|“||I saw her smile, shadowy in the moonlight. It was a smile that might have meant anything.||”|
She is the object of Lemony Snicket's attention throughout his time in Stain'd-by-the-Sea, where she is searching for her missing father, Armstrong Feint. Unfortunately, his agreement to assist her would lead to disastrous results.
Ellington is described by Lemony Snicket as mysterious and deceitful, however with very rare exceptions she is actually quite open about her motivations. She makes it clear throughout her interactions with the Association of Associates that her one goal is to rescue her father from the Inhumane Society, and that she will do "anything and everything" in order to succeed in this. She is fiercely loyal to her father and will do anything for him- which is incredibly tragic, due to the fact that her father is Hangfire, faked his own kidnapping, and has been manipulating her for months. Even after his betrayal is revealed, Ellington is devastated at his death and furious with his murderer, and seems to have broken down quite a bit.
She is very resourceful and a bit manipulative in getting what she needs from Lemony- first by quickly wrapping the statue of the Bombinating Beast and then mailing it to herself while pretending to mail it to him, then by stealing the beast from Lemony again at the Mallahan Lighthouse, and then convincing him to give it to her again while in jail. She is very good at planning ahead for different eventualities- she was able to hide the statue from both the Inhumane Society and the Associates until she could get an exclusive audience with Hangfire, and she seems to have planned with to deceive Snicket on the train in order to meet with the villain privately.
Despite her manipulation, she does seem to legitimately care about Snicket, and even some other members of the Association of Associates, revealing her morality and need for connection. She tells Snicket about Black Cat Coffee despite the fact he could use that information against her, tells him everything once she is confronted, searches for root beer floats for him even after they part, and takes large risks to ensure his safety, such as confessing her fraud to the Mitchums in an attempt to get Lemony out of trouble. While planning with Cleo Knight, she seems to have gained a connection with her, and she also managed to befriend Pip and Squeak Bellerophon while taking their taxi. And even while working secretly for the Inhumane Society, Ellington jeopardized Hangfire's plans by helping the Associates fight the affects of laudanum, telling them quite a bit of the plan, and hiding Snicket in her room and showing him the beast hidden in the firepond.
While Ellington tends to hide her feelings, she also has moments where she breaks. These instances are when her overwrought and sentimental side of her personality is shown such as when she showed Snicket her father's music box and later broke down crying about the need to find her father. She also does seem to have a sense of justice, as she admitted to Snicket she was wrong after helping him put out Stew's fire and her subsequent second arrest.
Due to Ellington's manipulations, she is mistrusted by many people, including Hector, Josephine Anwhistle and Moxie Mallahan, though Snicket strongly insists that she is just trying to help her father. Indeed, she also seems to have befriended the townsfolk despite herself and outside of Snicket's viewpoint, as she seems to have made an alliance with Dashiell Qwerty where he attempted to send her a message through Caviar: Salty Jewel of the Tasty Sea, and, as previously mentioned, she befriended Cleo Knight, Pip and Squeak and assisted the Associates at Wade Academy.
While Snicket often denies it, he is often accused of having a crush on her, usually by S. Theodora Markson. He does indeed seem fascinated with her, which could probably imply his alleged romantic interest, though it also likely that he mistakes his excitement about finding what he considers a mystery to unravel around her as such. Ellington does not seem to reciprocate his potential romantic feelings, though she does offhandedly mention blushing when Lemony claims he cannot take his eyes off of her.
While most characters have a defined special interest or occupation, part of the mystery around Ellington is how hers is never directly mentioned. While she does seem to like coffee quite a bit- which has been speculated to be symbolism for how her father's emotional manipulation and abuse have forced her to grow up too fast, giving her a preference for such a bitter drink- she does not seem to have much interest in it outside of the taste and ability to keep her awake. It is far more likely that her special interest is jazz music- even ignoring the fact she is named after a Jazz musician, she is almost always playing a jazz song on her record or in a place where said song is played, and mentions to Snicket that An Analysis of Brown, Black and Beige, a book on Duke Ellington's music, was the first book in Stain'd-by-the-Sea's Library that she would have checked out, implying that the subject fascinates her. Her official profile also lists her favorite book as Beneath the Underdog, an autobiography of jazz composer Charles Mingus.
