19. Surinam
From Candide by Voltaire (1759)

What happened to them at Surinam, and how Candide became acquainted with Martin.

THE first day's journey of our two travellers was very agreeable, they being elated with the idea of finding themselves masters of more treasure than Asia, Europe or Africa could scrape together. Candide was so transported, that he carved the name of Cunegonde upon almost every tree that he came to. The second day, two of their sheep sank in a morass, and were lost, with all that they carried; two others died of fatigue a few days after; seven or eight died at once of want, in a desert; and some few days after, some others fell down a precipice. In short, after a march of one hundred days, their whole flock amounted to no more than two sheep.

"My friend," said Candide to Cacambo, "you see how perishable the riches of this world are; there is nothing durable, nothing to be depended on but virtue, and the happiness of once more seeing Miss Cunegonde."
"I grant it," said Cacambo, "but we have still two sheep left, besides more treasure than ever the King of Spain was master of; and I see a town a good way off, that I take to be Surinam, belonging to the Dutch. We are at the end of our troubles, and at the beginning of our happiness."

As they drew nigh to the city, they saw a negro stretched on the ground, more than half naked, having only a pair of drawers of blue cloth; the poor fellow had lost his left leg and his right hand.

"Good God!" said Candide to him, in Dutch, "what do you here, in this terrible condition?"
"I am waiting for my master, Mlynheer Vanderdendur, the great merchant," replied the negro.
"And was it Mynheer Vanderdendur that used you in this manner?" said Candide.
"Yes sir," said the negro, "it is the custom of the country. They give us a pair of linen drawers for our whole clothing twice a year. If we should chance to have one of our fingers caught in the mill, as we are working in the sugarhouses, they cut off our hand; if we offer to run away, they cut off one of our legs; and I have had the misfortune to be found guilty of both these offences. Such are the conditions on which you eat sugar in Europe! Yet when my mother sold me for ten crowns at Patagonia on the coast of Guinea, she said to me, My dear boy, bless our fetiches, adore them always, they will make you live happily. You have the honour to be a slave to our lords, the whites, and will by that means be in a way of making the fortunes both of your father and your mother. Alas! I do not know whether I have made their fortunes, but I am sure they have not made mine. The dogs, monkeys, and parrots are a thousand times less wretched than we. The Dutch missionaries who converted me, told me every Sunday, that we all are sons of Adam, both blacks and whites. I am not a genealogist, myself; but if these preachers speak the truth, we are all cousins-german; and you must own that it is a shocking thing to use one's relations in this barbarous manner."
"Ah! Pangloss," cried Candide, "you never dreamed of such an abominable piece of cruelty and villainy! there is an end of the matter. I see I must at last renounce your optimism."
"What do you mean by optimism?" said Cacambo.
"Why," said Candide, "it is the folly of maintaining that everything is right, when it is wrong."

He then looked upon the negro with tears in his eyes, and entered Surinam weeping.

Their first business was to inquire whether there was any vessel in the harbor wherein they could hire a passage for Buenos-Ayres. The person they applied to was no other than a Spanish commander, who offered to make an honourable bargain with them. He appointed to meet them at an inn, whither Candide and the faithful Cacambo went to wait for him with their two sheep.

Candide whose heart was always on his lips, told the Spaniard his adventures, and confessed that he was determined to run away with Miss Cunegonde.

"I shall take care how I carry you to Buenos-Ayres, if that is the case," said the captain, "for I should be hanged, and so would you. The fair Cunegonde is my Lord's favorite mistress."

This was a thunder-clap to Candide; he wept a long time, but at last, drawing Cacambo aside,

"I will tell you, my dear friend," said he, "what I would have you do. We have each of us about five or six millions of diamonds in our pocket; and as you are smarter at a bargain than I am, go you and fetch Miss Cunegonde from Buenos-Ayres. If the governor should make any objection, give him a million diamonds; if that does not succeed, give him two millions. As you did not murder the inquisitor, they will have no complaint against you; in the mean time, I will fit out another vessel, and go and wait for you at Venice; that is a safe place, and I need not be afraid there of Bulgarians, Abates, Jews, or Inquisitors."

Cacambo applauded this sage resolution. He was, indeed, under great concern at leaving so good a master, who used him like a familiar friend; but the pleasure of being serviceable to him soon got the better of the sorrow he felt in parting with him.

They took leave of each other with tears; Candide recommending to him at the same time not to forget their good old woman. The same day Cacambo set sail. This Cacambo was a very honest fellow.

