THE CELESTIAL RAILROAD
by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 - 1864)
This little booklet is a spin-off from Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress". It
is an allegory depicting the radical distinction between "the broadness of
contemporary Christianity", and "the narrowness of Biblical Christianity".
The vast majority of Christian professors have abandoned the Bible's
demanding lifestyle of the narrow way, which alone leads to eternal life. A
socially fashionable brand of 'easy religion' now masquerades as biblical
Hawthorne's dream carries him off to Bunyan's 'City of
Destruction' where to his surprise, he is told that a RAILROAD has recently
been built from the 'City of Destruction' to the 'Celestial City'. Sadly,
this railroad never arrives at its promised destination.
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and
broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But
small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few
find it." Matthew 7:13-14
THE CITY OF DESTRUCTION
Not a great while ago, passing through the gate of dreams, I visited that
region of the earth in which lies the famous City of Destruction. It
interested me much to learn that by the public spirit of some of the
inhabitants a railroad has recently been established between this
populous and flourishing town and the Celestial City. Having a little
time upon my hands, I resolved to gratify a liberal curiosity by making a
trip thither. Accordingly one fine morning, after paying my bill at the
hotel, and directing the porter to stow my luggage behind a coach, I took my
seat in the vehicle and set out for the station house. It was my good
fortune to enjoy the company of a gentleman – one Mr. Smooth-it-away – who,
though he had never actually visited the Celestial City, yet seemed as well
acquainted with its laws, customs, policy and statistics as with those of
the city of Destruction, of which he was a native townsman. Being, moreover,
a director of the railroad corporation, and one of its largest stockholders,
he had it in his power to give me all desirable information respecting this
THE SLOUGH OF DESPOND
Our coach rattled out of the city, and at a short distance from its
outskirts passed over a bridge of elegant construction, but somewhat too
slight, as I imagined, to sustain any considerable weight. On both sides lay
an extensive quagmire, which could not have been more disagreeable, either
to sight or smell, had all the kennels of the earth emptied their pollution
"This," remarked Mr. Smooth-it-away, "is the famous
Slough of Despond – a disgrace to all the neighborhood; and the greater that
it might so easily be converted into firm ground."
"I have understood," said I, "that efforts have been made
for that purpose from time immemorial."
"Very probable – and what effect could be anticipated
from such unsubstantial stuff?" cried Mr. Smooth-it-away. "You observe this
convenient bridge. We obtained a sufficient foundation for it by throwing
into the Slough some editions of books of morality, volumes of French
philosophy and German rationalism, tracts, sermons, and essays of modern
clergymen, extracts from Plato, Confucius, and various Hindoo sages,
together with a few ingenious commentaries upon texts of Scripture; all of
which, by some scientific process, have been converted into a mass like
granite. The whole bog might be filled up with a similar matter."
It really seemed to me, however, that he bridge vibrated
and heaved up and down in a very formidable manner; and in spite of Mr.
Smooth-it-away’s testimony to the solidity of its foundation, I should be
reluctant to cross it in a crowded omnibus, especially if each passenger
were encumbered with as heavy luggage as that gentleman and myself.
THE WICKET GATE AND EVANGELIST
Nevertheless, we got over without accident, and soon found ourselves at the
station little Wicket Gate, which formerly, as old pilgrims will recollect,
stood directly across the highway, and by its inconvenient narrowness, was a
great obstruction to the traveler of liberal mind and expansive stomach.
A large number of passengers were already at the station
house, awaiting the departure of the cars. By the aspect and demeanor of the
persons, it was easy to judge that the feelings of the community had
undergone a very favorable change, in reference to the celestial pilgrimage.
It would have done Bunyan’s heart good to see it. Instead of a lonely and
ragged man with a huge burden on his back, plodding along sorrowfully on
foot while the whole city hooted after him, here were parties of the first
gentry and most respectable people in the neighborhood, setting merely a
Among the gentlemen were characters of deserved eminence,
magistrates, politicians, and men of wealth, by whose brethren. In the
ladies’ apartment, too, I rejoiced to distinguish some of most elevated
circles of the Celestial City. There was much pleasant conversation about
the news of the day topics of business, politics, or the lighter matters of
amusement; while religion though indubitably the main thing at heart, was
thrown tastefully into the background. Even an infidel would have heard
little or nothing to shock his sensibility.
