Letters of Maria Celeste:
1 October 1633
Most Beloved Lord Father
I simply had to give you news of Giuseppe's return, Sire, as immediately as possible upon his arrival, which occurred yesterday after eight days' absence at the first hour of the night, for it did not seem credible that in this many days I had not been able to steal sufficient time to write you even four lines. Yet still that is the truth, because, beyond the duties of my office, which at present are numerous, Suor Luisa has suffered so fiercely with her familiar stomach pain, that neither she nor those attending her found a moment's rest day or night. And I especially felt compelled by duty to wait on her without a single intermission. Now that her improvement allows me to breathe somewhat, I will also pay my debt to you, Sire, telling you that Geppo and his father came home hale and hearty together with the little mule, who really was dealt a great injustice being led off on such a long journey; and I needed my anxiety allayed by the reassurances of those who know her better than I do. But enough of that, she is fine.
I took the greatest delight in hearing the news the boy brought me of your well-being, Sire, as he told me you looked better than when you left here; which I can easily believe, because I judge that the comfort, the courtesy and charms that you have enjoyed, first in the house of his lordship the Ambassador in Rome, and now at the home of that most illustrious Monsignor Archbishop, have been pleasantly powerful enough to mitigate almost all the bitterness of those distasteful events now past, and for this reason you have not felt any harm. And now in particular, how could you not bless this prison you inhabit, and deem your detention a most felicitous one? especially if it affords you the opportunity to enjoy even more frequently and with ever greater intimacy the conversation of such a renowned Prelate and such a benevolent gentleman? And they, not content to exercise all the kind regards that one could most desire upon your person, Sire, take it upon themselves to also favor us poor nuns with affectionate words and the most loving demonstrations, for which I do not doubt you have rendered them due thanks on our behalf: wherefore I will not repeat them, except that I would like you, Sire, offering them the most humble reverence in our names, to assure them that with our prayers we will ever endeavor to render ourselves grateful for all these favors.
As for your homecoming, if all conforms to your hope and our desire, it will surely happen soon. Meanwhile I tell you that the casks for the red wine are all ready, even including the one that held the spoiled wine, though it had to be taken apart and cleaned with particular care: for the white wine Signor Rondinelli has seen that 3 casks are in extremely good condition, while there is one among the others that last year held the Greek wine, from which they drew I think 4 or 5 flasks' worth with a very strong taste, as I understand; and since some wine still remains at the bottom, the cask has not had a chance to dry; Signor Rondinelli says it will be well to give them all a good cleaning before putting any wine inside, but they are otherwise excellent.
The Mother Abbess thanks you profusely for the saffron and I for the other gifts, namely the linen, the hare, and the Spanish bread, which is truly delicious. I will have Geppo deliver the rosary and the slippers for your cousin.
Doctor Giovanni Ronconi, who comes by very often to visit five nuns who have been sick for some time now, all suffering from the fever, told me the other day that he did not believe I had ever given you his regards, Sire, and I answered him that indeed I had done so, and at least in my imagination this took place more than once. It is very true that I was delinquent in never conveying your regards, Sire, to him, wherefore I pray you to do me the favor of making good my error, by writing him two lines and sending them to me, so that I will be able to forward them to him,
since I have occasion every day to give him a report of these feverish patients, and truly he has never once been here that he has not asked after you and shown great compassion for your troubles.
I would have liked to have been able to gauge your need, Sire, in terms of money, so as to be able to send you the right amount; I believe however that by now you have already received a sum sent by Signor Alessandro, as I understood from a letter you wrote to him, and which he sent me to stand in for the one that was to have reached me this week, and that perhaps you did not send me as revenge for my not writing you; but now you have heard the reason: and here I bid you farewell and wish you a good night, of which precisely half has already passed.
From San Matteo in Arcetri, the first day of October 1633.
Your most affectionate daughter,
©1995 Al Van Helden