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Something just moved under the bed.

It moves again.

Rolling to the edge, you slooooowly peer under.

Rose and Daddy D realize they've got a contender for the most unromantic scene possible, and Daddy D is most offended.

"The most absurd nonsense! the most ridiculously provoking affair!
Herbert Carrington asking me to give him my daughter! I don't wonder
at your astonished look, Rose; a couple of silly children. I should
have given either of them credit for more sense."


I'm always taken aback when the characters and I agree on anything. Luckily on this one we part again as soon as we meet. I wouldn't have given Elsie credit for more sense, given her never mentioning Arthur's multiple attacks on her person. Whoever-he-is over there can't have much credit either.

"It has certainly taken me very much by surprise," said Rose, smiling.
"I cannot realize that Elsie is grown up enough to be beginning with
such things; yet you know she has passed her fifteenth birthday,
and that half the girls about here become engaged before they are
sixteen."


Ah, the good old days!

And as for myself, though much too young to marry, I was a year
older than this Herbert Carrington; and I was in sound and vigorous
health, while he, poor fellow, is sadly crippled, and likely always
to be an invalid, and very unlikely to live to so much as see his
majority. Do you think I ought for a moment to contemplate allowing
Elsie to sacrifice herself to him?"


Wow. This kid is like... Tiny Tim, only not as cute. In this light the scene where Elsie runs off to confess her sin, leaving him lying there for "the boys" to help back, is just cold.

"If she were five or six years older, I should say yes to that; but
girls of her age are not fit to choose a companion for life; taste
and judgment are not matured, and the man who pleases them now may be
utterly repugnant to them in after years. Is not that so?"


This is dreadfully ironic when we recall Elsie will be yoked to Travilla, although otherwise perfectly true. Anyway, Elsie is called home and is asked if she'll obey, to which she throws this at my poor tired brain:

"My father's daughter would never dare to do otherwise," replied
Elsie, smiling; "though I hope I should not, if I did dare."

So Elsie still fears her father very much on some level. That's... not surprising at all.

He was on the veranda, watching for her. Lifting her from her horse,
he led her into his study. Then putting an arm about her waist, his
other hand under her chin so that her blushing, downcast face was
fully exposed to his gaze, "What does all this mean?" he asked. "Look
up into my face and tell me if it is really true that you want me to
give you away? if it is possible that you love that boy better than
your father?"


This really does not help with the incestuous vibes that keep sneaking in and out of sight in these things. The book conflates all kinds of love into one big unhappy mass, and then demands they be prioritized. Feelings for a parent aren't the same as feelings for a lover, but in Finley's books they fill the exact same emotional niche. Eventually, one is passe' and is popped out and another dropped in, that one expected to stay until death.

She lifted her eyes as he bade her, but dropped them again instantly;
then as he finished his sentence, "Oh, no, no, papa! not half so well;
how could you think it?" she cried, throwing her arms about his neck,
and hiding her face on his breast.

"Ah, is that so?" he said, with a low, gleeful laugh, as he held her
close to his heart. "But he says you accepted him on condition that
papa would give consent, that you owned you cared for him."


The gleeful laugh is the creepy part. Yes, Daddy D., revel that a sick child has not managed to unseat you!

Weirdo.

"And so I do, papa; I've always loved him as if he were my brother;
and I'm so sorry for all he suffers, that I would do anything I could
to make him happy."

I thought like this once! ...I was dumb. Anyway, Elsie can't save him, his... hip is killing him? And she's got nothing against that. So how she's going to make him happy is a bit confusing. But we have never let this stop us before. Onward!

"Ah, papa, he said it would kill him if you did."

"I don't believe it; people don't die so easily. And I have several
reasons for my refusal, each one of which would be quite sufficient of
itself. But you just acknowledged to me that you don't love him at all
as you ought. Why, my child, when you meet the right person you will
find that your love for him is far greater than what you feel for me."


This is not how people work! I can well believe that Daddy D. loves Rose more than all his family put together. He doesn't even care if they climb into a runaway carriage or not. That doesn't mean that everyone in the whole freakin' world is that dysfunctional.

So Daddy D. forbids the marriage.

"Dear papa, be kind to him for my sake," she murmured softly, putting
her arm about his neck again. "He is such a sufferer, so patient and
good, and it quite makes my heart ache to think how grievously your
refusal will pain him."

"My own sweet child! always unselfish, always concerned for the
happiness of others," thought the father as he looked down into the
pleading face; but he only stroked her hair, and kissed her more
tenderly than before, saying, "I shall try to be as kind as
circumstances will allow, daughter. You shall read the letter when it
is done, and if you think it is not kind enough it shall not be sent."

