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Letters of Maria Celeste:

23 November 1633

Most Beloved Lord Father

Saturday evening brought me your latest letter, Sire, together with one from her ladyship the Ambassadress in Rome, full of loving thanks for the crystal, and condolences upon the deprivation you still endure, Sire, by being barred from returning to your own home. It is surely true that she shows herself to be that same most gracious lady, as you have so often depicted her. I am not sending you her letter because I am uncertain as to whether I must write back to her, but first I will wait to hear what response you may have had from Rome.

I have not failed to conduct a thorough search for the pears you wish, Sire, and I believe I will find something. But because I hear that this year the fruits do not last long, I wonder if it might be better, once I have them, to send them to you right away and not wait for your return, which could be delayed for several more weeks, or so my desire leads me to fear.

Signor Geri shared with us all the fruits from his garden, which were small in number and poor in quality, according to what I hear from Geppo who went to gather them; and he took almost all of the pomegranates for us; though, as I tell you, they are stunted and scant.

Next Sunday we mark the beginning of Advent, wherefore if you will send us the apricots we will be so grateful to have them for the evening meal, but the very plainest ones will suffice us, like those you sent to the neighbors, who join La Piera, she tells me, in thanking you for them and wishing you well; and all of us here do the same while praying Our Lord to bless you.

From San Matteo, the 23rd day of November 1633.

Most affectionate daughter,
S. Maria Celeste

Please turn the page, Sire.

Wednesday at twilight around the twenty-fourth hour, after I had written the other side of this paper, Giovanni appeared here and handed me your letters. It was not possible to send Signor Geri his until the following morning, which I did at a very early hour. Of course I also received the pannier containing the 12 thrushes: the additional 4, which would have completed the number you state in your letter, Sire, must have been liberated by some kindly little kitten who thought of tasting them ahead of us, because they were not there, and the cloth cover had a large hole in it. How fortunate that the gray partridges and the woodcocks were at the bottom, one of which and two thrushes I gave to the sick girl, to her great joy, and she thanks you, Sire. Another gift, also in the form of two thrushes, I sent to Signor Rondinelli, and the remainder we enjoyed together with our friends.

I have taken the greatest pleasure in distributing all this among various people, because prizes sought after with such diligence and difficulty deserve to be shared by several, and because the thrushes arrived a little the worse for wear, it was necessary to cook them in a stew, and I stood over them all day, so that for once I truly surrendered myself to gluttony.

The news you gave me of the coming of that great Lord and Lady, Sire, was most welcome, as, after word of your own return, I can tell you that I could not possibly receive better tidings; because being so fond of that Lady, and considering how we are obliged to her, I want above all else to meet her in person. Indeed it disturbs me somewhat to hear what a high opinion they both have of me, as I feel certain I will not succeed in expressing with my voice what I have shown of myself by letter. And you well know, Sire, that when it comes to chitchat, or rather I should say discussion, I am good for nothing; but I cannot let these concerns deprive me of a moment's nearness to persons so kind as to indulge me thusly, provided that I can be of service to my dear Lady. Meanwhile I will set about thinking of what gift a poor nun might offer her.

I will be so happy if you can see about getting me some citrons, Sire, because I would not know where to find them, and I recall that Signor Aggiunti sent you several very beautiful ones last year, so that you may be able to try asking him again now, and then I will set myself to work and turn them into candied morsels, extremely delighted to employ myself in this small service for our most illustrious Monsignor, now that I have the grand honor of hearing how these are preferred by His Lordship over all the other confections. I greet you once more, Sire, and pray for your happiness.

1995 Al Van Helden
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