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[personal profile] featherbless
Why? Because otherwise we'd have to keep reading it!

Good morning! We're starting off with Travilla and Daddy D. talking.

"I see it is past school-hours," he said; "might I see my little friend?
I have brought a little gift for her, and should like to present it in
person."

Mr. Dinsmore had become quite animated and cheerful during their previous
conversation, but a great change came over his face while Mr. Travilla
was making his request, and the expression of his countenance was very
cold and stern, as he replied, "I thank you, Travilla, on her behalf;
but, if you please, I would much prefer your not giving her anything
at present, for, I am sorry to say, Elsie has been very stubborn and
rebellious of late, and is quite undeserving of any indulgence."


Parenting! Or maybe just Revenge!, whatever.

...you see now that I have some cause for the depression of spirits
upon which you have been rallying me. Travilla, I love that child as I
have never loved another earthly thing except her mother, and it cuts
me to the quick to have her rebel as she has been doing for the last
five weeks; it is almost more than I can bear in my present weak state.
I thought she loved me devotedly, but it seems I was mistaken, for surely
obedience is the best test of love, and she refuses me that."

He paused for a moment, apparently quite overcome by his feelings, then
went on; "I have been compelled to banish her from my presence, but,
alas! I find I cannot tear her from my heart, and I miss her every
moment."


Enna is his sister. Adelaide is his sister. Lora is his sister. I think there's one more, whatserface, but since her characterization is in however her name is spelled it's pretty easy to forget her. He had a mother... so why is his love for Elsie compared to his love for his wife?

And if obedience is the best test of love, how do we know he loves Elsie? Why were we stuck a book ago with this person saying Elsie only obeyed from fear and therefore he wouldn't love her? And why is consistency so difficult to attain? Finley decides we need more Travilla, and more we shall have:

he determined that he would very soon fulfil his promise of paying
a longer visit, for he could not refrain from indulging a faint hope
that he might be able to accomplish something as mediator between them.


Because all we needed was Travilla hanging around the place:

Her eyes were so blinded by tears that she did not see that Mr. Travilla
was sitting there, until she was close beside him.

She turned then, and would have run away again, but he caught her by the
dress, and drawing her gently toward him, said in a mild, soothing tone--


*SCREAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM!* Oh my god let go of her clothing RIGHT NOW.

"Don't run away from me, my poor little friend, but tell me the cause of
your sorrow, and who knows but I may be able to assist you."

Elsie shook her head mournfully, but allowed him, to set her on his knee,
and put his arm around her.

"My poor child! my poor, dear little girl!" he said, wiping away her
tears, and kissing her very much as her father had been in the habit of
doing.


That possessive my is making me twitchy, given his earlier behavior and talk. Everything else he's saying is making me twitchy. Everything he's doing is making me twitchy. Ugh. The worst part is thinking that Elsie has been utterly conditioned to go along.

"Yes, Mr. Travilla," she answered, "I know that the Bible says: 'He that
covereth his sins shall not prosper,' and I know it tells me to obey my
father; and I do think I am willing to confess my faults, and I do try
to obey papa in everything that is right; but sometimes he bids me
disobey God; and you know the Bible says: 'We ought to obey God rather
than men.'"

"I am afraid, my dear," said Mr. Travilla gently, "that you are perhaps a
little too much inclined to judge for yourself about right and wrong. You
must remember that you are but a very little girl yet, and that your
father is very much older and wiser; and therefore I should say it would
be much safer to leave it to him to decide these matters. Besides, if
he _bids_ you do thus and so, I think all the responsibility of the
wrong--supposing there _is_ any--will rest with _him_, and _he_, not
_you_, will have to account for it."

"Oh! no, Mr. Travilla," replied the little girl earnestly, "my Bible
teaches me better than that; for it says: '_Every one_ of us shall give
account of _himself_ to God;' and in another place: 'The soul that
sinneth _it_ shall die.' So I know that _I_, and not papa, nor any one
else, will have to give account for _my_ sins."


Then she's being presumptuous to block him from sinning by not reading to him. After all, she'd be reading the novel out of duty and help to the sick, which although I am not Jewish and definitely not up on my fine points of traditional Judaism, have to be in line with the Sabbath. He'd be the one listening for pleasure. But this entire exchange is taking place on the dock, having missed the boat.

