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You drift slowly out of strange dreams of paper plates and frankenbrows to the delicious smell of crepes!


So after more painful casual racism and many pages of nothing, we have the return of Bromly Egerton!

Elsie, do you know the handwriting of this?"

"No, papa, it is quite strange to me," she answered, taking the letter
he held out to her, and which bore her name and address on the back,
and examining it critically.

"And the post-mark tells you nothing either?"

"No, sir; I cannot quite make it out, but it doesn't seem to be any
place where I have a correspondent."


Yes, he did just send a letter to her house. No, he does not seem to have thought about why that would work this time. Yes, he does know that her family practically puts her under armed guard when tipped off. Yes, that does make it harder to impossible for him to somehow coincidentally meet her. It was never explained why he constantly wrote to Arthur with tell-all updates complete with revealing pseudonym. Perhaps it's just a compulsion of his.

"You have not looked at that yet," her father said, seeing her take it
up as they rose from the table. "You may do so now. I wish to know who
the writer is. Don't read it till you have found that out," he added,
leading her to a sofa in the next room, and making her sit down there,
while he stood by her side.


He stands ready to defend her should the letter try to kiss her lips! Elsie reads the signature and of course denies herself the letter.

"...But, Elsie, do you not see now that he
is quite capable of imitating the handwriting of another?"

"Yes, papa; but that does not prove that he did in the case you refer
to."


Got the brain of her father, that girl. Bromly's ineptitude denies him any progress and risks him losing more stock in Elsie's eyes. Daddy D. comforts Elsie, as usual.

"Ah, you do not like to hear a word against him!" he sighed; "I can't
bear to think it, and yet I fear you care more for him than for me,
your own father, who almost idolizes you. Is it so?"

"Papa," she murmured, winding her arms about his neck, and laying
her head on his breast, "if I may have but one of you, I could never
hesitate for a moment to choose to cling here where I have been so
long and tenderly cherished. I know what your love is,--I might be
mistaken and deceived in another. And besides, God commands me to
honor and obey you."

He held her close to his heart for a moment, as something too dear and
precious ever to be given up to another...


And the subtext is once more ready to break out into text.

"Oh, here you are!" cried a girlish voice as they turned into a shaded
walk leading to the house. "I've been looking everywhere and am
glad to have found you at last. Really, if a body didn't know your
relationship, he or she might almost imagine you a pair of lovers."

And the subtext is once more text.

Witchy Enna is materialistic and greedy, but she's also semi-tolerable for a while until it's Be A Foil to Elsie time, when she suddenly turns an even jader hue and her pointy hat falls forward with her wild cackling. The only semi-interesting thing is that she has learned Elsie fell in love with a man her father believes to be a miserable huckster. But how did she learn this?! Chapter end.

He well understood their mute petition; yet it was one he could not
grant. But he would take her in his arms, and giving her the fondest,
tenderest caresses, would say, in a moved tone, "My darling, don't
look at me in that way; it almost breaks my heart. Ah, if you could
only be satisfied with your father's love!"

"I will try, papa," was her usual answer, "and oh, your love is very
sweet and precious!"

Such a little scene, occurring one morning in Elsie's boudoir, was
interrupted by Chloe coming in to say that Miss Carrington had called
to see her young mistress and was waiting in the drawing-room.

"Show her in here, mammy," Elsie said, disengaging herself from her
father's arms, and smoothing out her dress.


It's not just me. This book is sick.

Surprisingly, Lucy Carrington helps a lot, making me feel kindly disposed to her. Especially when she drags Elsie off to visit her house for a week, leaving Daddy D. in the distance. Lucy reveals she is engaged and picks up on Elsie's sorrow. She pries a bit of the story from her.

"What a shame!" cried Lucy. "Does he really mean to keep you single
all your life? is he quite determined to make an old maid of you?"