And they almost reach semi-likeability and... normalcy. (Besides that even more tender kissing.) We are so close! Daddy D. decrees that the two lovebirds (one and a half, really, since Elsie's love is not committed,) should be kept apart. Whoever-he-is (I'm not kidding, there are three occasional male H-names in this and I can't remember them well) can't sleep and can't even climb out of bed the next day, so he talks to Daddy D:

"I can't help it. I've loved her ever since I first saw her, and that
was before I was five years old."

"Well, I don't object to a brotherly affection, and when you can tone
it down to that, shall not forbid occasional intercourse.


Finley's work is sort of drifting in and out of the mists of skeeviness, but suddenly the freighter of unpredicted lingual shifts bears down on it from nowhere. Abandon ship!

And now, with the best wishes for your health and happiness, I must
bid you good-bye."

"Good-bye, sir; and thank you for your kindness in coming," the boy
answered with a quivering lip. Then, turning to his mother, as Mr.
Dinsmore left the room, "I shall never get over it," he said. "I shall
not live long, and I don't want to; life without her isn't worth
having."


How many people have died of broken hearts or come near it, now? Finley has a very strange view of the world, where you love important people consecutively and then keel over as soon as they become unattainable or distant.

Her heart ached for him, but she answered cheerily: "Why, my dear
child, don't be so despondent; I think you may take hope and courage
from some things that Mr. Dinsmore said. It is quite in your favor
that he will not allow Elsie to receive proposals from any one at
present, for who knows but, by the time he considers her old enough,
you may be well and strong."


Little does she know that we are in Finley-verse, where love is a bargaining chip and illness is a manifestation of the plot.

Mrs. Carrington's words had a very different effect from what she
intended. The next time Herbert saw his physician, he insisted so
strongly on knowing exactly what he might look forward to that there
was no evading the demand; and on learning that he was hopelessly
crippled for life, he sank into a state of utter despondency, and from
that moment grew rapidly worse, failing visibly day by day.


Oh, nice, Finley. Make the mother have an unintentional hand in her son's psychic suicide. Meanwhile, back at the Dinsmore plantation surrounded by slaves of the Dinsmores, Enna brings the news:

Enna straightened herself and smoothed out her dress
with a very consequential air. "In the first place Arthur has been
found out in his evil courses; he's been betting and gambling till
he's got himself over head and ears in debt. Papa was so angry, I
almost thought he would kill him. But he seemed to cool down after
he'd paid off the debt... Arthur seems to be mad at you; he says that
you could have saved him from being found out, but didn't choose to,
and some day he'll have his revenge. Now, what was it you did, or didn't
do?"

"He wanted money, and I refused to lend it because papa had forbidden
me."

"You're good at minding, and always were," was Enna's sneering
comment. "No, I'll take that back; I forgot that time when you nearly
died rather than mind."


Enna has very strange priorities. Arthur has evil courses! Not that one time he tried to kill Elsie, the gambling. Arthur's vowed revenge, but that's not important to Enna either. Elsie's bad for minding! Elsie's bad for not minding that time Enna doesn't care about because there was that time her brother almost died because of Elsie!*

"Herbert Carrington is very ill; not confined to his bed, but failing
very fast. The doctors advised them to take him from home; because
they said they thought he had something on his mind, and taking him
into new scenes might help him to forget it. They think he's not
likely to live long anyhow, but that is the last hope. His mother and
Lucy started North with him this morning."


All the dope had to do was get infatuated with a beautiful girl of poor family. Anyway, this risks being martyrdom fodder, although it manages to steer passibly into survivor's guilt instead:

"Oh, papa," she sobbed, "I feel as if I had done it--as if I had
killed him."

"Darling, he is not past hope; he may recover, and in any event
not the slightest blame belongs to you. I have taken the whole
responsibility upon my shoulders."

She gave him a somewhat relieved and very grateful look, and he went
on: "And even if I had allowed you to decide the matter for yourself,
you would have done what was your duty in refusing to promise to
belong to one whom you love less than you love your father."


Oh right. DUTY UBER ALLES. Forgot to pound that home until now, did we? And once again the picture of marriage drawn for child readers is an ugly one.

Some months later there came news of Herbert's death. Elsie's grief
was deep and lasting. She sorrowed as she might have done for the loss
of a very dear brother; while added to that was a half-remorseful
feeling which reason could not control or entirely relieve; and it was
long ere she was quite her own bright, gladsome sunny self again.


So whoever that is, he passes from the books. We spend more time discussing the impact of his death on Elsie than we do his death. We require new previously unmentioned minor characters!

"A half-sister of my own mother. She was the daughter of my maternal
grandfather by his first wife, my mother was the child of the second,
and there were some five or ten years between them. Aunt Wealthy never
married, would never live with any of her relatives, but has always
kept up a cosey little establishment of her own."

