Te mane laudum carmine, te deprecemur vesperi,
Te nostra supplex gloria per cuncta laudet saecula.’
The long sweet notes lingered in Basil’s mind when he lay down to rest. And, as he crossed himself before sleeping, the only prayer he breathed was: ‘Infunde lumen cordi meo.’
THE ABBOT’S TOWER
On the morrow he rose earlier, talking the while with his servant Deodatus. This good fellow continued to exhibit so deep an affection for the life of the monastery that Basil was at length moved to ask him whether, if he had the choice, he would veritably become a monk. Deodatus looked at his master with eyes of pathetic earnestness, tried in vain to speak, and burst into tears. Instructed by a vocation so manifest, Basil began to read more clearly in his own heart, where, in spite of the sorrows he had borne and of the troublous uncertainties that lay before him, he found no such readiness to quit the world. He could approve the wisdom of those who renounced the flesh, to be rewarded with tranquillity on earth and eternal happiness hereafter; but his will did not ally itself with his intellect. Moreover, was it certain, he asked himself, that all who embraced the religious life were so rewarded? In turning the pages of Augustine’s work, he had come upon a passage which arrested his eye and perturbed his thought, a passage which seemed clearly to intimate that the soul’s eternal destiny had from the beginning of things been decided by God, some men being created for bliss, more for damnation. Basil did not dwell profoundly on this doubt; his nature inclined not at all to theological scrutiny, nor to spiritual brooding; but it helped to revive in him the energies which sickness had abated, and to throw him back on that simple faith, that Christianity of everyday, in which he had grown up.
Going forth in the mellow sunshine, he turned his steps to a garden of vegetables where he saw monks at work. They gave him gentle greeting, and one, he who had brought the volume yesterday, announced that the abbot invited Basil to visit him after the office of the third hour. Thereupon all worked in silence, he watching them.
When the time came, he was conducted to the abbot’s dwelling, which was the tower beside the ancient gateway of the Arx. It contained but two rooms, one above the other; below, the founder of the monastery studied and transacted business; in the upper chamber he prayed and slept. When, in reply to his knock at the study door, the voice, now familiar, but for that no less impressive, bade him come forward, Basil felt his heart beat quickly; and when he stood alone in that venerable presence, all his new-born self-confidence fell away from him. Beholding the aged man seated at a table on which lay books, amid perfect stillness, in the light from a large window; before him a golden cross, and, on either side of it, a bowl of sweet-scented flowers; he seemed only now to remember that this was that Benedict whose fame had gone forth into many lands, whose holiness already numbered him with the blessed saints rather than with mortal men, of whom were recounted things miraculous. Looking upon that face, which time touched only to enhance its calm, only to make yet purer its sweet humanity, he felt himself an idle and wanton child, and his entrance hither a profanation.