Part 5 out of 6
conqueror received from the monarch's hand a golden cup adorned with
precious stones, his majesty at the same time making him this
"Receive this reward of thy generosity, and may the gods grant me many
subjects like to thee."
This memorable day being come, the king appeared on his throne,
surrounded by the grandees, the magi, and the deputies of all nations
that came to these games, where glory was acquired not by the swiftness
of horses, nor by strength of body, but by virtue. The first satrap
recited, with an audible voice, such actions as might entitle the
authors of them to this invaluable prize. He did not mention the
greatness of soul with which Zadig had restored the envious man his
fortune, because it was not judged to be an action worthy of disputing
He first presented a judge who, having made a citizen lose a
considerable cause by a mistake, for which, after all, he was not
accountable, had given him the whole of his own estate, which was just
equal to what the other had lost.
He next produced a young man who, being desperately in love with a lady
whom he was going to marry, had yielded her up to his friend, whose
passion for her had almost brought him to the brink of the grave, and
at the same time had given him the lady's fortune.
He afterwards produced a soldier who, in the wars of Hircania, had
given a still more noble instance of generosity. A party of the enemy
having seized his mistress, he fought in her defense with great
intrepidity. At that very instant he was informed that another party,
at the distance of a few paces, were carrying off his mother; he
therefore left his mistress with tears in his eyes and flew to the
assistance of his mother. At last he returned to the dear object of his
love and found her expiring. He was just going to plunge his sword in
his own bosom; but his mother remonstrating against such a desperate
deed, and telling him that he was the only support of her life, he had
the courage to endure to live.
The judges were inclined to give the prize to the soldier. But the king
took up the discourse and said: "The action of the soldier, and those
of the other two, are doubtless very great, but they have nothing in
them surprising. Yesterday Zadig performed an action that filled me
with wonder. I had a few days before disgraced Coreb, my minister and
favorite. I complained of him in the most violent and bitter terms; all
my courtiers assured me that I was too gentle and seemed to vie with
each other in speaking ill of Coreb. I asked Zadig what he thought of
him, and he had the courage to commend him. I have read in our
histories of many people who have atoned for an error by the surrender
of their fortune; who have resigned a mistress; or preferred a mother
to the object of their affection; but never before did I hear of a
courtier who spoke favorably of a disgraced minister that labored under
the displeasure of his sovereign. I give to each of those whose
generous actions have been now recited twenty thousand pieces of gold;
but the cup I give to Zadig."
"May it please your majesty," said Zadig, "thyself alone deservest the
cup; thou hast performed an action of all others the most uncommon and
meritorious, since, notwithstanding thy being a powerful king, thou
wast not offended at thy slave when he presumed to oppose thy passion."
The king and Zadig were equally the object of admiration. The judge,
who had given his estate to his client; the lover, who had resigned his
mistress to a friend; and the soldier, who had preferred the safety of
his mother to that of his mistress, received the king's presents and
saw their names enrolled in the catalogue of generous men. Zadig had
the cup, and the king acquired the reputation of a good prince, which
he did not long enjoy. The day was celebrated by feasts that lasted
longer than the law enjoined; and the memory of it is still preserved
in Asia. Zadig said, "Now I am happy at last"; but he found himself
The king had lost his first minister and chose Zadig to supply his
place. All the ladies in Babylon applauded the choice; for since the
foundation of the empire there had never been such a young minister.
But all the courtiers were filled with jealousy and vexation. The
envious man in particular was troubled with a spitting of blood and a
prodigious inflammation in his nose. Zadig, having thanked the king and
queen for their goodness, went likewise to thank the parrot. "Beautiful
bird," said he, "'tis thou that hast saved my life and made me first
minister. The queen's spaniel and the king's horse did me a great deal
of mischief; but thou hast done me much good. Upon such slender threads
as these do the fates of mortals hang! But," added he, "this happiness
perhaps will vanish very soon."
"Soon," replied the parrot.
Zadig was somewhat startled at this word. But as he was a good natural
philosopher and did not believe parrots to be prophets, he quickly
recovered his spirits and resolved to execute his duty to the best of
He made everyone feel the sacred authority of the laws, but no one felt
the weight of his dignity. He never checked the deliberation of the
diran; and every vizier might give his opinion without the fear of
incurring the minister's displeasure. When he gave judgment, it was not
he that gave it, it was the law; the rigor of which, however, whenever
it was too severe, he always took care to soften; and when laws were
wanting, the equity of his decisions was such as might easily have made
them pass for those of Zoroaster. It is to him that the nations are
indebted for this grand principle, to wit, that it is better to run the
risk of sparing the guilty than to condemn the innocent. He imagined
that laws were made as well to secure the people from the suffering of
injuries as to restrain them from the commission of crimes. His chief
talent consisted in discovering the truth, which all men seek to
This great talent he put in practice from the very beginning of his
administration. A famous merchant of Babylon, who died in the Indies,
divided his estate equally between his two sons, after having disposed
of their sister in marriage, and left a present of thirty thousand
pieces of gold to that son who should be found to have loved him best.
The eldest raised a tomb to his memory; the youngest increased his
sister's portion, by giving her part of his inheritance. Everyone said
that the eldest son loved his father best, and the youngest his sister;
and that the thirty thousand pieces belonged to the eldest.
Zadig sent for both of them, the one after the other. To the eldest he
said: "Thy father is not dead; he is recovered of his last illness, and
is returning to Babylon." "God be praised," replied the young man; "but
his tomb cost me a considerable sum." Zadig afterwards said the same to
the youngest. "God be praised," said he, "I will go and restore to my
father all that I have; but I could wish that he would leave my sister
what I have given her." "Thou shalt restore nothing," replied Zadig,
"and thou shalt have the thirty thousand pieces, for thou art the son
who loves his father best."
THE DISPUTES AND THE AUDIENCES
In this manner he daily discovered the subtilty of his genius and the
goodness of his heart. The people at once admired and loved him. He
passed for the happiest man in the world. The whole empire resounded
with his name. All the ladies ogled him. All the men praised him for
his justice. The learned regarded him as an oracle; and even the
priests confessed that he knew more than the old arch-magi Yebor. They
were now so far from prosecuting him on account of the griffin, that
they believed nothing but what he thought credible.
There had reigned in Babylon, for the space of fifteen hundred years, a
violent contest that had divided the empire into two sects. The one
pretended that they ought to enter the temple of Mitra with the left
foot foremost; the other held this custom in detestation and always
entered with the right foot first. The people waited with great
impatience for the day on which the solemn feast of the sacred fire was
to be celebrated, to see which sect Zadig would favor. All the world
had their eyes fixed on his two feet, and the whole city was in the
utmost suspense and perturbation. Zadig jumped into the temple with his
feet joined together, and afterwards proved, in an eloquent discourse,
that the Sovereign of heaven and earth, who accepted not the persons of
men, makes no distinction between the right and left foot. The envious
man and his wife alleged that his discourse was not figurative enough,
and that he did not make the rocks and mountains to dance with
"He is dry," said they, "and void of genius; he does not make the flea
to fly, and stars to fall, nor the sun to melt wax; he has not the true
Oriental style." Zadig contented himself with having the style of
reason. All the world favored him, not because he was in the right road
or followed the dictates of reason, or was a man of real merit, but
because he was prime vizier.
He terminated with the same happy address the grand difference between
the white and the black magi. The former maintained that it was the
height of impiety to pray to God with the face turned toward the east
in winter; the latter asserted that God abhorred the prayers of those
who turned toward the west in summer. Zadig decreed that every man
should be allowed to turn as he pleased.
Thus he found out the happy secret of finishing all affairs, whether of
a private or public nature, in the morning. The rest of the day he
employed in superintending and promoting the embellishments of Babylon.
He exhibited tragedies that drew tears from the eyes of the spectators,
and comedies that shook their sides with laughter; a custom which had
long been disused, and which his good taste now induced him to revive.
He never affected to be more knowing in the polite arts than the
artists themselves; he encouraged them by rewards and honors, and was
never jealous of their talents. In the evening the king was highly
entertained with his conversation, and the queen still more. "Great
minister!" said the king. "Amiable minister!" said the queen; and both
of them added, "It would have been a great loss to the state had such a
man been hanged."
Never was man in power obliged to give so many audiences to the ladies.
Most of them came to consult him about no business at all, that so they
might have some business with him. But none of them won his attention.
Meanwhile Zadig perceived that his thoughts were always distracted, as
well when he gave audience as when he sat in judgment. He did not know
to what to attribute this absence of mind; and that was his only
He had a dream in which he imagined that he laid himself down upon a
heap of dry herbs, among which there were many prickly ones that gave
him great uneasiness, and that he afterwards reposed himself on a soft
bed of roses from which there sprung a serpent that wounded him to the
heart with its sharp and venomed tongue. "Alas," said he, "I have long
lain on these dry and prickly herbs, I am now on the bed of roses; but
what shall be the serpent?"
Zadig's calamities sprung even from his happiness and especially from
his merit. He every day conversed with the king and Astarte, his august
comfort. The charms of his conversation were greatly heightened by that
desire of pleasing, which is to the mind what dress is to beauty. His
youth and graceful appearance insensibly made an impression on Astarte,
which she did not at first perceive. Her passion grew and flourished in
the bosom of innocence. Without fear or scruple, she indulged the
pleasing satisfaction of seeing and hearing a man who was so dear to
her husband and to the empire in general. She was continually praising
him to the king. She talked of him to her women, who were always sure
to improve on her praises. And thus everything contributed to pierce
her heart with a dart, of which she did not seem to be sensible. She
made several presents to Zadig, which discovered a greater spirit of
gallantry than she imagined. She intended to speak to him only as a
queen satisfied with his services and her expressions were sometimes
those of a woman in love.
Astarte was much more beautiful than that Semira who had such a strong
aversion to one-eyed men, or that other woman who had resolved to cut
off her husband's nose. Her unreserved familiarity, her tender
expressions, at which she began to blush; and her eyes, which, though
she endeavored to divert them to other objects, were always fixed upon
his, inspired Zadig with a passion that filled him with astonishment.
He struggled hard to get the better of it. He called to his aid the
precepts of philosophy, which had always stood him in stead; but from
thence, though he could derive the light of knowledge, he could procure
no remedy to cure the disorders of his lovesick heart. Duty, gratitude,
and violated majesty presented themselves to his mind as so many
avenging gods. He struggled; he conquered; but this victory, which he
was obliged to purchase afresh every moment, cost him many sighs and
tears. He no longer dared to speak to the queen with that sweet and
charming familiarity which had been so agreeable to them both. His
countenance was covered with a cloud. His conversation was constrained
and incoherent. His eyes were fixed on the ground; and when, in spite
of all his endeavors to the contrary, they encountered those of the
queen, they found them bathed in tears and darting arrows of flame.