Yes, she is actually named Wealthy. Finley seems to have had her "the hell with it" moments with this little project too. Anyway, Miss Wealthy is A Character, and very nearly makes it except she's formed by a handful of "eccentric" traits tacked together.

"...she has an odd way of transposing her sentences and the names
of those she addresses or introduces, or calling them by some other
name suggested by some association with the real one. Miss Bell, for
instance, she would probably call Miss Ring; Mr. Foot, Mr. Shoe, and
so on."


That being one of them.

And so we go to Ohio, in the North, a place full of cultural differences and a striking lack of slavery. But the book's lone black character has suited up already and raced ahead to go play dialect-speaking servant to the Wealthy household. In fact, he or she is pretending to be a couple of dialect-speaking servants of color. What a prankster! One of the people taken in is Lottie. Are we going to like Lottie? Let's have a look at her:

"Of course I'm wonderfully clever, considering that I don't at all
enjoy a drive in this sweet morning air, and aint in a bit of a hurry
to see your beautiful young heiress and her papa. Net wonders at my
audacity in venturing to face them alone; but I tell her I'm too
staunch a republican to quail before any amount of wealth or
consequence, and if Mr. and Miss Dinsmore see fit to turn up their
aristocratic noses at me, why--I'll just return the compliment."


Spoiler: she's nowhere near as interesting as she starts off being. Anyway, Elsie and Daddy D. arrive and promptly fail to recognize the lone black character. The LBC probably has a lot of fun with these people.

"Oh, what a pretty place, and what a quaint-looking little old lady on
its porch!" Elsie presently cried out. "See, papa!"

"Yes, that's Aunt Wealthy, and doesn't she make a picture standing
there under the vines in her odd dress?" said Miss King, driving up to
the gate. "She's the very oddest, and the very dearest and sweetest
little old lady in the world."

See, if Lottie had been interesting, she'd have found a way to step on Elsie's foot for that. We have a look at Wealthy to see how she appears. She comes across as a hot senior:

Certainly, Aunt Wealthy was no slave to fashion. The tyrannical dame
at that time prescribed gaiter boots, a plain pointed waist and
straight skirt, worn very long and full. Miss Stanhope wore a full
waist made with a yoke and belt, a gored skirt, extremely scant, and
so short as to afford a very distinct view of a well-turned ankle and
small, shapely foot encased in snowy stocking and low-heeled black kid
slipper. The material of her dress was chintz--white ground with a
tiny brown figure--finished at the neck with a wide white ruffle; she
had black silk mitts on her hands, and her hair, which was very gray
was worn in a little knot almost on the top of her head, and one
thick, short curl, held in place by a puff-comb, on each side of her
face.

Woah! Well-turned ankles! Either she's got nice calves or she's wearing two casts. The scant gored skirt makes me think of zombie chic. I like to imagine her thick short curl just behind her topknot like an elderly mohawk cut. Besides those, if that helped you picture her, you're better off than me.

Also, I keep complaining about the dialect. Have a small sample of what I'm up against:

"...Hark! what dat?"

I don't remember anyone saying "hark" before, so its sudden appearance is like the lone black character briefly forgot where his or her acting was not on a stage. It does explain a lot if the LBC is an actor, although I hadn't expected the LBC to be a Shakespearean actor. Anyway, nothing worth reporting happens for quite some time, besides Wealthy comically mixing up people's names and explaining the joke again once in case we missed it.

We cut to Walter, who is being who we remembered him to be:

"Dear me! I'm awfully afraid he's gone back to his evil courses, as
father says," muttered Walter Dinsmore to himself, as the door closed
upon his reckless elder brother. "I wonder what I ought to do about
it," he continued, leaning his head upon his hand, with a worried,
irresolute look; "ought I to report to the governor? No, I shan't,
there then; I don't know anything, and I never will be a sneak or a
tell-tale." And he drew the light nearer, returned to his book with
redoubled diligence for some ten or fifteen minutes more; then,
pushing it hastily aside, with a sigh of relief, started up, threw off
his clothes, blew out the light, and tumbled into bed.


A gormless little worm who is probably going to fail his next test.

Meanwhile Arthur had stolen noiselessly from the college, and pursued
his way into the heart of the town. On turning a corner he came
suddenly upon another young man who seemed to have been waiting for
him; simply remarking, "You're late to-night, Dinsmore," he faced
about in the same direction, and the two walked on together.


It's a good thing he was explained to turn, or I'd imagine him walking backward.

"Of course; but how can a fellow help it when he's obliged to watch
his opportunity till the Argus eyes are closed in sleep, or supposed
to be so?" grumbled Arthur.

Who is he worried will watch him? We know it's not Walter.

