized in this cute little scene between Chloe and the girl she raised from infancy, this is their Christmas, and Chloe has no income and can't get anything for Elsie. She just has to be delivery-woman. And Elsie knows perfectly well that Chloe can't give her anything.

Morality. *pompoms*

Ms. Stevens comes over to Elsie to be all "want some candy, little girl?" and Elsie is like "no no thank you I do not eat candy" since she has of course been forbidden. I eat M&Ms. Ms. Stevens tries to give Elsie a book. Elsie says her father hasn't screened it so she doesn't know if it's okay or not, Ms. Stevens hopes he wouldn't try to dominate his wife that way GASP SHE IS A FEMINIST! and offers to read it to Elsie, Elsie shows it to her father:

"No, daughter," he said, handing it back to her, "you must content
yourself with looking at the pictures; they are by far the best
part; the stories are very unsuitable for a little girl of your
age, and would, indeed, be unprofitable reading for any one."

Hey! It's Elsie Dinsmore! How right he is. Especially since we are now going to hit a low point. I've said before that some things are unintentional, some are not, but I've hit you with so many quotes right and left because I knew we were getting up to this and I wanted you to have a small bit of preparation:

As Elsie ran out into the hall, she found herself suddenly caught
in Mr. Travilla's arms.

"'A merry Christmas and a happy New Year!' little Elsie," he said,
kissing her on both cheeks. "Now I have caught you figuratively
and literally, my little lady, so what are you going to give me,

"Indeed, sir, I think you've helped yourself to the only thing I
have to give at present," she answered with a merry silvery laugh.

"Nay, _give_ me one, little lady," said he, "one such hug and
kiss as I dare say your father gets half-a-dozen times in a day."

She gave it very heartily.

"Ah! I wish you were ten years older," he said as he set her down.

"If I had been, you wouldn't have got the kiss," she replied,
smiling archly.

I don't think we've seen an arch smile anywhere else. I don't think I've seen an eight-year-old smile archly, ever. Mischievously? Yes. Archly? Hell no. To be arch is to be witty and mature, not eight. Finley knows what she's doing. This is not an accident. We've been ratcheting up the creepiness right to this point, and Travilla just made the jump and sailed over it and hahaha he and Elsie are archly joking about mature physical affection.

This is not just why these books are immoral. This is why they are out of fucking print. This is not okay, ever, no matter how much Jesus you drape around it. How do you read that and hand it to your daughter? Anyway, Travilla has a present for her. No, it's not a diamond ring:

He took her hand, as he spoke, and placed a beautiful little gold
thimble on her finger. "There, that's to encourage you in

The ring isn't for years. We're just foreshadowing.

After dinner Mr. Travilla invited Elsie, Carry, Lucy, and Mary, to
take a ride in his carriage, which invitation was joyfully
accepted by all--Mr. Dinsmore giving a ready consent to Elsie's
request to be permitted to go.

They had a very merry time, for Mr. Travilla quite laid himself
out for their entertainment, and no one knew better than he how to
amuse ladies of their age.

Eight, eight, nine, and seven? Anyway, there's a threat that Mr. Dinsmore will marry Ms. Stevens and Elsie freaks and GUYS THE BOOK JUST ENDED



Hey, what was disinvited little Lucy doing there, anyway? Where was her brother? Did she sneak in someone's suitcase? Oh, Lucy.

And that was Elsie Dinsmore.


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January 2012

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