Further on, in the old-fashioned suburban streets, all is shut up long ago, and our carts roll on through the black night. We cry out to our djins: “Ayakou! ayakou!” ("Quick! quick!”) and they run as hard as they can, uttering little shrieks, like some merry animal full of wild gayety. We rush like a whirlwind through the darkness, all five in Indian file, dashing and jolting over the old uneven flagstones, dimly lighted up by our red balloons fluttering at the end of their bamboo stems. From time to time some Niponese, night-capped in his blue kerchief, opens a window to see who these noisy madcaps can be, dashing by so rapidly and so late. Or else some faint glimmer, thrown by us on our passage, discovers the hideous smile of a large stone animal seated at the gate of a pagoda.
At last we arrive at the foot of Osueva’s temple, and, leaving our djins with our little gigs, we clamber up the gigantic steps, completely deserted at this hour of the night.
Chrysantheme, who always likes to play the part of a tired little girl, of a spoilt and pouting child, ascends slowly between Yves and myself, clinging to our arms.
Jonquille, on the contrary, skips up like a bird, amusing herself by counting the endless steps:
“Hitots’! F’tats’! Mits’! Yots’!” ("One! two! three! four!”) she exclaims, springing up by a series of little light bounds.
“Itsoots! Mouts’! Nanats! Yats! Kokonots!” ("Five! six! seven! eight! nine!”)
She lays a great stress on the accentuations, as though to make the numbers sound even more droll.
A little silver aigrette glitters in her beautiful black chignon; her delicate and graceful figure seems strangely fantastic, and the darkness that envelops us conceals the fact that her face is almost ugly, and almost without eyes.
This evening Chrysantheme and Jonquille really look like little fairies; at certain moments the most insignificant Japanese have this appearance, by dint of whimsical elegance and ingenious arrangement.
The granite stairs, immense, deserted, uniformly gray under the nocturnal sky, seem to vanish into the empty space above us, and when we turn round, to disappear in the depths beneath, to fall with the dizzy rapidity of a dream into the abyss below. On the sloping steps the black shadows of the gateways through which we must pass stretch out inordinately; and the shadows, which seem to be broken at each projecting step, bear on all their extent the regular creases of a fan. The porticos stand up separately, rising one above the other; their wonderful shapes are at once remarkably simple and studiously affected; their outlines stand out sharp and distinct, having nevertheless the vague appearance of all very large objects in the pale moonlight. The curved architraves rise up at each extremity like two menacing horns, pointing upwards towards the far-off blue canopy of sky bespangled with stars, as thought they would communicate to the gods the knowledge they have acquired in the depths of their foundations from the earth, full of sepulchers and death, which surrounds them.