It doesn't really matter if Verse A can be countered by Verse B. This is all basically lawyer talk that has everything to do with winning a case by a rulebook and nothing to do with figuring out what is right or wrong, or which is the better course of action in a murky situation, or even how to figure out what to do when verse A and B conflict. The thing that is moral in a tough spot is the thing that does the least harm to the fewest people; in which case this whole thing would have been settled when Elsie's refusal was literally killing the man.* All these books will teach you is that everyone should be authoritarian, with all power resting with authority, as defined by a still greater authority that sometimes allows you to defy the lesser power in rebellions that overall change nothing of the status quo (but you can feel smug about it!)

That's why it can't be said the Elsie Dinsmore books teach children how to be moral.** They don't. They teach obedience to authority. That's it. Elsie D. is a pharisee, and she's not interested in looking any deeper into the substance of goodness. She never even thinks about why she should be good.

"I see it will never do for me to try to quote Scripture to you," he
remarked, looking rather discomfited; "for you know a great deal more
about it than I do."


Huzzah. Someone is now claiming that Elsie D. is an expert on religious matters. This is actually a sort of facet of literalism, the idea of following exactly what the Bible says; and if it's all about what the Bible says then it's about this Bible right before you; and if that's the case Elsie doesn't have to tell anyone what it means in the original Greek, which would rather stump her, since she is eight. She also doesn't have to understand concepts like old vs. new and metaphor and such; we're being literal, so you just recite. Longest-winded parrot wins!

Anyway, Elsie D. and the Travail have another round of parroting and the whole thing grinds to a halt because we're out of verses, which is relieved by Daddy D. wandering onto the scene:

Mr. Dinsmore felt a pang of jealousy at seeing his little girl in
Travilla's arms, which he would have been ashamed to acknowledge to
himself, but it caused his tone to be even more than usually stern and
severe as he hastily inquired, "What are you doing here, Elsie--crying
again, after all I have said to you? Go to your room this moment, and
stay there until you can show a cheerful face!"

Mr. Travilla set her down, and she obeyed without a word, not even daring
to look at her father.

There was a moment of embarrassing silence after she had gone.


Yes, that whole thing was creepy and awkward, thank you for recognizing it. So Travail says that he was talking with Elsie and she out-quoted him, and Daddy D. never asks what Travail is doing just wandering his property without so much as a "hey, mind if I stalk your garden for a chat with your daughter? Thanks, I'll leave at tea-time" or something.

"We do not all see alike, Dinsmore," remarked his friend, "and though I
do not say that you are wrong, I must acknowledge that were I in your
place, I should do differently, because I should fear that the child was
acting from _principle_ rather than self-will or obstinacy."


How do you have principles without self-will, and hasn't she been entirely obstinate? Oh, whatever. Just shut up, Travilla, nobody cares about your stupid opinions. Daddy D. agrees but has to careen us suddenly into total wrong. I have been watching YouTube videos of physics glitches in ragdoll games, so I can picture this whole exchange flying over the horizon like a villager riding a shockwave:

"_Give up_ to her, Travilla? never! It astonishes me that you could
suggest such a thing!" exclaimed Mr. Dinsmore with almost fierce
determination. "No, I _will_ conquer her! I will break _her will_,
though in doing so I break my own heart."

"And _hers_, too," murmured Travilla in a low, sad tone, more as if
thinking aloud than answering his friend.

Mr. Dinsmore started. "No, no," he said hurriedly, "there is no danger of
_that_; else she would certainly have given up long ago."


I don't know where to start, it's such a yarnball of wrong. 1. The bad guys do things like break people's will. 2. "I will conquer her" usually appears in a romance novel. Possibly a pirate novel talking about a ship or a historical novel talking about a queen or country, but it's associated with romance novels. 3. Why is this so important? 4. How on earth do you break someone's will without affecting their heart? 5. What is he freaking out about? It's like noticing a teeny firecracker in the middle of a cannon war.

