Fiction > Voltaire > Candide, or The Optimist

François Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694–1778).  Candide, or The Optimist.  1884.
Chapter XXIV
Of Pacquette and Friar Giroflée
UPON their arrival at Venice he went in search of Cacambo at every inn and coffee-house, and among all the ladies of pleasure; but could hear nothing of him. He sent every day to inquire what ships come in; still no news of Cacambo. “It is strange,” said he to Martin, “very strange, that I should have had time to sail from Surinam to Bourdeaux; to travel from thence to Paris, to Dieppe, to Portsmouth; to sail along the coast of Portugal and Spain, and up the Mediterranean to spend some months at Venice; and that my lovely Cunegund should not be arrived. Instead of her, I only met with a Parisian impostor and a rascally Abbé of Perigord. Cunegund is actually dead, and I have nothing to do but to follow her. Alas! how much better would it have been for me to have remained in the paradise of El Dorado, than to have returned to this wicked Europe! You are in the right, my dear Martin; you are certainly in the right: all is misery and deceit.”  1
  He fell into a deep melancholy, and neither went to the opera in vogue, nor partook of any of the diversions of the Carnival: nay, he even slighted the fair sex. Martin said to him, “Upon my word, I think you are very simple to imagine that a rascally valet, with five or six millions in his pocket, would go in search of your mistress to the further end of the world, and bring her to Venice to meet you. If he finds her, he will take her for himself; if he does not, he will take another. Let me advise you to forget your valet Cacambo, and your mistress Cunegund.” Martin’s speech was not the most consolatory to the dejected Candide. His melancholy increased, and Martin never left proving to him, that there is very little virtue or happiness in this world—except, perhaps, in El Dorado, where hardly anybody can gain admittance.  2
  While they were disputing on this important subject, and still expecting Miss Cunegund, Candide perceived a young Theatin friar in the St. Mark’s Place, with a girl under his arm. The Theatin looked fresh-coloured, plump, and vigorous; his eyes sparkled; his air and gait were bold and lofty. The girl was very pretty, and was singing a song; and every now and then gave her Theatin an amorous ogle, and wantonly pinched his ruddy cheeks. “You will at least allow,” said Candide to Martin, “that these two are happy. Hitherto I have met with none but unfortunate people in the whole habitable globe, except in El Dorado; but as to this couple, I would venture to lay a wager that they are happy.” “Done!” said Martin; “they are not, for what you will.” “Well, we have only to ask them to dine with us,” said Candide, “and you will see whether I am mistaken or not.”  3
  Thereupon he accosted them, and with great politeness invites them to his inn to eat some macaroni, with Lombard partridges and caviare, and to drink a bottle of Montepulciano, Lacryma Christi, Cyprus and Samos wine. The girl blushed; the Theatin accepted the invitation, and she followed him, eyeing Candide every now and then with a mixture of surprise and confusion, while the tears stole down her cheeks. No sooner did she enter his apartment than she cried out: “How, Mr. Candide, have you quite forgot your Pacquette? Do you not know her again?” Candide, who had not regarded her with any degree of attention before, being wholly occupied with the thoughts of his dear Cunegund: “Ah! is it you, child? Was it you that reduced Doctor Pangloss to that fine condition I saw him in?”  4
  “Alas! sir,” answered Pacquette, “it was I indeed. I find you are acquainted with everything; and I have been informed of all the misfortunes that happened to the whole family of my lady baroness and the fair Cunegund. But I can safely swear to you that my lot was no less deplorable; I was innocence itself when you saw me last. A Cordelier, who was my confessor, easily misled me; the consequences proved terrible. I was obliged to leave the castle some time after the baron kicked you out from thence; and if a famous surgeon had not taken compassion on me, I had been a dead woman. Gratitude obliged me to live with him some time as a companion. His wife, who was a very devil for jealousy, beat me unmercifully every day. Oh! she was a perfect fury. The doctor himself was the most ugly of all mortals, and I the most wretched creature existing, to be continually beaten for a man whom I did not love. You are sensible, sir, how dangerous it was for an ill-natured woman to be married to a physician. Incensed at the behaviour of his wife, he one day gave her so affectionate a remedy for a slight cold she had caught, that she died in less than two hours in most dreadful convulsions. Her relations prosecuted the husband, who was obliged to fly, and I was sent to prison. My innocence would not have saved me, if I had not been tolerably handsome. The judge gave me my liberty on condition he should succeed the doctor. However, I was soon supplanted by a rival, turned off without a farthing, and obliged to continue the abominable trade which you men think so pleasing, but which to us unhappy creatures is the most dreadful of all sufferings. At length I came to follow the business at Venice. Ah, sir! did you but know what it is to be companion with every fellow—with old tradesmen, with counsellors, with monks, watermen, and abbés; to be exposed to all their insolence and abuse; to be often obliged to borrow the gay clothes we wear; to be robbed by one gallant of what we get from another; to be subject to the extortions of civil magistrates; and to have for ever before one’s eyes the prospect of old age, an hospital, or a dunghill, you would conclude that I am one of the most unhappy wretches breathing.”  5
  Thus did Pacquette unbosom herself to honest Candide in his closet, in the presence of Martin, who took occasion to say to him, “You see I have won the wager already.”  6
  Friar Giroflée was all this time in the parlour refreshing himself with a glass or two of wine till dinner was ready. “But,” said Candide to Pacquette, “you looked so gay and content when I met you, you sang and caressed the Theatin with so much fondness, that I absolutely thought you as happy as you say you are now miserable.” “Ah! dear sir,” said Pacquette, “this is one of the miseries of the trade; yesterday I was stripped and beaten by an officer, yet to-day I must appear good-humoured and gay to please a friar.”  7
  Candide was convinced, and acknowledged that Martin was in the right. They sat down to table with Pacquette and the Theatin; the entertainment was very agreeable, and towards the end they began to converse together with some freedom. “Father,” said Candide to the friar, “you seem to me to enjoy a state of happiness that even kings might envy; joy and health are painted in your countenance. You have a beautiful friend to divert you; and you seem to be perfectly well contented with your condition as a Theatin.”  8
  “Faith, sir,” said Friar Giroflée, “I wish with all my soul the Theatins were every one of them at the bottom of the sea. I have been tempted a thousand times to set fire to the convent and go and turn Turk. My parents obliged me at the age of fifteen to put on this detestable habit, only to increase the fortune of an elder brother of mine, whom God confound! Jealousy, discord, and fury reside in our convent. It is true I have preached often paltry sermons by which I have got a little money, part of which the prior robs me of, and the remainder helps to buy my joys; but at night when I go hence to my convent, I am ready to dash my brains against the walls of the dormitory; and this is the case with all the rest of our fraternity.”  9
  Martin, turning towards Candide with his usual indifference, said, “Well, what think you now? Have I won the wager entirely?” Candide gave two thousand piastres to Pacquette and a thousand to Friar Giroflée, saying, “I will answer that this will make them happy.” “I am not of your opinion,” said Martin; “perhaps this money will only make them wretched.” “Be that as it may,” said Candide, “one thing comforts me; I see that one often meets with those whom we expected never to see again; so that perhaps, as I have found my red sheep and Pacquette, I may be lucky enough to find Miss Cunegund also.” “I wish,” said Martin, “she one day may make you happy; but I doubt it much.” “You are very hard of belief,” said Candide. “It is because,” said Martin, “I have seen the world.”  10
  “Observe those gondoliers,” said Candide; “are they not perpetually singing?” “You do not see them,” answered Martin, “at home with their wives and brats. The doge has his chagrin, gondoliers theirs. Nevertheless, in the main I look upon the gondolier’s life as preferable to that of the dog; but the difference is so trifling that it is not worth the trouble of examining into.”  11
  “I have heard great talk,” said Candide, “of the Senator Pococuranté, who lives in that fine house at the Brenta, where they say he entertains foreigners in the most polite manner. They pretend this man is a perfect stranger to uneasiness.” “I should be glad to see so extraordinary a being,” said Martin. Candide thereupon sent a messenger to Signor Pococuranté, desiring permission to wait on him the next day.  12

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