The Disputes And The Audiences

In this manner he daily discovered the subtilty of his genius and the

goodness of his heart. The people at once admired and loved him. He

passed for the happiest man in the world. The whole empire resounded

with his name. All the ladies ogled him. All the men praised him for

his justice. The learned regarded him as an oracle; and even the

priests confessed that he knew more than the old arch-magi Yebor. They

were now s
far from prosecuting him on account of the griffin, that

they believed nothing but what he thought credible.

There had reigned in Babylon, for the space of fifteen hundred years, a

violent contest that had divided the empire into two sects. The one

pretended that they ought to enter the temple of Mitra with the left

foot foremost; the other held this custom in detestation and always

entered with the right foot first. The people waited with great

impatience for the day on which the solemn feast of the sacred fire was

to be celebrated, to see which sect Zadig would favor. All the world

had their eyes fixed on his two feet, and the whole city was in the

utmost suspense and perturbation. Zadig jumped into the temple with his

feet joined together, and afterwards proved, in an eloquent discourse,

that the Sovereign of heaven and earth, who accepted not the persons of

men, makes no distinction between the right and left foot. The envious

man and his wife alleged that his discourse was not figurative enough,

and that he did not make the rocks and mountains to dance with

sufficient agility.

"He is dry," said they, "and void of genius; he does not make the flea

to fly, and stars to fall, nor the sun to melt wax; he has not the true

Oriental style." Zadig contented himself with having the style of

reason. All the world favored him, not because he was in the right road

or followed the dictates of reason, or was a man of real merit, but

because he was prime vizier.

He terminated with the same happy address the grand difference between

the white and the black magi. The former maintained that it was the

height of impiety to pray to God with the face turned toward the east

in winter; the latter asserted that God abhorred the prayers of those

who turned toward the west in summer. Zadig decreed that every man

should be allowed to turn as he pleased.

Thus he found out the happy secret of finishing all affairs, whether of

a private or public nature, in the morning. The rest of the day he

employed in superintending and promoting the embellishments of Babylon.

He exhibited tragedies that drew tears from the eyes of the spectators,

and comedies that shook their sides with laughter; a custom which had

long been disused, and which his good taste now induced him to revive.

He never affected to be more knowing in the polite arts than the

artists themselves; he encouraged them by rewards and honors, and was

never jealous of their talents. In the evening the king was highly

entertained with his conversation, and the queen still more. "Great

minister!" said the king. "Amiable minister!" said the queen; and both

of them added, "It would have been a great loss to the state had such a

man been hanged."

Never was man in power obliged to give so many audiences to the ladies.

Most of them came to consult him about no business at all, that so they

might have some business with him. But none of them won his attention.

Meanwhile Zadig perceived that his thoughts were always distracted, as

well when he gave audience as when he sat in judgment. He did not know

to what to attribute this absence of mind; and that was his only


He had a dream in which he imagined that he laid himself down upon a

heap of dry herbs, among which there were many prickly ones that gave

him great uneasiness, and that he afterwards reposed himself on a soft

bed of roses from which there sprung a serpent that wounded him to the

heart with its sharp and venomed tongue. "Alas," said he, "I have long

lain on these dry and prickly herbs, I am now on the bed of roses; but

what shall be the serpent?"