FictionForest

Chapter 26 – Candide and Martin Sup with Six Sharpers-Who They Were

VoltaireNov 04, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

Light off Small Medium Large

One evening as Candide, with his attendant Martin, was going to
sit down to supper with some foreigners who lodged in the same inn
where they had taken up their quarters, a man with a face the color of
soot came behind him, and taking him by the arm, said, “Hold
yourself in readiness to go along with us; be sure you do not fail.”

Upon this, turning about to see from whom these words came, he
beheld Cacambo. Nothing but the sight of Miss Cunegund could have
given him greater joy and surprise. He was almost beside himself,
and embraced this dear friend.

“Cunegund!” said he, “Cunegund is come with you doubtless! Where,
where is she? Carry me to her this instant, that I may die with joy in
her presence.”

“Cunegund is not here,” answered Cacambo; “she is in
Constantinople.”

“Good heavens! in Constantinople! but no matter if she were in
China, I would fly thither. Quick, quick, dear Cacambo, let us be
gone.”

“Soft and fair,” said Cacambo, “stay till you have supped. I
cannot at present stay to say anything more to you; I am a slave,
and my master waits for me; I must go and attend him at table: but
mum! say not a word, only get your supper, and hold yourself in
readiness.”

Candide, divided between joy and grief, charmed to have thus met
with his faithful agent again, and surprised to hear he was a slave,
his heart palpitating, his senses confused, but full of the hopes of
recovering his dear Cunegund, sat down to table with Martin, who
beheld all these scenes with great unconcern, and with six
strangers, who had come to spend the Carnival at Venice.

Cacambo waited at table upon one of those strangers. When supper was
nearly over, he drew near to his master, and whispered in his ear:

“Sire, Your Majesty may go when you please; the ship is ready”;
and so saying he left the room.

The guests, surprised at what they had heard, looked at each other
without speaking a word; when another servant drawing near to his
master, in like manner said, “Sire, Your Majesty’s post-chaise is at
Padua, and the bark is ready.” The master made him a sign, and he
instantly withdrew.

The company all stared at each other again, and the general
astonishment was increased. A third servant then approached another of
the strangers, and said, “Sire, if Your Majesty will be advised by me,
you will not make any longer stay in this place; I will go and get
everything ready”; and instantly disappeared.

Candide and Martin then took it for granted that this was some of
the diversions of the Carnival, and that these were characters in
masquerade. Then a fourth domestic said to the fourth stranger,
“Your Majesty may set off when you please”; saying which, he went away
like the rest. A fifth valet said the same to a fifth master. But
the sixth domestic spoke in a different style to the person on whom he
waited, and who sat near to Candide.

“Troth, sir,” said he, “they will trust Your Majesty no longer,
nor myself neither; and we may both of us chance to be sent to jail
this very night; and therefore I shall take care of myself, and so
adieu.”

The servants being all gone, the six strangers, with Candide and
Martin, remained in a profound silence. At length Candide broke it
by saying:

“Gentlemen, this is a very singular joke upon my word; how came
you all to be kings? For my part I own frankly, that neither my friend
Martin here, nor myself, have any claim to royalty.”

Cacambo’s master then began, with great gravity, to deliver
himself thus in Italian:

“I am not joking in the least, my name is Achmet III. I was Grand
Sultan for many years; I dethroned my brother, my nephew dethroned me,
my viziers lost their heads, and I am condemned to end my days in
the old seraglio. My nephew, the Grand Sultan Mahomet, gives me
permission to travel sometimes for my health, and I am come to spend
the Carnival at Venice.”

A young man who sat by Achmet, spoke next, and said:

“My name is Ivan. I was once Emperor of all the Russians, but was
dethroned in my cradle. My parents were confined, and I was brought up
in a prison, yet I am sometimes allowed to travel, though always
with persons to keep a guard over me, and I come to spend the Carnival
at Venice.”

The third said:

“I am Charles Edward, King of England; my father has renounced his
right to the throne in my favor. I have fought in defense of my
rights, and near a thousand of my friends have had their hearts
taken out of their bodies alive and thrown in their faces. I have
myself been confined in a prison. I am going to Rome to visit the
King, my father, who was dethroned as well as myself; and my
grandfather and I have come to spend the Carnival at Venice.”

The fourth spoke thus:

“I am the King of Poland; the fortune of war has stripped me of my
hereditary dominions. My father experienced the same vicissitudes of
fate. I resign myself to the will of Providence, in the same manner as
Sultan Achmet, the Emperor Ivan, and King Charles Edward, whom God
long preserve; and I have come to spend the Carnival at Venice.”

The fifth said:

“I am King of Poland also. I have twice lost my kingdom; but
Providence has given me other dominions, where I have done more good
than all the Sarmatian kings put together were ever able to do on
the banks of the Vistula; I resign myself likewise to Providence;
and have come to spend the Carnival at Venice.”

It now came to the sixth monarch’s turn to speak. “Gentlemen,”
said he, “I am not so great a prince as the rest of you, it is true,
but I am, however, a crowned head. I am Theodore, elected King of
Corsica. I have had the title of Majesty, and am now hardly treated
with common civility. I have coined money, and am not now worth a
single ducat. I have had two secretaries, and am now without a
valet. I was once seated on a throne, and since that have lain upon
a truss of straw, in a common jail in London, and I very much fear I
shall meet with the same fate here in Venice, where I came, like
Your Majesties, to divert myself at the Carnival.”

The other five Kings listened to this speech with great attention;
it excited their compassion; each of them made the unhappy Theodore
a present of twenty sequins, and Candide gave him a diamond, worth
just a hundred times that sum.

“Who can this private person be,” said the five Kings to one
another, “who is able to give, and has actually given, a hundred times
as much as any of us?”

Just as they rose from table, in came four Serene Highnesses, who
had also been stripped of their territories by the fortune of war, and
had come to spend the remainder of the Carnival at Venice. Candide
took no manner of notice of them; for his thoughts were wholly
employed on his voyage to Constantinople, where he intended to go in
search of his lovely Miss Cunegund.

 

Leave a Reply