"My chances! You win everything from me, Jackson. I'm a lame duck
now, and if my luck doesn't soon begin to turn, I'll--do something
desperate, I believe."

The lad's tone was bitter, his look reckless and half despairing.


Yes, this is setting up that they are both heartless rogues and Jackson is the gambler that Arthur is always indebted to. The only way this is at all interesting is if someone is in the background writing Jackson/Arthur slash. Surprisingly, this will get more interesting. You still have to bring your own slash though. We head off to an opulent gambling-hall populated by rich people. Finley spends a huge amount of time telling us how lush the place is, wasting a lot of effort on a set we'll never see again.

Arthur took possession of a velvet-cushioned chair on one side of an
elegant marble-topped table, his companion placing himself in another
directly opposite. Here, seated in the full blaze of the gas-light,
each face was brought out into strong relief. Both were young, both
handsome; Jackson, who was Arthur's senior by five or six years,
remarkably so; yet his smile was sardonic, and there was often a
sinister expression in his keen black eye as its glance fell upon his
victim, for such Arthur Dinsmore was--no match for his cunning and
unscrupulous antagonist, who was a gambler by profession.


Also, later we will be kind of impressed that Finley is able to build him up to have any kind of aptitude for anything. But for this scene we will cut to the chase:

Jackson chuckled inwardly, the game went on, and at length Arthur
found all his gains suddenly swept away and himself many thousands of
dollars in debt.

A ghastly pallor overspread his face, he threw himself back in his
chair with a groan, then starting up with a bitter laugh, "Well, I see
only one way out of this," he said. "A word in your ear, Tom; come
along with me. I've lost and you won enough for one night; haven't we,
eh?"


Well, Arthur has a plan! Later Finley says he was drunk and wouldn't have suggested this otherwise, but, well, you have a look.

"Suppose I could put you in the way of marrying a fortune, would you
hold me quit of all your claims against me?"

"H'm, that would depend upon the success of the scheme."

"And that upon your own coolness and skill. I think I've heard you
spoken of as a woman-killer?"

Uh. Finley, the expression is "ladykiller." It's an important distinction, although I'm sure Arthur would hire a hitman if he could find one.

"Ha, ha! Yes, I flatter myself that I have won some reputation in that
line, and that not a few of the dear creatures have been very fond of
me. It's really most too bad to break their soft little hearts; but
then a man can't marry 'em all; unless he turns Mormon."

Arthur's lips curled with scorn and contempt, and he half turned away
in disgust and aversion; but remembering that he was in the power
of this man, whom, too late, alas! he was discovering to be an
unscrupulous villain,


"You're a ladykiller! YOU LOATHSOME BEAST." Also, he's only just now figuring out that Jackson is a bit of a jerk?

"No, not I, and don't fancy doing so either, yet I own that a fortune
would be a strong temptation. But, I say, lad, if it's a great chance,
why do you hand it over to me? Why not try for it yourself? It's not
your sister, surely?"


Finley. Finley, stop doing that.

"No, indeed; you're not precisely the sort of brother-in-law I should
choose," returned the boy, with a bitter, mocking laugh. "But stay,
don't be insulted"--for his companion had drawn himself up with an air
of offended pride--"the lady in question is but a step farther from
me; she is my brother's daughter."

"Eh! you don't say? A mere child, then, I presume."

"Eighteen, handsome as a picture, as the saying is, and only too
sweet-tempered for my taste."


See, they have a love/hate thing going on. Also, Finley? "Pretty as a picture." You can stop laughing at Aunt Wealthy if you're going to constantly get words wrong too. Also, when did Elsie turn eighteen? Wait, has Arthur been at college for two years? Jackson makes slightly more sense, but not much else does.

"Yes, he's one of the richest men in our county, but she has a fortune
in her own right, over a million at the very lowest computation."

I have no idea why it's such a bad thing that she marry a man with a bad hip, then. If she's got that much money, it's not like she'll need him to provide for her. But that was a huge objection by her father... whatever. Moving on!

You wonder that I should be so willing to help you to get her. Well,
I owe her a grudge, I see no other way to get out of your clutches, and
I shall put you in the way of making her acquaintance only on condition
that if you succeed we share the spoils."


Yes, Arthur. That is so likely to happen. Also, his idea of paying Elsie for not loaning him money is getting her married to a rogue at a time when a woman's property becomes her husband's on marriage and divorce doesn't exist. Maybe this is a wee bit out of proportion?

"Agreed. Now for the modus operandi. You tell me her whereabouts and
provide me with a letter of introduction, eh?"

