- Project Runeberg -  The story of San Michele /
383

(1929) [MARC] Author: Axel Munthe - Tema: Medicine
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It was a point of honour to him to make the
funeral a success, ten thousand lire excluding
tips would cover everything. There was also
the gravedigger who, I knew, had eight children,
the flowers of course would be extra. Signor
Cornacchia’s oblong, feline pupils widened visibly
as I told him that I was authorized to hand him
the double of that sum if he could arrange to
have the body sent to Naples and put on
board the next steamer for America. I wanted
his answer in two hours, I knew it was against
the law, he had to consult his conscience. I
had already consulted my own. I was going
to embalm the body myself that same night and
have the lead coffin soldered in my presence.
Having thus satisfied myself that all possible
danger of infection was excluded I was going to
sign a death certificate that the cause of death
was septic pneumonia followed by paralysis of
the heart, omitting the word diphtheria. Signor
Cornacchia’s consultation with his conscience took
less time than anticipated, he returned an hour
later, accepting the bargain on condition that
half of the sum should be paid in advance and
without a receipt. I handed him the money.
An hour later Erhardt and I performed
tracheotomy on the mother, there is no doubt that the
operation saved her life.


The memory of that night haunts me still
whenever I visit the beautiful little cemetery by
Porta San Paolo. Giovanni, the gravedigger,
stood waiting for me at the gate with a dim
lantern. I suspected by the way he greeted me

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