6. Why give this to your child? Why tell your child you might be in a relationship with them that requires utter obedience, that disobedience might result in love being withdrawn, and that the relationship could get adversarial and involve their psychological devastation? It's never clear how much of Daddy D's parenting is supposed to be a cross for martyr Elsie and how much is supposed to be good for her, especially not with that damned punishment obsession thrown in, and Travail certainly isn't reacting to "I will conquer her" like Daddy D. has just completely lost it.

7. Regardless of point 1, if the duty of a parent is to prepare their child for adulthood, how does breaking her will do that? If Daddy D's plan is immoral and Elsie's morality is based on legality, not ethics, where is the morality in this book? How does that fit question 6? Are parents still raising their children with some idea of owning their children, and their children owing them? Am I completely missing the point when I think they just assume that it's good because it's old, they don't question it because people were kinda weird back then, and they limit their selection of good books? Do they like the bits I'm questioning?

Well, they probably don't agree with Elsie really, so I guess I can't overthink that. So one of Daddy D's guests comes by, notices Elsie is getting sick, comments that if Elsie was her kid she would be worried she was going into a decline, and then pretty much immediately afterward realizes her role in the plot is done and GTFOs.

His tone lacked its usual harshness, yet the little girl came to him
trembling so that she could scarcely stand.

It displeased him.

"Elsie," he said, as he took her hand and drew her in between his knees,
"why do you always start and change color when I speak to you? and why
are you trembling now as if you were venturing into the lion's jaws?--are
you afraid of me?--speak!"

"Yes, papa," she replied, the tears rolling down her cheeks, "you always
speak so sternly to me now, that I cannot help feeling frightened."

Finley reuses and recycles so many times. If she'd just reduce she could save a lot of work. But she does get one thing new:

"That will not do, Elsie; it is not what I bid you say. I will have no
_if_ in the matter; nothing but _implicit, unconditional_ obedience," he
said in a tone of severity.

He paused for a reply, but receiving none, continued: "I see you are
still stubborn, and I shall be compelled to take severe measures to
subdue you. I do not yet know what they will be, but one thing is
certain--I will not keep a rebellious child in my sight; there are
boarding-schools where children can be sent who are unworthy to enjoy
the privileges and comforts of home."


Well, if he sends her off to school it would be hard to do anything else to her, given the distance; and Elsie has no trouble making friends, so she'd probably find herself pretty happy. Elsie doesn't see it that way. He sends her to her room. Hm. Nice work finding out whether or not she is sick, Daddy D.

Elsie retired, weeping bitterly, passing Adelaide as she went out.

"What is the matter now?" asked Adelaide of her brother, who was striding
impatiently up and down the room.

"Nothing but the old story," he replied


And I did not edit that in any way.

"I am _terribly_ perplexed!
This estrangement is killing us both. Have you noticed how thin and pale
she is growing? It distresses me to see it; but what can I do?--give up
to her I cannot; it is not once to be thought of. I am sorry I ever began
the struggle, but since it _is_ begun she _must_ and _shall_ submit; and
it has really become a serious question with me, whether it would not be
the truest kindness just to conquer her thoroughly and at once, by an
appeal to the rod."

Also why you won't learn morality from this book. Kindness = beating child until will is broken to parent's satisfaction. This unfortunately would do absolutely nothing to even the modern audience's opinion of the book. The average fundamentalist's child is spanked way more often than Elsie.

"That is a wise suggestion, Adelaide. I thank you for it, and shall
certainly take it into consideration. Yet it is a measure I feel loth to
adopt, for Chloe has been a most faithful creature. I feel that I owe her
a debt of gratitude for the excellent care she has taken of Elsie, and of
her mother before her, and as you say, I fear it would wellnigh break
both their hearts. But if less severe measures fail, I shall feel
compelled to try it, for I am more anxious than I can tell you to
bring Elsie to unconditional obedience..."


Yes, Adelaide did suggest sending Chloe away rather than beating the snot out of Elsie. Chloe has been humanized enough by the text that she would have her own character if she just...had her own character. It feels like she's one step away from actually being three-dimensional. Anyway, all we've seen from her is unconditional love for a child in a harsh situation; a child she cares for instead of her own. The text has set her up to care about Elsie as a child of Elsie's mother, who she also loved. The thing the text ignores is that she was acquired somehow from Elsie's mother's household, either as a "get out of my house" present to Elsie or as a purchase by Elsie's father. She does her job to her utmost and does nothing to undermine anyone at any point. This is partly because if Finley had to acknowledge Chloe had any little inconveniences that would drive her to abuse Elsie in any way, or even show emotional coldness, then she'd have to face a lot of uncomfortable facts.