They seemed to say, We adore each other and yet are afraid to love; we
both burn with a fire which we both condemn.
Zadig left the royal presence full of perplexity and despair, and
having his heart oppressed with a burden which he was no longer able to
bear. In the violence of his perturbation he involuntarily betrayed the
secret to his friend Cador, in the same manner as a man who, having
long supported the fits of a cruel disease, discovered his pain by a
cry extorted from him by a more severe fit and by the cold sweat that
covers his brow.
"I have already discovered," said Cador, "the sentiments which thou
wouldst fain conceal from thyself. The symptoms by which the passions
show themselves are certain and infallible. Judge, my dear Zadig, since
I have read thy heart, whether the king will not discover something in
it that may give him offense. He has no other fault but that of being
the most jealous man in the world. Thou canst resist the violence of
thy passion with greater fortitude than the queen because thou art a
philosopher, and because thou art Zadig. Astarte is a woman: she
suffers her eyes to speak with so much the more imprudence, as she does
not as yet think herself guilty. Conscious of her innocence she
unhappily neglects those external appearances which are so necessary. I
shall tremble for her so long as she has nothing wherewithal to
reproach herself. Were ye both of one mind, ye might easily deceive the
whole world. A growing passion, which we endeavor to suppress,
discovers itself in spite of all our efforts to the contrary; but love,
when gratified, is easily concealed."
Zadig trembled at the proposal of betraying the king, his benefactor;
and never was he more faithful to his prince than when guilty of an
involuntary crime against him.
Meanwhile the queen mentioned the name of Zadig so frequently and with
such a blushing and downcast look; she was sometimes so lively and
sometimes so perplexed when she spoke to him in the king's presence,
and was seized with such deep thoughtfulness at his going away, that
the king began to be troubled. He believed all that he saw and imagined
all that he did not see. He particularly remarked that his wife's shoes
were blue and that Zadig's shoes were blue; that his wife's ribbons
were yellow and that Zadig's bonnet was yellow; and these were terrible
symptoms to a prince of so much delicacy. In his jealous mind
suspicions were turned into certainty.
All the slaves of kings and queens are so many spies over their hearts.
They soon observed that Astarte was tender and that Moabdar was
jealous. The envious man brought false report to the king. The monarch
now thought of nothing but in what manner he might best execute his
vengeance. He one night resolved to poison the queen and in the morning
to put Zadig to death by the bowstring. The orders were given to a
merciless eunuch, who commonly executed his acts of vengeance. There
happened at that time to be in the king's chamber a little dwarf, who,
though dumb, was not deaf. He was allowed, on account of his
insignificance, to go wherever he pleased, and as a domestic animal,
was a witness of what passed in the most profound secrecy. This little
mute was strongly attached to the queen and Zadig. With equal horror
and surprise he heard the cruel orders given. But how to prevent the
fatal sentence that in a few hours was to be carried into execution! He
could not write, but he could paint; and excelled particularly in
drawing a striking resemblance. He employed a part of the night in
sketching out with his pencil what he meant to impart to the queen. The
piece represented the king in one corner, boiling with rage, and giving
orders to the eunuch; a bowstring, and a bowl on a table; the queen in
the middle of the picture, expiring in the arms of her woman, and Zadig
strangled at her feet. The horizon represented a rising sun, to express
that this shocking execution was to be performed in the morning. As
soon as he had finished the picture he ran to one of Astarte's women,
awakened her, and made her understand that she must immediately carry
it to the queen.
At midnight a messenger knocks at Zadig's door, awakes him, and gives
him a note from the queen. He doubts whether it is a dream; and opens
the letter with a trembling hand. But how great was his surprise! and
who can express the consternation and despair into which he was thrown
upon reading these words: "Fly this instant, or thou art a dead man.
Fly, Zadig, I conjure thee by our mutual love and my yellow ribbons. I
have not been guilty, but I find I must die like a criminal."
Zadig was hardly able to speak. He sent for Cador, and, without
uttering a word, gave him the note. Cador forced him to obey, and
forthwith to take the road to Memphis. "Shouldst thou dare," said he,
"to go in search of the queen, thou wilt hasten her death. Shouldst
thou speak to the king, thou wilt infallibly ruin her. I will take upon
me the charge of her destiny; follow thy own. I will spread a report
that thou hast taken the road to India. I will soon follow thee, and
inform thee of all that shall have passed in Babylon." At that instant,
Cador caused two of the swiftest dromedaries to be brought to a private
gate of the palace. Upon one of these he mounted Zadig, whom he was
obliged to carry to the door, and who was ready to expire with grief.
He was accompanied by a single domestic; and Cador, plunged in sorrow
and astonishment, soon lost sight of his friend.
This illustrious fugitive arriving on the side of a hill, from whence
he could take a view of Babylon, turned his eyes toward the queen's
palace, and fainted away at the sight; nor did he recover his senses
but to shed a torrent of tears and to wish for death. At length, after
his thoughts had been long engrossed in lamenting the unhappy fate of
the loveliest woman and the greatest queen in the world, he for a
moment turned his views on himself and cried: "What then is human life?
O virtue, how hast thou served me! Two women have basely deceived me,
and now a third, who is innocent, and more beautiful than both the
others, is going to be put to death! Whatever good I have done hath
been to me a continual source of calamity and affliction; and I have
only been raised to the height of grandeur, to be tumbled down the most
horrid precipice of misfortune." Filled with these gloomy reflections,
his eyes overspread with the veil of grief, his countenance covered
with the paleness of death, and his soul plunged in an abyss of the
blackest despair, he continued his journey toward Egypt.
THE WOMAN BEATEN
Zadig directed his course by the stars. The constellation of Orion and
the splendid Dog Star guided his steps toward the pole of Cassiopaea. He
admired those vast globes of light, which appear to our eyes but as so
many little sparks, while the earth, which in reality is only an
imperceptible point in nature, appears to our fond imaginations as
something so grand and noble.
He then represented to himself the human species as it really is, as a
parcel of insects devouring one another on a little atom of clay. This
true image seemed to annihilate his misfortunes, by making him sensible
of the nothingness of his own being, and of that of Babylon. His soul
launched out into infinity, and, detached from the senses, contemplated
the immutable order of the universe. But when afterwards, returning to
himself, and entering into his own heart, he considered that Astarte
had perhaps died for him, the universe vanished from his sight, and he
beheld nothing in the whole compass of nature but Astarte expiring and
Zadig unhappy. While he thus alternately gave up his mind to this flux
and reflux of sublime philosophy and intolerable grief, he advanced
toward the frontiers of Egypt; and his faithful domestic was already in
the first village, in search of a lodging.
Upon reaching the village Zadig generously took the part of a woman
attacked by her jealous lover. The combat grew so fierce that Zadig
slew the lover. The Egyptians were then just and humane. The people
conducted Zadig to the town house. They first of all ordered his wound
to be dressed, and then examined him and his servant apart, in order to
discover the truth. They found that Zadig was not an assassin; but as
he was guilty of having killed a man, the law condemned him to be a
slave. His two camels were sold for the benefit of the town; all the
gold he had brought with him was distributed among the inhabitants; and
his person, as well as that of the companion of his journey, was
exposed to sale in the marketplace.
An Arabian merchant, named Setoc, made the purchase; but as the servant
was fitter for labor than the master, he was sold at a higher price.
There was no comparison between the two men. Thus Zadig became a slave
subordinate to his own servant. They were linked together by a chain
fastened to their feet, and in this condition they followed the Arabian
merchant to his house.
By the way Zadig comforted his servant, and exhorted him to patience;
but he could not help making, according to his usual custom, some
reflections on human life. "I see," said he, "that the unhappiness of
my fate hath an influence on thine. Hitherto everything has turned out
to me in a most unaccountable manner. I have been condemned to pay a
fine for having seen the marks of a spaniel's feet. I thought that I
should once have been impaled on account of a griffin. I have been sent
to execution for having made some verses in praise of the king. I have
been upon the point of being strangled because the queen had yellow
ribbons; and now I am a slave with thee, because a brutal wretch beat
his mistress. Come, let us keep a good heart; all this perhaps will
have an end. The Arabian merchants must necessarily have slaves; and
why not me as well as another, since, as well as another, I am a man?
This merchant will not be cruel; he must treat his slaves well, if he
expects any advantage from them." But while he spoke thus, his heart
was entirely engrossed by the fate of the Queen of Babylon.
Two days after, the merchant Setoc set out for Arabia Deserta, with his
slaves and his camels. His tribe dwelt near the Desert of Oreb. The
journey was long and painful. Setoc set a much greater value on the
servant than the master, because the former was more expert in loading
the camels; and all the little marks of distinction were shown to him.
A camel having died within two days' journey of Oreb, his burden was
divided and laid on the backs of the servants; and Zadig had his share
among the rest.
Setoc laughed to see all his slaves walking with their bodies inclined.
Zadig took the liberty to explain to him the cause, and inform him of
the laws of the balance. The merchant was astonished, and began to
regard him with other eyes. Zadig, finding he had raised his curiosity,
increased it still further by acquainting him with many things that
related to commerce, the specific gravity of metals, and commodities
under an equal bulk; the properties of several useful animals; and the
means of rendering those useful that are not naturally so. At last
Setoc began to consider Zadig as a sage, and preferred him to his
companion, whom he had formerly so much esteemed. He treated him well
and had no cause to repent of his kindness.
As soon as Setoc arrived among his own tribe he demanded the payment of
five hundred ounces of silver, which he had lent to a Jew in presence
of two witnesses; but as the witnesses were dead, and the debt could
not be proved, the Hebrew appropriated the merchant's money to himself,
and piously thanked God for putting it in his power to cheat an
Arabian. Setoc imparted this troublesome affair to Zadig, who was now
become his counsel.
"In what place," said Zadig, "didst thou lend the five hundred ounces
to this infidel?"
"Upon a large stone," replied the merchant, "that lies near Mount
"What is the character of thy debtor?" said Zadig.
"That of a knave," returned Setoc.
"But I ask thee whether he is lively or phlegmatic, cautious or
"He is, of all bad payers," said Setoc, "the most lively fellow I ever
"Well," resumed Zadig, "allow me to plead thy cause." In effect Zadig,
having summoned the Jew to the tribunal, addressed the judge in the
following terms: "Pillow of the throne of equity, I come to demand of
this man, in the name of my master, five hundred ounces of silver,
which he refuses to pay."
"Hast thou any witnesses?" said the judge.
"No, they are dead; but there remains a large stone upon which the
money was counted; and if it please thy grandeur to order the stone to
be sought for, I hope that it will bear witness. The Hebrew and I will
tarry here till the stone arrives; I will send for it at my master's
"With all my heart," replied the judge, and immediately applied himself
to the discussion of other affairs.
When the court was going to break up, the judge said to Zadig, "Well,
friend, is not thy stone come yet?"
