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Voltaire: About Paquette, and brother Giroflee

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Venice

As soon as he was at Venice, he sent for Cacambo in all the taverns, in all the cafes, and all the girls of joy, and didn‘t find him. He sent every day to the discovery of all the ships and boats: no news of Cacambo.

What!” he said to Martin, “I have had time to pass from Surinam to Bordeaux, to go from Bordeaux to Paris, from Paris to Dieppe, from Dieppe to Portsmouth, to cross Portugal and Spain, to cross the whole Mediterranean, to spend a few months in Venice; and the beautiful Cunegonde did not come! I have met, instead of her, only a drunkard and a perigourdine abbot! Cunegonde is dead, no doubt; I have only to die. Ah! it was better to stay in the paradise of the Dorado than to return to this cursed Europe. How right you are, my dear Martin! All is illusion and calamity.

He fell into a dark melancholy, and took no part in the opera alla moda, nor in the other amusements of the carnival; not a lady gave him the slightest temptation. Martin said to him:

“You are very simple, indeed, to imagine that a half-breed servant, who has five or six millions in his pockets, will go and fetch your mistress to the end of the world, and bring him to Venice. He will take her for him, if he will find her; if he does not find her, he will take another: I advise you to forget your valet Cacambo and your mistress Cunegonde. Martin was not consoling. Candide’s melancholy increased, and Martin never ceased to prove to him that there was little virtue and little happiness on earth; except perhaps in Eldorado, where no one could go.

In dispute over this important matter, and while waiting for Cunegonde, Candide perceived a young Theatin in Saint Mark’s Square, who held a girl under her arm. The Theatin seemed fresh, chubby, vigorous; his eyes were shining, his air assured, his face high, his gait proud. The girl was very pretty, and sang; she looked lovingly at his Theatin, and from time to time pinched her big cheeks.

You will admit to me at least,” said Candide to Martin, “that these people are happy. Until now, I have found in the whole habitable earth, except in Eldorado, unfortunates only; but as for this girl and this Theatin, I bet they are very happy creatures.

I bet you they do not,” said Martin.

“Only pray them to dinner,” said Candide, “and you will see if I am mistaken.”

Immediately he approached them, he complimented them, and invited them to come to his inn to eat macaroni, partridges from Lombardy, sturgeon eggs, and to drink wine from Montepulciano, lacryma-christi, cyprus, and samos. The young lady blushed, the Theatin accepted the game, and the girl followed him, looking at Candide with eyes of surprise and confusion, which were darkened by a few tears. Scarcely had she entered Candide’s room, when she said to him,

“What! Monsieur Candide no longer recognizes Paquette! At these words Candide, who had not previously considered him attentively, because he was only occupied with Cunegonde, said to her:

“Alas! My poor child, it is you who have put Doctor Pangloss in the fine state in which I have seen him?

Alas! Sir, it is me,” said Paquette; I see that you are informed of everything. I have known the terrible misfortunes which have happened to the whole house of the Baroness and the beautiful Cunegonde. I swear to you that my destiny has hardly been less sad. I was very innocent when you saw me. A Cordelier, who was my confessor, seduced me easily. The consequences were frightful; I was obliged to leave the chateau some time after the Baron had sent you kicks in the rear. If a famous doctor had not taken pity on me, I was dead. I was for some time by gratitude the mistress of this physician. His wife, who was jealous of rage, beat me every day ruthlessly; it was a fury. This physician was the ugliest of all men, and I the most unhappy of all creatures to be continually beaten for a man I did not love. You know, sir, how dangerous it is for a spiteful woman to be the wife of a doctor. The latter, outraged by the methods of his wife, gave her, one day, to cure her with a little cold, a medicine so efficacious, that she died of it in two hours in horrible convulsions. The mother’s parents sued a criminal trial; he fled, and I was put into prison. My innocence would not have saved me if I had not been a little pretty. The judge enlarged me on condition that he would succeed the doctor. I was soon supplanted by a rival, driven without reward, and obliged to continue that abominable trade which seems to you the men so agreeable, and which is for us but an abyss of misery. I went to practice the profession in Venice. Ah! sir, if you could imagine what it is to be obliged to caress indifferently an old merchant, a lawyer, a monk, a gondolier, an abbot; to be exposed to all insults and all affronts; of being often reduced to borrowing a skirt to go and get her up by a disgusting man; to be robbed by one I have gained with the other; to be ransomed by the officers of justice, and to have in view only a frightful old age, a hospital, and a manure, you would conclude that I am one of the most unfortunate creatures in the world.

Paquette thus opened the heart of the good Candide, in a cabinet, in the presence of Martin, who said to Candide:

“You see that I have already won half the wager.

Brother Giroflee had remained in the dining-room, and drank a blow while waiting for dinner.

But, said Candide to Paquette, you looked so cheerful and content, when I met you; you sang, you caress the Theatin with a natural complacency; you appeared to me as happy as you pretend to be unfortunate.

Ah! Sir,” replied Paquette, “is still one of the miseries of the trade. I was yesterday robbed and beaten by an officer, and today I must appear in a good humor to please a monk.

Candide did not want any more; he confessed that Martin was right. They sat down to table with Paquette and the Theatin; the meal was rather amusing, and at the end they spoke with some confidence.

“My father,” said Candide to the monk, “you seem to me to enjoy a destiny which everybody ought to envy; the flower of health shines on your face, your countenance announces happiness; you have a very pretty girl for your recreation, and you seem very pleased with your state of Theatin.

“Well, sir,” said Brother Giroflee, “I would like all the Theatines to be at the bottom of the sea. I have been tempted a hundred times to set fire to the convent, and go and make myself Turkish. My parents compelled me, at the age of fifteen, to put on this detestable dress, to leave more fortune to an accursed elder brother, whom God confounds! Jealousy, discord, and rage live in the convent. It is true that I have preached some bad sermons which have earned me a little money from which the prior steals me half; the rest serves me for the maintenance of daughters; but when I return to the monastery in the evening, I am ready to break my head against the walls of the dormitory; and all my colleagues are in the same situation.

Martin turning towards Candide with his usual cold blood:

Well! he said, “have I not won the whole wager?” Candide gave Paquette two thousand dollars, and a thousand piastres to Brother Giroflee.

I reply, he says, that with this they will be happy.

I do not believe it at all,” said Martin; you will perhaps render them with these piastres much more unhappy.

He will be what will be able, said Candide; but one thing consoles me, I see that one often I find people who were never thought to be found; it may well be that, having met my red sheep and Paquette, I also meet Cunegonde.

“I wish,” said Martin, “that she may one day make your happiness; but that is what I doubt.

“You are very hard,” said Candide.

It’s because I lived,” said Martin.

But look at these gondoliers,” said Candide, “do they not sing incessantly?

You do not see them in their household, their wives, and their little children,” said Martin. The Doge has his sorrows, the gondoliers have theirs. It is true that in any case the fate of a gondolier is preferable to that of a doge; but I believe the difference so mediocre, that it is not worth the trouble of being examined.

“We speak,” said Candide, “of Senator Pococurante, who lives in this beautiful palace on the Brenta, and receives foreigners fairly well. It is said that he is a man who has never had sorrow.”

I would like to see a species so rare,” said Martin. Candide instantly asked permission from Pococurante to come and see him the next day.

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