Candide, by Voltaire

Chapter XIV.

Continuation of the loves of Candide.

The only consolation that Candide felt was in conversing with Zenoida in the presence of their hosts. “How happens it,” said he to her one day, “that the monarch to whom you have access has suffered such injustice to be done to your family? Assuredly you have sufficient reason to hate him?” “How!” said Zenoida, “who can hate their king? who can do otherwise than love that person to whose hand is consigned the keen-edged sword of the laws? Kings are the living images of the Deity, and we ought never to arraign their conduct; obedience and respect is the duty of a subject.” “I admire you more and more,” said Candide; “indeed, madam, I do; pray, do you know the great Leibnitz, and the great Pangloss, who was burned, after having escaped a hanging? are you acquainted with the monads, the materia subtilis, and the vortices?” “No, sir,” replied Zenoida; “I never heard my father mention any of these; he only gave me a slight tincture of experimental philosophy, and taught me to hold in contempt all those kinds of philosophy that do not directly tend to make mankind happy; that give him false notions of his duty to himself and his neighbor; that do not teach him to regulate his conduct, and fill his mind only with uncouth terms, or ill-founded conjectures; that do not give him a clearer idea of the author of nature than what he may acquire from his works, and the wonders that are every day passing before our sight.” “Once again, Miss, you enchant me; you ravish me; you are an angel that heaven has sent to remove from before my eyes the mist of Master Pangloss’ sophistical arguments. Poor wretch that I was! After having been so heartily kicked, flogged, and bastinadoed; after having been in an earthquake; having seen Doctor Pangloss once hanged, and very lately burned; after having been outraged by a villainous Persian, who put me to the most excruciating torture; after having been robbed by a decree of the divan, and soundly drubbed by the philosophers; after all these things, I say, to think that everything was for the best! but now, thank heaven! I am disabused. But, truly speaking, nature never appeared half so charming to me as since I have been blessed with the sight of you. The melody of the rural choristers charms my ears with a harmony to which they were till now utter strangers; I breathe a new soul, and the glow of sentiment that enchants me seems imprinted on every object; I do not feel that effeminate languor which I did in the gardens of Sus; the sensation with which you inspire me is wholly different.” “Let us stop here,” said Zenoida; “you seem to be running to lengths that may, perhaps, offend my delicacy, which you ought to respect.” “I will be silent, then,” said Candide; “but my passion will only burn with the more force.” On saying these words, he looked steadfastly at Zenoida; he perceived that she blushed, and, as a man who was taught by experience, conceived the most flattering hopes from those appearances.

The beautiful Dane continued a long time to shun the presence of Candide. One day, as he was walking hastily to and fro in the garden, he cried out in an amorous ecstasy, “Ah! why have I not now my El Dorado sheep! why have I not the power to purchase a small kingdom! ah! were I but a king!” “What should I be to you?” said a voice which pierced the heart of our philosopher. “Is it you, lovely Zenoida?” cried he, falling on his knees. “I thought myself alone. The few words I heard you just now utter seem to promise me the felicity to which my soul aspires. I shall, in all probability, never be a king, nor ever possessed of a fortune; but, if you love me — do not turn from me those lovely eyes, but suffer me to read in them a declaration which is alone capable of confirming my happiness. Beauteous Zenoida, I adore you; let your heart be open to compassion — what do I see! you weep! Ah! my happiness is too great.” “Yes, you are happy,” said Zenoida; “nothing can oblige me to disguise my tenderness for a person I think deserving of it: hitherto you have been attached to my destiny only by the bands of humanity; it is now time to strengthen those by ties most sacred; I have consulted my heart, reflect maturely in your turn; but remember, that if you marry me, you become obliged to be my protector; to share with me those misfortunes that fate may yet have in store for me, and to soothe my sorrows.” “Marry you!” said Candide; “those words have shown me all the folly of my conduct. Alas! dear idol of my soul, I am not deserving of the goodness you show towards me. Cunegund is still living —” “Cunegund! who is that?” “She is my wife,” answered Candide, with his usual frankness.

Our two lovers remained some moments without uttering a word; they attempted to speak, but the accents died away on their lips; their eyes were bathed in tears. Candide held the fair Zenoida’s hands in his; he pressed them to his breast, and devoured them with kisses; he had even the boldness to carry his to the bosom of his mistress; he found her breath grew short; his soul flew to his lips, and fixing his mouth with ardor to that of Zenoida, he brought the fair one back to those senses which she had nearly lost. Candide thought he read his pardon in her eyes. “Dearest lover,” said she to him, “anger would but ill suit with the liberty which I myself have given. Yet hold, you will ruin me in the opinion of the world; and you yourself would soon cease to have an affection for me, when once I was become the object of contempt. Forbear, therefore, and spare my weakness.” “How!” cried Candide, “because the ill-judging vulgar say that a woman loses her honor by bestowing happiness on a being whom she loves, by following the tender bent of nature, that in the first happy ages of the world —” But I will forbear to relate the whole of the interesting conversation, and content myself with saying that the eloquence of Candide, heightened by the warmth of amorous expression, had all the effect that may be imagined on a young, sensible, female philosopher.

The lovers, who till then had passed their days in tedious melancholy, now counted every hour by a fresh succession of amorous joys. Pleasure flowed through their veins in an uninterrupted current. The gloomy woods, the barren mountains, surrounded by horrid precipices, the icy plains and dreary fields, covered with snow on all sides, were so many continual mementoes to them of the necessity of loving. They determined never to quit that dreadful solitude, but fate was not yet weary of persecuting them, as we shall see in the ensuing chapter.

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