Chapter 1: Miss Esther Memorizes a Verse

Miss Esther opened her eyes.

The polished wood of the shelf above her was just starting to look a bit rose-colored in the morning light.

“Good morning, Lord!” Miss Esther smiled sleepily. “I pray that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart would be acceptable in Your sight today. You are my strength and my Redeemer. I love You!”

Miss Esther gave herself a moment to enjoy the feeling of being cozy and well-rested. The week had been so full that she was thankful for a good night of solid sleep.

At last Miss Esther pushed back the covers and slid her feet into her red slippers. She stood up and stretched. Then she turned and began making her bed.

First she tossed aside the pillows and pulled up the sheet. She smoothed down the blanket and quilt next. Then she piled the pillows on in a happy, but well-organized design.

“There!” Miss Esther settled her teddy bear down front and center. “And a very good day to you, Mr. Bear!”

She thought it almost looked as if Mr. Bear smiled back.

Miss Esther went to her trunk and lifted the lid. “Let’s see…what shall I wear today? Dorothy and Beverly will be joining us for breakfast so I’ll do something a little extra nice. My brown skirt would be just perfect!”

Miss Esther took out her cream-colored blouse and brown traveling skirt. In a few moments she had dressed for the day and checked her hair in the mirror. All was in order.

She picked up her quiet time things and settled down on her bed. “Oh, that’s right!” Miss Esther clapped her hands. “Today is the day I start my new Scripture memory verse!”

Miss Esther picked up the small green purse that she kept with her quiet time things. She liked to call it her ‘Verse Purse’. It sounded fun and fancy.

The Verse Purse had two pockets. One pocket held verses she wanted to memorize, but hadn’t yet. The other held verses she was working on and reviewing.

“Lord, would You continue to write Your Word on my heart? Thank-You so much that I can memorize.”

Miss Esther pulled out the cards in the ‘reviewing’ pocket. She did her best to quote through them without looking. She was almost successful! She just needed to look a couple times.

“Now I get to start a new one!” Miss Esther bounced a little in her excitement. “I’m so glad Susanna gave me some fresh ones for my birthday a few months ago!”

Miss Esther reached into the ‘new’ pocket and drew out a card. It had pretty decorative designs around it and a space to write the chosen memory verse.

Miss Esther looked up the verse in her Bible and read it aloud.

“Mark 1:35 ‘And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.’” Miss Esther smiled to herself. “That’s a wonderful verse! This will be a good one to memorize.”

Miss Esther carefully wrote out the verse in the space provided on the small card. She noticed that above the verse there was a title. It said, ‘Have A Daily Quiet Time’.

“Mrs. Manny Memories told me about giving titles to my memory verses.” Miss Esther tapped her chin with her pen. “She said it’s like having a mental filing system. Evidently it makes it easier to remember the verse when you need it. I guess I’ll try it with this verse.”

Miss Esther looked at the verse card and tried to freeze the first few words in her mind. Then she closed her eyes and said it over and over.

Have a Daily Quiet Time Mark 1:35 ‘And in the morning,’ Mark 1:35”

Once she was sure she had it, she added the next piece of the verse.

Have a Daily Quiet Time Mark 1:35 ‘And in the morning, rising up a great while before day,’ Mark 1:35.” Miss Esther paused in her memorizing. “Now I know why I have my quiet time as one of the very first activities in my day! It’s because on whatever day this was in Mark chapter 1, verses 35-38, that’s what Jesus did!”

Miss Esther said the first part of the verse over and over again. Then she checked the verse card to see the next phrase.

After a few more minutes, she had added all the phrases. Miss Esther closed her eyes and said the whole verse through without looking.

Have A Daily Quiet Time Mark 1:35 ‘And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.’ Mark 1:35”

She glanced back down at her card. “Yes! I got it! Thank You, Lord!”

Miss Esther said the verse over one more time and then slipped it back into her Verse Purse. She’d work on it again the next morning.

“Perhaps I’ll have time later today to start coloring in the design.” Miss Esther thought of her colored pencils up in the library. She was already trying to decide whether to do the flowers orange or yellow.

Miss Esther laid her Verse Purse aside and reached for her quiet time journal. She wrote in the date and then paused to ask the Lord to help her understand what she read. Soon she was reading the story in John chapter 5 about how Jesus healed the man beside the pool in Bethsaida. 

“The man departed and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.” (NKJV)

Miss Esther read the fifteenth verse with a happy sigh. She thought about the story for a moment.

“Jesus can do such wonderful miracles!” Miss Esther’s eyes shone with the thought of it. “That man had no one to help him till Jesus came.”

She looked back at verse fifteen. “Well, I can certainly tell others Who it is that has made me well inside. Perhaps when I talk with Princess Ella today I’ll be able to tell her about how the Lord has helped me in my life.”

Miss Esther wrote down the verse in her Quiet Time Journal and what she liked about it. Then she pulled out her prayer pocket and spent time talking to God.

“And Lord, would You watch over our breakfast time with our guests and my trip to the castle? Please help my sisters and I to be a great encouragement to the people we meet today. Help us to be ever ready to tell what You have done for us.”

