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18. CHAPTER XVIII.
All day long we sped through a mountainous country whose peaks were bright with sunshine, whose hillsides were dotted with pretty villas sitting in the midst of gardens and shrubbery, and whose deep ravines were cool and shady and looked ever so inviting from where we and the birds were winging our flight through the sultry upper air.
We had plenty of chilly tunnels wherein to check our perspiration, though. We timed one of them. We were twenty minutes passing through it, going at the rate of thirty to thirty-five miles an hour.
Beyond Alessandria we passed the battle-field of Marengo.
Toward dusk we drew near Milan and caught glimpses of the city and the blue mountain peaks beyond. But we were not caring for these things-- they did not interest us in the least. We were in a fever of impatience; we were dying to see the renowned cathedral! We watched--in this direction and that--all around--everywhere. We needed no one to point it out--we did not wish any one to point it out--we would recognize it even in the desert of the great Sahara.
At last, a forest of graceful needles, shimmering in the amber sunlight, rose slowly above the pygmy housetops, as one sometimes sees, in the far horizon, a gilded and pinnacled mass of cloud lift itself above the waste of waves, at sea,--the Cathedral! We knew it in a moment.
Half of that night, and all of the next day, this architectural autocrat was our sole object of interest.
What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! A very world of solid weight, and yet it seems in the soft moonlight only a fairy delusion of frost-work that might vanish with a breath! How sharply its pinnacled angles and its wilderness of spires were cut against the sky, and how richly their shadows fell upon its snowy roof! It was a vision!--a miracle!--an anthem sung in stone, a poem wrought in marble!
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