Chapter One

A wasp, it seemed, had nested right under Rachel Lynde’s left molar. It buzzed and rasped against the nerve, jangling her brains. She stood still inside the front door, dressed in her funeral finery. Outside, Marilla waited. Marilla disliked waiting, Rachel knew. She knew she should just turn the handle and walk out to the buggy. But she could not move. Pain held her prisoner. Inside her jaw, the wasp jiggled and quivered, as though anxious to be gone. With a little moan, Rachel opened her mouth. No wasp flew out. Rachel slid to a sitting position on the hall chair and closed her eyes. The pain droned on.

The morning sun slanted down on Marilla Cuthbert as she sat, ramrod straight, in the old leather-lined buggy. From where she sat, she could smell the roses twined around the veranda trellis. They were late-blooming roses, lush and full-bodied, at their peak of perfection. Against the dark-green velvet of their leaves, drops of dew glistened like rare jewels not yet stolen by the long-fingered sun. The brown mare stamped her feet and edged closer to the fragrant blossoms, her harness jingling. Angling her head upwards, she nipped a cluster of petals in her yellow teeth and wrenched them off the branch. Marilla made no move to protect her favorite flowers. While the horse chewed on rose after rose, Marilla sat straight as a pole, and worried about Mary Keith.

She had always liked Mary, a smiling, spirited slip of a thing. Now Mary was dead, dead at the unlikely age of twenty-four. It was her funeral they would be late for, if Rachel Lynde didn’t hurry. Marilla shifted and blinked her eyes. She hated to be late for any occasion, but to be late for a funeral seemed the height of bad manners. Perhaps she should go in this minute and fetch Rachel. But instead, she sat on in the buggy, breathing in the roses, feeling the sun warm on her shoulders, thinking about poor Mary cold in her grave.

So absorbed was Marilla in her thoughts that she failed to notice Olivia King approaching with Sara Stanley. Ever since her arrival in Avonlea, the imaginative Sara had reminded Marilla strongly of her own Anne Shirley. Unlike Anne, who had been an orphan, Sara came from a wealthy background, but there was something in her eyes that spoke directly to Marilla’s heart. “That child is hungry for love,” she had thought the day she first laid eyes on Sara.

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