THE BURDEN OF SIN
One great convenience of the new method of going on pilgrimage I must not
forget to mention. Our enormous burdens, instead of being carried on our
shoulders, as had been the custom of old, were all snugly deposited in the
baggage car, and, as I was assured, would be delivered to their respective
owners at the journey’s end. Another thing, likewise, the benevolent reader
will be delighted to understand. It may be remembered that there was an
ancient feud between Prince Beelzebub and the keeper of the Wicket Gate, and
that the adherents of the former distinguished personage were accustomed to
shoot deadly arrows at honest pilgrims while knocking at the door.
This dispute, much to the credit as well as the
illustrious potentate above mentioned, as of the worthy and enlightened
directors of the railroad, has been practically arranged upon the principle
of mutual 'compromise'. The Prince’s subjects are now pretty numerously
employed about the station house, some in taking care of the baggage, others
in collecting fuel, feeding the engines, and such congenial occupations; and
I can conscientiously affirm, that persons more generally agreeable to the
passengers, are not to be found on any railroad. Every good heart must
surely exult at so satisfactory an arrangement of an immemorial difficulty.
"Where is Mr. Greatheart?" inquired I. "Beyond a doubt the directors have
engaged that famous old champion to be chief conductor of the railroad?"
"Why no," said Mr. Smooth-it-away, with a dry cough; "he
was offered the situation of brakeman; but to tell you the truth, our friend
Greatheart has grown preposterously stiff and narrow in his old age. He has
so often guided pilgrims over the road on foot, that he considers it a sin
to travel in any other fashion. Besides, the old fellow had entered so
heartily into the ancient feud with Prince Beelzebub, that he would have
been perpetually at blows or ill language with some of the Prince’s
subjects, and thus have embroiled us anew. So, on the whole, we were not
sorry when honest Greatheart went off to the Celestial City in a huff, and
left us at liberty to choose a more suitable and accommodating man. Yonder
comes the engineer of the train; you will probably recognize him at once."
The engine at this moment took its station in advance of the cars, looking,
I must confess, much more like a sort of mechanical demon that would hurry
us to the infernal regions, than a laudable contrivance for smoothing our
way to the Celestial City. On its top sat a personage almost enveloped in
smoke and flame, which (not to startle the reader) appeared to gush from his
own mouth and stomach as well as from the engine’s brazen abdomen.
"Do my eyes deceive me?" cried I. "What on earth is this?
A living creature? If so, he is own brother to the engine he rides upon."
"Poh, poh, you are snippety," said Mr. Smooth-it-away,
with a hearty laugh. "Don’t you know Apollyon, Christian’s old enemy,
with whom he fought so fierce a battle in the Valley of Humiliation? He was
the very fellow to manage the engine, and so we have reconciled him to the
custom of going on pilgrimage, and engaged him as chief engineer."
"Bravo, bravo!" exclaimed I, with irrepressible
enthusiasm. "This shows the 'liberality' of the age. This proves, if
anything can, that all musty prejudices are in a fair way to be obliterated.
And how will Christian rejoice to hear of this happy transformation of his
old antagonist. I promise myself great pleasure in informing him of it when
we reach the Celestial City."
THE PILGRIMS ON THE OLD FOOTPATH
The passengers being all comfortably seated, we now rattled away merrily,
accomplishing a greater distance in ten minutes than Christian probably
trudged over in a day. It was laughable while we glanced along, to observe
two dusty foot-travelers in the old pilgrim guise, with their staffs, and
their mystic rolls of parchment in their hands, and their intolerable
burdens on their backs. The preposterous obstinancy of these honest people
in persisting to groan and stumble along the difficult pathway, rather than
take advantage of modern improvements, excited great mirth among our wiser
brotherhood. We greeted the two pilgrims with many pleasant gibes and a roar
of laughter; whereupon they gazed at us with such woeful and absurdly
compassionate visages, that our merriment grew ten-fold more obstreperous.
