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Chapter 17 – Candide and His Valet Arrive in the Country of El Dorado-What They Saw There

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When to the frontiers of the Oreillons, said Cacambo to Candide,
“You see, this hemisphere is not better than the other; now take my
advice and let us return to Europe by the shortest way possible.”

“But how can we get back?” said Candide; “and whither shall we go?
To my own country? The Bulgarians and the Abares are laying that waste
with fire and sword. Or shall we go to Portugal? There I shall be
burned; and if we abide here we are every moment in danger of being
spitted. But how can I bring myself to quit that part of the world
where my dear Miss Cunegund has her residence?”

“Let us return towards Cayenne,” said Cacambo. “There we shall
meet with some Frenchmen, for you know those gentry ramble all over
the world. Perhaps they will assist us, and God will look with pity on
our distress.”

It was not so easy to get to Cayenne. They knew pretty nearly
whereabouts it lay; but the mountains, rivers, precipices, robbers,
savages, were dreadful obstacles in the way. Their horses died with
fatigue and their provisions were at an end. They subsisted a whole
month on wild fruit, till at length they came to a little river
bordered with cocoa trees; the sight of which at once revived their
drooping spirits and furnished nourishment for their enfeebled bodies.

Cacambo, who was always giving as good advice as the old woman
herself, said to Candide, “You see there is no holding out any longer;
we have traveled enough on foot. I spy an empty canoe near the river
side; let us fill it with cocoanuts, get into it, and go down with the
stream; a river always leads to some inhabited place. If we do not
meet with agreeable things, we shall at least meet with something
new.”

“Agreed,” replied Candide; “let us recommend ourselves to
Providence.”

They rowed a few leagues down the river, the banks of which were
in some places covered with flowers; in others barren; in some parts
smooth and level, and in others steep and rugged. The stream widened
as they went further on, till at length it passed under one of the
frightful rocks, whose summits seemed to reach the clouds. Here our
two travelers had the courage to commit themselves to the stream,
which, contracting in this part, hurried them along with a dreadful
noise and rapidity.

At the end of four and twenty hours they saw daylight again; but
their canoe was dashed to pieces against the rocks. They were
obliged to creep along, from rock to rock, for the space of a
league, till at length a spacious plain presented itself to their
sight. This place was bounded by a chain of inaccessible mountains.
The country appeared cultivated equally for pleasure and to produce
the necessaries of life. The useful and agreeable were here equally
blended. The roads were covered, or rather adorned, with carriages
formed of glittering materials, in which were men and women of a
surprising beauty, drawn with great rapidity by red sheep of a very
large size; which far surpassed the finest coursers of Andalusian
Tetuan, or Mecquinez.

“Here is a country, however,” said Candide, “preferable to
Westphalia.”

He and Cacambo landed near the first village they saw, at the
entrance of which they perceived some children covered with tattered
garments of the richest brocade, playing at quoits. Our two
inhabitants of the other hemisphere amused themselves greatly with
what they saw. The quoits were large, round pieces, yellow, red, and
green, which cast a most glorious luster. Our travelers picked some of
them up, and they proved to be gold, emeralds, rubies, and diamonds;
the least of which would have been the greatest ornament to the superb
throne of the Great Mogul.

“Without doubt,” said Cacambo, “those children must be the King’s
sons that are playing at quoits.”

As he was uttering these words the schoolmaster of the village
appeared, who came to call the children to school.

“There,” said Candide, “is the preceptor of the royal family.”

The little ragamuffins immediately quitted their diversion,
leaving the quoits on the ground with all their other playthings.
Candide gathered them up, ran to the schoolmaster, and, with a most
respectful bow, presented them to him, giving him to understand by
signs that their Royal Highnesses had forgot their gold and precious
stones. The schoolmaster, with a smile, flung them upon the ground,
then examining Candide from head to foot with an air of admiration, he
turned his back and went on his way.

Our travelers took care, however, to gather up the gold, the rubies,
and the emeralds.

“Where are we?” cried Candide. “The King’s children in this
country must have an excellent education, since they are taught to
show such a contempt for gold and precious stones.”

Cacambo was as much surprised as his master. They then drew near the
first house in the village, which was built after the manner of a
European palace. There was a crowd of people about the door, and a
still greater number in the house. The sound of the most delightful
instruments of music was heard, and the most agreeable smell came from
the kitchen. Cacambo went up to the door and heard those within
talking in the Peruvian language, which was his mother tongue; for
everyone knows that Cacambo was born in a village of Tucuman, where no
other language is spoken.

“I will be your interpreter here,” said he to Candide. “Let us go
in; this is an eating house.”

Immediately two waiters and two servant-girls, dressed in cloth of
gold, and their hair braided with ribbons of tissue, accosted the
strangers and invited them to sit down to the ordinary. Their dinner
consisted of four dishes of different soups, each garnished with two
young paroquets, a large dish of bouille that weighed two hundred
weight, two roasted monkeys of a delicious flavor, three hundred
hummingbirds in one dish, and six hundred flybirds in another; some
excellent ragouts, delicate tarts, and the whole served up in dishes
of rock-crystal. Several sorts of liquors, extracted from the
sugarcane, were handed about by the servants who attended.

Most of the company were chapmen and wagoners, all extremely polite;
they asked Cacambo a few questions with the utmost discretion and
circumspection; and replied to his in a most obliging and satisfactory
manner.

As soon as dinner was over, both Candide and Cacambo thought they
should pay very handsomely for their entertainment by laying down
two of those large gold pieces which they had picked off the ground;
but the landlord and landlady burst into a fit of laughing and held
their sides for some time.

When the fit was over, the landlord said, “Gentlemen, I plainly
perceive you are strangers, and such we are not accustomed to
charge; pardon us, therefore, for laughing when you offered us the
common pebbles of our highways for payment of your reckoning. To be
sure, you have none of the coin of this kingdom; but there is no
necessity of having any money at all to dine in this house. All the
inns, which are established for the convenience of those who carry
on the trade of this nation, are maintained by the government. You
have found but very indifferent entertainment here, because this is
only a poor village; but in almost every other of these public
houses you will meet with a reception worthy of persons of your
merit.”

Cacambo explained the whole of this speech of the landlord to
Candide, who listened to it with the same astonishment with which
his friend communicated it.

“What sort of a country is this,” said the one to the other, “that
is unknown to all the world; and in which Nature has everywhere so
different an appearance to what she has in ours? Possibly this is that
part of the globe where everywhere is right, for there must
certainly be some such place. And, for all that Master Pangloss
could say, I often perceived that things went very ill in Westphalia.”

 

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