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2.4.6 Mr Standfast

From John Bunyan's classic The Pilgrim's Progress, Part II, Section 4, Step 6.

Now when they were almost at the end of this ground, they perceived that a little before them was a solemn noise, as of one that was much concerned. So they went on and looked before them: and behold they saw, as they thought, a man upon his knees, with hands and eyes lifted up, and speaking, as they thought, earnestly to one that was above. They drew nigh, but could not tell what he said; so they went softly till he had done. When he had done, he got up, and began to run towards the Celestial City. Then Mr Great-Heart called after him, saying, Soho, friend, let us have your company, if you go, as I suppose you do, to the Celestial City. So the man stopped, and they came up to him. But as soon as Mr Honest saw him, he said, I know this man.

Then said Mr Valiant-for-truth, Prithee, who is it? It is one, said he, that comes from whereabout I dwelt. His name is Standfast; he is certainly a right good pilgrim.

So they came up to one another; and presently Standfast said to old Honest, Ho, father Honest, are you there? Aye, said he, that I am, as sure as you are there. Right glad am I, said Mr Standfast, that I have found you on this road. And as glad am I, said the other, that I espied you on your knees. Then Mr Standfast blushed, and said, But why, did you see me? Yes, that I did, quoth the other, and with my heart was glad at the sight. Why, what did you think? said Standfast. Think! said old Honest; what could I think? I thought we had an honest man upon the road, and therefore should have his company by and by. If you thought not amiss, said Standfast, how happy am I! But if I be not as I should, 't is I alone must bear it. That is true, said the other; but your fear doth further confirm me that things are right betwixt the Prince of pilgrims and your soul. For he saith, "Blessed is the man that feareth always" (Prov. 28:14).

Mr Valiant-for-truth: Well but, brother, I pray thee tell us what was it that was the cause of thy being upon thy knees even now: was it for that some special mercy laid obligations upon thee, or how?

Mr Standfast: Why, we are, as you see, upon the Enchanted Ground; and as I was coming along, I was musing with myself of what a dangerous nature the road in this place was, and how many that had come even thus far on pilgrimage, had here been stopped and been destroyed. I thought also of the manner of the death with which this place destroyeth men. Those that die here, die of no violent distemper: the death which such die is not grievous to them. For he that goeth away in a sleep, begins that journey with desire and pleasure. Yea, such acquiesce in the will of that disease.

Mr Honest: Then Mr Honest interrupting him, said, Did you see the two men asleep in the arbor?

Mr Standfast: Aye, aye, I saw Heedless and Too-bold there; and for ought I know, there they will lie till they rot (Prov. 10:7). But let me go on with my tale. As I was thus musing, as I said, there was one in very pleasant attire, but old, who presented herself to me, and offered me three things, to wit, her body, her purse, and her bed. Now the truth is, I was both weary and sleepy. I am also as poor as an owlet, and that perhaps the witch knew. Well, I repulsed her once and again, but she put by my repulses, and smiled. Then I began to be angry; but she mattered that nothing at all. Then she made offers again, and said, if I would be ruled by her, she would make me great and happy; for, said she, I am the mistress of the world, and men are made happy by me. Then I asked her name, and she told me it was Madam Bubble. This set me further from her; but she still followed me with enticements. Then I betook me, as you saw, to my knees, and with hands lifted up, and cries, I prayed to Him that had said he would help. So, just as you came up, the gentlewoman went her way. Then I continued to give thanks for this my great deliverance; for I verily believe she intended no good, but rather sought to make stop of me in my journey.

Mr Honest: Without doubt her designs were bad. But stay, now you talk of her, methinks I either have seen her, or have read some story of her.

Mr Standfast: Perhaps you have done both.

Mr Honest: Madam Bubble! Is she not a tall, comely dame, something of a swarthy complexion?

Mr Standfast: Right, you hit it: she is just such a one.

Mr Honest: Doth she not speak very smoothly, and give you a smile at the end of a sentence?

Mr Standfast: You fall right upon it again, for these are her very actions.

Mr Honest: Doth she not wear a great purse by her side, and is not her hand often in it, fingering her money, as if that was her heart's delight.

Mr Standfast: 'Tis just so; had she stood by all this while, you could not more amply have set her forth before me, nor have better described her features.

Mr Honest: Then he that drew her picture was a good limner, and he that wrote of her said true.

Great-heart: This woman is a witch, and it is by virtue of her sorceries that this ground is enchanted. Whoever doth lay his head down in her lap, had as good lay it down on that block over which the axe doth hang; and whoever lay their eyes upon her beauty are counted the enemies of God. This is she that maintaineth in their splendor all those that are the enemies of pilgrims. (Jas. 4:4). Yea, this is she that has bought off many a man from a pilgrim's life. She is a great gossiper; she is always, both she and her daughters, at one pilgrim's heels or another, now commending, and then preferring the excellences of this life. She is a bold and impudent slut: she will talk with any man. She always laugheth poor pilgrims to scorn, but highly commends the rich. If there be one cunning to get money in a place, she will speak well of him from house to house. She loveth banqueting and feasting mainly well; she is always at one full table or another. She has given it out in some places that she is a goddess, and therefore some do worship her. She has her time, and open places of cheating; and she will say and avow it, that none can show a good comparable to hers. She promiseth to dwell with children's children, if they will but love her and make much of her. She will cast out of her purse gold like dust in some places and to some persons. She loves to be sought after, spoken well of, and to lie in the bosoms of men. She is never weary of commending her commodities, and she loves them most that think best of her. She will promise to some crowns and kingdoms, if they will but take her advice; yet many has she brought to the halter, and ten thousand times more to hell.

Mr Standfast: Oh, said Standfast, what a mercy is it that I did resist her; for whither might she have drawn me!

Great-heart: Whither? nay, none but God knows whither. But in general, to be sure, she would have drawn thee into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition (1 Tim. 6:9). 'T was she that set Absalom against his father, and Jeroboam against his master. 'T was she that persuaded Judas to sell his Lord; and that prevailed with Demas to forsake the godly pilgrim's life. None can tell of the mischief that she doth. She makes variance betwixt rulers and subjects, betwixt parents and children, betwixt neighbour and neighbour, betwixt a man and his wife, betwixt a man and himself, betwixt the flesh and the spirit. Wherefore, good Mr Standfast, be as your name is, and when you have done all, stand.

At this discourse there was among the pilgrims a mixture of joy and trembling; but at length they broke out and sang,

"What danger is the Pilgrim in!
How many are his foes!
How many ways there are to sin
No living mortal knows.
Some in the ditch are spoiled, yea, can
Lie tumbling in the mire:
Some, though they shun the frying-pan
Do leap into the fire."
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