"No; on the contrary, you are carefully to conceal the fact that you
have the slightest knowledge of me. The introduction must come from
quite another quarter. Listen, and I'll communicate the facts and
unfold my plan. It has been running in my head for weeks, ever since I
heard that the girl was to spend the summer in the North with nobody
but an old maiden aunt, half-cracked at that, to keep guard over her;
but I couldn't quite make up my mind to it till to-night, for you must
see, Tom," he added with a forced laugh, "that it can't be exactly
delightful to my family pride to think of bringing such a dissipated
fellow as you into the connection."

"Better look at home, lad..."


Oooh, burn. Arthur's earlier sneer just got outclassed, too. But how will they get a letter introducing Tom into society? Arthur hits on a notion that's so interesting that Tom briefly loses his grasp of English:

"Can you imitate the chirography of others?" he asked.

"Perfectly, if I do say it that shouldn't."

"Then we can manage it. My brother Walter has kept up a correspondence
with this niece ever since he left home...It just flashed on me at once
that a letter of introduction from her would be the very thing to put
you at once on a footing of intimacy in Miss Stanhope's house; and that
if you were good at imitating handwriting we might manage it by means of
a note ... I received from Mrs. Waters some time ago, and which, as good
luck would have it, I threw into my table drawer instead of destroying..."

"...Good! have you the note about you?"


No, Tom. That is a stupid question, he just said it was in a table. Why would he carry his old mail around?

"Yes, here it is." And Arthur drew it from his pocket.

Was I just outsmarted by Tom Jackson? Or was I out-stupided by Arthur? From here we go to Elsie and her father parting. We learn that they literally have not been apart in years.

She could not keep back her tears as she hung about his neck on
parting. "Ah, papa, how can I do without you for weeks and months?"
she sighed.

"Or I without you, my darling?" he responded, straining her to his
breast.


*image of Elsie as a spilled bowl of potato soup goes here*

Anyway, Aunt Wealthy proves to be an utter nuisance:

"..,.that's a particular hobby of the dear old
body's; two or three times in a season she goes around to all the
stores, and buys up the most of their stock; they save the best of
them for her, and always know what she's after the moment she shows
her pleasant face. She gives them away, generally, to the minister's
wife, telling her the largest are to be made into dresses for her
little girls; and the poor lady is often in great tribulation, not
knowing how to get the dresses out of such small patterns, and afraid
to put them to any other use, lest Miss Stanhope should feel hurt or
offended..."


Ha ha! What a character! We learn how Elsie is protected by her father when they discuss sewing after Elsie gives them a sewing-machine:

"Thank you, dearie, but I didn't suppose plain sewing was among your
accomplishments."

"Mamma says I am quite a good needle-woman," Elsie replied with a
smile and a blush, "and if I am not it is no fault of hers. She took
great pains to teach me. I cut out a shirt for papa once, and made
every stitch of it myself."

"And she can run the machine too," said Lottie, "though her papa won't
let her do so for more than half an hour at a time, lest she should
hurt herself."


Pretty hilarious considering this is probably around the time of the Mill Girl. Doubtless the modern Elsie can't drive a car. The lone black character interrupts to say a gentleman caller has arrived with a letter.

"What's his name, auntie?" asked Lottie, as the old lady refolded the
letter and took off her glasses.

"Bromly Egerton; quite romantic, isn't it? Excuse me for a few
minutes, dears; I must go and see what he wants."


Ooh! Bromly Egerton! A name to conjure with.

"Yes, I had offers, and one of them I accepted," replied Aunt Wealthy,
with a slight sigh, while a shade of sadness stole over her usually
happy face, "but my friends interfered and the match was broken off.
Don't follow my example, children, but marry if the right one comes
along."

"Surely you don't mean if our parents refuse their consent, auntie?"
Elsie's tone spoke both surprise and disapproval.

"No, no, child! It is to those who keep the fifth commandment God
promises long life and prosperity."


Nice work, Elsie, suddenly trampling all over her romantic moment. Anyway, it's been a while since we've had a sudden outbreak of skeeviness in our wholesome books. So let's have a huge one as Bromly goes to get a room from Mrs. Schilling!

As he stood at the window, taking note of this, a young girl appeared
at the one opposite. For one minute he had a distinct view of her face
as she stood there and put out her hand to gather a blossom from the
vine that had festooned itself so gracefully over the window.

He uttered an exclamation of delighted surprise, and turning to his
companion asked, "Who is she?"

"Miss Dinsmore, Miss Stanhope's niece. She's here on a visit to her
aunt. She's from the South, and worth a mint of money, they say. Aint
she handsome though? handsome as a picture?"

"Posh! handsome doesn't begin to express it! Why, she's angelic! But
there! she's gone!" And he drew a long breath as he turned away.

