Oh boy, a historical view of Campmeeting. This will be fascinating. I have actually always kind of wondered how these things used to be done. I was actually kind of excited to read this chapter.
For those of you who don’t know what camp meeting is… Oh god how would I even explain it? I think I’ll do a post explaining it eventually. But know that it pretty much is what it says on the label. You go camping and there are meetings. Historically these meetings were held in large tents, but nowadays they’re usually held indoors. At least, our campmeting was.
The chapter starts with Laura Douglas climbing into the wagon just as the Gibsons are ready to drive off. Nathan asks why he couldn’t have brought his friend, and Mrs. Gibson replies, “You didn’t ask.”
Fair enough, I suppose.
Heather babbles on to Laura about Addie Hart.
“You’ll just love Addie,” she told Laura. “She’s lots of fun– not like some of the girls in our class.”
“Like Ethel and May, you mean,” Laura said grinning.
Are Ethel and May the only other girls in their classroom? How big is this school? I feel like Ethel and May are the only other girls ever mentioned besides Laura and her sister. And our protagonist, of course.
Heather comments on how strange it will be to have Christmas in the middle of summer. Laura says that a winter Christmas would be weird to her. She’s only read about that sort of thing in books. So, Laura was born in Australia, then? Or did she move here when she was very small?
They stop off at Addie’s house to….I’m not really sure. Mr. Gibson says he wants to remind them about the camp meeting, so it wouldn’t seem he’s here to pick anybody up.
Mrs. Hart opens the door and tells Mr. Gibson that it is a bad time to visit. He turns to leave, but Mr. Hart sees him and informs his wife that they are here. Well no shit asshole.
Mr. Hart stood up straight. “I see that you have come back to invite my wife and daughter to that camp meeting again,” Mr. Hart said to Mr. Gibson.
Heather held her breath.
“Yes,” Mr. Gibson replied confidently. “I came back to invite all of you.”
Mr. Hart patted the full bag with one hand. “I have no use for camp meetings or religion,” he answered angrily. “My family needs more than that right now.” He turned and kissed Addie on the forehead. “I am on my way to find a job so that I can be a good father and provide for my family.”
In the 1800s, it would have been a huge deal that Mr. Hart had no job. It makes a lot of sense for him to be embarrassed about this. And he’s completely right. His family needs real help right now, not religion.
And then his next words to his wife are
“I won’t tell you that you can’t go to the campmeeting, but I hope you will make the right choice. If you don’t take in any laundry this week, then you are giving up money that we desperately need.”
Ok, why is he saying this in front of Mr. Gibson? That sounds really mean, unless he wants to impress upon the nosy bible worker that he is doing the family a disservice by pressuring the Harts to go to camp meeting. And if Mr. Gibson knows that such a thing will affect the family income, he really needs to go away and try again at the next campmeeting. Maybe in a year Mr. Hart will have a job and can afford to take time off.
Fortunately Mr. Gibson doesn’t offer to pray for him again. Mr. Gibson tells Mrs. Hart he won’t try to get her to go against her husband’s wishes.
Right. Because it’s still all about the husband. He didn’t say, “Jee I’m sorry that I tried to get you to do something that will affect the family income. Maybe next year.” Nope. It’s still all about not going against Mr. Hart’s wishes.
I know, I know, 1800s sexism…
“I apologize for the rude welcome,” [Mrs. Hart said.] “This recession has left so many without work, and my husband can’t stand the stress much longer of not having a job.”
What recession? Where did it come from? What caused it? How many people is this affecting? Why does it only seem to affect the Harts? Don’t tell me the recession wouldn’t affect the Gibsons. My dad is in publishing, and I well know what happens to book sales when the economy tanks.
Mr. Gibson leaves, saying that if Mrs. Hart does come to camp meeting, he’s sure the Lord will bless her. No pressure at all to go…
We get a section break, and Heather and Laura are at camp meeting washing dishes. Ah, yes, the fun part of camp meeting. Washing dishes in an outdoor sink waiting what seems like hours for your turn.
Heather wonders whether the Harts will come. Laura points out that there are a lot of people here, so Heather might have missed them. Laura’s estimation is “Perhaps as many as a thousand people.”
I can’t recall off the top of my head how many people attend Michigan campmeeting each year. I know it’s a very high number, though. The overflow rooms are always full.
Heather shook her head. “No,” she said. “I would have seen them. I was looking all through the sermon.”
If there are a thousand people there, then there really is a good chance that you just haven’t seen them yet. Especially since, unlike me, Heather didn’t have a balcony to watch from.
We get a line about how Mrs. Gibson has been feeling much better lately, though is still very weak.
Mr. Gibson says they might get rain. Nathan says that it hasn’t rained in weeks, just as a gust of wind comes along.
By the way, there will be a tornado at camp meeting. There is always a tornado at camp meeting.
(Bonus points if it goes through your camp site. Apparently that qualifies you for a free meal from the cafeteria on Sabbath afternoon. I may or may not know this from personal experience…)
“It may be only a wind storm,” Mr. Gibson said, looking up at the sky thoughtfully. “But, I’m praying that it’s rain. There have been bush fires a few miles from here. If we don’t get some rain, the fires could be on our doorsteps.”
Well that would make for an interesting camp meeting! I’ve never had a fire at camp meeting before.
Heather and Laura find a seat in the big meeting tent, near the door, so they can watch for the Harts. This is apparently the last Sabbath of camp meeting. That means that there will be more people than usual, because a lot of people who can’t come for the whole ten days will still come on the weekends, especially the last one. If there were roughly a thousand people during the week, that number could easily double or triple on the weekends. Well, this is the 1800s so, maybe only a few hundred extra people are here. Travel was more difficult back then, so my estimate could be way off.
In any case, it starts raining, which means they have to put the tent flaps down. That sucks, because it’s going to get hot and humid in there really fast. But on the bright side, those bush fires Mr. Gibson was talking about? They may as well have not been mentioned. I never get the sense that the people at Campmeeting are in danger. I almost want to say it’s an unfired Chekhov’s gun. In fact, now that I think about it, it is an unfired Chekhov’s gun.
It would have been much more interesting if the fires had gotten close, and the Pastor had prayed for divine intervention. Men were forming a bucket brigade when just then, it began pouring. I would still find this cliche and bad writing, but it would be better than having an unfired Chekhov’s gun.
If the bush fires aren’t going to cause any trouble, don’t include them in the narrative.
In any case, Elder Daniells gets up to start talking, but no one can really hear him over the sound of pounding rain. I guess microphones haven’t been invented yet. After Elder Daniells says something, everyone sings the doxology. As they are singing, Laura points out to Heather that Addie and Mrs. Hart are here.
Heather grinned. “I’m so glad you decided to come,” She said.
Mrs. Hart smiled. “We wouldn’t miss this for anything,” she said. “Not for the world.”
Why? I can see why an Adventist would feel that way, but the Harts are not Adventist. They have no fondness for Campmeeting ingrained in them from birth, sooooo why would they not miss this for the world??
The chapter ends here. How do Addie and her mom like camp meeting? Well, I’d say tune in next time to find out, but, we actually don’t get told. We get told the Hart’s response to an altar call, but we all knew that was coming and it still doesn’t tell us how the Hart’s react to the idea of tent meetings.