The Hebrew replied with a smile, "Thy grandeur may stay here till the
morrow, and after all not see the stone. It is more than six miles from
hence; and it would require fifteen men to move it."
"Well," cried Zadig, "did not I say that the stone would bear witness?
Since this man knows where it is, he thereby confesses that it was upon
it that the money was counted." The Hebrew was disconcerted, and was
soon after obliged to confess the truth. The judge ordered him to be
fastened to the stone, without meat or drink, till he should restore
the five hundred ounces, which were soon after paid.
The slave Zadig and the stone were held in great repute in Arabia.
THE FUNERAL PILE
Setoc, charmed with the happy issue of this affair, made his slave his
intimate friend. He had now conceived as great esteem for him as ever
the King of Babylon had done; and Zadig was glad that Setoc had no
wife. He discovered in his master a good natural disposition, much
probity of heart, and a great share of good sense; but he was sorry to
see that, according to the ancient custom of Arabia, he adored the host
of heaven; that is, the sun, moon, and stars. He sometimes spoke to him
on this subject with great prudence and discretion. At last he told him
that these bodies were like all other bodies in the universe, and no
more deserving of our homage than a tree or a rock.
"But," said Setoc, "they are eternal beings; and it is from them we
derive all we enjoy. They animate nature; they regulate the seasons;
and, besides, are removed at such an immense distance from us that we
cannot help revering them."
"Thou receivest more advantage," replied Zadig, "from the waters of the
Red Sea, which carry thy merchandise to the Indies. Why may not it be
as ancient as the stars? and if thou adorest what is placed at a
distance from thee, thou oughtest to adore the land of the Gangarides,
which lies at the extremity of the earth."
"No," said Setoc, "the brightness of the stars command my adoration."
At night Zadig lighted up a great number of candles in the tent where
he was to sup with Setoc; and the moment his patron appeared, he fell
on his knees before these lighted tapers, and said, "Eternal and
shining luminaries! be ye always propitious to me." Having thus said,
he sat down at table, without taking the least notice of Setoc.
"What art thou doing?" said Setoc to him in amaze.
"I act like thee," replied Zadig, "I adore these candles, and neglect
their master and mine." Setoc comprehended the profound sense of this
apologue. The wisdom of his slave sunk deep into his soul; he no longer
offered incense to the creatures, but adored the eternal Being who made
There prevailed at that time in Arabia a shocking custom, sprung
originally from Scythia, and which, being established in the Indies by
the credit of the Brahmans, threatened to overrun all the East. When a
married man died, and his beloved wife aspired to the character of a
saint, she burned herself publicly on the body of her husband. This was
a solemn feast and was called the Funeral Pile of Widowhood, and that
tribe in which most women had been burned was the most respected.
An Arabian of Setoc's tribe being dead, his widow, whose name was
Almona, and who was very devout, published the day and hour when she
intended to throw herself into the fire, amidst the sound of drums and
trumpets. Zadig remonstrated against this horrible custom; he showed
Setoc how inconsistent it was with the happiness of mankind to suffer
young widows to burn themselves every other day, widows who were
capable of giving children to the state, or at least of educating those
they already had; and he convinced him that it was his duty to do all
that lay in his power to abolish such a barbarous practice.
"The women," said Setoc, "have possessed the right of burning
themselves for more than a thousand years; and who shall dare to
abrogate a law which time hath rendered sacred? Is there anything more
respectable than ancient abuses?"
"Reason is more ancient," replied Zadig; "meanwhile, speak thou to the
chiefs of the tribes and I will go to wait on the young widow."
Accordingly he was introduced to her; and, after having insinuated
himself into her good graces by some compliments on her beauty and told
her what a pity it was to commit so many charms to the flames, he at
last praised her for her constancy and courage. "Thou must surely have
loved thy husband," said he to her, "with the most passionate
"Who, I?" replied the lady. "I loved him not at all. He was a brutal,
jealous, insupportable wretch; but I am firmly resolved to throw myself
on his funeral pile."
"It would appear then," said Zadig, "that there must be a very
delicious pleasure in being burned alive."
"Oh! it makes nature shudder," replied the lady, "but that must be
overlooked. I am a devotee, and I should lose my reputation and all the
world would despise me if I did not burn myself." Zadig having made her
acknowledge that she burned herself to gain the good opinion of others
and to gratify her own vanity, entertained her with a long discourse,
calculated to make her a little in love with life, and even went so far
as to inspire her with some degree of good will for the person who
spoke to her.
"Alas!" said the lady, "I believe I should desire thee to marry me."
Zadig's mind was too much engrossed with the idea of Astarte not to
elude this declaration; but he instantly went to the chiefs of the
tribes, told them what had passed, and advised them to make a law, by
which a widow should not be permitted to burn herself till she had
conversed privately with a young man for the space of an hour. Since
that time not a single woman hath burned herself in Arabia. They were
indebted to Zadig alone for destroying in one day a cruel custom that
had lasted for so many ages and thus he became the benefactor of
Setoc, who could not separate himself from this man, in whom dwelt
wisdom, carried him to the great fair of Balzora, whither the richest
merchants in the earth resorted. Zadig was highly pleased to see so
many men of different countries united in the same place. He considered
the whole universe as one large family assembled at Balzora.
Setoc, after having sold his commodities at a very high price, returned
to his own tribe with his friend Zadig; who learned, upon his arrival,
that he had been tried in his absence, and was now going to be burned
by a slow fire. Only the friendship of Almona saved his life. Like so
many pretty women, she possessed great influence with the priesthood.
Zadig thought it best to leave Arabia.
Setoc was so charmed with the ingenuity and address of Almona that he
made her his wife. Zadig departed, after having thrown himself at the
feet of his fair deliverer. Setoc and he took leave of each other with
tears in their eyes, swearing an eternal friendship, and promising that
the first of them that should acquire a large fortune should share it
with the other.
Zadig directed his course along the frontiers of Assyria, still musing
on the unhappy Astarte, and reflecting on the severity of fortune which
seemed determined to make him the sport of her cruelty and the object
of her persecution. "What," said he to himself, "four hundred ounces of
gold for having seen a spaniel! condemned to lose my head for four bad
verses in praise of the king! ready to be strangled because the queen
had shoes of the color of my bonnet! reduced to slavery for having
succored a woman who was beat! and on the point of being burned for
having saved the lives of all the young widows of Arabia!"
Arriving on the frontiers which divide Arabia Petraea from Syria, he
passed by a pretty strong castle, from which a party of armed Arabians
sallied forth. They instantly surrounded him and cried, "All thou hast
belongs to us, and thy person is the property of our master." Zadig
replied by drawing his sword; his servant, who was a man of courage,
did the same. They killed the first Arabians that presumed to lay hands
on them; and, though the number was redoubled, they were not dismayed,
but resolved to perish in the conflict. Two men defended themselves
against a multitude; and such a combat could not last long.
The master of the castle, whose name was Arbogad, having observed from
a window the prodigies of valor performed by Zadig, conceived a high
esteem for this heroic stranger. He descended in haste and went in
person to call off his men and deliver the two travelers.
"All that passes over my lands," said he, "belongs to me, as well as
what I find upon the lands of others; but thou seemest to be a man of
such undaunted courage that I will exempt thee from the common law." He
then conducted him to his castle, ordering his men to treat him well;
and in the evening Arbogad supped with Zadig.
The lord of the castle was one of those Arabians who are commonly
called robbers; but he now and then performed some good actions amid a
multitude of bad ones. He robbed with a furious rapacity, and granted
favors with great generosity; he was intrepid in action; affable in
company; a debauchee at table, but gay in debauchery; and particularly
remarkable for his frank and open behavior. He was highly pleased with
Zadig, whose lively conversation lengthened the repast.
At last Arbogad said to him: "I advise thee to enroll thy name in my
catalogue; thou canst not do better; this is not a bad trade; and thou
mayest one day become what I am at present."
"May I take the liberty of asking thee," said Zadig, "how long thou
hast followed this noble profession?"
"From my most tender youth," replied the lord. "I was a servant to a
pretty good-natured Arabian, but could not endure the hardships of my
situation. I was vexed to find that fate had given me no share of the
earth, which equally belongs to all men. I imparted the cause of my
uneasiness to an old Arabian, who said to me: 'My son, do not despair;
there was once a grain of sand that lamented that it was no more than a
neglected atom in the deserts; at the end of a few years it became a
diamond; and is now the brightest ornament in the crown of the king of
the Indies.' This discourse made a deep impression on my mind. I was
the grain of sand, and I resolved to become the diamond. I began by
stealing two horses; I soon got a party of companions; I put myself in
a condition to rob small caravans; and thus, by degrees, I destroyed
the difference which had formerly subsisted between me and other men. I
had my share of the good things of this world; and was even recompensed
with usury for the hardships I had suffered. I was greatly respected,
and became the captain of a band of robbers. I seized this castle by
force. The Satrap of Syria had a mind to dispossess me of it; but I was
too rich to have anything to fear. I gave the satrap a handsome
present, by which means I preserved my castle and increased my
possessions. He even appointed me treasurer of the tributes which
Arabia Petraea pays to the king of kings. I perform my office of
receiver with great punctuality; but take the freedom to dispense with
that of paymaster.
"The grand Desterham of Babylon sent hither a pretty satrap in the name
of King Moabdar, to have me strangled. This man arrived with his
orders: I was apprised of all; I caused to be strangled in his presence
the four persons he had brought with him to draw the noose; after which
I asked him how much his commission of strangling me might be worth. He
replied, that his fees would amount to above three hundred pieces of
gold. I then convinced him that he might gain more by staying with me.
I made him an inferior robber; and he is now one of my best and richest
officers. If thou wilt take my advice thy success may be equal to his;
never was there a better season for plunder, since King Moabdar is
killed, and all Babylon thrown into confusion."
"Moabdar killed!" said Zadig, "and what is become of Queen Astarte?"
"I know not," replied Arbogad. "All I know is, that Moabdar lost his
senses and was killed; that Babylon is a scene of disorder and
bloodshed; that all the empire is desolated; that there are some fine
strokes to be struck yet; and that, for my own part, I have struck some
that are admirable."
"But the queen," said Zadig; "for heaven's sake, knowest thou nothing
of the queen's fate?"
"Yes," replied he, "I have heard something of a prince of Hircania; if
she was not killed in the tumult, she is probably one of his
concubines; but I am much fonder of booty than news. I have taken
several women in my excursions; but I keep none of them. I sell them at
a high price, when they are beautiful, without inquiring who they are.
In commodities of this kind rank makes no difference, and a queen that
is ugly will never find a merchant. Perhaps I may have sold Queen
Astarte; perhaps she is dead; but, be it as it will, it is of little
consequence to me, and I should imagine of as little to thee." So
saying he drank a large draught which threw all his ideas into such
confusion that Zadig could obtain no further information.