Miss Esther paused a moment. “My mind is so full of all that needs to happen today, Lord. Serving our guests and going to tea seem to me to be the big things to do. But if you have other plans, please redirect me. I don’t mind at all. I want to live out Your plans for today. Thank You. In Christ’s Name, Amen.”

Miss Esther rose from her knees and tucked away her quiet time things. It was going to be a very busy day! But deep down inside Miss Esther knew she’d already done the most important thing – she’d spent time with the Lord.

And with that happy assurance, Miss Esther climbed the stairs to the library.

It was time to make breakfast!

Chapter 2: Miss Esther Makes French Toast

Miss Esther stepped into the library and looked around. To her surprise she couldn’t see Cashew anywhere. Normally he was awake by 7:30am.

Miss Esther turned on the lamp. She would have called for her pet but their guests were probably still sleeping upstairs. She didn’t want to wake them!

The lamp added warm light to the room and Miss Esther glanced around. Then she noticed a tiny tail sticking out from behind the footstool.

“Cashew?” Miss Esther just whispered the words so she wouldn’t disturb anyone else.

A black nose appeared over the top of the stool and then two black eyes. Cashew opened his mouth slightly and it looked as if he were smiling.

“There you are!” Miss Esther shook her head with a smile. “Where you hiding to surprise me, Cashew?”

Cashew scurried from behind the stool and came over.

Miss Esther knelt down to give him a ‘good morning’ scratch behind his ears. “I can see I don’t even need to ask how you are this morning! My faithful Cashew is having a very happy day.”

Cashew wagged his tail but didn’t bark.

“Yes, we need to be quiet this morning.” Miss Esther kept her voice to a whisper. “Hopefully our guests can get a little more sleep.”

Miss Esther rose and went into the kitchen to fetch the dog food. Soon Cashew was happily munching his all natural and all raw breakfast.

Miss Esther threw open the curtains, stirred the fire and watered her small jar of sprouts. Then she set about preparing for breakfast. She mixed a fruit salad, tossed it with lemon juice and then put it in the fridge to stay fresh while she made the French toast.

As soon as the first slices were in the skillet, Miss Esther quickly set the table. By 8:00am there was a whole dish full of steaming French toast keeping warm in the oven.

“I’m surprised my sisters aren’t down yet.” Miss Esther brushed a wrist over her forehead. “Normally Priscilla is early.”

There was a light step on the stairs and in a moment Priscilla herself glided into the library.

“Good morning!” Miss Esther gave her sister a warm smile. “I was just thinking of you! It’s another beautiful day in Small Village!”

“It is.” But Priscilla seemed slightly worried. “Susanna isn’t feeling well.”

“She isn’t?” Miss Esther was concerned. “She was feeling just fine last night.”

“I know.” Priscilla gave Cashew a pat on the head. “Her stomach isn’t happy. I think perhaps it didn’t like the popcorn last night.”

“That’s odd.” Miss Esther flipped another slice of French toast. “Susanna can usually eat anything.”

Priscilla nodded. “I fetched her the peppermint oil and told her to just stay in bed. I’ll call the hospital and let them know she won’t be in today.”

“Thank-you.” Miss Esther glanced towards the stairs and spoke softly. “I think our guests are coming down.”

Miss Esther tried not to think about how much she’d miss Susanna’s presence at the breakfast table. Her sister usually saw the positive side of everything and was such a help with conversation when they had company.

Miss Esther sent up a quick prayer for the right words and reached to take the extra plate from the table. She’d just set it back on the shelf of the dish dresser when Dorothy and Beverly entered the library.

“Good morning!” Miss Esther gave their guests a bright smile. “It’s another beautiful day! Did you sleep well?”

“It is a lovely day!” Beverly clapped her hands. “I slept very well, thank-you. Your guest bed is as comfortable as my own!”

“I’m so glad to hear that.” Priscilla gave them good-morning hugs. “Getting good sleep away from home can be a real challenge!”

Miss Esther pulled the dish of French toast from the oven and set it in the center of the table. “Breakfast is hot and ready!”

“It smells delicious.” Dorothy smiled quietly as she climbed into her chair. “You are clearly a very good cook, Miss Esther.”

Miss Esther set aside her hot mats. “Thank-you, Dorothy. I really enjoy it and am so grateful the Lord has given me the strength to do it.”

Priscilla smiled as she took her seat. “The rest of us are really thankful too!”

Everyone smiled and a few of them chuckled.

Miss Esther pulled the bowl of fruit salad from the icebox. She set it on the table and realized with joy that everything was ready. She sat down and looked at Beverly.

“Beverly, would you be willing to thank the Lord for our breakfast?”

“I’d be glad to.” Beverly glanced around the kitchen. “Is Susanna coming?”

“She’s not feeling well this morning.” Miss Esther smiled sadly. “It’s just something with her stomach. I think she’ll be resting today.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry.” Dorothy’s voice was very sympathetic.

