An Excellent


         Young Man


One Sunday morning a few weeks before the close of the school year, as I was busy writing lesson plans for the coming week, there came a knock on my door. I opened it to the woman in whose house I was living.

“Miss White, there's a young man downstairs who says he wants to see you.”

“To see me? Are you sure he wants to see me?” I asked, although I had a pretty good idea who it might be.

“Yes, ma'am. He is asking for you.”

Pushing my books aside, I glanced hurriedly into the mirror to see that I was presentable, then went downstairs to the living room to greet a rather expected, very special friend. Dores Robinson had come from St. Helena by train and had arrived in Reno a little past midnight.

“Well, Dores, I'm happy to see you,” I said, extending my hand for his usual hearty shake. “I've been half expecting you since receiving that last letter you wrote.”

“Yes,” he replied with a smile. “For a long time I've been looking forward to having a good visit with you.”

“Well, now is our chance, Dores,” I said happily. Somehow I felt that this was going to be a very important day in my life.

Since we didn't want to be interrupted by chance callers or be seen together by my school children, who were ever eager for new topics of conversation, I suggested a walk out into the country. Dores agreed. “Get your hat and coat and we'll be off.”

It was a bright, sunny day, but the breeze from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west was a little too cool for comfort, so Dores suggested that we might find a place at his hotel where we could visit. We went there and settled down in a corner of the lobby to reminisce and talk. It was an ideal spot, and we enjoyed our isolation among strangers passing in and out, and were ourselves entirely oblivious to the chatter and laughter all around us. I told him a story, one that I had reserved for just such an occasion as this, about the time when I had caught my first glimpse of him.

One Friday afternoon while we were still in Australia, Mother and I had been cleaning house, getting ready for Sabbath. “Ella,” she said, “we are going to have company tomorrow. Elder and Mrs. Robinson, who will be teaching in the school next year, are coming to have dinner with us, along with their son. They say that he is an excellent young man.”

On Sabbath morning I had gone as usual with a group of students who paddled a rowboat four miles down Dora Creek to hold Sabbath school and church services in a fisherman's cottage. Afterward we returned upstream to the boat landing, and I walked home through the woods. Arriving at our house, I discovered that dinner was in progress. Softly tiptoeing into the kitchen, I peeked through the pass-cupboard between the kitchen and dining room. Sure enough! The Robinsons were there, seated with our family at the table, and beside my empty chair sat the “excellent young man”!

Panic seized me. I grabbed a book and headed for the woods. There, seated on a log, I tried to read. But, not finding the book of any particular interest, I closed it and permitted my thoughts to wander. My meditations were of short duration. A “laughing Jack,” perched on an overhanging branch let out a boisterous “Ha! Ha! Ha!” I shouted indignantly at the feathered intruder, but he continued his hilarious mockery—“Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!”—until a handful of pebbles drove him off.

Suddenly it dawned on me that I rightfully deserved to be laughed at, running away like that from an excellent young man, and I past 17. Picking up my book, I hurried home, only to find the house deserted, the guests departed, and my family with them. I was left alone to ponder the foolishness of my actions.

It was nearly a year before I again saw the young man, and then for only a few brief months, when he was a member of Grandma's office staff at Sunnyside. Now, here we were together on the opposite side of the world.

At my request, Dores reviewed his recent years, going back to 1897, when he had begun medical school in Aberdeen, Scotland, on money lent him by a physician, one of his father's friends. But the long, winter nights spent studying in poorly lighted rooms, combined with many hours bending over a microscope, had brought on severe eyestrain and frequent headaches. His parents, who by this time had settled in Australia, heard of his health problem and sent him a ticket to Melbourne, where he might continue his medical course under more favorable circumstances.

It was while pursuing his studies there that he had received a testimony from Sister White, warning him that if he continued to attend medical school, instead of doctoring others he himself would need to be doctored. Her advice was that he give up the study of medicine. Dores was greatly disappointed, because he had set his heart on following the medical profession. Yet he accepted the message as coming from the Lord, and joined Mrs. White's staff as a stenographer and typist.

Was it not divine providence that brought him and me together under so many varied circumstances? Dores asked.

Why was it that the only vacant space around the entire premises in which he could set up a typewriter had been my father's office in our cottage across the road? And why was that little office the only room in the house where I could escape the boisterous play of my gleeful twin brothers and do my studying for school? Dores remembered that often he had stopped the clicking of his machine to help me master some intricate problem.

I remembered that at such times I had found in him just the help I needed. Why, he could name all the bones in the human body, explain the operations of the nerves and muscles, and figure as rapidly in English money as I could in American currency. Also during his college days he had been a member of the debating society.

So, while I had struggled with my assignments in physiology, accounting, and rhetoric, and he typed away on the manuscript for the forthcoming book, Christ's Object Lessons, we had become good friends.

Still looking backward while sitting in that Reno hotel lobby, we recalled our Sabbath afternoon “sings” around the organ, to which the young people of the neighborhood had been invited, and our Friday evening walks through the woods to attend missionary meetings at Avondale College. We talked on and on of these delightful experiences.

Dores had seen us off at the station when we left Australia for California. At that time, as he and I parted at the little station near Cooranbong, he handed me his photograph with the request that I return the favor. This I had done, and a correspondence followed, which strengthened our friendship through the next three years of separation.

After we left Australia, Dores found work helping to build the Sydney Sanitarium. This enabled him to act on the counsel Grandma had given him regarding his need for “more vigorous physical exercise.” Later, he crossed the Pacific and went to Battle Creek, hoping to find employment at the Sanitarium. He became secretary to Dr. David Paulson, still hoping to earn enough to pay off his longstanding debt to his father's friend. But the salary was so small that he decided he would have to try some other plan. He therefore entered the colporteur work, as it was called then, handling Dr. Kellogg's medical books.

Dores’ chosen field of labor was Montana. Arriving there he discovered that towns were far apart and most of them not large. Unable to afford any better means of transportation, he purchased a bicycle and began traveling from town to town and from farm to farm. Working in this fashion in rain and cold, he contracted rheumatic fever. A kind Adventist sister took him into her home and cared for him for many weeks until he was able to travel again.

Although the colporteur work had not been a tremendous success, Dores had discovered that he could give Bible studies and bring people to a decision for Christ. All his life, Dores Robinson was to be a soul winner. After recovering from his long illness, he agreed to teach a church school. This was a new and valuable experience for him.

Meanwhile, back at Elmshaven the office force was unable to cope with tasks awaiting their attention. Grandma continued to write voluminously. Realizing that more help was needed, Father remembered the excellent service Dores had given during the final months of our stay in Australia. He wrote, inviting him to join the Elmshaven staff.

The letter arrived in Montana toward the close of the school year. Since this seemed to Dores to be a move in the right direction, he accepted.

When he arrived, I was studying at Healdsburg College. We saw each other on my occasional weekend visits home and during summer vacation.


Now, taking advantage of a slight pause in our reminiscing, Dores spoke abruptly and to the point.

“Ella, I am sure that you can guess why I came all the way from St. Helena to see you. Remember the promise you made me the day you left home to teach in Reno? You said you would fulfill it under one condition: that I wait for you first to achieve your ambition of becoming a fully established, qualified church school teacher. You said you thought this would take about seven years and then asked half in fun if I would be willing to wait that long. I told you, also jokingly, that I could surely do no better than follow Jacob's example. But I have been wondering whether it is still your irrevocable decision to insist on that plan.”

As he slipped his arm around me and his eyes looked into mine, I knew that the great moment had come. There in that hotel lobby, we settled the question. With a little gentle persuasion, I agreed to shorten the waiting period from seven years to one. That weighty question settled, our mutual promises were made, which we sealed with a fervent kiss—our first.


In the gathering dusk I walked with him to the station and saw him board the train. You may be sure I needed no one to wish me pleasant dreams that night, and I have often wondered what I taught my pupils the next day.

School closed a few weeks later and I returned home to find the family in deep perplexity. The time for Father and Grandma to leave for the 1905 General Conference session had arrived. Ordinarily Sara McEnterfer would accompany Grandma to this important gathering, but this year she found it impossible to go. Grandma greatly desired my stepmother to take Sara's place and accompany her, but this posed a problem. How could Mother leave the 7-year-old twins and 5-year-old Grace and the boarders in her home? It was Dores who came up with the perfect solution.

“If you can persuade Ella, we will get married immediately and stay here and take care of the home and the children while you go to the conference.”

Ella was persuaded, and so the wedding date was set ahead one year.

Looking back now, I am truly thankful that we did not miss even one of the fifty-two precious years we were to spend together.

Ella Robinson