Zadig remained for some time without speech, sense, or motion. Arbogad
continued drinking; told stories; constantly repeated that he was the
happiest man in the world; and exhorted Zadig to put himself in the
same condition. At last the soporiferous fumes of the wine lulled him
into a gentle repose.
Zadig passed the night in the most violent perturbation. "What," said
he, "did the king lose his senses? and is he killed? I cannot help
lamenting his fate. The empire is rent in pieces; and this robber is
happy. O fortune! O destiny! A robber is happy, and the most beautiful
of nature's works hath perhaps perished in a barbarous manner or lives
in a state worse than death. O Astarte! what is become of thee?"
At daybreak he questioned all those he met in the castle; but they were
all busy, and he received no answer. During the night they had made a
new capture, and they were now employed in dividing the spoils. All he
could obtain in this hurry and confusion was an opportunity of
departing, which he immediately embraced, plunged deeper than ever in
the most gloomy and mournful reflections.
Zadig proceeded on his journey with a mind full of disquiet and
perplexity, and wholly employed on the unhappy Astarte, on the King of
Babylon, on his faithful friend Cador, on the happy robber Arbogad; in
a word, on all the misfortunes and disappointments he had hitherto
At a few leagues' distance from Arbogad's castle he came to the banks
of a small river, still deploring his fate, and considering himself as
the most wretched of mankind. He saw a fisherman lying on the brink of
the river, scarcely holding, in his weak and feeble hand, a net which
he seemed ready to drop, and lifting up his eyes to Heaven.
"I am certainly," said the fisherman, "the most unhappy man in the
world. I was universally allowed to be the most famous dealer in cream
cheese in Babylon, and yet I am ruined. I had the most handsome wife
that any man in my station could have; and by her I have been betrayed.
I had still left a paltry house, and that I have seen pillaged and
destroyed. At last I took refuge in this cottage, where I have no other
resource than fishing, and yet I cannot catch a single fish. Oh, my
net! no more will I throw thee into the water; I will throw myself in
thy place." So saying, he arose and advanced forward in the attitude of
a man ready to throw himself into the river, and thus to finish his
"What!" said Zadig to himself, "are there men as wretched as I?" His
eagerness to save the fisherman's life was as this reflection. He ran
to him, stopped him, and spoke to him with a tender and compassionate
air. It is commonly supposed that we are less miserable when we have
companions in our misery. This, according to Zoroaster, does not
proceed from malice, but necessity. We feel ourselves insensibly drawn
to an unhappy person as to one like ourselves. The joy of the happy
would be an insult; but two men in distress are like two slender trees,
which, mutually supporting each other, fortify themselves against the
"Why," said Zadig to the fisherman, "dost thou sink under thy
"Because," replied he, "I see no means of relief. I was the most
considerable man in the village of Derlback, near Babylon, and with the
assistance of my wife I made the best cream cheese in the empire. Queen
Astarte and the famous minister Zadig were extremely fond of them."
Zadig, transported, said, "What, knowest thou nothing of the queen's
"No, my lord," replied the fisherman; "but I know that neither the
queen nor Zadig has paid me for my cream cheeses; that I have lost my
wife, and am now reduced to despair."
"I flatter myself," said Zadig, "that thou wilt not lose all thy money.
I have heard of this Zadig; he is an honest man; and if he returns to
Babylon, as he expects, he will give thee more than he owes thee.
Believe me, go to Babylon. I shall be there before thee, because I am
on horseback, and thou art on foot. Apply to the illustrious Cador;
tell him thou hast met his friend; wait for me at his house; go,
perhaps thou wilt not always be unhappy.
"O powerful Oromazes!" continued he, "thou employest me to comfort this
man; whom wilt thou employ to give me consolation?" So saying, he gave
the fisherman half the money he had brought from Arabia. The fisherman,
struck with surprise and ravished with joy, kissed the feet of the
friend of Cador, and said, "Thou are surely an angel sent from Heaven
to save me!"
Meanwhile, Zadig continued to make fresh inquiries, and to shed tears.
"What, my lord!" cried the fisherman, "art thou then so unhappy, thou
who bestowest favors?"
"An hundred times more unhappy than thou art," replied Zadig.
"But how is it possible," said the good man, "that the giver can be
more wretched than the receiver?"
"Because," replied Zadig, "thy greatest misery arose from poverty, and
mine is seated in the heart."
"Did Orcan take thy wife from thee?" said the fisherman.
This word recalled to Zadig's mind the whole of his adventures. He
repeated the catalogue of his misfortunes, beginning with the queen's
spaniel, and ending with his arrival at the castle of the robber
Arbogad. "Ah!" said he to the fisherman, "Orcan deserves to be
punished; but it is commonly such men as those that are the favorites
of fortune. However, go thou to the house of Lord Cador, and there wait
my arrival." They then parted, the fisherman walked, thanking Heaven
for the happiness of his condition; and Zadig rode, accusing fortune
for the hardness of his lot.
Arriving in a beautiful meadow, he there saw several women, who were
searching for something with great application. He took the liberty to
approach one of them, and to ask if he might have the honor to assist
them in their search. "Take care that thou dost not," replied the
Syrian; "what we are searching for can be touched only by women."
"Strange," said Zadig, "may I presume to ask thee what it is that women
only are permitted to touch?"
"It is a basilisk," said she.
"A basilisk, madam! and for what purpose, pray, dost thou seek for a
"It is for our lord and master Ogul, whose cattle thou seest on the
bank of that river at the end of the meadow. We are his most humble
slaves. The lord Ogul is sick. His physician hath ordered him to eat a
basilisk, stewed in rose water; and as it is a very rare animal, and
can only be taken by women, the lord Ogul hath promised to choose for
his well-beloved wife the woman that shall bring him a basilisk; let me
go on in my search; for thou seest what I shall lose if I am prevented
by my companions."
Zadig left her and the other Assyrians to search for their basilisk,
and continued to walk in the meadow; when coming to the brink of a
small rivulet, he found another lady lying on the grass, and who was
not searching for anything. Her person seemed to be majestic; but her
face was covered with a veil. She was inclined toward the rivulet, and
profound sighs proceeded from her mouth. In her hand she held a small
rod with which she was tracing characters on the fine sand that lay
between the turf and the brook. Zadig had the curiosity to examine what
this woman was writing. He drew near; he saw the letter Z, then an A;
he was astonished; then appeared a D; he started. But never was
surprise equal to his when he saw the two last letters of his name.
He stood for some time immovable. At last, breaking silence with a
faltering voice: "O generous lady! pardon a stranger, an unfortunate
man, for presuming to ask thee by what surprising adventure I here find
the name of Zadig traced out by thy divine hand!"
At this voice, and these words, the lady lifted up the veil with a
trembling hand, looked at Zadig, sent forth a cry of tenderness,
surprise and joy, and sinking under the various emotions which at once
assaulted her soul, fell speechless into his arms. It was Astarte
herself; it was the Queen of Babylon; it was she whom Zadig adored, and
whom he had reproached himself for adoring; it was she whose
misfortunes he had so deeply lamented, and for whose fate he had been
so anxiously concerned.
He was for a moment deprived of the use of his senses, when he had
fixed his eyes on those of Astarte, which now began to open again with
a languor mixed with confusion and tenderness: "O ye immortal powers!"
cried he, "who preside over the fates of weak mortals, do ye indeed
restore Astarte to me! at what a time, in what a place, and in what a
condition do I again behold her!" He fell on his knees before Astarte,
and laid his face in the dust at her feet. The Queen of Babylon raised
him up, and made him sit by her side on the brink of the rivulet. She
frequently wiped her eyes, from which the tears continued to flow
afresh. She twenty times resumed her discourse, which her sighs as
often interrupted; she asked by what strange accident they were brought
together, and suddenly prevented his answers by other questions; she
waived the account of her own misfortunes, and desired to be informed
of those of Zadig.
At last, both of them having a little composed the tumult of their
souls, Zadig acquainted her in a few words by what adventure he was
brought into that meadow. "But, O unhappy and respectable queen! by
what means do I find thee in this lonely place, clothed in the habit of
a slave, and accompanied by other female slaves, who are searching for
a basilisk, which, by order of the physician, is to be stewed in rose
"While they are searching for their basilisk," said the fair Astarte,
"I will inform thee of all I have suffered, for which Heaven has
sufficiently recompensed me by restoring thee to my sight. Thou knowest
that the king, my husband, was vexed to see thee the most amiable of
mankind; and that for this reason he one night resolved to strangle
thee and poison me. Thou knowest how Heaven permitted my little mute to
inform me of the orders of his sublime majesty. Hardly had the faithful
Cador advised thee to depart, in obedience to my command, when he
ventured to enter my apartment at midnight by a secret passage. He
carried me off and conducted me to the temple of Oromazes, where the
magi his brother shut me up in that huge statue whose base reaches to
the foundation of the temple and whose top rises to the summit of the
dome. I was there buried in a manner; but was saved by the magi; and
supplied with all the necessaries of life. At break of day his
majesty's apothecary entered my chamber with a potion composed of a
mixture of henbane, opium, hemlock, black hellebore, and aconite; and
another officer went to thine with a bowstring of blue silk. Neither of
us was to be found. Cador, the better to deceive the king, pretended to
come and accuse us both. He said that thou hadst taken the road to the
Indies, and I that to Memphis, on which the king's guards were
immediately dispatched in pursuit of us both.
"The couriers who pursued me did not know me. I had hardly ever shown
my face to any but thee, and to thee only in the presence and by the
order of my husband. They conducted themselves in the pursuit by the
description that had been given them of my person. On the frontiers of
Egypt they met with a woman of the same stature with me, and possessed
perhaps of greater charms. She was weeping and wandering. They made no
doubt but that this woman was the Queen of Babylon and accordingly
brought her to Moabdar. Their mistake at first threw the king into a
violent passion; but having viewed this woman more attentively, he
found her extremely handsome and was comforted. She was called Missouf.
I have since been informed that this name in the Egyptian language
signifies the capricious fair one. She was so in reality; but she had
as much cunning as caprice. She pleased Moabdar and gained such an
ascendancy over him as to make him choose her for his wife. Her
character then began to appear in its true colors. She gave herself up,
without scruple, to all the freaks of a wanton imagination. She would
have obliged the chief of the magi, who was old and gouty, to dance
before her; and on his refusal, she persecuted him with the most
unrelenting cruelty. She ordered her master of the horse to make her a
pie of sweetmeats. In vain did he represent that he was not a
pastry-cook; he was obliged to make it, and lost his place, because it
was baked a little too hard. The post of master of the horse she gave
to her dwarf, and that of chancellor to her page. In this manner did
she govern Babylon. Everybody regretted the loss of me. The king, who
till the moment of his resolving to poison me and strangle thee, had
been a tolerably good kind of man, seemed now to have drowned all his
virtues in his immoderate fondness for this capricious fair one. He
came to the temple on the great day of the feast held in honor of the
sacred fire. I saw him implore the gods in behalf of Missouf, at the
feet of the statue in which I was inclosed. I raised my voice, I cried
out, 'The gods reject the prayers of a king who is now become a tyrant,
and who attempted to murder a reasonable wife, in order to marry a
woman remarkable for nothing but her folly and extravagance.' At these
words Moabdar was confounded and his head became disordered. The oracle
I had pronounced, and the tyranny of Missouf, conspired to deprive him
of his judgment, and in a few days his reason entirely forsook him.
