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We will not join him yet, but loiter in his steps, and notice some few of the characteristics of the Building.
CHAPTER II.-HIS VISITOR.
"Is this a time for moonlight dreams,
For Fancy with her shadowy toys,
LEAVING the Monk's cell, we come into a long narrow passage, lit here and there from above, along which, on each side, were ranged other cells of the monks. At one end of it glowed a “deep-set window,
, stained and traced,” with its “slow-flaming crimson fires.” The tracery of the window, as the twilight came on, seemed almost black, but the colour rather burned richer and more intense behind the dark fretted framework. A staircase, expanding into a small hall, ended the passage; into this hall other long passages converged, for,
“Full of long-sounding corridors it was,
Out of this hall opened doors into the buttery, the cellars, the diningball; and across a small green quadrangle you passed through the cloisters beyond, to the chapel.
These cloisters were a favourite resort of the Monk Ernestus; and now that the hour of musing wanderings among the chancelled.woods is at an end for him, we meet him again in their subdued light. These were just the place you would choose for tranquil, almost luxurious, meditation. The wide piece of smooth green sward which they shut in-over which the turrets and pinnacles of the buildings had lengthened, encroaching with their cool gray on the warm gold green sunlight-slept now almost in total shade. Just an edge of the living radiance was left, dividing the mass of shadow from the western aisle of the cloisters; and on the pavement, along its darkening length, lay, at intervals, ruddy trefoil-headed slants of glory, in sets of three parallels--the centre being the tallest. Through the fretted triple windows they came, and lay across the pavement, and, at right angles to this, glowed half-way up the wall-showing thus a bend in their midst, as though just being folded up to be laid aside. As you stood at one end of this passage and saw this alternate dusk and glory, and the arched graining overhead passing into soft gloom, and watched the monk, with bent head, slowly approaching-changing now into indistinctness, and now into intense glows and deep shadows-you would have imagined it possible to have paced and mused along that
luxury of solemn quiet to the hollow resounding of your solitary footstep, aye, till the moon rose over the long gray roof, and cast triple slants of white light, where the warm glow had lain. Ebony and silver had then alternated across that long passage, for the red light and mellow shade. Almost too lonely, after a time, yet strangely lovely, would the cloisters have been in such aspect, while slowly stole the “silver flame” across and along the dark.
The Monk Ernestus has drawn near to where we are standing during this our reverie ; he has passed through the narrow echoing side-passage, across the small quadrangle into the ball, up the staircase, and then along the dark corridor into his little cell again.
We will follow, only lingering behind a moment, because the Organist Monk, who passed a little while ago into the chapel, is rolling waves of muffled melody along the now dark arches of the deserted cloisters.
The Monk Ernestus had not sat long in his cell before a sharp tap came at the door.
As it opened to let the stranger in, you might have
heard the sound. The stranger was also a monk-tall and cowled, so that his face gleamed out of the hood as out of a cavern. was entirely black; and there seemed something weird in his look as he sat down, silent, after the first salutation, confronting his host. Ernestus was not unused to visits from stranger monks, English or foreign—his fame being, as I have said, limited neither to his Monastery nor to his Island. He said, at last
"Brother, wert thou the visitor who camest to my cell this morning, during my absence, leaving this token"-pointing to a cross, rudely fashioned of briar, bound with grass—" of thy return ?"
“I came this morning, and I return at night,” answered the foreigner, for such he seemed to be.
“ Hadst thou business with the Monk Ernestus?" inquired this latter.
"I am a stranger to this Monastery and this Country,” replied his guest; "I came hither, seeking what I do not find.”
“There is,” said Ernestus, “food and lodging for the stranger within our walls.”
"I never sought monastery for these," answered the Monk; "I can lodge under the sky, as often did my Master, and follow His example of fasting, that I may the better feed others. What mean these sounds of uproar and laughter that fill up the pauses of our speech ?”
“ Alas!” Ernestus said, “they tell their own tale. Too little of fasting and discipline is there in this society, and too much of carnal delight and sensual gratification. The hole in our garment is too apparent for words of mine to darn. What I now say, I speak not in boast, but in humble justice to them and to my unworthy self-there are but six cells where there is fasting and discipline to balance the misrule that hath emptied the remainder."
The Dark Monk leant forward from the dark corner wherein he sat, while the moonlight that now flooded the room fell on the pale features that looked out of the shadowing cowl.
* Brother," he said, “I came to these walls wherein they who dwell are set apart for the special service of God, for the denial of their own lusts and likings, for the chastening and subjecting of the flesh, and for the freeing of the wings of the soul, that it may the more singly and unrestrainedly soar to the Creator. I came to where the very walls promised a gathering of Saints—a rehearsal of Heaven. Methought here to refresh myself, not with perishing food and earthly rest, but with high and holy converse—with spiritual refreshment, that might content and invigorate the soul. I sought every cell ; but what I sought I found not. Everywhere have I found much of carnal delight, and sensual gratification; nowhere the trace of that conversation which is in Heaven. Yet for this I yearned ; and, behold, my soul is still an hungred!"
VOL, I.-NO. IV.