Apollyon, also, entered heartily into the fun, and contrived to blow the
smoke and flame of the engine, or of his own breath, into their faces, and
envelop them in an atmosphere of scalding steam. These little practical
jokes amused us mightily, and doubtless afforded the pilgrims the
gratification of considering themselves martyrs.
THE INTERPRETER'S HOUSE
At some distance from the railroad, Mr. Smooth-it-away pointed to a large,
antique edifice, which he observed was a lodge of a long standing, and had
formerly been a noted stopping-place for pilgrims. In Bunyan’s road-book it
is mentioned as the Interpreter’s House.
"I have long had a curiosity to visit that old mansion,"
"It is not one of our stations, as you perceive," said my
companion. The keeper was violently opposed to the railroad; and well he
might be, as the track left his house of instruction on one side, and thus
was pretty certain to deprive him of all his reputable customers. But the
foot-path still passes his door, and the old gentleman now and then receives
a call from some simple traveler, and entertains him with fare as
old-fashioned as himself."
Before our talk on this subject came to a conclusion, we were rushing by the
place where Christian’s burden fell from his shoulders at the sight of the
cross. This served as a theme from Mr. Smooth-it-away, Mr.
Live-for-the-world, Mr. Hide-sin-in-the-heart and Mr. Scaly-conscience, and
a group of gentlemen from the town of Shun-repentance, to discourse upon the
inestimable advantages resulting from the safety of our baggage. Myself, and
all the passengers indeed, joined with great unanimity in this view of the
matter; for our burdens were rich in many things esteemed precious
throughout the world; and especially, we each of us possessed a great
variety of favorite habits, which we trusted would not be out of fashion,
even in the polite circles of the Celestial City. It would have been a sad
spectacle to have seen such an assortment of valuable articles tumbling into
THE HILL DIFFICULTY AND THE VALLEY OF HUMILIATION
Thus pleasantly conversing on the favorable circumstances of our position as
compared with those of past pilgrims, and of narrow-minded ones of the
present day, we soon found ourselves at the foot of the Hill Difficulty.
Through the very heart of this rocky mountain a tunnel has been constructed
of most admirable architecture, with a lofty arch and a spacious double
track; so that unless the earth and rocks should chance to crumble down, it
will remain a lasting monument of the builder’s skill and enterprise. It is
a great though incidental advantage that the materials from the heart of
Hill Difficulty have been employed in filling up the Valley of Humiliation;
thus obviating the difficulty of descending into that disagreeable and
THE PALACE BEAUTIFUL AND ITS LADIES
"This is a wonderful improvement indeed," said I. "Yet I would have been
glad of an opportunity to visit the Palace Beautiful, and be introduced to
the charming young ladies – Miss Prudence, Miss Piety, Miss Charity and the
rest – who have had the kindness to entertain pilgrims there."
"Young ladies," cried Mr. Smooth-it-away, as soon as he
could speak for laughing. "And charming young ladies! Why, my dear fellow,
they are old maids, every one of them – prim, starched, dry and angular –
and not one of them, I will venture to say, has altered so much as the
fashion of her gown since the days of Christian’s pilgrimage."
"Ah, well," said I, much comforted, "then I can well
dispense with their acquaintance."
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH
The respectable Apollyon was now putting on the steam at a prodigious rate,
anxious perhaps to get rid of the unpleasant reminiscences connected with
the spot where he had so disastrously encountered Christian. Consulting Mr.
Bunyan’s road-book, I perceived that we must now be within a few miles of
the Valley of the Shadow of Death, into which doleful region, at our present
speed, we should plunge much sooner than seemed at all desirable. In truth,
I expected nothing better than to find myself in the ditch on one side, or
in the quag on the other. But, on the communicating my apprehensions to Mr.
