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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