The song she constantly plays on her record, music box, and that plays in Black Cat Coffee eludes Snicket throughout the books and is never explicitly named. However, context clues make it incredibly likely and most probable that the song is "(In My) Solitude," which was not only composed by Duke Ellington (her namesake), but was famously recorded with lyrics sung by Louis Armstrong, the namesake of her father. In the final chapter of Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?, Snicket narrates the following:
|“||The sky was getting lighter and I was whistling the tune Ellington had played me, first on a Hangfire phonograph and then on a music box her father had given her. She had not told me the name of the tune. It was a mystery, like what the S stood for in Theodora's name. I kept walking, with nothing but Solitude for company. 'Solitude' is a fancy name for being all by yourself. It's not a bad name, I thought.||”|
Both the mystery of Ellington's record and the mystery of Theodora's first name are mentioned immediately before the description of "Solitude," which implies that both solutions are one and the same- Theodora's name is Solitude, and Ellington's record shares the same name. This is supported by Daniel Handler's claim that Theodora's name is "right there in the text," and the fact the description of Ellington's song could apply to "(In My) Solitude" -
|“||It was a tune that was sad but not weepy, as if it were trying to say there was no point in bursting into tears when there was so much work to be done.||”|
— Lemony Snicket, When Did You See Her Last?
Ellington Feint lived with her father, Armstrong Feint, in Killdeer Fields, sometime during or following the flooding. They had a daily routine; in the mornings, he would turn on some music for breakfast, and when he'd arrive home from the fields at night and cook dinner in his socks; she'd do the dishes, and then he would read a story to her before bed, including books like The Lord of the Rings and The Iliad. Once, they went for a hike and saw a wildcat, causing her to become frightened of them. As her father was a naturalist, the house would usually be full of wildflowers or baby animals he was helping recover. As time passed on, she could tell something was bothering her father, though she wasn't sure what.
One day, Ellington returned home from school to find that her father wasn't home. In the morning, she received a call from a man who called himself Hangfire, who told her that he'd kidnapped her father. She spent the next six months traveling and searching for her father and researching him and Hangfire, discovering that he'd kidnapped a number of people for his plans. She took along with her a music box of jazz music that her father used to always carry with him, that he left behind the day he disappeared.
She eventually received a call from her father, telling her to go to Stain'd-by-the-Sea, because Hangfire would set him free in exchange for the Bombinating Beast statue that was being kept in the Mallahan Lighthouse. She went to the town and took up residence in Handkerchief Heights in order to watch the lighthouse for an opportunity to break in; the only place in the half-abandoned town she found herself frequenting was Black Cat Coffee, where she could get coffee and listen to the piano, which played music she was familiar with.
Ellington Feint witnesses Lemony Snicket and his chaperone, S. Theodora Markson, climb from the hawser that led from the Mallahan Lighthouse to the Sallis Mansion, and saw Snicket drop from the hawser to the trees below. She goes with a ladder to help him down. They introduce themselves, and she brings him to Handkerchief Heights where she makes him coffee. He reveals that he took the Bombinating Beast statue from the Mallahan family to "return" to the Sallis family; she pretends not to care about it, and when he asks, she explains her mission to find her father. Snicket makes her a promise to help her find him.
When the police arrive to interrogate her and Snicket, she wraps up the Bombinating Beast like a parcel to hide it from the police, and later sends it to herself at Black Cat Coffee; to fool Snicket into thinking the statue has been mailed to him, she mails another package filled with coffee beans to S. Theodora Markson at The Lost Arms. After saying goodbye to Snicket, she gives police the slip and abandons Handkerchief Heights.
Two days later, Ellington goes to Black Cat Coffee to collect the statue and runs into Snicket there; he'd already taken the statue and hidden it in the library, after discovering her hideout due to the fact she'd told him about the coffeeshop. She finally tells him that she intends to trade the statue for her father, as her father had told her; though Snicket tells her Hangfire has the ability to imitate voices, and her father may not have even called her, she doesn't care, as Hangfire is still holding him and may release him if she does what he wants.
They spend the night in the coffeeshop, and Ellington tells Snicket that she'll help him return the statue to the Mallahans, if he helps her find her father. They go to the library, where Snicket hid the statue behind the book An Analysis of Brown, Black and Beige, a book Ellington finds interesting. They hide the statue in Ellington's purse, and run into Theodora and the Officers Mitchum, who give them a ride to the Mallahan place. Ellington switches out the statue for a bag of coffee again, and when Snicket goes inside with it, she runs into the woods with the statue.
|“||In the meantime, we're alone. We're alone and it's difficult. Don't you find it difficult to be alone, Mr. Snicket?||”|
— Ellington Feint, When Did You See Her Last?