Beverly nodded. “Me too.” Then she bowed her head. “Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for this beautiful breakfast that You have provided. Please help Susanna to feel better very soon. Thank You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

“Amen.” Miss Esther raised her head and reached to lift the lid from the dish of French toast. She took up the serving tongs. “May I serve you some French toast, Dorothy?”

Priscilla slipped away for a few moments to call the hospital and let them know Susanna would not be in to work. The manager was very understanding and agreed that she should just stay home.

Breakfast was a joyful affair despite Miss Esther’s fears. Beverly and Dorothy were wonderful conversationalists. By the time the French Toast had disappeared they were all even better friends than before. Beverly turned out to be an accomplished violinist. In no time at all she and Priscilla were deep in a discussion of Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Violins and wondering if it could be adapted for violin and cello.

Miss Esther and Dorothy discovered a mutual love for flowers. They traded tips for keeping their favorite flowers alive. They even left the table for a few moments to take a look at Miss Esther’s rose bush by the front step.

“Thank You, Lord, for new friends.” Miss Esther kept the prayer in her heart as she settled back into her seat. “I’m so thankful You introduced us to Dorothy and Beverly.”

Chapter 3: Beverly’s Gift

All too soon it was time to clean up the breakfast things. Priscilla took over the dishwashing, Dorothy volunteering to dry. Beverly swept the floor and Miss Esther put away the leftover food.

“Thank you so much for your help!” Miss Esther added a log to the fire in the stove as she spoke. “The kitchen doesn’t usually get cleaned this quickly!”

“A pleasure!” Beverly tucked the broom back in its place.

Priscilla reached for her hat. “It’s been lovely getting to know you, Dorothy and Beverly. I hope you can come back for a visit again soon!” She tied her bonnet strings in a big bow. “I’m due in the library in five minutes but I wanted to give you each a quick hug before I go.”

“Of course!” Dorothy’s smile was gentle. “It’s been wonderful to meet you, Priscilla.”

Hugs were given all around and then Priscilla left for the library. Miss Esther closed the glass door and then turned to their guests.

“What are your plans for the day? You are certainly welcome to stay as long as you like.”

“Thank-you so much.” Beverly spoke for them both. “We have an appointment at the Air Basket in about half-an-hour and then we’ll catch the Tiny Wheels Express to Oak Haven.”

Miss Esther nodded. “Certainly. Can I help you with your suitcase?”

“Oh, I’ll get.” Dorothy waved a hand. “It’s really light and I’ve learned just how to carry it, even if it is almost as tall as I am.”

“Could I talk with you, Miss Esther, about something while Dorothy packs up the last of our things?” Beverly smiled and her eyes sparkled.

“Of course.” Miss Esther was surprised. “How about we sit in the library?”

Dorothy disappeared upstairs and the other two settled themselves in the library.

“I wasn’t sure when I was going to get the chance to say something, but Priscilla’s leaving for work was perfect timing.” Beverly’s voice was almost a whisper. “Priscilla mentioned that you are looking for a piano?”

“Why yes, we are.” Miss Esther’s eyes widened in surprise. “We thought it would be fun to have on Bible study nights and for sister duets.”

“Oh, this is so perfect!” Beverly hugged herself in her joy. “Such an answer to prayer!”

“Is it?” Miss Esther smiled despite her confusion.

“Yes!” Beverly clearly lived in a world of smiles. “You see, just last week I inherited a piano from a distant relative, but it’s far too big to put in our house!”

Miss Esther felt her heart jump.

“It’s going to be delivered tomorrow and I had no idea where to put it. It’s about four times the size of our front door!” Beverly laughed. “Would you and your sisters like a piano? I can ask them to deliver it to your house instead.”

Miss Esther pressed a hand over her heart. “I hardly know what to say! My sisters would be so excited. How much are you selling it for?”

“It’s not for sale.” Beverly’s eyes sparkled. “It came to me as a gift and I want to give it as one. If you would pay for the delivery that would be sufficient. I’m also sure it will need to be tuned.”

“Are you sure?” Miss Esther tried to think through her joy. “If it’s your relative’s piano…”

“Yes, I’m sure. You see, I already have a K&K Mini that suits my hands perfectly. I’ve been praying all week about what the Lord had in mind for this huge piano and now I think I know! I love the ministry you and your sisters have here. It would be such a joy to know that the piano was praising the Lord and being used in His service.”

Miss Esther was deeply touched. “What kind is it?”

“It’s a full-sized, upright, nine-inch K&K.” Beverly beamed. “It’s only a couple years old so it has all the updated features.”

Miss Esther couldn’t speak. She just leaned back in her chair and tried not to cry. She handled the sisters finances and she knew that buying such a piano would be WAY out of their price range. Now the Lord wanted to send them one for free?

Finally Miss Esther found her voice. “Beverly, I hardly know what to say. Thank-you so much. I’m quite sure we would love to give the piano a home. How much do piano deliveries cost?”

“This service delivers so many things they do it very cheap. I think they said about ten cents, but with the extra distance they might make it twenty.”

Miss Esther could hardly believe it. “Would you mind if I ran upstairs and mentioned it to Susanna? I think I already know what Priscilla would say.”

