FictionForest

Chapter 8 – Cunegund’s Story

VoltaireNov 03, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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I was in bed, and fast asleep, when it pleased Heaven to send the
Bulgarians to our delightful castle of Thunder-ten-tronckh, where they
murdered my father and brother, and cut my mother in pieces. A tall
Bulgarian soldier, six feet high, perceiving that I had fainted away
at this sight, attempted to ravish me; the operation brought me to
my senses. I cried, I struggled, I bit, I scratched, I would have torn
the tall Bulgarian’s eyes out, not knowing that what had happened at
my father’s castle was a customary thing. The brutal soldier,
enraged at my resistance, gave me a wound in my left leg with his
hanger, the mark of which I still carry.”

“Methinks I long to see it,” said Candide, with all imaginable
simplicity.

“You shall,” said Cunegund, “but let me proceed.”

“Pray do,” replied Candide.

She continued. “A Bulgarian captain came in, and saw me weltering in
my blood, and the soldier still as busy as if no one had been present.
The officer, enraged at the fellow’s want of respect to him, killed
him with one stroke of his sabre as he lay upon me. This captain
took care of me, had me cured, and carried me as a prisoner of war
to his quarters. I washed what little linen he possessed, and cooked
his victuals: he was very fond of me, that was certain; neither can
I deny that he was well made, and had a soft, white skin, but he was
very stupid, and knew nothing of philosophy: it might plainly be
perceived that he had not been educated under Dr. Pangloss. In three
months, having gambled away all his money, and having grown tired of
me, he sold me to a Jew, named Don Issachar, who traded in Holland and
Portugal, and was passionately fond of women. This Jew showed me great
kindness, in hopes of gaining my favors; but he never could prevail on
me to yield. A modest woman may be once ravished; but her virtue is
greatly strengthened thereby. In order to make sure of me, he
brought me to this country house you now see. I had hitherto
believed that nothing could equal the beauty of the castle of
Thunder-ten-tronckh; but I found I was mistaken.

“The Grand Inquisitor saw me one day at Mass, ogled me all the
time of service, and when it was over, sent to let me know he wanted
to speak with me about some private business. I was conducted to his
palace, where I told him all my story; he represented to me how much
it was beneath a person of my birth to belong to a circumcised
Israelite. He caused a proposal to be made to Don Issachar, that he
should resign me to His Lordship. Don Issachar, being the court banker
and a man of credit, was not easy to be prevailed upon. His Lordship
threatened him with an auto-da-fe; in short, my Jew was frightened
into a compromise, and it was agreed between them, that the house
and myself should belong to both in common; that the Jew should have
Monday, Wednesday, and the Sabbath to himself; and the Inquisitor
the other four days of the week. This agreement has subsisted almost
six months; but not without several contests, whether the space from
Saturday night to Sunday morning belonged to the old or the new law.
For my part, I have hitherto withstood them both, and truly I
believe this is the very reason why they are both so fond of me.

“At length to turn aside the scourge of earthquakes, and to
intimidate Don Issachar, My Lord Inquisitor was pleased to celebrate
an auto-da-fe. He did me the honor to invite me to the ceremony. I had
a very good seat; and refreshments of all kinds were offered the
ladies between Mass and the execution. I was dreadfully shocked at the
burning of the two Jews, and the honest Biscayan who married his
godmother; but how great was my surprise, my consternation, and
concern, when I beheld a figure so like Pangloss, dressed in a
sanbenito and mitre! I rubbed my eyes, I looked at him attentively.
I saw him hanged, and I fainted away: scarce had I recovered my
senses, when I saw you stripped of clothing; this was the height of
horror, grief, and despair. I must confess to you for a truth, that
your skin is whiter and more blooming than that of the Bulgarian
captain. This spectacle worked me up to a pitch of distraction. I
screamed out, and would have said, ‘Hold, barbarians!’ but my voice
failed me; and indeed my cries would have signified nothing. After you
had been severely whipped, I said to myself, ‘How is it possible
that the lovely Candide and the sage Pangloss should be at Lisbon, the
one to receive a hundred lashes, and the other to be hanged by order
of My Lord Inquisitor, of whom I am so great a favorite? Pangloss
deceived me most cruelly, in saying that everything is for the best.’

“Thus agitated and perplexed, now distracted and lost, now half dead
with grief, I revolved in my mind the murder of my father, mother, and
brother, committed before my eyes; the insolence of the rascally
Bulgarian soldier; the wound he gave me in the groin; my servitude; my
being a cook-wench to my Bulgarian captain; my subjection to the
hateful Jew, and my cruel Inquisitor; the hanging of Doctor
Pangloss; the Miserere sung while you were being whipped; and
particularly the kiss I gave you behind the screen, the last day I
ever beheld you. I returned thanks to God for having brought you to
the place where I was, after so many trials. I charged the old woman
who attends me to bring you hither as soon as was convenient. She
has punctually executed my orders, and I now enjoy the inexpressible
satisfaction of seeing you, hearing you, and speaking to you. But
you must certainly be half-dead with hunger; I myself have a great
inclination to eat, and so let us sit down to supper.”

Upon this the two lovers immediately placed themselves at table,
and, after having supped, they returned to seat themselves again on
the magnificent sofa already mentioned, where they were in amorous
dalliance, when Senor Don Issachar, one of the masters of the house,
entered unexpectedly; it was the Sabbath day, and he came to enjoy his
privilege, and sigh forth his passion at the feet of the fair Cunegund.

 

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