But anyway: I feel a lot more for her than for Elsie, who, while being eight, is also pretty unlikeable. Elsie's told her father at least three times that she loves Jesus more than him. Elsie's father's love is conditional. Chloe is the only one who loves constantly and unconditionally and with everything she's got. Her reward comes in book four. A lot of things happen in book 4. As usual, they won't be very moral.

you are to be banished entirely from the family
circle; your meals must be taken in your own apartment, and though I
shall not reduce your fare to bread and water, it will be very plain--no
sweetmeats--no luxuries of any kind. I shall also deprive you entirely of
pocket-money, and of all books excepting your Bible and school-books, and
forbid you either to pay or receive any visits, telling all who inquire
for you, why you cannot be seen. You are also to understand that I forbid
you to enter any apartment in the house excepting your own and the
school-room--unless by my express permission--and never to go out at all,
even to the garden, excepting to take your daily exercise, accompanied
always and only by a servant. You are to go on with your studies as
usual, but need not expect to be spoken to by any one but your teacher,
as I shall request the others to hold no communication with you. This is
your sentence.

Daddy Dinsmore: fabulous taste in clutches and a tendency to dramatize when he's monologued too long. STFU, Daddy D. Anyway, things go on according to that line, and we get this:

"Oh, papa! dear, _dear_ papa!" she cried, suddenly throwing her arms
round his neck, and laying her cheek to his; "I love you so much, that
when I looked at you, and saw how pale and thin you were, I couldn't help
crying."

"I do not understand, nor want such love, Elsie," he said gravely,
putting her from him; "it is not the right kind, or it would lead you
to be docile and obedient.


And Daddy D. is off again, this time rocketing right through pitiable and bouncing to a stop in pathetic. Also, as threatened, being awful to Chloe, telling her he's sending her to his new house:

Chloe, who was both extremely surprised and highly flattered by this
proof of her young master's confidence, looked very much delighted, as,
with a low courtesy, she expressed her thanks, and her willingness to
undertake the charge. But a sudden thought struck her, and she asked
anxiously if "her child" was to go with her.


This paragraph is probably more annoying to me than any other in the book. This paragraph actually has me getting angry, which is a bit pointless since Finley died long before I was born. It's not just the way she's written. It's the quotes around "her child." If this were a modern-day case where an adoptive white girl was raised by a black woman, had a child, the mother died, Grandma raised the child, and Daddy sailed in eight years later trying to take the kid through right of genes and money, the judge should rule in favor of Grandma. Race is still a problem today, but she has a stronger case. Especially if she documents Daddy D's poor parenting and general creepy behavior.

To Elsie's reaction!

"I know you have a right to do it, papa; I know I belong to you, and you
have a right to do as you will with me, and I will try to submit without
murmuring, but I cannot help feeling sad, and shedding some tears."

"Feminists will hate this book." We don't like people raised to think they are owned, must silently offer themselves up for all sorts of abuse, and need to apologize for human feelings. It's pretty repugnant. You shouldn't have to be feminist to think so.

So the plot goes on. Doppelganger Adelaide joins the ranks of those who go "commit this minor sin, go on, no one will ever know" and Elsie says "no" like always. DA goes off and tells Daddy D., who semirewards Elsie by once more messing around with her menu. I can't really complain since he's upgrading her from plain fare, but his unrelenting attention to what she's eating is still kind of... odd. Anyway, he's back to refusing to love her, so Elsie goes to bed and wakes up with some kind of killer headache. Elsie's father is shocked at how wan she looks. His diagnosis:

"Elsie!" he said in a grave, firm tone, as he placed her more comfortably
on her pillow, "this attack has been brought on by violent crying; you
must not indulge yourself in that way again."


I love Finley's "Obey Authority! PS- Authority is dumb" combinations. Daddy D. is this godlike figure, also totally inept. It's like not even she can believe this bullshit. Daddy D. decides to travel so that he doesn't lose his willpower to conquer her, leaving his daughter completely alone and emotionally worse off than ever before in a house where he's aware another child tried to murder her.

