“How Candide found Cunégonde and the old woman”
On their trip to Propontis, Candide and his companions (Martin, Cacambo, Pangloss, and the baron) philosophize about causes and effects, physical and moral evil, freedom and necessity, and the random but necessary events of this universe. They finally arrive at the home of the Prince of Transylvania on the shore of Propontis. The first two things they see are the very things they came for: Cunégonde and the old woman. They are hanging towels out on the line to dry.
The baron turns pale at the sight. Candide gazes upon his once-beautiful beloved who is now brown and withered. She has bloodshot eyes, shrunken breasts, wrinkled cheeks, and raw, chapped hands; his first reaction is to recoil several paces in horror. Candide is a man of good manners, though, and they compel him to step forward. Cunégonde hugs her brother and Candide, and the men then embrace the old woman. Candide promptly purchases both women’s freedom.
Nearby is a farm, and Cunégonde suggests that it will be a good place for Candide and the others to wait for a “better destiny.” No one has told Cunégonde that she has grown ugly, so she is not aware of the dramatic changes she has undergone. She reminds Candide of his promises with such an authoritative tone that he is afraid to refuse her, so he asks the young baron for permission to marry his sister.
The baron again seems to be offended by the nerve of a commoner in asking to marry a noblewoman. He exclaims that he will not allow “such baseness on her part” or such insolence on Candide’s. He refuses to allow others to criticize him for consenting to such a shameful match. If he allowed this marriage to happen, his sister’s children would never be able to become part of the German nobility. He vows that Cunégonde will never marry anyone but someone of her own class—a German baron.
Cunégonde is distraught, throwing herself at her brother’s feet and crying profusely; however, her brother remains unmoving in his position. Candide calls the baron a fool, for Candide bought his freedom from the galleys and paid his ransom. He has already done the same for his sister. Though she is dried up and ugly, Candide is still willing to make Cunégonde his wife. And after all of this, the young baron still intends to deny the marriage. Candide is angry enough to kill the baron again, but the baron is steadfast, saying Candide may kill him again, but he will never let the marriage occur while he is alive.