Candide, by Voltaire

Chapter II.

What befell Candide in this house — how he got out of it.

Candide, being well fed, well clothed, and free from chagrin, soon became again as ruddy, as fresh, and as gay as he had been in Westphalia. His host, Ismael Raab, was pleased to see this change; he was a man six feet high, adorned with two small eyes extremely red, and a large nose full of pimples, which sufficiently declared his infraction of Mahomet’s law; his whiskers were the most famous in the country, and mothers wished their sons nothing so much as a like pair. Raab had wives, because he was rich; but he thought in a manner that is but too common in the East and in some of our colleges in Europe. “Your excellence is brighter than the stars,” said the cunning Persian to the brisk Candide one day, half smiling and half suppressing his words. “You must have captivated a great many hearts; you are formed to give and receive happiness.” “Alas!” answered our hero, “I was happy only by halves, behind a screen, where I was but half at my ease. Mademoiselle Cunegund was handsome then — Mademoiselle Cunegund; poor innocent thing!” “Follow me, my lord,” said the Persian. And Candide followed accordingly. They came to a very agreeable retreat, where silence and pleasure reigned. There Ismael Raab tenderly embraced Candide, and in a few words made a declaration of love like that which the beautiful Alexis expresses with so much pleasure in Virgil’s Eclogues. Candide could not recover from his astonishment. “No,” cried he, “I can never suffer such infamy! what cause and what horrible effect! I had rather die.” “So you shall,” replied Ismael, enraged. “How, thou Christian dog! because I would politely give you pleasure — resolve directly to satisfy me, or to suffer the most cruel death.” Candide did not long hesitate. The cogent reason of the Persian made him tremble; for he feared death like a philosopher.

We accustom ourselves to everything in time. Candide, well fed, well taken care of, but closely watched, was not absolutely disgusted with his condition. Good cheer and the different diversions performed by Ismael’s slaves gave some respite to his chagrin; he was unhappy only when he thought; and thus it is with the greatest part of mankind.

At that time one of the most stanch supporters of the monkish crew in Persia, the most learned of the Mahometan doctors, who understood Arabic perfectly, and even Greek, as spoken at that day in the country of Demosthenes and Sophocles, the Reverend Ed-Ivan-Baal-Denk, returned from Constantinople, where he had conversed with the Reverend Mamoud-Abram on a very delicate point of doctrine; namely, whether the prophet had plucked from the angel Gabriel’s wing the pen which he used for the writing of the Koran; or if Gabriel had made him a present of it. They had disputed for three days and three nights with a warmth worthy of the noblest sages of controversy; and the doctor returned home persuaded, like all the disciples of Ali, that Mahomet had plucked the quill; while Mamoud-Abram remained convinced, like the rest of Omar’s followers, that the prophet was incapable of committing any such rudeness, and that the angel had very politely made him a present of this quill for his pen.

It is said that there was at Constantinople a certain free-thinker who insinuated that it was necessary to examine first whether the Koran was really written with a pen taken from the wing of the angel Gabriel; but he was stoned.

Candide’s arrival had made a noise in Tauris; many who had heard him speak of contingent and non-contingent effects imagined he was a philosopher. The Reverend Ed-Ivan-Baal-Denk was told of him; he had the curiosity to come and see him; and Raab, who could hardly refuse a person of such consequence, sent for Candide to make his appearance. He seemed to be well pleased with the manner in which Candide spake of bad physics, bad morals, of agent and effect. “I understand that you are a philosopher, and that’s all. But it is enough, Candide,” said the venerable recluse. “It is not right that so great a man as you are should be treated with such indignity, as I am told, in the world. You are a stranger; Ismael Raab has no right over you. I propose to conduct you to court, there you shall meet with a favorable reception; the sophi loves the sciences. Ismael, you must put this young philosopher into my hands, or dread incurring the displeasure of the prince and drawing upon yourself the vengeance of heaven; but especially of the monks.” These last words frightened the otherwise undaunted Persian, and he consented to everything; Candide, blessing heaven and the monks, went the same day out of Tauris with the Mahometan doctor. They took the road to Ispahan, where they arrived loaded with the blessings and favors of the people.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:24