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Here is a very long letter, my dear friend. You will easily perceive, from the nature of the details, and the reflections which accompany them, that it was not the work of a single day. While waiting for an opportunity to despatch it, I have taken up the pen again and again, whenever any thing likely to interest you occurred to my mind. Farewell. Pray for me. My next letter to you will come, unless God should order it otherwise, from the opposite coast.
PARALYSIS-DANGEROUS SYMPTOMS—ATTENTIONS OF THE CONSUL, THE FATHERS OF THE HOLY LAND AND THE PAYSICIANS–CONVALESCENCE
- PICTURES PRESENTED BY TAB EMPRESS MARIA Theresa - ReneGADOES-PLAGUB-DEPARTURE FOR JAFFA.
Larnaca, November 25th, 1831. Man proposes, and God disposes, my dear friend. It has pleased him, in his infinite mercy, to strike me with paralysis. The right side and the head have been affected; the right eye, the cheek, and the mouth, have been wholly deprived of their natural motions. I could not speak, eat, or drink, without great difficulty. It was in the night that I perceived that my face had undergone a great change. I rose, and soon had the melancholy conviction that I was paralytic. What alarmed me most was that right eye, in spite of me constantly open, motionless, fixed stedfastly on me, and seeming to say: “No Palestine now, for thee: thou must die.” However, another part had not suffered ; the brain was untouched.
I must confess that at first I experienced a painful feeling, on seeing myself thus disfigured. However, God inspired me with the idea to go to the church, in order to offer to him this disease, in a spirit of penitence; and, if I recollect rightly, I recited the Te Deum. Greek physicians were sent for; they assured me that bleeding was urgently necessary. I refused to submit to it, having, I know not why, an invincible aversion to that operation, especially in a hot climate, and in a season when the heat was still oppressive. But the superior of the monastery, seeing that I was in the greatest danger, said to me, in a severe tone : “Father, I order you to suffer yourself to be bled.” I then obeyed, without hesitation, and it is said that this saved me.
I shall never forget the evening of the following day. I was in great pain, and, to bodily sufferings were added those of the mind, because I dreaded the progress of the paralysis; and then, how could I help recollecting that I was six hundred leagues from my country, and from all that was dear to me! I was, nevertheless, not forsaken; for all the Fathers of the Holy Land surrounded my sick bed, and administered all sorts of consolations. But, O new affliction ! a Portuguese monk caught my eye, and he seemed to announce, by repeated signs, that it was all over with me. However, in a faint voice, and scarcely capable of articulating a few broken words, I thanked the community for the interest that it had manifested for a poor pilgrim; I commended myself to its prayers, and I made some dispositions, in case of death. My thoughts were chiefly turned towards the manger, where Eternal Love submitted to be born,
towards Golgotha, towards the holy sepulchre, and, when I reflected that, in all probability, I should never behold those places so dear to my heart, my eyes filled with tears.
What a fine study would that spacious chamber, lighted by a single lamp, have offered to a painter ! that chamber, where, stretched on a divan, in my white habit of La Trappe, I was surrounded by those good monks, whose very dark dress strongly contrasted with mine. Their long beards, their hands folded over their bosoms, and that expression of countenance, in which charity was stamped in each of their features, presented an exact likeness of the ancient anchorets.
During my illness, all the consuls were assiduous in their attentions, and especially M. Caprara, the Austrian consul. The Greek physicians who attended me were indefatigable.
I cannot express what I felt the first time I was allowed to go down into the garden. I thank thee, O my guardian angel ! thou knowest if I was intoxicated with delight, on perceiving that I was able to continue my pilgrimage. Yes, to me that thought was full of rapture; it poured into my soul torrents of ineffable joy.
In one of my rooms, where I generally sit, and which is called the room of the divans, because it is surrounded with them, I have two pictures of very large dimensions ; one of them representing St. Francis of Assisi, the other, St. Antony of Padua. Underneath these pictures are the arms of Austria, with the letters M. T. They were a present from Maria Theresa, from that princess, whose soul, greater than even her vast dominions, de
lighted in dispensing benefits, even in the most distant countries; who astonished the world by her piety, as much as by her courage, and who, surrounded by grandeur and magnificence, took pleasure in humbling before the Eternal King her august head, on which so many crowns shed their radiance, never forgetting that, though an empress, she was but dust and ashes; of that sovereign, in short, whose heart was constantly open to the petitions of her subjects, and whose name was always a name of blessing and of love. A beautiful clock, which stands at the door of my chamber, was also a gift from the same empress.
I shall soon have been two months at Cyprus, my dear friend. Since my convalescence, I frequently ride out on horseback, to explore the environs, but my favourite resort is the sea-shore. Thither I never go without tarrying a long time, with my eyes turned towards the land, after which I sigh, and which is the object of all my wishes.
Here you unfortunately meet with several renegadoes, who became Turks at the time of the massacres; some, to save their lives; others, that they might be able to trade more freely. To forsake, to deny, one's God, from fear of death, is a horrible thing, no doubt; but to deny him, to abjure him, in cold blood, from no other motive than sordid interest, is the basest of infamy. If, at the comer of a narrow street, I chanced to meet a cart, laden with corpses of persons infected with the plague, and it was impossible for me to avoid the contact with it, I should feel less alarm, less horror, than at the sight of a renegado.
Our monastery has been kept shut for a fortnight, on account of a rumour of the plague, which was added to the terror caused by the cholera. I could not help smiling at the earnestness with which the good Fathers observed certain petty precautions, at the same time that they neglected others of far greater importance. On the one hand, nothing was admitted without a strict purification ; long pincers, vinegar, were always ready; not a potato was taken in till it had been dipped twenty times in water; on the other, ten cats, belonging to the house, went in and out at pleasure, and were liable every moment to introduce the distemper. One day, having myself cried out to the porter, who was opening the door for a dog : “Father Genipert, what are you about? beware of the plague;" he replied, with the utmost ingenuousness : “But surely our poor Castor must not go without his dinner!” Castor was not turned out till yesterday. Such inconsistency on the part of these good Fathers enables one to account for the death of all the monks of the monastery of St. Jean d'Acre. These latter, however, if they showed equal imprudence in regard to the means of external communication, the sole preservative against the plague, displayed an heroic charity, by mutually nursing one another, in spite of the danger of death, which of course they could not thus escape. From the position of the corpses, it was to be inferred that the two Fathers, who were the last victims, had expired nearly at the same moment: one was stretched beside the bed of the other, holding in his hand a cup, which indicated that he was handing something to his dying brother. Probably their spirits appeared to