"Moabdar's madness, which seemed to be the judgment of Heaven, was the
signal to a revolt. The people rose and ran to arms; and Babylon, which
had been so long immersed in idleness and effeminacy, became the
theater of a bloody civil war. I was taken from the heart of my statue
and placed at the head of a party. Cador flew to Memphis to bring thee
back to Babylon. The Prince of Hircania, informed of these fatal
events, returned with his army and made a third party in Chaldea. He
attacked the king, who fled before him with his capricious Egyptian.
Moabdar died pierced with wounds. I myself had the misfortune to be
taken by a party of Hircanians, who conducted me to their prince's
tent, at the very moment that Missouf was brought before him. Thou wilt
doubtless be pleased to hear that the prince thought me beautiful; but
thou wilt be sorry to be informed that he designed me for his seraglio.
He told me, with a blunt and resolute air, that as soon as he had
finished a military expedition, which he was just going to undertake,
he would come to me. Judge how great must have been my grief. My ties
with Moabdar were already dissolved; I might have been the wife of
Zadig; and I was fallen into the hands of a barbarian. I answered him
with all the pride which my high rank and noble sentiment could
inspire. I had always heard it affirmed that Heaven stamped on persons
of my condition a mark of grandeur, which, with a single word or
glance, could reduce to the lawliness of the most profound respect
those rash and forward persons who presume to deviate from the rules of
politeness. I spoke like a queen, but was treated like a maidservant.
The Hircanian, without even deigning to speak to me, told his black
eunuch that I was impertinent, but that he thought me handsome. He
ordered him to take care of me, and to put me under the regimen of
favorites, that so my complexion being improved, I might be the more
worthy of his favors when he should be at leisure to honor me with
them. I told him that rather than submit to his desires I would put an
end to my life. He replied, with a smile, that women, he believed, were
not so bloodthirsty, and that he was accustomed to such violent
expressions; and then left me with the air of a man who had just put
another parrot into his aviary. What a state for the first queen of the
universe, and, what is more, for a heart devoted to Zadig!"
At these words Zadig threw himself at her feet and bathed them with his
tears. Astarte raised him with great tenderness and thus continued her
story: "I now saw myself in the power of a barbarian and rival to the
foolish woman with whom I was confined. She gave me an account of her
adventures in Egypt. From the description she gave me of your person,
from the time, from the dromedary on which you were mounted, and from
every other circumstance, I inferred that Zadig was the man who had
fought for her. I doubted not but that you were at Memphis, and,
therefore, resolved to repair thither. Beautiful Missouf, said I, thou
art more handsome than I, and will please the Prince of Hircania much
better. Assist me in contriving the means of my escape; thou wilt then
reign alone; thou wilt at once make me happy and rid thyself of a
rival. Missouf concerted with me the means of my flight; and I departed
secretly with a female Egyptian slave.
"As I approached the frontiers of Arabia, a famous robber, named
Arbogad, seized me and sold me to some merchants, who brought me to
this castle, where Lord Ogul resides. He bought me without knowing who
I was. He is a voluptuary, ambitious of nothing but good living, and
thinks that God sent him into the world for no other purpose than to
sit at table. He is so extremely corpulent that he is always in danger
of suffocation. His physician, who has but little credit with him when
he has a good digestion, governs him with a despotic sway when he has
ate too much. He has persuaded him that a basilisk stewed in rose water
will effect a complete cure. The Lord Ogul hath promised his hand to
the female slave that brings him a basilisk. Thou seest that I leave
them to vie with each other in meriting this honor; and never was I
less desirous of finding the basilisk than since Heaven hath restored
thee to my sight."
This account was succeeded by a long conversation between Astarte and
Zadig, consisting of everything that their long-suppressed sentiments,
their great sufferings, and their mutual love could inspire into hearts
the most noble and tender; and the genii who preside over love carried
their words to the sphere of Venus.
The women returned to Ogul without having found the basilisk. Zadig was
introduced to this mighty lord and spoke to him in the following terms:
"May immortal health descend from heaven to bless all thy days! I am a
physician; at the first report of thy indisposition I flew to thy
castle and have now brought thee a basilisk stewed in rose water. Not
that I pretend to marry thee. All I ask is the liberty of a Babylonian
slave, who hath been in thy possession for a few days; and, if I should
not be so happy as to cure thee, magnificent Lord Ogul, I consent to
remain a slave in her place."
The proposal was accepted. Astarte set out for Babylon with Zadig's
servant, promising, immediately upon her arrival, to send a courier to
inform him of all that had happened. Their parting was as tender as
their meeting. The moment of meeting and that of parting are the two
greatest epochs of life, as sayeth the great book of Zend. Zadig loved
the queen with as much ardor as he professed; and the queen more than
she thought proper to acknowledge.
Meanwhile Zadig spoke thus to Ogul: "My lord, my basilisk is not to be
eaten; all its virtues must enter through thy pores. I have inclosed it
in a little ball, blown up and covered with a fine skin. Thou must
strike this ball with all thy might and I must strike it back for a
considerable time; and by observing this regimen for a few days thou
wilt see the effects of my art." The first day Ogul was out of breath
and thought he should have died with fatigue. The second he was less
fatigued, slept better. In eight days he recovered all the strength,
all the health, all the agility and cheerfulness of his most agreeable
"Thou hast played at ball, and thou hast been temperate," said Zadig;
"know that there is no such thing in nature as a basilisk; that
temperance and exercise are the two great preservatives of health; and
that the art of reconciling intemperance and health is as chimerical as
the philosopher's stone, judicial astrology, or the theology of the
Ogul's first physician, observing how dangerous this man might prove to
the medical art, formed a design, in conjunction with the apothecary,
to send Zadig to search for a basilisk in the other world. Thus, having
suffered such a long train of calamities on account of his good
actions, he was now upon the point of losing his life for curing a
gluttonous lord. He was invited to an excellent dinner and was to have
been poisoned in the second course, but, during the first, he happily
received a courier from the fair Astarte. "When one is beloved by a
beautiful woman," says the great Zoroaster, "he hath always the good
fortune to extricate himself out of every kind of difficulty and
The queen was received at Babylon with all those transports of joy
which are ever felt on the return of a beautiful princess who hath been
involved in calamities. Babylon was now in greater tranquillity. The
Prince of Hircania had been killed in battle. The victorious
Babylonians declared that the queen should marry the man whom they
should choose for their sovereign. They were resolved that the first
place in the world, that of being husband to Astarte and King of
Babylon, should not depend on cabals and intrigues. They swore to
acknowledge for king the man who, upon trial, should be found to be
possessed of the greatest valor and the greatest wisdom. Accordingly,
at the distance of a few leagues from the city, a spacious place was
marked out for the list, surrounded with magnificent amphitheaters.
Thither the combatants were to repair in complete armor. Each of them
had a separate apartment behind the amphitheaters, where they were
neither to be seen nor known by anyone. Each was to encounter four
knights, and those that were so happy as to conquer four were then to
engage with one another; so that he who remained the last master of the
field would be proclaimed conqueror at the games.
Four days after he was to return with the same arms and to explain the
enigmas proposed by the magi. If he did not explain the enigmas he was
not king; and the running at the lances was to be begun afresh till a
man would be found who was conqueror in both these combats; for they
were absolutely determined to have a king possessed of the greatest
wisdom and the most invincible courage. The queen was all the while to
be strictly guarded: she was only allowed to be present at the games,
and even there she was to be covered with a veil; but was not permitted
to speak to any of the competitors, that so they might neither receive
favor, nor suffer injustice.
These particulars Astarte communicated to her lover, hoping that in
order to obtain her he would show himself possessed of greater courage
and wisdom than any other person. Zadig set out on his journey,
beseeching Venus to fortify his courage and enlighten his
understanding. He arrived on the banks of the Euphrates on the eve of
this great day. He caused his device to be inscribed among those of the
combatants, concealing his face and his name, as the law ordained; and
then went to repose himself in the apartment that fell to him by lot.
His friend Cador, who, after the fruitless search he had made for him
in Egypt, was now returned to Babylon, sent to his tent a complete suit
of armor, which was a present from the queen; as also, from himself,
one of the finest horses in Persia. Zadig presently perceived that
these presents were sent by Astarte; and from thence his courage
derived fresh strength, and his love the most animating hopes.
Next day, the queen being seated under a canopy of jewels, and the
amphitheaters filled with all the gentlemen and ladies of rank in
Babylon, the combatants appeared in the circus. Each of them came and
laid his device at the feet of the grand magi. They drew their devices
by lot; and that of Zadig was the last. The first who advanced was a
certain lord, named Itobad, very rich and very vain, but possessed of
little courage, of less address, and hardly of any judgment at all. His
servants had persuaded him that such a man as he ought to be king; he
had said in reply, "Such a man as I ought to reign"; and thus they had
armed him for a cap-a-pie. He wore an armor of gold enameled with
green, a plume of green feathers, and a lance adorned with green
ribbons. It was instantly perceived by the manner in which Itobad
managed his horse, that it was not for such a man as he that Heaven
reserved the scepter of Babylon. The first knight that ran against him
threw him out of his saddle; the second laid him flat on his horse's
buttocks, with his legs in the air, and his arms extended. Itobad
recovered himself, but with so bad a grace that the whole amphitheater
burst out a-laughing. The third knight disdained to make use of his
lance; but, making a pass at him, took him by the right leg and,
wheeling him half round, laid him prostrate on the sand. The squires of
the game ran to him laughing, and replaced him in his saddle. The
fourth combatant took him by the left leg, and tumbled him down on the
other side. He was conducted back with scornful shouts to his tent,
where, according to the law, he was to pass the night; and as he limped
along with great difficulty he said, "What an adventure for such a man
The other knights acquitted themselves with greater ability and
success. Some of them conquered two combatants; a few of them
vanquished three; but none but Prince Otamus conquered four. At last
Zadig fought him in his turn. He successively threw four knights off
their saddles with all the grace imaginable. It then remained to be
seen who should be conqueror, Otamus or Zadig. The arms of the first
were gold and blue, with a plume of the same color; those of the last
were white. The wishes of all the spectators were divided between the
knight in blue and the knight in white. The queen, whose heart was in a
violent palpitation, offered prayers to Heaven for the success of the
The two champions made their passes and vaults with so much agility,
they mutually gave and received such dexterous blows with their lances,
and sat so firmly in their saddles, that everybody but the queen wished
there might be two kings in Babylon. At length, their horses being
tired and their lances broken, Zadig had recourse to this stratagem: He
passes behind the blue prince; springs upon the buttocks of his horse;
seizes him by the middle; throws him on the earth; places himself in
the saddle; and wheels around Otamus as he lay extended on the ground.
