The Hermit

While he was thus sauntering he met a hermit, whose white and venerable

beard hung down to his girdle. He held a book in his hand, which he

read with great attention. Zadig stopped, and made him a profound

obeisance. The hermit returned the compliment with such a noble and

engaging air, that Zadig had the curiosity to enter into conversation

with him. He asked him what book it was that he had been reading? "It

is the B
ok of Destinies," said the hermit; "wouldst thou choose to

look into it?" He put the book into the hands of Zadig, who, thoroughly

versed as he was in several languages, could not decipher a single

character of it. This only redoubled his curiosity.

"Thou seemest," said this good father, "to be in great distress."

"Alas," replied Zadig, "I have but too much reason."

"If thou wilt permit me to accompany thee," resumed the old man,

"perhaps I may be of some service to thee. I have often poured the balm

of consolation into the bleeding heart of the unhappy."

Zadig felt himself inspired with respect for the air, the beard, and

the book of the hermit. He found, in the course of the conversation,

that he was possessed of superior degrees of knowledge. The hermit

talked of fate, of justice, of morals, of the chief good, of human

weakness, and of virtue and vice, with such a spirited and moving

eloquence, that Zadig felt himself drawn toward him by an irresistible

charm. He earnestly entreated the favor of his company till their

return to Babylon.

"I ask the same favor of thee," said the old man; "swear to me by

Oromazes, that whatever I do, thou wilt not leave me for some days."

Zadig swore, and they set out together.

In the evening the two travelers arrived in a superb castle. The hermit

entreated a hospitable reception for himself and the young man who

accompanied him. The porter, whom one might have easily mistaken for a

great lord, introduced them with a kind of disdainful civility. He

presented them to a principal domestic, who showed them his master's

magnificent apartments. They were admitted to the lower end of the

table, without being honored with the least mark of regard by the lord

of the castle; but they were served, like the rest, with delicacy and

profusion. They were then presented with water to wash their hands, in

a golden basin adorned with emeralds and rubies. At last they were

conducted to bed in a beautiful apartment; and in the morning a

domestic brought each of them a piece of gold, after which they took

their leave and departed.

"The master of the house," said Zadig, as they were proceeding on the

journey, "appears to be a generous man, though somewhat too proud; he

nobly performs the duties of hospitality." At that instant he observed

that a kind of large pocket, which the hermit had, was filled and

distended; and upon looking more narrowly he found that it contained

the golden basin adorned with precious stones, which the hermit had

stolen. He durst not take any notice of it, but he was filled with a

strange surprise.

About noon, the hermit came to the door of a paltry house inhabited by

a rich miser, and begged the favor of an hospitable reception for a few

hours. An old servant, in a tattered garb, received them with a blunt

and rude air, and led them into the stable, where he gave them some

rotten olives, moldy bread, and sour beer. The hermit ate and drank

with as much seeming satisfaction as he had done the evening before;

and then addressing himself to the old servant, who watched them both,

to prevent their stealing anything, and rudely pressed them to depart,

he gave him the two pieces of gold he had received in the morning, and

thanked him for his great civility.

"Pray," added he, "allow me to speak to thy master." The servant,

filled with astonishment, introduced the two travelers. "Magnificent

lord," said the hermit, "I cannot but return thee my most humble thanks

for the noble manner in which thou hast entertained us. Be pleased to

accept this golden basin as a small mark of my gratitude." The miser

started, and was ready to fall backward; but the hermit, without giving

him time to recover from his surprise, instantly departed with his

young fellow traveler.

"Father," said Zadig, "what is the meaning of all this? Thou seemest to

me to be entirely different from other men; thou stealest a golden

basin adorned with precious stones from a lord who received thee

magnificently, and givest it to a miser who treats thee with


"Son," replied the old man, "this magnificent lord, who receives

strangers only from vanity and ostentation, will hereby be rendered

more wise; and the miser will learn to practice the duties of

hospitality. Be surprised at nothing, but follow me."

Zadig knew not as yet whether he was in company with the most foolish

or the most prudent of mankind; but the hermit spoke with such an

ascendancy, that Zadig, who was moreover bound by his oath, could not

refuse to follow him.

In the evening they arrived at a house built with equal elegance and

simplicity, where nothing favored either of prodigality or avarice. The

master of it was a philosopher, who had retired from the world, and who

cultivated in peace the study of virtue and wisdom, without any of that

rigid and morose severity so commonly to be found in men of his

character. He had chosen to build this country house, in which he

received strangers with a generosity free from ostentation. He went

himself to meet the two travelers, whom he led into a commodious

apartment, where he desired them to repose themselves a little. Soon

after he came and invited them to a decent and well-ordered repast

during which he spoke with great judgment of the last revolutions in

Babylon. He seemed to be strongly attached to the queen, and wished

that Zadig had appeared in the lists to dispute the crown. "But the

people," added he, "do not deserve to have such a king as Zadig."

Zadig blushed, and felt his griefs redoubled. They agreed, in the

course of the conversation, that the things of this world did not

always answer the wishes of the wise. The hermit still maintained that

the ways of Providence were inscrutable; and that men were in the wrong

to judge of a whole, of which they understood but the smallest part.

