Candide, by Voltaire

Chapter XVIII.

Candide and cacambo go into a hospital — whom they meet there.

Cacambo and his old master were quite dispirited. They began to fall into that sort of malady of the mind which extinguishes all the faculties. They fell into a depression of spirits and despair, when they perceived a hospital which was built for strangers. Cacambo proposed going into it; Candide followed him. There they met with the most obliging reception, and charitable treatment. In a little time they were cured of their wounds, but they caught the itch. The cure of this malady did not appear to be the work of a day, the idea of which filled the eyes of our philosopher with tears; and he said, scratching himself, “Thou wouldst not let me cut my throat, my dear Cacambo; thy unwise counsels have brought me again into disgrace and misfortune; and yet, should I cut my throat now, it will be published in the journal of Trévoux, and it will be said this man was a poltroon, who killed himself only for having the itch. See what thou hast exposed me to, by the mistaken compassion thou hadst for my fate.” “Our disasters are not without remedy,” answered Cacambo. “If you will but please to listen to me. Let us settle here as friars; I understand a little surgery, and I promise you to alleviate and render supportable our wretched condition.” “Ah!” cried Candide, “may all asses perish, and especially asses of surgeons, who are so dangerous to mankind. I will never suffer that thou shouldst give out thyself to be what thou art not: this is a treachery, the consequences of which I dread. Besides, if thou didst but conceive how hard it is, after having been viceroy of a fine province, after having seen myself rich enough to purchase kingdoms, and after having been the favorite lover of Zenoida, to resolve to serve in quality of friar in a hospital.” “I concede all that you say,” replied Cacambo; “but I also realize that it is very hard to die of hunger. Think, moreover, that the expedient which I propose to you is perhaps the only one which you can take to elude the inquiries of the bloody-minded Wolhall, and avoid the punishment which he is preparing for you.”

One of the friars was passing along as they talked in this manner. They put some questions to him, to which he gave satisfactory answers: he assured them that the brothers wanted for nothing, and enjoyed a reasonable liberty. Candide thereupon determined to acquiesce in Cacambo’s counsels. They took the habit together, which was granted them upon the first application; and our two poor adventurers now became underlings to those whose duty it was to perform the most servile offices.

One day, as Candide was serving the patients with some wretched broth, an old man fixed his eye earnestly upon him. The visage of this poor wretch was livid, his lips were covered with froth, his eyes half turned in his head, and the image of death strongly imprinted on his lean and sunken cheeks. “Poor man,” said Candide to him, “I pity you; your sufferings must be horrible.” “They are very great indeed,” answered the old man, with a hollow voice like a ghost; “I am told that I am hectic, phthisicky, asthmatic, and poxed to the bone. If that be the case, I am indeed very ill; yet all does not go so badly, and this gives me comfort.” “Ah!” exclaimed Candide, “none but Dr. Pangloss, in a case so deplorable, can maintain the doctrine of optimism, when all others besides would preach up pessim —” “Do not pronounce that abominable word,” cried the poor man; “I am the Pangloss you speak of. Wretch that I am, let me die in peace. All is well, all is for the best.” The effort which he made in pronouncing these words cost him the last tooth, which he spit out with a great quantity of corrupted matter, and expired a few moments after.

Candide lamented him greatly, for he had a good heart. His obstinate perseverance was a source of reflection to our philosopher; he often called to mind all his adventures. Cunegund remained at Copenhagen; Candide learned that she exercised there the occupation of a mender of old clothes, with all possible distinction. The humor of travelling had quite left him. The faithful Cacambo supported him with his counsels and friendship. Candide did not murmur against Providence. “I know,” said he, at times, “that happiness is not the portion of man; happiness dwells only in the good country of El Dorado, where it is impossible for anyone to go.”

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