And putting her forcibly aside, he opened the door and went out, while,
with a cry of despair, she sank half-fainting upon the floor.

It's okay, he totally takes good care of her. He doesn't let her eat buttered rolls.

So Daddy D. takes off to the North, and Elsie is left to languish, which she does. Mr Travilla visits (um?) and is worried by how weak and thin and stuff she is, so he tells his mother, who goes to visit her and tells her she's suffering as some sort of divine plan.

Elsie thinks about this later:

They sent a thrill of joy to her heart; for was not _she_ suffering for
_his_ sake? was it not because she loved him too well to disobey his
commands, even to please her dearly beloved earthly father, that she
was thus deprived of one privilege, and one comfort after another, and
subjected to trials that wrung her very heart?

Yes, it was because she loved Jesus. She was bearing suffering for his
dear sake, and here she was taught that even to be permitted to _suffer_
for him, was a privilege. And she remembered, too, that in another place
it is written: "If we _suffer_, we shall also reign with him."


This is our first real hint of Elsie's own desire to rule. It makes sense, though. She's locked in this battle with her father, in which she has nearly killed him and sent him from the plantation. He's told her that he won't come back until she writes him... so he's in essence a sort of exile of hers. Pretty heady stuff for someone who started the book with someone else owning her hair. Elsie's disobedience empowers her. And the best part is: her mission is divine, and every time someone disapproves another square inch is added to the heavenly real estate she will command.

We will get through this book if it kills Elsie, so we forge right through the part where Doppelganger Adelaide's completely unmentioned boyfriend dies a sudden offscreen death and nobody cares but Elsie, who comforts her by saying it was all part of a wonderful divine plan. We move on to when DA breaks the news of her father's decision: Elsie is to go to a convent to be educated. How that is going to help with Elsie's hyperreligious motivations I don't know. I think it'd be perfect; all the rules and rituals Elsie could ever want. But:

As Adelaide made this announcement, she pitied the child from the bottom
of her heart; for she knew that much of Elsie's reading had been on the
subject of Popery and Papal institutions; that she had pored over
histories of the terrible tortures of the Inquisition and stories of
martyrs and captive nuns, until she had imbibed an intense horror and
dread of everything connected with that form of error and superstition.
Yet, knowing all this, Adelaide was hardly prepared for the effect of
her communication.


Anti-Semitic and Anti-Catholic? How does Elsie make friends, again? Anyway, Elsie's reaction:

"Save me! save me! Oh! tell papa I would rather he would kill me at once,
than send me to such a place... they will try to make me go to mass, and
pray to the Virgin, and bow to the crucifixes; and when I refuse, they
will put me in a dungeon and torture me... they will hide me from papa when he
comes, and tell him that I want to take the veil, and refuse to see him;
or else they will say that I am dead and buried. Oh, Aunt Adelaide, beg
him not to put me there! I shall go crazy! I feel as if I were going
crazy now!"

That is seeming like a possibility, but she's eight. I'm sure a lot of kids are irrationally terrified of Mall Santa and dentists and such. So on Elsie tries to go, but this is a real problem for her:

all the stories of martyrs and captive nuns which she had ever
read--all the descriptions of the horrible tortures inflicted by Rome
upon her wretched victims, came vividly to her recollection, and when at
length she fell asleep, it was but to wake again, trembling with fright
from a dream that she was in the dungeons of the Inquisition.

Okay, I let it slide the first time, but who is letting the kid read this stuff? Why all the emphasis on Elsie reading appropriate books when what she's reading is actually "AXE-WIELDING NUNS BURIED MY CHILD ALIVE IN THE BASEMENT!" and Inquisition Daily? She has to have read all this pretty recently. The real Adelaide paid no attention to her mysterious religious ways and Doppelganger Adelaide is a recent development, so she was definitely in Daddy D's care. And why is no one trying countereducation besides DA's feeble shot at it?