Candide stayed some time at Surinam, waiting for another vessel to carry him and the two remaining sheep to Italy. He hired servants, and purchased everything necessary for so long a voyage; at last, Mynheer Vanderdendur, the master of a large vessel, came and offered his service.

"What will you charge?" said he to the Dutchman, "for carrying me, my servants, goods, and the two sheep you see here, directly to Venice?"

The master of the vessel asked ten thousand piastres; Candide made no objection.

"Oh, oh," said the crafty Vanderdendur to himself, after he had left him, "if this stranger can give ten thousand piastres, without any words about it, he must be immensely rich."

Returning a few minutes after, he let him know that he could not go for less than twenty thousand.

"Well, you shall have twenty thousand then," said Candide.
"Odso," said the captain with a low voice, "this man makes no more of twenty thousand piastres than he did of ten!"

He then returned a second time, and said that he could not carry him to Venice for less than thirty thousand piastres.

"You shall have thirty thousand then," replied Candide.
"Oh, oh," said the Dutch trader again to himself, "this man makes nothing of thirty thousand piastres; no doubt but the two sheep are loaded with immense treasures; let us stand out no longer; let us, however, finger the thirty thousand piastres first, and then we shall see."

Candide sold two small diamonds, the least of which was worth more than what the captain had asked. He advanced him the money. The two sheep were put aboard the vessel. Candide followed in a small wherry, intending to join the vessel in the road. But the captain improved his opportunity, unfurled sails, and unmoored. The wind being favorable, Candide, distracted and out of his wits, soon lost sight of him.

"Ah!" cried he, "this is a trick worthy of the old world."

He returned on shore, overwhelmed with sorrow; for he had lost more than would have made the fortunes of twenty princes.

He ran immediately to the Dutch judge, and as he hardly knew what he was about, knocked very loud at the door; he went in, told his case, and raised his voice a little higher than became him. The judge began by making him pay ten thousand piastres for the noise he had made; after which he heard him very patiently, and promised to examine into the affair, as soon as ever the trader should return; at the same time, making him pay ten thousand piastres more for the expense of hearing his case.

This proceeding made Candide stark mad. He had indeed experienced misfortunes a thousand times more affecting, but the coolness of the judge, and the knavish trick of the master of the vessel who had robbed him, fired his spirits, and plunged him into a profound melancholy. The villainy of mankind presented itself to his mind in all its deformity, and he dwelt upon nothing but the most dismal ideas. At last, a French vessel being ready to sail for Bordeaux, as he had no sheep loaded with diamonds to carry with him, he paid the common price as a cabin passenger, and ordered the crier to give notice all over the city, that he would pay the passage and board of any honest man that would go the voyage with him, and give him two thousand piastres besides, on condition that he would make it appear, that he was the most disgusted with his condition, and the most wretched person in that province.

A vast multitude of candidates presented themselves, enough to have manned a fleet. Candide selected twenty from among them, who seemed to have the best pretensions, and to be the most sociable. But as every one of them thought the preference due to himself, he invited them all to his inn, and gave them a supper, on condition that each one of them should take an oath, that he would relate his adventures faithfully, promising to choose that person who seemed to be the greatest object of pity, and had the greatest reason to be dissatisfied with his lot, and to give a small present to the rest, as a recompense for their trouble.

The assembly continued till four o'clock the next morning. As Candide was employed in hearing their adventures, he could not help recollecting what the old woman had told him during their voyage to Buenos-Ayres, and the bet she had made, that there was not a single person in the ship that had not experienced some terrible misfortune. He thought of Pangloss at every adventure that was related.

"That Pangloss," said he, "would be hard put to it to defend his system now. I wish he was but here. Indeed, if everything is ordered for the best, it must be at Eldorado, but nowhere else on earth."

At last, he decided in favour of a poor scholar, who had written ten years for the booksellers at Amsterdam. For he thought there could not be a more disagreeable employment in the world.

This scholar, though in other respects a good sort of a man, had been robbed by his wife, beat by his son, abandoned by his daughter, who got a Portuguese to run away with her; had been stripped of a small employment, which was all he had to subsist on, and was persecuted by the clerics at Surinam, because they took him for a Socinian.

It must indeed be confessed, that most of the other candidates were as unhappy as he; but he met with a preference, because Candide thought that a scholar was best calculated to amuse him during the voyage. All his competitors thought that Candide did them a great piece of injustice; but he appeased them by giving each of them a hundred piastres.

« NEXT » « Candide » « Classics » « Library »