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Chronicles of Avonlea

VI. Old Man Shaw's Girl
"Day after to-morrow--day after to-morrow," said Old Man Shaw, rubbing his long
slender hands together gleefully. "I have to keep saying it over and over, so as to really
believe it. It seems far too good to be true that I'm to have Blossom again. And
everything is ready. Yes, I think everything is ready, except a bit of cooking. And won't
this orchard be a surprise to her! I'm just going to bring her out here as soon as I can,
never saying a word. I'll fetch her through the spruce lane, and when we come to the
end of the path I'll step back casual- like, and let her go out from under the trees alone,
never suspecting. It'll be worth ten times the trouble to see her big, brown eyes open
wide and hear her say, 'Oh, daddy! Why, daddy!'"
He rubbed his hands again and laughed softly to himself. He was a tall, bent old man,
whose hair was snow white, but whose face was fresh and rosy. His eyes were a boy's
eyes, large, blue and merry, and his mouth had never got over a youthful trick of smiling
at any provocation--and, oft-times, at no provocation at all.
To be sure, White Sands people would not have given you the most favourable opinion
in the world of Old Man Shaw. First and foremost, they would have told you that he was
"shiftless," and had let his bit of a farm run out while he pottered with flowers and bugs,
or rambled aimlessly about in the woods, or read books along the shore. Perhaps it was
true; but the old farm yielded him a living, and further than that Old Man Shaw had no
ambition. He was as blithe as a pilgrim on a pathway climbing to the west. He had
learned the rare secret that you must take happiness when you find it--that there is no
use in marking the place and coming back to it at a more convenient season, because it
will not be there then. And it is very easy to be happy if you know, as Old Man Shaw
most thoroughly knew, how to find pleasure in little things. He enjoyed life, he had
always enjoyed life and helped others to enjoy it; consequently his life was a success,
whatever White Sands people might think of it. What if he had not "improved" his farm?
There are some people to whom life will never be anything more than a kitchen garden;
and there are others to whom it will always be a royal palace with domes and minarets
of rainbow fancy.
The orchard of which he was so proud was as yet little more than the substance of
things hoped for--a flourishing plantation of young trees which would amount to
something later on. Old Man Shaw's house was on the crest of a bare, sunny hill, with a
few staunch old firs and spruces behind it- -the only trees that could resist the full sweep
of the winds that blew bitterly up from the sea at times. Fruit trees would never grow
near it, and this had been a great grief to Sara.
"Oh, daddy, if we could just have an orchard!" she had been wont to say wistfully, when
other farmhouses in White Sands were smothered whitely in apple bloom. And when
she had gone away, and her father had nothing to look forward to save her return, he
was determined she should find an orchard when she came back.
 
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