Part 4 out of 6
"You did not tell me that," cried the Piedmontese, turning to Leon.
"So you do not know that the Minister decided this morning to put down
your Society?" the cashier continued. "The Procureur-General has a list
of your names. You have been betrayed. They are busy drawing up the
indictment at this moment."
"Then was it you who betrayed him?" cried Aquilina, and with a hoarse
sound in her throat like the growl of a tigress she rose to her feet;
she seemed as if she would tear Castanier in pieces.
"You know me too well to believe it," Castanier retorted. Aquilina was
benumbed by his coolness.
"Then how did you know it?" she murmured.
"I did not know it until I went into the drawing-room; now I know
it--now I see and know all things, and can do all things."
The sergeant was overcome with amazement.
"Very well then, save him, save him, dear!" cried the girl, flinging
herself at Castanier's feet. "If nothing is impossible to you, save
him! I will love you, I will adore you, I will be your slave and not
your mistress. I will obey your wildest whims; you shall do as you will
with me. Yes, yes, I will give you more than love; you shall have a
daughter's devotion as well as ... Rodolphe! why will you not
understand! After all, however violent my passions may be, I shall be
yours forever! What should I say to persuade you? I will invent
pleasures ... I ... Great heavens! one moment! whatever you shall ask
of me--to fling myself from the window, for instance--you will need to
say but one word, 'Leon!' and I will plunge down into hell. I would
bear any torture, any pain of body or soul, anything you might inflict
Castanier heard her with indifference. For all answer, he indicated
Leon to her with a fiendish laugh.
"The guillotine is waiting for him," he repeated.
"No, no, no! He shall not leave this house. I will save him!" she
cried. "Yes; I will kill anyone who lays a finger upon him! Why will
you not save him?" she shrieked aloud; her eyes were blazing, her hair
unbound. "Can you save him?"
"I can do everything."
"Why do you not save him?"
"Why?" shouted Castanier, and his voice made the ceiling ring.--"Eh! it
is my revenge! Doing evil is my trade!"
"Die?" said Aquilina; "must he die, my lover? Is it possible?"
She sprang up and snatched a stiletto from a basket that stood on the
chest of drawers and went to Castanier, who began to laugh.
"You know very well that steel cannot hurt me now--"
Aquilina's arm suddenly dropped like a snapped harp string.
"Out with you, my good friend," said the cashier, turning to the
sergeant, "and go about your business."
He held out his hand; the other felt Castanier's superior power, and
could not choose but obey.
"This house is mine; I could send for the commissary of police if I
chose, and give you up as a man who has hidden himself on my premises,
but I would rather let you go; I am a fiend, I am not a spy."
"I shall follow him!" said Aquilina.
"Then follow him," returned Castanier.--"Here, Jenny--"
"Tell the porter to hail a cab for them.--Here, Naqui," said Castanier,
drawing a bundle of banknotes from his pocket; "you shall not go away
like a pauper from a man who loves you still."
He held out three hundred thousand francs. Aquilina took the notes,
flung them on the floor, spat on them, and trampled upon them in a
frenzy of despair.
"We will leave this house on foot," she cried, "without a farthing of
your money.--Jenny, stay where you are."
"Good evening!" answered the cashier, as he gathered up the notes
again. "I have come back from my journey.--Jenny," he added, looking at
the bewildered waiting maid, "you seem to me to be a good sort of girl.
You have no mistress now. Come here. This evening you shall have a
Aquilina, who felt safe nowhere, went at once with the sergeant to the
house of one of her friends. But all Leon's movements were suspiciously
watched by the police, and after a time he and three of his friends
were arrested. The whole story may be found in the newspapers of that
* * * * *
Castanier felt that he had undergone a mental as well as a physical
transformation. The Castanier of old no longer existed--the boy, the
young Lothario, the soldier who had proved his courage, who had been
tricked into a marriage and disillusioned, the cashier, the passionate
lover who had committed a crime for Aquilina's sake. His inmost nature
had suddenly asserted itself. His brain had expanded, his senses had
developed. His thoughts comprehended the whole world; he saw all the
things of earth as if he had been raised to some high pinnacle above
Until that evening at the play he had loved Aquilina to distraction.
Rather than give her up he would have shut his eyes to her
infidelities; and now all that blind passion had passed away as a cloud
vanishes in the sunlight.
Jenny was delighted to succeed to her mistress's position and fortune,
and did the cashier's will in all things; but Castanier, who could read
the inmost thoughts of the soul, discovered the real motive underlying
this purely physical devotion. He amused himself with her, however,
like a mischievous child who greedily sucks the juice of the cherry and
flings away the stone. The next morning at breakfast time, when she was
fully convinced that she was a lady and the mistress of the house,
Castanier uttered one by one the thoughts that filled her mind as she
drank her coffee.
"Do you know what you are thinking, child?" he said, smiling. "I will
tell you: 'So all that lovely rosewood furniture that I coveted so
much, and the pretty dresses that I used to try on, are mine now! All
on easy terms that madame refused, I do not know why. My word! if I
might drive about in a carriage, have jewels and pretty things, a box
at the theater, and put something by! with me he should lead a life of
pleasure fit to kill him if he were not as strong as a Turk! I never
saw such a man!'--Was not that just what you were thinking?" he went
on, and something in his voice made Jenny turn pale. "Well, yes, child;
you could not stand it, and I am sending you away for your own good;
you would perish in the attempt. Come, let us part good friends," and
he coolly dismissed her with a very small sum of money.
The first use that Castanier had promised himself that he would make of
the terrible power bought at the price of his eternal happiness, was
the full and complete indulgence of all his tastes.
He first put his affairs in order, readily settled his account with M.
de Nucingen, who found a worthy German to succeed him, and then
determined on a carouse worthy of the palmiest days of the Roman
Empire. He plunged into dissipation as recklessly as Belshazzar of old
went to that last feast in Babylon. Like Belshazzar, he saw clearly
through his revels a gleaming hand that traced his doom in letters of
flame, not on the narrow walls of the banqueting chamber, but over the
vast spaces of heaven that the rainbow spans. His feast was not,
indeed, an orgy confined within the limits of a banquet, for he
squandered all the powers of soul and body in exhausting all the
pleasures of earth. The table was in some sort earth itself, the earth
that trembled beneath his feet. He was the last festival of the
reckless spendthrift who has thrown all prudence to the winds. The
devil had given him the key of the storehouse of human pleasures; he
had filled and refilled his hands, and he was fast nearing the bottom.
In a moment he had felt all that that enormous power could accomplish;
in a moment he had exercised it, proved it, wearied of it. What had
hitherto been the sum of human desires became as nothing. So often it
happens that with possession the vast poetry of desire must end, and
the thing possessed is seldom the thing that we dreamed of.
Beneath Melmoth's omnipotence lurked this tragical anticlimax of so
many a passion, and now the inanity of human nature was revealed to his
successor, to whom infinite power brought Nothingness as a dowry.
To come to a clear understanding of Castanier's strange position, it
must be borne in mind how suddenly these revolutions of thought and
feeling had been wrought; how quickly they had succeeded each other;
and of these things it is hard to give any idea to those who have never
broken the prison bonds of time, and space, and distance. His relation
to the world without had been entirely changed with the expansion of
Like Melmoth himself, Castanier could travel in a few moments over the
fertile plains of India, could soar on the wings of demons above
African desert spaces, or skim the surface of the seas. The same
insight that could read the inmost thoughts of others, could apprehend
at a glance the nature of any material object, just as he caught as it
were all flavors at once upon his tongue. He took his pleasure like a
despot; a blow of the ax felled the tree that he might eat its fruits.
The transitions, the alternations that measure joy and pain, and
diversify human happiness, no longer existed for him. He had so
completely glutted his appetites that pleasure must overpass the limits
of pleasure to tickle a palate cloyed with satiety, and suddenly grown
fastidious beyond all measure, so that ordinary pleasures became
distasteful. Conscious that at will he was the master of all the women
that he could desire, knowing that his power was irresistible, he did
not care to exercise it; they were pliant to his unexpressed wishes, to
his most extravagant caprices, until he felt a horrible thirst for
love, and would have love beyond their power to give.
The world refused him nothing save faith and prayer, the soothing and
consoling love that is not of this world. He was obeyed--it was a
The torrents of pain, and pleasure, and thought that shook his soul and
his bodily frame would have overwhelmed the strongest human being; but
in him there was a power of vitality proportioned to the power of the
sensations that assailed him. He felt within him a vague immensity of
longing that earth could not satisfy. He spent his days on outspread
wings, longing to traverse the luminous fields of space to other
spheres that he knew afar by intuitive perception, a clear and hopeless
knowledge. His soul dried up within him, for he hungered and thirsted
after things that can neither be drunk nor eaten, but for which he
could not choose but crave. His lips, like Melmoth's, burned with
desire; he panted for the unknown, for he knew all things.
The mechanism and the scheme of the world was apparent to him, and its
working interested him no longer; he did not long disguise the profound
scorn that makes of a man of extraordinary powers a sphinx who knows
everything and says nothing, and sees all things with an unmoved
countenance. He felt not the slightest wish to communicate his
knowledge to other men. He was rich with all the wealth of the world,
with one effort he could make the circle of the globe, and riches and
power were meaningless for him. He felt the awful melancholy of
omnipotence, a melancholy which Satan and God relieve by the exercise
of infinite power in mysterious ways known to them alone. Castanier had
not, like his Master, the inextinguishable energy of hate and malice;
he felt that he was a devil, but a devil whose time was not yet come,
while Satan is a devil through all eternity, and being damned beyond
redemption, delights to stir up the world, like a dungheap, with his
triple fork and to thwart therein the designs of God. But Castanier,
for his misfortune, had one hope left.
If in a moment he could move from one pole to the other as a bird
springs restlessly from side to side in its cage, when, like the bird,
he had crossed his prison, he saw the vast immensity of space beyond
it. That vision of the Infinite left him forever unable to see humanity
and its affairs as other men saw them. The insensate fools who long for
the power of the Devil gauge its desirability from a human standpoint;
they do not see that with the Devil's power they will likewise assume
his thoughts, and that they will be doomed to remain as men among
creatures who will no longer understand them. The Nero unknown to
history who dreams of setting Paris on fire for his private
entertainment, like an exhibition of a burning house on the boards of a
theater, does not suspect that if he had that power, Paris would become
for him as little interesting as an ant heap by the roadside to a
hurrying passer-by. The circle of the sciences was for Castanier
something like a logogriph for a man who does not know the key to it.
Kings and Governments were despicable in his eyes. His great debauch
had been in some sort a deplorable farewell to his life as a man. The
earth had grown too narrow for him, for the infernal gifts laid bare
for him the secrets of creation--he saw the cause and foresaw its end.
He was shut out from all that men call "heaven" in all languages under
the sun; he could no longer think of heaven.
