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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

You will have the young king taken to Vincennes


[Illustration:

The Death-bed of Louis XIV.----50]

The Duke of Orleans came back again; the king had sent for him. "When I am dead," he said, "you will have the young king taken to Vincennes; the air there is good; he will remain there until all the ceremonies are over at Versailles, and the castle well cleaned afterwards; you will then bring him back again." He at the same time gave orders for going and furnishing Vincennes, and directed a casket to be opened in which the plan of the castle was kept, because, as the court had not been there for fifty years, Cavoye, grand chamberlain of his household, had never prepared apartments there. "When I was king . . . ," he said several times.

A quack had brought a remedy which would cure gangrene, he said. The sore on the leg was hopeless, but they gave the king a dose of the elixir in a glass of Alicante. "To life and to death," said he as he took the glass; "just as it shall please God." The remedy appeared to act; the king recovered a little strength. The throng of courtiers, which, the day before, had been crowding to suffocation in the rooms of the Duke of Orleans, withdrew at once. Louis XIV. did not delude himself about this apparent rally. "Prayers are offered in all the churches for your Majesty's life," said the parish priest of Versailles. "That is not the question," said the king "it is my salvation that much needs praying for."

Madame

de Maintenon had hitherto remained in the back rooms, though constantly in the king's chamber when he was alone. He said to her once, "What consoles me for leaving you, is that it will not be long before we meet again." She made no reply. "What will become of you?" he added; "you have nothing." "Do not think of me," said she; "I am nobody; think only of God." He said farewell to her; she still remained a little while in his room, and went out when he was no longer conscious. She had given away here and there the few movables that belonged to her, and now took the road to St. Cyr. On the steps she met Marshal Villeroy. "Good by, marshal," she said curtly, and covered up her face in her coifs. He! it was who sent her news of the king to the last moment. The Duke of Orleans, on becoming regent, went to see her, and took her the patent (_brevet_) for a pension of sixty thousand livres, "which her disinterestedness had made necessary for her," said the preamble. It was paid her up to the last day of her life. History makes no further mention of her name; she never left St. Cyr. Thither the czar Peter the Great, when he visited Paris and France, went to see her; she was confined to her bed; he sat a little while beside her. "What is your malady?" he asked her through his interpreter. "A great age," answered Madame de Maintenon, smiling. He looked at her a moment longer in silence; then, closing the curtains, he went out abruptly. The memory he would have called up had vanished. The woman on whom the great king had, for thirty years, heaped confidence and affection, was old, forgotten, dying; she expired at St. Cyr on the 15th of April, 1719, at the age of eighty-three.

She had left the king to die alone. He was in the agonies; the prayers in extremity were being repeated around him; the ceremonial recalled him to consciousness. He joined his voice with the voices of those present, repeating the prayers with them. Already the court was hurrying to the Duke of Orleans; some of the more confident had repaired to the Duke of Maine's; the king's servants were left almost alone around his bed; the tones of the dying man were distinctly heard above the great number of priests. He several times repeated, _Nunc et in hora mortis_. Then he said, quite loud, "O, my God, come Thou to help me, haste Thee to succor me." Those were his last words. He expired on Sunday, the 1st of September, 1715, at eight A. M. Next day, he would have been seventy- seven years of age, and he had reigned seventy-two of them.


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