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The Three Cities Trilogy: Rome, Volume 5 by Émile Zola
page 3 of 155 (01%)
approaching he at last distinguished the slender phantoms of the ever
rising jets which fell again in spray. And above the vast square
stretched the vast and moonless sky of a deep velvety blue, where the
stars were large and radiant like carbuncles; Charles's Wain, with golden
wheels and golden shaft tilted back as it were, over the roof of the
Vatican, and Orion, bedizened with the three bright stars of his belt,
showing magnificently above Rome, in the direction of the Via Giulia.

At last Pierre raised his eyes to the Vatican, but facing the piazza
there was here merely a confused jumble of walls, amidst which only two
gleams of light appeared on the floor of the papal apartments. The Court
of San Damaso was, however, lighted, for the conservatory-like glass-work
of two of its sides sparkled as with the reflection of gas lamps which
could not be seen. For a time there was not a sound or sign of movement,
but at last two persons crossed the expanse of the piazza, and then came
a third who in his turn disappeared, nothing remaining but a rhythmical
far-away echo of steps. The spot was indeed a perfect desert, there were
neither promenaders nor passers-by, nor was there even the shadow of a
prowler in the pillared forest of the colonnade, which was as empty as
the wild primeval forests of the world's infancy. And what a solemn
desert it was, full of the silence of haughty desolation. Never had so
vast and black a presentment of slumber, so instinct with the sovereign
nobility of death, appeared to Pierre.

At ten minutes to nine he at last made up his mind and went towards the
bronze portal. Only one of the folding doors was now open at the end of
the right-hand porticus, where the increasing density of the gloom
steeped everything in night. Pierre remembered the instructions which
Monsignor Nani had given him; at each door that he reached he was to ask
for Signor Squadra without adding a word, and thereupon each door would
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