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The Celestial Railroad

by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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 that praiseworthy
enterprise.

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 there.

“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. Bunyan mentions that above twenty
thousand cartloads of wholesome instructions had been thrown in here
without effect.”

“Very probably! 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 similar matter.”

It really seemed to me, however, that the 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 loath to cross it in a crowded omnibus, especially if each passenger
were encumbered with as heavy luggage as that gentleman and myself.
Nevertheless we got over without accident, and soon found ourselves at
the stationhouse. This very neat and spacious edifice is erected on the
site of the little wicket gate, which formerly, as all old pilgrims
will recollect, stood directly across the highway, and, by its
inconvenient narrowness, was a great obstruction to the traveller of
liberal mind and expansive stomach The reader of John Bunyan will be
glad to know that Christian’s old friend Evangelist, who was accustomed
to supply each pilgrim with a mystic roll, now presides at the ticket
office. Some malicious persons it is true deny the identity of this
reputable character with the Evangelist of old times, and even pretend
to bring competent evidence of an imposture. Without involving myself
in a dispute I shall merely observe that, so far as my experience goes,
the square pieces of pasteboard now delivered to passengers are much
more convenient and useful along the road than the antique roll of
parchment. Whether they will be as readily received at the gate of the
Celestial City I decline giving an opinion.

A large number of passengers were already at the station-house awaiting
the departure of the cars. By the aspect and demeanor of these 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
forth towards the Celestial City as cheerfully as if the pilgrimage
were merely a summer tour. Among the gentlemen were characters of
deserved eminence–magistrates, politicians, and men of wealth, by
whose example religion could not but be greatly recommended to their
meaner brethren. In the ladies’ apartment, too, I rejoiced to
distinguish some of those flowers of fashionable society who are so
well fitted to adorn the most elevated circles of the Celestial City.
There was much pleasant conversation about the news of the day, topics
of business and 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.

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 of the illustrious potentate above mentioned as of the
worthy and enlightened directors of the railroad, has been pacifically
arranged on 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 attentive to their business, more willing to
accommodate, or 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 on 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 obtuse!” 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 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, as it were, at the tail of a thunderbolt, to observe two dusty
foot travellers in the old pilgrim guise, with cockle shell and staff,
their mystic rolls of parchment in their hands and their intolerable
burdens on their backs. The preposterous obstinacy 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 woful and absurdly compassionate visages that our merriment grew
tenfold more obstreperous. Apollyon also entered heartily into the fun,
and contrived to flirt 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.

At some distance from the railroad Mr. Smooth-it-away pointed to a
large, antique edifice, which, he observed, was a tavern of 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,” remarked I.

“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 entertainment on one side, and thus
was pretty certain to deprive him of all his reputable customers. But
the footpath still passes his door, and the old gentleman now and then
receives a call from some simple traveller, 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 for Mr. Smooth-it-away, Mr.
Livefor-the-world, Mr. Hide-sin-in-the-heart, Mr. Scaly-conscience, and
a knot of gentlemen from the town of Shun-repentance, to descant 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 see such an assortment of
valuable articles tumbling into the sepulchre. Thus pleasantly
conversing on the favorable circumstances of our position as compared
with those of past pilgrims and of narrow-minded ones at 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 an eternal monument of the
builder’s skill and enterprise. It is a great though incidental
advantage that the materials from the heart of the Hill Difficulty have
been employed in filling up the Valley of Humiliation, thus obviating
the necessity of descending into that disagreeable and unwholesome
hollow.

“This is a wonderful improvement, indeed,” said I. “Yet I should 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 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 soul 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 very readily dispense
with their acquaintance.”

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 the Quag on the
other; but on 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
Christendom.

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 encomiums on the boldness of
its original conception and the ingenuity of those who executed it. It
was gratifying, likewise, to observe how much care had been taken to
dispel the everlasting gloom and supply the defect of cheerful
sunshine, not a ray of which has ever penetrated among 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 have ever travelled 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 soil 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 nature had made my
heart quake there came a tremendous shriek, careering along the valley
as if a thousand devils had burst their lungs to utter it, but which
proved to be merely the whistle of the engine on arriving at a
stopping-place.

The spot where we had now paused is the same that our friend Bunyan–a
truthful man, but infected with many fantastic 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 lurid 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 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 wreathe itself, and had heard the awful murmurs, and shrieks,
and deep, shuddering whispers of the blast, sometimes forming
themselves into words almost articulate, 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 heretofore set forth
by railroad for the Celestial City. They looked dark, wild, and smoky,
with a singular resemblance, indeed, to the native inhabitants, like
whom, also, they had a disagreeable propensity to ill-natured gibes and
sneers, the habit of which had wrought a settled contortion of their
visages. Having been on speaking terms with one of these persons,–an
indolent, good-for-nothing fellow, who went by the name of
Take-it-easy,–I called him, and inquired 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 house room and living free.”

“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 of intense brightness,
grim faces, that bore the aspect and expression 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. I almost thought that they were my own sins that
appalled me there. These were freaks of imagination–nothing more,
certainly-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 mephitic
gases of that region intoxicate the brain. As the light of natural day,
however, began to struggle with the glow of the lanterns, these vain
imaginations lost their vividness, and finally vanished from 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.