“Please do! I can call the delivery service when I get home.” Beverly clapped her hands for joy.

Miss Esther wondered who was more excited, herself or Beverly?

In a few moments Miss Esther was tapping at Susanna’s door.

“Come in?” Susanna’s voice sounded weary.

Miss Esther slipped into her sister’s room and closed the door behind her. Right away she knew Susanna really wasn’t feeling well.

“Susanna, how are you feeling?” Miss Esther sat down on the edge of her sister’s bed.

“Terrible.” Susanna groaned with a smile. “My stomach just keeps cramping. The oil helped a little.”

“That is so odd.” Miss Esther shook her head. “I’ll call and see if Dr. Toodles can stop by.”

“Oh, it’s probably nothing.” Susanna buried her head more deeply in her pillow. “It could be gone in ten minutes.”

“But it hasn’t yet.” Miss Esther pressed her lips together for a moment. “I’m thinking we should still call him.”

Susanna shrugged as if she didn’t mind one way or another, which told her sister that the pain was pretty bad.

“Are Dorothy and Beverly safely on their way?” Susanna spoke in a whisper.

“Almost. They have an appointment at the Air Basket in about twenty minutes.” Miss Esther remembered the reason for her errand. “But Beverly took me completely by surprise this morning.”

Susanna looked interested.

“She wants to give us a piano.” Miss Esther could still hardly believe it. “We’d just need to pay for the delivery which would be about twenty cents.”

Miss Esther quickly told her sister the details of Beverly’s kind offer.

“Wow.” Susanna shook her head. “That’s amazing. What an answer to prayer on both sides!”

“You think I should say ‘Yes’?”

“Of course!” Susanna was surprised.

“I really shouldn’t call Priscilla at the library. She’s leading the children’s hour right now.”

“I’m 99.99% sure what she would say!” Susanna smiled. “Let’s surprise her, Esther. Imagine her face when she walks into the room and finds the most wonderful piano she’s ever seen?”

“But where would we put it? It’s a nine-inch, Susanna!”

“We’ll just have to rearrange.” Susanna snuggled down deeper into her bed. “We were due for that soon anyway. Maybe we need to rent some more space in this house…”

Miss Esther tapped her chin in thought. Her sister was right. This piano was going to make things far more interesting than she had thought!

“Can I get you anything?” Miss Esther rose. “I need to head back downstairs to see to our guests.”

“Some water would be nice.” Susanna closed her eyes.

“Definitely.” Miss Esther tiptoed from the room and closed the door quietly behind her.

Soon she was back in the kitchen. She found Beverly and Dorothy waiting by their suitcase.

“I told Dorothy I was able to talk to you.” Beverly’s eyes sparkled.

“And we would love to say ‘yes’.” Miss Esther bent to be down closer to their height level. “We can’t thank you enough. We’ve been praying for a piano and this is so far beyond what we were planning for.”

“The Lord likes to do that.” A quiet light shone in Dorothy’s eyes. “He is able to do way above our own little dreams.”

“We are so happy to give it to you.” Beverly gave Miss Esther a hug. “I’ll give the delivery service your number and they will call to let you know when it will be arriving.”

Miss Esther nodded. “We plan to keep it a surprise for Priscilla. She won’t say it, but she’s very good on the piano. Susanna and I can’t wait to see her face when she walks into the room and finds a piano far more exquisite than we were looking for.”

“That will be so fun!” Beverly clapped her hands. “Do write and tell us all about it.”

“I will.” Miss Esther gave Dorothy a hug as she spoke. “You’ll have to come visit us so you can see it too.”

“We’d love to do that!” Dorothy took up the suitcase. “Alright, Beverly, we’d better be going.”

The sisters moved out onto the sidewalk and turned back to wave.

“Good-bye! Thanks again!”

“The Lord be with you till we meet again!” Miss Esther waved back.

Soon the sisters had walked out of sight and Miss Esther went back into her house. Exciting as the idea of a new piano was, Miss Esther knew the most pressing matter at hand was Susanna’s sickness.

She needed to call the doctor right away.

Chapter 4: Dr. Toodles

Miss Esther hurried down the stairs to the lower level where the telephone was. She quickly dialed the doctor’s number.

“Good morning, you have reached the office of Dr. Toodles. This is Jane. How may I help you?” The receptionist’s voice was very calm.

“Good morning, Jane. This is Esther MaeWell from the Walnut House. My sister Susanna woke up with terrible stomach cramps today and they just aren’t going away.”

“Oh dear, the poor girl.” Jane’s voice was sympathetic. “Dr. Toodles is out on a call at the university. I’ll ask him to stop by on his way home. He should be there about lunch time.”

“Thank-you so much.” Miss Esther could have sighed with relief. “Hope you have a great afternoon, Jane.”

“You too, Miss Esther.”

Miss Esther hung up the phone and leaned against the stairs in relief. Dr. Toodles was a good friend of the sisters and had a way of finding out exactly what was wrong when it came to health matters.