"You'd better conclude to take this room if you like to look at her,"
artfully suggested Mrs. Schilling. "That's her bedroom window, and
she's often at it. Besides, you can see the whole front of Miss
Stanhope's place from here, and watch all the comings and goings o'
the girls--Miss Dinsmore, and Miss Nettie and Lottie King."


And for just ten dollars a day, she will loan you her binoculars. For twenty she'll sneak over there and rearrange the curtains.

The book sort of drags on for a bit, with the joke of Wealthy and names once more dragged out and flogged. Bromly begins to charm Elsie, inveigling himself into the company of her and whoever those other two girls that are always hanging around (one is Lottie, but her sister gets very little screen time.) Then we get:

A more voluptuous woman would have suited him better. Elsie's very
purity made her distasteful to him, his own character seeming so much
blackened by contrast that at times he could but loathe and despise
himself.


Once again, appearance and goodness are intrinsically linked. And now we know Elsie is an A-cup.

For a while he greatly feared that he had a more dangerous rival at a
distance; for, watching from his windows, he saw that every morning
Simon brought one or more letters from the post, and that Elsie was
usually on the front porch awaiting his coming; that she would often
come flying across the lawn, meet her messenger at the gate, and
snatching her letter with eager, joyful haste, rush back to the house
with it, and disappear within the doorway. Then frequently he would
see her half an hour later looking so rosy and happy, that he could
hardly hope her correspondent was other than an accepted lover.

For weeks he tormented himself with this idea; the more convinced that
he was right in his conjecture, because she almost always posted her
reply with her own hands, when going out for her daily walk, or sent
it by her faithful Chloe; but one day, venturing a jest upon the
subject, she answered him, with a merry laugh, "Ah, you are no
Yankee, Mr. Egerton, to make such a guess as that! I have a number of
correspondents, it is true; but the daily letter I am so eager for
comes from my father."


A big ol' flashing "RUN AWAY!" sign for any lover, oh yes.

"You must be extremely strict Sabbath-keepers."

"We are, but not more so than the Bible teaches that we should be."


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Nice try, Elsie. In case we missed the creepy undertones the first time around, Finley hammers us again:

"I beg your pardon," he said; "but to go back to the letters, how
can you fill one every day to your father? I can imagine that lovers
might, in writing to each other, but fathers and daughters would not
be apt to indulge in that sort of nonsense."

"But Mr. Dinsmore and Elsie are no common father and daughter,"
remarked Lottie, who had not spoken for the last ten minutes.


If only she'd kept that up. They find that Aunt Wealthy has a surprise on hand if they cross her:

"Why, just look here, child, what a hole I have made in this! It had
got an ink-stain on it, and Phillis had put one of Harry's new shirts
into a tin basin, and iron-rusted it; so I thought I would try some
citric acid on them both; and I did; but probably made it too strong,
and this is how it served the apron."


Who lets the dotty woman have a large supply of citric acid!? The plot advances along other lines before it can follow the adventures of Aunt Wealthy and her canister of caustic. Elsie is invited to one of Mrs. Schilling's shindigs. Early in the book the first time around I ran into a mention of Elsie living to make other people happy. I missed it the second time and I'm not going back even for you, so you'll have to take my word for it. But let's hear about this party from one of the Schilling children:

...She's goin' to have nuts, and candies, and things to hand round, and
you'd better come. I hope that pretty lady will," in a stage whisper,
bending toward Miss Stanhope, as she spoke, and nodding at Elsie.


Well, we know Elsie goes to parties even if she doesn't do anything once she's there, so she can graciously accept-

"Aunt Wealthy, you can't want me to go there!" cried Elsie, as the
child passed out of hearing. "Why, the woman is not a lady, and I am
sure papa would be very unwilling to have me make an associate of her.
He is very particular about such matters."

"She is not educated or very refined, it is true, my child; and I must
acknowledge is a little silly, too; but she is a clever, kind-hearted
woman, a member of the same church with myself, and a near neighbor
whom I should feel sorry to hurt; and I am sure she would be much hurt
if you should stay away, and deeply gratified by your attendance at
her little party."


Like Wealthy can throw stones about people being silly. And since Elsie doesn't know she's being used as a selling-point for Mrs. Schilling's window views, she's basically saying Schilling isn't a lady because she's not in Elsie's social class.

The ladies were just leaving the dinner-table, when Mrs. Schilling
came rushing in. "Oh, excuse my informality in not waiting to ring,
Miss Stanhope; but I'm in the biggest kind of a hurry. I've just put
up my mind to make some sponge-cake for to-night, and I thought I'd
best run over and get your prescription; you always have so much
better luck than me. I don't know whether it's all in the luck though,
or whether it's partly the difference in prescriptions--I know some
follows one, and some another--and so, if you'll let me have yours,
I'll be a thousand times obliged."