"No, oh, no! but he does not believe my friend to be a good man. There
seems to be some sad mistake, and I cannot blame papa; because if Mr.
Egerton really was what he thinks him, it would be folly and sin for
me to have anything to do with him; and indeed I could not give either
hand or heart to one so vile,--a profane swearer, gambler, drunkard,
and rake."

"Oh, my, no!" and Lucy looked quite horrified; "but you don't believe
him such a villain? ...Then you have resigned your lover entirely?"

"Unless he can some day succeed in convincing papa that he is not so
unworthy."

"Well, you are a model of filial piety! and deserve to be happy, and I
am ever so sorry for you," cried Lucy, clasping her in her arms, and
kissing her affectionately.


So now Lucy, freshly lucky in love, has been given the notion that there is a tragic romance right under her nose and Elsie deserves to be happy. Since she's a plucky young heroine who just missed having a series of her own, this is doubtless going to lead to hijinks. Let's get on with it...

though Lucy did not find any fault with Mr. Dinsmore, she yet
pleaded Egerton's cause, urging that it seemed very unfair in Elsie
to condemn him unheard, very hard not to allow him even so much as a
parting word.

"I had no choice," Elsie said again and again, in a voice full of
tears; "it was papa's command, and I could do nothing but obey. Oh,
Lucy, it was very, very hard for me, too! and yet my father was
doing only his duty, if his judgment of Mr. Egerton's character was
correct."


Nope, too boring. Let's skip it.

One afternoon, when Elsie had been at Ashlands four or five days, Lucy
came flying into her room; "Oh, I'm so glad to find you dressed! You
see I'm in the midst of my toilet, and Scip has just brought up word
that a gentleman is in the parlor asking for the young ladies--Miss
Dinsmore and Miss Carrington. Would you mind going down alone and
entertaining him till I come? do, there's a dear."

There we go.

"Who is he?"

"Scip didn't seem to have quite understood the name; but it must be
some one we both know, and if you don't mind going, it would be a
relief to my nerves to know that he's not sitting there with nothing
to do but count the minutes, and think, 'What an immense time it takes
Miss Carrington to dress. She must be very anxious to make a good
impression upon me.' For you see men are so conceited, they are always
imagining we're laying ourselves out to secure their admiration."

"I will go down then," Elsie answered, smiling, "and do what I can to
keep him from thinking any such unworthy thoughts of you. But please
follow me as soon as you can."


Clever, Lucy. Yes, he finally fell out of the right side of the revolving door, for here is the much-trumpeted (well, oft-trumpeted) RETURN OF BROMLY EGERTON!

The caller had the drawing-room to himself, and as Elsie entered was
standing at the centre-table with his back toward her. As she drew
near, he turned abruptly, caught her hand in his, threw his arm about
her waist, and kissed her passionately, crying in a low tone of
rapturous delight, "My darling, I have you at last! Oh, how I have
suffered from this cruel separation."


-did that just burn half Daddy D's fortune? Wow, I didn't think Finley would let him get to first base.

"Let me go!" she cried, in an agitated tone of earnest entreaty, "I
must, indeed I must! I can't stay--I ought not; I should not have come
in, or allowed you to speak to, or touch me. Papa has forbidden all
intercourse between us, and he will be so angry." And she burst into
tears.

"Then don't go back to him; stay with me, and give me a right to
protect you from his anger. I can't bear to see you weep, and if you
will be mine--my own little wife, you shall never have cause to shed
another tear," he said, drawing her closer to him and kissing them
away.

"No, no, I cannot, I cannot! You must let me go; indeed you must!"
she cried, shrinking from the touch of his lip upon her cheek, and
averting her face, "I am doing wrong, very wrong to stay, here!"


So now it's clear he just cannot get this girl by any legal means and it's time to quit. Instead he keeps trying when he can't so much as write a check:

She made no reply but half yielded, ceasing her struggles for a
moment. She had no strength to free her hand from his grasp, and could
not bear to call others upon the scene. Trembling with agitation and
eagerness, she waited for his promised proofs; but instead he only
poured forth a continuous stream of protestations, expostulations and
entreaties.


