The two sisters had walked quite a distance, and they had lost all track of time. The girls were tired, and still, Miss Ella’s cabin was nowhere in sight. Often, the woods could be eerie in the daytime, but late at night, it was almost unbearable. Every little sound was magnified, and Sally was frightened.
“Ssshould we be here? Sally stammered. “Mama says she’s a witch!”
“Mind your manners, Sally Jane Watson. Do you want Bug to live or die?” Her older sister scolded.
Sally hung her head and continued to follow her sister. “There it is!” Esther excitedly remarked.
Looking up, Sally could see the little cabin in the distance. A soft light glowed through the window. As they approached, she could see a fire in the hearth. From inside, a dog began to bark. The girls climbed the steps, and Esther quietly knocked on the door. Feeling more than a little nervous, Sally stepped behind her older sister. Slowly, the door opened. A small woman stood in the doorway. From the firelight, they could see that she had long white hair and a kind face. She smiled at the children and invited them inside. When she glanced inside the box, she knew instantly why the children had come.
She took the little crate and placed it on her kitchen table. Gently, she lifted Bug, so that she could inspect his injuries. “There, there,” she purred when Bug began to moan. The gentle woman frowned once she saw Bug’s infection and the wounds from the BB gun. “Who would do such a thing!” She scolded to no one in particular. She turned to the girls and told them to settle in because it was going to be a long night. Sally could hardly keep her eyes open.
“Place the child on my bed and throw the quilt over her. She needs to rest. In fact, you should slide in next to her. The next few hours will be touch and go. Go rest.”
Exhausted, Esther complied and happily slid under the cover next to her sister who had already fallen asleep. The last thing she remembered was watching Miss Ella grab Mason jars, filled with dried plants, from her kitchen cupboards and place them on the table. She gently checked Bug’s wounds, and the older woman softly sang to the pup. Her soft voice soothed the injured animal and lulled Esther to sleep.
The next morning, as Esther woke up, it took her a few seconds to understand her strange surroundings. Her heart pounded; Sally was not in bed. Quickly she jumped to her feet, and Miss Ella laughed. “How would you like some tea? Sally ran to the outhouse.”
Sighing, Esther smiled at the older woman and thanked her for the tea. Then she remembered their mission, “Where is Bug? Is he okay?”
“Check for yourself,” and with that, the woman gave a low whistle. Little Bug came running from the opposite end side of the cabin. He happily ran to Miss Ella, and she gave the tiny dog a treat.
“Bug!” Esther called. The little dog first wiggled in delight, and run straight to Esther. Once she held him, the little Beagle covered her face with puppy dog kisses. At that moment, Sally came into the cabin.
Laughing with delight, she cried, “Look, Bug is going to be fine!”
“Isn’t it a miraculous? How did you fix him? Esther asked. She then realized that she had not even presented themselves. “Oh, excuse me. I didn’t even introduce us,” she apologized.
“Miss Ella smiled and replied, “Oh, I know who you are Esther Watson. Your sister has been up for hours and has told me all about you.”
Esther sheepishly smiled, for she knew she had slept in late. Their hike the night before had made her tired.
“We didn’t want to wake you, but we have already eaten. We saved some biscuits, and you will find the butter and the honey on the table.”
After eating, Esther helped Miss Ella tidy the little cabin while Sally played with Bug. “I don’t have any money to pay you for your work,” the girl admitted to their new friend. “But, I could come and help you around here. You are running low on firewood, and I could help around your place.”
“I will not have my new friends chopping firewood,” the kind woman countered. “Instead, come and visit, and I will teach you the art of healing.”
With that the two sisters exchanged looks, and Sally blurted out, “You’re going to teach us how to be witches?”
“Sally Jane! You better hush!” Esther scolded.
Miss Ella simply laughed. “So that ole story is still making the rounds, I see. Is that why your parents keep you away from me?”
Confused the girls looked at one another. Esther started to speak but was interrupted by a knock on the door. When Miss Ella opened the door, Mariah stepped into the room.