Comte Jean, who never left me, then took up the conversation, and advised M. de Richelieu to leave him to himself as little as possible; it was, therefore, agreed that we should cause the duc de Duras to be constantly surrounded by persons of our party, who should keep those of our adversaries at a distance.
We had not yet lost all hope of seeing his majesty restored to health; nature, so languid and powerless in the case of poor Anne, seemed inclined to make a salutary effort on the part of the king.
Every instant of this day and the next, that I did not spend by the sick-bed of Louis XV, were engrossed by most intimate friends, the ducs d'Aiguillon, de Cosse, etc., mesdames de Mirepoix, de Forcalquier, de Valentinois, de l'Hopital, de Montmorency, de Flaracourt, and others. As yet, none of my party had abandoned me; the situation of affairs was not, up to the present, sufficiently clear to warrant an entire defection. The good Genevieve Mathon, whom chance had conducted to Versailles during the last week, came to share with Henriette, my sisters-in-law, and my niece, the torments and uncertainties which distracted my mind. We were continually in a state of mortal alarm, dreading every instant to hear that the king was aware of his malady, and the danger which threatened, and our fears but too well proclaimed our persuasion that such a moment would be the death-blow to our hopes. It happened that in this exigency, as it most commonly occurs in affairs of great importance, all our apprehensions had been directed towards the ecclesiastics, while we entirely overlooked the probability that the abrupt la Martiniere might, in one instant, become the cause of our ruin. All this so entirely escaped us, that we took not the slightest precaution to prevent it.
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.