Fiction > Voltaire > Candide, or The Optimist
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François Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694–1778).  Candide, or The Optimist.  1884.
 
Chapter XIX
What happened to them at Surinam, and how Candide came acquainted with Martin
 
OUR travellers’ first day’s journey was very pleasant; they were elated with the prospect of possessing more riches than were to be found in Europe, Asia, and Africa together. Candide, in amorous transports, cut the name of Miss Cunegund on almost every tree he came to. The second day, two of their sheep sunk in a morass, and were swallowed up, with their lading; two more died of fatigue; some few days afterwards, seven or eight perished with hunger in a desert; and others, at different times, tumbled down precipices, or were otherwise lost; so that, after travelling about a hundred days, they had only two sheep left of the hundred and two they brought with them from El Dorado. Said Candide to Cacambo: “You see, my dear friend, how perishable the riches of this world are; there is nothing solid but virtue.” “Very true,” said Cacambo; “but we have still two sheep remaining, with more treasure than ever the King of Spain will be possessed of; and I espy a town at a distance, which I take to be Surinam, a town belonging to the Dutch. We are now at the end of our troubles, and at the beginning of happiness.”  1
  As they drew near the town, they saw a negro stretched on the ground with only one-half of his habit, which was a kind of linen frock, for the poor man had lost his left leg and his right hand. “Good God,” said Candide in Dutch; “what dost thou here, friend, in this deplorable condition?” “I am waiting for my master, Mynheer Vanderdendur, the famous trader,” answered the negro. “Was it Mynheer Vanderdendur that used you in this cruel manner?” “Yes, sir,” said the negro; “it is the custom here. They give a linen garment twice a year, and that is all our covering. When we labour in the sugar-works, and the mill happens to snatch off a finger, they instantly chop off our hand; and when we attempt to run away, they cut off a leg. Both these cases have happened to me; and it is at this expense that you eat sugar in Europe; and yet when my mother sold me for ten patacoons on the coast of Guinea, she said to me: ‘My dear child, bless our fetishes; adore them for ever; they will make thee live happy; thou hast the honour to be a slave to our lords the whites, by which thou wilt make the fortune of us thy parents.’ Alas! I know not whether I have made their fortunes; but they have not made mine. Dogs, monkeys, and parrots are a thousand times less wretched than I. The Dutch fetishes who converted me tell me every Sunday that the blacks and whites are all children of one father, whom they call Adam. As for me, I do not understand anything of genealogies; but if what these preachers say is true, we are all second cousins; and you must allow that it is impossible to be worse treated by our relations than we are.”  2
  “O Pangloss!” cried out Candide, “such horrid doings never entered thy imagination. Here is an end of the matter; I find myself, after all, obliged to renounce thy optimism.” “Optimism,” said Cacambo, “what is that?” “Alas!” replied Candide, “it is the obstinacy of maintaining that everything is best when it is worst;” and so saying, he turned his eyes towards the poor negro, and shed a flood of tears; and in this weeping mood he entered the town of Surinam. Immediately upon their arrival our travellers inquired if there was any vessel in the harbour which they might send to Buenos Ayres. The person they addressed themselves to happened to be the master of a Spanish bark, who offered to agree with them on moderate terms, and appointed them a meeting at a public-house. Thither Candide and his faithful Cacambo went to wait for him, taking with them their two sheep.  3
  Candide, who was all frankness and sincerity, made an ingenuous recital of his adventures to the Spaniard, declaring to him at the same time his resolution of carrying off Miss Cunegund from the Governor of Buenos Ayres. “Oh, oh!” said the shipmaster, “if that is the case, get whom you please to carry you to Buenos Ayres; for my part, I wash my hands of the affair. It would prove a hanging matter to us all. The fair Cunegund is the Governor’s favourite mistress.” These words were like a clap of thunder to Candide; he wept bitterly for a long time, and, taking Cacambo aside, he says to him: “I’ll tell you, my dear friend, what you must do. We have each of us in our pockets to the value of five or six millions in diamonds; you are cleverer at these matters than I; you must go to Buenos Ayres and bring off Miss Cunegund. If the Governor makes any difficulty, give him a million; if he holds out, give him two; as you have not killed an Inquisitor, they will have no suspicion of you: I’ll fit out another ship, and go to Venice, where I will wait for you. Venice is a free country, where we shall have nothing to fear from Bulgarians, Abares, Jews, or Inquisitors.” Cacambo greatly applauded this wise resolution. He was inconsolable at the thoughts of parting with so good a master, who treated him more like an intimate friend than a servant; but the pleasure of being able to do him a service soon got the better of his sorrow. They embraced each other with a flood of tears. Candide charged him not to forget the old woman. Cacambo set out the same day. This Cacambo was a very honest fellow.  4
