18. What They Saw In The Country Of Eldorado
From Candide by Voltaire (1759)

Cacambo could not conceal his curiosity from his landlord.

"For my part," said the latter to him, "I am very ignorant, and I am well aware of it; but we have an old man here, who has retired from court, and is reckoned both the wisest and most communicative person in the kingdom."

So saying, without any more ado, he conducted Cacambo to the old man's house. Candide acted now only the second personage, and followed his servant. They entered into a very plain house, for the door was nothing but silver, and the ceilings nothing but gold, but finished with so much taste, that the handsomest ceilings of Europe did not surpass them. The ante-chamber was indeed only covered with rubies and emeralds, but the order in which every thing was arranged made amends for this great simplicity.

The old gentleman received the two strangers on a sofa stuffed with the feathers of humming birds, and ordered them to be served with liquors in vessels of diamond; after which he satisfied their curiosity in the following manner.

"I am now in my hundred and seventy-second year, and I have heard my deceased father, who was groom to his Majesty, mention the surprising revolutions of Peru, of which he was an eye-witness. The kingdom we are in at present is the ancient country of the Incas, who left it very indiscreetly, in order to conquer one part of the world; instead of doing which, they themselves were all destroyed by the Spaniards."
"The princes of their family who remained in their native country were more wise; they made a law, by the unanimous consent of their whole nation, that none of our inhabitants should ever go out of our little kingdom; and it is owing to this that we have preserved both our innocence and our happiness. The Spaniards have had some confused idea of this country, and have called it Eldorado; and an Englishman, named Sir Walter Raleigh, has been on our coasts, above a hundred years ago; but as we are surrounded by inaccessible rocks and precipices, we have hitherto been sheltered from the rapacity of the European nations, who are inspired with an insensate rage for the stones and dirt of our land; to possess these, I verily believe they would not hesitate a moment to murder us all."

The conference between Candide and the old man was pretty long, and turned upon the form of government, the manners, the women, the public amusements, and the arts of Eldorado. At last, Candide, who had always a taste for Metaphysics, bid Cacambo ask if there was any religion in that country?

The old gentleman, reddening a little,

"How is it possible," said he, "that you should question it? Do you take us for ungrateful wretches?"

Cacambo then humbly asked him, what the religion of Eldorado was? This made the old gentleman redden again.

"Can there be more religions than one?" said he, "we profess, I believe, the religion of the whole world; we worship the deity from evening to morning."
"Do you worship one God?" said Cacambo, who still acted as interpreter in explaining Candide's doubts.
"You may be sure we do," said the old man, "since it is evident there can be neither two, nor three, nor four. I must say, that the people of your world propose very odd questions."

Candide was not yet wearied in interrogating the good old man; he wanted to know how they prayed to God in Eldorado.

"We never pray at all," said the respectable sage, "we have nothing to ask of him; he has given us all we need, and we incessantly return him thanks."

Candide had a curiosity to see their priests, and bid Cacambo ask, where they were. This made the old gentleman smile.

"My friends," said he, "we are all of us priests; the king, and the heads of each family, sing their songs of thanksgiving every morning, accompanied by five or six thousand musicians."
"What!" said Cacambo, "have you no clerics to preach, to dispute, to tyrannize, to set people together by the ears, and to get those burnt who are not of the same opinions as themselves?"
"We must be very great fools indeed if we had," said the old gentleman, "we are all of us of the same opinion, here, and we don't understand what you mean by clerics."

Candide was in an ecstasy during all this discourse, and said to himself,

"This place is vastly different from Westphalia, and my lord the Baron's castle. If our friend Pangloss had seen Eldorado, he would never have maintained, that nothing upon earth could surpass the castle of Thunder-ten-tronckh. It is plain that everybody should travel."

After this long conversation was finished, the good old man ordered a coach and six sheep to be got ready, and twelve of his domestics to conduct the ,and to the court.

"Excuse me," says he to them, "if my age deprives me of the honour of attending you. The king will receive you in a manner that you will not be displeased with, and you will, I doubt not, make allowance for the customs of the country, if you should meet with anything that you disapprove of."

Candide and Cacambo got into the coach, and the six sheep were so fleet, that in less than four hours they reached the King's palace, which was situated at one end of the metropolis. The gate was two hundred and twenty feet high, and one hundred broad; it is impossible to describe the materials it was composed of. But one may easily guess, that it must have prodigiously surpassed those stones, and the sand which we call gold and jewels.

Candide and Cacambo, on their alighting from the coach, were received by twenty maids of honour, of an exquisite beauty, who conducted them to the baths, and presented them with robes made of the down of humming-birds; after which, the great officers and their ladies introduced them into his Majesty's apartment, between two rows of musicians, consisting of a thousand in each, according to the custom of the country.

