A deep silence reigns in the precincts of the temple, even the sound of insects is hushed as we ascend. A sort of reverence, a kind of religious fear steals over us, and, at the same moment, a delicious coolness suddenly pervades the air, and passes over us.
On entering the courtyard above, we feel a little daunted. Here we find the horse in jade, and the china turrets. The enclosing walls make it the more gloomy, and our arrival seems to disturb I know not what mysterious council held between the spirits of the air and the visible symbols that are there, chimeras and monsters illuminated by the blue rays of the moon.
We turn to the left, and go through the terraced gardens, to reach the tea-house of the toads, which this evening is our goal; we find it shut up—I expected as much—closed and dark, at this hour! We drum all together on the door; in the most coaxing tones we call by name the waiting-maids we know so well: Mademoiselle Transparente, Mademoiselle Etoile, Mademoiselle Rosee-matinale, and Mademoiselle Margueritereine. Not an answer. Good-by, perfumed sherbets and frosted beans!
In front of the little archery-house our mousmes suddenly jump aside, terrified, declaring that there is a dead body on the ground. Yes, indeed, some one is lying there. We cautiously examine the place by the light of our red balloons, carefully held out at arm’s length for fear of this dead man. It is only the marksman, he who on the 4th of July chose such magnificent arrows for Chrysantheme; and he sleeps, good man! with his chignon somewhat dishevelled, a sound sleep, which it would be cruel to disturb.
Let us go to the end of the terrace, contemplate the harbor at our feet, and then return home. To-night the harbor looks like only a dark and sinister rent, which the moonbeams can not fathom—a yawning crevasse opening into the very bowels of the earth, at the bottom of which lie faint, small glimmers, an assembly of glowworms in a ditch—the lights of the different vessels lying at anchor.
ETEXT editor’s bookmarks:
Dull hours spent in
idle and diffuse conversation
Prayers swallowed like pills by invalids at a distance
Trees, dwarfed by a Japanese process
Which I should find amusing in any one else,—any one I loved
By PIERRE LOTI
A MIDNIGHT ALARM
It is the middle of the night, perhaps about two o’clock in the morning. Our lamps are burning somewhat dimly before our placid idols. Chrysantheme wakes me suddenly, and I turn to look at her: she has raised herself on one arm, and her face expresses the most intense terror; she makes a sign, without daring to speak, that some one or something is near, creeping up to us. What ill-timed visit is this? A feeling of fear gains possession of me also. I have a rapid impression of some great unknown danger, in this isolated spot, in this strange country of which I do not even yet comprehend the inhabitants and the mysteries. It must be something very frightful to hold her there, rooted to the spot, half dead with fright, she who does comprehend all these things.