Duprè, Giovanni - A possibly fatal accident averted by the intervention of a warning voice
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Thoughts on Art and Autobiographical Memoirs of Giovanni Duprè - Giovanni Duprè [Translator: E. M. Peruzzi]
A fact that I ought to have narrated long before this--quite domestic and intimate in its wondrous strangeness--I have kept silent about, owing to a certain sentiment that I cannot well define; but now, in recalling my good wife and my dead children, I feel as if a voice within me said, "Tell it!--write the fact as it is, without taking anything from it or passing judgment on it." So here it is.
My second daughter, Carolina, was put out to nurse. She was the only one that the good mother did not bring up herself; but, from motives of health, she could not do so. The wet-nurse of this little child lived at Londa, above the Rufina. The baby was thriving, when all of a sudden a very bad eruption came out all over her and her life was in danger. The nurse wrote to us to come and see her. Without delay I hired a calesse [Old-fashioned one-horse carriage], and left with my wife: the grandmother stayed behind to mind the little eldest one, who afterwards died at seven years of age, as I have written in its place.
Arriving at Pontassieve, we bent our way to the Rufina, and from there continued on to Londa; on up a mountain, in part wooded with chestnut-trees, in part bare and stony, until we arrived at the small cottage of the nurse of my little one. The road circles around the hill, and in several places is very narrow, so much so that a calesse has great difficulty in passing,--as is most natural, for what has a calesse to do up on that hill and amongst those hovels?
But we arrived, as God willed it.
The baby was very ill, and there was now no hope that she could recover. We remained there a night and a day; and having given all the orders in case of the now certain death of the little angel, I took the mother, who could not tear herself from the place, away crying. As I have said, the road was narrow; and in our descent, the hill rose above us on our right, and on the left we were on the edge of a very deep torrent: I don't know whether it was the Rincine, Moscia, or some other. The horse went at a gentle trot on account of the easy descent, and we felt perfectly safe, as I had put the drag on the wheel.
My wife, with her eyes bathed in tears, was repeating some words, I know not what, dictated by a hope that the child would recover. The sky was clear, and the sun had only just risen,--we saw no one on the hill, nor anywhere else,--when suddenly a voice was heard to say "Stop!" (Fermate!)
The voice seemed as if it came from the hillside. My wife and I turned in that direction, and I half stopped the horse; but we saw no one. I touched up the horse again to push on, and at the same instant the voice made itself heard a second time, and still louder, saying, "Stop! stop!"
I pulled in the reins, and this time my wife, after having looked all around with me without seeing a living soul, was frightened.
"Come, have courage," said I; "what are you afraid of? See, there is no one; and so no one can do us any harm." And, to put an end to the kind of fear even I felt, I gave my horse a good smack of the whip; but hardly had he started when we heard most distinctly, and still louder, the same voice calling out, three times, "Stop! stop! stop!"
I stopped, and without knowing what to do or think, I got out, and helped my wife out, who was all trembling; and what was our surprise, our alarm, and our gratitude for the warning that had been given us to stop!
The linch-pin had come out of the left wheel, which was all bent over and about to fall off its axle-tree, and this almost at the very edge of the precipice. With all my strength I propped up the trap on that side, pushed the wheel back into its place, and ran back to see if I could find the linch-pin, but I could not find it.
I called again and again for the person who had come to my help with timely warning, to thank him, but I saw no one! In the meanwhile, it was impossible to go on in that condition. The little town of La Rufina was at some distance, and although we could walk to it on foot, how could the calesse be taken there with a wheel without a linch-pin? I set myself to hunt about on the hill for a little stick of wood, and having found it, I sharpened it, and with the aid of a stone, fastened it in the hole in place of the linch-pin.
But as for getting back into the calesse, that was not to be thought of; so leading the horse by hand, we slowly descended to Rufina, neither my wife nor myself speaking a word, but every now and again our looks bespoke the danger we had run and the wonderful warning we had had. At the Rufina I got a cartwright to put in another linch-pin, and we returned safely home.
If the reader laughs, let him do so; I do not. In fact, the seriousness and truth of this occurrence, which happened about forty years ago, filled me then, as it does now, with a feeling of wonder and surprise.