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"Guh?" You inquire of the ceiling.

"Hello!" I hand you your breakfast tray and hop on the foot of the bed, laptop in hand. "It's time to read Elsie Dinsmore!"

At least you have blueberry muffins.

We get a taste of priorities before the book even starts, and they're as broken as ever. Here speaks Finley in her author's note:

may she prove to all a pleasant companion and friend; and to those
of them now treading the same portion of life's pathway a useful example
also, particularly in her filial love and obedience.


Right, so we can expect a lot of what was in book 1 and 2. You wanted a new theme? Tough muffins! We're reading Elsie Dinsmore!

We can also expect a lot of Miss Stevens and Rose. Miss Stevens is of course the foil for Rose here. She flatters Elsie, which is how we knew she was evil last time. She shows her evil by wanting Elsie to dress in ginormous ruffles. But we really know she's evil because:

Then she would press all sorts of dainties upon the little girl
in such a way that it was next to impossible to decline them,


She's interfering with Elsie's father-imposed diet! Aiee!

People get the idea that Miss Stevens will marry Mister Dinsmore, which upsets Elsie. Elsie tells her father, her father says they should go home, and then he mentions he should invite Miss Rose to come live at their home as his wife. Leading to:

"Then, papa, will I have to call her mamma? and do you think my own
mamma would like it?"

"If Miss Allison consents to take a mother's place to you, I am sure
your own mamma, if she could speak to you, would tell you she deserved
to have the title; and it would hurt us both very much if you refused
to give it. Indeed, my daughter, I cannot ask her to come to us unless
you will promise to do so, and to love and obey, her just as you do
me. Will you?"


The modern solution of calling one "Mamma" and the other "Mother" works so much better. It's also strange that Elsie has to "love and obey" like a wedding vow before her father will get married. Anyway, if there's anything that Elsie can do it's obedience, so she agrees with reservations...

I can not love anybody quite so well as I love you, my
own dear, dear father!" she said, throwing her arms around his neck.

He returned her caress, saying tenderly, "That is all I can ask,
dearest; I must reserve the first place in your heart for myself."


Which is all kinds of messed up since they are talking about the new family being built and he just told her that she can't love them as much as him. And she doesn't love him as much as Jesus. Elsie then gets distressed at the idea that Rose won't want to marry a man with a child:

"But Miss Rose loves me, papa; I am sure she does," she said,
flushing, and the tears starting to her eyes.

"Yes, darling, I know she does," he answered soothingly. "I am only
afraid she loves you better than she does me."


EVERYONE LOVE THE PATRIARCH THE MOST OR HE'LL BE SAD AND SCARED.

This is all presumptuous, because I don't think he's actually courted the lady yet. He's gone on walks with her, but there's not a lot of page time spent on their time talking or how they interact. So we tag along as he takes her on a long walk in the moonlight and then:

"Miss Allison," he said, in his deep, rich tones, "I would like to
tell you a story, if you will do me the favor to listen."

It would have been quite impossible for Rose to tell why her heart
beat so fast at this very commonplace remark, but so it was; and she
could scarcely steady her voice to reply, "I always find your stories
interesting, Mr. Dinsmore."

He began at once.

And he courts the lady with... the story of how he fell in love and he and his wife had Elsie. Since that's not very romantic, he gets into the Story of Elsie and talks about her childhood. Then, losing his head in the heat of the moment, he recaps the major struggle of the last book.

Mr. Dinsmore paused, unable to proceed. Rose had been weeping for some
time. She well knew to whose story she was listening, and her gentle,
loving heart was filled with pity for both him and for his child.


Just the emotion you want uppermost in your lover. Pity.

"Their home has been a very happy one; but it lacks one thing--the
wife and mother's place is vacant; she who filled it once is
gone--never to return!--but there is a sweet, gentle lady who has
won the hearts of both father and daughter, and whom they would fain
persuade to fill the void in their affections and their home.


Might want to get on that.

"Miss Rose, dare I hope that you would venture to trust your happiness
in the hands of a man who has proved himself capable of such cruelty?"


Nice of him to wave a red flag about his abusive tendencies. Wish they were all that blatant.

Horace Dinsmore wore upon his little finger a splendid diamond ring,
which had attracted a good deal of attention, especially among the
ladies; who admired it extremely, and of which Miss Stevens had hoped
to be one day the happy and envied possessor. Taking Rose's small
white hand in his again, he placed it upon her slender finger.


