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FRANCOIS MARIE AROUET DE VOLTAIRE

Introduction To Zadig The Babylonian
Jealousy
The Basilisk
The Blind Of One Eye
The Combats
The Disputes And The Audiences
The Dog And The Horse
The Envious Man
The Fisherman
The Funeral Pile
The Generous
The Hermit
The Minister
The Nose
The Robber
The Stone
The Supper
The Woman Beaten

Library Of The World's Best Mystery And Detective Stories

An Uncomfortable Bed
Fear
Ghosts
Introduction To Zadig The Babylonian
Jealousy
Melmoth Reconciled
Pliny The Younger
The Adventure Of The Three Robbers
The Basilisk
The Blind Of One Eye
The Combats
The Confession
The Conscript
The Deposition
The Disputes And The Audiences
The Dog And The Horse
The Enigmas
The Envious Man
The Fisherman
The Funeral Pile
The Generous
The Hermit
The Horla Or Modern Ghosts
The Invisible Eye
The Minister
The Miracle Of Zobeide
The Nail
The Necklace
The Nose
The Owl's Ear
The Robber
The Stone
The Supper
The Torture By Hope
The Waters Of Death
The Woman Beaten



The Combats








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
as I!"

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
white color.

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
known.

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
severity.





Next: The Hermit

Previous: The Basilisk



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