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Weekly tips on great novels to read.
After Donatello had left the studio, Miriam herself came forth, and
taking her way through some of the intricacies of the city, entered what
might be called either a widening of a street, or a small piazza. The
neighborhood comprised a baker's oven, emitting the usual fragrance of
sour bread; a shoe shop; a linen-draper's shop; a pipe and cigar shop; a
lottery office; a station for French soldiers, with a sentinel pacing in
front; and a fruit-stand, at which a Roman matron was selling the
dried kernels of chestnuts, wretched little figs, and some bouquets of
yesterday. A church, of course, was near at hand, the facade of which
ascended into lofty pinnacles, whereon were perched two or three winged
figures of stone, either angelic or allegorical, blowing stone trumpets
in close vicinity to the upper windows of an old and shabby palace.
This palace was distinguished by a feature not very common in the
architecture of Roman edifices; that is to say, a mediaeval tower,
square, massive, lofty, and battlemented and machicolated at the summit.
At one of the angles of the battlements stood a shrine of the Virgin,
such as we see everywhere at the street corners of Rome, but seldom or
never, except in this solitary, instance, at a height above the ordinary
level of men's views and aspirations. Connected with this old tower and
its lofty shrine, there is a legend which we cannot here pause to tell;
but for centuries a lamp has been burning before the Virgin's image, at
noon, at midnight, and at all hours of the twenty-four, and must be kept
burning forever, as long as the tower shall stand; or else the tower
itself, the palace, and whatever estate belongs to it, shall pass from
its hereditary possessor, in accordance with an ancient vow, and become
the property of the Church.