Great. Diamond rings do have cultural significance at this point. I'm just gonna forget I read that.

"This seals our compact, and makes you mine forever," he said,
pressing the hand to his lips.

"With the consent of my parents," murmured Rose, a soft blush mantling
her cheek.


That was so incredibly unromantic!

"My darling," he said, stooping to give her a kiss, "I have brought
you a mother."

Then taking Rose's hand, and placing one of Elsie's in it, while he
held the other in a close, loving grasp, he added: "Rose, she is your
daughter also. I give you a share in my choicest treasure."


"But not a big share. And she doesn't get a big share in you. And I'll own the hair of both of you."

But! "Wait," I hear you say. "He said he didn't own Elsie after all last book. Hasn't he stopped thinking of people as his possessions?"

"My two treasures," he said, looking affectionately from one to the
other. "Rose, I feel myself the richest man in the Union."

This is a very awkward book. We do get this:

"No, darling; it is only a feeling, and
will soon pass away. Your own dear mother--my early love--can never be
forgotten by either of us. Nor would Rose wish it. There is room in
my heart for both of them, and I do not love the memory of Elsie less
because I have given a place in it to Rose."


That's better. And how does Daddy D. celebrate his upcoming nuptials?

It seemed as though Mr. Dinsmore could hardly bear to part with his
child that night; he held her a long time in his arms, but at last,
with another tender caress, and a fervent blessing, he bade her
good-night and sent her away.


... guaranteeing that this book will cause just as many cringes as the others.

Miss Stevens gets huffy and passes from the book now that Rose needs no foil. Does Rose run headlong into Daddy D's controlling ways?

But when may I claim you for my own indeed? Let it be as
soon as possible, dearest, for I feel that I ought to return to my
home ere long, and I am not willing to do so without my wife."

"I must have a few weeks to prepare; you know a lady's wardrobe cannot
be got ready in a day. What would you say to six weeks? I am afraid
mamma would think it entirely too short."

"Six weeks, dear Rose? why that would bring us to the middle of
November. Surely a month will be long enough to keep me waiting for my
happiness, and give the dressmakers sufficient time for their work.
Let us say one month from to-day."

Rose raised one objection after another, but he overruled them all and
pleaded his cause so earnestly that he gained his point at last, and
the wedding was fixed for that day month, provided the consent of
her parents, to so sudden a parting with their daughter, could be
obtained.


Ayep. Hey, if the man who proposed by saying he's an abusive jerk and asks if you can trust him is suddenly overruling you and pressing for the marriage to be moved up fast, you might want to think about how much you really like his sparkly ring. (Especially if he landed you by awakening your sense of obligation.)

Harold shows up, and I realize I can't remember who he is. I think he's Rose's brother? What was Lucy's brother's name?

On going down to tea they found Mr. Dinsmore and Mr. Travilla there.
Elsie was delighted to meet her old friend, and it was evident that he
had already made himself a favorite with all the children, from Harold
down to little May.


Travilla has been visiting the household children, uninvited. I'm amazed no one has shot this man.

Suddenly, the wedding! It sounds pretty miserable. No one talks much, no one eats much, the mother of the bride feels that she has buried the bride afterward, and Rose herself has mixed feelings and weeps for some time. They go to their home plantation, so Rose suddenly is a slave-owner of the people she said were her equals in another book. This has no mention or consequences whatsoever. Elsie gets back to her studies:

She had been so long without regular employment that she found it very
difficult at first to give her mind to her studies, as she had done
in former days; but her father, though kind and considerate, was
very firm with her, and she soon fell into the traces and worked as
diligently as ever.


And is compared to a pony. Or maybe an ox.

We're assured that the new couple is devotedly in love, which is good, because in the very next chapter Elsie is called to visit her father:

...it struck her that there was an odd twinkle in his eye also,
while she was certain that she could not be mistaken in the
unusually joyous expression of his countenance.


Did he get a new job? Is he about to give her a puppy? Did Grandpa Doppelganger die and leave them a huge sum? Did Albert freeze to death in the far North? Has he thought of a new way to mess with her diet?

"She is not up yet, but do you sit down here in your little rocking
chair. I have something for you."

He left the room as he spoke, returning again in a moment, carrying
what Elsie thought was a strange-looking bundle.

"There! hold out your arms," he said; and placing it in them, he
gently raised one corner of the blanket, displaying to her astonished
view a tiny little face.

