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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Death of the Dauphin
By Alphonse Daudet (1840–1897)
 
From ‘Letters from My Windmill’: Translation of Mary Corey

THE LITTLE Dauphin is ill; the little Dauphin will die. In all the churches of the kingdom the Holy Sacrament is laid ready day and night, and tapers are burning, for the recovery of the royal child. The streets of the old town are sad and silent; the bells ring no more; the carriages are driven very slowly. The curious townspeople are gathered just outside the palace, and are staring in through the grating of the gates at the guards, with their golden helmets, who walk the court with an important air. The entire castle is in a state of anxiety; the chamberlains and major-domos go up and down the staircase, and run through the marble halls. The galleries are filled with pages and courtiers in silk clothing, who go from group to group collecting later news in a low voice. On the large porches can be seen the ladies of honor, bathed in tears, bowing their heads and wiping their eyes with pretty embroidered handkerchiefs. In the orangery is a numerous assembly of doctors in long robes: one can see them through the panes gesticulating in their long sleeves, and shaking their wigs knowingly. The little Dauphin’s tutor and squire are waiting before the door, anxious for the decision of the faculty. Scullions pass by without saluting them. The squire swears like a pagan; the tutor recites verses from Horace. And during this time down by the stables one can hear a long plaintive neighing. It is the Dauphin’s little sorrel pony, whom the grooms are neglecting, and who calls sadly from his empty manger. And the King—where is his Majesty the King? The King has shut himself up in a room in a remote part of the castle. Their Majesties do not like to be seen weeping. But the Queen—that is different. Seated by the little prince’s pillow, her beautiful face bathed in tears, she sobs bitterly before every one, just as a peasant mother would.  1
  In his lace crib is the little Dauphin, whiter than the cushions on which he reposes, with closed eyelids. They think he is sleeping; but no, the little Dauphin does not sleep. He turns toward his mother, and seeing that she weeps, he says to her, “Madame my Queen, why do you weep? Do you think truly that I am going to die?” The Queen wishes to reply, but sobs prevent her speaking. “Pray do not cry, Madame my Queen. You forget that I am the Dauphin, and Dauphins cannot die thus.” The Queen sobs more bitterly still, and the little Dauphin begins to be frightened. “Hola!” he says, “I do not wish to have Death come and take me; and I shall know how to prevent his coming here. Bring forth forty lancers, our strongest, to mount guard around our bed; a hundred cannon night and day; torches lighted beneath our windows. And unhappy Death if he dares to approach us then!” The Queen gives a sign to please the royal child. Forthwith, one can hear heavy cannon being rolled across the courtyard; and forty soldiers, halberds in hand, come and range themselves around the room: they are veterans, with gray moustaches. The little Dauphin claps his hands feebly as he sees them, and recognizing one he calls him by name, “Lorrain! Lorrain!” The old soldier takes a step towards the bed. “I love you well, my good Lorrain. Let me see your big sword. If Death comes to take me, we must kill him, must we not?” Lorrain replies, “Yes, Monseigneur,” as the big tears run down his bronzed cheeks.  2
  At this moment the chaplain approaches the little Dauphin, and talks to him for some time in a low tone, showing him a crucifix. The little Dauphin listens with an astonished air; then suddenly interrupting, “I understand well what you say, Monsieur l’Abbé; but after all, could not my little friend Beppo die in my place, if we should give him a great deal of money?”  3
  The chaplain continues talking to him in a low voice, and the little Dauphin looks more and more astonished. When the chaplain has finished, the little Dauphin resumes, with a heavy sigh, “All that you tell me is very sad, Monsieur l’Abbé, but one thing consoles me: up there, in the paradise of stars, I shall still be the Dauphin. I know that our good God is my cousin, and would not fail to treat me according to my rank.” Then he adds, turning to his mother, “Have my finest garments brought—my ermine cloak and velvet slippers. I wish to array myself for the angels, and enter paradise dressed as a Dauphin.”  4
  A third time the chaplain bends over the little prince, and talks a long time in whispering tones. The royal child interrupts him in anger, in the midst of his discourse, and cries, “Then it is no use to be Dauphin,—it is nothing at all;” and not wishing to hear more, he turns toward the wall weeping.  5
 
 
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