Faustina stared wildly about her for a few seconds, confused and stunned by the suddenness of what had passed, above all by the thought that the man she loved was gone from her side to meet his death. Then without hesitation she left the room. No one hindered her, for the Saracinesca men were gone to see to the defences of the house, and Corona was already by the cradle of her child. No one noticed the slight figure as it slipped through the door and was gone in the darkness of the unlighted halls. All was confusion and noise and flashing of passing lights as the servants hurried about, trying to obey orders in spite of their terror. Faustina glided like a shadow down the vast staircase, slipped through one of the gates just as the bewildered porter was about to close it, and in a moment was out in the midst of the multitude that thronged the dim streets—a mere child and alone, facing a revolution in the dark.
Gouache made his way as fast as he could to the bridge of Sant’ Angelo, but his progress was constantly impeded by moving crowds— bodies of men, women, and children rushing frantically together at the corners of the streets and then surging onward in the direction of the resultant produced by their combined forces in the shock. There was loud and incoherent screaming of women and shouting of men, out of which occasionally a few words could be distinguished, more often “Viva Pio Nono!” or “Viva la Repubblica!” than anything else. The scene of confusion baffled description. A company of infantry was filing out of the castle of Sant’ Angelo on to the bridge, where it was met by a dense multitude of people coming from the opposite direction. A squadron of mounted gendarmes came up from the Borgo Nuovo at the same moment, and half a dozen cabs were jammed in between the opposing masses of the soldiers and the people. The officer at the head of the column of foot-soldiers loudly urged the crowd to make way, and the latter, consisting chiefly of peaceable but terrified citizens, attempted to draw back, while the weight of those behind pushed them on. Gouache, who was in the front of the throng, was allowed to enter the file of infantry, in virtue of his uniform, and attempted to get through and make his way to the opposite bank. But with the best efforts he soon found himself unable to move, the soldiers being wedged together as tightly as the people. Presently the crowd in the piazza seemed to give way and the column began to advance again, bearing Gouache backwards in the direction he had come. He managed to get to the parapet, however, by edging sideways through the packed ranks.
“Give me your shoulder, comrade!” he shouted to the man next to him. The fellow braced himself, and in an instant the agile Zouave was on the narrow parapet, running along as nimbly as a cat, and winding himself past the huge statues at every half-dozen steps. He jumped down at the other end and ran for the Borgo Santo Spirito at the top of his speed. The broad space was almost deserted and in three minutes he was before the gates of the barracks, which were situated on the right-hand side of the street, just beyond the College of the Penitentiaries and opposite the church of San Spirito in Sassia.