The Train To Melbourne
The chapter starts with Heather, Nathan, and Aunt Rachel cleaning the kitchen.
Aunt Rachel…swept up the crumbs around the wash basin.
“Smells delicious!” Mr. Gibson called.
The crumbs Aunt Rachel is sweeping up smell delicious? At first this confused me, because nowhere in the first 2 paragraphs of this chapter is food mentioned. Just after dinner cleanup.
Heather is excited that her father is home, and I can’t figure out why. Has he been away?
Nathan asks if he can go play with James, because they have some things they want to get done before sundown. I hope you weren’t curious exactly Nathan and James want to do, because we don’t get to know.
Mrs. Gibson tells her husband that she saved him some soup.
“Thank you, Dear,” Mr. Gibson said…. “It sure is nice to be home. I had a long trip up to Brisbane and back this week.”
This is clunky. There are some things that you can get away with telling people in the text. This is one of them. His family would already know he went “to Brisbane and back.” A better place to drop this statement would have been a page ago when Heather was acting excited about him being home. It would have explained why she was excited to have him home, and it would have avoided this clunky dialog.
Mr. Gibson gives Aunt Rachel a letter he picked up for her at the post office. It’s from Pastor John Reid, and he’s invited her to come visit him in Melbourne.
“Oh, I want to come too,” heather said, jumping up so quickly that her chair nearly went flying. “Please, Father!”
Um, no. I do not think Rachel and Pastor Reid want you around. Particularly if The Good Pastor is looking to court.
Mr. Gibson tells Aunt Rachel that he’s going to Melbourne on Monday to pick up some books, and that he’ll take her then. Heather begs Father to take her along, because he took Nathan to tour the publishing house last time, and she’d really like to go see it.
Mr. Gibson says it’s up to Aunt Rachel, who of course agrees because you’ve kind of put her on the spot there, Gibson.
Before the section break, Heather wonders what Ethel will think of this.
Now, if I were Heather, I’d be a bit more worried about exactly how Ethel plans to deal with this. I mean, Ethel does actually do stuff besides be generally mean and annoying, right? I mean, we’re not really shown anything besides Ethel being generally unpleasant to Heather, being an annoying know-it-all, and being jealous of the time her uncle is spending with Heather’s family. We’re supposed to see Ethel as a mean girl, and yet all we’ve seen is a very socially awkward child who is worried about losing the person who is very possibly the only grownup who shows her affection.
I have a lot of sympathy for Ethel. She’s generally unpleasant to Heather, but doesn’t ever do anything to her. We’ve all seen mean girls, right? Ethel would be better characterized as someone who was full on Regina George.
After the section break, the train is stopping at Melbourne. So, it’s been a week. As they disembark, Pastor Reid meets them.
“Miss Nash,” he said. “You are even lovelier than I had remembered.”
Aunt Rachel blushes, and Pastor Reid tells Heather that he’s got a lot to show her.
The horses galloped along Best Street and stopped in front of the Echo Publishing House.
Unfortunately, this book lacks pictures. This seems like a serious omission. These books were written in order to connect SDA youth with their roots. You’d think the author would want to include pictures of some of the older buildings.
Mr. Gibson threw his bag over his shoulder. “This is a state-of-the-art printing press,” he explained proudly. “More than 80 people work here.”
Again, pictures would be nice. Most children today do not know what a printing press looks like. *I* do not know what a printing press looks like.
Interestingly, there is still an Echo Publishing House in Melbourne, Australia. I just deleted 3 paragraphs about it, because it is not the same publishing house as the one being discussed here. What used to be Echo Publishing House (as the book knows it) is now Signs Publishing Company. Here’s a quote from the about section on their website:
Established in 1885, Signs Publishing Company is 100 per cent Australian owned…
Interestingly, this wiki page is the only place I’ve seen “Amalgamated” used in a sentence outside of an Ellen White book.
I shouldn’t be having to look this up on my own. It was important enough to include in the book, it should be discussed in an afterward section. These book should have afterward sections. American Girl had them, and even if the author didn’t have American Girl’s budget, it wouldn’t have been hard to include some of your research in the back of the book.
Mr. Gibson tells the group that most of the books he sells are printed here.
“The Press also prints the Signs of the Times magazine and many other things,” Mr. Gibson continued, his voice sounding muddled by the noisy machinery.
