"Yes!" Antoine said to Dom Jacques. "On second thought, there might be something I could discuss with Cello."
HE went off to the old seminary house. He found Sering and Tenzin outside, pushing the wheelbarrow. Cello was seated in it, like a small Oriental dignitary. All her earthly belongings were in a little felt bag. She was speaking softly to her carriers, in a confident and reassuring tone, without the usual rosary in hand. Antoine made them stop.
"What are you doing?" he asked. "Where are you taking her?"
Cello stopped speaking. Sering smiled and said that they had been told to move the abbess out of the cloistered grounds to the gatehouse, where Brother Henri would give her a room.
"Oh, yes," Antoine said. "Such a bother." He stood in the path of the wheelbarrow. All three Tibetans smiled at him, but he did not move.
"I've come to set something straight," Antoine continued. "The geshe's being in the hospital -- that was my idea. I'm the one who told Father Léon to take him there."
Sering looked at Tenzin, and they spoke briefly in their native tongue. Sering looked back at Antoine.
"This hospital is not a good idea?" he asked. "The geshe is in a bad place?"
"No," Antoine said. "You misunderstand. I am the one who saved Geshe Damchoe Gyaltsen's life. That was not Father Léon's idea."
"That's fine," Sering said. "We are not unhappy."
Before Antoine could explain further, the wheelbarrow was taken up, and he had to move out of the way. Cello continued speaking in a thin but expressive tone, much like a Chinese grandmother telling a bedtime story. Antoine followed alongside. The little procession moved down the road and past an orchard where red, nutlike crab apples hung in profusion on branches.
"What is she saying?" Antoine asked.
"She is giving us a teaching," Sering explained. "Her subject is Gelugpa, or the Yellow Hats, one of the principal sects of Tibetan Buddhism, to which His Holiness the Dalai Lama belongs."
Cello's cheerful, rocking words seemed somehow connected to the movement of the wheelbarrow, and Antoine had difficulty believing that she was talking about anything serious.
"Can you tell me what she is saying?" he asked.
"It's very complicated," Sering answered. "In general, she explains that the real ground of Gelugpa is knowledge of suffering. Only when a person is fully convinced of the immensity of suffering can enlightenment follow."
"Oh," Antoine said.
"This suffering," Sering continued, "must be recognized as a universal condition, and the monk or nun must want deliverance for all beings from this suffering. Only then can enlightenment, or sunyata, be experienced."
"Really," Antoine said.
They had reached a picket fence, and Antoine opened the gate for the wheelbarrow. After they had passed through, he turned back to check the latch, just above a yellow sign that read MONASTIC ENCLOSURE in black letters. Cello had finished speaking, and she pulled from her felt bag the old, discolored rosary. The road ran ahead of them into cool shadows of elm and ash trees, and just beyond that was the gatehouse. When they arrived there, Brother Henri was waiting for them on the screened porch. Rubbing his purple-veined nose, he offered no words, not even to the abbess, who seemed to be a man even yet, the same person as when she had arrived, bald and stooped with years. Henri came down the steps to collect her little bag, and the two of them disappeared into the gatehouse.