The Painted Veil Chapter 53

Since she had been working at the convent Kitty had seen less of Waddington. Two or three times he had come down to the river bank to meet her and they had walked up the hill together. He came in to drink a whisky and soda, but he would seldom stay to dinner. One Sunday, however, he suggested that they should take their luncheon with them and go in chairs to a Buddhist monastery. It was situated ten miles from the city and had some reputation as a place of pilgrimage. The Mother Superior, insisting that Kitty must have a day’s rest, would not let her work on Sundays and Walter of course was as busy then as usual.

They started early in order to arrive before the heat of the day and were carried along a narrow causeway between rice-fields. Now and then they passed comfortable farm-houses nestling with friendly intimacy in a grove of bamboos. Kitty enjoyed the idleness; it was pleasant after being cooped up in the city to see about her the wide country. They came to the monastery, straggling low buildings by the side of the river, agreeably shaded by trees, and were led by smiling monks throughout courtyards, empty with a solemn emptiness, and shown temples with grimacing gods. In the sanctuary sat the Buddha, remote and sad, wistful, abstracted and faintly smiling. There was about everything a sense of dejection; the magnificence was shoddy and ruined; the gods were dusty and the faith that had made them was dying. The monks seemed to stay on sufferance, as though they awaited a notice to quit; and in the smile of the abbot, with his beautiful politeness, was the irony of resignation. One of these days the monks would wander away from the shady, pleasant wood, and the buildings, crumbling and neglected, would be battered by fierce storms and besieged by the surrounding nature. Wild creepers would twine themselves about the dead images and the trees would grow in the courtyards. Then the gods would dwell there no longer, but evil spirits of darkness.