Letters of Maria Celeste:
18 June 1633
Most Beloved Lord Father
When I wrote to you, Sire, giving you an account of the contagion's spread in this region, it had already very nearly ceased, for many days had run their course, weeks even, without anyone's hearing word of any new cases; and, as I suggested to you then, I felt entirely reassured by the knowledge that all those gentlemen neighbors of ours were staying here in their villas, as they still continue to do; and moreover, in the city of Florence itself, one heard that the pestilence was abating so appreciably that people were expecting they must soon be liberated from the whole misery. Wherefore, with this security, I moved to exhort you and implore you to return, although in my last letter, hearing that things were taking a turn for the worse, I held my tongue, so to speak. Because, although it is very true that I have a strong desire to see you again, what I want much more is the preservation of your health and safety; and I recognize the special grace of the Lord God in the opportunity you have had, Sire, to remain where you are much longer than you and I would have wished. For even though I believe it must grieve you to stay on there so irresolutely, it would perhaps give you far more grief for us to be reunited among these perils, which in spite of everything continue on and may even be multiplying; and in consequence an order has come to our Monastery, and to others as well, from the Commissioners of Health, stating that for a period of 40 days we must, two nuns at a time, pray continuously day and night beseeching His Divine Majesty for freedom from this scourge. We received alms of 25 scudi from the commissioners for our prayers, and today marks the fourth day since our vigil began.
I have let Suor Arcangela Landucci know that you will perform the service she desires, Sire, and she thanks you profusely.
To give you news of everything about the house, I will start from the dovecote, where since Lent the pigeons have been brooding; the first pair to be hatched were devoured one night by some animal, and the pigeon who had been setting them was found draped over a rafter half eaten, and completely eviscerated, on which account La Piera assumed the culprit to be some bird of prey; and the other frightened pigeons would not go back there, but, as La Piera kept on feeding them they have since recovered themselves, and now two more are brooding.
The orange trees bore few flowers, which La Piera pressed, and she tells me she has drawn a whole pitcherful of orange water. The capers, when the time comes, will be sufficient to suit you, Sire. The lettuce that was sown according to your instructions never came up, and in its place La Piera planted beans that she claims are quite beautiful, and coming lastly to the chickpeas, it seems the hare will win the largest share, he having already begun to make off with them.
The broad beans are set out to dry, and their stalks fed for breakfast to the little mule, who has become so haughty that she refuses to carry anyone, and has several times thrown poor Geppo so as to make him turn somersaults, but gently, since he was not hurt. Sestilia's brother Ascanio once asked to ride her out, though when he approached the gate to Prato he decided to turn back, never having gained the upper hand over the obstinate creature to make her proceed, as she perhaps disdains to be ridden by others, finding herself without her true master.
But returning to the garden, I tell you that although the grapevines appear very well, I do not know whether they will continue so, considering the abuse they take in being cared for at the hands of La Piera, instead of by yours, Sire. Only a few artichokes have shown themselves, yet surely we will dry one or two.
In the cellar everything is going well, the wine staying in good condition. In the kitchen I have no trouble providing what little the servants need, except when Signor Rondinelli comes, because then he wants to take care of everything, as for example this week he graciously arranged for us to dine one morning in the convent parlor with him. These are all the reports that I seem to be able to think of to share with you.
L'Achilla wants you to bring her, since there is such an abundance of good music teachers where you are, something beautiful to play on the organ. Suor Luisa is most eager to know if you have yet visited Signor Giovanni Mancini, the merchant, to settle the business for our dear old friend, and by the same token Suor Isabella would like to know if the letter that she sent you for Signor Francesco Cavalcanti has been delivered, as she wanted to learn from that gentleman if a brother of hers in those parts is dead or alive. I close in order to keep something in reserve to tell you the next time I write, but I recall that I must give you greetings from Suor Barbera, and tell you, therefore, that she no longer ventures out except to enter the church by the first doorway to put up or and takedown the hangings. All our other friends send you their regards, and I from blessed God pray for your every true good.
From San Matteo, the 18th day of June 1633.
Most affectionate daughter,
©1995 Al Van Helden