When they approached the foot of the throne, Cacambo asked one of the great officers in what manner they were to behave when they went to pay their respects to his Majesty; whether they were to fall down on their knees, or their bellies; whether they were to put their hands upon their heads or upon their backs; whether they were to lick up the dust of the room; and, in a word, what the ceremony was?

"The custom is," said the great officer, "to embrace the King, and kiss him on both cheeks."

Candide and Cacambo accordingly clasped his Majesty round the neck, who received them in the most polite manner imaginable, and very genteelly invited them to sup with him.

In the interim, they showed them the city, the public edifices, that seemed almost to touch the clouds; the market places, embellished with a thousand columns; fountains of pure water, besides others of rose-water, and the liquors that are extracted from the sugar canes, which played continually in the squares, which were paved with a kind of precious stones, that diffused a fragrance like that of cloves or cinnamon. Candide asking them to show them their courts of justice, and their parliament house, they told him they had none, and that they were strangers to law-suits. He then inquired if they had any prisons, and was told they had not. What surprised him most, and gave him the greatest pleasure, was the palace of sciences, in which he saw a gallery two thousand paces in length, full of mathematical instruments and scientific apparatus.

After having spent the afternoon in going over about a thousandth part of the city, they were re-conducted to the palace. Candide seated himself at table with his Majesty, his valet Cacambo, and a great many ladies. Never was there a better entertainment; and never was more wit shown at table than what his Majesty displayed. Cacambo interpreted the King's repartees to Candide, and though they were translated, they appeared excellent repartees still; a thing which surprised Candide about as much as anything else.

They spent a whole month in this hospitable manner; Candide continually remarking to Cacambo,

"I must say it again and again, my friend, that the castle where I was born was nothing in comparison to the country where we are now; but yet Miss Cunegonde is not here, and without doubt you have left a sweetheart behind you in Europe. If we stay where we are, we shall be looked upon only as other folks; whereas, if we return to our own world, only with twelve sheep loaded with pebbles of Eldorado, we shall be richer than all the kings put together; we shall have no need to be afraid of the inquisitors, and we may easily recover Miss Cunegonde."

This proposal was extremely agreeable to Cacambo; so fond are we of running about, of making a figure among our countrymen, of telling our exploits, and what we have seen in our travels, that these two really happy men resolved to be no longer so, and accordingly asked his Majesty's leave to depart.

"You are very foolish," said his Majesty to them. "I am not ignorant that my country is a small affair, but when one is well off it's best to keep so. I certainly have no right to detain strangers; it is a degree of tyranny inconsistent with our customs and laws; all men are free; you may depart when you please; but you cannot get away without the greatest difficulty. It is impossible to go against the current up the rapid river which runs under the rocks; your passage hither was a kind of miracle. The mountains which surround my kingdom are a thousand feet high, and as steep as a wall; they are at least ten leagues over, and their descent is a succession of precipices. However, since you seem determined to leave us, I will immediately give orders to the constructors of my machines, to make one to transport you comfortably. When they have conveyed you to the other side of the mountains, no one must attend you; because my subjects have made a vow never to pass beyond them, and they are too wise to break it. There is nothing else you can ask of me which shall not be granted."
"We ask your Majesty," said Cacambo, very eagerly, "only a few sheep loaded with provisions, together with some of the common stones and dirt of your country."

The King laughed heartily.

"I cannot," said he, "conceive what pleasure you Europeans find in our yellow clay; but you are welcome to take as much of it as you please, and much good may it do you."

He gave immediate orders to his engineers to construct a machine to hoist up and transport these two extraordinary persons out of his kingdom. Three thousand able mechanics set to work, and in a fortnight's time the machine was completed, which cost no more than twenty millions sterling of their currency.

Candide and Cacambo were both placed on the machine, together with two large red sheep bridled and saddled for them to ride on, when they were over the mountains, twenty sheep of burden, loaded with provisions, thirty with the greatest curiosities of the country, by way of present, and fifty with gold, precious stones, and diamonds. The King, after tenderly embracing the two vagabonds, took his leave of them.

It was a very fine spectacle to see them depart, and the ingenious manner in which they and the sheep were hoisted over the mountains. The contrivers of the machine took their leave of them, after having got them safe over, and now Candide had no other desire and no other aim, than to go to present his sheep to Miss Cunegonde.

"We have now got enough," said he, "to pay for the ransom of Miss Cunegonde, no matter what price the governor of Buenos-Ayres puts upon her. Let us march towards Cayenne, there take shipping, and then we will determine what kingdom to make a purchase of."
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