Then he came to understand the look on his predecessor's face and the
drying up of the life within; then he knew all that was meant by the
baffled hope that gleamed in Melmoth's eyes; he, too, knew the thirst
that burned those red lips, and the agony of a continual struggle
between two natures grown to giant size. Even yet he might be an angel,
and he knew himself to be a fiend. His was the fate of a sweet and
gentle creature that a wizard's malice has imprisoned in a misshapen
form, entrapping it by a pact, so that another's will must set it free
from its detested envelope.
As a deception only increases the ardor with which a man of really
great nature explores the infinite of sentiment in a woman's heart, so
Castanier awoke to find that one idea lay like a weight upon his soul,
an idea which was perhaps the key to loftier spheres. The very fact
that he had bartered away his eternal happiness led him to dwell in
thought upon the future of those who pray and believe. On the morrow of
his debauch, when he entered into the sober possession of his power,
this idea made him feel himself a prisoner; he knew the burden of the
woe that poets, and prophets, and great oracles of faith have set forth
for us in such mighty words; he felt the point of the Flaming Sword
plunged into his side, and hurried in search of Melmoth. What had
become of his predecessor?
The Englishman was living in a mansion in the Rue Ferou, near
Saint-Sulpice--a gloomy, dark, damp, and cold abode. The Rue Ferou
itself is one of the most dismal streets in Paris; it has a north
aspect like all the streets that lie at right angles to the left bank
of the Seine, and the houses are in keeping with the site. As Castanier
stood on the threshold he found that the door itself, like the vaulted
roof, was hung with black; rows of lighted tapers shone brilliantly as
though some king were lying in state; and a priest stood on either side
of a catafalque that had been raised there.
"There is no need to ask why you have come, sir," the old hall porter
said to Castanier; "you are so like our poor dear master that is gone.
But if you are his brother, you have come too late to bid him good-by.
The good gentleman died the night before last."
"How did he die?" Castanier asked of one of the priests.
"Set your mind at rest," said an old priest; he partly raised as he
spoke the black pall that covered the catafalque.
Castanier, looking at him, saw one of those faces that faith has made
sublime; the soul seemed to shine forth from every line of it, bringing
light and warmth for other men, kindled by the unfailing charity
within. This was Sir John Melmoth's confessor.
"Your brother made an end that men may envy, and that must rejoice the
angels. Do you know what joy there is in heaven over a sinner that
repents? His tears of penitence, excited by grace, flowed without
ceasing; death alone checked them. The Holy Spirit dwelt in him. His
burning words, full of lively faith, were worthy of the Prophet-King.
If, in the course of my life, I have never heard a more dreadful
confession than from the lips of this Irish gentleman, I have likewise
never heard such fervent and passionate prayers. However great the
measures of his sins may have been, his repentance has filled the abyss
to overflowing. The hand of God was visibly stretched out above him,
for he was completely changed, there was such heavenly beauty in his
face. The hard eyes were softened by tears; the resonant voice that
struck terror into those who heard it took the tender and compassionate
tones of those who themselves have passed through deep humiliation. He
so edified those who heard his words that some who had felt drawn to
see the spectacle of a Christian's death fell on their knees as he
spoke of heavenly things, and of the infinite glory of God, and gave
thanks and praise to Him. If he is leaving no worldly wealth to his
family, no family can possess a greater blessing than this that he
surely gained for them, a soul among the blessed, who will watch over
you all and direct you in the path to heaven."
These words made such a vivid impression upon Castanier that he
instantly hurried from the house to the Church of Saint-Sulpice,
obeying what might be called a decree of fate. Melmoth's repentance had
At that time, on certain mornings in the week, a preacher, famed for
his eloquence, was wont to hold conferences, in the course of which he
demonstrated the truths of the Catholic faith for the youth of a
generation proclaimed to be indifferent in matters of belief by another
voice no less eloquent than his own. The conference had been put off to
a later hour on account of Melmoth's funeral, so Castanier arrived just
as the great preacher was epitomizing the proofs of a future existence
of happiness with all the charm of eloquence and force of expression
which have made him famous. The seeds of divine doctrine fell into a
soil prepared for them in the old dragoon, into whom the Devil had
glided. Indeed, if there is a phenomenon well attested by experience,
is it not the spiritual phenomenon commonly called "the faith of the
peasant"? The strength of belief varies inversely with the amount of
use that a man has made of his reasoning faculties. Simple people and
soldiers belong to the unreasoning class. Those who have marched
through life beneath the banner of instinct are far more ready to
receive the light than minds and hearts overwearied with the world's
Castanier had the southern temperament; he had joined the army as a lad
of sixteen, and had followed the French flag till he was nearly forty
years old. As a common trooper, he had fought day and night, and day
after day, and, as in duty bound, had thought of his horse first, and
of himself afterwards. While he served his military apprenticeship,
therefore, he had but little leisure in which to reflect on the destiny
of man, and when he became an officer he had his men to think of. He
had been swept from battlefield to battlefield, but he had never
thought of what comes after death. A soldier's life does not demand
much thinking. Those who cannot understand the lofty political ends
involved and the interests of nation and nation; who cannot grasp
political schemes as well as plans of campaign and combine the science
of the tactician with that of the administrator, are bound to live in a
state of ignorance; the most boorish peasant in the most backward
district in France is scarcely in a worse case. Such men as these bear
the brunt of war, yield passive obedience to the brain that directs
them, and strike down the men opposed to them as the woodcutter fells
timber in the forest. Violent physical exertion is succeeded by times
of inertia, when they repair the waste. They fight and drink, fight and
eat, fight and sleep, that they may the better deal hard blows; the
powers of the mind are not greatly exercised in this turbulent round of
existence, and the character is as simple as heretofore.
When the men who have shown such energy on the battlefield return to
ordinary civilization, most of those who have not risen to high rank
seem to have acquired no ideas, and to have no aptitude, no capacity,
for grasping new ideas. To the utter amazement of a younger generation,
those who made our armies so glorious and so terrible are as simple as
children, and as slow-witted as a clerk at his worst, and the captain
of a thundering squadron is scarcely fit to keep a merchant's day-book.
Old soldiers of this stamp, therefore, being innocent of any attempt to
use their reasoning faculties, act upon their strongest impulses.
Castanier's crime was one of those matters that raise so many
questions, that, in order to debate about it, a moralist might call for
its "discussion by clauses," to make use of a parliamentary expression.
Passion had counseled the crime; the cruelly irresistible power of
feminine witchery had driven him to commit it; no man can say of
himself, "I will never do that," when a siren joins in the combat and
throws her spells over him.
So the word of life fell upon a conscience newly awakened to the truths
of religion which the French Revolution and a soldier's career had
forced Castanier to neglect. The solemn words, "You will be happy or
miserable for all eternity!" made but the more terrible impression upon
him, because he had exhausted earth and shaken it like a barren tree;
because his desires could effect all things, so that it was enough that
any spot in earth or heaven should be forbidden him, and he forthwith
thought of nothing else. If it were allowable to compare such great
things with social follies, Castanier's position was not unlike that of
a banker who, finding that his all-powerful millions cannot obtain for
him an entrance into the society of the noblesse, must set his heart
upon entering that circle, and all the social privileges that he has
already acquired are as nothing in his eyes from the moment when he
discovers that a single one is lacking.
Here was a man more powerful than all the kings on earth put together;
a man who, like Satan, could wrestle with God Himself; leaning against
one of the pillars in the Church of Saint-Sulpice, weighed down by the
feelings and thoughts that oppressed him, and absorbed in the thought
of a Future, the same thought that had engulfed Melmoth.
"He was very happy, was Melmoth!" cried Castanier. "He died in the
certain knowledge that he would go to heaven."
In a moment the greatest possible change had been wrought in the
cashier's ideas. For several days he had been a devil, now he was
nothing but a man; an image of the fallen Adam, of the sacred tradition
embodied in all cosmogonies. But while he had thus shrunk to manhood,
he retained a germ of greatness, he had been steeped in the Infinite.
The power of hell had revealed the divine power. He thirsted for heaven
as he had never thirsted after the pleasures of earth, that are so soon
exhausted. The enjoyments which the fiend promises are but the
enjoyments of earth on a larger scale, but to the joys of heaven there
is no limit. He believed in God, and the spell that gave him the
treasures of the world was as nothing to him now; the treasures
themselves seemed to him as contemptible as pebbles to an admirer of
diamonds; they were but gewgaws compared with the eternal glories of
the other life. A curse lay, he thought, on all things that came to him
from this source. He sounded dark depths of painful thought as he
listened to the service performed for Melmoth. The _Dies irae_ filled
him with awe; he felt all the grandeur of that cry of a repentant soul
trembling before the Throne of God. The Holy Spirit, like a devouring
flame, passed through him as fire consumes straw.
The tears were falling from his eyes when--"Are you a relation of the
dead?" the beadle asked him.
"I am his heir," Castanier answered.
"Give something for the expenses of the services!" cried the man.
"No," said the cashier. (The Devil's money should not go to the
"For the poor!"
"For repairing the Church!"
"The Lady Chapel!"
"For the schools!"
Castanier went, not caring to expose himself to the sour looks that the
irritated functionaries gave him.
Outside, in the street, he looked up at the Church of Saint-Sulpice.
"What made people build the giant cathedrals I have seen in every
country?" he asked himself. "The feeling shared so widely throughout
all time must surely be based upon something."
"Something! Do you call God _something_?" cried his conscience. "God!
The word was echoed and reechoed by an inner voice, till it overwhelmed
him; but his feeling of terror subsided as he heard sweet distant
sounds of music that he had caught faintly before. They were singing in
the church, he thought, and his eyes scanned the great doorway. But as
he listened more closely, the sounds poured upon him from all sides; he
looked round the square, but there was no sign of any musicians. The
melody brought visions of a distant heaven and far-off gleams of hope;
but it also quickened the remorse that had set the lost soul in a
ferment. He went on his way through Paris, walking as men walk who are
crushed beneath the burden of their sorrow, seeing everything with
unseeing eyes, loitering like an idler, stopping without cause,
muttering to himself, careless of the traffic, making no effort to
avoid a blow from a plank of timber.
Imperceptibly repentance brought him under the influence of the divine
grace that soothes while it bruises the heart so terribly. His face
came to wear a look of Melmoth, something great, with a trace of
madness in the greatness. A look of dull and hopeless distress, mingled
with the excited eagerness of hope, and, beneath it all, a gnawing
sense of loathing for all that the world can give. The humblest of
prayers lurked in the eyes that saw with such dreadful clearness. His
power was the measure of his anguish. His body was bowed down by the
fearful storm that shook his soul, as the tall pines bend before the
blast. Like his predecessor, he could not refuse to bear the burden of
life; he was afraid to die while he bore the yoke of hell. The torment
At last, one morning, he bethought himself how that Melmoth (now among
the blessed) had made the proposal of an exchange, and how that he had
accepted it; others, doubtless, would follow his example; for in an age
proclaimed, by the inheritors of the eloquence of the Fathers of the
Church, to be fatally indifferent to religion, it should be easy to
find a man who would accept the conditions of the contract in order to
prove its advantages.
