The place to which the children were going was a sort of marshy thicket at th_ottom of a field near the house. It wasn't a big thicket, but it looked big, because the trees and bushes grew so closely that you could not see just wher_t ended. In winter the ground was damp and boggy, so that nobody went there, excepting cows, who don't mind getting their feet wet; but in summer the wate_ried away, and then it was all fresh and green, and full of delightfu_hings—wild roses, and sassafras, and birds' nests. Narrow, winding paths ra_ere and there, made by the cattle as they wandered to and fro. This place th_hildren called "Paradise," and to them it seemed as wide and endless and ful_f adventure as any forest of fairy land.
The way to Paradise was through some wooden bars. Katy and Cecy climbed thes_ith a hop, skip and jump, while the smaller ones scrambled underneath. Onc_ast the bars they were fairly in the field, and, with one consent, they al_egan to run till they reached the entrance of the wood. Then they halted, with a queer look of hesitation on their faces. It was always an excitin_ccasion to go to Paradise for the first time after the long winter. Who kne_hat the fairies might not have done since any of them had been there to see?
"Which path shall we go in by?" asked Clover, at last.
"Suppose we vote," said Katy. "I say by the Pilgrim's Path and the Hill o_ifficulty."
"So do I!" chimed in Clover, who always agreed with Katy.
"The Path of Peace is nice," suggested Cecy.
"No, no! We want to go by Sassafras Path!" cried John and Dorry.
However, Katy, as usual, had her way. It was agreed that they should first tr_ilgrim's Path, and afterward make a thorough exploration of the whole o_heir little kingdom, and see all that had happened since last they wer_here. So in they marched, Katy and Cecy heading the procession, and Dorry, with his great trailing bunch of boughs, bringing up the rear.
"Oh, there is the dear Rosary, all safe!" cried the children, as they reache_he top of the Hill of Difficulty, and came upon a tall stump, out of th_iddle of which waved a wild rose-bush, budded over with fresh green eaves.
This "Rosary" was a fascinating thing to their minds. They were alway_nventing stories about it, and were in constant terror lest some hungry co_hould take a fancy to the rose-bush and eat it up.
"Yes," said Katy, stroking a leaf with her finger, "it was in great danger on_ight last winter, but it escaped."
"Oh, how? Tell us about it!" cried the others, for Katy's stories were famou_n the family.
"It was Christmas Eve," continued Katy, in a mysterious tone. "The fairy o_he Rosary was quite sick. She had taken a dreadful cold in her head, and th_oplar-tree fairy, just over there, told her that sassafras tea is good fo_olds. So she made a large acorn-cup full, and then cuddled herself in wher_he wood looks so black and soft, and fell asleep. In the middle of the night, when she was snoring soundly, there was a noise in the forest, and a dreadfu_lack bull with fiery eyes galloped up. He saw our poor Rosy Posy, and, opening his big mouth, he was just going to bite her in two; but at tha_inute a little fat man, with a wand in his hand, popped out from behind th_tump. It was Santa Claus, of course. He gave the bull such a rap with hi_and that he moo-ed dreadfully, and then put up his fore-paw, to see if hi_ose was on or not. He found it was, but it hurt him so that he 'moo-ed'
again, and galloped off as fast as he could into the woods. Then Santa Clau_aked up the fairy, and told her that if she didn't take better care of Ros_osy he should put some other fairy into her place, and set her to keep guar_ver a prickly, scratchy, blackberry-bush."
"Is there really any fairy?" asked Dorry, who had listened to this narrativ_ith open mouth.
"Of course," answered Katy. Then bending down toward Dorry, she added in _oice intended to be of wonderful sweetness: "I am a fairy, Dorry!"
"Pshaw!" was Dorry's reply; "you're a giraffe—Pa said so!"
The Path of Peace got its name because of its darkness and coolness. Hig_ushes almost met over it, and trees kept it shady, even in the middle of th_ay. A sort of white flower grew there, which the children called Pollypods, because they didn't know the real name. They staid a long while pickin_unches of these flowers, and then John and Dorry had to grub up an armful o_assafras roots; so that before they had fairly gone through Toadstool Avenue, Rabbit Hollow, and the rest, the sun was just over their heads, and it wa_oon.
"I'm getting hungry," said Dorry.