"A baby! Oh, the dear little thing!" she exclaimed in tones of
rapturous delight. Then looking up into his face, "Did you say I might
have it, papa? whose baby is it?"


No! It's an incredibly messed-up sequence that appears to be nine months later! Elsie is now ten? And hasn't noticed that Miss Rose stuffed a watermelon down the front of her dress? And has no idea where babies come from or who they belong to? They haven't named the kid yet, either. They name him Horace, starting off Finley's incredibly annoying kick of naming characters after previous characters that I cannot tell apart in the first place.

Travilla is introduced to the child:

The first time Mr. Travilla called, after little Horace's arrival, she
exhibited her treasure to him with a great deal of pride, asking if he
did not envy her papa.

"Yes," he said, looking admiringly at her, and then turning away with
a half sigh.

A few minutes afterwards he caught hold of her, set her on his knee,
and giving her a kiss, said, "I wish you were ten years older, Elsie,
or I ten years younger."


Elsie, because no one has warned her about this man yet, inquires why.

"Oh, because we would then be nearer of an age, and maybe you would
like me better."

"No, I wouldn't, not a bit," she said, putting her arm round his neck,
"for I like you now just as well as I could like any gentleman but
papa."


Hey! Leave room for Jesus!

And now we are informed:

Elsie was nearly twelve when her little brother was born.

Well. Thanks for straightening that out.

During the next three years she led a life of quiet happiness,
unmarked by any striking event.


No wait, she's fifteen!

At Roselands, on the contrary, there had been many and important
changes. Louise and Lora were both married; the former to a resident
of another State, who had taken her to his distant home; the latter to
Edward Howard, an older brother of Elsie's friend Carrie. They had not
left the neighborhood, but were residing with his parents.

For the last two or three years Arthur Dinsmore had spent his
vacations at home; he was doing so now, having just completed his
freshman year at Princeton. On his return Walter was to accompany him
and begin his college career.


Gwuh? Edward existed? Have we heard of this guy before? Well, okay, whatever. Elsie visits Carrie and Lora, goes home because it's getting late, her "faithful attendant" Jim follows (didn't he belong to her grandfather? Was he her father's all along? So confusing.)

Elsie caught sight of a well-known form slowly moving
down the road a few paces ahead of them. It was Arthur, and she soon
perceived that it was his intention to intercept her; he stopped,
turning his face toward her, sprang forward as she came up, and seized
her bridle.

"Stay a moment, Elsie," he said, "I want to speak to you."


I see Arthur is the same as ever, or at least as ever once he got to be a homicidal gambler. Hey, Elsie, the guy who pushed you down a hill has just approached you in the middle of nowhere and grabbed your horse's bridle. Your reaction?

"Then come on to the Oaks, and let us talk there; please do, for I am
in a hurry."

"No, I prefer to say my say where I am. I'll not detain you long. You
keep out of earshot, Jim. I want to borrow a little money, Elsie; a
trifle of fifty dollars or so. Can you accommodate me?"

Yes, that is the same Jim he tried to frame years ago. Jim apparently obliges him. I'm honestly not sure why. I don't think Daddy D. would approve much of these goings-on, so he's got backing if he wants to argue. Also, again, I have no idea why Arthur is trying to borrow money from Elsie.

"Not without papa's knowledge, Arthur. So I hope you do not wish to
conceal the matter from him."

"I do. I see no reason why he should know all my private affairs.
Can't you raise that much without applying to him? Isn't your
allowance very large now?"


Arthur. She has never given you money. She never will give you money. Stop asking her for money! We learn that Elsie's allowance is more than fifty dollars, and:

"Haven't you more than that in hand now?"

"Yes, but what do you want it for?"

She goes tearing around the countryside carrying over fifty dollars. How has this woman not been robbed? Is it that Jim is also Captain Coachcatcher? Anyway, she refuses Arthur more until:

He grew furious, and at length with a shocking oath released her
bridle, but at the same instant struck her pony a severe blow upon his
haunches, with a stout stick he held in his hand.

He endangers her life again. In fact, this might be murder attempt #2:

The terrified animal, smarting with the pain, started aside, reared
and plunged in a way that would have unseated a less skilful rider,
and had nearly thrown Elsie from the saddle: then darted off at the
top of its speed; but fortunately turned in at the gate held open by
Jim, who had ridden on ahead and dismounted for that purpose.


How does Jim stop the horse? Well, let us un-dialect this mess to find:

"Whoa, Glossy! Whoa there!" he cried, springing to the head of the
excited animal, and catching its bridle in his powerful grasp.