"There is one place where you can learn what kings will fetch in the
market; where nations are weighed in the balance and systems appraised;
where the value of a government is stated in terms of the five-franc
piece; where ideas and beliefs have their price, and everything is
discounted; where God Himself, in a manner, borrows on the security of
His revenue of souls, for the Pope has a running account there. Is it
not there that I should go to traffic in souls?"
Castanier went quite joyously on 'Change, thinking that it would be as
easy to buy a soul as to invest money in the Funds. Any ordinary person
would have feared ridicule, but Castanier knew by experience that a
desperate man takes everything seriously. A prisoner lying under
sentence of death would listen to the madman who should tell him that
by pronouncing some gibberish he could escape through the keyhole; for
suffering is credulous, and clings to an idea until it fails, as the
swimmer borne along by the current clings to the branch that snaps in
Toward four o'clock that afternoon Castanier appeared among the little
knots of men who were transacting private business after 'Change. He
was personally known to some of the brokers; and while affecting to be
in search of an acquaintance, he managed to pick up the current gossip
and rumors of failure.
"Catch me negotiating bills for Claparon & Co., my boy. The bank
collector went round to return their acceptances to them this morning,"
said a fat banker in his outspoken way. "If you have any of their
paper, look out."
Claparon was in the building, in deep consultation with a man well
known for the ruinous rate at which he lent money. Castanier went
forthwith in search of the said Claparon, a merchant who had a
reputation for taking heavy risks that meant wealth or utter ruin. The
money lender walked away as Castanier came up. A gesture betrayed the
"Well, Claparon, the bank wants a hundred thousand francs of you, and
it is four o'clock; the thing is known, and it is too late to arrange
your little failure comfortably," said Castanier.
"Speak lower," the cashier went on. "How if I were to propose a piece
of business that would bring you in as much money as you require?"
"It would not discharge my liabilities; every business that I ever
heard of wants a little time to simmer in."
"I know of something that will set you straight in a moment," answered
Castanier; "but first you would have to--"
"Sell your share of Paradise. It is a matter of business like anything
else, isn't it? We all hold shares in the great Speculation of
"I tell you this," said Claparon angrily, "that I am just the man to
lend you a slap in the face. When a man is in trouble, it is no time to
play silly jokes on him."
"I am talking seriously," said Castanier, and he drew a bundle of notes
from his pocket.
"In the first place," said Claparon, "I am not going to sell my soul to
the Devil for a trifle. I want five hundred thousand francs before I
"Who talks of stinting you?" asked Castanier, cutting him short. "You
should have more gold than you could stow in the cellars of the Bank of
He held out a handful of notes. That decided Claparon.
"Done," he cried; "but how is the bargain to be made?"
"Let us go over yonder, no one is standing there," said Castanier,
pointing to a corner of the court.
Claparon and his tempter exchanged a few words, with their faces turned
to the wall. None of the onlookers guessed the nature of this by-play,
though their curiosity was keenly excited by the strange gestures of
the two contracting parties. When Castanier returned, there was a
sudden outburst of amazed exclamation. As in the Assembly where the
least event immediately attracts attention, all faces were turned to
the two men who had caused the sensation, and a shiver passed through
all beholders at the change that had taken place in them.
The men who form the moving crowd that fills the Stock Exchange are
soon known to each other by sight. They watch each other like players
round a card table. Some shrewd observers can tell how a man will play
and the condition of his exchequer from a survey of his face; and the
Stock Exchange is simply a vast card table. Everyone, therefore, had
noticed Claparon and Castanier. The latter (like the Irishman before
him) had been muscular and powerful, his eyes were full of light,
his color high. The dignity and power in his face had struck awe into
them all; they wondered how old Castanier had come by it; and now they
beheld Castanier divested of his power, shrunken, wrinkled, aged, and
feeble. He had drawn Claparon out of the crowd with the energy of a
sick man in a fever fit; he had looked like an opium eater during the
brief period of excitement that the drug can give; now, on his return,
he seemed to be in the condition of utter exhaustion in which the
patient dies after the fever departs, or to be suffering from the
horrible prostration that follows on excessive indulgence in the
delights of narcotics. The infernal power that had upheld him through
his debauches had left him, and the body was left unaided and alone to
endure the agony of remorse and the heavy burden of sincere repentance.
Claparon's troubles everyone could guess; but Claparon reappeared, on
the other hand, with sparkling eyes, holding his head high with the
pride of Lucifer. The crisis had passed from the one man to the other.
 Referring to John Melmoth--see note at head of this story.--EDITOR.
"Now you can drop off with an easy mind, old man," said Claparon to
"For pity's sake, send for a cab and for a priest; send for the curate
of Saint-Sulpice!" answered the old dragoon, sinking down upon the
The words "a priest" reached the ears of several people, and produced
uproarious jeering among the stockbrokers, for faith with these
gentlemen means a belief that a scrap of paper called a mortgage
represents an estate, and the List of Fundholders is their Bible.
"Shall I have time to repent?" said Castanier to himself, in a piteous
voice, that impressed Claparon.
A cab carried away the dying man; the speculator went to the bank at
once to meet his bills; and the momentary sensation produced upon the
throng of business men by the sudden change on the two faces, vanished
like the furrow cut by a ship's keel in the sea. News of the greatest
importance kept the attention of the world of commerce on the alert;
and when commercial interests are at stake, Moses might appear with his
two luminous horns, and his coming would scarcely receive the honors of
a pun; the gentlemen whose business it is to write the Market Reports
would ignore his existence.
When Claparon had made his payments, fear seized upon him. There was no
mistake about his power. He went on 'Change again, and offered his
bargain to other men in embarrassed circumstances. The Devil's bond,
"together with the rights, easements, and privileges appertaining
thereunto,"--to use the expression of the notary who succeeded
Claparon, changed hands for the sum of seven hundred thousand francs.
The notary in his turn parted with the agreement with the Devil for
five hundred thousand francs to a building contractor in difficulties,
who likewise was rid of it to an iron merchant in consideration of a
hundred thousand crowns. In fact, by five o'clock people had ceased to
believe in the strange contract, and purchasers were lacking for want
At half-past five the holder of the bond was a house painter, who was
lounging by the door of the building in the Rue Feydeau, where at that
time stockbrokers temporarily congregated. The house painter, simple
fellow, could not think what was the matter with him. He "felt all
anyhow"; so he told his wife when he went home.
The Rue Feydeau, as idlers about town are aware, is a place of
pilgrimage for youths who for lack of a mistress bestow their ardent
affection upon the whole sex. On the first floor of the most rigidly
respectable domicile therein dwelt one of those exquisite creatures
whom it has pleased heaven to endow with the rarest and most surpassing
beauty. As it is impossible that they should all be duchesses or queens
(since there are many more pretty women in the world than titles and
thrones for them to adorn), they are content to make a stockbroker or a
banker happy at a fixed price. To this good-natured beauty, Euphrasia
by name, an unbounded ambition had led a notary's clerk to aspire. In
short, the second clerk in the office of Maitre Crottat, notary, had
fallen in love with her, as youth at two and twenty can fall in love.
The scrivener would have murdered the Pope and run amuck through the
whole sacred college to procure the miserable sum of a hundred louis to
pay for a shawl which had turned Euphrasia's head, at which price her
waiting woman had promised that Euphrasia should be his. The infatuated
youth walked to and fro under Madame Euphrasia's windows, like the
polar bears in their cage at the Jardin des Plantes, with his right
hand thrust beneath his waistcoat in the region of the heart, which he
was fit to tear from his bosom, but as yet he had only wrenched at the
elastic of his braces.
"What can one do to raise ten thousand francs?" he asked himself.
"Shall I make off with the money that I must pay on the registration of
that conveyance? Good heavens! my loan would not ruin the purchaser, a
man with seven millions! And then next day I would fling myself at his
feet and say, 'I have taken ten thousand francs belonging to you, sir;
I am twenty-two years of age, and I am in love with Euphrasia--that is
my story. My father is rich, he will pay you back; do not ruin me! Have
not you yourself been twenty-two years old and madly in love?' But
these beggarly landowners have no souls! He would be quite likely to
give me up to the public prosecutor, instead of taking pity upon me.
Good God! if it were only possible to sell your soul to the Devil! But
there is neither a God nor a Devil; it is all nonsense out of nursery
tales and old wives' talk. What shall I do?"
"If you have a mind to sell your soul to the Devil, sir," said the
house painter, who had overheard something that the clerk let fall,
"you can have the ten thousand francs."
"And Euphrasia!" cried the clerk, as he struck a bargain with the devil
that inhabited the house painter.
The pact concluded, the frantic clerk went to find the shawl, and
mounted Madame Euphrasia's staircase; and as (literally) the devil was
in him, he did not come down for twelve days, drowning the thought of
hell and of his privileges in twelve days of love and riot and
forgetfulness, for which he had bartered away all his hopes of a
paradise to come.
And in this way the secret of the vast power discovered and acquired by
the Irishman, the offspring of Maturin's brain, was lost to mankind;
and the various Orientalists, Mystics, and Archaeologists who take an
interest in these matters were unable to hand down to posterity the
proper method of invoking the Devil, for the following sufficient
On the thirteenth day after these frenzied nuptials the wretched clerk
lay on a pallet bed in a garret in his master's house in the Rue
Saint-Honore. Shame, the stupid goddess who dares not behold herself,
had taken possession of the young man. He had fallen ill; he would
nurse himself; misjudged the quantity of a remedy devised by the skill
of a practitioner well known on the walls of Paris, and succumbed to
the effects of an overdose of mercury. His corpse was as black as a
mole's back. A devil had left unmistakable traces of its passage there;
could it have been Ashtaroth?
* * * * *
"The estimable youth to whom you refer has been carried away to the
planet Mercury," said the head clerk to a German demonologist who came
to investigate the matter at first hand.
"I am quite prepared to believe it," answered the Teuton.
"Yes, sir," returned the other. "The opinion you advance coincides
with the very words of Jacob Boehme. In the forty-eighth proposition
of _The Threefold Life of Man_ he says that 'if God hath brought all
things to pass with a LET THERE BE, the FIAT is the secret matrix which
comprehends and apprehends the nature which is formed by the spirit
born of Mercury and of God.'"
"What do you say, sir?"
The German delivered his quotation afresh.
"We do not know it," said the clerks.
"_Fiat?..._" said a clerk. "_Fiat lux!_"
"You can verify the citation for yourselves," said the German. "You
will find the passage in the _Treatise of the Threefold Life of Man_,
page 75; the edition was published by M. Migneret in 1809. It was
translated into French by a philosopher who had a great admiration for
the famous shoemaker."