  Candide continued some days longer at Surinam, waiting for any captain to carry him and his two remaining sheep to Italy. He hired domestics, and purchased many things necessary for a long voyage; at length, Mynheer Vanderdendur, skipper of a large Dutch vessel, came and offered his service. “What will you have,” said Candide, “to carry me, my servants, my baggage, and these two sheep you see here, directly to Venice?” The skipper asked ten thousand piastres; and Candide agreed to his demand without hesitation.  5
  “Ho, ho!” said the cunning Vanderdendur to himself, “this stranger must be very rich; he agrees to give me ten thousand piastres without hesitation.” Returning a little while after, he tells Candide that, upon second consideration he could not undertake the voyage for less than twenty thousand. “Very well; you shall have them,” said Candide.  6
  “Zounds!” said the skipper to himself, “this man agrees to pay twenty thousand piastres with as much ease as ten.” Accordingly he goes back again, and tells him roundly that he will not carry him to Venice for less than thirty thousand piastres. “Then you shall have thirty thousand,” said Candide.  7
  “Odso!” said the Dutchman once more to himself, “thirty thousand piastres seem a trifle to this man. Those sheep must certainly be laden with an immense treasure. I’ll e’en stop here and ask no more; but make him pay down the thirty thousand piastres, and then we may see what is to be done farther.” Candide sold two small diamonds, the least of which was worth more than all the skipper asked. He paid him beforehand; the two sheep were put on board, and Candide followed in a small boat to join the vessel in the roads. The skipper takes his opportunity, hoists sail, and puts out to sea with a favourable wind. Candide, confounded and amazed, soon lost sight of the ship. “Alas!” said he, “this is a trick like those in our old world!” He returns back to the shore overwhelmed with grief; and indeed he had lost what would have made the fortune of twenty monarchs.  8
  Immediately upon his landing he applied to the Dutch magistrate. Being transported with passion, he thunders at the door, which being opened, he goes in, tells his case, and talks a little louder than was necessary. The magistrate began with fining him ten thousand piastres for his petulance, and then listened very patiently to what he had to say; promised to examine into the affair on the skipper’s return; and ordered him to pay ten thousand piastres more for the fees of the court.  9
  This treatment put Candide out of all patience. It is true he had suffered misfortunes a thousand times more grievous; but the cool insolence of the judge and the villainy of the skipper raised his choler and threw him into a deep melancholy. The villainy of mankind presented itself to his mind in all its deformity, and his soul was a prey to the most gloomy ideas. After some time, hearing that the captain of a French ship was ready to set sail for Bourdeaux, as he had no more sheep loaded with diamonds to put on board, he hired the cabin at the usual price; and made it known in the town that he would pay the passage and board of any honest man who would give him his company during the voyage, besides making him a present of ten thousand piastres, on condition that such person was the most dissatisfied with his condition, and the most unfortunate in the whole province.  10
  Upon this there appeared such a crowd of candidates, that a large fleet could not have contained them. Candide, willing to choose from among those who appeared most likely to answer his intention, selected twenty, who seemed to him the most sociable, and who all pretended to merit the preference. He invited them to his inn, and promised to treat them with a supper, on condition that every man should bind himself by an oath to relate his own history; declaring at the same time that he would make choice of that person who should appear to him the most deserving of compassion and the most justly dissatisfied with his condition of life, and that he would make a present to the rest.  11
  This extraordinary assembly continued sitting till four in the morning. Candide, while he was listening to their adventures, called to mind what the old woman had said to him in their voyage to Buenos Ayres, and the wager she had laid that there was not a person on board the ship but had met with some great misfortunes. Every story he heard put him in mind of Pangloss. “My old master,” said he, “would be confoundedly put to it to demonstrate his favourite system. Would he were here! Certainly, if everything is for the best, it is in El Dorado, and not in the other parts of the world.” At length he determined in favour of a poor scholar, who had laboured ten years for the booksellers at Amsterdam, being of opinion that no employment could be more detestable.  12
  This scholar, who was in fact a very honest man, had been robbed by his wife, beaten by his son, and forsaken by his daughter, who had run away with a Portuguese. He had been likewise deprived of a small employment on which he subsisted, and he was persecuted by the clergy of Surinam, who took him for a Socinian. It must be acknowledged that the other competitors were at least as wretched as he. But Candide was in hopes that the company of a man of letters would relieve the tediousness of the voyage. All the other candidates complained that Candide had done them great injustice, but he stopped their mouths by a present of a hundred piastres to each.  13
 
 
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