He just yanks the poor animal to a friggin' stop by its bridle. Elsie fails to pinwheel over its head and through the air, the pony fails to suffer any injuries to the mouth or head or neck, and Jim fails to have his arm yanked out of its socket or be dragged along or even notice he's done anything unusual. Maybe Captain Coachcatcher wasn't odd. Maybe this really is some sort of shared superpower. If the horses die, Chloe will just carry everyone to church in the carriage, then sit outside because it's a white church.

Elsie immediately runs into her father, and won't mention that Arthur just tried to kill her. Again.

Elsie was a fearless horsewoman, accustomed to the saddle from her
very early years. Thus Arthur's wanton attack upon her pony had failed
to give her nerves the severe shock it might have caused to those of
most young girls of her age. Her feeling was more of excitement,
and of indignation at the uncalled-for cruelty to a dumb animal,
especially her own pet horse, than of fright at the danger to herself.
But she well knew that the latter was what her father would think of
first, and that he would be very angry with Arthur; therefore she had
tried, and successfully, to control herself and suppress all signs of
agitation on meeting him upon her return.


Why? Because... we're never expressly told why, just as we're never really told why she didn't mention Arthur's abuse in the past, or why she shielded him after he tried to kill her. This is just what good girls do.

For a moment she questioned with herself whether she was quite right
to have this concealment from her father, but quickly decided that
she was. Had the wrong-doing been her own--that would have made it
altogether another matter.


Remember: if you step an inch out of line you have to report it immediately, but if a man is beating your animals and trying to kill you, you must keep mum to your protectors and loved ones. Why? Don't ask why, that's not important. Just do it. It's only right.

She was shocked at Arthur's wickedness, troubled and anxious about his
future, but freely forgave his crime against her pony and herself,
and mingled with her nightly petitions an earnest prayer for his
conversion, and his welfare temporal and spiritual.


That makes it okay!

Lucy Carrington gets up, rides over, and comes into Elsie's house to find her and say hello. Are people here crazy?

"If you'll believe me," said Elsie, laughing a gay, sweet, silvery
laugh, "I really enjoy being controlled by papa. It saves me a deal of
trouble and responsibility in the way of deciding for myself; and then
I love him so dearly that I almost always feel it my greatest pleasure
to do whatever pleases him."


Once again, it's less like a religiously-driven behavior and more like an alternative lifestyle.

"No, I've no doubt that you're an arch hypocrite, and we shall find
out one of these days that you are really worse than any of the rest
of us. But now I must finish my errand and go, for I know you're
longing to be at those books. Do you get a ferruling every time you
miss a word?--and enjoy the pain because it pleases papa to inflict
it?"


NOT HELPING, LUCY.

"Oh, Lucy, how can you be so ridiculous?" and a quick, vivid blush
mounted to Elsie's very hair.

NOT HELPING, FINLEY.

"I beg your pardon, Elsie, dear, I had no business to say such a
thing," cried Lucy, springing up to throw her arms round her friend
and kiss her warmly; "but of course it was nothing but the merest
nonsense. I know well enough your papa never does anything of the
kind."


Thanks. Do let's keep the subtext out of the text from now on?

That was very apt to be in reading, and if the weather was fine she
usually carried her book to an arbor at some distance from the house.
It was reached by a long shaded walk that led to it from the lawn, on
which the glass doors of her pretty boudoir opened. It was a cool,
breezy, quiet spot, on a terraced hillside, commanding a lovely view
of vale, river, and woodland, and from being so constantly frequented
by our heroine, had come to be called by her name,--"Elsie's Arbor."
Arthur, well acquainted with these tastes and habits, sought, and
found her here on the afternoon of this day--found her so deeply
absorbed in Miss Warner's sweet story that she was not aware of his
approach--so full of sympathy for little Ellen that her tears were
dropping upon the page as she read.

"What, crying, eh?" he said with a sneer, as he seated himself by her
side, and rudely pulled one of her curls, very much as he had been
used to do years ago. "Well, I needn't be surprised, for you always
were the greatest baby I ever saw."


How did he know where to find her? She's in a different house, where he probably is not welcome, having tried to kill Elsie. Speaking of which, Elsie: the guy who has tried to kill you twice is here to insult you and let you know that you can't stop him from pulling your hair. A good loud scream is in order. Now, please.

