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‘Of a Mongrel Breed’
The Old Conductress: Voltaire’s Candide, Chapter 11, pages 41-45
© 2020 James LaFond
MAY/25/20
The History of the Old Woman
“I have not always been blear-eyed. My nose did no always touch my chin; nor was I always a servant.”
So the old woman’s overture paints the picture of the reverse end of the scale of charm Cunegund, for all her misfortunes, was still ascending. The old woman had been the most beautiful woman in Italy. She was educated, cultured, so beautiful that her slave girls [maids were nothing else] longed to be as ravishing as she was either from the front or the back so that “all men longed to be in their places.”
She was betrothed to a prince, whose concubine poisoned him in jealousy, and she thence went on a cruise to one of the family estates. Her ship was taken by pirates, the Italian soldiers begging for their life and not fighting. The Islamic pirates searched the women’s various orifices for jewels.
“I need not tell you how great a hardship it was for a young princess and her mother to be made slaves and carried to Morocco.”
The captain, “a hideous Negro,” raped her and she was a virgin no more. Voltaire then has the old woman paint a picture of Morocco nearly exact to that reported by Thomas Pellow, escaped Welsh slave of Africans, describing the very civil war Thomas fought in, “…of backs against blacks, of tawnies against tawnies, and of mulattoes against mulattoes.”
Her rapist and his crew, captives and attackers, men and women of all races, are then butchered in a terrible battle and only the princess survives, found by a fair-faced man who recognizes her.
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