Miss Esther went back to the kitchen and poured a glass of water for her sister. She filled a hot water bottle at the same time and then took both upstairs.

Susanna was feeling a tiny bit better and was grateful for the water. Miss Esther went into the guest room and found that their guests had already piled the sheets on top of their bed.

“Those dear girls.” Miss Esther shook her head. “They must think of everything.”

Miss Esther remade the bed with clean sheets from the linen closet and then took the used ones down to put in the laundry. She’d have to be sure to make extra time for the laundry next Tuesday. Sheets were a more challenging thing to wash when one did things by hand!

Miss Esther stashed the sheets in the big laundry basket and then collected some cleaning supplies. Despite everything else that was going on, the lower level still needed to be cleaned.

Miss Esther dusted her room and then mopped the floor and stairs. She sang a quiet hymn as she worked. She had many things to think about but Miss Esther wasn’t sure she could think them and do her cleaning at the same time! So she decided to sing and think later.

Soon the floor was sparkling clean and the dust was nowhere to be seen. Miss Esther put away her cleaning supplies and went to check on Susanna. Her sister seemed a bit lonely so Esther filled her in on the breakfast table conversation that she had missed.

“I’m so glad the Lord brought Dorothy and Beverly our way.” Miss Esther smiled as she finished her story. “They love Him so much and are such fun to talk to. I think we will see them again!”

“I hope so.” Susanna looked weary. “I can hardly believe that Beverly wants to give us her piano.”

“I know!” Miss Esther shook her head. “I’m already thinking about where we should put it. I’m thinking it should go in the library so we can use it on Bible study nights.”

Susanna nodded.

“Oh, and I called the office and Dr. Toodles is supposed to be here around lunch time.”

There was a distant knock at the front door.

“That must be him!” Miss Esther leapt to her feet and went swiftly downstairs.

Sure enough, the village doctor was waiting on the front step.

“Dr. Toodles, so good to see you!” Miss Esther was relieved. “Thank-you so much for coming.”

“Always a pleasure to see you and your sisters, Miss Esther.” Dr. Toodles stepped into the kitchen. “I’m sorry to hear Susanna is feeling poorly.”

“The cramps have been pretty bad.” Miss Esther nodded. “Susanna is upstairs.”

Miss Esther led the way and Dr. Toodles followed, his paws making tiny clicking sounds on the stairs. Cashew trailed behind.

Cashew and the doctor were great friends, but they waited to catch up until after Susanna had been cared for.

Miss Esther pushed open the door to Susanna’s room and Dr. Toodles put down his medical box.

“Morning, Miss Susanna.” Dr. Toodles smiled kindly. “Why don’t you tell me what doesn’t feel so good?”

Susanna described her symptoms and Dr. Toodles listened attentively. At last he nodded.

“You’re one of the healthiest citizen’s I know, Susanna.” Dr. Toodles reached into his medical box for his stethoscope. “And even if you weren’t, there’s no bug going around Small Village right now. I’m guessing it’s allergies.”

Dr. Toodles took Susanna’s pulse, listened to her heartbeat and felt her stomach. At last he pulled a small tablet from his box and started making notes. Then he took out a small bottle.

“You have a clear case of spring allergies.” He smiled kindly and turned towards Miss Esther. “Give her a spoonful of this medicine with a glass of water every hour.” Dr. Toodles handed the bottle to Miss Esther. “If she’s no better in four hours, give me another call.” He gave Susanna a smile. “But you should be up again like normal tomorrow, Susanna.”

“Thank-you.” Susanna looked relieved.

“No trouble at all.” Dr. Toodles tucked his things back in his medical box. “You have our number, Miss Esther?”

“Yes, we do.” Miss Esther moved to walk downstairs with the doctor. “Thank-you so much for stopping, Dr. Toodles. We so appreciate it.”

“A joy, a real joy.” Dr. Toodles pushed his glasses a bit farther up on his nose. “This is why I went into the medical field, to be able to help folks and see them smile again. Nothing quite like it in my opinion!”

“Perhaps that’s because it’s something the Lord has called you to do.” Miss Esther moved into the library. “I’m sure He is pleased when you serve Him as He designed you to.”

Dr. Toodles tipped his head to one side. “That’s true. I do sense His pleasure as I go about my work. I’m doing it for Him anyway. My patient’s smiles are just the cherry on top!”

Miss Esther smiled and reached for her purse. “How much do I owe you, Dr. Toodles?”

“Just a penny for the medicine. I was walking by here anyway and that only took me some five minutes.” Dr. Toodles glanced at his watch.

“Are you sure?” Miss Esther shook her head.

“Positive. Though, if you had any of those molasses cookies around I wouldn’t turn one down.”

Miss Esther handed the doctor the penny and waved towards the big chair in the library. “I sure do! Why don’t you and Cashew catch up a bit? I’ll bring some cookies for both of you.”

In a few moments Dr. Toodles and Cashew were enjoying a chat in dog language in the library. Miss Esther served them tea and cookies for which they were most grateful. Miss Esther took Susanna a glass of fresh water and gave her the first dose of the medicine.