"Please let my hair alone, Arthur; you are not very polite in either
speech or action," she answered, brushing away her tears and moving a
little farther from him.

It would be less funny if people didn't actually die of ignoring warning signals. Arthur decides to just critique her reading choices:

"Some namby-pamby girl's story, I s'pose, since you're allowed to read
it; or are you doing it on the sly?"

"No, I never do such things, and hope I never shall; papa gave me
permission."

"Oh; ah! then I haven't got you in my power: wish I had."

"Why?"


Elsie, if you stop asking stupid questions and just scream your fool head off, you'll have solved a lot of problems. For some reason she stands around answering him about her faith, family, and finances instead.

"Do you have to show your balance in hand when you give in your
account?"

"No; do you suppose papa cannot trust my word?" she answered, somewhat
indignantly.

"Then you could manage it just as easily as not. There's no occasion
for him to know whether your balance in hand is at that moment in your
possession or mine; as I told you before, I only want to borrow it for
two weeks. Come, let me have it. If you don't, the day will come when
you'll wish you had."


See, if she'd just told a white lie, she'd probably be safe. He'd stop asking and go away and he'd put the blame on his brother, who he sees as untouchable. This way, he still focuses his grievance on her, and he clearly is not afraid to do harm to her. She'd have lied for her safety, but it's not his business anyway and never will be. So the morality of that one is something parent and child could discuss. As it is:

She repeated her refusal; he grew very angry and abusive, and at
length went so far as to strike her.


Fifteen-year-old Elsie gets clobbered one by a boy older than she. Oh yes, that's much better than her telling a small lie, thank you. She still has not done a damn thing to save herself, whether by summoning help or by clever diplomacy, so now that she is getting beaten Finley has to call up the cavalry:

A quick step sounded on the gravel walk, a strong grasp was laid on
Arthur's arm, he felt himself suddenly jerked aside and flung upon
his knees, while a perfect rain of stinging, smarting blows descended
rapidly upon his back and shoulders.

"There, you unmitigated scoundrel, you mean, miserable caitiff; lay
your hand upon her again if you dare!" cried Mr. Travilla, finishing
the castigation by applying the toe of his boot to Arthur's nether
parts with a force that sent him reeling some distance down the walk,
to fall with a heavy thud upon the ground.

The lad rose, white with rage, and shook his fist at his antagonist.
"I'll strike her when I please," he said with an oath, "and not be
called to account by you for it either; she's my niece, and nothing to
you."


Ah, the good old days!

Elsie says she was really frightened. Suddenly, this:

"Mr. Travilla, you will not tell papa?" she said entreatingly.

"My child, I am inclined to think he ought to hear of it."

"Oh, why need he? It would make him very angry with Arthur."

Remember: GOOD GIRLS SHIELD ABUSERS. This has been hammered home in so many books that by this point, giving this to a child as a moral example is condoning abuse. Fortunately, Travilla is not an idiot. Having had Arthur say to Travilla's face that he has a right to beat Elsie at will makes him adamant for her safety:

"Which Arthur richly deserves. I think your father should know, in
order that he may take measures for your protection. Still, if you
promise not to ride or walk out alone until Arthur has left the
neighborhood, it shall be as you wish..."


Or he's an idiot. He doesn't know that she wasn't alone when she was riding and she met Arthur and nearly died, but this really isn't hard. Witness assault = tell someone.

Then, this exchange between them:

"Welcome, fair lady; but am I to be dismissed without any reward for
my poor services?"

"I have none to offer, sir knight, but you may help yourself if you
choose," she said, laughing and blushing, for she knew very well what
he meant.

He stooped and snatched a kiss from her ruby lips, then walked away
sighing softly to himself, "Ah, little Elsie, if I were but ten years
younger!"


This would still be creepy because you are a deeply creepy person.

He had witnessed the little scene just enacted between Mr. Travilla
and herself, had noticed something in his friend's look and manner
that had never struck him before. He folded his child close to his
heart for an instant then held her off a little, gazing fondly into
her face.

"You are mine; you belong to me; no other earthly creature has the
least shadow of a right or title in you; do you know that?"


This is deeply creepy too! Also, she is fifteen. Fifteen. Finally, you just saw a flirtatious exchange ending in a kiss between an adult man and your daughter. Maybe you could set limits on how often he randomly shows up in your house? No? Best father ever.

"....I am about to speak of a serious matter," he answered,
gently smoothing back the clustering curls from her fair brow, while
he looked earnestly into the soft brown eyes. "You have not been
lending money to Arthur, Elsie?"