So the Dinsmore family goes off on vacation, excepting Doppelganger Adelaide. She worries that she has no nursing skills and wishes for a nurse and *poof* Mamma Travilla shows up. Elsie gets somewhat better in her and Chloe's care, but:

"I cannot understand it, Miss Dinsmore; has she any mental
trouble? She seems to me like one who has some weight of care or sorrow
pressing upon her, and sapping the very springs of life. She appears to
have no desire to recover; she needs something to rouse her, and revive
her love of life. _Is_ there anything on her mind? If so, it must be
removed, or she will certainly die."

"She is very anxious to see her father," said Adelaide, weeping. "Oh,
_how_ I wish he would come! I cannot imagine what keeps him. I have
written again and again."

"I wish he was here, indeed," replied the doctor, with a look of great
anxiety. "Miss Adelaide," he suddenly exclaimed, "if she were ten years
older I should say she was dying of a broken heart, but she is so young
the idea is absurd."

Yerk. This whole "broken heart" thing might just be brushed aside, but unfortunately her mother died of a broken heart after being separated from her father, so the fact that Elsie is dying of the exact same (dumb) cause for the exact same (equally dumb) person is causing another monster pile of unfortunate implications. Especially since this is the second time this book the love of Elsie and her father is compared to the love of Elsie's mother and Elsie's father. Oh, and the idea is absurd. Some doctor.

Chloe is taking care of Elsie again, so she's getting love like a flower gets sunshine, but that's not enough to renew Elsie's interest in life. Chloe? Chloe who? She's not Authority, therefore she is not Important.

Fortunately, the religion Elsie has invested in is a comfort to her as she approaches the Great Beyond:

"Oh! Mrs. Travilla," moaned the little girl, "my sins--my sins--they are
so many--so black. 'Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.' God says
it; and I--I am _not_ holy--I am _vile_--oh, _so_ vile, so sinful! Shall
I ever see his face? how can I dare to venture into his presence!"

She spoke slowly, gaspingly--her voice sometimes sinking almost to a
whisper; so that, but for the death-like stillness of the room, her words
would scarcely have been audible.


Yay for the power of religion! Mamma Travilla comforts her with Bible, Elsie sleeps, Elsie wakes up, there are tears about how terrible it all is, Elsie dictates her will to Doppelganger Adelaide and it's full of charity and good and such, Elsie orders her memorial, Doppelganger Adelaide cries, Elsie asks DA comfort her father, Elsie says she felt rebellious when Chloe was sent away and she's sorry. There's general self-indulgent rolling in how tragic this martyrdom is and it goes on for pages. Toward the end of the conversation, Elsie belly-flops into sudden delirium. Mrs. T., who is doing the nursing, speaks of the possibility of Elsie's death:

"It will be a sad thing to _us_, no doubt, but to her--dear little
one--a blessed, _blessed_ change."


This is the point where I would yank her right off sickroom duty, but apparently DA wanted to hear something like that, so okaaaaaaaay. The doctor comes and performs more medicine:

He passed his hand over Elsie's beautiful curls.

"It seems a sad pity," he remarked in a low tone to her aunt, "but they
will have to be sacrificed; they must be cut off immediately, and her
head shaved."

Medical professional applauds course of action that Daddy D. has forbidden. Discuss!

So anyway, head-shaving does not cure fever or malaria or whatever is going on here, Elsie starts to assure her mother in the ceiling that she will go with her, which is dreadfully premature because she doesn't die that page and so it just unintentionally suggests that people's religious experiences are the result of delirium, tragedycakes blahblah Daddy D. gets the news and comes tearing down. Elsie demands he be sent out of the room because he's there to take her to the Inquisition.

We're nearing the point where Elsie died. Once. Apparently in the first draft she kicked the bucket, and so did Daddy D., but that wonderful book was retconned and we got twenty-six more appearances of Elsie. Since I intend to kick book 4 over and look at the squirmy results of all this wonderful Elsie morality system, I'm obviously going with the retcons. So: Elsie lives. So does Daddy D. Dammit.

More modern medicine:

I fear it will be necessary for you to keep out of sight until there is some
change, as your presence seems to excite her so much. But do not let that
distress you," he added kindly, as he noticed an expression of the
keenest anguish sweep over Mr. Dinsmore's features; "it is a common thing
in such cases for them to turn away from the very one they love best when
in health."

