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    Chapter 8—“James, Have We Come to This?”

    Two women bent over a small bundle wrapped in a piece of blanket. The older woman, Mrs. Howland, said to the younger, “Ellen, you and James have been married for more than a year now. Wouldn’t you like to set up housekeeping here in Topsham where you have so many friends? We can spare two or three rooms in this big house.”SMG 59.1

    A soft cry came from the bundle. The young mother picked up her month-old baby and gave him a happy squeeze. “It would be pleasant to have a home here with you, but how can we keep house without furniture or dishes? You know that my husband, like the other Adventist preachers, has never thought of saving money for himself; and since we were married, he has had little time for earning.”SMG 59.2

    The Whites went back to the Harmon home in Gorham and packed their few possessions. While they were gone, Mrs. Howland told some of the other women in Topsham of her plans, One family had a chair or two to spare, another mended an old table, and someone found a wood-burning cookstove and a bed. When James and Ellen returned, they found their rooms cleaned, the borrowed furniture arranged, a few groceries on the table, and a pile of wood stacked neatly beside the stove.SMG 59.3

    A day or two later James White said, “I’ve found a job, Ellen. It’s a hard one, breaking and hauling stone for the railroad; but I’m in good health, thank God. We shall be able to support ourselves and help others.”SMG 59.4

    One night when he came home after work, his fingers were bleeding where the rough stones had worn away the skin, but his voice was cheery. “How’s the big boy? Tomorrow I intend to draw my wages and buy our provisions.”SMG 60.1

    But the next night his pocketbook was still empty. So was the grocery sack he had hoped to fill.SMG 60.2

    “My employer had no money to pay me,” he explained. “But we won’t complain, wife; the Lord is good to give me health and strength. I’m leaving the railroad tomorrow to take a job chopping wood.”SMG 60.3

    In spite of a lame ankle and a pain in his side that often kept him awake at night, James took an ax and went into the woods. By working from dawn till dark he managed to earn about fifty cents a day. Although at times they suffered for want of the mere necessities of life, he and Ellen were happy. They had each other, and they had their little Henry.SMG 60.4

    The mother was nursing her baby, and she allowed herself a pint of milk each day. But she needed a piece of cloth for a garment to cover his bare arms. So she went without milk for three days and saved nine cents, with which she purchased cloth for the baby’s dress.SMG 60.5

    One day James walked three miles and back through the rain to collect his wages and buy provisions. In those days groceries were seldom packaged but usually were sold in bulk. At the store James put his purchases into an empty flour sack, tying strings around the sack to make various compartments, thus separating the cornmeal from the beans, the beans from the rice, and so on. With the odd-looking sack slung over his shoulder, he trudged home through the drizzling rain.SMG 60.6

    He entered the house, singing lustily, “I’m a pilgrim, and I’m a stranger; I can tarry, I can tarry but a night.”SMG 62.1

    His wife’s greeting smile faded. “Oh, James, have we come to this?” Her eyes brimmed with tears. “And you went through the town of Brunswick, where you used to lecture, with that sack of groceries on your back!” She had tried to be courageous, but now, completely discouraged, she sat down and cried.SMG 62.2

    The tempest of grief over, she thought of how Jesus had suffered for her, and she asked forgiveness for complaining. The Lord then showed her why they had been allowed to suffer. He had appointed them the special work of searching for the “scattered flock.” If they had prospered, home would have become so pleasant that they would have been unwilling to leave it to carry the messages of comfort and instruction to others.SMG 62.3

    One early spring day, James said to Ellen, “I think we should go to the Bible conference that Brother Chamberlain invited us to attend in Connecticut.” He drew the ten dollars due him, which was all the money he had in the world. Half of it they spent for clothing. The other five dollars would pay their train fare as far as Dorchester, where their friends the Nicholses lived.SMG 62.4

    Ellen sat down and patched her husband’s overcoat. In places the patches had to be pieced to make them reach; and on one sleeve there were so many patches that the original cloth could hardly be seen. They packed their possessions—clothing, bedding, and all—in a three-foot tin trunk and set off for the meetings.SMG 62.5