"Oh! he was a shoemaker, was he?" said the head clerk.
"In Prussia," said the German.
"Did he work for the King of Prussia?" inquired a Boeotian of a second
"He must have vamped up his prose," said a third.
"That man is colossal!" cried the fourth, pointing to the Teuton.
That gentleman, though a demonologist of the first rank, did not know
the amount of devilry to be found in a notary's clerk. He went away
without the least idea that they were making game of him, and fully
under the impression that the young fellows regarded Boehme as a
"Education is making strides in France," said he to himself.
[The inner self] ... by a phenomenon of vision or of locomotion
has been known at times to abolish Space in its two modes of Time
and Distance--the one intellectual, the other physical.
--HISTORY OF LOUIS LAMBERT.
On a November evening in the year 1793 the principal citizens of
Carentan were assembled in Mme. de Dey's drawing-room. Mme. de Dey
held this _reception_ every night of the week, but an unwonted interest
attached to this evening's gathering, owing to certain circumstances
which would have passed altogether unnoticed in a great city, though in
a small country town they excited the greatest curiosity. For two days
before Mme. de Dey had not been at home to her visitors, and on the
previous evening her door had been shut, on the ground of indisposition.
Two such events at any ordinary time would have produced in Carentan
the same sensation that Paris knows on nights when there is no
performance at the theaters--existence is in some sort incomplete; but
in those times when the least indiscretion on the part of an aristocrat
might be a matter of life and death, this conduct of Mme. de Dey's was
likely to bring about the most disastrous consequences for her. Her
position in Carentan ought to be made clear, if the reader is to
appreciate the expression of keen curiosity and cunning fanaticism on
the countenances of these Norman citizens, and, what is of most
importance, the part that the lady played among them. Many a one during
the days of the Revolution has doubtless passed through a crisis as
difficult as hers at that moment, and the sympathies of more than one
reader will fill in all the coloring of the picture.
Mme. de Dey was the widow of a Lieutenant-General, a Knight of the
Orders of Saint Michael and of the Holy Ghost. She had left the Court
when the Emigration began, and taken refuge in the neighborhood of
Carentan, where she had large estates, hoping that the influence of the
Reign of Terror would be but little felt there. Her calculations, based
on a thorough knowledge of the district, proved correct. The Revolution
made little disturbance in Lower Normandy. Formerly, when Mme. de Dey
had spent any time in the country, her circle of acquaintance had been
confined to the noble families of the district; but now, from politic
motives, she opened her house to the principal citizens and to the
Revolutionary authorities of the town, endeavoring to touch and gratify
their social pride without arousing either hatred or jealousy. Gracious
and kindly, possessed of the indescribable charm that wins good will
without loss of dignity or effort to pay court to any, she had
succeeded in gaining universal esteem; the discreet warnings of
exquisite tact enabled her to steer a difficult course among the
exacting claims of this mixed society, without wounding the overweening
self-love of parvenus on the one hand, or the susceptibilities of her
old friends on the other.
She was about thirty-eight years of age, and still preserved, not the
fresh, high-colored beauty of the Basse-Normandes, but a fragile
loveliness of what may be called an aristocratic type. Her figure was
lissome and slender, her features delicate and clearly cut; the pale
face seemed to light up and live when she spoke; but there was a quiet
and devout look in the great dark eyes, for all their graciousness of
expression--a look that seemed to say that the springs of her life lay
without her own existence.
In her early girlhood she had been married to an elderly and jealous
soldier. Her false position in the midst of a gay Court had doubtless
done something to bring a veil of sadness over a face that must once
have been bright with the charms of quick-pulsed life and love. She had
been compelled to set constant restraint upon her frank impulses and
emotions at an age when a woman feels rather than thinks, and the
depths of passion in her heart had never been stirred. In this lay the
secret of her greatest charm, a youthfulness of the inmost soul,
betrayed at times by her face, and a certain tinge of innocent
wistfulness in her ideas. She was reserved in her demeanor, but in her
bearing and in the tones of her voice there was still something that
told of girlish longings directed toward a vague future. Before very
long the least susceptible fell in love with her, and yet stood
somewhat in awe of her dignity and high-bred manner. Her great soul,
strengthened by the cruel ordeals through which she had passed, seemed
to set her too far above the ordinary level, and these men weighed
themselves, and instinctively felt that they were found wanting. Such a
nature demanded an exalted passion.
Moreover, Mme. de Dey's affections were concentrated in one sentiment--a
mother's love for her son. All the happiness and joy that she had not
known as a wife, she had found later in her boundless love for him. The
coquetry of a mistress, the jealousy of a wife mingled with the pure
and deep affection of a mother. She was miserable when they were apart,
and nervous about him while he was away; she could never see enough of
him, and lived through and for him alone. Some idea of the strength of
this tie may be conveyed to the masculine understanding by adding that
this was not only Mme. de Dey's only son, but all she had of kith or
kin in the world, the one human being on earth bound to her by all the
fears and hopes and joys of her life.
The late Comte de Dey was the last of his race, and she, his wife, was
the sole heiress and descendant of her house. So worldly ambitions and
family considerations, as well as the noblest cravings of the soul,
combined to heighten in the Countess a sentiment that is strong in
every woman's heart. The child was all the dearer, because only with
infinite care had she succeeded in rearing him to man's estate; medical
science had predicted his death a score of times, but she had held fast
to her presentiments and her hopes, and had known the inexpressible joy
of watching him pass safely through the perils of infancy, of seeing
his constitution strengthen in spite of the decrees of the Faculty.
Thanks to her constant care, the boy had grown up and developed so
favorably, that at twenty years of age he was regarded as one of the
most accomplished gentlemen at the Court of Versailles. One final
happiness that does not always crown a mother's efforts was hers--her
son worshiped her; and between these two there was the deep sympathy of
kindred souls. If they had not been bound to each other already by a
natural and sacred tie, they would instinctively have felt for each
other a friendship that is rarely met with between two men.
At the age of eighteen, the young Count had received an appointment as
sub-lieutenant in a regiment of dragoons, and had made it a point of
honor to follow the emigrant Princes into exile.
Then Mme. de Dey faced the dangers of her cruel position. She was rich,
noble, and the mother of an Emigrant. With the one desire to look after
her son's great fortune, she had denied herself the happiness of being
with him; and when she read the rigorous laws in virtue of which the
Republic was daily confiscating the property of Emigrants at Carentan,
she congratulated herself on the courageous course that she had taken.
Was she not keeping watch over the wealth of her son at the risk of her
life? Later, when news came of the horrible executions ordered by the
Convention, she slept, happy in the knowledge that her own treasure was
in safety, out of reach of peril, far from the scaffolds of the
Revolution. She loved to think that she had followed the best course,
that she had saved her darling and her darling's fortunes; and to this
secret thought she made such concessions as the misfortunes of the
times demanded, without compromising her dignity or her aristocratic
tenets, and enveloped her sorrows in reserve and mystery. She had
foreseen the difficulties that would beset her at Carentan. Did she not
tempt the scaffold by the very fact of going thither to take a
prominent place? Yet, sustained by a mother's courage, she succeeded in
winning the affection of the poor, ministering without distinction to
everyone in trouble; and made herself necessary to the well-to-do, by
providing amusements for them.
The procureur of the commune might be seen at her house, the mayor, the
president of the "district," and the public prosecutor, and even the
judges of the Revolutionary tribunals went there. The four first-named
gentlemen were none of them married, and each paid court to her, in the
hope that Mme. de Dey would take him for her husband, either from fear
of making an enemy or from a desire to find a protector.
The public prosecutor, once an attorney at Caen, and the Countess's man
of business, did what he could to inspire love by a system of devotion
and generosity, a dangerous game of cunning! He was the most formidable
of all her suitors. He alone knew the amount of the large fortune of
his sometime client, and his fervor was inevitably increased by the
cupidity of greed, and by the consciousness that he wielded an enormous
power, the power of life and death in the district. He was still a
young man, and, owing to the generosity of his behavior, Mme. de Dey
was unable as yet to estimate him truly. But, in despite of the danger
of matching herself against Norman cunning, she used all the craft and
inventiveness that Nature has bestowed on women to play off the rival
suitors one against another. She hoped, by gaining time, to emerge safe
and sound from her difficulties at last; for at that time Royalists in
the provinces flattered themselves with a hope, daily renewed, that the
morrow would see the end of the Revolution--a conviction that proved
fatal to many of them.
In spite of difficulties, the Countess had maintained her independence
with considerable skill until the day when, by an inexplicable want of
prudence, she took occasion to close her salon. So deep and sincere was
the interest that she inspired, that those who usually filled her
drawing-room felt a lively anxiety when the news was spread; then, with
the frank curiosity characteristic of provincial manners, they went to
inquire into the misfortune, grief, or illness that had befallen Mme.
To all these questions, Brigitte, the housekeeper, answered with the
same formula: her mistress was keeping her room, and would see no one,
not even her own servants. The almost claustral lives of dwellers in
small towns fosters a habit of analysis and conjectural explanation of
the business of everybody else; so strong is it, that when everyone had
exclaimed over poor Mme. de Dey (without knowing whether the lady was
overcome by joy or sorrow), each one began to inquire into the causes
of her sudden seclusion.
"If she were ill, she would have sent for the doctor," said gossip
number one; "now the doctor has been playing chess in my house all day.
He said to me, laughing, that in these days there is only one disease,
and that, unluckily, it is incurable."
The joke was hazarded discreetly. Women and men, elderly folk and young
girls, forthwith betook themselves to the vast fields of conjecture.
Everyone imagined that there was some secret in it, and every head was
busy with the secret. Next day the suspicions became malignant.
Everyone lives in public in a small town, and the women-kind were the
first to find out that Brigitte had laid in an extra stock of
provisions. The thing could not be disputed. Brigitte had been seen in
the market-place betimes that morning, and, wonderful to relate, she
had bought the one hare to be had. The whole town knew that Mme. de Dey
did not care for game. The hare became a starting point for endless
Elderly gentlemen, taking their constitutional, noticed a sort of
suppressed bustle in the Countess's house; the symptoms were the more
apparent because the servants were at evident pains to conceal them.
The man-servant was beating a carpet in the garden. Only yesterday no
one would have remarked the fact, but to-day everybody began to build
romances upon that harmless piece of household stuff. Everyone had a
On the following day, that on which Mme. de Dey gave out that she was
not well, the magnates of Carentan went to spend the evening at the
mayor's brother's house. He was a retired merchant, a married man, a
strictly honorable soul; everyone respected him, and the Countess held
him in high regard. There all the rich widows' suitors were fain to
invent more or less probable fictions, each one thinking the while how
to turn to his own advantage the secret that compelled her to
compromise herself in such a manner.
