Candide, by Voltaire

Chapter III.

Candide’s reception at court and what followed.

The Reverend Ed-Ivan-Baal-Denk made no delay in presenting Candide to the king. His majesty took a particular pleasure in hearing him; he made him dispute with several learned men of his court, who looked upon him as a fool, an ignoramus, and an idiot; which much contributed to persuade his majesty that he was a great man. “Because,” said he to them, “you do not comprehend Candide’s reasonings, you abuse him; but I, who also comprehend nothing at all of them, assure you that he is a great philosopher, and I swear to it by my whisker.” Upon these words the literati were struck dumb.

Candide had apartments assigned him in the palace; he had slaves to wait on him; he was dressed in magnificent clothes, and the sophi commanded that whatever he should say, no one should dare to assert that he was wrong. His majesty did not8 stop here. The venerable monk was continually soliciting him in favor of his guest, and his majesty at length resolved to rank him among the number of his most intimate favorites.

“God be praised and our holy prophet,” said the imam, addressing himself to Candide. “I am come to tell you an agreeable piece of news; that you are happy, my dear Candide; that you are going to raise the envy of the world; you shall swim in opulence; you may aspire to the most splendid posts in the empire. But do not forget me, my friend; think that it is I who have procured you the favor you are just on the point of enjoying; let gayety reign over the horizon of your countenance. The king grants you a favor which has been sought by many, and you will soon exhibit a sight which the court has not enjoyed these two years past.” “And what are these favors?” demanded Candide, “with which the prince intends to honor me?” “This very day,” answered the monk, quite overjoyed, “this very day you are to receive fifty strokes with a leathern lash on the soles of your feet, in the presence of his majesty. The eunuchs named for perfuming you for the occasion are to be here directly; prepare yourself to go cheerfully through this little trial and thereby render yourself worthy of the king of kings.” “Let the king of kings,” cried Candide in a rage, “keep his favors to himself, if I must receive fifty blows with a lash in order to merit them.” “It is thus,” replied the doctor coldly, “that he deals with those on whom he means to pour down his benefits. I love you too much to regard the little temper which you show on this occasion, and I will make you happy in spite of yourself.”

He had not done speaking when the eunuchs arrived, preceded by the executor of his majesty’s private pleasures, who was one of the greatest and most robust lords of the court. Candide in vain remonstrated against their proceedings. They perfumed his legs and feet, according to custom. Four eunuchs carried him to the place appointed for the ceremony through the midst of a double file of soldiers, while the trumpets sounded, the cannon fired, and the bells of all the mosques9 of Ispahan jingled; the sophi was already there, accompanied by his principal officers and most distinguished personages of his court. In an instant they stretched out Candide upon a little form finely gilded, and the executor of the private pleasures put himself in a posture for entering upon his office. “O! Master Pangloss, Master Pangloss, were you but here!” said Candide, weeping and roaring out with all his force; a circumstance which would have been thought very indecent if the monk had not given the people to understand that his guest had put himself into such violent agitations only the better to divert his majesty. This great king, it is true, laughed like a fool; he even took such delight in the affair that after the fifty blows had been given, he ordered fifty more to be added. But his first minister having represented to him, with a firmness not very common, that such an unheard of favor with regard to a stranger might alienate the hearts of his subjects, he revoked that order, and Candide was carried back to his apartments.

They put him to bed, after having bathed his feet with vinegar. The grandees came round him in order to congratulate him on his good fortune. The sophi then came to assist him in person, and not only gave him his hand to kiss, according to the custom, but likewise honored him with a great blow of his fist on his mouth. Whence the politicians conjectured that Candide would arrive at extraordinary preferment, and what is very uncommon, though politicians, they were not deceived.

8 If this would induce philosophers who lose their time in barking in Procopius’s cottage, to take a short trip into Persia, this frivolous work would be of great service to messieurs the Parisians. — Ralph.

9 There never was a bell in any mosque since the beginning of the world. This little impropriety puts us in mind of the puppet show in Don Quixote, in which the showman having introduced bells in the city of Saragossa, while it was in possession of the Moors, the knight very gravely assures master Peter he must be mistaken; porque entre Moros no se usan campanas (for bells are never used among the Moors).

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