Secrets and Friends
Arriving in Cooranbong
In the last chapter, Heather was whining about being stuck on a boat for 26 days. At the beginning of this chapter, she is whining about being on a train. I’ve done enough reading to understand that train travel was not as comfortable back then as it is now, but was it really that bad?
Heather fans herself with her father’s hat. Nathan grabs it out of her hands, saying it’s his turn now. He gets scolded for grabbing instead of asking, and Aunt Rachel pulls out a lunch basket.
“Children,” Mr. Gibson said, “I want you to remember to be on your best behavior when you meet Elder Palmer.” He wiped his fingers on his napkin. “He is the pastor in charge of all the colporteurs here in this new mission field. I don’t want him to be disappointed that we answered the call to work in Australia.”
This paragraph was written simply to introduce Mr. Palmer. I’m pretty sure the kids would already know who he was, because I can’t believe that Mr. Gibson wouldn’t have talked about him a lot as he considered his move to Australia.
Mrs. Gibson only nibbled at her food. “Please, do mind what your Father says,” she said.
“Yes, Mother,” Heather and Nathan answered together.
Mrs. Gibson sounds like a real wet blanket.
Fortunately for Heather, the next stop is Morisset, which is where they will get off the train and be driven to Cooranbong.
“Are we going to get to see Avondale College today?” Heather asked her father.
“I don’t think so,” Mr. Gibson answered patting each of his pockets to be sure he hadn’t lost any of their important documents. “Elder Palmer said in his last letter that he had made arrangements for us to stay in the little town of Cooranbong. I believe that the town is very close to the school.”
Heather and her family exit the train, and Heather immediately starts whining about her dress being wrinkled. Aunt Rachel reassures her that everyone will understand that they’ve been traveling.
“Let me help you with your things,” a tall, slender man called out to Mr. Gibson. He grabbed one end of the heavy trunk.
“Thank you,” Mr. Gibson answered appreciatively. They set it down with a thud.
“You must be Elder Gibson,” the gentleman said and held out his hand. “I’m Edwin Palmer.”
I’ve done some googling. Edwin R Palmer does seem to be a real person. Here’s his description.
PALMER, EDWIN R. (1869-1931). Seventh-Day Adventist publishing administrator. Palmer served in a variety of administrative positions in the United States and Australia before returning to America in 1901. Palmer then worked with the Lake Union Conference to revive literature evangelism within its region. Adventist subscription book selling had gone into decline in the 1890s, largely because of the depression that began in 1893. Conferences had responded to the situation by laying off book agents and closing the tract and missionary societies, actions that further disrupted sales. Consequently, the publishing houses became increasingly responsible for distributing denominational books and papers. By 1903 Palmer had become an administrative assistant to Arthur G Daniells, president of the General Conference (GC), and continued to focus on literature evangelism. He opposed turning sales over to the publishing houses, which he believed were more concerned with commercial than spiritual matters, and fought with individuals such as Charles H Jones, manager of Pacific Press, over whether the conferences or publishers would control the sale of books. The death of Palmer’s wife in 1903 and his own health problems created personal difficulties for a time, during which he worked at the paradise valley sanitarium (1904) and Pacific Press (1904-05). In 1905 Palmer returned to the GC where he served as secretary of the publishing department until 1913. During that time he reactivated the state tract societies, increased the number of literature evangelists, held literature evangelism meetings, and developed a scholarship plan for students who sold Adventist literature during the summers. Fundamentally, however, he reestablished for the denomination as a whole the principle of local conference responsibility and control of literature evangelism. In 1912 he became general manager of the review and herald publishing association, staying in that position until 1931.
Historical Dictionary of the Seventh Day Adventists by Gary Land, page 254
Sounds like he was kind of responsible for keeping literature evangelism alive. Thanks a whole fucking lot dude.
In any case, Mr. Gibson quickly bends over to kiss Palmer’s ass
“Pleased to meet you, Elder Palmer,” said Mr. Gibson, heartily shaking his hand. “My family and I are happy to be here in Australia, and we’re eager to do the Lord’s work.” Mr. Gibson rested his hand on the trunk. “This is full of books from home. I know that we can use them in the work.”
Yup. Total ass kisser.
Elder Palmer tells Heather he hopes she likes Australia, and she secretly hopes she does too. Elder Palmer tells them they’ll travel by horse and buggy to their new home.
Heather cringed. California is my home, she thought, but didn’t say it. Elder Palmer seemed to be a nice man, and she didn’t dare to be rude.
She doesn’t dare be rude to Palmer because he seems so nice. Not because, I dunno, it’s just wrong to be rude in general?
Other than that, I like this. I was just like Heather when I was 8, because when I moved, I didn’t see my new place as home. Some places I only saw as home after I’d lived there for a year or more, other places I never felt like I was “home.” Home is where the heart is, and my heart was back where I belonged dammit.
The issue of California being home to Heather never comes up again. From now on, she lives and goes to school in Australia and it’s no big deal. And I’m not saying she should hate Australia. I’m just bothered by the fact that this is the only time this ever comes up.
Elder Palmer has made arrangements for the Gibson family to stay at the Healy Hotel until the Gibson family can buy some land and hire someone to build a house.
Heather climbs up into the buggy, and reaches back to help her mother.
“I’ve got you, Mother,” she said and gently, but firmly held on to her mother’s arm. (sic).
Slowly Mrs. Gibson lowered herself onto the bench. She looked tired. “I’ve done more traveling today than one woman should have to do in a lifetime,” she said. Her lips were dry and cracked.
