Now I saw in my dream that they had not journeyed far before the river parted away from their path. This made them a little sad, yet they dared not go out of the way. As their path proceeded away from the river, it became rough, and their feet were sore from their travels. “So the souls of the pilgrims were much discouraged because of the way,”a and they wished for a smoother path.
Soon they saw a little way ahead of them a pleasant-looking field called By-Path Meadow. It sat on the left side of the road, with a stile marking an entrance into it. Then said Christian to Hopeful, “If this meadow is right next to the way, let us step aside into it and walk there.” Then they went to the stile to take a look and saw a path that followed alongside their rough way, just on the other side of the fence. “This is what I was hoping for,” said Christian. “Here is an easier way to go. Come, good Hopeful, and let us take this smooth path that follows right next to our difficult one.”
“But what if this path should lead us out of the way?” Hopeful asked.
“That is not likely,” said Christian. “Look, doesn’t it go right next to our present path?” So Hopeful, persuaded by Christian, followed after him over the stile into By-Path Meadow.
After they had started walking on the new path, they found it very easy on their feet, and looking ahead, they saw a man walking in the same direction they were going. His name was Vain-Confidence. They called after him and asked him where the path was leading. He yelled back to them, “To the Celestial Gate.”
“See,” said Christian, “didn’t I tell you?”
So they followed Vain-Confidence down the path, but soon the night came, darkness fell, and they lost sight of him. As for Vain-Confidence, who could not see the way ahead of him, he fell into a deep pitb that was put there on purpose by the Prince of those grounds to catch vainglorious fools. Vain-Confidence was mortally injured when he fell into the pit.
Now Christian and Hopeful heard him fall, so they called up ahead to see if he was all right, but there was no answer except the sound of groaning.
Then Hopeful asked, “Now what should we do?” But Christian was silent, regretting that he had led him out of the way. Then began a torrential rain with fierce thunder and lightning, and the water rose. Then Hopeful groaned in himself, saying, “O that I had kept on the true way!”
“Who could have thought that this path would lead us astray?”
Hopeful continued, “I was afraid it might from the very first, and that is why I gave you that gentle caution. I would have spoken more firmly, but you are older than I.”
“Good brother, don’t be offended,” Christian said soothingly. “I am sorry I have urged you out of the way and that I have put you into such imminent danger. Pray, my brother, forgive me. I did not do it with any evil intent.”
Hopeful said warmly, “Be comforted, my brother, I forgive you, and I believe that this will work out for our good.”
Christian responded, “I am glad I am traveling with a merciful brother, but we must not stand here. Let’s try to get back to where we left the true path.”
“But, good brother, let me lead the way.”
But Christian offered, “No, if you please, let me go ahead of you so that I can be the first to meet any danger, since I am the one to blame for our present circumstances.”
“No,” replied Hopeful, “you should not go first. Since your mind is troubled, you might lead us in the wrong direction.”
Just then they heard an encouraging voice say, “Set your heart toward the highway, even the way that you went; turn again.” But by this time the waters had risen, making it very dangerous to go back the way they had come.
I thought then that it is easier to go out of the way that we are on than to go back onto it when we are off the way.
But despite the risk, they began tracing their steps back to where they had first entered the wrong path. After nearly a dozen near-drownings, and because the darkness made it impossible to see anything, they decided to find a place of shelter where they could wait out the storm until daybreak. After they had found a suitable shelter they soon fell asleep in utter exhaustion.
Not far from the place where they lay sleeping stood a castle called Doubting Castle. The owner of this castle was Giant Despair, and it was on his grounds that they were now sleeping.
When Giant Despair got up in the early morning and began walking up and down in his fields, , he came across Christian and Hopeful asleep on his grounds. With a grim and surly voice, he told them to awake and asked them who they were and what they were doing on his property. They told him they were pilgrims and that they had lost their way. Then said the giant, “This night you have trespassed on my property by trampling and lying on my grounds, and therefore you must come along with me.” So they were forced to go because he was stronger than they. The pilgrims also had little to say for themselves, knowing that they were at fault.
The giant therefore drove them before him and forced them into his castle, where Christian and Hopeful soon found themselves in a dark, nasty, and stinking dungeon. Here they lay from Wednesday morning till Saturday night without one bit of bread or drop of water or ray of light or anyone to inquire about them.
So Christian and Hopeful found themselves far from friends and acquaintances, in a hopeless and pitiable condition. Christian had double the sorrow, as he was constantly reminded that it was his ill-advised counsel that had created their present distress.
This special printing of The Pilgrim's Progress, written by John Bunyan, is made available through Truth For Life by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
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