Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

Within the court a Franklin named Zeal ("Strive to enter in ”) welcomed them, and he led them on to the hall, where they were received by a "gentle squire, of mild demeanour and rare courtesy," named Reverence, who brought them to the lady of the house. Dame Colia knew Una, and her heart was filled with joy at the sight of her ; and she gladly welcomed the Red Cross Knight. While they were talking together, there entered two most lovely maidens linked arm in arm, the elder of whom was Fidelia ; she was arrayed all in lily white; the very light of heaven shone in her face, which was radiant with victorious joy. In her right hand she bore a cup of gold, filled with wine and water (the "cup of salvation"), and although a serpent (the power of Satan to destroy) had entered the cup, and “horror made to all that did behold,” Faith “no whit did change her constant mood,” assured of the victory of good over evil ; in her other hand “she fast did hold a book, that was both signed and sealed with blood” (the promises of God).

Her younger sister Speranza was dressed in blue; there was less assurance of joy in her face, and her eyes were ever turned to heaven in prayer (for hope has not the confidence of faith). She bore a silver anchor on which she leaned. After discourse between the two maidens and Una and the knight, a groom, whose name was Obedience, led the knight to rest. The next morning Fidelia, by Una's request, began to teach the knight her heavenly learning. She “ opened his dull eyes that light might in them shine,' and enabled him to read her sacred book “that none could read except she did them teach.” She was able with her words “to kill and raise to life the heart that she did thrill;" and her teaching brought before the knight so strongly his error in forsaking the pure and faithful Una, and in allowing himself to be led by Duessa to the House of Pride, that he fell into the greatest anguish. Then Speranza "gave him

his cure.

comfort sweet,” and taught him how to take hold on her anchor; and Patience, the wise physician, was sent for, who, with Penance, Remorse, and Repentance, undertook

Under their treatment he had to suffer many things, and sometimes

“ His own dear Una, hea:' evermore

His rueful shrieks and groanings, often tore
Her guiltless garments, and her golden hair,
For pity of his pain and anguish sore ;
Yet all with patience wisely did she bear,
For well she wist his crime could else be never clear."

At length he was brought to her sound and strong, and now he was introduced to Charissa, the youngest sister. She was married and had many little children, one a young baby which she held in her loving arms, while the others played around her. She was dressed in a yellow robe, and had a circlet of gold upon her head, and by her side was a pair of turtle doves. Charissa taught the knight of love and righteousness, and then she called a godly matron, Mercy, who took him to a hospital or religious house near by, where seven good men had “vowed all their life to service of high Heaven's King,” and spent their days in works of love. They represent every form of Christian work carried on for the good of others. The first received and entertained all passing travellers needing food and lodging. The second gave alms to the poor. The third provided clothing for those in want of it. The fourth cared for all captives and prisoners. The fifth nursed the sick and comforted the dying. The sixth had charge of the dead, providing decent burial and decking the graves with flowers. The seventh helped and protected widows and orphans. Here the knight was trained in deeds of love and mercy, and after he had been thoroughly practised in these he was taken to the top of a hill where an aged man dwelt called Heavenly Contemplation (both activity and thought being necessary to a complete life of godliness). From the summit of the highest mount the Red Cross Knight was shown the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, where dwells eternal happiness and peace. He was so enchanted at the sight that he wished at once to leave the world and go to it, but the old man told him that before he hung up his shield within those walls, he must fight the good fight with the dragon ; but after he had won that famous victory he would enter that city and be “a saint among those saints,” and should be known in future ages as “St. George of Merry England, the sign of victory."