See, the sudden appearance of this woman in their home, uninvited and unannounced, would be a lot more of a social error if Lucy and Travilla weren't constantly poofing out of nowhere. I would hate to live in this time period; I'd be hitting people in the face with thrown objects until they learned to knock.

"I wonder she cares to make a party when she must do all the work of
preparing for it herself," said Elsie, looking after her as she sped
across the lawn.


Elsie, weren't you recently shoving a cook aside in her kitchen for the fun of making things and in case you ever needed to do without servants?

"She is strong and healthy, and used to work; and doubtless feels
that it will be some honor and glory to be able to boast of having
entertained the Southern heiress who is visiting Lansdale," Miss
Stanhope answered in a half-jesting tone.


Because Elsie is just that special. In case anyone liked her, Elsie throws in her views on the role of sex and gender when Lottie compliments her hair:

"It is so beautiful!" continued Lottie, passing her hand caressingly
over it; "and so is its wearer. Oh, if I were only a gentleman!"

"You don't wish it," said Elsie, laughing. "I don't believe a real,
womanly woman ever does."


Omniscient Elsie will not hear of the possibility of non-binary sex. What is a "real womanly woman?" Are there aliens seeding the planet with imitation womenly women? Is there a difference between a real woman and a womanly woman? Whatever they are, we learn one fact about them, namely that womenly women can't do their hair or dress themselves:

"No, I own that I have never so much as put on my own shoes and
stockings," Elsie answered with a blush, really mortified at the
thought.


So Real Womenly Women must not exist anymore. We're not going to explore True Womanhood right now. We need to go to a party! Maybe we will have more fun there! Unless we are Mrs. Schilling, because suddenly we will descend into catty social hell.

"Yes," said Mrs. Schilling, looking over her shoulder, "I quite agree
in that sentiment. Indeed, she's my favorite author."

"Who?" asked Mr. Egerton.

"Anon."

"Ah! does she write much for that periodical?" he asked, with assumed
gravity.


And we will stay here until we learn to obey.

"Miss Stanhope, do you know there's a sculpture in town? and
what do you think? He wants to make a basque relief out o' one o' them
photographs of my 'Lijah. But I don't know as I'll let him. Would
you?"

A smile trembled about the corners of Elsie's lips, and she carefully
avoided the glance of Lottie's eyes, which she knew were dancing with
fun, while there was a half-suppressed titter from the girls at the
table.


Accepting someone's hospitality to laugh at them is pretty cheap. We should have known we can't expect better from Elsie, who last book crashed someone else's party entirely to watch them eat.

"What sort of looking creature is a sculpture, Mrs. Schilling?" asked
Mr. Egerton.

"Excuse me; there's some more company coming," she answered, hurrying
from the room.


Ouch. Poor thing. She deserves something for using a chance to break into Elsie's privacy as a selling-point, but it's not this kind of social humiliation. I have the nagging feeling that Finley is punishing her for rising above her station to invite all these high-society people.

Then the refreshments were brought in; first, several
kinds of cake--the sponge and the farmers' fruit-cake, made after Miss
Stanhope's prescription, as Mrs. Schilling informed her guests, and
one or two other sorts. Elsie declined them all, saying that she never
ate anything in the evening.


Hunh. There's a good chance Daddy D. has given her an eating disorder.

"Oh, now that's too bad, Miss Dinsmore! do take a little bit of
something," urged her hostess; "I shall feel real hurt if you don't;
it looks just as if you didn't think my victuals good enough for you
to eat."

"Indeed you must not think that," replied Elsie, blushing deeply.
"Your cake looks very nice, but I always decline evening refreshments;
and that solely because of the injury it would be to my health to
indulge in them."


"It looks pretty, but how do I know it's not bad for me?" Around her, party-goers fail to keel over and die. Anyway, Mrs. Schilling offers trail mix in a bucket next... candy and raisins and such. Lottie, of course, mocks the bucket. She's the one who started off refusing to be impressed by rich people and their fancy ways. Nice.

"Now, Miss Dinsmore, you won't refuse to try a few of these?" she
said persuasively, as she neared their corner, "I shall be real
disappointed if you do."


Elsie, of course, does not. Screw you, hostesses! We're reading Elsie Dinsmore!

"I am very sorry to decline your kind offer, even more for my own
sake than yours," returned Elsie, laughing and blushing; "for I am
extremely fond of confectionery; but I must say no, thank you."

"Mr. Egerton, do you think 'twas because my cakes and things wasn't
good enough for her that she wouldn't taste 'em?" asked his landlady,
in an aggrieved tone, as the last of the guests departed.


That's the conclusion anyone would have drawn. And I feel for her, having recently been hostess and having no one take anything. I felt very bad afterward. And my guests didn't make fun of me.