They talked of passions. "Ah," said Zadig, "how fatal are their


"They are in the winds," replied the hermit, "that swell the sails of

the ship; it is true, they sometimes sink her, but without them she

could not sail at all. The bile makes us sick and choleric; but without

bile we could not live. Everything in this world is dangerous, and yet

everything is necessary."

The conversation turned on pleasure; and the hermit proved that it was

a present bestowed by the deity. "For," said he, "man cannot give

himself either sensations or ideas; he receives all; and pain and

pleasure proceed from a foreign cause as well as his being."

Zadig was surprised to see a man, who had been guilty of such

extravagant actions, capable of reasoning with so much judgment and

propriety. At last, after a conversation equally entertaining and

instructive, the host led back his two guests to their apartment,

blessing Heaven for having sent him two men possessed of so much wisdom

and virtue. He offered them money with such an easy and noble air as

could not possibly give any offense. The hermit refused it, and said

that he must now take his leave of him, as he set out for Babylon

before it was light. Their parting was tender; Zadig especially felt

himself filled with esteem and affection for a man of such an amiable


When he and the hermit were alone in their apartment, they spent a long

time in praising their host. At break of day the old man awakened his

companion. "We must now depart," said he, "but while all the family are

still asleep, I will leave this man a mark of my esteem and affection."

So saying, he took a candle and set fire to the house.

Zadig, struck with horror, cried aloud, and endeavored to hinder him

from committing such a barbarous action; but the hermit drew him away

by a superior force, and the house was soon in flames. The hermit, who,

with his companion, was already at a considerable distance, looked back

to the conflagration with great tranquillity.

"Thanks be to God," said he, "the house of my dear host is entirely

destroyed! Happy man!"

At these words Zadig was at once tempted to burst out a-laughing, to

reproach the reverend father, to beat him, and to run away. But he did

none of all of these, for still subdued by the powerful ascendancy of

the hermit, he followed him, in spite of himself, to the next stage.

This was at the house of a charitable and virtuous widow, who had a

nephew fourteen years of age, a handsome and promising youth, and her

only hope. She performed the honors of her house as well as she could.

Next day, she ordered her nephew to accompany the strangers to a

bridge, which being lately broken down, was become extremely dangerous

in passing. The young man walked before them with great alacrity. As

they were crossing the bridge, "Come," said the hermit to the youth, "I

must show my gratitude to thy aunt." He then took him by the hair and

plunged him into the river. The boy sunk, appeared again on the surface

of the water, and was swallowed up by the current.

"O monster! O thou most wicked of mankind!" cried Zadig.

"Thou promisedst to behave with greater patience," said the hermit,

interrupting him. "Know that under the ruins of that house which

Providence hath set on fire the master hath found an immense treasure.

Know that this young man, whose life Providence hath shortened, would

have assassinated his aunt in the space of a year, and thee in that of


"Who told thee so, barbarian?" cried Zadig; "and though thou hadst read

this event in thy Book of Destinies, art thou permitted to drown a

youth who never did thee any harm?"

While the Babylonian was thus exclaiming, he observed that the old man

had no longer a beard, and that his countenance assumed the features

and complexion of youth. The hermit's habit disappeared, and four

beautiful wings covered a majestic body resplendent with light.

"O sent of heaven! O divine angel!" cried Zadig, humbly prostrating

himself on the ground," hast thou then descended from the Empyrean to

teach a weak mortal to submit to the eternal decrees of Providence?"

"Men," said the angel Jesrad, "judge of all without knowing anything;

and, of all men, thou best deservest to be enlightened."

Zadig begged to be permitted to speak. "I distrust myself," said he,

"but may I presume to ask the favor of thee to clear up one doubt that

still remains in my mind? Would it not have been better to have

corrected this youth, and made him virtuous, than to have drowned him?"

"Had he been virtuous," replied Jesrad, "and enjoyed a longer life, it

would have been his fate to be assassinated himself, together with the

wife he would have married, and the child he would have had by her."

"But why," said Zadig, "is it necessary that there should be crimes and

misfortunes, and that these misfortunes should fall on the good?"

"The wicked," replied Jesrad, "are always unhappy; they serve to prove

and try the small number of the just that are scattered through the

earth; and there is no evil that is not productive of some good."

"But," said Zadig, "suppose there were nothing but good and no evil at


"Then," replied Jesrad, "this earth would be another earth. The chain

of events would be ranged in another order and directed by wisdom; but

this other order, which would be perfect, can exist only in the eternal

abode of the Supreme Being, to which no evil can approach. The Deity

hath created millions of worlds, among which there is not one that

resembles another. This immense variety is the effect of His immense

power. There are not two leaves among the trees of the earth, nor two

globes in the unlimited expanse of heaven that are exactly similar; and

all that thou seest on the little atom in which thou art born, ought to

be in its proper time and place, according to the immutable decree of

Him who comprehends all. Men think that this child who hath just

perished is fallen into the water by chance; and that it is by the same

chance that this house is burned; but there is no such thing as chance;

all is either a trial, or a punishment, or a reward, or a foresight.

Remember the fisherman who thought himself the most wretched of

mankind. Oromazes sent thee to change his fate. Cease, then, frail

mortal, to dispute against what thou oughtest to adore."

"But," said Zadig--as he pronounced the word "But," the angel took his

flight toward the tenth sphere. Zadig on his knees adored Providence,

and submitted. The angel cried to him from on high, "Direct thy course

toward Babylon."