All the amphitheater cried out, "Victory to the white knight!"
Otamus rises in a violent passion, and draws his sword; Zadig leaps
from his horse with his saber in his hand. Both of them are now on the
ground, engaged in a new combat, where strength and agility triumph by
turns. The plumes of their helmets, the studs of their bracelets, the
rings of their armor, are driven to a great distance by the violence of
a thousand furious blows. They strike with the point and the edge; to
the right, to the left, on the head, on the breast; they retreat; they
advance; they measure swords; they close; they seize each other; they
bend like serpents; they attack like lions; and the fire every moment
flashes from their blows.
At last Zadig, having recovered his spirits, stops; makes a feint;
leaps upon Otamus; throws him on the ground and disarms him; and Otamus
cries out, "It is thou alone, O white knight, that oughtest to reign
over Babylon!" The queen was now at the height of her joy. The knight
in blue armor and the knight in white were conducted each to his own
apartment, as well as all the others, according to the intention of the
law. Mutes came to wait upon them and to serve them at table. It may be
easily supposed that the queen's little mute waited upon Zadig. They
were then left to themselves to enjoy the sweets of repose till next
morning, at which time the conqueror was to bring his device to the
grand magi, to compare it with that which he had left, and make himself
Zadig, though deeply in love, was so much fatigued that he could not
help sleeping. Itobad, who lay near him, never closed his eyes. He
arose in the night, entered his apartment, took the white arms and the
device of Zadig, and put his green armor in their place. At break of
day he went boldly to the grand magi to declare that so great a man as
he was conqueror. This was little expected; however, he was proclaimed
while Zadig was still asleep. Astarte, surprised and filled with
despair, returned to Babylon. The amphitheater was almost empty when
Zadig awoke; he sought for his arms, but could find none but the green
armor. With this he was obliged to cover himself, having nothing else
near him. Astonished and enraged, he put it on in a furious passion,
and advanced in this equipage.
The people that still remained in the amphitheater and the circus
received him with hoots and hisses. They surrounded him and insulted
him to his face. Never did man suffer such cruel mortifications. He
lost his patience; with his saber he dispersed such of the populace as
dared to affront him; but he knew not what course to take. He could not
see the queen; he could not claim the white armor she had sent him
without exposing her; and thus, while she was plunged in grief, he was
filled with fury and distraction. He walked on the banks of the
Euphrates, fully persuaded that his star had destined him to inevitable
misery, and resolving in his own mind all his misfortunes, from the
adventure of the woman who hated one-eyed men to that of his armor.
"This," said he, "is the consequence of my having slept too long. Had I
slept less, I should now have been King of Babylon and in possession of
Astarte. Knowledge, virtue, and courage have hitherto served only to
make me miserable." He then let fall some secret murmurings against
Providence, and was tempted to believe that the world was governed by a
cruel destiny, which oppressed the good and prospered knights in green
armor. One of his greatest mortifications was his being obliged to wear
that green armor which had exposed him to such contumelious treatment.
A merchant happening to pass by, he sold it to him for a trifle and
bought a gown and a long bonnet. In this garb he proceeded along the
banks of the Euphrates, filled with despair, and secretly accusing
Providence, which thus continued to persecute him with unremitting
While he was thus sauntering he met a hermit, whose white and venerable
beard hung down to his girdle. He held a book in his hand, which he
read with great attention. Zadig stopped, and made him a profound
obeisance. The hermit returned the compliment with such a noble and
engaging air, that Zadig had the curiosity to enter into conversation
with him. He asked him what book it was that he had been reading? "It
is the Book of Destinies," said the hermit; "wouldst thou choose to
look into it?" He put the book into the hands of Zadig, who, thoroughly
versed as he was in several languages, could not decipher a single
character of it. This only redoubled his curiosity.
"Thou seemest," said this good father, "to be in great distress."
"Alas," replied Zadig, "I have but too much reason."
"If thou wilt permit me to accompany thee," resumed the old man,
"perhaps I may be of some service to thee. I have often poured the balm
of consolation into the bleeding heart of the unhappy."
Zadig felt himself inspired with respect for the air, the beard, and
the book of the hermit. He found, in the course of the conversation,
that he was possessed of superior degrees of knowledge. The hermit
talked of fate, of justice, of morals, of the chief good, of human
weakness, and of virtue and vice, with such a spirited and moving
eloquence, that Zadig felt himself drawn toward him by an irresistible
charm. He earnestly entreated the favor of his company till their
return to Babylon.
"I ask the same favor of thee," said the old man; "swear to me by
Oromazes, that whatever I do, thou wilt not leave me for some days."
Zadig swore, and they set out together.
In the evening the two travelers arrived in a superb castle. The hermit
entreated a hospitable reception for himself and the young man who
accompanied him. The porter, whom one might have easily mistaken for a
great lord, introduced them with a kind of disdainful civility. He
presented them to a principal domestic, who showed them his master's
magnificent apartments. They were admitted to the lower end of the
table, without being honored with the least mark of regard by the lord
of the castle; but they were served, like the rest, with delicacy and
profusion. They were then presented with water to wash their hands, in
a golden basin adorned with emeralds and rubies. At last they were
conducted to bed in a beautiful apartment; and in the morning a
domestic brought each of them a piece of gold, after which they took
their leave and departed.
"The master of the house," said Zadig, as they were proceeding on the
journey, "appears to be a generous man, though somewhat too proud; he
nobly performs the duties of hospitality." At that instant he observed
that a kind of large pocket, which the hermit had, was filled and
distended; and upon looking more narrowly he found that it contained
the golden basin adorned with precious stones, which the hermit had
stolen. He durst not take any notice of it, but he was filled with a
About noon, the hermit came to the door of a paltry house inhabited by
a rich miser, and begged the favor of an hospitable reception for a few
hours. An old servant, in a tattered garb, received them with a blunt
and rude air, and led them into the stable, where he gave them some
rotten olives, moldy bread, and sour beer. The hermit ate and drank
with as much seeming satisfaction as he had done the evening before;
and then addressing himself to the old servant, who watched them both,
to prevent their stealing anything, and rudely pressed them to depart,
he gave him the two pieces of gold he had received in the morning, and
thanked him for his great civility.
"Pray," added he, "allow me to speak to thy master." The servant,
filled with astonishment, introduced the two travelers. "Magnificent
lord," said the hermit, "I cannot but return thee my most humble thanks
for the noble manner in which thou hast entertained us. Be pleased to
accept this golden basin as a small mark of my gratitude." The miser
started, and was ready to fall backward; but the hermit, without giving
him time to recover from his surprise, instantly departed with his
young fellow traveler.
"Father," said Zadig, "what is the meaning of all this? Thou seemest to
me to be entirely different from other men; thou stealest a golden
basin adorned with precious stones from a lord who received thee
magnificently, and givest it to a miser who treats thee with
"Son," replied the old man, "this magnificent lord, who receives
strangers only from vanity and ostentation, will hereby be rendered
more wise; and the miser will learn to practice the duties of
hospitality. Be surprised at nothing, but follow me."
Zadig knew not as yet whether he was in company with the most foolish
or the most prudent of mankind; but the hermit spoke with such an
ascendancy, that Zadig, who was moreover bound by his oath, could not
refuse to follow him.
In the evening they arrived at a house built with equal elegance and
simplicity, where nothing favored either of prodigality or avarice. The
master of it was a philosopher, who had retired from the world, and who
cultivated in peace the study of virtue and wisdom, without any of that
rigid and morose severity so commonly to be found in men of his
character. He had chosen to build this country house, in which he
received strangers with a generosity free from ostentation. He went
himself to meet the two travelers, whom he led into a commodious
apartment, where he desired them to repose themselves a little. Soon
after he came and invited them to a decent and well-ordered repast
during which he spoke with great judgment of the last revolutions in
Babylon. He seemed to be strongly attached to the queen, and wished
that Zadig had appeared in the lists to dispute the crown. "But the
people," added he, "do not deserve to have such a king as Zadig."
Zadig blushed, and felt his griefs redoubled. They agreed, in the
course of the conversation, that the things of this world did not
always answer the wishes of the wise. The hermit still maintained that
the ways of Providence were inscrutable; and that men were in the wrong
to judge of a whole, of which they understood but the smallest part.
They talked of passions. "Ah," said Zadig, "how fatal are their
"They are in the winds," replied the hermit, "that swell the sails of
the ship; it is true, they sometimes sink her, but without them she
could not sail at all. The bile makes us sick and choleric; but without
bile we could not live. Everything in this world is dangerous, and yet
everything is necessary."
The conversation turned on pleasure; and the hermit proved that it was
a present bestowed by the deity. "For," said he, "man cannot give
himself either sensations or ideas; he receives all; and pain and
pleasure proceed from a foreign cause as well as his being."
Zadig was surprised to see a man, who had been guilty of such
extravagant actions, capable of reasoning with so much judgment and
propriety. At last, after a conversation equally entertaining and
instructive, the host led back his two guests to their apartment,
blessing Heaven for having sent him two men possessed of so much wisdom
and virtue. He offered them money with such an easy and noble air as
could not possibly give any offense. The hermit refused it, and said
that he must now take his leave of him, as he set out for Babylon
before it was light. Their parting was tender; Zadig especially felt
himself filled with esteem and affection for a man of such an amiable
When he and the hermit were alone in their apartment, they spent a long
time in praising their host. At break of day the old man awakened his
companion. "We must now depart," said he, "but while all the family are
still asleep, I will leave this man a mark of my esteem and affection."
So saying, he took a candle and set fire to the house.
Zadig, struck with horror, cried aloud, and endeavored to hinder him
from committing such a barbarous action; but the hermit drew him away
by a superior force, and the house was soon in flames. The hermit, who,
with his companion, was already at a considerable distance, looked back
to the conflagration with great tranquillity.
"Thanks be to God," said he, "the house of my dear host is entirely
destroyed! Happy man!"
At these words Zadig was at once tempted to burst out a-laughing, to
reproach the reverend father, to beat him, and to run away. But he did
none of all of these, for still subdued by the powerful ascendancy of
the hermit, he followed him, in spite of himself, to the next stage.
This was at the house of a charitable and virtuous widow, who had a
nephew fourteen years of age, a handsome and promising youth, and her
only hope. She performed the honors of her house as well as she could.
