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▶  More from Fiction The Old Conductress
‘Handcuffed’
The Old Conductress: Voltaire’s Candide, Chapter 2, pages 7-10


After being beaten, kicked and disowned for class-mixing, Candide wanders about…

“What Befell Candide Among the Bulgarians”

In this lonely chapter of life, the Youthful Optimist comes to the gravity, the hub, the center of the wheel of early modern life, an Inn, and is befriended by two steadfast men dressed in blue who offer him hospitality and a drink. Candide protests that he deserves not the honor of dinning with these men and that he has no money and they reply that a young man of his height never need pay for anything. The men insist that Candide accept a few crowns to help him on his way and refuse his offer of a note of intention to repay. The men are quite pleased that Candide is five feet and five inches tall and insist the three toast the King of the Bulgarians, after which the men declare…

“Bravo! You are now the support, the defender, the hero of the Bulgarians; your fortune is made; you are in the high road to glory.”

Then they handcuffed him as a slave soldier to an alien king in exactly the manner by which most princes, kings and nations of the day staffed their armed forces, by abducting and bonding young men as war slaves.

The standard punishment of a slave, 30 blows with a cane, is administered to Candide as he trains, until he becomes a competent soldier. Candide then became possessed of a sinful yearning:

“One fine spring morning, he took it in his head to take a walk, and he marched straight forward, conceiving it to be a privilege of the human species, as well as of the brute creation, to make use of their legs how and when they pleased.”

Candide is overtaken by grenadiers, six-foot tall elite soldiers charged with herding lesser meat-puppets into the slaughterhouse of nations that was 18th century warfare and is given a choice of firing squad or running the gauntlet and unwisely takes the gauntlet and is beaten savagely with upwards of 2,000 strokes by every man in his regiment.

The King of the Bulgarians, seeing Candide’s torment, inquired as to his crime and was moved to pity when he learned that the beaten youth:

“…was a young metaphysician, entirely ignorant of the world…”

This was a legendary boon to the fallen aristocrat [which Candide was, though a bastard] with men such as Jemmy Annelsey and an African prince befriended by Oglethorpe, relieved of their bondage by men of higher birth who had taken pity on one of their own caste cousins fallen into the common reality of servitude from their “terrestrial paradise” of class privilege.

But war looms…

Night City: The Short Fiction of James LaFond: 2015-16
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