The abrupt, unexpected question startled her, and a crimson tide
rushed over her face and neck; but she returned her father's gaze
steadily: "No, papa; how could you think I would disobey so?"


Remember: when the subject of your abuser comes up, the important thing is that you can say you are obedient.

So Elsie goes off to visit Lucy (Herbert! That's Lucy's brother's name!) and she and Lucy go down to the kitchen and push the cook into letting them use the kitchen to bake stuff for a birthday celebration. She tries to talk them out of it for all sorts of reasons, mostly that they are ladies, but finally:

Chloe had been an excellent cook in her young days, and had not
forgotten or lost her former skill in the preparation of toothsome
dainties. She, too, came with offers of assistance, and the four were
soon deep in the mysteries of pastry, sweetmeats, and confections.
Novelty gave it an especial charm to the young ladies, and they grew
very merry and talkative, while their ignorance of the business in
hand, the odd mistakes they fell into in consequence, and the comical
questions they asked, gave much secret amusement to the two old
servants.

Who are slaves. Then two of the slave children fight, which amuses their owners no end. Finley actually slips here and refers to their "masters." We never find out what started the fight, and on that bizarre note the chapter closes.

Oh, and on the subject of Daddy D. not owning Elsie's hair anymore:

"I'm not going to have you aping the woman already; don't alter the
style of wearing your hair again, till I give you permission."

He never changes. Elsie herself has softened a teeny bit about her criticisms:

"None that I know of," answered Elsie, smiling. "And I certainly shall
not object to others doing as they like, provided I am not asked to
take part in it."


So it's not "THAT IS WRONG" but "I believe that is wrong for me." This is frankly a lot more tolerable.

Elsie was in great request; the young gentlemen flocked about her,
with urgent entreaties that she would join in the amusement, each
claiming the honor of her hand in one or more sets, but she steadily
declined.


...now she's less tolerable. Why go to a party to advertise your non-partyingness?

A glad smile lighted up Herbert's countenance, as he saw one and
another turn and walk away with a look of chagrin and disappointment.

"Since my misfortune compels me to act the part of a wallflower, I am
selfish enough, I own, to rejoice in your decision to be one also," he
said gleefully. "Will you take a seat with me on this sofa? I presume
your conscience does not forbid you to watch the dancers?"

"No, not at all," she answered, accepting his invitation.

Elsie's eyes followed with eager interest the swiftly moving forms,
but Herbert's were often turned admiringly upon her...


What, does she want to dance? Oh, whatever. We've been getting anvilicious hints that Herbert is interested in Elsie. The first time I read the other books I barely noticed Herbert and then forgot about him, which is why I was really bewildered when I got to this one and suddenly he was a major character. He didn't get any characterization then, either. He doesn't have a whole lot now. Oh, and one of the guests is Arthur, because Lucy's detective brain has turned to cheese and she can't remember the last time she saw Arthur near Elsie, he tried to kill her.

"How beautiful you are, Elsie!" he exclaimed at length, in a tone of
such earnest sincerity that it made her laugh, the words seemed to
rush spontaneously from his lips. "You are always lovely, but to-night
especially so."

"It's the moonlight, Herbert; there's a sort of witchery about it,
that lends beauty to many an object which can boast none of itself."

"Ah, but broad daylight never robs you of yours; you always wear it
wherever you are, and however dressed. You look like a bride to-night;
I wish you were, and that I were the groom."

Elsie laughed again, this time more merrily than before. "Ah, what
nonsense we are talking--we two children," she said. Then starting to
her feet as the clock struck ten--"There, it is my bed-time, and I
must bid you good-night, pleasant dreams, and a happy awaking."


She's not into you. You're sweet and non-authoritative and never talk about owning her. There can be no chemistry.

Elsie tripped up the stairs and entered her room. A lamp burned low on
the toilet table, she went to it, turned up the wick, and as she did
so a slight noise on the veranda without startled her. The windows
reached to the floor and were wide open.

"Who's there?" she asked.

"I," was answered, in a rough, surly tone, and Arthur stepped in.


Why is he hanging about? If she carries loads of money about, couldn't he just rob her? There's got to be something in the room that's of value, and there are a lot of guests at the party. Just sayin'. Also, Elsie: the guy who's tried to kill you and who locks himself into rooms with you is in your bedroom late at night. This is when we deliver an ear-piercing scream!

