Soon after leaving the House of Holiness, the Red Cross Knight and his guide, Mercy, came to a hospital by the wayside. Some bedesmen lived here, who had vowed all their life to the service of the King of Heaven, and who spent their days in doing good. Their gates were always open to weary travellers, and one of the brothers sat waiting to call in all poor and needy passers-by. Each of the brothers had a separate duty to perform. The first had to entertain travellers; the second, to give food to the needy; the third, clothing to those who had none; the fourth, to relieve prisoners and to redeem captives; the fifth, to comfort the sick and the dying; the sixth, to take charge of those who were dead, and to deck them with dainty
flowers; the seventh had to look after widows and orphans. Mercy was a great friend of theirs, and Love was the founder of their order.
They stayed at the hospital for some time, while the Knight was taught all kinds of good works. He was very quick at learning, and soon became so perfect that no cause of blame or rebuke could be found in him.
Leaving the hospital, he next came with his guide to a steep and high hill, on the top of which was a church, with a little hermitage close by. Here there dwelt an old man, called Contemplation. He spent all his days in prayer and meditation, never thinking of worldly business, but only of God and goodness. When he saw the travellers approaching, at first he felt vexed, for he thought they would distract his thoughts to earthly matters. But recognizing Mercy, whom he loved and respected, he greeted them civilly, and asked why they had climbed that tedious height.
"For that same purpose which every living person should make his aim--the wish to go to Heaven," replied Mercy. " Does not the path lead straight from here to that most glorious place which shines with ever-living light? The keys were given into your hands by Faith, who requires that you show the lovely city to this knight in accordance with his desire."
Then Contemplation took the Red Cross Knight, and, after the latter had fasted awhile and prayed, he led him to the highest part of the hill.
From there he showed him a little path, steep and long, which led to a goodly city. The walls and
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A little path that was both steepe and long,
Which to a goodly Citty led his view,
Whose wals and towres were builded high and strong
Of perle and precious stones that earthly tong
Cannot describe, nor wit of man can tell.''
towers were built very high and strong, of pearl and precious stones, more beautiful than tongue can tell. It was called "The City of the Great King," and in it dwelt eternal peace and happiness.
As the Knight stood gazing, he could see the blessed angels descending to and fro, and walking in the streets of the city, as friend walks with friend. At this he much wondered, and he began to ask what was the stately building that lifted its lofty towers so near the starry sky, and what unknown nation dwelt there.
"Fair Knight," said his companion, "that is Jerusalem--the New Jerusalem, which GOD has built for those to dwell in that are His chosen people, cleansed from sinful guilt by CHRIST, who died for the sins of the whole world. Now they are saints together in that city."
"Until now," said the Knight, "I thought that the city of Queen Gloriana, whence I come, was the fairest that might ever be seen. But now I know otherwise, for that great city yonder far surpasses it."
"Most true," said the holy man. "Yet for an earthly place the kingdom of Queen Gloriana is the fairest that eye can behold. And you, Sir Knight, have done good service by aiding a desolate and oppressed maiden. But when you have won a famous victory, and high amongst all knights have hung your shield, follow no more the pursuit of earthly conquest, for bloodshed and war bring sin and sorrow. Seek this path which I point out to you, for it will in the end bring you to Heaven. Go peaceably on your pilgrimage to the City of the Great King. A blessed
end is ordained for you. Amongst the saints you shall be a saint, the friend and patron of your own nation. Saint George you shall be called--'Saint George for merry England, the sign of Victory.'"
"O holy Sire!" said the Knight, "how can I requite you for all that you have done for me?"
H is eyes were dazzled by the brightness of the glory at which he had been gazing, so that he could scarcely see the ground by which to return; so dark are earthly things compared with divine.
Thanking and rewarding the good man for all his trouble, the Red Cross Knight returned to Una, who was anxiously awaiting him. She received him with joy, and after he had rested a little, she bade him be mindful of the task still before him. So they took leave of Dame Celia and her three daughters, and once more set out on their journey.