17. Eldorado
From Candide by Voltaire (1759)

The arrival of Candide and his man at the country of Eldorado.

WHEN they had reached the frontiers of the Oreillons,

"You see now," said Cacambo to Candide, "that this part of the world is not one pin better than the other. Take a fool's advice for once, and let us return to Europe as fast as ever we can."
"How is that possible?" said Candide, "and pray what part of it would you have us go to? If I go to my own country, the Bulgarians and Arabians kill all they meet with there; if I return to Portugal, I am sure I shall be burnt alive; if we stay in this country, we run the hazard of being roasted every moment. And again, how can I think of leaving that part of the globe where Miss Cunegonde lives?"
"Why, then, let us take our course towards Cayenne," said Cacambo, "we shall meet with some Frenchmen there, for you know they are to be met with all over the globe; perhaps they will give us some relief, and God may have pity upon us."

It was no easy matter for them to go to Cayenne, as they did not know whereabouts it lay; besides, mountains, rivers, precipices, banditti, and savages, were difficulties they were sure to encounter in their journey. Their horses died with fatigue, and their provisions were soon consumed. After having lived a whole month on the wild fruits, they found themselves on the banks of a small river, which was bordered by cocoa trees, which both preserved their lives and kept up their hopes.

Cacambo, who was on all occasions as good a counsellor as the old woman, said to Candide,

"We can hold out no longer; we have walked enough already, and here's an empty canoe upon the shore, let's fill it with cocoa, then get on board, and let it drift with the stream. A river always runs to some inhabited place. If we don't meet with what we like, we are sure to meet with something new."
"Why, what you say is very right, then let us go," said Candide, "and recommend ourselves to the care of Providence."

They rowed some leagues between the two banks, which were enamelled with flowers in some places, in others barren, in some parts level, and in others very steep. The river grew broader as they proceeded, and at last, lost itself in a vault of frightful rocks, which reached as high as the clouds. Our two travellers still had the courage to trust themselves to the stream. The river now growing narrower drove them along with such rapidity and noise as filled them with the utmost horror. In about four and twenty hours they got sight of daylight again, but their canoe was dashed in pieces against the breakers. They were obliged to crawl from one rock to another for a whole league; after which. they came in sight of a spacious plain, bounded with inaccessible mountains. The country was highly cultivated, both for pleasure and profit; the useful and the ornamentai were most agreeably blended. The roads were covered, or, more properly speaking, were adorned, with carriages, whose figures and materials were very brilliant, they were full of men and women, of an extraordinary beauty, and were drawn with great swiftness, by large red sheep, which, for fleetness, surpassed the finest horses of Andalusia, Tetuan, or Mequinez.

"This certainly," said Candide, "is a better country than Westphalia."

He and Cacambo got on shore near the first village they came to. The very children of the village were dressed in gold brocades, all tattered, playing at quoits, at the entrance of the town. Our two travellers from the other world amused themselves with looking at them. The quoits were made of large round pieces, yellow, red, and green, and cast a surprising light. Our travellers' hands itched prodigiously to be fingering some of them; for they were almost certain that they were either gold, emeralds, or rubies; the least of which, would have been no small ornament to the throne of the Great Mogul.

"To be sure," said Cacambo, "these must be the children of the king of the country, diverting themselves at quoits."

The master of the village, coming at that instant to call them to school; "That's the preceptor to the royal family," cried Candide.

The little brats immediately quitted their play, leaving their quoits and other playthings behind them. Candide picked them up, ran to the schoolmaster, and presented them to him with a great deal of humility, acquainting him, by signs, that their Royal Hignesses had forgot their gold and jewels. The master of the village smiled, and flung them upon the ground; and having stared at Candide with some degree of surprise, walked off.

Our travellers did not fail immediately to pick up the gold, rubies, and emeralds.

"Where have we got to now?" cried Candide. "The princes of the blood must certainly be well educated here, since they are taught to despise both gold and jewels."

Cacambo was as much surprised as Candide. At length they drew near to the first house in the village, which was built like one of our European palaces. There was a vast crowd of people at the door, and still a greater within. They heard very good music, and their nostrils were saluted by a most refreshing smell from the kitchen.

Cacambo went up to the door, and heard them speaking the Peruvian language, which was his mother-tongue; for every one of my readers knows that Cacambo was born at Tucuman, a village where they make use of no other language.

"I'll be your interpreter, master," cried Cacambo, in the greatest rapture, "this is a tavern, in with you, in with you."

Immediately, two waiters and two maids that belonged to the house, dressed in cloths of gold tissue, and having their hair tied back with ribbands, invited them to sit down to table with the landlord. They served up four soups, each garnished with two parroquets, a boiled vulture that weighed about two hundred pounds, two apes roasted, of an excellent taste, three hundred humming birds in one plate, and six hundred fly-birds in another; together with exquisite ragouts, and the most delicious tarts, all in plates of a species of rock-crystal. After which, the lads and lasses served them with a great variety of liquors made from the sugar cane.

The guests were mostly tradesmen and carriers, all extremely polite, who asked some questions of Cacambo, with the greatest discretion and circumspection, and received satisfactory answers.

When the repast was ended, Cacambo and Candide thought to discharge their reckoning, by putting down two of the large pieces of gold which they had picked up. But the landlord and landlady burst into a loud fit of laughing, and could not restrain it for some time. Recovering themselves at last.

"Gentlemen," says the landlord, "we can see pretty well that you are strangers, we are not much used to such guests here. Pardon us for laughing, when you offered us the stones of our highways in discharge of your reckoning. It is plain, you have got none of the money of this kingdom; but there is no occasion for it, in order to dine here. All the inns, which are established for the conveniency of trade, are maintained by the government. You have had but a sorry entertainment here, because this is but a poor village; but anywhere else, you will be sure to be received in a manner suitable to your merit."

Cacambo explained the host's speech to Candide, who heard it with as much astonishment and wonder as his friend Cacambo interpreted it.

"What country can this be," said they to each other, "which is unknown to the rest of world, and of so different a nature from ours? it is probably that country where everything really is for the best; for it is absolutely necessary that there should be one of that sort. And in spite of all Doctor Pangloss' arguments, I could not help thinking that things were very bad in Westphalia."
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