"Oh, no, Dorry, you mustn't be hungry till the bower is ready!" cried th_ittle girls, alarmed, for Dorry was apt to be disconsolate if he was kep_aiting for his meals. So they made haste to build the bower. It did not tak_ong, being composed of boughs hung over skipping-ropes, which were tied t_he very poplar-tree where the fairy lived who had recommended sassafras te_o the Fairy of the Rose.
When it was done they all cuddled in underneath. It was a very smal_ower—just big enough to hold them, and the baskets, and the kitten. I don'_hink there would have been room for anybody else, not even another kitten.
Katy, who sat in the middle, untied and lifted the lid of the largest basket, while all the rest peeped eagerly to see what was inside.
First came a great many ginger cakes. These were carefully laid on the gras_o keep till wanted: buttered biscuit came next—three apiece, with slices o_old lamb laid in between; and last of all were a dozen hard-boiled eggs, an_ layer of thick bread and butter sandwiched with corn-beef. Aunt Izzie ha_ut up lunches for Paradise before, you see, and knew pretty well what t_xpect in the way of appetite.
Oh, how good everything tasted in that bower, with the fresh wind rustling th_oplar leaves, sunshine and sweet wood-smells about them, and birds singin_verhead! No grown-up dinner party ever had half so much fun. Each mouthfu_as a pleasure; and when the last crumb had vanished, Katy produced the secon_asket, and there, oh, delightful surprise! were seven little pies—molasse_ies, baked in saucers—each with a brown top and crisp candified edge, whic_asted like toffy and lemon-peel, and all sorts of good things mixed u_ogether.
There was a general shout. Even demure Cecy was pleased, and Dorry and Joh_icked their heels on the ground in a tumult of joy. Seven pairs of hands wer_eld out at once toward the basket; seven sets of teeth went to work without _oment's delay. In an incredibly short time every vestige of the pie ha_isappeared, and a blissful stickiness pervaded the party.
"What shall we do now?" asked Clover, while little Phil tipped the basket_pside down, as if to make sure there was nothing left that could possibly b_aten.
"I don't know," replied Katy, dreamily. She had left her seat, and was half- sitting, half-lying on the low, crooked bough of a butternut tree, which hun_lmost over the children's heads.
"Let's play we're grown up," said Cecy, "and tell what we mean to do."
"Well," said Clover, "you begin. What do you mean to do?"
"I mean to have a black silk dress, and pink roses in my bonnet, and a whit_uslin long-shawl," said Cecy; "and I mean to look _exactly_ like Minerv_lark! I shall be very good, too; as good as Mrs. Bedell, only a great dea_rettier. All the young gentlemen will want me to go and ride, but I shan'_otice them at all, because you know I shall always be teaching in Sunday- school, and visiting the poor. And some day, when I am bending over an ol_oman and feeding her with currant jelly, a poet will come along and see me, and he'll go home and write a poem about me," concluded Cecy, triumphantly.
"Pooh!" said Clover. "I don't think that would be nice at all. _I'm_ goin_o be a beautiful lady—the most beautiful lady in the world! And I'm going t_ive in a yellow castle, with yellow pillars to the portico, and a squar_hing on top, like Mr. Sawyer's. My children are going to have a play-house u_here. There's going to be a spy-glass in the window, to look out of. I shal_ear gold dresses and silver dresses every day, and diamond rings, and hav_hite satin aprons to tie on when I'm dusting, or doing anything dirty. In th_iddle of my back-yard there will be a pond-full of Lubin's Extracts, an_henever I want any I shall go just out and dip a bottle in. And I shan'_each in Sunday schools, like Cecy, because I don't want to; but every Sunda_'ll go and stand by the gate, and when her scholars go by on their way home, I'll put Lubin's Extracts on their handkerchiefs."
"I mean to have just the same," cried Elsie, whose imagination was fired b_his gorgeous vision, "only my pond will be the biggest. I shall be a grea_eal beautifuller, too," she added.
"You can't," said Katy from overhead. "Clover is going to be the mos_eautiful lady in the world."
"But I'll be more beautiful than the most beautiful," persisted poor littl_lsie; "and I'll be big, too, and know everybody's secrets. And everybody'l_e kind, then, and never run away and hide; and there won't be any pos_ffices, or anything disagreeable."
"What'll you be, Johnnie?" asked Clover, anxious to change the subject, fo_lsie's voice was growing plaintive.
But Johnnie had no clear ideas as to her future. She laughed a great deal, an_queezed Dorry's arm very tight, but that was all. Dorry was more explicit.
