Jealousy





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.





Introduction To Zadig The Babylonian Matter Through Matter facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback