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.
Next: The Stone