Candide, by Voltaire

Chapter VIII.

Candide’s disgusts — an unexpected meeting.

Our philosopher, in the midst of his seraglio, dispensed his favors equally. He tasted the pleasures of variety, and always returned to the “child of providence” with fresh ardor. But this did not last long; he soon felt violent pains in his loins, and an excruciating colic. He dried up, as he grew happy. Then Zirza’s breast appeared no longer so white, or so well placed; her thighs not so hard, nor so plump; her eyes lost all their vivacity in those of Candide; her complexion, its lustre; and her lips that pure vermilion which had enchanted him at first sight. He now perceived that she walked badly, and had an offensive smell: he saw, with the greatest disgust, a spot upon the “mount of Venus,” which he had never observed before to be tainted with any blemish: the vehement ardor of Zirza became burdensome to him: he could see, with great coolness, the faults of his other women, which had escaped him in his first transports of passion; he saw nothing in them but a bare-faced impudence; he was ashamed to have walked in the steps of the wisest of men; and he found women more bitter than death.

Candide, always cherishing Christian sentiments, spent his leisure time in walking over the streets of Sus; when one day a cavalier, in a superb dress, came up to him suddenly and called him by his name. “Is it possible!” cried Candide, “my lord, that you are — it is not possible; otherwise you are so very like the abbé of Périgord.” “I am the very man,” answered the abbé. Upon this Candide started back, and, with his usual ingenuousness, said, “Are you happy, Mr. Abbé?” “A fine question,” replied the abbé; “the little deceit which I have put upon you has contributed not a little to gain me credit. The police had employed me for some time; but, having fallen out with them, I quitted the ecclesiastical habit, which was no longer of any service to me. I went over into England, where persons of my profession are better paid. I said all I knew, and all I did not know, about the strength and weakness of the country I had lately left. I especially gave bold assurances that the French were the dregs of the world, and that good sense dwelt nowhere but in London. In short, I made a splendid fortune, and have just concluded a treaty at the court of Persia which will exterminate all the Europeans who come for cotton and silk into the sophi’s dominions, to the detriment of the English.” “The object of your mission is very commendable,” said our philosopher; “but, Mr. Abbé, you are a cheat; I like not cheats, and I have some credit at court. Tremble now, your happiness has arrived at its utmost limits; you are just upon the point of suffering the fate you deserve.” “My lord Candide,” cried the abbé, throwing himself on his knees, “have pity on me. I feel myself drawn to evil by an irresistible force, as you find yourself necessitated to the practice of virtue. This fatal propensity I have perceived from the moment I became acquainted with Mr. Wasp, and worked at the Feuilles.” “What do you call Feuilles?” said Candide. “Feuilles,” answered the abbé, “are sheets of seventy-two pages in print, in which the public are entertained in the strain of calumny, satire, and dulness. An honest man who can read and write, and who is not able to continue among the Jesuits, has set himself to compose this pretty little work, that he may have wherewithal to give his wife some lace, and bring up his children in the fear of God; and there are certain honest people, who for a few pence, and some bottles of bad wine, assist the man in carrying on his scheme. This Mr. Wasp is, besides, a member of a curious club, who divert themselves by making poor, ignorant people drunk, and causing them to blaspheme; or in bullying a poor simple devil, breaking his furniture, and afterwards challenging him. Such pretty little amusements these gentry call ‘mystifications,’ and richly deserve the attention of the police. In fine, this very honest man, Mr. Wasp, who boasts he never was in the galleys, is troubled with a disposition which renders him insensible to the clearest truths; and from which position he can be drawn only by certain violent means, which he sustains with a resignation and courage above conception. I have worked for some time under this celebrated genius; I have become an eminent writer in my turn, and I had but just quitted Mr. Wasp, to do a little for myself, when I had the honor of paying you a visit at Paris.” “Though you are a very great cheat, Mr. Abbé, yet your sincerity in this point makes some impression on me. Go to court; ask for the Rev. Ed-Ivan-Baal-Denk; I shall write to him in your behalf, but upon express condition that you promise me to become an honest man; and that you will not be the occasion of some thousands having their throats cut, for the sake of a little silk and cotton.” The abbé promised all that Candide requested, and they parted good friends.

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