Next day, she ordered her nephew to accompany the strangers to a
bridge, which being lately broken down, was become extremely dangerous
in passing. The young man walked before them with great alacrity. As
they were crossing the bridge, "Come," said the hermit to the youth, "I
must show my gratitude to thy aunt." He then took him by the hair and
plunged him into the river. The boy sunk, appeared again on the surface
of the water, and was swallowed up by the current.
"O monster! O thou most wicked of mankind!" cried Zadig.
"Thou promisedst to behave with greater patience," said the hermit,
interrupting him. "Know that under the ruins of that house which
Providence hath set on fire the master hath found an immense treasure.
Know that this young man, whose life Providence hath shortened, would
have assassinated his aunt in the space of a year, and thee in that of
"Who told thee so, barbarian?" cried Zadig; "and though thou hadst read
this event in thy Book of Destinies, art thou permitted to drown a
youth who never did thee any harm?"
While the Babylonian was thus exclaiming, he observed that the old man
had no longer a beard, and that his countenance assumed the features
and complexion of youth. The hermit's habit disappeared, and four
beautiful wings covered a majestic body resplendent with light.
"O sent of heaven! O divine angel!" cried Zadig, humbly prostrating
himself on the ground," hast thou then descended from the Empyrean to
teach a weak mortal to submit to the eternal decrees of Providence?"
"Men," said the angel Jesrad, "judge of all without knowing anything;
and, of all men, thou best deservest to be enlightened."
Zadig begged to be permitted to speak. "I distrust myself," said he,
"but may I presume to ask the favor of thee to clear up one doubt that
still remains in my mind? Would it not have been better to have
corrected this youth, and made him virtuous, than to have drowned him?"
"Had he been virtuous," replied Jesrad, "and enjoyed a longer life, it
would have been his fate to be assassinated himself, together with the
wife he would have married, and the child he would have had by her."
"But why," said Zadig, "is it necessary that there should be crimes and
misfortunes, and that these misfortunes should fall on the good?"
"The wicked," replied Jesrad, "are always unhappy; they serve to prove
and try the small number of the just that are scattered through the
earth; and there is no evil that is not productive of some good."
"But," said Zadig, "suppose there were nothing but good and no evil at
"Then," replied Jesrad, "this earth would be another earth. The chain
of events would be ranged in another order and directed by wisdom; but
this other order, which would be perfect, can exist only in the eternal
abode of the Supreme Being, to which no evil can approach. The Deity
hath created millions of worlds, among which there is not one that
resembles another. This immense variety is the effect of His immense
power. There are not two leaves among the trees of the earth, nor two
globes in the unlimited expanse of heaven that are exactly similar; and
all that thou seest on the little atom in which thou art born, ought to
be in its proper time and place, according to the immutable decree of
Him who comprehends all. Men think that this child who hath just
perished is fallen into the water by chance; and that it is by the same
chance that this house is burned; but there is no such thing as chance;
all is either a trial, or a punishment, or a reward, or a foresight.
Remember the fisherman who thought himself the most wretched of
mankind. Oromazes sent thee to change his fate. Cease, then, frail
mortal, to dispute against what thou oughtest to adore."
"But," said Zadig--as he pronounced the word "But," the angel took his
flight toward the tenth sphere. Zadig on his knees adored Providence,
and submitted. The angel cried to him from on high, "Direct thy course
Zadig, entranced, as it were, and like a man about whose head the
thunder had burst, walked at random. He entered Babylon on the very day
when those who had fought at the tournaments were assembled in the
grand vestibule of the palace to explain the enigmas and to answer the
questions of the grand magi. All the knights were already arrived,
except the knight in green armor. As soon as Zadig appeared in the city
the people crowded round him; every eye was fixed on him; every mouth
blessed him, and every heart wished him the empire. The envious man saw
him pass; he frowned and turned aside. The people conducted him to the
place where the assembly was held. The queen, who was informed of his
arrival, became a prey to the most violent agitations of hope and fear.
She was filled with anxiety and apprehension. She could not comprehend
why Zadig was without arms, nor why Itobad wore the white armor. A
confused murmur arose at the sight of Zadig. They were equally
surprised and charmed to see him; but none but the knights who had
fought were permitted to appear in the assembly.
"I have fought as well as the other knights," said Zadig, "but another
here wears my arms; and while I wait for the honor of proving the truth
of my assertion, I demand the liberty of presenting myself to explain
the enigmas." The question was put to the vote, and his reputation for
probity was still so deeply impressed in their minds, that they
admitted him without scruple.
The first question proposed by the grand magi was: "What, of all things
in the world, is the longest and the shortest, the swiftest and the
slowest, the most divisible and the most extended, the most neglected
and the most regretted, without which nothing can be done, which
devours all that is little, and enlivens all that is great?"
Itobad was to speak. He replied that so great a man as he did not
understand enigmas, and that it was sufficient for him to have
conquered by his strength and valor. Some said that the meaning of the
enigmas was Fortune; some, the Earth; and others the Light. Zadig said
that it was Time. "Nothing," added he, "is longer, since it is the
measure of eternity; nothing is shorter, since it is insufficient for
the accomplishment of our projects; nothing more slow to him that
expects, nothing more rapid to him that enjoys; in greatness, it
extends to infinity; in smallness, it is infinitely divisible; all men
neglect it; all regret the loss of it; nothing can be done without it;
it consigns to oblivion whatever is unworthy of being transmitted to
posterity, and it immortalizes such actions as are truly great." The
assembly acknowledged that Zadig was in the right.
The next question was: "What is the thing which we receive without
thanks, which we enjoy without knowing how, which we give to others
when we know not where we are, and which we lose without perceiving
Everyone gave his own explanation. Zadig alone guessed that it was
Life, and explained all the other enigmas with the same facility.
Itobad always said that nothing was more easy, and that he could have
answered them with the same readiness had he chosen to have given
himself the trouble. Questions were then proposed on justice, on the
sovereign good, and on the art of government. Zadig's answers were
judged to be the most solid. "What a pity is it," said they, "that such
a great genius should be so bad a knight!"
"Illustrious lords," said Zadig, "I have had the honor of conquering in
the tournaments. It is to me that the white armor belongs. Lord Itobad
took possession of it during my sleep. He probably thought that it
would fit him better than the green. I am now ready to prove in your
presence, with my gown and sword, against all that beautiful white
armor which he took from me, that it is I who have had the honor of
conquering the brave Otamus."
Itobad accepted the challenge with the greatest confidence. He never
doubted but what, armed as he was, with a helmet, a cuirass, and
brassarts, he would obtain an easy victory over a champion in a cap and
nightgown. Zadig drew his sword, saluting the queen, who looked at him
with a mixture of fear and joy. Itobad drew his without saluting
anyone. He rushed upon Zadig, like a man who had nothing to fear; he
was ready to cleave him in two. Zadig knew how to ward off his blows,
by opposing the strongest part of his sword to the weakest of that of
his adversary, in such a manner that Itobad's sword was broken. Upon
which Zadig, seizing his enemy by the waist, threw him on the ground;
and fixing the point of his sword at the breastplate, "Suffer thyself
to be disarmed," said he, "or thou art a dead man."
Itobad, always surprised at the disgraces that happened to such a man
as he, was obliged to yield to Zadig, who took from him with great
composure his magnificent helmet, his superb cuirass, his fine
brassarts, his shining cuishes; clothed himself with them, and in this
dress ran to throw himself at the feet of Astarte. Cador easily proved
that the armor belonged to Zadig. He was acknowledged king by the
unanimous consent of the whole nation, and especially by that of
Astarte, who, after so many calamities, now tasted the exquisite
pleasure of seeing her lover worthy, in the eyes of all the world, to
be her husband. Itobad went home to be called lord in his own house.
Zadig was king, and was happy. The queen and Zadig adored Providence.
He sent in search of the robber Arbogad, to whom he gave an honorable
post in his army, promising to advance him to the first dignities if he
behaved like a true warrior, and threatening to hang him if he followed
the profession of a robber.
Setoc, with the fair Almona, was called from the heart of Arabia and
placed at the head of the commerce of Babylon. Cador was preferred and
distinguished according to his great services. He was the friend of the
king; and the king was then the only monarch on earth that had a
friend. The little mute was not forgotten.
But neither could the beautiful Semira be comforted for having believed
that Zadig would be blind of an eye; nor did Azora cease to lament her
having attempted to cut off his nose. Their griefs, however, he
softened by his presents. The envious man died of rage and shame. The
empire enjoyed peace, glory, and plenty. This was the happiest age of
the earth; it was governed by love and justice. The people blessed
Zadig, and Zadig blessed Heaven.
PEDRO DE ALARCON
The thing which is most ardently desired by a man who steps into a
stagecoach, bent upon a long journey, is that his companions may be
agreeable, that they may have the same tastes, possibly the same vices,
be well educated and know enough not to be too familiar.
When I opened the door of the coach I felt fearful of encountering an
old woman suffering with the asthma, an ugly one who could not bear the
smell of tobacco smoke, one who gets seasick every time she rides in a
carriage, and little angels who are continually yelling and screaming
for God knows what.
Sometimes you may have hoped to have a beautiful woman for a traveling
companion; for instance, a widow of twenty or thirty years of age (let
us say, thirty-six), whose delightful conversation will help you pass
away the time. But if you ever had this idea, as a reasonable man you
would quickly dismiss it, for you know that such good fortune does not
fall to the lot of the ordinary mortal. These thoughts were in my mind
when I opened the door of the stagecoach at exactly eleven o'clock on a
stormy night of the Autumn of 1844. I had ticket No. 2, and I was
wondering who No. 1 might be. The ticket agent had assured me that No.
3 had not been sold.
It was pitch dark within. When I entered I said, "Good evening," but no
answer came. "The devil!" I said to myself. "Is my traveling companion
deaf, dumb, or asleep?" Then I said in a louder tone: "Good evening,"
but no answer came.
All this time the stagecoach was whirling along, drawn by ten horses.
I was puzzled. Who was my companion? Was it a man? Was it a woman? Who
was the silent No. 1, and, whoever it might be, why did he or she not
reply to my courteous salutation? It would have been well to have lit a
match, but I was not smoking then and had none with me. What should I
do? I concluded to rely upon my sense of feeling, and stretched out my
hand to the place where No. 1 should have been, wondering whether I
would touch a silk dress or an overcoat, but there was nothing there.
At that moment a flash of lightning, herald of a quickly approaching
storm, lit up the night, and I perceived that there was no one in the
coach excepting myself. I burst out into a roar of laughter, and yet a
moment later I could not help wondering what had become of No. 1.
A half hour later we arrived at the first stop, and I was just about to
ask the guard who flashed his lantern into the compartment why there
was no No. 1, when she entered. In the yellow rays I thought it was a
vision: a pale, graceful, beautiful woman, dressed in deep mourning.
