…Mr and Mrs Christian took a seat at Father Christmas’s dinner table, and Mrs C lifted the little girl True Need onto her lap. Lady Amusement was seated nearby, flanked by admirers, beguiling them with her wit and infectious laughter.
Fellow pilgrims were seated on either side of Mr and Mrs C, their dearest friends – Lady Blessed Fellowship and her daughters, Sweet Remembrance and Godly Joy.
True Need watched them all as she drank from a cup of milk Mrs C held for her…
Feeling shy in the presence of such great persons, Mrs Christian silently watched and listened. Lady Amusement seemed to notice Lady Fellowship and her daughters just then, and her face showed that she approved of Fellowship, for Fellowship was indeed gracious and lovely to behold.
“Sober on Christmas Eve, dear Fellowship?” Amusement’s eyes twinkled as she tried to engage her in conversation. “And your daughters sober, too? But every heart needs to be merry at least once a year!”
Amusement’s friend, Mrs Wit, whispered to those near her, ‘Her daughters need to know that if they hope to marry they’ll have to adorn themselves with more than modesty.’
Mrs C blushed and let her gaze rest upon the child True Need who had fallen asleep in her arms.
Fellowship answered Amusement: “Sobriety is the friend of true merriment, and modesty of lasting affection. Many worthy men have married a modest wife, dear Amusement, and walked in the light of such companionship the rest of their days. Here is a man who has such a hope coming to greet us!”
Fellowship’s daughter Godly Joy smiled as she watched her betrothed, Godly Affection, crossing the room.
Mrs C smiled as she watched the two young people, but there was something in Godly Affection’s hurried step that warned of evil tidings. Soon Father Christmas was seen hastening after him and calling to him.
“No mention of this during the celebration, sir!” Father Christmas commanded. “Do you hear?!”
Godly Affection quickened his step. Reaching the pilgrims at the table, he leaned down to confer with them. Father Christmas interposed himself, shouting, “Enough!”
Lady Fellowship said to Christmas, “Excuse me, sir, but we must hear him out.” She turned to Godly Affection. “Speak your mind!”
“Yes, please, my dear!” his betrothed pleaded.
Godly Affection answered, “I’ve met a brother who has just returned from visiting his family in the City of Destruction.”
“What news?” cried Mr C, for his own and his wife’s families lived there.
Mrs C leaned forward, trembling.
Godly Affection said,”The city is full of tumult and confusion, wars, famine and plague.” Godly Joy began to weep and he took her hand.
Father Christmas raised his voice. “Silence! Why trouble ourselves with rumors gotten secondhand? Eat, drink – be merry! There’s time enough for the Cross tomorrow. Tonight is for the Manger.”
Mr C got to his feet and the other pilgrims followed his example. Mrs C carefully held the sleeping child True Need so as not to waken her.
“Sir,” said Mr C to Father Christmas, “do you have a room where we pilgrims can meet?”
Father Christmas slowly smiled. “Near the street door,” he said. “I believe you can find your way.”
The pilgrims hurried out of Father Christmas’s splendid dining hall, and past the door that led onto the main square of Vanity Fair. This door had been left open, and Godly Affection closed it with a strong hand against the howling wind and moonless darkness. They sought and found refuge in the small appointed room…