At the end of the valley, as John Bunyan mentions, is a cavern, where,
in his days, dwelt two cruel giants, Pope and Pagan, who had strown the
ground about their residence with the bones of slaughtered pilgrims.
These vile old troglodytes are no longer there; but into their deserted
cave another terrible giant has thrust himself, and makes it his
business to seize upon honest travellers 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
Transcendentalist; but as to his form, his features, his substance, and
his nature generally, it is the chief peculiarity of this huge
miscreant 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 purposed to make a considerable stay here, it
gratified me to learn that there is no longer the want of harmony
between the town’s-people and pilgrims, which impelled the former to
such lamentably 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
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 the city was mainly
agreeable, and my intercourse with the inhabitants productive of much
amusement and instruction.

Being naturally of a serious turn, my attention was directed to the
solid 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. Dr. 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 or celestial science, that any man
may acquire an omnigenous erudition 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
study are done to every person’s hand without his putting himself to
the slightest inconvenience in the matter. 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 was 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. A
very pretty girl bartered a heart as clear as crystal, and which seemed
her most valuable possession, for another jewel of the same kind, but
so worn and defaced as to be utterly worthless. In one shop there were
a great many crowns of laurel and myrtle, which soldiers, authors,
statesmen, and various other people pressed eagerly to buy; some
purchased these paltry wreaths with their lives, others by a toilsome
servitude of years, and many sacrificed whatever was most valuable, yet
finally slunk away without the crown. There was a sort of stock or
scrip, 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, and 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. Several of the
speculations were of a questionable character. Occasionally a member of
Congress recruited his pocket by the sale of his constituents; and I
was assured that public officers have often sold their country at very
moderate prices. 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 song, might find customers all over the Fair;
and there were innumerable messes of pottage, piping hot, for such as
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, situate 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 smaller 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 at about the value of sixpence. The prince remarked with a
smile, that he was a loser by the transaction.

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 travels 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 amidst
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 buxom 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 pragmatic 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-truth, “I do assure you, and
beseech you to receive the truth of my words, that that whole concern
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. Foot-it-to-heaven, “has refused, and will ever refuse, to grant
an act of incorporation for this railroad; and unless that be obtained,
no passenger can ever hope to enter his dominions. Wherefore every man
who buys a ticket must lay his account with losing the purchase money,
which is the value of his own soul.”

“Poh, nonsense!” said Mr. Smooth-it-away, taking my arm and leading me
off, “these fellows ought to be indicted for a libel. If the law stood
as it once did in Vanity Fair we should 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 the city of 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 troubled me. Amid the occupations or amusements
of the Fair, nothing was more common than for a person–whether at
feast, theatre, or church, or trafficking for wealth and honors, or
whatever he might be doing, to vanish like a soap bubble, and be never
more seen of his fellows; and so accustomed were the latter to such
little accidents that they went on with their business as quietly as if
nothing had happened. But it was otherwise with me.

Finally, after a pretty long residence at the Fair, I resumed my
journey towards the Celestial City, still with Mr. Smooth-it-away at 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 wrought 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 forever under the semblance of a pillar of salt. Curious
travellers have long since carried it away piecemeal. Had all regrets
been punished as rigorously as this poor dame’s were, my yearning for
the relinquished delights of Vanity Fair might have produced a similar
change in my own corporeal substance, and left me a warning to future
pilgrims.

The next remarkable object was a large edifice, constructed of
moss-grown stone, but in a modern and airy style of architecture. The
engine came to a pause in its vicinity, with the usual tremendous
shriek.

“This was formerly the castle of the redoubted giant Despair,” observed
Mr. Smooth-it-away; “but since his death Mr. Flimsy-faith has repaired
it, and 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 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 smoke issuing from its crevices.

“Is that,” inquired I, “the very door in the hill-side which the
shepherds assured Christian was a by-way to hell?”

“That was a joke on the part of the shepherds,” said Mr. Smooth-itaway,
with a smile. “It is neither more nor less than the door of a cavern
which they use as a smoke-house for the preparation of mutton hams.”

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 passing over the enchanted ground, the air of
which encourages a disposition to sleep. I awoke, however, as soon as
we crossed 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
the journey’s end. The sweet breezes of this happy clime 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 gardens. 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. Throughout our journey, at every stopping-place, Apollyon had
exercised his ingenuity in screwing 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 gates.

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 whom Apollyon and ourselves had
persecuted with taunts, and gibes, and scalding steam, at the
commencement of our journey–the same whose unworldly aspect and
impressive words had stirred my conscience amid the wild revellers of
Vanity Fair.

“How amazingly well those men have got on,” cried I to Mr.
Smoothit–away. “I wish we were secure of as 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 perturbation: some bawling out for their baggage; some tearing
their hair and exclaiming that the boat would explode or sink; some
already pale with the heaving of the stream; some gazing affrighted at
the ugly aspect of the steersman; and some still dizzy with the
slumberous 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 queer 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 outright, in
the midst of which cachinnation a smoke-wreath issued from his mouth
and nostrils, while a twinkle of lurid flame darted out of either eye,
proving indubitably that his heart was all of a red blaze. The impudent
fiend! To deny the existence of Tophet, when he felt its fiery tortures
raging within 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 heartquake I awoke.
Thank Heaven it was a Dream!

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