Maybe I’ve been too hard on Mrs. Gibson. She’s been ill with this mystery illness for who knows how long. Perhaps she is chronically disabled. Either way, this paragraph brings up an interesting question: how does Mrs. Gibson feel about being ripped away from her home? How does she feel about moving to Australia? It would seem she doesn’t like the idea very much at all, and I would love to know more. I haven’t read books 3-4 yet, so I have no idea if this will ever be mentioned again.
Nathan gets really excited because he sees a kangaroo with a Joey in her pouch. Are kangaroos that common in Australia?
Heather gets excited and goes to write about it in her diary. Or at least, she tries to, but the diary is gone!
“When did you see it last?” Aunt Rachel asked, looking in Heather’s coat pocket for her.
If I knew when I saw it last, it wouldn’t be lost, would it? Most unhelpful aunt ever.
Heather last remembers seeing it on the ship, and hopes like hell it didn’t get left there. Aunt Rachel tells her it will turn up, and pats her on the shoulder. Heather holds back her tears, not wanting to cry in front of Elder Palmer.
I’ve noticed Heather is quite whiny, but I’ll give her a pass on this one. If I’d lost my diary, I’d be crying too, and I’m a grown ass woman.
Finally they pull up in front of the Hotel.
The paint was peeling off the wood. Part of the railing on the second story balcony was broken. Heather wrinkled her nose.
Aunt Rachel also is not impressed, and Mr. Gibson tries to convince himself that nothing’s wrong.
“I’m sure it will be fine,” Mr. Gibson answered. His voice didn’t seem too sure, and Heather thought that he looked a little pale.
Credit where credit is due, this isn’t bad. It’s showing rather than telling.
“This little town was almost a ghost town a few years ago,” Mr. Palmer explained as he heaved one of the big trunks out of the back of the buggy. “When we Adventists bought the land to build Avondale College nearby, we gave this little town new life.”
According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, this does appear to be correct. If I’m wrong, I’d very much appreciate it if someone would tell me. Preferably an Australian.
“The locals are really nice folks, mostly,” Mr. Palmer explained. He chuckled. “Things do get a little rowdy here on the weekends, however.”
“Oh my!” Aunt Rachel whispered again, gazing up at the dilapidated old building.
Translation: people like to get drunk on weekends. A no no in and of itself on Planet Adventist.
Just then, Mr. Douglas comes out of the hotel to help with the family’s luggage.
A little girl ran to the handsome gentleman. He picked her up in his strong arms. A Girl about Heather’s age walked up beside them. She had beautiful, shining, black hair like her father’s.
Heather smiled a big friendly smile at the girl.
The girl just stared at Heather for a moment with her icy blue eyes–and then looked away.
That wasn’t very nice, Heather thought. Her feelings were hurt.
Is this a cultural thing? I don’t know if the Douglas family is actually from Australia, but perhaps they are from a culture where a “big friendly smile” wouldn’t really be seen as all that friendly?
Mr. Douglas introduces his daughters. The younger one is Emma, and the older sullen one is Laura.
Mr. Douglas, it turns out, is a carpenter who builds houses. That explains why he’s living in the hotel, then. I had a friend who’s father was a carpenter. Whenever people asked why their own house wasn’t completed, she would reply, “cobbler’s children don’t have shoes.”
Mr. Gibson then does something no father should. Seriously, kids hate it when you do this. It’s obvious what you’re trying to do, and I can tell you from experience, it doesn’t work.
“Laura,” Mr. Gibson said in his friendly manner, “you look like you’re about the same age as our daughter, Heather.”
Oh no, Heather thought. She felt a sudden rush of heat on her cheeks.
“I’m 9, sir,” Laura answered. Again, she didn’t smile.
Mr. Gibson patted Heather on the shoulder. “Well, Heather is almost 9” he answered, smiling down at his daughter.
Heather just wiggled nervously.
“I suppose you’ll be in school together,” Mr. Gibson said.
“I suppose so,” Laura answered. Her piercing blue eyes met Heather’s.
Heather looked away.
Are her eyes icy, or piercing?
Credit where credit is due, this exchange is realistic. And it only works out in the end because this is a book. In real life, these girls would continue to hate each other. And, just as in real life, the adults are completely oblivious. They then proceed to get confused when the 2 girls don’t turn out to be best friends.
Aunt Rachel interrupts the conversation to call out for Nathan, who has run off to climb a fence. Mr. Palmer leaves the Gibson family to get settled.
“Wasn’t that nice?” Mrs. Gibson said, taking Heather’s arm. “A girl your own age right here in the hotel!….you’ll have all kinds of new friends in no time,” Mrs. Gibson said squeezing Heather’s arm. “When you get to the school, it will be full of girls just like her.”
I’m going to give Mrs. Gibson a bit of a pass for being oblivious. She’s chronically ill, and clearly not used to traveling very much. She’s probably really freaking exhausted. Heather just says, “yes mother.”
Heather jabbers a lot to Aunt Rachel, but barely talks to her mother at all. Do they even see Mrs. Gibson as a person? I wonder if Mrs. Gibson will have more character development in the other books. I also wonder why they even bothered to write her like this. Why not just take Rachel’s character, slap a different name on her, and have her be Heather’s mother? The characters are flat enough nobody’d really notice. Or maybe Heather’s mother could have died in an accident? Then you could still have Aunt Rachel, and you’d–
I’m getting ahead of myself.