Smooth-it-away, he assured me that the difficulties of this passage, even in
its worst condition, had been vastly exaggerated, and that, in its present
state of improvement, I might consider myself as safe as on any railroad in
Even while we were speaking, the train shot into the
entrance of this dreaded valley. Though I plead guilty to some foolish
palpitations of the heart during our headlong rush over the causeway here
constructed, yet it were unjust to withhold the highest acclamation on the
boldness of its original conception, and the ingenuity of those who executed
It was gratifying, likewise, to observe how much care was
taken to dispel the everlasting gloom, and supply the deficit of the
cheerful sunshine, not a ray of which has ever penetrated these awful
shadows. For this purpose the inflammable gas, which exudes plentifully from
the soil, is collected by means of pipes, and thence communicated to a
quadruple row of lamps along the whole extent of the passage. Thus a
radiance has been created, even out of the fiery and sulphurous curse that
rests forever upon the valley; a radiance hurtful, however, to the eyes, and
somewhat bewildering, as I discovered by the changes which it wrought in the
visages of my companions.
In this respect, as compared with natural daylight, there
is the same difference as between truth and falsehood; but if the reader has
ever traveled through the dark valley, he will have learned to be thankful
for any light that he could get; if not from the sky above, then from the
blasted earth beneath. Such was the red brilliancy of these lamps that they
appeared to build walls of fire on both sides of the track, between which we
held our course at lightning speed, while a reverberating thunder filled the
valley with its echoes.
Had the engine run off the track (a catastrophe it is
whispered by no means unprecedented), the bottomless pit, if there be any
such place, would undoubtedly have received us. Just as some dismal
fooleries of this kind had made my heart quake, there came a tremendous
shriek careering along which proved to be merely the whistle of the engine
on arriving at a stopping place.
The spot where we had now paused was the same that our friend Bunyan – a
truthful man, but infected with many absurd notions – has designated, in
terms plainer than I like to repeat, as the mouth of the infernal region.
This, however, must be a mistake, inasmuch as Mr. Smooth-it-away, while we
remained in the smoky and ghastly cavern, took occasion to prove that Tophet
has not even a metaphorical existence. The place, he assured us, is no other
than the crater of a half-extinct volcano, in which the directors had caused
iron-forges to be set up for the manufacture of railroad iron. Hence also is
obtained a plentiful supply of fuel for the use of the engines.
Whoever had gazed into the dismal obscurity of the broad
cavern mouth, whence, ever and anon, darted huge tongues of dusky flame--and
had seen the strange, half-shaped monsters, and visions of faces horribly
grotesque into which the smoke seemed to wreath itself--and had heard the
awful murmurs, and shrieks, and deep shuddering whispers of the blast,
sometimes forming themselves into almost articulate words, would have seized
upon Mr. Smooth-it-away’s comfortable explanation as greedily as we did.
The inhabitants of the cavern, moreover, were unlovely
personages, dark, smoke-begrimed, generally deformed, with misshapen feet,
and a glow of dusky redness in their eyes, as if their hearts had caught
fire, and were blazing out of the upper windows. It struck me as a
peculiarity that the laborers at the forge and those who brought fuel to the
engine, when they began to draw short breath, positively emitted smoke from
their mouth and nostrils.
Among the idlers about the train, most of whom were
puffing cigars which they had lighted at the flame of the crater, I was
perplexed to notice several who, to my certain knowledge, had before set
forth by railroad to the Celestial City. They looked dark, wild and smoky,
with a singular resemblance, indeed, to the native inhabitants, like whom,
also, they had a peevish propensity to ill-natured gibes and sneers, the
habit of which had wrought a settled contortion on their visages. Having
been on speaking terms with one of them – an indolent, good-for-nothing
fellow, who went by the name of Take-it-easy – I called to him, and asked
what was his business there.
"Did you not start," said I, "for the Celestial City?"
"That’s a fact," said Mr. Take-it-easy, carelessly
puffing some smoke into my eyes. "But I heard such bad accounts that I never
took pains to climb the hill on which the city stands. No business doing, no
fun going on, nothing to drink and no smoking allowed, and a thrumming of
church music from morning till night. I would not stay in such a place, if
they offered me a free house and living."
"But, my good Mr. Take-it-easy," cried I, "why take up
your residence here, of all places in the world?"
"Oh," said the loafer, with a grin, "it is very warm
hereabouts, and I meet with plenty of old acquaintances, and altogether the
place suits me. I hope to see you back again some day soon. A pleasant
journey to you."
While he was speaking the bell of the engine rang, and we
dashed away after dropping a few passengers, but receiving no new ones.
