Farther 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 merry animals 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 Japanese, 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 spoiled 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.
She lays a great stress on the accentuations, as if to make the numbers sound even more droll.
A little silver aigrette glitters in her beautiful black coiffure; her delicate and graceful figure seems strangely fantastic, and the darkness that envelops us conceals the fact that her face is quite 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, imposing, deserted, uniformly gray under the nocturnal sky, appear to vanish into the empty space above us, and, when we turn round, to disappear in the depths beneath, to fall into the abyss with the dizzy rapidity of a dream. On the sloping steps the black shadows of the gateways through which we must pass stretch out indefinitely; and the shadows, which seem to be broken at each projecting step, look like the regular creases of a fan. The porticoes stand up separately, rising one above another; 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 at each extremity like two menacing horns, pointing upward toward the far-off blue canopy of the star-spangled sky, as if they would communicate to the gods the knowledge they have acquired in the depths of their foundations from the earth, full of sepulchres and death, which surrounds them.
We are, indeed, a very small group, lost now in the immensity of the colossal acclivity as we move onward, lighted partly by the wan moon, partly by the red lanterns we hold in our hands, floating at the ends of their long sticks.