The public prosecutor spun out a whole drama to bring Mme. de Dey's son
to her house of a night. The mayor had a belief in a priest who had
refused the oath, a refugee from La Vendee; but this left him not a
little embarrassed how to account for the purchase of a hare on a
Friday. The president of the district had strong leanings toward a
Chouan chief, or a Vendean leader hotly pursued. Others voted for a
noble escaped from the prisons of Paris. In short, one and all
suspected that the Countess had been guilty of some piece of generosity
that the law of those days defined as a crime, an offense that was like
to bring her to the scaffold. The public prosecutor, moreover, said, in
a low voice, that they must hush the matter up, and try to save the
unfortunate lady from the abyss toward which she was hastening.
"If you spread reports about," he added, "I shall be obliged to take
cognizance of the matter, and to search the house, and then!..."
He said no more, but everyone understood what was left unsaid.
The Countess's real friends were so much alarmed for her, that on the
morning of the third day the _Procureur Syndic_ of the commune made his
wife write a few lines to persuade Mme. de Dey to hold her reception as
usual that evening. The old merchant took a bolder step. He called that
morning upon the lady. Strong in the thought of the service he meant to
do her, he insisted that he must see Mme. de Dey, and was amazed beyond
expression to find her out in the garden, busy gathering the last
autumn flowers in her borders to fill the vases.
"She has given refuge to her lover, no doubt," thought the old man,
struck with pity for the charming woman before him.
The Countess's face wore a strange look, that confirmed his suspicions.
Deeply moved by the devotion so natural to women, but that always
touches us, because all men are flattered by the sacrifices that any
woman makes for any one of them, the merchant told the Countess of the
gossip that was circulating in the town, and showed her the danger that
she was running. He wound up at last with saying that "if there are
some of our public functionaries who are sufficiently ready to pardon a
piece of heroism on your part so long as it is a priest that you wish
to save, no one will show you any mercy if it is discovered that you
are sacrificing yourself to the dictates of your heart."
At these words Mme. de Dey gazed at her visitor with a wild excitement
in her manner that made him tremble, old though he was.
"Come in," she said, taking him by the hand to bring him to her room,
and as soon as she had assured herself that they were alone, she drew a
soiled, torn letter from her bodice.--"Read it!" she cried, with a
violent effort to pronounce the words.
She dropped as if exhausted into her armchair. While the old merchant
looked for his spectacles and wiped them, she raised her eyes, and for
the first time looked at him with curiosity; then, in an uncertain
voice, "I trust in you," she said softly.
"Why did I come but to share in your crime?" the old merchant said
She trembled. For the first time since she had come to the little town
her soul found sympathy in another soul. A sudden light dawned meantime
on the old merchant; he understood the Countess's joy and her
Her son had taken part in the Granville expedition; he wrote to his
mother from his prison, and the letter brought her a sad, sweet hope.
Feeling no doubts as to his means of escape, he wrote that within three
days he was sure to reach her, disguised. The same letter that brought
these weighty tidings was full of heartrending farewells in case the
writer should not be in Carentan by the evening of the third day, and
he implored his mother to send a considerable sum of money by the
bearer, who had gone through dangers innumerable to deliver it. The
paper shook in the old man's hands.
"And to-day is the third day!" cried Mme. de Dey. She sprang to her
feet, took back the letter, and walked up and down.
"You have set to work imprudently," the merchant remarked, addressing
her. "Why did you buy provisions?"
"Why, he may come in dying of hunger, worn out with fatigue, and--" She
"I am sure of my brother," the old merchant went on; "I will engage him
in your interests."
The merchant in this crisis recovered his old business shrewdness, and
the advice that he gave Mme. de Dey was full of prudence and wisdom.
After the two had agreed together as to what they were to do and say,
the old merchant went on various ingenious pretexts to pay visits to
the principal houses of Carentan, announcing wherever he went that he
had just been to see Mme. de Dey, and that, in spite of her
indisposition, she would receive that evening. Matching his shrewdness
against Norman wits in the cross-examination he underwent in every
family as to the Countess's complaint, he succeeded in putting almost
everyone who took an interest in the mysterious affair upon the wrong
His very first call worked wonders. He told, in the hearing of a gouty
old lady, how that Mme. de Dey had all but died of an attack of gout in
the stomach; how that the illustrious Tronchin had recommended her in
such a case to put the skin from a live hare on her chest, to stop in
bed, and keep perfectly still. The Countess, he said, had lain in
danger of her life for the past two days; but after carefully following
out Tronchin's singular prescription, she was now sufficiently
recovered to receive visitors that evening.
This tale had an immense success in Carentan. The local doctor, a
Royalist _in petto_, added to its effect by gravely discussing the
specific. Suspicion, nevertheless, had taken too deep root in a few
perverse or philosophical minds to be entirely dissipated; so it fell
out that those who had the right of entry into Mme. de Dey's
drawing-room hurried thither at an early hour, some to watch her face,
some out of friendship, but the more part attracted by the fame of the
They found the Countess seated in a corner of the great chimney-piece
in her room, which was almost as modestly furnished as similar
apartments in Carentan; for she had given up the enjoyment of luxuries
to which she had formerly been accustomed, for fear of offending the
narrow prejudices of her guests, and she had made no changes in her
house. The floor was not even polished. She had left the old somber
hangings on the walls, had kept the old-fashioned country furniture,
burned tallow candles, had fallen in with the ways of the place and
adopted provincial life without flinching before its cast-iron
narrowness, its most disagreeable hardships; but knowing that her
guests would forgive her for any prodigality that conduced to their
comfort, she left nothing undone where their personal enjoyment was
concerned; her dinners, for instance, were excellent. She even went so
far as to affect avarice to recommend herself to these sordid natures;
and had the ingenuity to make it appear that certain concessions to
luxury had been made at the instance of others, to whom she had
Toward seven o'clock that evening, therefore, the nearest approach to
polite society that Carentan could boast was assembled in Mme. de Dey's
drawing-room, in a wide circle, about the fire. The old merchant's
sympathetic glances sustained the mistress of the house through this
ordeal; with wonderful strength of mind, she underwent the curious
scrutiny of her guests, and bore with their trivial prosings. Every
time there was a knock at the door, at every sound of footsteps in the
street, she hid her agitation by raising questions of absorbing
interest to the countryside. She led the conversation on to the burning
topic of the quality of various ciders, and was so well seconded by her
friend who shared her secret, that her guests almost forgot to watch
her, and her face wore its wonted look; her self-possession was
unshaken. The public prosecutor and one of the judges of the
Revolutionary Tribunal kept silence, however; noting the slightest
change that flickered over her features, listening through the noisy
talk to every sound in the house. Several times they put awkward
questions, which the Countess answered with wonderful presence of mind.
So brave is a mother's heart!
Mme. de Dey had drawn her visitors into little groups, had made parties
of whist, boston, or reversis, and sat talking with some of the young
people; she seemed to be living completely in the present moment, and
played her part like a consummate actress. She elicited a suggestion of
loto, and saying that no one else knew where to find the game, she left
"My good Brigitte, I cannot breathe down there!" she cried, brushing
away the tears that sprang to her eyes that glittered with fever,
sorrow, and impatience.--She had gone up to her son's room, and was
looking round it. "He does not come," she said. "Here I can breathe and
live. A few minutes more, and he will be here, for he is alive, I am
sure that he is alive! my heart tells me so. Do you hear nothing,
Brigitte? Oh! I would give the rest of my life to know whether he is
still in prison or tramping across the country. I would rather not
Once more she looked to see that everything was in order. A bright fire
blazed on the hearth, the shutters were carefully closed, the furniture
shone with cleanliness, the bed had been made after a fashion that
showed that Brigitte and the Countess had given their minds to every
trifling detail. It was impossible not to read her hopes in the dainty
and thoughtful preparations about the room; love and a mother's
tenderest caresses seemed to pervade the air in the scent of flowers.
None but a mother could have foreseen the requirements of a soldier and
arranged so completely for their satisfaction. A dainty meal, the best
of wine, clean linen, slippers--no necessary, no comfort, was lacking
for the weary traveler, and all the delights of home heaped upon him
should reveal his mother's love.
"Oh, Brigitte!..." cried the Countess, with a heart-rending inflection
in her voice. She drew a chair to the table as if to strengthen her
illusions and realize her longings.
"Ah! madame, he is coming. He is not far off.... I haven't a doubt that
he is living and on his way," Brigitte answered. "I put a key in the
Bible and held it on my fingers while Cottin read the Gospel of St.
John, and the key did not turn, madame."
"Is that a certain sign?" the Countess asked.
"Why, yes, madame! everybody knows that. He is still alive; I would
stake my salvation on it; God cannot be mistaken."
"If only I could see him here in the house, in spite of the danger."
"Poor Monsieur Auguste!" cried Brigitte; "I expect he is tramping along
"And that is eight o'clock striking now!" cried the Countess in terror.
She was afraid that she had been too long in the room where she felt
sure that her son was alive; all those preparations made for him meant
that he was alive. She went down, but she lingered a moment in the
peristyle for any sound that might waken the sleeping echoes of the
town. She smiled at Brigitte's husband, who was standing there on
guard; the man's eyes looked stupid with the strain of listening to the
faint sounds of the night. She stared into the darkness, seeing her son
in every shadow everywhere; but it was only for a moment. Then she went
back to the drawing-room with an assumption of high spirits, and began
to play at loto with the little girls. But from time to time she
complained of feeling unwell, and went to sit in her great chair by the
fireside. So things went in Mme. de Dey's house and in the minds of
those beneath her roof.
Meanwhile, on the road from Paris to Cherbourg, a young man, dressed in
the inevitable brown _carmagnole_ of those days, was plodding his way
toward Carentan. When the first levies were made, there was little or
no discipline kept up. The exigencies of the moment scarcely admitted
of soldiers being equipped at once, and it was no uncommon thing to see
the roads thronged with conscripts in their ordinary clothes. The young
fellows went ahead of their company to the next halting place, or
lagged behind it; it depended upon their fitness to bear the fatigues
of a long march. This particular wayfarer was some considerable way in
advance of a company of conscripts on the way to Cherbourg, whom the
mayor was expecting to arrive every hour, for it was his duty to
distribute their billets. The young man's footsteps were still firm as
he trudged along, and his bearing seemed to indicate that he was no
stranger to the rough life of a soldier. The moon shone on the pasture
land about Carentan, but he had noticed great masses of white cloud
that were about to scatter showers of snow over the country, and
doubtless the fear of being overtaken by a storm had quickened his pace
in spite of his weariness.
The wallet on his back was almost empty, and he carried a stick in his
hand, cut from one of the high, thick box hedges that surround most of
the farms in Lower Normandy. As the solitary wayfarer came into
Carentan, the gleaming moonlit outlines of its towers stood out for a
moment with ghostly effect against the sky. He met no one in the silent
streets that rang with the echoes of his own footsteps, and was obliged
to ask the way to the mayor's house of a weaver who was working late.
