A Mountain To Climb Chapter 15: A Mutual Arrangement

We last left off with Arthur having proposed to Pearl. Instead of saying “yes” or “no,” Pearl has said, “whoa Arthur, slow down.” She then mentions offhand that her mother will never approve. Instead of respecting Pearl’s wishes to slow down, he decides that this means he must win the approval of Mrs. Lindsey. That is what this chapter is about. It’s a rather old idea that you should try and get the parents’ blessing when you marry their daughter. Nevertheless, it is still in existence in Adventist communities today.

And so the author does not mean for us to take this chapter as “how things were in the 1930s.” We are meant to see this as the ideal model for today. (“Today” being the 1970s rather than the 2010s, but still.)

At school, Arthur was doing some mountain climbing of his own. He organized a one man campaign to win the approval of Pearl’s mother.

Everything in life is a mountain. EVERYTHING. So why the hell did Pearl have to pray for one?

Arthur goes over to Mrs. Lindsey’s house and asks if she has anything that needs fixing. Remember, he built a lot of the buildings on campus, so he probably has quite a bit of experience. Mrs. Lindsey has Arthur fix the broken shutters, and when she asks how much she owes him, Arthur refuses to take any money.

After he leaves, Mrs. Lindsey picks up one of her cats and starts talking to it.

“I wonder if he thinks I was born yesterday? He’s out to win Pearl and I know it full well. Hmph! He might just as well save his efforts. She has her schooling to finish, and I’ll see that she does.”

Putting the cat back down on the step, she went inside the house. “And that’s that!” The cat stretched out full length and was soon asleep.”

For those of you who may have spent the entirety of this chapter wondering why Pearl has to choose between Arthur and school it is because the school will not allow her to continue to be a student while she is married. We do not get told this until after Pearl makes her decision, which is probably done because the author doesn’t want us to notice that Arthur is literally asking Pearl to choose between him and her education.

I have been trying, despite what it looks like, to respect that things were different in that time and in that place… but surely there had to be men in existence who weren’t giant walking dicks? I mean, what about all those talents Pearl had that God wanted her to go to school to develop? We never did learn what these talents are, but they exist, what about them?

There had to be men in existence who wouldn’t force Pearl to choose between them and an education. There had to be men in existence who would wait as long as it took for Pearl to finish her schooling. If Arthur is not willing to wait for her, he is not worthy of her.

In any case, Arthur continues to visit Pearl every Sabbath, then on Sunday he does work for Pearl’s mother. We can see that he’s slowly winning her over.

“Just where is all this going to end?” [Mrs. Lindsey] said to the cat. “He’s a nice young man.” She stopped short. “I will not be persuaded. School for Pearl, and that’s that!”

I understand where Mrs. Lindsey is coming from. How on earth she can see Arthur as anything but a dick is a credit to her character… At some point, though, she needs to let Pearl make her own decisions.

Next, Arthur takes Mrs. Lindsay on a walk. He arranged ahead of time for Alice to cover Mrs. Lindsay at the telephone exchange, and he did it covertly because he knew Mrs. Lindsay never would have agreed if he’d talked to her about it beforehand.

If he honestly wanted to surprise Mrs. Lindsey that would be one thing…. but like, that’s not the reason he states. And I’m not sure what to make of that.

Arthur tells Mrs. Lindsey a story about a room mate he had.

“He wanted to see if he could build up a credit in the office, so he began skipping meals. One day he was so weak he couldn’t get out of bed. Some of us brought him food, but by this time his stomach rebelled, and they had to take him to the hospital….he told me he was going to quit the nonsense and eat right when he got back to the school.”

“Well, did he?” [Mrs. Lindsey] asked.

“No,” Arthur said softly. “When he came back, we buried him in the school cemetery.”

It’s unclear if he died because of this first incident, or if there were multiple incidents where he stopped eating.

I wanted to highlight this story because it is similar to a story my grandmother told me about her time at Academy, which isn’t college, but on Planet Adventist the two are very nearly the same thing.

“One day,” grandma told me, “the students at Adelphian Academy were refusing to eat. I don’t remember what exactly they were protesting, but they were protesting something. And so the principal called all the students into his office, one by one, and asked, ‘why didn’t you go to supper?’

And I told him, ‘I never eat supper. I can’t afford it. I eat two meals a day, and I take a piece of fruit from lunch, and my room mate takes a piece of fruit from lunch, and we put them together to make fruit salad. And that is our dinner.’

