’O Lord, our Teacher and Guide, our Advocate and Judge, Thou the Bestower and the Admonitor, terrible and clement, Rebuker and Consoler, who givest sight to the blind, who makest possible to the weak that which Thou commandest, who art so good that Thou desirest to be for ever petitioned, so merciful that Thou sufferest no one to despair; grant us that which we ask with Thy approval, and yet more that which in our ignorance we fail to beseech. How weak we are, Thou indeed knowest; by what a foe we are beset, Thou art aware. In the unequal contest, in our mortal infirmity, we turn to Thee, for it is the glory of Thy Majesty when the meek sheep overcomes the roaring lion, when the Evil Spirit is repulsed by feeble flesh. Grant that our enemy, who rejoices in our offending, may be saddened by the sight of human happiness. Amen.’
He rose, for the first time, to attend the midnight office, Deodatus, who was punctual as a monk at all the hours, awaking him from sleep. But Marcus whispered an admonishing word.
’I praise your zeal, good brother; nevertheless, as your physician, I cannot suffer your night’s rest to be broken. Descend for lauds, if you will, but not earlier.’
Basil bowed in obedience. Lauds again saw him at prayer. Hitherto, when they were together in the oratory, it had been the habit of Deodatus to kneel behind his master; this morning Basil placed himself by his servant’s side. They walked away together in the pearly light of dawn, and Basil led the way to a sequestered spot, whence there was a view over the broad valley of the Liris. Several times of late he had come here, to gaze across the mountainous landscape, wondering where Veranilda might be. Turning to his companion, he laid a hand on the man’s shoulder, and addressed him in a voice of much gentleness.
’Did you leave nothing behind you, Deodatus, which would make the thought of never returning to your home a sorrow?’
‘Nothing, my dear lord,’ was the reply. ’In my lifetime I have seen much grief and little solace. All I loved are dead.’
’But you are young. Could you without a pang say farewell to the world?’
Deodatus answered timidly:
‘Here is peace.’
Continuing to question, Basil learnt that for this man the life of the world was a weariness and a dread. Hardships of many kinds had oppressed him from childhood; his was a meek soul, which had no place amid the rudeness and violence of the times; from the first hour, the cloistered life had cast a spell upon him.
‘Here is peace,’ he repeated. ’Here one can forget everything but to worship God. Could I remain here, I were the happiest of men.’
And Basil mused, understanding, approving, yet unable to utter the same words for himself. His eyes strayed towards the far valley, shimmering in earliest daylight. He, too, had he not suffered dread things whilst living in the world? And could he expect that life in the future would be more kindly to him? None the less did his heart yearn for that valley of human tribulation. He struggled to subdue it.