Candide, by Voltaire

Chapter VI.

The pleasures of Candide.

Candide, in the bitterness of his grief, wrote a very pathetic letter to the Reverend Ed-Ivan-Baal-Denk. He painted to him in such lively colors the present state of his soul, that Ed-Ivan, greatly affected with it, obtained permission of the sophi that Candide should resign his employments. His majesty, in recompense of his services, granted him a very considerable pension. Eased from the weight of grandeur, our philosopher immediately sought after Pangloss’ optimism, in the pleasures of a private life. He till then had lived for the benefit of others, and seemed to have forgotten that he had a seraglio.

He now called it to remembrance with that emotion which the very name inspires. “Let everything be got ready,” said he to his first eunuch, “for my visiting my women.” “My lord,” answered the shrill-piped slave, “it is now that your excellency deserves the title of wise. The men for whom you have done so much were not worthy of employing your thoughts, but the women —” “That may be,” said Candide modestly.

At the bottom of a garden, where art had assisted nature to unfold her beauties, stood a small house of simple and elegant structure, very different from those which are to be seen in the suburbs of the finest city in Europe. Candide could not approach it without blushing; the air round this charming retreat diffused a delicious perfume; the flowers, amorously intermingled, seemed here to be guided by the instinct of pleasure, and preserved, for a long time, their various beauties. Here the rose never lost its lovely hue; the view of a rock, from which the waters precipitated themselves with a murmuring and confused noise, invited the soul of that soft melancholy which is ever the forerunner of pleasure. Candide entered trembling into a chamber, where taste and magnificence were united; his senses were drawn by a secret charm; he cast his eyes on young Telemachus, who breathed on the canvas in the midst of the nymphs of Calypso’s court. He next turned them to Diana, half-naked, flying into the arms of the tender Endymion; his agitation increased at the sight of a Venus, faithfully copied from that of Medici; his ears were struck with a divine harmony; a company of young Circassian females appeared, covered with their veils; they formed round him a sort of dance, agreeably designed, and more graceful than those trifling jigs that are performed on as trifling stages, after the representation of the death of Cæsar and Pompey.

At a signal given they threw off their veils and discovered faces full of expression, that lent new life to the diversion. These beauties studied the most seducing attitudes, without appearing to intend it; one expressed in her looks a passion without bounds; another a soft languor which waits for pleasures without seeking them; this fair one stooped and raised herself precipitately to disclose to view those enchanting charms which the fair sex display in such full scope at Paris; another threw aside a part of her cymar to show a form, which alone is capable of inflaming a mortal of any delicacy. The dance ceased and they remained in profound silence.

This pause recalled Candide to himself. The fire of love took possession of his breast; he darted the most ardent looks on all around him; imprinted warm kisses on lips as warm, and eyes that swam in liquid fire; he passed his hand over globes whiter than alabaster, whose palpitating motion repelled the touch; admired their proportion; perceived little vermilion protuberances like those rosebuds which only wait the genial rays of the sun to unfold them; he kissed them with rapture, and his lips for some time remained glued thereon.

Our philosopher next admired for a while a majestic figure of a fine and delicate shape. Burning with desires, he at length threw the handkerchief to a young person whose eyes he had observed to be always fixed upon him, and which seemed to say, “Teach me the meaning of a trouble I am ignorant of”; and who, blushing at the secret avowal, became a thousand times more charming. The eunuch then opened the door of a private chamber consecrated to the mysteries of love, into which the lovers entered; and the eunuch, addressing his master, said: “Here it is, my lord, you are going to be truly happy.” “Oh!” answered Candide, “I am in great hopes of it.”

The ceiling and walls of this little retreat were covered with mirrors; in the midst was placed a divan of black satin, on which Candide threw the young Circassian and caressed her in silent ecstasy. The fair one gave him no other interruption but to imprint kisses, full of fire, on his lips. “My lord,” said she to him in the Turkish language, which she spoke perfectly, “how fortunate is your slave, to be thus honored with your transports!” An energy of sentiment can be expressed in every language by those who truly feel it. These few words enchanted our philosopher; he was no longer himself; all he saw, all he heard, was new to him. What difference between Miss Cunegund, grown ugly, and violated by Bulgarian freebooters, and a Circassian girl of eighteen, till then a stranger to man. This was the first time the wise Candide enjoyed her. The objects which he devoured were repeated in the mirrors; wherever he cast his eyes he saw upon the black satin the most beautiful and fairest body possible, and the contrast of colors lent it new lustre, with round, firm, and plump thighs, an admirable fall of loins, a — but I am obliged to have a regard to the false delicacy of our language. It is sufficient for me to say that our philosopher tasted, by frequent repetitions, of that portion of happiness he was capable of receiving, and that the young Circassian in a little while proved his sufficing reason.

“O master, my dear master!” cried Candide, almost beside himself, “everything here is as well as in El Dorado; a fine woman can alone complete the wishes of man. I am as happy as it is possible to be. Leibnitz is in the right, and you are a great philosopher. For instance, I engage that you, my lovely girl, have always had a bias towards optimism, because you have always been happy.” “Alas! no,” answered she. “I do not know what optimism is; but I swear to you that your slave has not known happiness till to-day. If my lord is pleased to give me leave, I will convince him of it by a succinct recital of my adventures.” “I am very willing,” said Candide. “I am in a position to hear an historical detail.” Upon which the fair slave began as follows:

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