Rattling onward through the valley, we were dazzled with the fiercely
gleaming gas lamps, as before; but sometimes, in the dark or intense
brightness, grim faces, that bore the aspect of individual sins or evil
passions, seemed to thrust themselves through the veil of light, glaring
upon us and stretching forth a great dusky hand, as if to impede our
progress. These were 'freaks of imagination', nothing more, mere delusions,
which I ought to be heartily ashamed of; but all through the dark Valley I
was tormented and pestered, and dolefully bewildered with the same kind of
waking dreams. The noxious gases of that region intoxicate the brain. As the
light of the natural day however began to struggle with the glow of the
lanterns, these vain imaginations lost their vividness, and finally vanished
with the first ray of sunshine that greeted our escape from the Valley of
the Shadow of Death. Ere we had gone a mile beyond it, I could well-nigh
have taken my oath that this whole gloomy passage was a dream.
A MODERN EVIL GIANT
At the end of the Valley, as John Bunyan mentions, a cavern, where, in his
days, dwelt two cruel giants, 'Pope' and 'Pagan', who had stewn the ground
about their residence with the bones of slaughtered pilgrims. These vile old
cave-dwellers are no longer there; but into their deserted cave another
terrible giant has thrust himself, and makes it his business to seize upon
honest travelers, and fatten them for his table with plentiful meals of
smoke, mist, moonshine, raw potatoes and sawdust. He is a German by birth,
and is called Giant Transcendentalism. But as to his form, his features, his
substance, and his nature generally, it is the chief peculiarity of this
huge scoundrel, that neither he for himself, nor anybody for him, has ever
been able to describe them. As we rushed by the cavern’s mouth, we caught a
hasty glimpse of him, looking somewhat like an ill-proportioned figure, but
considerably more like a heap of fog and duskiness. He shouted after us, but
in so strange a phraseology that we knew not what he meant, nor whether to
be encouraged or affrighted.
It was late in the day when the train thundered into the ancient city of
Vanity, where Vanity Fair is still at the height of prosperity, and exhibits
an epitome of whatever is brilliant, gay and fascinating beneath the sun. As
I proposed to make a considerable stay here, it gratified me to learn that
there is no longer the lack of harmony between the townspeople and pilgrims,
which impelled the former to such lamentable mistaken measures as the
persecution of Christian, and the fiery martyrdom of Faithful. On the
contrary, as the new railroad brings with it great trade and a constant
influx of strangers, the lord of Vanity Fair is its chief patron, and the
capitalists of the city are among the largest stockholders.
Many passengers stop to take their pleasure or make their
profit in the Fair, instead of going onward to the Celestial City. Indeed,
such are the charms of the place, that the people often affirm it to be the
true and only Heaven; stoutly contending that there is no other, that those
who seek further are mere dreamers, and that, if the fabled brightness of
the Celestial City lay but a bare mile beyond the gates of Vanity, they
would not be fools enough to go thither. Without subscribing to these,
perhaps, exaggerated encomiums, I can truly say that my abode in Vanity Fair
was mainly agreeable, and my converse with the inhabitants productive of
much amusement and instruction.
Being naturally of a serious turn, my attention was
directed to the sold advantages derivable from a residence here, rather than
to the effervescent pleasures, which are the grand object with too many
visitants. The Christian reader, if he have had no accounts of the city
later than Bunyan’s time, will be surprised to hear that almost every street
has its church, and that the reverend clergy are nowhere held in higher
respect than at Vanity Fair. And well do they deserve such honorable
estimation--for the maxims of wisdom and virtue which fall from their lips,
come from as deep a spiritual source, and tend to as lofty a religious aim,
as those of the sagest philosophers of old.
In justification of this high praise, I need only mention
the names of the Rev. Mr. Shallow-deep; the Rev. Mr. Stumble-at-truth; that
fine old clerical character, the Rev. Mr. This-today, who expects shortly to
resign his pulpit to the Rev. Mr. That-tomorrow; together with the Rev. Mr.
Bewilderment; the Rev. Mr. Clog-the-spirit; and last and greatest, the Rev.