Miss Esther set down the medicine bottle and whirled to see Carrot’s head sticking out of his basket.

“Oh Carrots, I completely forgot about you! I’m so sorry!” Miss Esther reached to lift her cat from the basket. “You have to be hungry.”

“Meow, meow.” Carrots tipped his head as if to say he completely understood that Miss Esther had had a lot on her mind that morning.

Miss Esther carried her pet downstairs and fed him some warm milk plus a molasses cookie. Carrots was delighted and purred loudly to demonstrate his appreciation.

“Well, Carrots, how’s the leg doing?” Dr. Toodles set down his empty teacup and trotted over.

“Meow.” Carrots wrinkled his nose.

“Thought so.” Dr. Toodles nodded. “I’ll re-bandage it for you.”

The doctor pulled a fresh bandage out of his box and set to work.

“You must see everything, Dr. Toodles.” Miss Esther shook her head with a smile.

“Not quite.” He felt over Carrot’s leg to see how it was mending. “But I’ve asked the Lord to give me eyes to see what needs doing and then the strength to do it. He has answered in big and little ways.”

“That’s a wonderful prayer request. I should pray that myself.” Miss Esther took the empty mugs to the kitchen sink.

“The prayer request is a good one, just be sure you’re ready to pay the price tag when the Lord answers.” Dr. Toodles wound a new bandage around Carrots leg. “It’s the kind of prayer the Lord loves to answer and you’ll find yourself with much less free time on your hands.”

Miss Esther turned from the sink with a smile. “Ah, but my hobby is serving, Dr. Toodles. If I can do others good in my free time, I’m delighted!”

In no time at all Carrots’ leg was freshly bandaged and Dr. Toodles prepared to take his leave. Miss Esther paid him an extra penny for his help with Carrots. They shook hands and the doctor left with a promise to be back if Susanna had more trouble.

Miss Esther closed the door and then leaned against it for a moment. “What a day this has been already!” She laughed slightly. “I hope the rest of the day is much, much calmer.”

Then suddenly Miss Esther remembered her invitation to tea that afternoon.

“Oh no!” Miss Esther pressed a hand to her forehead. “I completely forgot. Oh Lord, what should I do?”

Chapter 5: A Change of Plans

Miss Esther moved into the library and dropped down in the large easy chair. Cashew came up, his eyes concerned and his tail wagging sympathetically.

Miss Esther patted his head. “Dr. Toodles said I needed to give Susanna her medicine every hour for the next four hours. I’m also supposed to go to the Castle for tea in the next four hours.”

Cashew whined.

“I know.” Miss Esther shook her head. “Of all days and all times. Priscilla has multiple scheduled classes she’s leading at the library today, so I can’t ask her to come take care of Susanna. Sari is a good friend of Susanna’s but she’ll be running her teashop.” Miss Esther sighed. “The best option…is me.”

Cashew’s tail thumped on the floor.

Suddenly Miss Esther laughed.

Cashew looked at her with a puzzled expression.

“In ten minutes I forgot!” Miss Esther shook her head with a smile. “Here is an opportunity to serve and put someone else’s interests ahead of my own. Already I’d forgotten to serve and wanted to go to tea at the Castle!”


“Yes, I know, Cashew. There’s nothing wrong with going to the Castle for tea. But I think it’s going to have to wait this time.”

Miss Esther pushed herself from her rocking chair and went to collect her writing supplies. In a few moments she’d selected a notecard and was writing quickly.

Dear Princess Ella,

Hope this finds you well and enjoying a wonderful Thursday!

Unfortunately my sister Susanna woke up not feeling well this morning. Dr. Toodles says it’s allergies, but she needs someone nearby to keep an eye on her for the next several hours. I was looking forward to joining you for tea today and am so sorry that at the last minute I’m unable to make it. I hope it doesn’t upset things too much.

Could I invite you to join me for tea next Thursday? I’d love to welcome you to our home!

With love in Jesus,
Miss Esther

Miss Esther slid the card in the envelope, sealed and stamped it, and then headed for the door. There was a small chance that Kingsley would be going by with the mail just now. Cashew sprang out on the step beside her and listened for the sound of flapping wings.

Miss Esther scanned the sky but saw no sign of the large mail-bird.

Suddenly Cashew gave a little yelp of joy and took off down the sidewalk.

Miss Esther looked west just in time to see Kingsley coming out of Sari’s Tea Shop. Cashew had reached him in just a few minutes.

“Hey now, Cashew, what’s up?” Kingsley patted the dog on the head and glanced up the sidewalk. “Ah, Miss Esther!”

The bird began hoping towards her, Cashew running ahead.

“Good day to you, Miss Esther. You have a letter for me I see.” Kingsley paused and cocked his head to one side.

“Good afternoon, Kingsley!” Miss Esther smiled with relief. “Have you gone by the castle yet?”

“Yes, but I can head back that way as well as not.” Kingsley reached for his mail bag. “Express is it?”

“Yes.” Miss Esther smiled sadly as she handed him the envelope. “I was to be there in a couple hours, but something’s come up.”