"Is it you?" she asked in surprise and indignation. "Why do you come
here? it is not fit you should, especially at this hour."

"It is not fit you should set yourself up to reprove and instruct your
uncle, I've come for that money you are going to lend me."

"I am not going to lend you any money."

"Give it then; that will be all the better for my pocket."


Or you could stand and chat. Overripe. Eggplant.

"How much have you here?"

"That is a question you have no right to ask."


Besides, if he were smart he'd already have found out and left. Everyone else is still at the party.

"Well, I know you are never without a pretty good supply of the
needful, and I'm needy. So hand it over without any more ado;
otherwise I shall be very apt to help myself."

"No, you will not," she said, with dignity. "If you attempt to rob me,
I shall call for assistance."

"And disgrace the family by giving the tattlers a precious bit of
scandal to retail in regard to us."


At this point I am hoping for a doppelganger to attack Arthur. Another version might at least be smarter.

Elsie moved toward the bell rope, but anticipating her intention, he
stepped before it, saying with a jeering laugh, "No, you don't!"

"Arthur," she said, drawing herself up, and speaking with great
firmness and dignity, "leave this room; I wish to be alone."

"Hoity-toity, Miss Dinsmore! do you suppose I'm to be ordered about by
you? No, indeed! And I've an old score to pay off. One of these days
I'll be revenged on you and old Travilla, too; nobody shall insult and
abuse me with impunity. Now hand over that cash!"


I probably will never figure out why Elsie doesn't do anything.

"None of your ---- impudence!" he cried fiercely, catching her by the
arm with a grasp that wrung from her a low, half-smothered cry of
pain.

Why is she smothering her cries? Why? It's not even inaction; she's working to keep this silent. I seriously don't get it, every time I look at this. Is it purely that Finley needs Arthur to escape so she still has an antagonist? Is it that Elsie needs to be a victim?

But footsteps and voices were heard on the stairs, and he hastily
withdrew by the window through which he had entered.

Elsie pulled up her sleeve and looked at her arm. Each finger of
Arthur's hand had left its mark. "Oh, how angry papa would be!" she
murmured to herself, hastily drawing down her sleeve again as the door
opened and Chloe came in, followed by another servant bearing a small
silver waiter loaded with dainties.


Chloe would be very interested to know that someone had hurt Elsie, and would walk back home if she had to so she could tell Daddy D. about all this. Too bad! Elsie's hiding it from her. Why? Because that's what ladies do! But Chloe sees she's upset. Elsie asks her to spend the night with her and tells her she's afraid of Arthur. She doesn't say that Arthur has hurt her. Chloe spends the night in the room anyway, because Chloe is the best person in these books... also, perhaps, because she's a slave. But she's still the best human being around. She sure beats out Elsie the next morning.

"I should think you would need a long nap this morning more than any
one else," Elsie said, addressing Herbert.

"No," he answered, coloring. "I took advantage of my semi-invalidism,
and retired very shortly after you left us."


Poor Herbert. Damn. This is when we learn of Herbert:

He had known and loved her from their very early childhood;
with a love that had grown and strengthened year by year.


Which is pretty damn confusing to learn now because we never got a hint of this before. There was that time she ran off and left him lying alone...

"You must not be too exacting towards Elsie, my son," said his mother,
shaking up his pillows for him, and settling him comfortably on them;
"she is always so ready to sacrifice herself for others that she would
not, I fear, refuse such a request, however much it might cost her to
grant it. And no doubt she will want to be with the other girls."

"Yes, it was just like my selfishness to ask it, Elsie, and never
think how distasteful it might be to you. I take it all back," he
said, blushing, but with a wistful look in his eyes that she could
never have withstood, had she wished to do so.

"It's too late for that, since I have already accepted," she said with
an arch look as she turned away. "But don't worry yourself about me; I
shall follow my own inclination in regard to the length of my visit,
making it very short if I find your society irksome or disagreeable."

It's worse than when she's callous or uninterested in him.

"No, but it is the day of days for real good, happy times; everything
is so quiet and still that it is easier than on other days to lift
one's thoughts to God and Heaven. Oh, Elsie, I owe you a great debt of
gratitude, that I can never repay."

"For what, Herbert?"


Good question.

"Ah, don't you know it was you who first taught me the sweetness of
carrying all my trials and troubles to Jesus? Years ago, when we were
very little children, you told me what comfort and happiness you found
in so doing, and begged me to try it for myself."