Mr. Wind-of-doctrine. The labors of these eminent divines are aided by those
of innumerable lecturers, who diffuse such a various profundity, in all
subjects of human nature or celestial science, that any man may acquire an
extensive knowledge, without the trouble of even learning to read. Thus
literature is etherealized by assuming for its medium the human voice; and
knowledge depositing all its heavier particles – except, doubtless, its gold
– becomes exhaled into a sound, which forthwith steals into the ever open
ear of the community. These ingenious methods constitute a sort of
machinery, by which thought and learning are conveyed to every person’s
mind, without his putting himself to the slightest inconvenience in the
There is another species of machine for the wholesale
manufacture of individual MORALITY. This excellent result is effected by
societies for all manner of virtuous purposes--with which a man has merely
to connect himself, throwing, as it were, his quota of virtue into the
common stock; and the president and directors will take care that the
aggregate amount be well applied. All these, and other wonderful
improvements in ethics, religion and literature, being made plain to my
comprehension by the ingenious Mr. Smooth-it-away, inspired me with a vast
admiration of Vanity Fair.
It would fill a volume, in an age of 'pamphlets', were I
to record all my observations in this great capital of human business and
pleasure. There was an unlimited range of society – the powerful, the wise,
the witty, and the famous in every walk of life – princes, presidents,
poets, generals, artists, actors and philanthropists, all making their own
market at the Fair, and deeming no price too exorbitant for such commodities
as hit their fancy. It is well worth one’s while, even if he had no idea of
buying or selling, to loiter through the bazaars, and observe the various
sorts of traffic that were going forward.
Some of the purchasers, I thought, made very foolish
bargains. For instance, a young man, having inherited a splendid fortune,
laid out a considerable portion of it in the purchase of diseases, and
finally spent all the rest for a heavy lot of repentance and a suit of rags.
There was a sort of stock, called Conscience, which seemed to be in great
demand, and would purchase almost anything. Indeed few rich commodities were
to be obtained without paying a heavy sum in this particular stock, as a
man’s business was seldom very lucrative, unless he knew precisely when and
how to throw his hoard of Conscience into the market. Yet, as this stock was
the only thing of permanent value, whoever parted with it was sure to find
himself a loser in the long run. Thousands sold their happiness for a whim.
Gilded chains were in great demand, and purchased
with almost any sacrifice. In truth, those who desired, according to the old
adage, to sell anything valuable for a son, might find customers all over
the Fair; and there were innumerable bowls of pottage, piping hot, for those
who chose to buy them with their birthrights.
A few articles, however, could not be found genuine at
Vanity Fair. If a customer wished to renew his stock of youth, the dealers
offered him a set of false teeth and an auburn wig; if he demanded peace of
mind, they recommended opium or a brandy bottle.
Tracts of land and golden mansions, situated in the
Celestial City, were often exchanged, at very disadvantageous rates, for a
few years’ lease of small, dismal, inconvenient tenements in Vanity Fair.
Prince Beelzebub himself took great interest in this sort
of traffic, and sometimes condescended to meddle with small matters. I once
had the pleasure to see him bargaining with a miser for his soul, which,
after much ingenious skirmishing on both sides, his highness succeeded in
obtaining for a few dollars. The prince remarked with a smile, that he was a
loser by the transaction.
SIMPLE PILGRIMS AT THE FAIR
Day after day, as I walked the streets of Vanity, my manners and deportment
became more and more like those of the inhabitants. The place began to seem
like home; the idea of pursuing my course to the Celestial City was almost
obliterated from my mind. I was reminded of it, however, by the sight of the
same pair of simple pilgrims at whom we had laughed so heartily when
Apollyon puffed smoke and steam into their faces, at the commencement of our
journey. There they stood amid the densest bustle of Vanity – the dealers
offering them their purple, and fine linen, and jewels; the men of wit and
humor gibing at them; a pair of well-proportioned ladies ogling them
askance; while the benevolent Mr. Smooth-it-away whispered some of his
wisdom at their elbows, and pointed to a newly erected temple; but there
were these worthy simpletons, making the scene look wild and monstrous,
merely by their sturdy repudiation of all part in its business or pleasures.
