Goodness, sorry I've been keeping you all waiting for so long. Time does rather fly doesn't it. I hope you can remember this little story of mine.

Sails billowed in the wind as water lapped against the hull, the sharp crack of wind hitting the sails half woke Marilla and she lay in her bed in that dream like liminal state between sleep and wakefulness, her mind drifting from one topic to the next. Hugh, the troubled orphan upset her in ways she could not fathom. There was something there, something he could not express. It reminded her of her own dark times which had made little sense to her now or then, and which disabled her as life seldom had. He could not express his emotions she understood on some primeval level, and it was up to her, as his mother figure to work it all out; another job to add to the litany which she was weighed down with at present. Being an only parent was not what she had hoped for when she ran away with John all those years ago, but with him out on the prairies these many months, that was what it had boiled down to. Matthew was there to lend a hand of course, but he never had cared for children before and could offer little more than a sounding board.

Anne and Mari seemed to be getting on fine, but Marilla did wonder what would come of them. She sensed Mari had itchy feet after her travels. She smiled at the remembrance of poor Mari's first week with them; talk about being all at sea. But their old friend Isaiah had brought her round. She wondered how he was getting on. Sometimes their passengers cast looks his way, but she had always striven not to treat anyone differently regardless of their skin colour. Images of their various passengers flitted in and out of her mind, including that nice Ceylonese man who had invited them to his wedding, what a spectacle that had been, and their stowaway, how helpful he had been with the children, how did he lull the baby to sleep? She shied away, even in her sleepy state from thoughts of north Africa and that dark time that had led to their life on land.

It was unusual for Marilla to recall her trip in a positive light and her dreams that night informed her day, leading to a lightness of touch which had been lacking. Her mood was considerably lightened by the letter she received later that morning; I think I might finally be on the mend. John had written. My chest feels less tight, and the cough is settling. I daren't say too much just yet and keep this news to yourself, my love. But maybe, just maybe… Marilla clasped his note to her chest and prayed fervently for his return.

All that lay in the future naturally and regardless the day had to get on without him. Stretching widely, she swung her legs around and slipped her toes into the slippers placed at the edge of the bed. The floor was always cold first thing and she relished these simple touches. Yawning she made her way over to the baby's crib where she was just beginning to rouse.

Remembering that Hugh had wanted to know how bread rose Matthew had sent away for a book on the subject, but honestly, when it arrived he could not make head nor tail of it.

Yeast necessary to produce active fermentation in bread loses that power if evaporated by heat. Experiments to prove that the fermenting principle resides in a gas, which will extinguish light, destroy animal life, and reduce lime-water turbid. When impregnated with water, it excites fermentation in flour and the same occurrence takes place if artificial fixed air is used. *

Scratching his head he said to the boy, "I'm sorry Hugh I hoped we would work this out together, but I have no idea what they're on about. Talk about fermentation and some such, doesn't help. Marilla makes her own yeast with potato mash, you see. It helps the bread rise. I dunno how?"

"Does she?"

"I guess we'll have to ask her."

After school Marilla was somewhat resigned when she spied Hugh making his way up the path to the kitchen. It's not that she minded as such but well, just once it would not to be too awful to have just her own family to serve but look here was her brother following him. Maybe they'd dine together at Green Gables for once.

"Afternoon, Marilla. Hugh here has a conundrum that he'd like your advice on," Matthew said as they entered through the kitchen door.

"Oh?" Marilla knew Hugh had several such problems, but he was intrigued that he trusted Matthew to bring up the subject.

"Mrs Blythe," Hugh started. He stopped, last time they had seen each other he had fallen asleep in her lap, what had upset him that time he couldn't name, just a terrible sense of terror that had overwhelmed him. He knew Avonlea was safe, that these people could be trusted, that he had only experienced kindness here and yet something brought the old memories up and when that happened, he just had to get away. It wasn't that he wanted to, just that he had to. "Um, yeah, um."

Glancing curiously at the lad Matthew finished off for him. "Ever since Hugh made his delicious loaf, we've been discussing the art of breadmaking. Hugh is intrigued as to how it works."

