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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 Generous








The time now arrived for celebrating a grand festival, which returned
every five years. It was a custom in Babylon solemnly to declare at the
end of every five years which of the citizens had performed the most
generous action. The grandees and the magi were the judges. The first
satrap, who was charged with the government of the city, published the
most noble actions that had passed under his administration. The
competition was decided by votes; and the king pronounced the sentence.
People came to this solemnity from the extremities of the earth. The
conqueror received from the monarch's hand a golden cup adorned with
precious stones, his majesty at the same time making him this
compliment:

"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
the prize.

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
fatally deceived.





Next: The Minister

Previous: The Envious Man



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