What? When did this happen?

"And that is what enables you to be so patient and uncomplaining."

"If I am. But ah! you don't know the dreadfully rebellious feelings
that sometimes will take possession of me, especially when, after
the disease has seemed almost eradicated from my system, it suddenly
returns to make me as helpless and full of pain as ever. Nobody knows
how hard it is to endure it; how weary I grow of life; how unendurably
heavy my burden seems."


So he has a disease? I thought he just had a hip problem! The book said it was his hip! Do I have the wrong character after all?

"Oh, Elsie, this has been such a happy day to me! What joy, what
bliss, if we could be always together!"

"If you were only my brother! I wish you were, Herbert."

"No, no, I do not; for I would be something much nearer and dearer.
Oh, Elsie, if you only would!" he went on, speaking very fast and
excitedly. "You thought I was joking last night, but I was not, I was
in earnest; never more so in my life. Oh, do you think you could like
me, Elsie?"

"Why, yes, Herbert; I do, and always have ever since we first became
acquainted."


Elsie. Pay attention, unless you're just leading the poor boy on. He proposes; she is surprised and says she's too young. She's right! If we're going by "you are adult when you can take care of yourself," she may never get there. She also says he's pretty young for this.

"Six months; but that's quite enough difference. And your father
needn't object on the score of our youth. You are as old now as I've
been told your mother was when he married her, and another year will
make me as old as he was. And your Aunts Louisa and Lora were both
engaged before they were sixteen. It's not at all uncommon for girls
in this part of the country to marry before they are that old. But I
know I'm not half good enough for you, Elsie. A king might be proud to
win you for his bride, and I'm only a poor, good-for-nothing cripple,
not worth anybody's acceptance." And he turned away his face, with
something that sounded very like a sob.

Oh man. He's way too young to get married... whoever he is.

Elsie's kind heart was touched. "No, Herbert, you must not talk so.
You are a dear, good, noble fellow, worthy of any lady in the land,"
she said, half playfully, half tenderly and laying her little soft
white hand over his mouth.

He caught it in his and pressed it passionately to his lips, there
holding it fast. "Oh, Elsie, if it were only mine to keep!" he cried,
"I'd be the happiest fellow in the world."

She looked at his pale, thin face, worn with suffering, into his eyes
so full of passionate entreaty; thought what a dear lovable fellow he
had always been, and forgot herself entirely--forgot everything but
the desire to relieve and comfort him, and make him happy.


This is the second proposal that requires pity to be accepted. Romance is when some troubled man says only you can fix all his glaring emotional problems.

"Only tell me that you care for me, darling, and that you are willing
some day to belong to me! only give me a little hope; I shall die if
you don't!"

"I do care for you, Herbert; I would do anything in my power to make
you happy."

"Then I may call you my own! Oh, darling, God bless you for your
goodness!"


I'd say it hurts to read this, but Elsie might marry me.

But the clock was striking nine, and with the sound, a sudden
recollection came to Elsie. "It is my bed-time, and--and, Herbert, it
will all have to be just as papa says. I belong to him, and cannot
give myself away without his permission. Good-night."


And I thought there wouldn't be a worse courtship scene than Daddy Dinsmore's telling the entire tale of his daughter's life. This reads like it was staged by a couple of four-year-olds.

Then an adult shows up, and:

Mrs. Carrington threw her arms around Elsie, folded her in close,
loving embrace, and kissed her fondly again and again, "My dear child,
how happy you have made me!" she whispered at last. "Herbert has told
me all. Dear boy, he could not keep such good news from his mother.
I know of nothing that could have brought me deeper joy and
thankfulness, for I have always had a mother's love for you."


Loses her damn mind.

Elsie felt bewildered, almost stunned. "I--I'm afraid you--he has
misunderstood me; it--it must be as papa says," she stammered; "I
cannot decide it for myself, I have no right."


I also don't recall any scenes between Elsie and Mrs. Carrington. And I just read those books! You were here! So I'm not sure if I'm supposed to treat that "love as a mother" thing as silly hyperbole or honest-to-god truth. But we do get one genuinely almost-good bit:

"I hardly dare ask him for you, it seems like such presumption in a--a
cripple like me."

"Don't say that, Herbert. Would you love me less if I should become
lame or ill?"


Thank you, Elsie. That was your most human moment since you quit being sympathetic on account of being a little kid. We'll end there, because it's so rare we get to end on a positive note while reading Elsie Dinsmore.

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