“He’ll laugh,” said Amy warningly.
“Who cares?” said Jo.
“I guess he’ll like it,” added Beth.
“Of course I shall! I give you my word I won’t laugh. Tell away, Jo, and don’t be afraid.”
“The idea of being afraid of you! Well, you see we used to play Pilgrim’s Progress, and we have been going on with it in earnest, all winter and summer.”
“Yes, I know,” said Laurie, nodding wisely.
“Who told you?” demanded Jo.
“No, I did. I wanted to amuse him one night when you were all away, and he was rather dismal. He did like it, so don’t scold, Jo,” said Beth meekly.
“You can’t keep a secret. Never mind, it saves trouble now.”
“Go on, please,” said Laurie, as Jo became absorbed in her work, looking a trifle displeased.
“Oh, didn’t she tell you about this new plan of ours? Well, we have tried not to waste our holiday, but each has had a task and worked at it with a will. The vacation is nearly over, the stints are all done, and we are ever so glad that we didn’t dawdle.”
“Yes, I should think so,” and Laurie thought regretfully of his own idle days.
“Mother likes to have us out-of-doors as much as possible, so we bring our work here and have nice times. For the fun of it we bring our things in these bags, wear the old hats, use poles to climb the hill, and play pilgrims, as we used to do years ago. We call this hill the Delectable Mountain, for we can look far away and see the country where we hope to live some time.”
Jo pointed, and Laurie sat up to examine, for through an opening in the wood one could look cross the wide, blue river, the meadows on the other side, far over the outskirts of the great city, to the green hills that rose to meet the sky. The sun was low, and the heavens glowed with the splendor of an autumn sunset. Gold and purple clouds lay on the hilltops, and rising high into the ruddy light were silvery white peaks that shone like the airy spires of some Celestial City.
“How beautiful that is!” said Laurie softly, for he was quick to see and feel beauty of any kind.
“It’s often so, and we like to watch it, for it is never the same, but always splendid,” replied Amy, wishing she could paint it.
“Jo talks about the country where we hope to live sometime—the real country, she means, with pigs and chickens and haymaking. It would be nice, but I wish the beautiful country up there was real, and we could ever go to it,” said Beth musingly.
“There is a lovelier country even than that, where we shall go, by-and-by, when we are good enough,” answered Meg with her sweetest voice.
“It seems so long to wait, so hard to do. I want to fly away at once, as those swallows fly, and go in at that splendid gate.”
“You’ll get there, Beth, sooner or later, no fear of that,” said Jo. “I’m the one that will have to fight and work, and climb and wait, and maybe never get in after all.”