“Yea," replied the Monk Ernestus; “my heart echoes thy words, and weepeth tears of blood. Shall we not at least converse to our edifying, in the night, if thou hast fasted during the day? Thou didst see in this cell tokens—would they were more fulfilled !-of a more spiritual conversation."
But the stranger repeated, “Everywhere have I found much of carnal delight and sensual gratification ; nowhere the trace of that converse which is heavenly."
A look of wonder and sorrow came into the face of the Monk Ernestus. “Yea,” said he,“ little may my life match with my painted aspirations and designed prayers, with my patient and daily labour in my cell, while others take their pleasure. With fasting and prayer do I offer up the best of my mind and my hand to my Master; multiplying His words, in the setting of His works. My best is nothing ; yet thy censure is not deserved by me.”
“ Brother,” and the monk laid his hand upon his arm, and looked with an almost wistful tenderness in the stern eyes, into his,-“ Brother, beloved in the Lord, right well and christianly hast thou answered ; nevertheless, thou shalt yet confess my words true. I came this morning into thy cell, for the door stood open. I saw thy Art, which is thy god, pourtrayed upon the walls, hiding the bars of the window, strewn on the table, heaped on the shelves. A voluptuous feasting of the eye appeared in a drapery here, a colour there, in the whole disposition of the rooms.
I turned the pages of the Gospels, of the Missals; I found beauty of form and colour the principal, and the sacred Text the second thing in all. Yea, it seemed to me used but as a riband wherewith to tie thy flowers. Needed not to ask how this Solitary passed the chief of his time ; needed not to ask what was his god—I mean the thing most in his thoughts. Little time can there be for prayer and praise beyond the stated hours ; little season for holy study and heavenly meditation. Even in thy walks thy mind must be busy, not with heaven, but in margins of vellum, in cunning fancies, in gleaning of flowers, or birds, or butterflies.
From thy work thou risest to prayers, with thy last touches yet sweet in thy mind; and from thy prayers thou hastenest to the page, as if to recover time wasted. The eye is never denied, nor the appetite for mere beauty, O thou, pledged to strictest selfdenial for thy Lord's sake, for the mortifying of the flesh, which indeed one way thou crossest, but another way thou feedest to the full! Is riot in the sense of Taste the only excess ? Shall not-the full feeding of a gluttonous eye, the always indulging the mind's natural cravingshall not this, too, be held a carnal delight, a sensual gratification ? Those other monks care not for thy delight, nor thou for theirs. Each is led captive by his own peculiar lust.”
" Thou judgest me hardly, my brother,” the Monk Ernestus said.
"Cassiodorus, the Calabrian, hath written of my art and employment, that, 'In this exercise the mind is instructed in Holy Scripture, and it is a homily unto all whomsoever these books may reach. It is preaching with the hand, the fingers becoming tongues; it publisheth in silence the words of salvation; it warreth with the demon with pen and ink.' Further, he saith, “A recluse, seated in his chair transcribing, travels into all lands without leaving it; and the labour of his hands is felt where he is not.' May I not, therefore, brother, be indeed doing all these things, not to my delight, but to God's glory?"
“ Thou mayest, indeed; but dost thou so do it? Nay, my brother; I judge thee not hardly. I watched thee in the wood; thy inclinations, if heavenly, needed but a flower, or a cobweb, for a sudden colon, or full stop. And since thou art the Monk Ernestus, I have heard of thee from many, and misjudge thee not. Art thou preaching to others by these fantastic bars, these bedaubed walls, this carving and drapery? Bear with me while I set before thee thy life. What meaneth thy seclusion from the world, and thy solitude from earth's ties, in the Monastery walls ? Doth it not mean sterner self-denial than that of other men, the crossing of thy natural inclinations, the bringing into bondage thy, but for thy vow, innocent desires; the renouncing of, but for thy vow, harmless pleasures; the making Earth indeed a wilderness, that thou mayest the more stedfastly and sweetly desire the Canaan beyond ? This was thy life set aside to be; and, lo! what hast thou made it ? Is it not a selfish seclusion from household care and anxiety-a twilight calm, through which thou mayest untroubled pursue what is the darling of thy heart?, The world goes on, with its cares and its troubles about thee; men are born and die ; and there is bitter mourning, and wild crime, and rude uproar, and laughter, and tears. But all cometh hushed to thee, shut out from thy kind, with no strong loves whose severance shall make thee mourn; with no events save the finding of a new colour or another flower—painting, reading, praying, in a calm luxurious dream. Of the six thou namest, five, in like manner, worship study and intellectual delight; one hath music for his god. And all these imagine that which they are doing for themselves to be done for their Master. Nay, my brother, carnal delight and sensual gratification reign supreme in this brotherhood. If my words be not true, prove them false. If this thy assiduity be only or chiefly zeal for God, turn thee awhile from this to other work, most like thy Master's labours, that lieth about thee on all sides undone. As I passed through the hamlet I found the hungry, the sick, the sad, and the sinful; and amid this disease there appeared no physician. Yea, with a Gilead close at hand, no balm did I find! Men wondered at my words if I asked who came among them, to care for the body or the soul; for there is among them no one of the secular