The magistrate was not far to seek, and in a few minutes the conscript
was sitting on a stone bench in the mayor's porch waiting for his
billet. He was sent for, however, and confronted with that functionary,
who scrutinized him closely. The foot soldier was a good-looking young
man, who appeared to be of gentle birth. There was something
aristocratic in his bearing, and signs in his face of intelligence
developed by a good education.
"What is your name?" asked the mayor, eying him shrewdly.
"Julien Jussieu," answered the conscript.
"From--?" queried the official, and an incredulous smile stole over his
"Your comrades must be a good way behind?" remarked the Norman in
"I am three leagues ahead of the battalion."
"Some sentiment attracts you to Carentan, of course,
citizen-conscript," said the mayor astutely. "All right, all right!" he
added, with a wave of the hand, seeing that the young man was about to
speak. "We know where to send you. There, off with you, _Citizen
Jussieu_," and he handed over the billet.
There was a tinge of irony in the stress the magistrate laid on the two
last words while he held out a billet on Mme. de Dey. The conscript
read the direction curiously.
"He knows quite well that he has not far to go, and when he gets
outside he will very soon cross the marketplace," said the mayor to
himself, as the other went out. "He is uncommonly bold! God guide
him!... He has an answer ready for everything. Yes, but if somebody
else had asked to see his papers it would have been all up with him!"
The clocks in Carentan struck half-past nine as he spoke. Lanterns were
being lit in Mme. de Dey's antechamber, servants were helping their
masters and mistresses into sabots, greatcoats, and calashes. The card
players settled their accounts, and everybody went out together, after
the fashion of all little country towns.
"It looks as if the prosecutor meant to stop," said a lady, who noticed
that that important personage was not in the group in the market-place,
where they all took leave of one another before going their separate
ways home. And, as a matter of fact, that redoubtable functionary was
alone with the Countess, who waited trembling till he should go. There
was something appalling in their long silence.
"Citoyenne," said he at last, "I am here to see that the laws of the
Republic are carried out--"
Mme. de Dey shuddered.
"Have you nothing to tell me?"
"Nothing!" she answered, in amazement.
"Ah! madame," cried the prosecutor, sitting down beside her and
changing his tone. "At this moment, for lack of a word, one of us--you
or I--may carry our heads to the scaffold. I have watched your
character, your soul, your manner, too closely to share the error into
which you have managed to lead your visitors to-night. You are
expecting your son, I could not doubt it."
The Countess made an involuntary sign of denial, but her face had grown
white and drawn with the struggle to maintain the composure that she
did not feel, and no tremor was lost on the merciless prosecutor.
"Very well," the Revolutionary official went on, "receive him; but do
not let him stay under your roof after seven o'clock to-morrow morning;
for to-morrow, as soon as it is light, I shall come with a denunciation
that I will have made out, and--"
She looked at him, and the dull misery in her eyes would have softened
"I will make it clear that the denunciation was false by making a
thorough search," he went on in a gentle voice; "my report shall be
such that you will be safe from any subsequent suspicion. I shall make
mention of your patriotic gifts, your civism, and _all_ of us will be
Mme. de Dey, fearful of a trap, sat motionless, her face afire, her
tongue frozen. A knock at the door rang through the house.
"Oh!..." cried the terrified mother, falling upon her knees; "save him!
"Yes, let us save him!" returned the public prosecutor, and his eyes
grew bright as he looked at her, "if it costs _us_ our lives!"
"Lost!" she wailed. The prosecutor raised her politely.
"Madame," said he with a flourish of eloquence, "to your own free will
alone would I owe--"
"Madame, he is--" cried Brigitte, thinking that her mistress was alone.
At the sight of the public prosecutor, the old servant's joy-flushed
countenance became haggard and impassive.
"Who is it, Brigitte?" the prosecutor asked kindly, as if he too were
in the secret of the household.
"A conscript that the mayor has sent here for a night's lodging," the
woman replied, holding out the billet.
"So it is," said the prosecutor, when he had read the slip of paper. "A
battalion is coming here to-night."
And he went.
The Countess's need to believe in the faith of her sometime attorney
was so great, that she dared not entertain any suspicion of him. She
fled upstairs; she felt scarcely strength enough to stand; she opened
the door, and sprang, half dead with fear, into her son's arms.
"Oh! my child! my child!" she sobbed, covering him with almost frenzied
"Madame!..." said a stranger's voice.
"Oh! it is not he!" she cried, shrinking away in terror, and she stood
face to face with the conscript, gazing at him with haggard eyes.
"_O saint bon Dieu!_ how like he is!" cried Brigitte.
There was silence for a moment; even the stranger trembled at the sight
of Mme. de Dey's face.
"Ah! monsieur," she said, leaning on the arm of Brigitte's husband,
feeling for the first time the full extent of a sorrow that had all but
killed her at its first threatening; "ah! monsieur, I cannot stay to
see you any longer ... permit my servants to supply my place, and to
see that you have all that you want."
She went down to her own room, Brigitte and the old serving-man half
carrying her between them. The housekeeper set her mistress in a chair,
and broke out:
"What, madame! is that man to sleep in Monsieur Auguste's bed, and wear
Monsieur Auguste's slippers, and eat the pasty that I made for Monsieur
Auguste? Why, if they were to guillotine me for it, I--"
"Brigitte!" cried Mme. de Dey.
Brigitte said no more.
"Hold your tongue, chatterbox," said her husband, in a low voice; "do
you want to kill madame?"
A sound came from the conscript's room as he drew his chair to the
"I shall not stay here," cried Mme. de Dey; "I shall go into the
conservatory; I shall hear better there if anyone passes in the night."
She still wavered between the fear that she had lost her son and the
hope of seeing him once more. That night was hideously silent. Once,
for the Countess, there was an awful interval, when the battalion of
conscripts entered the town, and the men went by, one by one, to their
lodgings. Every footfall, every sound in the street, raised hopes to be
disappointed; but it was not for long, the dreadful quiet succeeded
again. Toward morning the Countess was forced to return to her room.
Brigitte, ever keeping watch over her mistress's movements, did not see
her come out again; and when she went, she found the Countess lying
"I expect she heard that conscript," cried Brigitte, "walking about
Monsieur Auguste's room, whistling that accursed _Marseillaise_ of
theirs while he dressed, as if he had been in a stable! That must have
But it was a deeper and a more solemn emotion, and doubtless some
dreadful vision, that had caused Mme. de Dey's death; for at the very
hour when she died at Carentan, her son was shot in le Morbihan.
* * * * *
This tragical story may be added to all the instances on record of the
workings of sympathies uncontrolled by the laws of time and space.
These observations, collected with scientific curiosity by a few
isolated individuals, will one day serve as documents on which to base
the foundations of a new science which hitherto has lacked its man of
_Introduction to Zadig the Babylonian_
_A work (says the author) which performs more than it promises._
Voltaire never heard of a "detective story"; and yet he wrote the first
in modern literature, so clever as to be a model for all the others
He describes his hero Zadig thus: "His chief talent consisted in
discovering the truth,"--in making swift, yet marvelous deductions,
worthy of Sherlock Holmes or any other of the ingenious modern
But no one would be more surprised than Voltaire to behold the part
that Zadig now "performs." The amusing Babylonian, now regarded as the
aristocratic ancestor of modern story-detectives, was created as a
chief mocker in a satire on eighteenth-century manners, morals, and
Voltaire breathed his dazzling brilliance into "Zadig" as he did into a
hundred other characters--for a political purpose. Their veiled and
bitter satire was to make Europe think--to sting reason into action--to
ridicule out of existence a humbugging System of special privileges. It
did, _via_ the French Revolution and the resulting upheavals. His prose
romances are the most perfect of Voltaire's manifold expressions to
this end, which mark him the most powerful literary man of the century.
But the arch-wit of his age outdid his brilliant self in "Zadig." So
surpassingly sharp and quick was this finished sleuth that his methods
far outlived his satirical mission. His razor-mind was reincarnated a
century later as the fascinator of nations--M. Dupin. And from Poe's
wizard up to Sherlock Holmes, no one of the thousand "detectives,"
drawn in a myriad scenes that thrill the world of readers, but owes his
outlines, at least, to "Zadig."
"Don't use your reason--act like your friends--respect conventionalities
--otherwise the world will absolutely refuse to let you be happy." This
sums up the theory of life that Zadig satires. His comical troubles
proceed entirely from his use of independent reason as opposed to the
customs of his times.
The satire fitted ancient Babylonia--it fitted eighteenth-century
France--and perhaps the reader of these volumes can find some points of
contact with his own surroundings.
It is still piquant, however, to remember Zadig's original _raison
d'etre_. He happened to be cast in the part of what we now know as "a
detective," merely because Voltaire had been reading stories in the
"Arabian Nights" whose heroes get out of scrapes by marvelous
deductions from simple signs. (See Vol. VI.)
Voltaire must have grinned at the delicious human interest, the subtle
irony to pierce complacent humbugs, that lurked behind these Oriental
situations. He made the most of his chance for a quaint parable,
applicable to the courts, the church and science of Europe. As the
story runs on, midst many and sudden adventures, the Babylonian reads
causes from events in guileless fashion, enthusiastic as Sherlock
Holmes, and no less efficient--and all the while, behind this innocent
mask, Voltaire is insinuating a comparison between the practical
results of Zadig's common sense and the futile mental cobwebs spun by
the alleged thought of the time.
Especially did "Zadig" caricature orthodox science, and the metaphysicians,
whose solemn searches after final causes, after the reality behind the
appearance of things, mostly wandered into hopeless tangles, and thus
formed a great weapon of political oppression, by postponing the age
of reason and independent thought. Zadig "did not employ himself in
calculating how many inches of water flow in a second of time under the
arches of a bridge, or whether there fell a cube line of rain in the
month of the Mouse more than in the month of the Sheep. He never
dreamed of making silk of cobwebs, or porcelain of broken bottles; but
he chiefly studied the properties of plants and animals; and soon
acquired a sagacity that made him _discover a thousand differences
where other men see nothing but uniformity_."
FRANCOIS MARIE AROUET DE VOLTAIRE
_Zadig the Babylonian_
THE BLIND OF ONE EYE
There lived at Babylon, in the reign of King Moabdar, a young man named
Zadig, of a good natural disposition, strengthened and improved by
education. Though rich and young, he had learned to moderate his
passions; he had nothing stiff or affected in his behavior, he did not
pretend to examine every action by the strict rules of reason, but was
always ready to make proper allowances for the weakness of mankind.
It was matter of surprise that, notwithstanding his sprightly wit, he
never exposed by his raillery those vague, incoherent, and noisy
discourses, those rash censures, ignorant decisions, coarse jests, and
all that empty jingle of words which at Babylon went by the name of
conversation. He had learned, in the first book of Zoroaster, that self
love is a football swelled with wind, from which, when pierced, the
most terrible tempests issue forth.