Seriously, you got one rich young heiress to fall in love with you. You're handsome, have a lot of good stories, and are...smarter than all around you, we're told. Guess what? There are less obedient heiresses. You still have your letter. Hit the road. You could at least get a bunch of strangers to buy you a couple of dinners, which is more than you're getting here.

A step was heard approaching; he hastily drew her toward him, touched
his lips again to her cheek, released her, and she darted from the
room by one door, as Lucy entered by another.

"Where is she? gone? what's the matter? wasn't she pleased to see you?
wouldn't she stay?"

Lucy looked into the disappointed, angry, chagrined face of Egerton,
and in her surprise and vexation piled question upon question without
giving him time to answer.

"No, the girl's a fool!" he muttered angrily, and turning hastily from
her, paced rapidly to and fro for a moment; then suddenly recollecting
himself, "I beg pardon, Miss Carrington," he said, coming back to
the sofa on which she sat regarding him with a perturbed, displeased
countenance, "I--I forgot myself; but you will perhaps, know how to
excuse an almost distracted lover."

"Really, sir," returned Lucy coolly, "your words just now did not
sound very lover-like; and would rather lead one to suspect that
possibly Mr. Dinsmore may be in the right."


So it's basically an engaged woman playing a highschool ploy. At least she's sharp enough to not fall for him any further.

Breaking off his sentence abruptly, and putting his hand to his head,
"I believe I shall go mad if I have to resign all hope of winning the
sweet, lovely Elsie," he exclaimed excitedly, "and I see only one way
of doing it. If I could carry her off, and get her quite out of her
father's reach, so that no fear of him need deter her from following
the promptings of her own heart, I am sure I could induce her to
consent to marry me at once. Miss Carrington, will you help me?"

"Never! If Elsie chooses to run away with you, and wants any
assistance from me, she shall have it; but I will have nothing to do
with kidnapping."

He urged, entreated, used every argument he could think of, but with
no other effect than rousing Lucy's anger and indignation; "underhand
dealings were not in her line," she told him, and finally--upon his
intimating that what she had already done might be thought to come
under that head--almost ordered him out of the house.


Pft. She should've ordered him. Lucy is still kind of awesome. Yes, that was dumb and the whole thing would have made more sense if if had happened two or three years before, but she was set up by sentiment and showed her true colors when she caught on. She confesses that she met this guy last summer under his alias and was convinced of his love then. And there's one more factor I hadn't thought of:

"I haven't been able to help feeling a little hard to him on poor
Herbert's account," Lucy went on, "and I believe that had something
to do with my readiness to help Egerton to outwit him in obtaining an
interview with you. But I'll never do anything of the kind again; so
he needn't be afraid to let you come to see us."


She did have a reason to associate serious unhappiness with Elsie's father forbidding a love-match.

She then told Elsie what had passed in the drawing-room between
Egerton and herself--his request and her indignant refusal.

It helped to shake Elsie's confidence in the man, and made her still
more remorseful in view of that day's disobedience; for she could
not deceive herself into the belief that she had been altogether
blameless.


That should actually do it. Lucy reveals that this guy wanted to kidnap her and didn't seem to love her, and he himself couldn't come up with anything solid for her to cling to. Bromly is the cinders of toast.

"Papa, don't be so kind," she faltered; "I--I don't deserve it, for I
have--disobeyed you."

"Is it possible! when? where? and how? Can it be that you have seen
and spoken with that--scoundrel, Elsie?"


Which is more important: the threat of kidnapping, or fact that she did not run out of a room when met by someone she trusted at the time? Clearly the second!

"And you dared to permit all that, Elsie?" he exclaimed when she had
finished; "to allow that vile wretch to put his arm around you, hold
your hand in his, for half an hour probably, and even to press his
lips again and again to yours or to your cheek; and that after I had
told you I would not have him take such a liberty with you for half I
am worth; and--"

"Not to my lips, papa."