“Happens all the time, Miss Esther.” Kingsley stuck the note in his bag. “I’m sure the Princess will understand. I’ll get it there in five minutes.”

“Oh, thank-you so much.” Miss Esther clasped her hands. “I’m so grateful.”

“No trouble at all, Miss Esther. You have a good day now!” And Kingsley spread his wings and took off.

Miss Esther watched him go. “There are so many people with hearts to serve in Small Village. Aren’t we blessed to live here, Cashew?”

“Whoof!” Cashew grinned his approval.

“Thank-you for finding Kingsley, Cashew. I would have missed him completely!”

Cashew wagged his tail.

“Now how about some lunch?” Miss Esther turned to back inside.

Cashew’s answer was a short happy bark.

In no time at all lunch had been eaten and Susanna cared for. Miss Esther came down the stairs and stood once more in the kitchen.

“Let’s see. I have several hours free that I wasn’t planning on today!” Miss Esther thought for a moment. “Mmm…Lord, how could I best use them?”

Cashew stretched out beside the stove and yawned. He clearly intended to take a nap.

“I know!” Miss Esther snapped her fingers. “I’ll prepare things for supper and then I’ll work on coloring in the designs on my new Scripture Memory card!”

Miss Esther began flying around the kitchen with her usual energy. Soon the rice was in the pan on the stove, the vegetables were chopped and the chicken was in the fridge until the time came to put it into the oven. Miss Esther even put together a pumpkin custard for dessert.

“There!” Miss Esther smiled happily to herself. “Just the meal to enjoy after such a full day! The chicken should make some nice broth too, which will be good for Susanna’s stomach.”

Miss Esther filled the sink with water and began washing the dishes she’d used in her cooking. Once they were drying on the dish rack, she went downstairs to get her Verse Purse and colored pencils.

Settling herself in the big chair, she tapped her chin in thought. “Now, what colors shall I choose? I think I will do pink for the big flowers, of course, since that’s my favorite color. And then, I’ll do green for the leaves and yellow for the roses!”

Miss Esther selected the colors she wanted from the jar and started coloring.

“I know! I’ll work on my memory verse as I color.” Miss Esther filled in the pink flowers first. “Maybe I’ll be able to quote it word-perfectly for my sisters tonight!”

Chapter 6: Miss Esther Has A Great Surprise

Miss Esther had just reviewed her verse for the tenth time and was thinking about making a cup of tea, when there was a knock on the door.

Miss Esther glanced at the clock. “I wonder who that could be? It’s only 3:00pm. Priscilla won’t be home for another two hours. Perhaps someone is stopping by to see how Susanna is.” Miss Esther set down her yellow pencil. “News does travel fast in a small town.”

Miss Esther stood up and ran a hand over her hair. Fortunately it was in place as usual.

Cashew let out a happy bark and raced for the door.

“Oh Lord, please help me to speak graciously and kindly to whoever this is.” Miss Esther glided into the kitchen and towards the front door. “Prepare my heart to serve in any way You would have me to.”

Miss Esther could see something golden through the glass door. Whoever the visitor was she clearly had golden hair.

“Must be Sari.” Miss Esther reached for the door knob. “But she usually wears her hair in braids.”

Miss Esther swung open the door. “Good afternoon! How may I…”

But she stopped mid-sentence at the sight of her visitor and her mouth fell open just a little bit.

The visitor’s blonde hair cascaded past her shoulders like a waterfall, but the crown that sat atop her head told anyone in Small Village who she was.

It was Princess Ella.

“Good afternoon.” Ella’s voice sounded like a flute. “I’m so sorry to interrupt you, but when I received your note I decided right away to pack up some tea things in a basket and bring them over.” She paused. “I think you are Miss Esther?”

Miss Esther found her voice and laughed slightly. “Yes, I am. And I’m so sorry for my momentary hesitation. You took me completely by surprise!” She smiled. “Please, please come in. It’s lovely to meet you at last, Princess Ella.”

“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Esther.” The princess stepped into the kitchen. “We have so many of the same friends I knew it was high time we met!” Princess Ella handed a flower-decked basket to Miss Esther. “I hope you and your sister’s enjoy these. How is Susanna?”

Miss Esther set the large basket on the kitchen table. “She is doing better. I think the medicine that Dr. Toodles gave her is helping. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s back to work in another day or two.”

“Allergies are such an uncomfortable thing.” Ella shook her head. “I’m so glad Dr. Toodles was able to find out what was wrong.”

“Me too.” Miss Esther thought a moment. “Would you like to have a cup of tea? I’m hungry for a snack and would love to have company.”

“Oh, are you sure?” Princess Ella pressed a hand to her heart. “My plan was just to leave the tea goodies here, but if it wouldn’t be a burden…”

“No trouble at all!” Miss Esther smiled warmly. “I love surprise tea parties! I shall put the kettle on.”

“And I shall unpack the goodies.” Ella’s blue eyes sparkled and she moved to unpack her tea basket.

When Miss Esther had put the kettle on to boil she turned to discover that Princess Ella had set a delicious cherry cake on the table, as well as a few chocolate cookies and mints.

