Robert was determined to do his best and make his dead father proud. Esther put her grief aside to take care of her little sister. Roger didn’t believe his parents were dead, and was just going to have fun until they came back. Ruth was confused and lost. But Aunt Grace had set her mind to providing the best possible home for her orphaned niblings; and Aunt Grace always did what she set her mind on.
A poignant story about four orphans and their widowed aunt who takes them in. Set on a dairy farm in Northern Vermont in 1889, this firt book in the Bobtails series follows the children’s journey through grief, jealousy, and, finally, settled love with a new family and friendships.
Right is right even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong even if everybody is wrong about it.
-Gilbert K. Chesterton
Esther sat on this very loud and dirty train watching Roger, her younger brother. Roger was bouncing up and down in his seat and looking out the train window, which he did whenever he wasn't running up and down the aisles or going off to see if the conductor would let him visit the engine. Or eating. Well, no, he would look out the window when eating, he just would mostly stop bouncing.
Her little sister Ruth was in her seat, asleep, her two middle fingers stuck firmly in her mouth. Her frock was all askew, but Esther didn't think it worth waking her to fix it. And it was rather messy from the breakfast that Aunt Rosemary had sent with them.
She sat with her oldest brother, Robert, who was cleaner but, like all of them, his clothes had acquired a coating of coal dust, which came rushing in any time the windows or doors were open. The shabby red coverings to the seats were coated with the black dust, and it fell down whenever anyone took anything from the overhead compartments.
She fingered her dress. Other than her siblings the only thing left from her life before the explosion. Her brothers had worn old clothes to play with the neighbours, and her sister's frock from that day was in her bag, but Esther had chosen to wear this frock today rather than any of the ones Uncle Robert had bought them.
Roger bounced out of his seat and started toward the aisle. "Where are you going?" Esther asked him.
"Hafta go," Roger said, holding himself.
Esther darted a quick glance at Robert, who didn't seem inclined to get up. "I'll take you," Esther said, starting to get up.
"Don't need help," Roger said. "Know where it is, just two cars up, know how to do my pants myself!"
"Oh, very well," Esther said and Roger, grinning, raced off up the aisle.
"I don't know why we couldn't have stayed with Uncle John," Esther said, turning to Robert. "He likes us. His kids like us. And Aunt Lilly is nice."
"He's too poor," Robert said. "And Uncle Robert is too busy."
"We could have gone with Uncle Roger," Esther said, a bit doubtfully.
Robert was silent for a minute. "We could've. It isn't like he doesn't know about adopting children; he adopted his first five when he married Aunt Lydia. But they have twelve kids... I think everyone might have thought we would get lost in the crowd. So we ended up with the witch."
"Robert, you mustn't say that," Esther protested. Although she was a year and a half younger than Robert and deferred to him on most things, she still had a very firm idea of proper propriety and was inclined to correct his language and dress. Which he tolerated.
"Well, we've always called her that," he said. "You have called her that. With her sharp nose, sharp eyes, sharp voice, and always wearing black and white with those big black boots and that black hat."
"At home..." Esther said, tearing up. Robert pretended not to see her dab her eyes and waited for her to finish. "... but now we are going to live with her we must be properly respectful."
"I'm sure she'll see to that," Robert said. "She's all the one for proper behaviour."
Esther cocked her head quizzically and he hurriedly corrected, "Well, I'm not saying she dresses fancy, and she isn't diplomatic in her speaking, she is the loudest walker I have known... but she doesn't let you step the least bit out of line about anything she cares about, and you daren't be late."
"Oh, well, yes." She giggled, "She is the funniest dresser. But to be fair I think she only really has the one town outfit."
She looked at Ruth, "Oh, Robert... how are we going to manage?"