    The Nicholses were glad to see them and to entertain them overnight. The next morning Mrs. Nichols handed Elder White a five-dollar bill, a half dollar more than enough to purchase tickets for the rest of the journey.SMG 62.6

    At Boston they boarded a small steamboat to go around the coast and up the river to Middletown. The steamer trip must have taken all night and some of the next day. Finally they stood on the boat landing.SMG 63.1

    James took the fifty-cent piece from his pocket and looked at it. “This will take us right to Mr. Chamberlain’s home,” he said, thinking to spare his frail little wife the walk. Ellen shook her head. Putting the money back into his pocket, James tossed the trunk onto a pile of boards, took his carpetbag of books in one hand and the baby in the other, and together they started down the street, looking for someone who could direct them to Mr. Chamberlain’s home.SMG 63.2

    Soon after they found the house, Mr. Belden arrived with his horse and wagon and took them with their trunk and bundles to his comfortable home in Rocky Hill, eight miles away, where the conference was to be held. Thursday afternoon and Friday morning the Belden team was busy carrying guests from the station to the various Adventist homes where they were to be lodged.SMG 63.3

    By sundown fifty or more people were gathered in the large unfurnished room in the Belden house. Chairs were brought in from friends in the neighborhood, and for additional seats, planks were laid over boxes. But no one thought about the discomfort of backless seats when Elder Bates stood before them and gave his Bible reasons for keeping the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath, or when Mrs. White related her vision of the temple in heaven, in which she saw the sacred ark holding the Ten Commandments.SMG 63.4

    Together the believers studied the Bible. Whenever they came to a scripture which was hard to understand, they searched for other Bible texts to explain it. Often they would kneel and pray. Once they continued studying through the night till nearly morning.SMG 63.5

    A few days after the conference, James handed Ellen a letter from Volney, New York. “It’s an invitation to attend another Bible conference, and we ought to go. But I don’t know where we’ll get money for our fare. The letter says the brethren there are too poor to advance it to us. If I can work, I’ll earn it myself.” James had already done some mowing for neighboring farmers.SMG 64.1

    “We must have faith,” Ellen said. They prayed. Soon James with two other Adventists was mowing a hundred-acre field of hay. It was hard work, mowing with a hand scythe for only 871/2 cents an acre. But one thought made the task easier—they were all working toward the same end—to go to the conference.SMG 64.2

    James also took a part-time job on another farm, working for strangers. This was not easy. The mowers would start together at one side of the field, each cutting a five-foot swath, one following a little behind the other. James wondered why the mower in charge gave him the widest swath and put him in the lead, the hardest place in the field. Soon he learned that the other men had been joking about the Adventist preacher. But he laughed and said to himself, “Even if I am a preacher, I learned to swing a scythe when I was a boy on the farm.” In spite of a constant pain in his side and a lameness which made it impossible to rest his full weight on his left foot without pain, he kept in the lead.SMG 64.3

    At midday the men stopped in a shady spot to eat lunch. The other mowers took a swig of whiskey from their flasks, but the Adventist preacher drank only water. At the end of the first day’s work one of the mowers said, “Mr. White, when you came into the field this morning, we were determined to run you out, because we didn’t want a preacher around; but we must admit that you have us all beaten.”SMG 64.4

    At home that night he said cheerily to Ellen, “I prayed for strength, and God gave it.”SMG 65.1

    The day came for them to leave. The young mother had little Henry’s clothes packed for the trip. James stood with an arm around Ellen, looking down at the sleeping baby. With a trace of regret in his voice, he said, “Ellen, how can you take care of that little fellow on such a journey, and with that constant cough and pain in your lungs?”SMG 65.2

    They talked it over, and decided to take little Henry to Clarissa Bonfoey. “I’m so glad to have a part in God’s work,” she said with a smile as she reached out her arms for the baby.SMG 65.3

    For the first time Ellen was leaving her little one in the care of another, but it was not to be the last time. She kissed his soft cheek and brushed away her tears. Then taking her husband’s arm, she walked to the wagon which would take them to the boat landing.SMG 65.4

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