One of them – his name was Stick-to-the-right – perceived
in my face, I suppose, a species of sympathy and almost admiration, which to
my own great surprise, I could not help feeling for this honest couple. It
prompted him to address me.
"Sir," inquired he, with a sad, yet mild and kindly
voice, "do you call yourself a pilgrim?"
"Yes," I replied, "my right to that appellation is
indubitable. I am merely a sojourner here in Vanity Fair, being bound to the
Celestial City by the new railroad."
"Alas, friend," rejoined Mr. Stick-to-the-right, "I do
assure you, and beseech you to receive the truth of my words, that that
whole enterprise is a bubble. You may travel on it all your lifetime, were
you to live thousands of years, and yet never get beyond the limits of
Vanity Fair! Yea, though you should deem yourself entering the gates of the
Blessed City, it will be nothing but a miserable delusion."
"The Lord of the Celestial City," began the other
pilgrim, whose name was Mr. Go-the-old-way, "has refused, and will always
refuse, to grant an act of incorporation for this railroad; and unless that
be obtained no passenger can ever hope to enter His dominions. Therefore,
every man who buys a ticket must lay his account with losing the
purchase-money – which is the value of his soul."
"Poh! nonsense!" said Mr. Smooth-it-away, taking my arm
and leading me off; "these fellows ought to be arrested for libel. If the
law stood as it once did in Vanity Fair, we would see them grinning through
the iron bars of the prison window."
This incident made a considerable impression on my mind,
and contributed with other circumstances to indispose me to a permanent
residence in Vanity; although, of course, I was not simple enough to give up
my original plan of gliding along easily and commodiously by railroad. Still
I grew anxious to be gone. There was one strange thing that puzzled me; amid
the occupations and amusements of the Fair, nothing was more common than for
a person – whether at a feast, theatre, or church, or trafficking for wealth
and honors, or whatever he might be doing, and however unseasonable the
interruption – suddenly to vanish like a soap bubble, and be never more seen
of his fellows; and so accustomed were the latter to such little incidents,
that they went on with their business as quietly as if nothing had happened.
But it was otherwise with me.
DEMAS AND LOT'S WIFE
Finally, after a pretty long residence at the Fair I resumed my journey
towards the Celestial City, still with Mr. Smooth-it-away by my side. At a
short distance beyond the suburbs of Vanity we passed the ancient silver
mine, of which Demas was the first discoverer, and which is now operated to
great advantage, supplying nearly all the coined currency of the world. A
little further onward was the spot where Lot’s wife had stood for ages,
under the semblance of a pillar of salt. Curious travelers have carried it
away piecemeal. Had all lapses been punished as rigorously as this poor
dame’s were, my yearnings for the relinquished delights of Vanity Fair might
have produced a similar change in my own body, and left me a warning to
DOUBTING CASTLE AND GIANT DESPAIR
The next remarkable object was a large edifice, constructed of moss-grown
stone, but in a modern and airy style of architecture. The train came to a
pause in its vicinity with its usual tremendous shriek.
"This was formerly the castle of the formidable Giant
Despair," observed Mr. Smooth-it-away; "but, since his death, Mr.
Flimsy-faith has repaired it, and now keeps an excellent house of
entertainment here. It is one of our stopping places."
"It seems but slightly put together," remarked I, looking
at the frail, yet ponderous walls. "I do not envy Mr. Flimsy-faith his
habitation. Some day it will thunder down upon the heads of the occupants."
"We shall escape, at all events," said Mr.
Smooth-it-away; "for Apollyon is putting on the steam again."
THE DELECTABLE MOUNTAINS AND THE BY-WAY TO HELL
The road now plunged into a gorge of the Delectable Mountains, and traversed
the field where, in former ages, the blind men wandered and stumbled among
the tombs. One of these ancient tombstones had been thrust across the track
by some malicious person, and gave the train of cars a terrible jolt. Far up
the rugged side of a mountain I perceived a rusty iron door, half-overgrown
with bushes and creeping plants, but with some smoke issuing from its
"Is that," inquired I, "the very door in the hillside
which the shepherds assured Christian was a by-way to hell?"
