Fiction > Voltaire > Candide, or The Optimist

François Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694–1778).  Candide, or The Optimist.  1884.
Chapter III
How Candide escaped from the Bulgarians, and what befell him afterwards
NEVER was anything so gallant, so well accoutred, so brilliant, and so finely disposed as the two armies. The trumpets, fifes, hautboys, drums, and cannon made such harmony as never was heard in hell itself. The entertainment began by a discharge of cannon, which in the twinkling of an eye laid flat about 6,000 men on each side. The musket bullets swept away, out of the best of all possible worlds, nine or ten thousand scoundrels that infected its surface. The bayonet was next the sufficient reason of the deaths of several thousands. The whole might amount to 30,000 souls. Candide trembled like a philosopher, and concealed himself as well as he could during this heroic butchery.  1
  At length, while the two kings were causing “Te Deum” to be sung in each of their camps, Candide took a resolution to go and reason somewhere else upon causes and effects. After passing over heaps of dead or dying men, the first place he came to was a neighbouring village in the Abarian territories, which had been burnt to the ground by the Bulgarians, agreeably to the laws of war. Here lay a number of old men covered with wounds, who beheld their wives dying with their throats cut, and hugging their children to their breasts, all stained with blood. There several young virgins, whose bodies had been ripped open, after they had satisfied the natural necessities of the Bulgarian heroes, breathed their last; while others, half-burnt in the flames, begged to be despatched out of the world. The ground about them was covered with the brains, arms, and legs of dead men.  2
  Candide made all the haste he could to another village, which belonged to the Bulgarians, and there he found that the heroic Abares had acted the same tragedy. From thence, continuing to walk over palpitating limbs or through ruined buildings, at length he arrived beyond the theatre of war, with a little provision in his budget and Miss Cunegund’s image in his heart. When he arrived in Holland, his provision failed him; but having heard that the inhabitants of that country were all rich and Christians, he made himself sure of being treated by them in the same manner as the baron’s castle, before he had been driven from thence through the power of Miss Cunegund’s bright eyes.  3
  He asked charity of several grave-looking people, who one and all answered him, that if he continued to follow this trade, they would have him sent to the house of correction, where he should be taught to get his bread.  4
  He next addressed himself to a person who was just come from haranguing a numerous assembly for a whole hour on the subject of charity. The orator, squinting at him under his broad-brimmed hat, asked him sternly what brought him thither, and whether he was for the good old cause? “Sir,” said Candide in a submissive manner, “I conceive there can be no effect without a cause; everything is necessarily concatenated and arranged for the best. It was necessary that I should be banished the presence of Miss Cunegund; that I should afterwards run the gauntlet; and it is necessary I should beg my bread, till I am able to get it: all this could not have been otherwise.” “Hark ye, friend,” said the orator, “do you hold the Pope to be Antichrist?” “Truly, I never heard anything about it,” said Candide; “but whether he is or not, I am in want of something to eat.” “Thou deservest not to eat or to drink,” replied the orator, “wretch, monster that thou art! Hence! avoid my sight, nor ever come near me again while thou livest.” The orator’s wife happened to put her head out of the window at that instant, when, seeing a man who doubted whether the Pope was Antichrist, she discharged upon his head a chamber-pot full of ——. Good heavens! to what excess does religious zeal transport the female kind!  5
  A man who had never been christened, an honest Anabaptist named James, was witness to the cruel and ignominious treatment showed to one of his brethren, to a rational, two-footed, unfledged being. Moved with pity, he carried him to his own house, caused him to be cleaned, gave him meat and drink, and made him a present of two florins, at the same time proposing to instruct him in his own trade of weaving Persian silks, which are fabricated in Holland. Candide, penetrated with so much goodness, threw himself at his feet, crying, “Now I am convinced that my master Pangloss told me truth when he said that everything was for the best in this world; for I am infinitely more affected with your extraordinary generosity than with the inhumanity of that gentleman in the black cloak, and his wife.”  6
  The next day, as Candide was walking out, he met a beggar all covered with scabs, his eyes were sunk in his head, the end of his nose eaten off, his mouth drawn on one side, his teeth as black as a cloak, snuffling and coughing most violently, and every time he attempted to spit, out dropped a tooth.  7

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