Ellington was unable to find Hangfire to give him the statue, so she started to live in Black Cat Coffee, in a cupboard that was bigger than it looked. She found a package addressed to her father at the Inhumane Society, in the attic one day, and she waited for someone to pick it up; eventually, Nurse Dander did, and Ellington followed her to an abandoned aquarium, though she was too scared to go inside.
She went back to Black Cat Coffee, where eventually she met Cleo Knight, who was trying to get the machines to make her tea. Cleo's parents had suddenly become insistent on moving out of town, but Cleo wanted to stay to finish her formula for invisible ink that might be able to save the town. Ellington made a plan to help her; she would disguise herself as Cleo Knight and throw people off her trail, while Cleo ran away to Handkerchief Heights to work on her formula. Ellington gave Cleo one of her raspberry-colored berets, while Cleo bought Ellington a coat like hers from Dicey's Department Store and helped her bleach her hair.
However, unlike they planned, Ellington only made one appearance around town. She went to Partial Foods and told Polly Partial she was planning to run away and join the circus, before taking the Bellerophon brothers' taxi to the aquarium, where she told Nurse Dander that she was Cleo Knight and would exchange a meeting with Hangfire for a formula for Invisible Ink. Dander took her at her word and kept her in a room, where she brought her scientific equipment, and whenever the nurse went out, Ellington searched the building for her father. By the time Snicket begins investigating Cleo's disappearance, however, Dander had grown impatient and started to threaten her into completing the formula.
Snicket follows Dander from the library to the aquarium, where he meets with Ellington, who explains to him what has been going on; she also finds out that, unlike she suspected, the secret organization Snicket is a part of is not the Inhumane Society. Snicket then informs her that the real Cleo was kidnapped by Dander's associate, Dr. Flammarion, meaning that Dander would soon discover she was a fraud. Snicket helps disguise Ellington so she can sneak out of the building, agreeing to meet her at Black Cat Coffee and bring her her papers, phonograph and statue.
When Snicket meets her at Black Cat Coffee, saying he doesn't want to drink coffee but rather root beer, she informs him that she'd gone looking for root beer around town for him, but hadn't found any. She tells him about her father and plays her music box for him, and questions him about his organization. However, then S. Theodora Markson and the Officers Mitchum arrive, and upon hearing the story, Ellington is arrested for fraud. Ellington manages to convince Snicket to leave the Bombinating Beast statue with her in the prison, and he also tells her that once the police leave, that she can pick the lock with a hairpin and escape. She does just that when the officers leave to go to Colophon Clinic, once again disappearing.
Figure in Fog
As Snicket leaves the library, he sees a mysterious figure in the fog, which he follows, suspecting it may be Ellington. It is not revealed whether or not it is.
- Ellington Feint: It's just good to see there's one thing I'm better at than you are.
- Lemony Snicket: I think you're better at everything. I keep lurking around this mystery, but you walked right into the heart of it. I don't know how you find the nerve to do the things you've done.
Ellington figured out that part of Hangfire's plan had something to do with caviar, and requested a book from the library about the process in which it is made. She then hides the Bombinating Beast statue in the secret compartment under the secret compartment in her bag, and then met with Sharon Haines, a member of the Inhumane Society. She disguised herself at Wade Academy as Filene N. Gottlin, an anagram of her name. Everyone at the school was kept drugged with laudanum, but Ellington hid coffee grounds in a flowerpot and made herself coffee to reverse the effects. She communicates with Hangfire through Sharon, and from her she learns that Hangfire plans to burn the library, but Ellington doesn't plan on stopping him, because she doesn't want to risk losing her father. As part of her deal with the Inhumane Society, Ellington made Sharon promise to fetch and take care of her phonograph.
After the Inhumane Society transferred all the students of Stain'd Secondary to Wade Academy, Ellington met with Cleo, Moxie Mallahan, Jake Hix, Ornette Lost and Kellar Haines, who were also fighting the effects of the laudanum and wanted to investigate the academy. They agreed to meet in the library that night, but before she went, Ellington spotted Snicket sneaking into the school, carrying her phonograph, and being knocked out by Stew Mitchum, who also smashed the phonograph. She managed to fetch Snicket while Stew went to get help dragging him inside, and hid him in her room, where she tended to him and gave him coffee.