Marilla didn't know why it worked, just that it did. Her mother had used this recipe and her mother before her and so on. "All I know is if I want bread that doesn't resemble a brick, I have to use it. Of course, I have to make the yeast before I want to bake. So, I set up the potatoes a couple of days before so there's some to use come baking day. I add mash to the flour with some salt and sugar and after a couple of rises the bread is baked. You'll have to agree it's not bad," she said with false modesty for privately she thought the Cuthbert recipe was the best on the island.

Hugh nodded looking up at them both, it seemed like magic right now, but one day he hoped he'd find out. It was the first time he realised the adults around him did not have all the answers and he marvelled that they did not seem to care.

"Well, that's all we needed, thank'ee Marilla. We'll be on our way, best leave you to your dinner." Matthew patted Hugh's back encouraging him to come with him. Marilla felt churlish, but she did not hinder their leave-taking. Best to let them get on with it, she thought, but then… "Oh, before I go," Matthew steered Hugh towards the stairs. "Go and find the boys for a moment will you, son. I just have to ask Marilla something."

Marilla struggled to contain her sigh. Dinner was bubbling on the stove and the children were hungry.

"Sorry, I know this is a bad time. But since I'm here," Matthew said. "It's just something funny Jacob said yesterday."

Marilla turned away from the stove for a moment, "mm?"

"It was when he brought the babies over, you know and left Hugh with you. It was the darndest thing." He paused, then sensing Marilla's impatience plunged on. "He was telling me about his time on the ship, you know when we went…"

"Yes, I know."

"Sorry, yes of course. Well, he said he'd expected a warmer welcome than he received and was dismayed when that proved not to be the case." Marilla had not heard this story before. She had been so happy to have her boy back they had never really discussed what it had been like. "Oh," she said sorrow lacing the single syllable. "Oh, of course." Her spoon clattered to the floor as she took in Matthew's words. "I never, I mean we never. I mean."

Matthew bent to pick up the fallen utensil. "Sorry, this is a bad time. We'll talk about it later."

"No, no. It's me who should be sorry. I've not been the best sister to you."


"I should be more welcoming, it's just," she waved around the kitchen, dishevelled to her eyes, perfectly fine to his.

"Hush, Marilla. It's fine. I'll come back tomorrow, and we can have a good talk, alright? Hugh and I will be on our way. Please don't worry, you do too much for us as it is."

Marilla watched them depart, thinking she could have handled it all rather better, but the children were clamouring for their dinner and the moment was lost. It was only later when they were all put to bed that she had time to reflect on Matthew's words. Jacob had apologised for his actions but truly they had never really discussed his experience on board. The thought that he might have wound up traumatised like poor Hugh was too much to bear. She pulled out John's letter feeling an overwhelming need to read his comforting words and tucked up with the letter clutched in her hand fell asleep.

Over at Lynde Hollow her namesake was also reading a letter. She had received word that there was something at Green Gables for her and heart in her mouth she had made her way over. Anne handed over the much stained and water damaged letter with a fair degree of curiosity. "Who's it from, Mari? Who would be writing to you and why did it come here instead of to your house. See it's definitely addressed to Green Gables, what's that about?"

"Can you just let me read it first? Before you bombard me with questions." Shielding her friend from the letter she carefully tore it open and settled down in the hay. Dear Mari-short-for-something-else, she read, smiling at the memory of that handsome boy she'd met that long ago afternoon. That was enough for the moment, with Anne hovering over her shoulder she quickly decided to leave the rest til later.

Now with had the privacy she'd craved earlier with trembling fingers she fished out the letter from where she'd stashed it under her corset and opened it again.

Dear Mari-short-for-something-else,

Do you remember me? That impudent boy what you met at the docks a few months past? I hope you do for I have not forgot you. Your sparkly eyes and beautiful brown hair, those bonny cheeks, and your dainty dress dance before my eyes when I go to sleep.

I never expected to meet a beautiful girl who understood my sea-going life. I don't know if you'll be interested, but I'll tell you what's been happening since we were parted.

He went on to describe his voyage. Just the usual hum drum happenings on board a ship, but he had a wry turn of phrase at time which made her smile. He had a knack of describing his fellow crewmates with a word or two so that they sprang into life in her imagination. His grammar may have been lacking but his letter was so imaginative and full of life that it hardly mattered. Mari felt a certain warmth when she read the letter and knew without a shadow of a doubt that she would be reading it again and again until she had it memorised.

* A treatise on the art of breadmaking, A. Edlin, 1805