Above all, Zadig never boasted of his conquests among the women, nor
affected to entertain a contemptible opinion of the fair sex. He was
generous, and was never afraid of obliging the ungrateful; remembering
the grand precept of Zoroaster, "When thou eatest, give to the dogs,
should they even bite thee." He was as wise as it is possible for man
to be, for he sought to live with the wise.
Instructed in the sciences of the ancient Chaldeans, he understood the
principles of natural philosophy, such as they were then supposed to
be; and knew as much of metaphysics as hath ever been known in any age,
that is, little or nothing at all. He was firmly persuaded,
notwithstanding the new philosophy of the times, that the year
consisted of three hundred and sixty-five days and six hours, and that
the sun was in the center of the world. But when the principal magi
told him, with a haughty and contemptuous air, that his sentiments were
of a dangerous tendency, and that it was to be an enemy to the state to
believe that the sun revolved round its own axis, and that the year had
twelve months, he held his tongue with great modesty and meekness.
Possessed as he was of great riches, and consequently of many friends,
blessed with a good constitution, a handsome figure, a mind just and
moderate, and a heart noble and sincere, he fondly imagined that he
might easily be happy. He was going to be married to Semira, who, in
point of beauty, birth, and fortune, was the first match in Babylon. He
had a real and virtuous affection for this lady, and she loved him with
the most passionate fondness.
The happy moment was almost arrived that was to unite them forever in
the bands of wedlock, when happening to take a walk together toward one
of the gates of Babylon, under the palm trees that adorn the banks of
the Euphrates, they saw some men approaching, armed with sabers and
arrows. These were the attendants of young Orcan, the minister's
nephew, whom his uncle's creatures had flattered into an opinion that
he might do everything with impunity. He had none of the graces nor
virtues of Zadig; but thinking himself a much more accomplished man, he
was enraged to find that the other was preferred before him. This
jealousy, which was merely the effect of his vanity, made him imagine
that he was desperately in love with Semira; and accordingly he
resolved to carry her off. The ravishers seized her; in the violence of
the outrage they wounded her, and made the blood flow from a person,
the sight of which would have softened the tigers of Mount Imaus. She
pierced the heavens with her complaints. She cried out, "My dear
husband! they tear me from the man I adore." Regardless of her own
danger, she was only concerned for the fate of her dear Zadig, who, in
the meantime, defended himself with all the strength that courage and
love could inspire. Assisted only by two slaves, he put the ravishers
to flight and carried home Semira, insensible and bloody as she was.
On opening her eyes and beholding her deliverer, "O Zadig!" said she,
"I loved thee formerly as my intended husband; I now love thee as the
preserver of my honor and my life." Never was heart more deeply
affected than that of Semira. Never did a more charming mouth express
more moving sentiments, in those glowing words inspired by a sense of
the greatest of all favors, and by the most tender transports of a
Her wound was slight and was soon cured. Zadig was more dangerously
wounded; an arrow had pierced him near his eye, and penetrated to a
considerable depth. Semira wearied Heaven with her prayers for the
recovery of her lover. Her eyes were constantly bathed in tears; she
anxiously waited the happy moment when those of Zadig should be able to
meet hers; but an abscess growing on the wounded eye gave everything to
fear. A messenger was immediately dispatched to Memphis for the great
physician Hermes, who came with a numerous retinue. He visited the
patient and declared that he would lose his eye. He even foretold the
day and hour when this fatal event would happen. "Had it been the right
eye," said he, "I could easily have cured it; but the wounds of the
left eye are incurable." All Babylon lamented the fate of Zadig, and
admired the profound knowledge of Hermes.
In two days the abscess broke of its own accord and Zadig was perfectly
cured. Hermes wrote a book to prove that it ought not to have been
cured. Zadig did not read it; but, as soon as he was able to go abroad,
he went to pay a visit to her in whom all his hopes of happiness were
centered, and for whose sake alone he wished to have eyes. Semira had
been in the country for three days past. He learned on the road that
that fine lady, having openly declared that she had an unconquerable
aversion to one-eyed men, had the night before given her hand to Orcan.
At this news he fell speechless to the ground. His sorrow brought him
almost to the brink of the grave. He was long indisposed; but reason at
last got the better of his affliction, and the severity of his fate
served to console him.
"Since," said he, "I have suffered so much from the cruel caprice of a
woman educated at court, I must now think of marrying the daughter of a
citizen." He pitched upon Azora, a lady of the greatest prudence, and
of the best family in town. He married her and lived with her for three
months in all the delights of the most tender union. He only observed
that she had a little levity; and was too apt to find that those young
men who had the most handsome persons were likewise possessed of most
wit and virtue.
One morning Azora returned from a walk in a terrible passion, and
uttering the most violent exclamations. "What aileth thee," said he,
"my dear spouse? What is it that can thus have discomposed thee?"
"Alas," said she, "thou wouldst be as much enraged as I am hadst thou
seen what I have just beheld. I have been to comfort the young widow
Cosrou, who, within these two days, hath raised a tomb to her young
husband, near the rivulet that washes the skirts of this meadow. She
vowed to heaven, in the bitterness of her grief, to remain at this tomb
while the water of the rivulet should continue to run near it."
"Well," said Zadig, "she is an excellent woman, and loved her husband
with the most sincere affection."
"Ah," replied Azora, "didst thou but know in what she was employed when
I went to wait upon her!"
"In what, pray, beautiful Azora? Was she turning the course of the
Azora broke out into such long invectives and loaded the young widow
with such bitter reproaches, that Zadig was far from being pleased with
this ostentation of virtue.
Zadig had a friend named Cador, one of those young men in whom his wife
discovered more probity and merit than in others. He made him his
confidant, and secured his fidelity as much as possible by a
considerable present. Azora, having passed two days with a friend in
the country, returned home on the third. The servants told her, with
tears in their eyes, that her husband died suddenly the night before;
that they were afraid to send her an account of this mournful event;
and that they had just been depositing his corpse in the tomb of his
ancestors, at the end of the garden. She wept, she tore her hair, and
swore she would follow him to the grave.
In the evening Cador begged leave to wait upon her, and joined his
tears with hers. Next day they wept less, and dined together. Cador
told her that his friend had left him the greatest part of his estate;
and that he should think himself extremely happy in sharing his fortune
with her. The lady wept, fell into a passion, and at last became more
mild and gentle. They sat longer at supper than at dinner. They now
talked with greater confidence. Azora praised the deceased; but owned
that he had many failings from which Cador was free.
During supper Cador complained of a violent pain in his side. The lady,
greatly concerned, and eager to serve him, caused all kinds of essences
to be brought, with which she anointed him, to try if some of them
might not possibly ease him of his pain. She lamented that the great
Hermes was not still in Babylon. She even condescended to touch the
side in which Cador felt such exquisite pain.
"Art thou subject to this cruel disorder?" said she to him with a
"It sometimes brings me," replied Cador, "to the brink of the grave;
and there is but one remedy that can give me relief, and that is to
apply to my side the nose of a man who is lately dead."
"A strange remedy, indeed!" said Azora.
"Not more strange," replied he, "than the sachels of Arnon against the
apoplexy." This reason, added to the great merit of the young man, at
last determined the lady.
"After all," says she, "when my husband shall cross the bridge
Tchinavar, in his journey to the other world, the angel Asrael will not
refuse him a passage because his nose is a little shorter in the second
life than it was in the first." She then took a razor, went to her
husband's tomb, bedewed it with her tears, and drew near to cut off the
nose of Zadig, whom she found extended at full length in the tomb.
Zadig arose, holding his nose with one hand, and, putting back the
razor with the other, "Madam," said he, "don't exclaim so violently
against young Cosrou; the project of cutting off my nose is equal to
that of turning the course of a rivulet."
THE DOG AND THE HORSE
Zadig found by experience that the first month of marriage, as it is
written in the book of Zend, is the moon of honey, and that the second
is the moon of wormwood. He was some time after obliged to repudiate
Azora, who became too difficult to be pleased; and he then sought for
happiness in the study of nature. "No man," said he, "can be happier
than a philosopher who reads in this great book which God hath placed
before our eyes. The truths he discovers are his own, he nourishes and
exalts his soul; he lives in peace; he fears nothing from men; and his
tender spouse will not come to cut off his nose."
Possessed of these ideas he retired to a country house on the banks of
the Euphrates. There he did not employ himself in calculating how many
inches of water flow in a second of time under the arches of a bridge,
or whether there fell a cube line of rain in the month of the Mouse
more than in the month of the Sheep. He never dreamed of making silk of
cobwebs, or porcelain of broken bottles; but he chiefly studied the
properties of plants and animals; and soon acquired a sagacity that
made him discover a thousand differences where other men see nothing
One day, as he was walking near a little wood, he saw one of the
queen's eunuchs running toward him, followed by several officers, who
appeared to be in great perplexity, and who ran to and fro like men
distracted, eagerly searching for something they had lost of great
value. "Young man," said the first eunuch, "hast thou seen the queen's
dog?" "It is a female," replied Zadig. "Thou art in the right,"
returned the first eunuch. "It is a very small she spaniel," added
Zadig; "she has lately whelped; she limps on the left forefoot, and has
very long ears." "Thou hast seen her," said the first eunuch, quite out
of breath. "No," replied Zadig, "I have not seen her, nor did I so much
as know that the queen had a dog."
Exactly at the same time, by one of the common freaks of fortune, the
finest horse in the king's stable had escaped from the jockey in the
plains of Babylon. The principal huntsman and all the other officers
ran after him with as much eagerness and anxiety as the first eunuch
had done after the spaniel. The principal huntsman addressed himself to
Zadig, and asked him if he had not seen the king's horse passing by.
"He is the fleetest horse in the king's stable," replied Zadig; "he is
five feet high, with very small hoofs, and a tail three feet and a half
in length; the studs on his bit are gold of twenty-three carats, and
his shoes are silver of eleven pennyweights." "What way did he take?
where is he?" demanded the chief huntsman. "I have not seen him,"
replied Zadig, "and never heard talk of him before."
The principal huntsman and the first eunuch never doubted but that
Zadig had stolen the king's horse and the queen's spaniel. They
therefore had him conducted before the assembly of the grand desterham,
who condemned him to the knout, and to spend the rest of his days in
Siberia. Hardly was the sentence passed when the horse and the spaniel
were both found. The judges were reduced to the disagreeable necessity
of reversing their sentence; but they condemned Zadig to pay four
hundred ounces of gold for having said that he had not seen what he had
seen. This fine he was obliged to pay; after which he was permitted to
plead his cause before the counsel of the grand desterham, when he
spoke to the following effect:
"Ye stars of justice, abyss of sciences, mirrors of truth, who have the
weight of lead, the hardness of iron, the splendor of the diamond, and
many properties of gold: Since I am permitted to speak before this
august assembly, I swear to you by Oramades that I have never seen the
queen's respectable spaniel, nor the sacred horse of the king of kings.
