The train moved swiftly across the tracks and the landscape around it was always changing. Esther looked out the window and tried to study the farm scenery; but she was filled with excitement and a little fear about the future and couldn’t help thinking about that instead. She turned when she realized the passenger sitting in the seat opposite was looking at her and said, “Do you know that when I heard you were a pastor I knew you would be a good father and now I am even surer about that? The family I was with before only spoke of God when they were angry and especially when they were angry with me.”
The man smiled and said, “Praise the Lord. I am grateful that we can give you the family you need.”
“Yes, but will they like me?” Esther asked with a sigh.
“This will all take some getting used to, but I’m sure they will. First there is ‘Mama’, as you will call her. In time you will grow to love her just as I have ever since I first saw her. She takes every child God brings her willingly and with lots of love.”
Esther smiled at the bit of a story he had just told her. Already she could tell that Mama was a wonderful person even though she had never seen her. Papa Richland was the only one she had met and that was two days ago when he had come to take her home from the orphanage. Her thoughts were brought back into the stuffy train by his next words.
“After the ‘big’ boys who are at college most of the year, comes Cynthia. She just turned thirteen. I think you will like her. Francis is eleven, Abby is seven, and Matt just turned five, I believe. Leigh was only a baby when she came a few weeks ago,” Papa said.
“You mean I’m not the only one who has—come?” Esther said with interest in her dark eyes.
“Esther, many of the other children have ‘come’, but that doesn’t matter in the least. Your mama and I love you, and we have chosen you to be our daughter just as God chooses us for His children,” Papa replied smiling.
Grateful tears filled Esther’s eyes, and she returned to gazing out the window while he again absorbed himself in his book. Awhile later, she awoke from a much needed nap to hear the conductor yelling, “All off for Ashton Heights! All off!”
“This is our stop,” Papa Richland said gathering their bags. She yawned and sat up to look out the window. Ashton Heights was definitely smaller than Dunton Station, but it felt welcoming all the same. A little boy chased his chicken down the street beside them, and Esther laughed.
The street was just busy enough to be interesting, but not to be crowded and soon they walked as far as the parsonage. Papa’s words gave her a thrill. “This is home.”
Esther looked it up and down for a moment—the large yard with apple trees surrounded by a white picket fence, the two-story house with huge windows lining the front, the little stone path that led up to the wide porch—and said, “This is what I thought it would look like.”
Moments later, they were discovered by the children noisily playing in the backyard; and Papa was rushed upon with hugs.
“Children, I would like you to meet your new sister. This is Esther,” Papa said laying a hand on her shoulder to help her not feel so small standing in the presence of the “big” boys.
One of them came forward right then and shook her hand introducing himself as Marshall. Following his example, the other boys greeted her—all but one. Marshall noticed and said, hastily, “That’s Owen. He’s rather shy.”
“We’ll get to know each other better soon enough,” Esther spoke for the first time and gave her new brother a reassuring smile.
Then the little girl found her courage and gave her new sister a hug with a shyly whispered, “Hi.”
The troop would’ve carried her off in a moment to show her the new tree house that Jacob said was almost done and Marshall wasn’t so sure about; but Papa seemed anxious that she meet the others so that was put off until later. Papa knocked on the door, and a woman (somewhere between young and old) opened the door with a smile.
“Bethany, this is Esther,” Papa said happily.
Mama Richland drew Esther into a hug and said into her ear, “Welcome home, Esther. We are so glad to have you. Cynthia will show you your room if you are interested in unpacking.”
“Thank you,” Esther whispered in return. Over Mama’s shoulder she saw that a girl about her own age had entered the room, and she knew that this was Cynthia. Papa handed the girls the wicker trunk, and they carried it together to the girls’ bedroom. Esther paused to look over her shoulder, and she could see that her new parents were very happy to see her.
The girls didn’t speak to each other until the trunk was safely up the stairs, and they had caught their breath. “This is the room we share with Abby and Leigh, when she is older,” Cynthia said invitingly gesturing around the room.
“It’s lovely,” Esther replied standing there with her carpetbag and looking very awkward. There was an uncomfortable silence and then in a rare moment of outgoingness, the new sister burst out, “Do stop treating me like a guest. I’m your new sister.”
Cynthia laughed and jumped up from the bed she had been sitting on. “All right, but being my sister may include a good scolding.” There was a small twinkle in her eyes.
Esther laughed and that sealed the bargain. Together they had the trunk unpacked in a few moments and sat down together to admire their work and catch their breath.
“You know, I am so glad that you all love God. That helps me know that we will get along,” Esther said confidentially.
Cynthia smiled. “’Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.’* I’m glad you are my sister.”