"I mean to have turkey every day," he declared, "and batter-puddings; no_oiled ones, you know, but little baked ones, with brown shiny tops, and _reat deal of pudding sauce to eat on them. And I shall be so big then tha_obody will say, 'Three helps is quite enough for a little boy.'"
"Oh, Dorry, you pig!" cried Katy, while the others screamed with laughter.
Dorry was much affronted.
"I shall just go and tell Aunt Izzie what you called me," he said, getting u_n a great pet.
But Clover, who was a born peacemaker, caught hold of his arm, and he_oaxings and entreaties consoled him so much that he finally said he woul_tay; especially as the others were quite grave now, and promised that the_ouldn't laugh any more.
"And now, Katy, it's your turn," said Cecy; "tell us what you're going to b_hen you grow up."
"I'm not sure about what I'll be," replied Katy, from overhead; "beautiful, o_ourse, and good if I can, only not so good as you, Cecy, because it would b_ice to go and ride with the young gentlemen _sometimes_. And I'd like t_ave a large house and a splendiferous garden, and then you could all come an_ive with me, and we would play in the garden, and Dorry should have turke_ive times a day if he liked. And we'd have a machine to darn the stockings, and another machine to put the bureau drawers in order, and we'd never sew o_nit garters, or do anything we didn't want to. That's what I'd like to _be_.
But now I'll tell you what I mean to _do_."
"Isn't it the same thing?" asked Cecy.
"Oh, no!" replied Katy, "quite different; for you see I mean to _do_omething grand. I don't know what, yet; but when I'm grown up I shall fin_ut." (Poor Katy always said "when I'm grown up," forgetting how very much sh_ad grown already.) "Perhaps," she went on, "it will be rowing out in boats, and saving peoples' lives, like that girl in the book. Or perhaps I shall g_nd nurse in the hospital, like Miss Nightingale. Or else I'll head a crusad_nd ride on a white horse, with armor and a helmet on my head, and carry _acred flag. Or if I don't do that, I'll paint pictures, or sing, o_calp—sculp,—what is it? you know—make figures in marble. Anyhow it shall b_something_. And when Aunt Izzie sees it, and reads about me in the newspaper_he will say, 'The dear child! I always knew she would turn out an ornament t_he family,' People very often say, afterward, that they 'always knew,'"
concluded Katy sagaciously.
"Oh, Katy! how beautiful it will be!" said Clover, clasping her hands. Clove_elieved in Katy as she did in the Bible.
"I don't believe the newspapers would be so silly as to print things abou_you_ , Katy Carr," put in Elsie, vindictively.
"Yes they will!" said Clover; and gave Elsie a push.
By and by John and Dorry trotted away on mysterious errands of their own.
"Wasn't Dorry funny with his turkey?" remarked Cecy; and they all laughe_gain.
"If you won't tell," said Katy, "I'll let you see Dorry's journal. He kept i_nce for almost two weeks, and then gave it up. I found the book, thi_orning, in the nursery closet."
All of them promised, and Katy produced it from her pocket. It began thus:
"March 12.—Have resolved to keep a jurnal.
March 13.—Had rost befe for diner, and cabage, and potato and appel sawse, an_ice puding. I do not like rice puding when it is like ours. Charley Slack'_ind is rele good. Mush and sirup for tea.
March 19.—Forgit what did. John and me saved our pie to take to schule.
March 21.—Forgit what did. Gridel cakes for brekfast. Debby didn't fry enuff.
March 24.—This is Sunday. Corn befe for dinnir. Studdied my Bibel leson. Aun_ssy said I was gredy. Have resollved not to think so much about things t_te. Wish I was a beter boy. Nothing pertikeler for tea.
March 25.—Forgit what did.
March 27.—Forgit what did.
March 31.—Forgit what did.
April 1.—Have dissided not to kepe a jurnal enny more."
Here ended the extracts; and it seemed as if only a minute had passed sinc_hey stopped laughing over them, before the long shadows began to fall, an_ary came to say that all of them must come in to get ready for tea. It wa_readful to have to pick up the empty baskets and go home, feeling that th_ong, delightful Saturday was over, and that there wouldn't be another for _eek. But it was comforting to remember that Paradise was always there; an_hat at any moment when Kate and Aunt Izzie were willing, they had only t_limb a pair of bars—very easy ones, and without any fear of an angel wit_laming sword to stop the way—enter in, and take possession of their Eden.