Alternate interpretation: delirious people can't act. There is more drama and more scenes of delirious Elsie freaking out in piteous ways, Mr. Travilla unexpectedly shows up in the hall and runs into Daddy D., what the hell Travilla you do not live here, more dreadful tragedy. Then we go through it all again. Adelaide recaps Elsie's illness to Daddy D., he tries to visit her again and she's still delirious and rejecting him, there's more wallowing in how terrible this all is.

More miracles of modern medicine:

...the doctor, who had been bending over her for several minutes, suddenly
laid his finger on her pulse for an instant; then turned to his
fellow-watchers with a look that there was no mistaking.

There was weeping and wailing then in that room, where death-like
stillness had reigned so long.


So when Elsie's death is altered we didn't rewrite anything, we just chopped something off and tacked on a different ending. Why we didn't cut earlier is a good question, since that doctor only waits an instant to find a pulse. Anyway, everyone continues to be Very, Very Sorry, and start the work of caring for the dead.

Chloe was assisting Mrs. Travilla.

Chloe is now laying in order the corpse of the second child she's raised who has died because of Daddy Dinsmore. The thing Finley wants you to know is that she's helping Mrs. Travilla, who, being white, is the important one in this scene.

Suddenly the lady paused in her work, saying, in an agitated tone,
"Quick! quick! Aunt Chloe, throw open that shutter wide. I thought I felt
a little warmth about the heart, and--yes! yes! I was not mistaken; there
_is_ a slight quivering of the eyelid. Go, Chloe! call the doctor! she
may live yet!"


To Finley there are two people in this scene: the lady and Chloe.

The doctor was only in the room below, and in a moment was at the
bedside, doing all that could be done to fan into a flame that little
spark of life.

I bet he is using a bellows.

The doctor was obliged to banish Chloe from the room, lest the noisy
manifestation of her joy should injure her nursling


See, Finley knows that since Chloe's black--oh, fuck this. Let's move on. Elsie's father, still unaware she's alive, is reading her letter to him and suffering wretched agonies of spirit and remorse and stuff, which might matter at all but seems pretty gratuitous after the previous drama. He converts to Christianity as soon as he learns she's still alive. Hey, that must mean he now has to love Jesus more than Elsie. Oops. Elsie has lost her memory of the past year when her father came, (look, she has to be nine, then,) they are touchingly reunited, and Daddy D. and Elsie promptly go back to spending all their time in each other's company, which I understand is par for happy endings. In hell. Also, Elsie wins:

"Elsie, my dear, my _darling_ daughter, I have been a very cruel
father to you; I have most shamefully abused my authority; but never
again will I require you to do anything contrary to the teachings of
God's word..."


The problem is that Finley never makes it clear where Daddy D. was just and right in how he treated Elsie, and where he was wrong. Elsie won't hear a word against him, Finley writes supporting him when she isn't undermining him with deathtraps and such. His problematic behaviors, such as his fixation on controlling her diet, continue. It does get laid out that he doesn't own Elsie. That doesn't help because someone not Elsie still does:

...as belonging first to him, and only lent to me for a time; and
I know that I will have to give an account of my stewardship."


Also, finally, in regards to a question if he'll teach her, and ages after he learns of Elsie's abuse at the hands of Miss Day:

"If you wish it, my pet; but if you prefer a governess, I will try to
get one who will be more kind and patient than Miss Day. One thing is
certain, _she_ shall never teach you again."

How do they not have day schools? A train was mentioned when Daddy D. was traveling. Is it just that Elsie is too high-class to go to a public school? Grandpa D. shows up for a rare moment of kindly speaking to Elsie. Lora shows up to say this:

"...for we were _all_ unkind to her; I as well as the rest. Oh, Adelaide!
what a bitter thought that was to me when I heard she was dying! I
never realized before how lovely, and how very different from all the rest
of us she was."

So you can expect to be martyred and persecuted constantly by the non-Christians, but as soon as they might lose you they'll realize how wonderful and precious you really are. Adelaide starts to recap the tale of Elsie's suffering again to Lora, but thankfully she is interrupted and it's all very tragic. Elsie gets better enough to go to her new home, where the other woman who helped raise her has visited. I mentioned she was older and Scottish and you already knew what she sounded like, but just in case you don't, her first words on seeing Elsie are:

"Dear, _dear_ bairn,"

So. Hey, I tried to write dialect and asked for dialect-checking from a person who knew what it sounded like and she basically said it was hilariously awful. I have not much room to criticize, or wouldn't if I hadn't stopped. I can't write dialect? Okay, I don't.