Here was the fulfillment of my dream, the widow I had hoped for.
I extended my hand to the unknown to assist her into the coach, and she
sat down beside me, murmuring: "Thank you, sir. Good evening," but in a
tone that was so sad that it went to my very heart.
"How unfortunate," I thought. "There are only fifty miles between here
and Malaga. I wish to heaven this coach were going to Kamschatka." The
guard slammed the door, and we were in darkness. I wished that the
storm would continue and that we might have a few more flashes of
lightning. But the storm didn't. It fled away, leaving only a few
pallid stars, whose light practically amounted to nothing. I made a
brave effort to start a conversation.
"Do you feel well?"
"Are you going to Malaga?"
"Did you like the Alhambra?"
"You come from Granada?"
"Isn't the night damp?"
To which questions she respectively responded:
"Thanks, very well."
It was quite certain that my traveling companion was not inclined to
conversation. I tried to think up something original to say to her, but
nothing occurred to me, so I lost myself for the moment in meditation.
Why had this woman gotten on the stage at the first stop instead of at
Granada? Why was she alone? Was she married? Was she really a widow?
Why was she so sad? I certainly had no right to ask her any of these
questions, and yet she interested me. How I wished the sun would rise.
In the daytime one may talk freely, but in the pitch darkness one feels
a certain oppression, it seems like taking an unfair advantage.
My unknown did not sleep a moment during the night. I could tell this
by her breathing and by her sighing. It is probably unnecessary to add
that I did not sleep either. Once I asked her: "Do you feel ill?" and
she replied: "No, sir, thank you. I beg pardon if I have disturbed your
"Sleep!" I exclaimed disdainfully. "I do not care to sleep. I feared
you were suffering."
"Oh, no," she exclaimed, in a voice that contradicted her words, "I am
At last the sun rose. How beautiful she was! I mean the woman, not the
sun. What deep suffering had lined her face and lurked in the depths of
her beautiful eyes!
She was elegantly dressed and evidently belonged to a good family.
Every gesture bore the imprint of distinction. She was the kind of a
woman you expect to see in the principal box at the opera, resplendent
with jewels, surrounded by admirers.
We breakfasted at Colmenar. After that my companion became more
confidential, and I said to myself when we again entered the coach:
"Philip, you have met your fate. It's now or never."
I regretted the very first word I mentioned to her regarding my
feelings. She became a block of ice, and I lost at once all that I
might have gained in her good graces. Still she answered me very
kindly: "It is not because it is you, sir, who speak to me of love, but
love itself is something which I hold in horror."
"But why, dear lady?" I inquired.
"Because my heart is dead. Because I have loved to the point of
delirium, and I have been deceived."
I felt that I should talk to her in a philosophic way and there were a
lot of platitudes on the tip of my tongue, but I refrained. I knew that
she meant what she said. When we arrived at Malaga, she said to me in a
tone I shall never forget as long as I live: "I thank you a thousand
times for your kind attention during the trip, and hope you will
forgive me if I do not tell you my name and address."
"Do you mean then that we shall not meet again?"
"Never! And you, especially, should not regret it." And then with a
smile that was utterly without joy she extended her exquisite hand to
me and said: "Pray to God for me."
I pressed her hand and made a low bow. She entered a handsome victoria
which was awaiting her, and as it moved away she bowed to me again.
* * * * *
Two months later I met her again.
At two o'clock in the afternoon I was jogging along in an old cart on
the road that leads to Cordoba. The object of my journey was to examine
some land which I owned in that neighborhood and pass three or four
weeks with one of the judges of the Supreme Court, who was an intimate
friend of mine and had been my schoolmate at the University of Granada.
He received me with open arms. As I entered his handsome house I could
but note the perfect taste and elegance of the furniture and
"Ah, Zarco," I said, "you have married, and you have never told me
about it. Surely this was not the way to treat a man who loved you as
much as I do!"
"I am not married, and what is more I never will marry," answered the
"I believe that you are not married, dear boy, since you say so, but I
cannot understand the declaration that you never will. You must be
"I swear that I am telling you the truth," he replied.
"But what a metamorphosis!" I exclaimed. "You were always a partisan of
marriage, and for the past two years you have been writing to me and
advising me to take a life partner. Whence this wonderful change, dear
friend? Something must have happened to you, something unfortunate, I
"To me?" answered the judge somewhat embarrassed.
"Yes, to you. Something has happened, and you are going to tell me all
about it. You live here alone, have practically buried yourself in this
great house. Come, tell me everything."
The judge pressed my hand. "Yes, yes, you shall know all. There is no
man more unfortunate than I am. But listen, this is the day upon which
all the inhabitants go to the cemetery, and I must be there, if only
for form's sake. Come with me. It is a pleasant afternoon and the walk
will do you good, after riding so long in that old cart. The location
of the cemetery is a beautiful one, and I am quite sure you will enjoy
the walk. On our way, I will tell you the incident that ruined my life,
and you shall judge yourself whether I am justified in my hatred of
As together we walked along the flower-bordered road, my friend told me
the following story:
Two years ago when I was Assistant District Attorney in ----, I
obtained permission from my chief to spend a month in Sevilla. In the
hotel where I lodged there was a beautiful young woman who passed for a
widow but whose origin, as well as her reasons for staying in that
town, were a mystery to all. Her installation, her wealth, her total
lack of friends or acquaintances and the sadness of her expression,
together with her incomparable beauty, gave rise to a thousand
Her rooms were directly opposite mine, and I frequently met her in the
hall or on the stairway, only too glad to have the chance of bowing to
her. She was unapproachable, however, and it was impossible for me to
secure an introduction. Two weeks later, fate was to afford me the
opportunity of entering her apartment. I had been to the theater that
night, and when I returned to my room I thoughtlessly opened the door
of her apartment instead of that of my own. The beautiful woman was
reading by the light of the lamp and started when she saw me. I was so
embarrassed by my mistake that for a moment I could only stammer
unintelligible words. My confusion was so evident that she could not
doubt for a moment that I had made a mistake. I turned to the door,
intent upon relieving her of my presence as quickly as possible, when
she said with the most exquisite courtesy: "In order to show you that I
do not doubt your good faith and that I'm not at all offended, I beg
that you will call upon me again, _intentionally_."
Three days passed before I got up sufficient courage to accept her
invitation. Yes, I was madly in love with her; accustomed as I am to
analyze my own sensations, I knew that my passion could only end in the
greatest happiness or the deepest suffering. However, at the end of the
three days I went to her apartment and spent the evening there. She
told me that her name was Blanca, that she was born in Madrid, and that
she was a widow. She played and sang for me and asked me a thousand
questions about myself, my profession, my family, and every word she
said increased my love for her. From that night my soul was the slave
of her soul; yes, and it _will be forever_.
I called on her again the following night, and thereafter every
afternoon and evening I was with her. We loved each other, but not a
word of love had ever been spoken between us.
One evening she said to me: "I married a man without loving him.
Shortly after marriage I hated him. Now he is dead. Only God knows what
I suffered. Now I understand what love means; it is either heaven or it
is hell. For me, up to the present time, it has been hell."
I could not sleep that night. I lay awake thinking over these last
words of Blanca's. Somehow this woman frightened me. Would I be her
heaven and she my hell?
My leave of absence expired. I could have asked for an extension,
pretending illness, but the question was, should I do it? I consulted
"Why do you ask me?" she said, taking my hand.
"Because I love you. Am I doing wrong in loving you?"
"No," she said, becoming very pale, and then she put both arms about my
neck and her beautiful lips touched mine.
Well, I asked for another month and, thanks to you, dear friend, it was
granted. Never would they have given it to me without your influence.
My relations with Blanca were more than love; they were delirium,
madness, fanaticism, call it what you will. Every day my passion for
her increased, and the morrow seemed to open up vistas of new
happiness. And yet I could not avoid feeling at times a mysterious,
indefinable fear. And this I knew she felt as well as I did. We both
feared to lose one another. One day I said to Blanca:
"We must marry, as quickly as possible."
She gave me a strange look. "You wish to marry me?"
"Yes, Blanca," I said, "I am proud of you. I want to show you to the
whole world. I love you and I want you, pure, noble, and saintly as you
"I cannot marry you," answered this incomprehensible woman. She would
never give a reason.
Finally my leave of absence expired, and I told her that on the
following day we must separate.
"Separate? It is impossible!" she exclaimed. "I love you too much for
"But you know, Blanca, that I worship you."
"Then give up your profession. I am rich. We will live our lives out
together," she said, putting her soft hand over my mouth to prevent my
I kissed the hand and then, gently removing it, I answered: "I would
accept this offer from my wife, although it would be a sacrifice for me
to give up my career; but I will not accept it from a woman who refuses
to marry me."
Blanca remained thoughtful for several minutes; then, raising her head,
she looked at me and said very quietly, but with a determination which
could not be misunderstood: "I will be your wife, and I do not ask you
to give up your profession. Go back to your office. How long will it
take you to arrange your business matters and secure from the
government another leave of absence to return to Sevilla?"
"A month? Well, here I will await you. Return within a month, and I
will be your wife. To-day is the fifteenth of April. You will be here
on the fifteenth of May?"
"You may rest assured of that."
"You swear it?"
"I swear it."
"You love me?"
"More than my life."
"Go, then, and return. Farewell."
I left on the same day. The moment I arrived home I began to arrange my
house to receive my bride. As you know I solicited another leave of
absence, and so quickly did I arrange my business affairs that at the
end of two weeks I was ready to return to Sevilla.
I must tell you that during this fortnight I did not receive a single
letter from Blanca, though I wrote her six. I started at once for
Sevilla, arriving in that city on the thirtieth of April, and went at
once to the hotel where we had first met.
I learned that Blanca had left there two days after my departure
without telling anyone her destination.
Imagine my indignation, my disappointment, my suffering. She went away
without even leaving a line for me, without telling me whither she was
going. It never occurred to me to remain in Sevilla until the fifteenth
of May to ascertain whether she would return on that date. Three days
later I took up my court work and strove to forget her.
* * * * *
A few moments after my friend Zarco finished the story, we arrived at
This is only a small plot of ground covered with a veritable forest of
crosses and surrounded by a low stone wall. As often happens in Spain,
when the cemeteries are very small, it is necessary to dig up one
coffin in order to lower another. Those thus disinterred are thrown in
a heap in a corner of the cemetery, where skulls and bones are piled up
like a haystack. As we were passing, Zarco and I looked at the skulls,
wondering to whom they could have belonged, to rich or poor, noble or
Suddenly the judge bent down, and picking up a skull, exclaimed in
"Look here, my friend, what is this? It is surely a nail!"
Yes, a long nail had been driven in the top of the skull which he held
in his hand. The nail had been driven into the head, and the point had
penetrated what had been the roof of the mouth.