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▶  More from Fiction The Old Conductress
‘A Thousand Pities’
The Old Conductress: Voltaire’s Candide, Chapter 13, pages 51-54
How Candide was Obliged to Leave the Fair Cunegund and the Old Woman
The journey to Argentina continues with them asking all those on board about their life’s fortunes and determining that life had been miserable for them all.
Being greeted by the haughty and austere Governor, taking an obvious interest in Cunegund, the Governor demanded to know if Candide were her husband or brother. Though a lie would have saved him greatly, Candide was unable to misinform his master, who promptly appropriated Cunegund as his sexual property, an eventuality that the Old Woman saw as in her and Cunegund’s favor, who aggressively counsels that Cunegund is an idiot if she does not marry the governor.
As the Governor is wooing the erstwhile slave girl, officials of the inquisition arrived to hunt them and the old woman stage manages the affair so that she and her mistress were innocents and advises Candide to flee lest he be burned alive and there might be some chance that her new berth as the nanny to the governor’s wife be ruined.
She points out to Cunegund the very deep and ever present truth of life in the New World, that women are trapped in the coastal towns but that a man can seek a more active and possibly no less bitter fortune.
“You cannot run away, but you have nothing to fear, it was not you who killed My Lord Inquisitor: besides, as the Governor is in love with you, he will not suffer you to be ill-treated; therefore stand your ground.”
So fiction follows reality again in Candide, as the fortune of a fallen woman in the New World was best made by marrying into the master class, and the fortune of the fallen man by made possible by seeking opportunities as yet un-mastered by his betters.
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