I like this. I like that this was included. It’s educational and interesting. Well, some children may find it interesting, at any rate. I did not read this particular series of books as a child, so I have no idea what child!me would have thought of it. Adult!me is very interested.
Mr. Gibson tells Aunt Rachel, Pastor John, and Heather that he has to go see about a book order, leaving the 3 of them alone. Pastor John offers to continue the tour, which doesn’t work out so well for Heather because he spends most of the time flirting with Aunt Rachel.
We are told that the two adults didn’t notice what Heather was doing. What was Heather doing that they should have noticed? Why bring this up if you’re not going to tell me?
Pastor Reid invites the little group to join him and his mother for tea, saying that his mother “hates to be kept waiting.”
Pastor Reid lives on a farm, and I remember last chapter Ethel said it was a sheep farm. Are we getting some education stuff about sheep farming? Pastor Reid’s mother greets the group as they enter the house.
“Welcome to our home,” Mrs. Reid finally replied in a cool voice. “If you will come inside, I have a meal waiting.”
Aunt Rachel whispered in Heather’s ear. “Perhaps she’ll be friendlier once we get to know her a little better.”
Mrs. Reid’s home is very elegant, and Heather suddenly realizes her dress is wrinkled from having slept on the train. It’s a good comparison between elegance and feeling…well, not very elegant yourself.
Pastor Reid shows Heather the view of his farm, saying that his father started it.
“It’s home to me. I certainly understand why Jesus talks about being a shepherd.” He smiled at Aunt Rachel.
Anyone who has ever read about sheep knows why Jesus is constantly comparing us to them. For it is a universal truth that a lot of humans are incurably stupid. And so are sheep.
During dinner, Aunt Rachel tries to make conversation. She compliments Mrs. Reid on her lovely home.
“Yes,” she answered and sipped her water. “I am not surprised that you think so.”
Heather wonders whether or not this is rude. Yes, Heather, it is. Mrs. Reid indicates that Rachel is from a lower class. Of course Rachel would think the home lovely, Mrs. Reid thinks smugly to herself. But Mrs. Reid knows better. Mrs. Reid knows that this house is…. acceptable.
We are not told this, but it seems the most likely explanation. But then we get this.
Mrs. Reid’s eyes narrowed into little slits. She leaned over and said to Aunt Rachel in a voice that was almost a whisper, “I love my home, and I don’t ever plan to leave. Not ever!”
And that is where the chapter ends. Not a terrible place to end a chapter, but not exactly the most exciting cliffhanger ever.
Even as a child, this part would have made the entire plot of the book painfully obvious. Children are not stupid. Even a ten year old is going to realize that the only objection Mrs. Reid has to Aunt Rachel marrying her son is that she is afraid that them getting married will somehow mean that she has to leave her home.
Which strikes me as something that is overly simplistic and doesn’t really happen much in real life because in real life, Mrs. Reid would talk to her son. It also doesn’t really fit in with what Mrs. Reid said earlier about Rachel being of a lower class.
Also, ten year olds of today would not understand why Pastor Reid marrying Aunt Rachel would necessitate Mrs. Reid having to leave her home. I do not fully comprehend it myself, and I am a grown ass woman who understands a bit about 1800s sexism.
I get that this is a kid’s book, but Mrs. Reid’s objections to Rachel could have been much more complex. Here she seems to object to…well, any girl her son brings home. Maybe Rachel could have had a “wild” past. This wouldn’t have to be anything particularly salacious. She could have just “Strayed from the Lord” for a bit and “lived her life the way she wanted to rather than the way God wanted her to.” Of course you’d have to include a line or two about Rachel coming back to Jesus, but this wouldn’t have to be more than 2-3 lines tops.
That could work. It’s not too horribly specific, and leaves the details open to imagination. It’s also not too horribly complex for a children’s book, and would teach children that even adults make mistakes. In the American Girl books, we see adults making mistakes all the time, and sometimes those mistakes have disastrous consequences. Not every character in children’s books has to be black and white.
But no, Aunt Rachel has to be this perfect character who has nothing wrong with her whatsoever. Any objections Mrs. Reid has to Rachel are painted as something wrong with Mrs. Reid, not with Rachel.
This not only makes a character seem annoying, this makes for some seriously boring reading.