She lies to him and tells him that her statue was confiscated. She pulls out her music box after he apologizes for breaking her phonograph, which holds a picture of her father, and she cries about his situation. Sharon Haines stops by and reminds her to do her part in the plan, and after she leaves, Ellington tells Snicket to take his shoes and socks off in order to sneak through the halls and get to the library; she sees his ankle tattoo, and guesses that it forms the letters VFD, and that's his secret organization. She compares it to the Inhumane Society, but all Snicket can come up with in defense of his organization is that VFD reads more.
They get to the library, and Kellar calls out the password clue- who wrote The Wind in the Willows- and Ellington asks him who played the trumpet in Out to Lunch. Snicket answers both with Kenneth Grahme and Freddiie Hubbard respectively, and they enter the library. Ellington makes coffee for everyone while Snicket greets his associates. Only Ellington enjoys the coffee, though she also enjoys everyone else not enjoying theirs. Snicket asks her about what her part in the plan is, and Ellington explains that Sharon Haines will take all the students on a field tripthe next day, and that Ellington, as a model student, was to stay behind and climb to the top of the tower and ring the bell at exactly one o'clock. She also says that she suspects that the reason for the bell-ringing, to signal the residents of Stain'd-by-the-Sea to put on masks, is just to make it easier for Hangfire to skulk around town without being recognized. Snicket tells the other children about VFD, and then tells them to go on the field trip and sneak away when the bell rings.
Ellington and Snicket leave the library after all the others, but she also shows him one more thing; she takes him out to the grounds and showing him the fire pond, which holds a baby creature she doesn't recognize but is likely a young Bombinating Beast. When they return to her room, Snicket guesses that it might be a decoy to scare people, and then also guesses that she still has the statue, though she shows him her seemingly empty bag. He tells her to sleep, and he'll watch over her, and then asks her to go on a hayride with him after ringing the bell.
She wakes up the next morning upon hearing the bell ring to find that Snicket made her coffee. They put on their masks and she promise to meet her in the library that night. She rings the bell at one o'clock, though the tower bores her and she spends most of her time looking outside for places her father could be.
Ellington goes to the library, but gets scared upon seeing all the books have disappeared and instead meets Snicket at the gate. She jumps from the wall into a wagon of bark pulled by the Bellerophon taxi, and greets Snicket. As the wagon is pulled, they talk for a bit, and then Snicket reveals he knows she is working with Hangfire; she didn't disguise her voice, which Hangfire knew well enough to imitate. He takes her bag and opens up the first secret compartment- not knowing about the second one- and only finds the library book on caviar. He also reveals that he knows Hangfire plans to burn the library, and takes her there.
They go inside the library, where Stew attacks Snicket and sets fire to the book on caviar. Snicket sneaks her a compass so she can get to the northeast corner, and she pulls the fire alarm and sets off the sprinklers, which destroy the books- unbeknownst to her, the books in the library were replaced with the blank books from Wade Academy. The Officers Mitchum then arrive and arrest Ellington, who Stew blames for the library's destruction.
- Ellington Feint: You could have told me what you knew.
- Lemony Snicket: You could have told me what you had.
Ellington is put on the train out of Stain'd-by-the-Sea, The Thistle of the Valley, with Dashiell Qwerty; both of them are in the prison car to await trial in the city. While the train is moving, S. Theodora Markson sneaks into the prison car, disguised as a conductor, and tries to convince Qwerty to leave with her. He refuses, as he wants to help turn Hangfire over to the authorities; while this is happening, Stew Mitchum breaks in and murders Dashiell Qwerty with a poison dart, intending to frame Theodora for the murder. When the Officers Mitchum arrive, Ellington trades her silence about the real murderer for her freedom, and they release her. She then finds a way to make a deal with Hangfire, who wants to trick Snicket and his other associates onboard the train; she will pretend he tried to kill her and that she's switching to Snicket's side, and then he will participate in a trade for her father for the Bombinating Beast statue.
Ellington goes to the Café Compartment, where she meets with Snicket and makes him coffee from a French press. She tells him that Hangfire killed Qwerty, which he doesn't believe, as his associates saw masked figure enter the train after the murder. Ellington reminds him of his promise to help her find her father. He offers to let her join him and travel with him, right before Hangfire enters and pretends to try and kill her with a poison dart; as Ellington drops to the floor and pretends to pretend to be dead, her music box and the last thing she has left from her father shatters on the ground.