Well,” she said. “The principal was surprised at exactly how many people were telling him exactly that. And so that is why, Young Abby, it is a rule at your boarding academy that you pay for all meals regardless of whether or not you eat them. Because we don’t want you starving yourself.”

Adventist schools are expensive. Adventist college is especially expensive. In some institutions, tithe is a requirement, which would deplete funds further.

If I were Mrs. Lindsey, I would be seriously questioning the integrity of the school at this point. I get that college is different from Academy, but still, if this college is so expensive that this man didn’t feel he could afford to eat, there’s something wrong with the college. Especially a Christian college. What did Jesus have to say about feeding the poor, again?

We are told that it was the student’s fault for “trying to save up a credit in the office,” but I wonder why he would have been doing that? I don’t know, maybe he felt he couldn’t afford school clothes? Poverty is a bitch.

Mrs. Lindsey, instead, tells Arthur that that should be a lesson to him to eat all his meals. Arthur reassures her on that point, and I can’t help but think that he is coming from a place of privilege if he thinks that eating meals is a choice. The fact that I also come from this same place of privilege is entirely beside the point.

One day, Mrs. Lindsey tells Arthur that the doctor is going to allow Pearl to come home for Christmas.

“Of course she’ll be in a wheel chair,” Mrs. Lindsey said. “She still can’t put weight on that troublesome leg. But at least it’s looking more nearly like a leg should.”

It’s about time we got a look at Pearl’s progress. It’s nice to see that she is progressing, and I have serious doubts that a divinely ordained miracle would take so long to happen. Maybe the students didn’t pray hard enough?

Arthur smiled at the news. Even though Pearl reminded him that her mother wouldn’t approve, whenever he brought up the subject of marriage, he hoped his campaign of the past few weeks would pay off.

We are supposed to see all this scheming to win Mrs. Lindsay as sweet and persistent. I think Arthur needs to back off until Pearl finishes her education. It sounds like Mrs. Lindsey isn’t against Arthur, she just wants him to wait a while. As well she should. Any man not willing to wait for Pearl to finish school is not worthy of Pearl.

Arthur tells Mrs. Lindsey he wants to get a group of students together and plan a surprise for Pearl. They get together, and present a plan to Mrs. Lindsey, who approves. We are not, at this time, told what the plan is exactly, and this is good. That’s good writing. If it’s all going to go off without a hitch, we shouldn’t know of the plan yet. We should be finding it out right along with Pearl, and we do. Props to the author, this is done well.

I’ve already said that Ms. Maxson has a good sense of pacing. Pity she was never in an environment that would have allowed her to develop this talent to write real books.

Later, back in his room, Arthur grinned his approval of Mrs. Lindsay’s changed attitude. “I’ll win them both yet,” he promised himself.

The chapter ends here. I almost feel like Arthur should be laughing maniacally at this point while twirling his mustache. I also have to wonder if Arthur has truly won over Pearl yet, if he is feeling like he has to win them “both.”

It is stated later that Arthur and Pearl don’t need Pearl’s mom’s approval to get married, but that they want it anyway. Part of this may be because they truly don’t want to upset Mrs. Lindsay, but part of it is that Ellen White thinks that if your parents don’t approve of your potential mate, you shouldn’t marry them.

“Should parents,” you ask, “select a companion without regard to the mind or feelings of son or daughter?” I put the question  to  you  as  it  should  be:  Should  a  son  or  daughter  select  a  companion   without  first  consulting  the  parents,  when  such  a  step  must  materially  affect  the  happiness  of  parents  if  they  have  any  affection  for  their  children?  And  should  that  child,  notwithstanding  the  counsel  and  entreaties  of  his  parents,  persist  in  following  his  own  course?  I  answer decidedly: No; not if he never marries. “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”[Exodus 20:12] Here is a commandment with a
promise which the Lord will surely fulfil to those who obey. Wise parents will never select companions for their children without respect to their wishes.

Counsels on Courtship and Marriage, p. 23


And so, even though technically speaking, Arthur doesn’t need Mrs. Lindsay’s blessing to marry Pearl, he and Pearl still feel they need to have it. What I think Mrs. Lindsay ought to do is sit down with Pearl and Arthur, discuss the consequences of forgoing an education, and pleading with Arthur to wait for Pearl. Or at least talk to her daughter about it without Arthur there.

It matters a little less for Pearl, since she is able to get a job without a college degree. But what about other women who may get trapped in bad marriages because they had to sacrifice the education for the marriage? It is not always apparent whether or not a marriage will be good or bad at the start, and without an education, a woman could very easily find herself trapped.

And so I very much hope that there have been a lot of changes at this school since 1939.


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