Chapter 5 begins with Heather pricking her finger on her sewing needle as she embroiders. As Aunt Rachel comes in and Heather quickly hides the embroidery. Aunt Rachel asks Heather to deliver some wedding invitations.
“Mr. O’Leary is going to Sunnyside to do some work for Mrs. White this morning….you could go with him and dliever an invitation to her, one to Willie and May White, and also one to the Reynoldses.”
Even as a child, I would’ve needed a minor explanation as to who Willie and May White were, because I didn’t exactly sit there and memorize Ellen’s family tree. Willie White is one of Ellen’s sons, and was kind of his mother’s right hand man after Ellen’s husband died. May is Willie’s wife. Willie White is also referred to as WC White, and was head of the White Estate for quite some time after her death. He spent a lot of time defending his mother against criticism, some of which was very valid.
Let’s talk about Sunnyside. I was looking up something else, browsing through an online archive of Heritage Magazine when this popped up:
I was thinking that Sunnyside, which Aunt Rachel takes clothes to, was an 1800s version of a Dorcas. But it turns out that Sunnyside is Ellen White’s house. That makes so much more sense!
This is the kind of stuff that should be included in these books. I try looking for things like this sometimes but it is very hard to find much. I wasn’t even looking for this picture when I found it.
Anyway, Heather isn’t really too happy about having to see Ethel on Sunday, which is the only day she really gets a break from her.
Aunt Rachel sympathizes, but says the wedding is only 3 weeks away. She tells Heather she can just stick it in their mailbox if she doesn’t want to talk to them directly.
I understand that this is Australia. I understand that this is the 1890s. I still think that the target audience needs a footnote or something to explain to children that sticking things in mailboxes was acceptable behavior in that time and place, but it is not acceptable behavior now. I don’t know what the law is in Australia, but here in the States, that’s kind of a federal offense.
Aunt Rachel then tells Heather that she’d rather not deliver the invitations to the Reynoldses herself because John’s mother is visiting, and she doesn’t want to deal with her. Which, fair enough, I guess…. but it rubs me the wrong way that Aunt Rachel doesn’t want to see Mrs. Reid, but she has no problem telling Heather to risk seeing Ethel. If the invitation can be dropped in the mailbox, why can’t Rachel go put it in there? Or better yet, send it through the mail?
Oh never mind. It’s not really a big deal. This chapter is clearly only set up so that we can have Heather overhear a conversation.
Heather, upon hearing that Mrs. Reid doesn’t like Rachel, is baffled as to how anyone could possibly not like aunt Rachel. Aunt Rachel deflects by telling Heather she should get going if Mr. O’Leary is to walk with her. Mr. O’Leary is happy that Rachel and John are getting married, saying that they are “a fine Christian couple.”
Heather responds to this by asking Mr. O’Leary if he is a Christian.
Mr. O’Leary seemed surprised by the question. “I’m not sure yet if I am or not,” he answered.
“It isn’t difficult,” Heather answered. “If you love Jesus, you just have to ask Him into your heart.”
I’m not surprised to see someone say this in a Christian book. I am surprised to see it coming from an Adventist Christian book, because Adventist Christians like to make shit as difficult as possible.
So in some cases I suppose I should be glad the author isn’t making it overly complicated. The thing is… it is a bit more complicated than that. For me personally, trying to love an invisible imaginary friend was really hard, made all the harder by the fact that, in both Old and New testaments, Jesus is kind of an asshole. Then there’s that whole thing about trying to find the denomination who has all the right doctrines (spoiler alert, it’s not Adventism. Actually, I don’t think any one church always interprets the Bible “correctly,” or even that there is such a thing as the “right” way to interpret the Bible).
Adventists also place a huge importance on keeping the commandments. ALL THE COMMANDMENTS. And if there aren’t enough commandments in the Bible for them, they’ll make up some commandments and make themselves feel guilty for not following them. Very difficult.
But for an eleven year old child, saying that Christianity isn’t difficult isn’t too far off the mark. To them, life and religion are simple. Usually. Unless they start having doubts particularly early.
Mr. O’Leary would probably know this, so instead of attributing his next comment to bad writing, I’m going to be nice and decide that Mr. O’Leary’s “I never thought of it like that before!” comment meant that he was being polite.
Heather leaves the wedding invitation for Mrs. White on the door of Sunnyside, and Mr. O’Leary tells her to go straight home after she runs her errands.
As Heather goes to Ethel’s house, she gets startled by a Kookaburra bird. She sneaks up the front walk, and is about to drop the invitation next to the front door when she hears Ethel’s voice.
“Are you sure, grandmother?”
Heather didn’t know what to do. She wanted to run down the path, but she didn’t want Ethel to see her and think that she had been eavesdropping. She stood frozen for a moment.
I was going to make a snide comment that Heather is eavesdropping, but then, she’s 11. I remember overhearing a very personal private conversation at that age because I didn’t know that I should maybe say something like, “hey, I’m here, hiding behind a bookshelf.” I didn’t know what to do and it was awkward. So maybe this is more realistic than I was originally thinking.
“Yes, my dear,” she heard Mrs. Reid reply, her voice floating out through the open window. “I don’t think John should marry that American girl, Miss Nash. I’m quite certain he is making a big mistake.”
At this point, Heather does run away, and that’s the end of the chapter.
You know, this could work. Perhaps Mrs. Reid has heard that American girls have bad reputations. Whether or not this is true isn’t something I know, but it could work. This would make Mrs. Reid not look so selfish. Instead of merely worrying about having to leave her house, Mrs. Reid could be worried about John because she doesn’t want him to get hurt, and she’s heard that American girls are somehow bad.
Now, I think Mrs. Reid’s desire to not leave her home is a valid concern. I don’t mean to imply that it isn’t. I am saying that having it be her only concern makes her look more bitchy than the author intended. Mrs. Reid doesn’t care who her son marries, as long as she gets to keep her house and her land. I already discussed how Mrs. Reid could have some valid concerns with Aunt Rachel, so I won’t go on about it now. But wondering about the reputation of American Girls would paint Mrs. Reid as more human, more concerned about her son.
This would still create a big giant misunderstanding that could be cleared up in 3 paragraphs, and it would also preserve “sweet aunt Rachael” as a perfect character who never does anything wrong. I still would dislike this, but at least it would be better than what we actually get, which was spoiled for us 3 chapters ago.
And yes, the spoiler is absolutely something 10 year old me would have noticed.
Next week, we’ll find out who the surprise guest at the wedding is. Ten monopoly bucks says it’s Ellen White.