After Snicket makes a deal with Hangfire to trade the statue for Theodora's freedom, and Hangfire leaves, he tells Ellington to get up. She tells him that she thinks Hangfire has killed her father, and he offers to let her join VFD and become a noble person. But he also says that he has to hide her, as Hangfire believes her to be dead, so they put on masks to obscure their faces. He takes her to the prison car, and she gives him a skeleton key she got from Sharon Haines in order to open it. He makes her a harness out of his belt and tells her to hang outside of the train until he comes to fetch her. She is terrified by this, and Snicket tells her to get scared later, before distracting her by talking about the places they could go, such as Winnipeg. He then lets her dangle outside the train, and finds her terror comforting only in that it proves to him that she wasn't the murderer, as she'd clearly never done something like that before.
When Snicket leaves, Hangfire finds Ellington and lets her back inside. Snicket returns, his associates and other passengers soon joining them, and begs Ellington not to hand over the statue, but all she cares about is the freedom of her father. Hangfire promises that she'll see her father again once he gets the statue, and she opens her second secret compartment and hands over the statue. But before Hangfire can use it, Snicket steals the statue and uses it to summon the Bombinating Beast. As the beast attacks the train, Hangfire's mask falls off, revealing that he has been Armstrong Feint the entire time. He approaches the beast, and Ellington screams as Snicket pushes him into its mouth, instantly killing him.
As the passengers leave the car, the Mitchums arrest Ellington to frame her for Qwerty's murder, though the other witnesses to the murder are now brave enough to insist that it was Stew. Snicket tries to help her, but she is furious at him, asking him how long he knew Hangfire was her father and angry and grief-stricken that he murdered him. Snicket follows her and the officers to the other prison car, where she is left with the other prisoner, who happens to be Kit Snicket, his sister. Before the door closes, Ellington turns and says his name.
As everyone else leaves, Kit extends her hand to Ellington in greeting. Snicket is comforted by the fact that the two girls will soon know each other, and that Ellington has a skeleton key, which Kit can use to help them escape.
Ellington has jet black hair which, according to Lemony Snicket, "made the night look pale," and green eyes. She is described as having long fingers and almost always wearing black, as well as having black-painted nails. Snicket constantly refers to her smile, which "could have meant anything."
In When Did You See Her Last?, Ellington dyes her hair blonde in order to pretend to be Cleo Knight. By the time of Shouldn't You Be in School?, her hair is black again, and she wears it in two braids.
Having had to disguise herself on a few events, Ellington assumed the following disguises:
- In When Did You See Her Last?, Ellington disguised herself as Cleo Knight, fooling others into thinking that she is the real chemist in question after planning the disguise with the real Cleo. She continued to wear her own raspberry colored hat that was a giveaway to who she really was, as Cleo only wore black and white.
- In Shouldn't You Be in School?, she enrolled into Wade Academy and adopted an alias made from an anagram of her own name: Filene N. Gottlin.
- Ellington admits that she is afraid of wildcats and tells stories when she's nervous.
- According to her official profile, her favorite book is Beneath the Underdog by Charles Mingus.
- Interestingly, her first physical appearance in each book of All the Wrong Questions occurs in each novel's Chapter Seven, about the halfway point.
- Ellington is presumably named after Duke Ellington, a jazz composer and pianist who is referenced several other times in the series, while Louis Armstrong, another famous jazz musician of the same era, could provide the inspiration for her father's name, "Armstrong Feint."
- "Feint" is defined as "a feigned or false attack."
- Ellington and her father may be related to Vice Principal Nero, as in the Netflix version of A Series of Unfortunate Events, his last name is given as Feint, as well as the founder of Prufrock Preparatory School, Sir Barrymore Feint.
- In The Incomplete History of Secret Organizations: An Utterly Unreliable Account of Netflix's A Series of Unfortunate Events, it is revealed the changes made to Fiona's character in the Netflix adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events were partly in order to reference Ellington, described as "another morally ambiguous girl searching for her missing father."
- When they have first met, Snicket describes Ellington with the distinctive phrase, "Green eyes she had." This is from Bernard Cornwell's The Winter King, when young King Arthur first sees Guinevere: "Green eyes, she had, with a kind of cruelty deep inside them." Like Snicket's attraction to Ellington, Arthur is immediately drawn to Guinevere despite (or because of) the danger she poses.