And now the Red Cross Knight was ready for the conAlict with the dragon, so he and Una left the House of Holiness, and went on their journey until they came to the land where was the brazen tower in which Una's parents were shut up. Then they heard a most hideous roaring sound, and presently they saw the dragon "stretched upon the sunny side of a great hill.” At the gleam of the knight's armour that “heaven with light did fill,” the monster roused himself to battle, and came on towards them “half flying, half footing” in his haste. His body was covered with brazen scales, his tail was nearly three furlongs long and armed with two stings, while in his open jaws were three rows of iron teeth. His huge wings shaded the land like the shadows of mountains, and his eyes

shone rike fiery beacons seen from many a shire upon the mountain tops. The knight prepared himself for the combat, while Una withdrew to a hill, whence she could see what passed, and there she gave him the best help she could by praying for him.

As soon as the dragon was near enough, the knight couched his spear, and rode full tilt at him; but no weapon could pierce his strong scales; and with a sweep of his long tail, he brought both horse and rider to the ground. They, however, quickly sprang up

[ocr errors]

again; and then the dragon, rising in the air, came
down with a swoop upon them, and carried both horse
and man across the plain. Clutched in the dragon's grasp,
the knight attempted to thrust his spear into the neck
of the monster, but it slipped off the smooth scales, and
striking close under his left wing, then wide outspread,
it inflicted a deep wound, from which poured a river of
black blood all over the land. The beast could fly no
longer, but fell to the earth with its prey. The knight
again tried to thrust his sword between the scales of brass,
but to no purpose; and the dragon, finding he could not
Ay, in grief and anguish “loudly brayed, that like was never
heard,” whilst he sent from his mouth a blast of fire, that
singed the face and beard of the knight, so that he stepped
backwards, and in doing so fell into a well. The dragon,
seeing his foe disappear, raised his huge body, and clapped
his wings in all the pride of victory. When Una from
her hill saw this, “Great woe and sorrow did her soul
assay," but her prayers might still help her knight; and
all the night long she continued in prayer to God for him.
When morning rose-

Up rose that gentle virgin from her place,
And looked all about, if she might spy
Her lovéd knight to move his manly pace,
For she had great doubts of his safety,

Since late she saw him fall before his enemy.
“At last she saw where he upstarted brave

Out of the well wherein he drenched lay;
As eagle fresh out of the ocean wave,
Where he hath left his plumes all hoary gray,
And decked himself with feathers youthly gay,
Like eyas-hawk up mounts into the skies,
His newly budded pinions to assay,
Ard marvels at himself still as he flies,

So new, this new-born knight to battle new did rise.”
The well into which the knight had fallen at the close

[ocr errors]

of the day before was the well of Life (the grace of God), and this water could cleanse, heal, and renew all things. So fresh was he, that the fiend doubted whether it were not another knight; and so strengthened was his arm, that with one blow he wounded the dragon's head, and made him yell with pain. The monster then tried to sting his foe, and in the combat the knight hewed off five joints of the dragon's tail. All day long the fierce struggle raged, and, when the Red Cross Knight was almost spent, his strength was again renewed by fruit from the Tree of Life. The second evening fell, and Una, uncertain of his safety, again spent the night in prayer for him. The next morning the dragon tried a new mode of attack; he rushed on the knight with his jaws wide open, intending to swallow him at once, when the knight, seizing the opportunity, ran his sword down the monster's throat, and killed him :

" So down he fell, as a huge rocky cliff,

Whose false foundation waves have washed away,
With dreadful poise is from the main land rift,
And rolling down great Neptune doth dismay,
So down he fell, and like a heaped mountain lay.

“The knight himself even trembled at his fall,

So huge and horrible a mass it seemed ;
And his dear lady, that beheld it all,
Durst not approach for dread, which she misdeemed.
But yet at last, when as the direful fiend
She saw not stir, off shaking vain affright,
She nigher drew, and saw that joyous end,
Then God she praised, and thanked her faithful knight
That had achieved so great a conquest by His might.”

Una's father and mother were now set free, and there were great rejoicings in the land. Then followed the betrothal of the Red Cross Knight and Una; but for a moment this was interrupted by the arrival of a messenger bringing letters to the king, declaring that the knight was

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »