No sooner was the news of the king being attacked with small-pox publicly known, than a doctor Sulton, an English physician, the
pretended professor of an infallible cure for this disease, presented himself at Versailles, and tendered his services. The poor man was simple enough to make his first application to those medical attendants already intrusted with the management of his majesty, but neither of them would give any attention to his professions of skill to overcome so fatal a malady. On the contrary, they treated him as a mere quack, declared that they would never consent to confide the charge of their august patient to the hands of a stranger whatever he might be. Sulton returned to Paris, and obtaining an audience of the duc d'Orleans, related to him what had passed between himself and the king's physicians. The prince made it his business the following day to call upon the princesses, to whom he related the conversation he had held with doctor Sulton the preceding evening.
In their eagerness to avail themselves of every chance for promoting the recovery of their beloved parent, the princesses blamed the duke for having bestowed so little attention upon the Englishman, and conjured him to return to Paris, see Sulton, and bring him to Versailles on the following day. The duc d'Orleans acted in strict conformity with their wishes; and although but little satisfied with the replies made by Sulton to many of his questions relative to the measures he should pursue in his treatment of the king, he caused him to accompany him to Versailles, in order that the princesses might judge for themselves. The task of receiving him was undertaken by madame Adelaide. Sulton underwent a rigorous examination, and was offered an immense sum for the discovery of his secret, provided he would allow his remedy to be subjected to the scrutiny of some of the most celebrated chemists of the time. Sulton declared that the thing was impossible; in the first place, it was too late, the disease was too far advanced for the application of the remedy to possess that positive success it would have obtained in the earlier stage of the malady; in the next place, he could not of himself dispose of a secret which was the joint property of several members of his family.
Prayers, promises, entreaties were alike uselessly employed to change the resolution of Sulton; the fact was evidently this, he knew himself to be a mere pretender to his art, for had he been certain of what he advanced, had he even conceived the most slender hopes of saving the life of the king, he would not have hesitated for a single instant to have done all that was asked.
This chance of safety was, therefore, at an end, and spite of the opinion I entertained of Sulton, I could not but feel sorry Bordeu had not given him a better reception when he first made known his professed ability to surmount this fatal disorder. However, I was careful not to express my dissatisfaction, for it was but too important for me to avoid any dispute at a time when the support of my friends had become so essentially necessary to me.
In proportion as the king became worse, my credit also declined. Two orders, addressed to the comptroller-general and M. de la Borde, for money, met with no attention. The latter replied, with extreme politeness, that the 100,000 francs received by comte Jean a few days before the king was taken ill, and the 50,000 paid to madame de Mirepoix recently, must be a convincing proof, in my eyes, of his friendly intentions towards me, but that he had no money at present in his possession, the first he received should be at my disposal.
The abbe Terray acted with less ceremony, for he came himself to say, that, so long as the king remained ill, he would pay no money without his majesty's signature, for which my brother-in-law might either ask or wait till there no longer existed any occasion for such a precaution; and that, for his own part, he could not conceive how he could have consumed the enormous sums he had already drawn from the treasury.
This manner of speaking stung me to the quick.