The bravest man who boasts of bodily strength may often find his moral courage fail in the hour of temptation. If he gain the victory, let him not
ascribe it to his own skill, but rather to the grace of God.
From what had happened in the Cave of Despair, Una saw that her Knight had grown faint and feeble; his long imprisonment had wasted away all his strength, and he was still quite unfit to fight. Therefore she determined to bring him to a place where he might refresh himself, and recover from his late sad plight.
There was an ancient house not far away, renowned through all the world for its goodness and holy learning, so well was it guided and governed by a wise matron. Her only joy was to comfort those in trouble and to help the helpless poor. She was called Dame Celia--the "Heavenly Lady"--and she had three beautiful daughters, Fidelia (Faith), Speranza (Hope), and Charissa (Love).
Arrived at the House of Holiness, they found the door fast locked, for it was warily watched, night and day, for fear of many foes. But when they knocked, the porter straightway opened to them. He was an aged man, with grey hair and slow footsteps; his name was Humility. They passed in, stooping low, for the way he showed them was strait and narrow, even as all good things are hardest at the beginning. But when they had entered they saw a spacious court, very pleasant to walk in. Here they were met by a frank, honest-looking man, called Zeal, who gladly acted as their guide till they came to the hall.
The squire of the household received them, and made them welcome; his name was Reverence. He was very gentle, modest, and sincere, always treating
every one with the greatest kindness and courtesy, not from any pretended politeness, but because of his own good and sweet disposition.
He conducted them to the lady of the house, who was busied as usual in some good works. Directly Dame Celia saw Una, she knew who she was; her heart filled with joy, and she put her arms round her and kissed her.
"Oh, happy earth," she cried, "whereon your innocent feet still tread! What good fortune has brought you this way, or did you wander here unknowingly? It is strange to see a knight-errant in this place, or any other man, for there are few who choose the narrow path or seek the right."
Una replied that they had come to rest their weary limbs, and to see the lady herself, whose fame and praise had reached them.
Then Dame Celia entertained them with every courtesy she could think of, and nothing was lacking to show her generosity and wisdom. Whilst they were talking, two beautiful maidens came in; they were Faith and Hope, the daughters of the lady. Faith was arrayed all in lily-white, and her face shone like the light of the sun; in one hand she held a book. Her younger sister, Hope, was clad all in blue, and carried a silver anchor; her face was not as cheerful as Faith's, but it was very noble and steadfast.
Presently a servant, called Obedience, came and conducted the guests to their rooms, in order that they might rest awhile. Afterwards Una asked Faith if she would allow the Red Cross Knight to enter her school
house, in order that he might share in her heavenly learning, and hear the divine wisdom of her words.
So the Knight went to school to learn of Faith, and many were the wondrous things she taught him. Now he saw in its true light all the error of his ways, and he began truly to repent of all his wrongdoings. The thought of them was so bitter, that he felt he was no longer worthy to live.
Then came Hope with sweet comfort, and bade him trust steadily and not lose heart. And Dame Celia, seeing how unhappy he was, sent to him a wonderful doctor, called Patience. Thanks to his skill and wisdom, and to the careful nursing of his attendant, Repentance, the Red Cross Knight presently recovered, and grew well and strong again.
After this Una took him one day to visit the third daughter, whose name was Love. She was so wonderfully beautiful and good that there were few on earth to compare with her. They found her in the midst of a group of happy children; she wore a yellow robe, and sat in an ivory chair, and at her side were two turtle-doves.
Una besought Love to let the Red Cross Knight learn of her whatever she could teach, and to this request Love gladly agreed. Then she began to instruct the Knight in all good things. She spoke to him of love and righteousness, and how to do well, and bade him shun all wrath and hatred, which are displeasing to GOD. And when she: had well taught him this, she went on to show him the path to heaven.
The better to guide his weak and wandering steps,
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And bid her joy of that her happy brood;
Who then requites them with court'sies seeming meet,
And entertaynes with friendly cheerefull mood.''
she called an ancient matron, named Mercy, well known for her gracious and tender ways. Into her careful charge Love gave the Knight, to lead in the right path, so that he should never fall in all his journeying through the wide world, but come to the end in safety.
Then Mercy, taking the Knight by the hand, led him away by a narrow path; it was scattered with bushy thorns and ragged briars, but these she always cleared away before him, so that nothing might hinder his ready passage. And whenever his footsteps were cumbered, or began to falter and stray, she held him fast, and bore him up, so that he never fell.