Candide, by Voltaire

Chapter XIII.

The history of Zenoida — how Candide fell in love with her.

“I am come of one of the most ancient families in Denmark; one of my ancestors perished at that horrid feast which the wicked Christiern prepared for the destruction of so many senators. The riches and dignities with which our family has been distinguished have hitherto served only to make them more eminently unfortunate. My father had the presumption to displease a great man in power by boldly telling him the truth; he was presently accused by suborned witnesses of a number of crimes which had no foundation. His judges were deceived. Alas! where is that judge who can always discover those snares which envy and treachery lay for unguarded innocence? My father was sentenced to be beheaded. He had no way left to avoid his fate but by flight; accordingly he withdrew to the house of an old friend, whom he thought deserving of that truly noble appellation; we remained some time concealed in a castle belonging to him on the seaside; and we might have continued there to this day, had not the base wretch with whom we had taken refuge attempted to repay himself for the services rendered us in a manner that gave us all reason to detest him. This infamous monster had conceived a most unnatural passion for my mother and myself at the same time; he attempted our virtue by methods the most unworthy of a man of honor; and we were obliged to expose ourselves to the most dreadful dangers to avoid the effects of his brutal passion. In a word, we took to flight a second time, and you know the rest.”

In finishing this short narrative, Zenoida burst into tears afresh. Candide wiped them from her eyes, and said to her, by way of consolation, “Madam, everything is for the best; if your father had not died by poison he would infallibly have been discovered, and then his head would have been cut off. The good lady, your mother, would in all probability have died of grief, and we should not have been in this poor hut, where everything is as comfortable as in the finest of possible castles.” “Alas! sir,” replied Zenoida, “my father never told me that everything was for the best; but he has often said, ‘We are all children of the same divine father, who loves us, but who has not exempted us from sorrows, the most grievous maladies, and an innumerable tribe of miseries that afflict the human race. Poison grows by the side of the efficacious quinquina in America. The happiest of all mortals has some time or other shed tears. What we call life is a compound of pleasure and pain; it is the passing away of a certain stated portion of time that always appears too long in the sight of the wise man, and which every one ought to employ in doing good to the community in which he is placed; in the enjoyment of the works of Providence, without idly seeking after hidden causes; in squaring his conduct by the rules of conscience; and, above all, in showing a due respect to religion. Happy is he who can follow this unerringly!’

“These things my ever-respected father has frequently inculcated in me. ‘Ill betide those wretched scribblers,’ he would often say, ‘who attempt to pry into the hidden ways of Providence. From the principle that God will be honored from thousands of atoms, mankind has blended the most absurd chimeras with respectable truths. The Turkish dervish, the Persian brahmin, the Chinese bonze, and the Indian talapoin, all worship the Deity in a different manner; but they enjoy a tranquillity of soul amidst the darkness in which they are plunged; and he who would endeavor to enlighten them, does them but ill service. It is not loving mankind to tear the bandage of prejudice from their eyes.’ ”

“Why, you talk like a philosopher,” said Candide; “may I ask you, my pretty young lady, of what religion you are?” “I was brought up in the Lutheran profession,” answered Zenoida. “Every word you have spoken,” said Candide, “has been like a ray of light that has penetrated to my heart, and I find a sort of esteem and admiration for you, that — but how, in the name of wonder, came so bright an understanding to be lodged in so beautiful a form? Upon my word, Miss, I esteem and admire you, as I said before, so much that —” Candide stammered out a few words more, when Zenoida, perceiving his confusion, quitted him, and from that moment carefully avoided all occasions of being alone with him; and Candide, on his part, sought every opportunity of being alone with her, or else remained alone. He was buried in a melancholy that to him had charms; he was deeply enamored of Zenoida; but endeavored to conceal his passion from himself. His looks, however, too plainly evinced the feelings of his heart. “Alas!” would he often say to himself, “if Master Pangloss was here, he would give me good advice; for he was a great philosopher.”

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