And after all that, we are on Square One again:

"I shall never again bid you do violence to your conscience, my daughter,
but to all the commands which I _do_ lay upon you I shall still expect
and require the same ready and cheerful obedience that I have heretofore.
It is my duty to require, and yours to yield it."

So now the conflict is out of the book and it is boring again. There's a few more disobedience/punishment scenes, an upcoming Christmas and gifts all around. Elsie gives the household slaves presents of an outfit and a handkerchief, which they say is perfect. This is what they would do if she gave them each a banana peel. They are slaves. Then, a mysterious bit where the black people...somewhere? I don't know if they're free blacks, the plantation slaves, or what? Have been putting together a feast with cakes and such and Elsie wants to watch them eat it. I... don't understand. I don't think you do either:

The negroes were to have a grand dinner at the quarter, and Elsie, who
had been deeply interested in the preparations--cake-baking, etc.--was
now very anxious to see them enjoying their feast; so about one o'clock
she and her father invited their guests to walk down there with them to
enjoy the sight.

"_I_, for one, would like nothing better," said Mr. Travilla, offering
his arm to Adelaide, while Mr. Dinsmore took Mrs. Travilla, Elsie walking
on the other side and keeping fast hold of his hand.

They found it a very merry scene; and the actors in it scarcely enjoyed
it more than the spectators.

Moral: black people are here to provide child care, do all your manual labor, nurse the sick, make you feel better about yourself, and be your fucking TV.

Travilla is Travilla:

"Ah," replied Travilla, looking affectionately at his mother, "_I have_ a
mistress for my establishment, and so can _afford_ to wait for Elsie."


They tour places and wait to meet Miss Rose and it's all super-boring. They meet Miss Rose's family and it goes on and on and on and on but nothing happens. Then we hit the fourth count for this book with:

"...I shall have to say you must sup on bread and water."

That was Daddy D. threatening punishment for if Elsie is late to mealtimes, which she was because she was playing outside. And his hostess objects, because she wouldn't want a guest under her roof to eat bread and water. He says it doesn't matter, she won't be late again. That's how we end up at:

"No, thank you, ma'am, I should like the omelet, and the honey and
the cheese too, very much, but as I was late to-night, I can only have dry
bread, because you know my papa said so."


Of course it isn't Elsie's fault. But you knew that. Anyway, the two hostesses later talk about how sad they were to see Elsie eating that food while they had everything else, and how much they admired her. Follow literalism and total obedience for sympathy and admiration! You might cause a bit of a scene and make your hosts feel bad. That's okay, you're being good.

I have just heard the whole story from Miss Rose and her
mother."

"And you _wouldn't_ have let me have anything but bread, papa, would
you?" she asked, raising her head to look up in his face.

"No, dear, nothing else, for you know I must keep my word, however trying
it may be to my feelings."


And your host's, anyone want to think of... no?

So they go on another trip around Washington and we get a historical infodump and it's all very informative and the book sort of ends.

Hey! It ended! Two updates, one book! Four instances of Daddy D. ruling what Elsie is eating! The next book is just full of Bromly Egerton. Stay tuned.


*This is still hilarious. How would the death certificate read? "Killed by failure of small child to read aloud?"

**Curious to see if Finley changed her views, in which case I wanted to be fair, I skipped to the 24th book and I'll admit skimmed it, looking for changes of her opinions or refinement of her stances or other mellowing. I found: father with daughter putting off marriage so she could stay his little girl, lover feeling entitled to marry her, lone black servant character needing to be translated to other white characters, everyone concealing from a sick woman the fact that she was dying, about a hundred pages of frickin' wedding planning, and a last page where we're told a prisoner with a grudge against one of the female leads suddenly escaped from prison, which I can only deduce is slang for "a more interesting book you are not reading," and she now needs a bodyguard and they must travel with friends.

Short answer: No.

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