"Poor Mrs. Sixpence," Lottie King was saying to her sister at that
moment, "she whispered to me that though her party had gone off so
splendidly, she had had two great disappointments,--in Mr. Wert's
absenting himself, and the refusal of the Southern heiress to so much
as taste her carefully prepared dainties."

Elsie is not here to bring happiness to others indiscriminately. Elsie is here to bring happiness to the Right Sort. If you are a not a lady, you are not worth Elsie's goodness. We're teaching morality here, after all.

Next chapter.

In mental power, education, good looks, courtly manners, and general
information Mr. Egerton was decidedly superior to any of the young men
resident in Lansdale; and of this fact no one was better aware than,
himself.


Sad. If he's superior in mental power, I don't think they can get their shoes on without help. Maybe this compensates by making them Real Manly Men. Jackson pretends to be converted by Elsie to Christianity and writes Arthur that it's all very tiresome and he won't put up with it once they are married.

Arthur Dinsmore's face darkened as he read, and in a sudden burst of
fury he tore the letter into fragments, then threw them into the empty
grate. He was not yet so hardened as to feel willing to see Elsie in
the power of such a heartless wretch, such a villain as he knew Tom
Jackson to be. Many times already had he bitterly repented of having
told him of her wealth, and helped him to an acquaintance with her.
His family pride revolted against the connection, and some latent
affection for his niece prompted him to save her from the life of
misery that must be hers as the wife of one so utterly devoid of honor
or integrity.


This is some latent affection, all right. Battering her? Fine! Killing her? Okay! Marrying her to Tom Jackson? Utter villainry!!!1 He writes Bromly that it just won't work and Elsie's dad will figure him out. What? Well, I guess the doppelgangers were still around. Bye Arthur!

We move from the dwindling ranks of the Dinsmore family to two unknown men standing around. One is revealed as Travilla, while the other is his old friend Beresford, who we have never seen. They discuss Beresford's son, who we have also never seen but is fallen prey to a dissipated lifestyle. For three days the kid goes missing, and then this:

While on their way to the city Mr. Beresford explained that, for some
time past, he had had reason to fear that his son was frequenting one
of its gambling-hells; that thus far he had failed in his efforts to
gain admittance, in order to search for him; but to-day, a professed
gambler, well known in the house; had come to him and offered his
assistance.

Aw, gamblers can be nice people! Anyway, Beresford sees his son and tells Travilla.

At the same instant the young man's face grew deadly pale, he started
up with a wild, ringing cry, "I am ruined!" drew a pistol from his
breast, and placed the muzzle to his mouth.

But Mr. Travilla, springing forward, struck it from his hand ere he
could pull the trigger.

This causes "much excitement and confusion," although given how Finley characterizes gamblers, they wouldn't react much. They just look up briefly and return to scamming innocent rich boys, I'm sure. Travilla passes on from this scene to visit Elsie. Bromly comes across them:

Mr. Travilla had one of those faces that often seem to come to a
stand-still as regards age, and to scarcely know any change for many
years. He was at this time thirty-four, but would have passed readily
for twenty-five. Egerton thought him no more than that, and at once
took him for a successful rival.


Because it'd be creepy if he looked his age while courting Elsie?

I have nothing against May-December romances. At this point she is now legal. But he was flirting with her when she was a little girl, talking marriage a few years later, and kissing her on the lips at sixteen. Not the same as if they'd only just met.

But she stopped in astonishment and dismay. Mr. Travilla had risen,
and the two stood confronting each other like mortal foes.

Mr. Travilla was the first to speak. "I have met you before, sir!" he
said with stern indignation.


No! Not met him!

"Indeed! that must be a mistake, sir, for upon my word and honor I
never set eyes on you before."

"Your honor! the honor of a sharper, a black-leg, a ----"


Quick, guys! What four-letter word did Travilla just call Egerton right in front of Elsie?

"Sir, do you mean to insult me? by what right do you apply such
epithets to me? Pray where did you ever meet me?"

"In a gambling-hell in Cincinnati; the time, one week ago to-night;
the occasion, the playing of a game of cards between young Beresford
and yourself in which you were the winner--by what knavery you best
know--the stakes so heavy that, on perceiving that he had lost,
the young man cried out that he was ruined, and in his mad despair
attempted self-destruction. It is quite possible that you may not have
observed me in the crowd that gathered about your wretched victim; but
I can never forget the face of the man who had wrought his ruin."


So the smartest youth in town and one of the bestest gamblers around can't wear a false frickin' moustache while he pursues his evil ways under a separate identity. What a letdown. Time to let them sit until we want to read Elsie Dinsmore again.



*Hee.

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