The Robber





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

suffered.





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