The truth of the matter was as follows: I was walking toward the little
wood, where I afterwards met the venerable eunuch, and the most
illustrious chief huntsman. I observed on the sand the traces of an
animal, and could easily perceive them to be those of a little dog. The
light and long furrows impressed on little eminences of sand between
the marks of the paws plainly discovered that it was a female, whose
dugs were hanging down, and that therefore she must have whelped a few
days before. Other traces of a different kind, that always appeared to
have gently brushed the surface of the sand near the marks of the
forefeet, showed me that she had very long ears; and as I remarked that
there was always a slighter impression made on the sand by one foot
than the other three, I found that the spaniel of our august queen was
a little lame, if I may be allowed the expression.
"With regard to the horse of the king of kings, you will be pleased to
know that, walking in the lanes of this wood, I observed the marks of a
horse's shoes, all at equal distances. This must be a horse, said I to
myself, that gallops excellently. The dust on the trees in the road
that was but seven feet wide was a little brushed off, at the distance
of three feet and a half from the middle of the road. This horse, said
I, has a tail three feet and a half long, which being whisked to the
right and left, has swept away the dust. I observed under the trees
that formed an arbor five feet in height, that the leaves of the
branches were newly fallen; from whence I inferred that the horse had
touched them, and that he must therefore be five feet high. As to his
bit, it must be gold of twenty-three carats, for he had rubbed its
bosses against a stone which I knew to be a touchstone, and which I
have tried. In a word, from the marks made by his shoes on flints of
another kind, I concluded that he was shod with silver eleven deniers
All the judges admired Zadig for his acute and profound discernment.
The news of this speech was carried even to the king and queen. Nothing
was talked of but Zadig in the antechambers, the chambers, and the
cabinet; and though many of the magi were of opinion that he ought to
be burned as a sorcerer, the king ordered his officers to restore him
the four hundred ounces of gold which he had been obliged to pay. The
register, the attorneys, and bailiffs, went to his house with great
formality, to carry him back his four hundred ounces. They only
retained three hundred and ninety-eight of them to defray the expenses
of justice; and their servants demanded their fees.
Zadig saw how extremely dangerous it sometimes is to appear too
knowing, and therefore resolved that on the next occasion of the like
nature he would not tell what he had seen.
Such an opportunity soon offered. A prisoner of state made his escape,
and passed under the window of Zadig's house. Zadig was examined and
made no answer. But it was proved that he had looked at the prisoner
from this window. For this crime he was condemned to pay five hundred
ounces of gold; and, according to the polite custom of Babylon, he
thanked his judges for their indulgence.
"Great God!" said he to himself, "what a misfortune it is to walk in a
wood through which the queen's spaniel or the king's horse has passed!
how dangerous to look out at a window! and how difficult to be happy in
THE ENVIOUS MAN
Zadig resolved to comfort himself by philosophy and friendship for the
evils he had suffered from fortune. He had in the suburbs of Babylon a
house elegantly furnished, in which he assembled all the arts and all
the pleasures worthy the pursuit of a gentleman. In the morning his
library was open to the learned. In the evening his table was
surrounded by good company. But he soon found what very dangerous
guests these men of letters are. A warm dispute arose on one of
Zoroaster's laws, which forbids the eating of a griffin. "Why," said
some of them, "prohibit the eating of a griffin, if there is no such an
animal in nature?" "There must necessarily be such an animal," said the
others, "since Zoroaster forbids us to eat it." Zadig would fain have
reconciled them by saying, "If there are no griffins, we cannot
possibly eat them; and thus either way we shall obey Zoroaster."
A learned man who had composed thirteen volumes on the properties of
the griffin, and was besides the chief theurgite, hastened away to
accuse Zadig before one of the principal magi, named Yebor, the
greatest blockhead and therefore the greatest fanatic among the
Chaldeans. This man would have impaled Zadig to do honors to the sun,
and would then have recited the breviary of Zoroaster with greater
satisfaction. The friend Cador (a friend is better than a hundred
priests) went to Yebor, and said to him, "Long live the sun and the
griffins; beware of punishing Zadig; he is a saint; he has griffins in
his inner court and does not eat them; and his accuser is an heretic,
who dares to maintain that rabbits have cloven feet and are not
"Well," said Yebor, shaking his bald pate, "we must impale Zadig for
having thought contemptuously of griffins, and the other for having
spoken disrespectfully of rabbits." Cador hushed up the affair by means
of a maid of honor with whom he had a love affair, and who had great
interest in the College of the Magi. Nobody was impaled.
This levity occasioned a great murmuring among some of the doctors, who
from thence predicted the fall of Babylon. "Upon what does happiness
depend?" said Zadig. "I am persecuted by everything in the world, even
on account of beings that have no existence." He cursed those men of
learning, and resolved for the future to live with none but good
He assembled at his house the most worthy men and the most beautiful
ladies of Babylon. He gave them delicious suppers, often preceded by
concerts of music, and always animated by polite conversation, from
which he knew how to banish that affectation of wit which is the surest
method of preventing it entirely, and of spoiling the pleasure of the
most agreeable society. Neither the choice of his friends, nor that of
the dishes was made by vanity; for in everything he preferred the
substance to the shadow; and by these means he procured that real
respect to which he did not aspire.
Opposite to his house lived one Arimazes, a man whose deformed
countenance was but a faint picture of his still more deformed mind.
His heart was a mixture of malice, pride, and envy. Having never been
able to succeed in any of his undertakings, he revenged himself on all
around him by loading them with the blackest calumnies. Rich as he was,
he found it difficult to procure a set of flatterers. The rattling of
the chariots that entered Zadig's court in the evening filled him with
uneasiness; the sound of his praises enraged him still more. He
sometimes went to Zadig's house, and sat down at table without being
desired; where he spoiled all the pleasure of the company, as the
harpies are said to infect the viands they touch. It happened that one
day he took it in his head to give an entertainment to a lady, who,
instead of accepting it, went to sup with Zadig. At another time, as he
was talking with Zadig at court, a minister of state came up to them,
and invited Zadig to supper without inviting Arimazes. The most
implacable hatred has seldom a more solid foundation. This man, who in
Babylon was called the Envious, resolved to ruin Zadig because he was
called the Happy. "The opportunity of doing mischief occurs a hundred
times in a day, and that of doing good but once a year," as sayeth the
The envious man went to see Zadig, who was walking in his garden with
two friends and a lady, to whom he said many gallant things, without
any other intention than that of saying them. The conversation turned
upon a war which the king had just brought to a happy conclusion
against the prince of Hircania, his vassal. Zadig, who had signalized
his courage in this short war, bestowed great praises on the king, but
greater still on the lady. He took out his pocketbook, and wrote four
lines extempore, which he gave to this amiable person to read. His
friends begged they might see them; but modesty, or rather a
well-regulated self love, would not allow him to grant their request.
He knew that extemporary verses are never approved of by any but by the
person in whose honor they are written. He therefore tore in two the
leaf on which he had wrote them, and threw both the pieces into a
thicket of rosebushes, where the rest of the company sought for them in
vain. A slight shower falling soon after obliged them to return to the
house. The envious man, who stayed in the garden, continued the search
till at last he found a piece of the leaf. It had been torn in such a
manner that each half of a line formed a complete sense, and even a
verse of a shorter measure; but what was still more surprising, these
short verses were found to contain the most injurious reflections on
the king. They ran thus:
To flagrant crimes.
His crown he owes,
To peaceful times.
The worst of foes.
The envious man was now happy for the first time of his life. He had it
in his power to ruin a person of virtue and merit. Filled with this
fiendlike joy, he found means to convey to the king the satire written
by the hand of Zadig, who, together with the lady and his two friends,
was thrown into prison.
His trial was soon finished, without his being permitted to speak for
himself. As he was going to receive his sentence, the envious man threw
himself in his way and told him with a loud voice that his verses were
good for nothing. Zadig did not value himself on being a good poet; but
it filled him with inexpressible concern to find that he was condemned
for high treason; and that the fair lady and his two friends were
confined in prison for a crime of which they were not guilty. He was
not allowed to speak because his writing spoke for him. Such was the
law of Babylon. Accordingly he was conducted to the place of execution,
through an immense crowd of spectators, who durst not venture to
express their pity for him, but who carefully examined his countenance
to see if he died with a good grace. His relations alone were
inconsolable, for they could not succeed to his estate. Three fourths
of his wealth were confiscated into the king's treasury, and the other
fourth was given to the envious man.
Just as he was preparing for death the king's parrot flew from its cage
and alighted on a rosebush in Zadig's garden. A peach had been driven
thither by the wind from a neighboring tree, and had fallen on a piece
of the written leaf of the pocketbook to which it stuck. The bird
carried off the peach and the paper and laid them on the king's knee.
The king took up the paper with great eagerness and read the words,
which formed no sense, and seemed to be the endings of verses. He loved
poetry; and there is always some mercy to be expected from a prince of
that disposition. The adventure of the parrot set him a-thinking.
The queen, who remembered what had been written on the piece of Zadig's
pocketbook, caused it to be brought. They compared the two pieces
together and found them to tally exactly; they then read the verses as
Zadig had wrote them.
TYRANTS ARE PRONE TO FLAGRANT CRIMES.
TO CLEMENCY HIS CROWN HE OWES.
TO CONCORD AND TO PEACEFUL TIMES.
LOVE ONLY IS THE WORST OF FOES.
The king gave immediate orders that Zadig should be brought before him,
and that his two friends and the lady should be set at liberty. Zadig
fell prostrate on the ground before the king and queen; humbly begged
their pardon for having made such bad verses and spoke with so much
propriety, wit, and good sense, that their majesties desired they might
see him again. He did himself that honor, and insinuated himself still
farther into their good graces. They gave him all the wealth of the
envious man; but Zadig restored him back the whole of it. And this
instance of generosity gave no other pleasure to the envious man than
that of having preserved his estate.
The king's esteem for Zadig increased every day. He admitted him into
all his parties of pleasure, and consulted him in all affairs of state.
From that time the queen began to regard him with an eye of tenderness
that might one day prove dangerous to herself, to the king, her august
comfort, to Zadig, and to the kingdom in general. Zadig now began to
think that happiness was not so unattainable as he had formerly
The time now arrived for celebrating a grand festival, which returned
every five years. It was a custom in Babylon solemnly to declare at the
end of every five years which of the citizens had performed the most
generous action. The grandees and the magi were the judges. The first
satrap, who was charged with the government of the city, published the
most noble actions that had passed under his administration. The
competition was decided by votes; and the king pronounced the sentence.
People came to this solemnity from the extremities of the earth. The