Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/257

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199
OMEI SHAN, THE SACRED

The monastery went early to bed, and by ten o'clock bells had ceased to ring, the lights were out. Then came my time. Slipping out of my room I stole up the slope to the overhanging brow of the cliff. The wind had died down, the birds were still, not a sound broke the great silence. At my feet were the depths, to the west rose height on height, and on all lay the white light of the moon. Close by hundreds of weary pilgrims were sleeping heavily on their hard beds. Day after day and year after year they climbed these steeps seeking peace and help, pinning their hopes to burning joss stick and tinkling bell and mystic words, and in Western lands were other pilgrims entangled likewise in the mazes of dogma and form. But here among the stars, in the empty, soundless space of the white night, the gods that man has created seemed to vanish, and there stood out clear the hope that when time has ceased,—

"When whelmed are altar, priest, and creed;
   When all the faiths have passed;
Perhaps, from darkening incense freed,
   God may emerge at last."

Finally the day came when I was forced to turn away from the miracles of Omei. Our stores were almost gone, and the coolies had burnt their last joss sticks; so I took farewell of the kindly monks of Chin Tien and started down the mountain. The sun shone as we set off, but as we descended, the clouds