Really? He kissed her passionately on the cheek? What a loser. Unless Elsie is lying, which seems possible from the writing.

"Then it is not quite so bad as I thought, but bad enough certainly;
and all this after I had positively forbidden you to even so much as
exchange the slightest salutation with him. What am I to think of such
high-handed rebellion?"

"Papa," she said beseechingly, "is not that too hard a word? I did not
disobey deliberately--I don't think anything could have induced me to
go into that room knowing that he was there. I was taken by surprise,
and when he had got hold of my hand I tried in vain to get it free."

"Don't attempt to excuse yourself, Elsie. You could have escaped from
him at once, by simply raising your voice and calling for assistance.
I do not believe it would have been impossible to avoid even that
first embrace; and it fairly makes my blood boil to think he succeeded
in giving it to you. How dared you so disobey me as to submit to it?"


He's got nothing but "how dare you disobey." That's it. That's all. His two cards are fear and authority, and his one weapon is withdrawal of affection. That's all he's had for years and years, and that's all that anyone who follows these books has... all right, that and physical abuse.

"Papa, at the moment I forgot everything but--but just that he was
there."


It's always a surprise when Finley manages something human.

"Did I ever take forgetfulness of my orders as any excuse of
disobedience?" he asked in as stern a tone as he had ever used to her.

"No, papa; but oh, don't be very angry with me!"

"I am exceedingly displeased with you, Elsie! so much so that nothing
but your sex saves you from a severe chastisement. And I cannot allow
you to escape punishment. You must be taught that though no longer a
mere child, you are not yet old enough to disobey me with impunity.
Hush!" as she seemed about to speak, "I will not have a word of reply.
Go to your own apartments and consider yourself confined to them till
you hear further from me..."


In real life, this does not work on adult offspring as well as it works on children. He won't let Elsie see her mother and brother, and Rose asks why. She says how hard it must have been on Elsie. Her husband responds by sounding even more like a jealous lover:

"Yes," he answered in a moved tone; "when I think of that, I can
scarcely refrain from going to her, taking her in my arms, and
lavishing caresses and endearments upon her; but then comes the
thought of her allowing that scoundrel to do the same, and I am ready
almost to whip her for it." His face flushed hotly, and his dark eyes
flashed as he spoke.

"Oh, my dear!" exclaimed Rose, half frightened at his vehemence, "you
cannot mean it?"

"Rose," he said, pacing to and fro in increasing excitement, "the
fellow is a vile wretch, whose very touch I esteem pollution to a
sweet, fair, innocent young creature like my daughter. I told her so,
and positively forbade her to so much as look at him, or permit him
to see her face, if it could be avoided, or to recognize, or hold the
slightest communication with him in any way. Yet in defiance of all
this, she allows him to take her hand and hold it for, I don't know
how long, put his arm around her waist and kiss her a number of times.
Now what does such disobedience deserve?"


Is that why she was wearing a veil? I'm surprised he didn't make her cover her hair.

Chloe, meanwhile, suddenly returns to sentience and makes food that she knows Elsie likes in an attempt to get her to eat. Her father forgives her by infantilizing her further than ever before:

""My poor child! Ah, I must take better care of my precious one in
future. I shall allow you to go nowhere without either your mother or
myself to guard and protect you..."

Oh, and:

"...Also, I shall break off your intimacy with Lucy Carrington; she
is henceforth to be to you a mere speaking acquaintance..."


Again! The only semi-interesting, proactive character banished again! Dammit, Daddy D.! And if Elsie didn't report the threat to her, which is Elsie standard operating mode, he now has no chance to learn of the whole prospect-of-kidnapping risk because Lucy will never be near enough to talk to him. Smooth.

So Elsie, having been forced to break off her nearest friendship and tailed everywhere by at least one parent, continues to fade. Her father plans to take her to Europe and starts by taking her to Philadelphia to shop. Why travel so far? We don't know. But wait! It's the RETURN OF BROMLY EGERawscrewit:

"We are passing a theatre, and it seems the play is just over, judging
by the crowds that are pouring from its doors."

