Towards midnight, while still painted, Mazarin’s mortal agony came on. He had revised his will, and as this will was the exact expression of his wishes, and as he feared that some interested influence might take advantage of his weakness to make him change something in it, he had given orders to Colbert, who walked up and down the corridor which led to the cardinal’s bed-chamber, like the most vigilant of sentinels. The king, shut up in his own apartment, dispatched his nurse every hour to Mazarin’s chamber, with orders to bring him back an exact bulletin of the cardinal’s state. After having heard that Mazarin was dressed, painted, and had seen the ambassadors, Louis herd that the prayers for the dying were being read for the cardinal. At one o’clock in the morning, Guenaud had administered the last remedy. This was a relic of the old customs of that fencing time, which was about to disappear to give place to another time, to believe that death could be kept off by some good secret thrust. Mazarin, after having taken the remedy, respired freely for nearly ten minutes. He immediately gave orders that the news should be spread everywhere of a fortunate crisis. The king, on learning this, felt as if a cold sweat were passing over his brow; — he had had a glimpse of the light of liberty; slavery appeared to him more dark and less acceptable than ever. But the bulletin which followed entirely changed the face of things. Mazarin could no longer breathe at all, and could scarcely follow the prayers which the cure of Saint-Nicholas-des-Champs recited near him. The king resumed his agitated walk about his chamber, and consulted, as he walked, several papers drawn from a casket of which he alone had the key. A third time the nurse returned. M. de Mazarin had just uttered a joke, and had ordered his “Flora,” by Titian, to be revarnished. At length, towards two o’clock in the morning, the king could no longer resist his weariness: he had not slept for twenty-four hours. Sleep, so powerful at his age, overcame him for about an hour. But he did not go to bed for that hour; he slept in a fauteuil. About four o’clock his nurse awoke him by entering the room.
“Well?” asked the king.
“Well, my dear sire,” said the nurse, clasping her hands with an air of commiseration. “Well; he is dead!”
The king arose at a bound, as if a steel spring had been applied to his legs. “Dead!” cried he.
“Is it quite certain?”
“Has the news been made public?”
“Who told you, then, that the cardinal was dead?”
“And he was sure of what he said?”
“He came out of the chamber, and had held a glass for some minutes before the cardinal’s lips.”
“Ah!” said the king. “And what is become of M. Colbert?”