House of God
"Thank you, and bless you, you beautiful animal!" said the little boy, patting the pig as it went bump, bump, bump down the stairs with him. "Thank you, and blessings to you, too!" said the metal pig. "I've helped you, but you've helped me, because I only have the strength to run when I'm carrying an innocent child on my back! You see, now I even dare step under the rays of the lamp before the Madonna picture. I can carry you anywhere except into a church, but as long as you're with me I can stand outside and look in through the open door. Don't get down off my back! If you do I shall be dead, just as you see me every day in the Porta Rossa!" "I'll stay with you, my blessed animal," said the little boy, and then they rushed at a dizzy pace through the streets of Florence to the church of Santa Croce in the Piazza. The great folding door swung open, and the altar lights streamed through the church and out into the deserted Piazza. A strange light blazed from a sculptured tomb in the left aisle; thousands of twinkling stars formed a sort a halo around it. The tomb was surmounted by a coat of arms, a red ladder on blue ground, gleaming like fire. This was the tomb of Galileo. It is a simple monument; but the red ladder on the blue ground is a symbol of Art, meaning that the pathway to fame is always upward on a flaming ladder. All genius soars to Heaven like the prophet Elijah. Every statue on the costly sarcophagus in the right aisle of the church seemed endowed with life. Here were Michelangelo and Dante, with the laurel wreath on his brow; Alfieri and Macchiavelli rested here side by side - the pride of Italy. It is a very beautiful church, far more beautiful than, although not as large as, the marble Cathedral of Florence. It seemed as if the marble raiment moved, as if those great figures once more raised their heads in the night, mid song and music, and gazed toward the altar glowing with many lights, where the white-robed altar boys swung the golden censers, while the fragrance of incense filled the church and streamed out into the open square.
"The child is mine!" replied Felicita. "And I can murder him if I want to, and you too, Giannina!"
And she swung her fire pot again. The other woman raised hers to parry the blow, and the two pots clashed together, smashing to bits and scattering fire and ashes all over the room.
But the boy by that time was out of the door, across the courtyard, and out of the house. The poor child ran until he had no breath left. At last he stopped before the church of Santa Croce, whose great door had opened to him last night, and he went inside. Everything there was bright. He knelt by the first tomb, the sepulcher of Michelangelo, and began to cry loudly. People passed to and fro; Mass was celebrated; yet, nobody paid attention to the boy except one elderly citizen, who paused and looked at him for a moment, then passed on like the rest.