François Marie Arouet de Voltaire (16941778). Candide, or The Optimist. 1884.
How the Old Woman took care of Candide, and how he found the Object of His Love
CANDIDE followed the old woman, though without taking courage, to a decayed house, where she gave him a pot of pomatum to anoint his sores, showed him a very neat bed with a suit of clothes hanging up by it, and set victuals and drink before him. There, said she, eat, drink, and sleep; and may our Blessed Lady of Atocha, and the great St. Anthony of Padua, and the illustrious St. James of Compostella, take you under their protection. I shall be back to-morrow. Candide, struck with amazement at what he had seen, at what he had suffered, and still more with the charity of the old woman, would have shown his acknowledgment by kissing her hand. It is not my hand you ought to kiss, said the old woman; I shall be back to-morrow. Anoint your back, eat, and take your rest.
Candide, notwithstanding so many disasters, ate and slept. The next morning the old woman brought him his breakfast, examined his back, and rubbed it herself with another ointment. She returned at the proper time and brought him his dinner, and at night she visited him again with his supper. The next day she observed the same ceremonies. Who are you? said Candide to her. What God has inspired you with so much goodness? What return can I make you for this charitable assistance? The good old beldame kept a profound silence. In the evening she returned, but without his supper. Come along with me, said she, but do not speak a word. She took him under her arm, and walked with him about a quarter of a mile into the country, till they came to a lonely house surrounded with moats and gardens. The old conductress knocked at a little door, which was immediately opened, and she showed him up a pair of back-stairs into a small but richly-furnished apartment. There she made him sit down on a brocaded sofa, shut the door upon him, and left him. Candide thought himself in a trance; he looked upon his whole life hitherto as a frightful dream, and the present moment a very agreeable one.
The old woman soon returned, supporting, with great difficulty, a young lady, who appeared scarce able to stand. She was of a majestic mien and stature, her dress was rich and glittering with diamonds, and her face was covered with a veil. Take off that veil, said the old woman to Candide. The young man approaches, and with a trembling hand takes off her veil. What a happy moment! What surprise! He thought he beheld Miss Cunegund. He did behold her: it was she herself! His strength fails him, he cannot utter a word, he falls at her feet. Cunegund faints upon the sofa. The old woman bedews them with spirits; they recover; they begin to speak. At first they could express themselves only in broken accents; their questions and answers were alternately interrupted with sighs, tears, and exclamations. The old woman desired them to make less noise, and after this prudent admonition, left them together. Good heavens! cried Candide, is it you? Is it Miss Cunegund I behold, and alive? Do I find you again in Portugal? Then you have not been ravished? They did not rip you open, as the philosopher Pangloss informed me? Indeed, but they did, replied Miss Cunegund; but these two accidents do not always prove mortal. But were your father and mother killed? Alas! answered she, it is but too true! and she wept. And your brother? And my brother also. And how came you into Portugal? And how did you know of my being here? And by what strange adventure did you contrive to have me brought into this house? And how I will tell you all, replied the lady; but first you must acquaint me with all that has befallen you since the innocent kiss you gave me, and the rude kicking you received in consequence of it.
Candide, with the greatest submission, prepared to obey the commands of his fair mistress, and though he was still wrapt in amazement, though his voice was low and tremulous, though his back pained him, yet he gave her a most ingenuous account of everything that had befallen him since the moment of their separation. Cunegund, with her eyes uplifted to heaven, shed tears when he related the death of the good Anabaptist James, and of Pangloss; after which she thus related her adventures to Candide, who lost not one syllable she uttered, and seemed to devour her with his eyes all the time she was speaking.