“Certainly. You’ll see the princes in the procession.”
An hour later they took their places at the central window of the long sala on the third floor, looking out immediately upon the narrow street, which, opposite, fell back into a tiny square, and further up to the right, upon the enormous piazza of St. Peter’s and the basilica itself behind.
It was a real Roman day—not yet at its full heat, but intensely clear and bright; and Monsignor congratulated himself on having elected to remain as a spectator. The return journey from the Lateran about noon would be something of an ordeal.
The street and the piazza presented an astonishingly brilliant appearance. Beneath, the roadway was now one sheet of greenery—box, myrtle, and bay. The houses opposite, as well as within the little square, of which every window was packed with heads, were almost completely hidden under the tapestries, the carpets, the banners. Behind the barriers on either side of the garlanded masts was one mass of heads resembling a cobbled pavement. So much for sight. For sound, the air was filled with one steady low roar of voices; for down to where the street opened far away to the left into the space above the river, the same vista presented itself. The Campagna since twenty-four hours before had been emptying every living inhabitant into Rome; and there was not a town in Italy, and scarcely in Europe, whence special volors and trains had not carried the fervent to the Feast of the Apostles in Holy Rome. And, for scent, the air was sweet and fragrant with the aromatic herbs of the roadway, already bruised a little by the feet of the galloping horses of those that went up and down to guard the route or to carry messages.
It was a little hard to make out the arrangements of the vast circular piazza in front of St. Peter’s. The front of the basilica was hung, in usual Roman fashion, with gigantic garlands and red cloth; and the carpet of greenery lined with troops ran straight up the centre of the space, rippled over the steps, and ceased only beneath the towering portico of the church. But on either side of this, with spaces between, stood enormous groups of men and horses, marshalled, no doubt, in order to take their places at the proper moment in the procession.
At the right, immovable and tremendous, rose up the great palace of the Vatican itself, unadorned except where a glint of some colour showed itself at the Bronze Doors; and above all, like a benediction in stone, against the vivid blue of the sky, hung the dome of the basilica.
Monsignor Masterman made a long, keen survey of all this. Then he leaned back and sighed.
“What was the first year that the Pope came out of the Vatican like this?”
“The year after the conquest of United Italy. It was Austria that——”
“I know all that. And you mean he never came out so long as the old state of affairs continued?”