"That was a 'joke' on the part of the shepherds," said
Mr. Smooth-it-away, with a smile. "It is neither more nor less than the door
of a cavern, which they use for a smoke house for the preparation of mutton
THE ENCHANTED GROUND AND BEULAH LAND
My recollections of the journey are now, for a little space, dim and
confused, inasmuch as a singular drowsiness here overcame me, owing to the
fact that we were now passing over the enchanted ground, the air of which
encourages a disposition to sleep. I awoke, however, as soon as we crossed
over the borders of the pleasant land of Beulah. All the passengers were
rubbing their eyes, comparing watches, and congratulating one another on the
prospect of arriving so seasonably at their journey’s end. The sweet breezes
of this happy climate came refreshingly to our nostrils; we beheld the
glimmering gush of silver fountains, overhung by trees of beautiful foliage
and delicious fruit, which were propagated by grafts from the celestial
Once, as we dashed onward like a hurricane, there was a
flutter of wings, and the bright appearance of an angel in the air, speeding
forth on some heavenly mission. The engine now announced the close vicinity
of the final station house, by one last and horrible scream, in which there
seemed to be distinguishable every kind of wailing and woe, and bitter
fierceness of wrath, all mixed up with the wild laughter of a devil or a
madman. All through our journey, at every stopping place, Apollyon had
exercised his ingenuity in wrenching the most abominable sounds out of the
whistle of the steam engine; but in this closing effort he outdid himself,
and created an infernal uproar, which, besides disturbing the peaceful
inhabitants of Beulah, must have sent its discord even through the celestial
A TRIUMPHANT ARRIVAL
While the horrid clamor was still ringing in our ears, we heard an exulting
strain, as if a thousand instruments of music, with height, and depth, and
sweetness in their tones, at once tender and triumphant, were struck in
unison, to greet the approach of some illustrious hero, who had fought the
good fight and won a glorious victory, and was come to lay aside his
battered arms forever. Looking to ascertain what might be the occasion of
this glad harmony, I perceived, on alighting from the cars, that a multitude
of 'shining ones' had assembled on the other side of the river to welcome
two poor pilgrims who were just emerging from its depths. They were the same
ones whom Apollyon and ourselves had persecuted with taunts and gibes, and
scalding steam, at the commencement of our journey, the same whose unworldly
visage and impressive words had stirred my conscience amid the wild revelers
of Vanity Fair.
"How amazingly well those men have got on!" cried I to
Mr. Smooth-it-away. "I wish we were secure of so good a reception."
"Never fear, never fear!" answered my friend. "Come, make
haste; the ferry-boat will be off directly, and in three minutes you will be
on the other side of the river. No doubt you will find coaches to carry you
up to the city gates."
A steam ferry-boat, the last improvement on this important route, lay at the
river side, puffing, snorting, and emitting all those other disagreeable
utterances, which betoken the departure to be immediate. I hurried on board
with the rest of the passengers, most of whom were in great uneasiness; some
blubbering out for their baggage; some tearing their hair and declaring the
boat would explode or sink; some already pale with the heaving of the
stream; some gazing affrighted at the ugly visage of the steersman; and some
still dizzy with the slumbering influences of the Enchanted Ground. Looking
back to the shore I was amazed to discern Mr. Smooth-it-away waving his hand
in token of farewell.
"Don’t you go over to the Celestial City?" exclaimed I.
"Oh, no!" answered he, with a curious smile, and that
same disagreeable contortion of visage which I had remarked in the
inhabitants of the Dark Valley. "Oh, no! I have come thus far only for the
sake of your pleasant company. Good-by. We shall meet again."
And then did my excellent friend, Mr. Smooth-it-away,
laugh out-right, in the midst of which extreme laughing, a smoke wreath
issued from his mouth and nostrils, while a twinkle of ghastly flame darted
out of either eye, proving indubitably that his heart was all of a red
The impudent fiend! To deny the existence of Tophet, when
he felt its fiery tortures ringing in his breast! I rushed to the side of
the boat, intending to fling myself on shore; but the wheels, as they began
their revolutions, threw a dash of spray over me so cold – so deadly cold,
with the chill that will never leave those waters until Death be drowned in
his own river, that, with a shiver and a heart-quake, I awoke.
Thank Heaven, it was a Dream!