“Oh, how lovely!” Miss Esther paused in her work to take a look at the desserts. “Princess Ella, you are too kind.”

“Not at all! Our castle cook has a way of making sweets taste like they are full of sugar when they really aren’t.” Princess Ella laughed. “That’s the only reason I don’t feel guilty eating them. They are very healthy for those of us with cotton stomachs.”

“I can hardly wait to taste one.” Miss Esther pulled out a couple of china cups. “Do you like milk and honey in your tea?”

“That would be lovely!”

In a short space of time the tea was ready. The day was so beautiful they decided to sit on the front step.

“Shall I thank the Lord for our tea?” Miss Esther smiled at her guest.

“Please do.”

Miss Esther bowed her head. “Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for this beautiful afternoon and for Princess Ella’s kindness. It is such a joy to meet her at last. Thank You for this tea and the friendship we share in Christ. In Christ’s Name, Amen.”

“Amen.” Princess Ella looked up with a smile. “So tell me, Miss Esther, what brought you to Small Village?”

Conversation flowed very quickly as Miss Esther and Princess Ella discovered how much they had in common. Most of the cherry cake disappeared and all of the mints, but Cashew and Carrots had something to do with that.

“Princess Ella, you mentioned that you have a quiet time. May I ask why?” Miss Esther poured her guest another cup of tea.

“Ah, that is a good question. I have a quiet time because as a Christian I am called to fellowship with God. The habit of spending daily time with God is one way I can do that.” Princess Ella reached into her pocket and drew out a small Bible. “1 Corinthians 1:9 is the verse I go back to many times.”

Princess Ella found the verse and read aloud. “‘God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.’” (NKJV)

“So true.” Miss Esther nodded. “I’ll have to mark that verse down. I hadn’t really noticed it before.”

Princess Ella looked up from her Bible with a gentle smile. “So tell me, why do you have a quiet time?”

Miss Esther thought a moment. Suddenly the verse she had memorized that very morning came back to her mind. It was perfect.

“I have a quiet time because Jesus spent time with God and I want to follow His example.” Miss Esther looked back at her guest. “In Mark 1:35 it says, ‘And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.’

“I never thought of that!” Princess Ella’s whole face lit up. “So that’s why I see a light on in your window in the very early morning! And I love the fact that you had your verse memorized.” Princess Ella looked down at her Bible. “I should memorize 1 Corinthians 1:9 so I can just quote it next time.”

“Well, I actually just memorized Mark 1:35 this morning.” Miss Esther smiled honestly. “It was the first of a new set of memory verses my sister gave me. Would you like to see them?”

“I’d love to!”

Miss Esther slipped inside for a few moments to get her memory verses and to give Susanna her next dose of medicine. Princess Ella was delighted with the verse cards and said she’d have to order a set herself.

All too soon the clock in the tower struck 5:00pm.

“Alas, the time has flown! Papa and I eat dinner in half an hour.” Princess Ella rose to her feet and brushed a few cookie crumbs from her skirt. “This has been absolutely lovely, Miss Esther. I’m so glad to have met you. Will you and your sisters be at the concert on Saturday?”

“We hope to be, if Susanna is feeling well enough.” Miss Esther stood to her feet. “It has been a joy to get to know you, Princess Ella. You have blessed my day immensely.”

The two young women gave each other a hug and then Miss Esther hurried inside to pack up the princess’s basket. Princess Ella had just taken it up again when there was the sound of a carriage at the window.

“Ah, the coach is here.” Princess Ella gave Miss Esther one more hug. “The Lord bless you and be with you until we meet again!”

“Indeed!” Miss Esther went to the door to wave her guest off.

Princess Ella climbed into her coach with the aid of a grey mouse footman and was soon whirled away down the road towards the Golden Castle.

Miss Esther closed the door and set about putting the tea dishes in the sink. Cashew came up and bumped against her leg.

“Hi, Cashew!” Miss Esther bent down to give her dog a pat and noticed the look on his face. “The rest of the cookies are for dinner.” Miss Esther’s voice was firm.

Cashew looked disappointed for a moment but then brightened at the thought of dinner.

“Why don’t you run upstairs and keep Susanna company for awhile?” Miss Esther gave her pet a smile. “I’m guessing she’s getting lonely up there.”

Cashew dashed away and Miss Esther turned back to her dishes.

“Thank You, Lord, for the joy of knowing others who love You.” Miss Esther began washing the tea cups. “Thank You that we can enjoy fellowship with You in our quiet times and all day long. And thank You for the verses You have hidden in my heart.”

Miss Esther looked out the window and saw the tree trunks beginning to turn golden in the light of the setting sun. “We are so blessed, Lord.”

There was a light step on the walk outside and Miss Esther knew Priscilla was coming home.

“I wonder why my sister’s have their quiet times?” Miss Esther dried her hands on the kitchen towel. “I might just have to ask them!”

Then Miss Esther turned to welcome Priscilla. If her sister had as much to share as she did, they would have a very lively dinner that evening!

And they did.

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

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