Davis reined in his horses to avoid running over those who were
crossing the street, and Elsie, glancing from the window, caught sight
of a face she knew only too well. Its owner was in the act of stepping
from the door of the theatre, and staggered as he did so--would have
fallen to the ground had he not been held up by his companion, a
gaudily dressed, brazen-faced woman, whose character there was no
mistaking.


You can't mistake her character because you looked at her, you see, and you can always tell bad people by looking at them. Unless they're men.

"Ha, ha, Tom!" she cried, with a loud and boisterous laugh,

See? She laughs loudly and boisterously. Therefore she sells her body nightly.

"I saved you from a downfall that time; which I'll be bound

Careful! That'll make you virtuous!

is more than that Southern heiress of yours would have done."

"Now don't be throwing her up to me again, Bet," he answered thickly,
reeling along so close to our travellers that they caught the scent of
his breath; "I tell you again she can't hold a candle to you, and I
never cared for her; it was the money I was after."


Boy, what an unlucky man. Not only is he discovered through amazing coincidence from two sides at once, he was also coincidentally overheard in another region by people in a coach who can smell his breath as he loudly reiterates his misdeeds under another name. So that finally really does it for Bromly Egerton. Elsie meets Walter and we learn:

"He wouldn't let me, Elsie; he actually wouldn't. I know I'm lacking
in self-reliance and firmness, and if Art had chosen to lead me wrong,
I'm afraid he'd have succeeded. But he says, poor fellow! that it's
enough for one to be a disgrace to the family, and has tried to keep
me out of temptation. And you can't think how much my correspondence
with you has helped to keep me straight. Your letters always did me so
much good."


So he's so gormless he'd deviate at the drop of a hat, but he can't get near temptation because his older brother stops him and his niece sends him devotionals. Ow. Walter, you are painful. Sometime in this Enna has also married Dick Percival, who promptly lost all their money. (Later someone says he's dead. Don't believe it, he's just befrogged.) And then:

They had just learned that Tom Jackson had been tried for manslaughter
and for forgery, found guilty on both charges, and sentenced to the
State's Prison for a long term of years.


I don't believe it. He couldn't commit manslaughter if he had help. Anyway, that really does it for Bromly Egerton. Mr. Travilla coincidentally meets Elsie and kin two years later, while Elsie is still in Europe being courted by all the nobility. Not much happens. They go home. Not much happens. Elsie thinks Travilla and Adelaide are marrying and is sad until Mr. Travilla straightens it out and proposes. Elsie's father finds them:

"Ah, is it so, Elsie, my darling?" faltered the father, opening his
arms to receive her as she flew to him. "Is it so? have I lost the
first place in my daughter's heart?" he repeated, straining her to his
breast, and pressing his lips again and again to her fair brow.

"Dear papa, I never loved you better," she murmured, clinging more
closely to him. "I shall never cease to be your own dear daughter; can
never have any father but you--my own dear, dear papa. And you will
not be left without a little girl to pet and fondle; darling Rosebud
will fill my place."


I admit I have been skimming, so I'm not sure what she's talking about. Either Rosebud is a new baby girl that has mysteriously spooted out of nowhere, or they got a puppy.

"She has her own; but neither she nor any one else can ever fill
yours, my darling," he answered with a quivering lip. "How can I--how
can I give you up? my first-born, my Elsie's child and mine."


I actually like that someone in these novels says you can't just replace people since that's a big part of what bothers me about the novels, but it's overshadowed because Elsie's mom is named Elsie?! GaaaAaah! Another massive retroactive squick!

That wraps up that, and the book is done. All kinds of things happen next! We will finally see the culmination of Elsie's morality system! The repayment of Chloe! The wedding of Elsie and Travilla! THE RETURN OF BROMLY EGERTON!

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