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    Chapter 14—“Willie’s Drowned!”

    “These spring nights are chilly. I hope our guests bring blankets with them.” Clarissa was speaking to Jenny as they set up cots in the bedrooms and the living room of the White home. There was to be an important meeting, and the Review had printed notices that the friends in Battle Creek, Michigan, would entertain all who came. The Whites were expecting a houseful of guests.SMG 100.1

    The publishing office had been moved from Rochester, and the Whites now lived at Battle Creek. The Adventists in Michigan had invited Elder White to bring the publishing work to their state, and they had promised to build a printing office. So the publishing business had moved to Battle Creek.SMG 100.2

    James and Ellen White lived in a small house with their three little boys and their two faithful helpers, Clarissa Bonfoey and Jenny Fraser.SMG 100.3

    On this particular afternoon everyone was bustling around getting ready to entertain the guests who were expected the next day. The women were cleaning house, Henry and Edson were raking the yard, and baby Willie, now twenty-two months old, was playing about, getting in everybody’s way and enjoying the excitement as much as his older brothers.SMG 100.4

    The rough board kitchen floor had been scrubbed, and a tub of dirty suds was left sitting in the middle of the room. As Jenny passed by on her way to gather chips for starting the cookstove fire, she noticed the baby standing beside the tub.SMG 100.5

    “What are you doing, Willie?” she asked.SMG 101.1

    “Sticky boaty! Sticky boaty!” chirruped the little fellow, pushing a small wooden pail around in the water with a stick.SMG 101.2

    Coming back up the steps a few minutes later, Jenny thought of the baby. Where was he? She hurried into the kitchen, where she heard a gurgling sound.SMG 101.3

    A tiny foot was sticking out of the water! She snatched it, pulled the baby out, and ran screaming to find his mother.SMG 101.4

    “Willie’s drowned! He’s drowned! He’s drowned!” she shrieked.SMG 101.5

    Mrs. White came running from the front room and met her in the doorway. “Jenny, was the water hot or cold?”SMG 101.6

    “He’s drowned! He’s drowned! He’s dead! He’s dead!” the girl kept screaming.SMG 101.7

    Mrs. White seized Jenny by the shoulders and, shaking her vigorously, asked, “Jenny Fraser, tell me, was the water hot or cold?”SMG 101.8

    “Cold,” gasped the terrified Jenny.SMG 101.9

    “Then give the child to me. You send for the doctor and call James.”SMG 101.10

    “Run for the doctor! Run for the doctor!” the girl shouted to a young man standing nearby. He began to run. Jenny followed, slapping him on the back and shoulders and shouting, “Run! Run! Run!”SMG 101.11

    By this time Mrs. White was in the front yard with Willie. Using a pair of scissors she had snatched up as she ran, she cut away his clothes. As she rolled him over and over on the grass, quantities of dirty water poured from his nose and mouth. She continued rolling the little body. James White arrived and stood silently praying and watching as the minutes ticked by. Ellen lifted Willie and looked for signs of life. There were none. She laid him down and rolled him again. More water trickled from his mouth.SMG 101.12

    Neighbors gathered and stood with sad, pitying faces, watching the mother’s efforts. Fifteen minutes passed, and still Willie’s condition was apparently hopeless.SMG 102.1

    “How dreadful to see her handling that dead child!” said one woman. “Somebody take that dead baby away from her.”SMG 102.2

    “You let her have her baby!” retorted James White with unusual emphasis. “She knows what she’s about.”SMG 102.3

    Twenty agonizing minutes passed, during which Mrs. White saw no signs of life. She lifted the limp form and held his cheek against hers. She kissed the cold lips. What did she see? The flicker of an eyelid, a slight pucker of the lips?SMG 102.4

    “I believe he’s trying to return my kiss!” she cried. “There must be life! There is life! There is life!”SMG 102.5

    She carried the limp form into the house. “Jenny, quick! Bring some cloths and heat them.” Ellen wrapped the hot cloths around Willie’s cold body, changing them frequently. She held him up again, close to her face. “He’s breathing! He’s breathing! My baby’s alive!” And she hugged him to her. “Thank God! Thank God!” she said over and over. Tears of joy ran down her cheeks.SMG 102.6

    Preparations for the visitors continued the rest of the day without my grandmother’s help. Not once did she let Willie out of her arms, for although he was now breathing naturally, she knew he was not entirely out of danger. If Grandma White were here today I know what I’d do. I’d put my arms around her neck and whisper in her ear, “Dear Grandma, I’m so glad you didn’t get discouraged working over that little drowned baby.” You see, when he grew up he had a baby girl of his own, and I was that baby girl. And I think the children and grandchildren of my six brothers and sisters would say, “We’re glad too!”SMG 102.7

    The conference opened Friday afternoon in the newly built meetinghouse. It was so crowded that the congregation had to move into a large tent pitched nearby. The little church measured only eighteen by twenty-four feet, and it was built of boards battened up and down. The seats were plain wooden benches with straight backs, and the floor was of wide, rough unpainted boards. But the members were glad to have their own church building.SMG 104.1

    The visitors were happy for another reason, too. They had been shown a small two-story office building where the Review was being printed, and some new machinery that could stitch, trim, bind, and do many other jobs in a fraction of the time it had taken by hand. And they heard plans for replacing the Washington handpress with a new power press.SMG 104.2

    The conference heard reports from the ministers who had brought news of companies of Sabbathkeepers springing up throughout the country. These humble ministers were not elegantly dressed. They had little money for clothes, for in those days there were no conference treasurers sending out monthly paychecks. The message was carried by workers who volunteered to labor without wages and to support themselves and their families on whatever offerings the people might give. Some worked on neighboring farms or in shops on weekdays, and preached in the evenings and on Sabbaths and Sundays. These traveling preachers were often absent from home for weeks at a time. Wherever they were working, they slept and ate in the homes of the people. At the close of the first evening lecture in a new place, someone in the audience was almost sure to step up to the preacher and say, “Come home with me, brother; you’re welcome to share our humble fare as long as you are holding these meetings.” If no one offered, the preacher himself might inquire if there was someone in the audience who could give him shelter. When he left for another place, his host would likely hand him a dollar or two to help pay expenses along the way.SMG 104.3

    At the close of the Battle Creek conference session on Sunday a testimony meeting was held. Songs of praise rang through the tent. Cheer shone from every face as, one after another, the members stood and pledged to make God’s work first in their lives.SMG 105.1

    Among those present were J. P. Kellogg, Dan Palmer, Cyrenius Smith, and Henry Lion, who had given $300 each toward building the printing office. The church members promised to support the publishing work so that James White would never again have to borrow money to keep the papers and tracts going out to the people.SMG 105.2

    The publishing enterprise was becoming self-supporting. The Review was now printed weekly, and a subscription price of two dollars a year was charged for it. Books were also being printed and sold. From this time on the ministers who had been distributing tracts and pamphlets free of charge would sell them whenever possible. So the Review family voted themselves a wage of five dollars a week. The future looked bright. Two years later a power press was installed!SMG 105.3

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