- Project Runeberg -  The story of San Michele /
384

(1929) [MARC] Author: Axel Munthe - Tema: Medicine
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that he had had an extra glass of wine to steady
himself for the night’s work. He was to be
my only assistant, I had good reasons for wanting
nobody else. The night was stormy and very
dark with pelting rain. A sudden gust of wind
blew out the lantern, we had to grope our way
as best we could in pitch darkness. Half-way
across the cemetery my foot stumbled against
a heap of upturned earth, and I fell headlong
into a half-finished grave, Giovanni said he had
been digging it the same afternoon by order
of Signor Cornacchia, luckily it was not very
deep, it was the grave of a small child.


The embalmment proved to be a difficult and
even dangerous undertaking. The body was
already in an advanced state of decomposition.
The light was insufficient, and to my horror I
cut myself slightly in the finger. A big owl
kept on hooting the whole time behind the Cestius
Pyramid, I remember it well because it was the
first time the sound seemed to disagree with me,
me who have always been a great lover of owls.

I was back in the Grand Hôtel early in the
morning. The mother had had a good night,
her temperature had dropped to normal, Erhardt
considered her out of danger. It was impossible
to postpone any longer telling her that her son
was dead. As neither the father nor Erhardt
wanted to tell her it fell to me to do it. The
nurse said she thought she already knew. As
she had been sitting by her side the mother
had suddenly waked up from her sleep and tried
to spring out of bed with a cry of distress, but

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