Zadig, by Voltaire

Chapter III.

The Dog and the Horse.

Zadig found, by Experience, that the first thirty Days of Matrimony (as ’tis written in the Book of Zend) is Honey–Moon; but the second is all Wormwood. He was oblig’d, in short, as Azora grew such a Termagant, to sue out a Bill of Divorce, and to seek his Consolation for the future, in the Study of Nature. Who is happier, said he, than the Philosopher, who peruses with Understanding that spacious Book, which the supreme Being has laid open before his Eyes? The Truths he discovers there, are of infinite Service to him. He thereby cultivates and improves his Mind. He lives in Peace and Tranquility all his Days; he is afraid of Nobody, and he has no tender, indulgent Wife to shorten his Nose for him.

Wrapped up in these Contemplations, he retir’d to a little Country House on the Banks of the Euphrates; there he never spent his Time in calculating how many Inches of Water run thro’ the Arch of a Bridge in a second of Time, or in enquiring if a Cube Line of Rain falls more in the Mouse–Month, than in that of the Ram. He form’d no Projects for making Silk Gloves and Stockings out of Spiders Webbs, nor of China–Ware out of broken Glass–Bottles; but he pry’d into the Nature and Properties of Animals and Plants, and soon, by his strict and repeated Enquiries, he was capable of discerning a Thousand Variations in visible Objects, that others, less curious, imagin’d were all alike.

One Day, as he was taking a solitary Walk by the Side of a Thicket, he espy’d one of the Queen’s Eunuchs, with several of his Attendants, coming towards him, hunting about, in deep Concern, both here and there, like Persons almost in Despair, and seeking, with Impatience, for something lost of the utmost Importance. Young Man, said the Queen’s chief Eunuch, have not you seen, pray, her Majesty’s Dog? Zadig very cooly replied, you mean her Bitch, I presume. You say very right Sir, said the Eunuch, ’tis a Spaniel–Bitch indeed. — And very small said Zadig: She has had Puppies too lately; she’s a little lame with her left Fore-foot, and has long Ears. By your exact Description, Sir, you must doubtless have seen her, said the Eunuch, almost out of Breath. But I have not Sir, notwithstanding, neither did I know, but by you, that the Queen ever had such a favourite Bitch.

Just at this critical Juncture, so various are the Turns of Fortune’s Wheel! the best Palfrey in all the King’s Stable had broke loose from the Groom, and got upon the Plains of Babylon. The Head Huntsman with all his inferior Officers, were in Pursuit after him, with as much Concern, as the Eunuch about the Bitch. The Head Huntsman address’d himself to Zadig, and ask’d him, whether he hadn’t seen the King’s Palfrey run by him. No Horse, said Zadig, ever gallop’d smoother; he is about five Foot high, his Hoofs are very small; his Tail is about three Foot six Inches long; the studs of his Bit are of pure Gold, about 23 Carats; and his Shoes are of Silver, about Eleven penny Weight a-piece. What Course did he take, pray, Sir? Whereabouts is he, said the Huntsman? I never sat Eyes on him, reply’d Zadig, not I, neither did I ever hear before now, that his Majesty had such a Palfrey.

The Head Huntsman, as well as the Head Eunuch, upon his answering their Interrogatories so very exactly, not doubting in the least, but that Zadig had clandestinely convey’d both the Bitch and the Horse away, secur’d him, and carried him before the grand Desterham, who condemn’d him to the Knout, and to be confin’d for Life in some remote and lonely Part of Siberia. No sooner had the Sentence been pronounc’d, but the Horse and Bitch were both found. The Judges were in some Perplexity in this odd Affair, and yet thought it absolutely necessary, as the Man was innocent, to recal their Decree. However, they laid a Fine upon him of Four Hundred Ounces of Gold, for his false Declaration of his not having seen, what doubtless he did: And the Fine was order’d to be deposited in Court accordingly: On the Payment whereof, he was permitted to bring his Cause on to a Hearing before the grand Desterham.

On the Day appointed for that Purpose he open’d the Cause himself, in Terms to this or the like Effect.

Ye bright Stars of Justice, ye profound Abyss of universal Knowledge, ye Mirrors of Equity, who have in you the Solidity of Lead, the Hardness of Steel, the Lustre of a Diamond, and the Resemblance of the purest Gold! Since ye have condescended so far, as to admit of my Address to this August Assembly, I here, in the most solemn Manner, swear to you by Orosmades, that I never saw the Queen’s illustrious Bitch, nor the sacred Palfrey of the King of Kings. I’ll be ingenuous, however, and declare the Truth, and nothing but the Truth. As I was walking by the Thicket’s Side, where I met with her Majesty’s most venerable chief Eunuch, and the King’s most illustrious chief Huntsman, I perceiv’d upon the Sand the Footsteps of an Animal, and I easily inferr’d that it must be a little one. The several small, tho’ long Ridges of Land between the Footsteps of the Creature, gave me just Grounds to imagine it was a Bitch whose Teats hung down; and for that Reason, I concluded she had but lately pupp’d. As I observ’d likewise some other Traces, in some Degree different, which seem’d to have graz’d all the Way upon the Surface of the Sand, on the Side of the fore-Feet, I knew well enough she must have had long Ears. And forasmuch as I discern’d; with some Degree of Curiosity, that the Sand was every where less hollow’d by one Foot in particular, than by the other three, I conceiv’d that the Bitch of our most august Queen was somewhat lamish, if I may presume to say so.

As to the Palfrey of the King of Kings, give me leave to inform you, that as I was walking down the Lane by the Thicket-side, I took particular Notice of the Prints made upon the Sand by a Horse’s Shoes; and found that their Distances were in exact Proportion; from that Observation, I concluded the Palfrey gallop’d well. In the next Place, the Dust of some Trees in a narrow Lane, which was but seven Foot broad, was here and there swept off, both on the Right and on the Left, about three Feet and six Inches from the Middle of the Road. For which Reason I pronounc’d the Tail of the Palfrey to be three Foot and a half long, with which he had whisk’d off the Dust on both Sides as he ran along. Again, I perceiv’d under the Trees, which form’d a Kind of Bower of five Feet high, some Leaves that had been lately fallen on the Ground, and I was sensible the Horse must have shook them off; from whence I conjectur’d he was five Foot high. As to the Bits of his Bridle, I knew they must be of Gold, and of the Value I mention’d; for he had rubb’d the Studs upon a certain Stone, which I knew to be a Touch-stone, by an Experiment that I had made of it. To conclude, by the Prints which his Shoes had left of some Flint–Stones of another Nature, I concluded his Shoes were Silver, and of eleven penny Weight Fineness, as I before mention’d.

The whole Bench of Judges stood astonish’d at the Profundity of Zadig’s nice Discernment. The News was soon carried to the King and the Queen. Zadig was not only the whole Subject of the Court’s Conversation; but his Name was mention’d with the utmost Veneration in the King’s Chambers, and his Privy–Council. And notwithstanding several of their Magi declar’d he ought to be burnt for a Sorcerer; yet the King thought proper, that the Fine he had deposited in Court, should be peremptorily restor’d. The Clerk of the Court, the Tipstaffs, and other petty Officers, waited on him in their proper Habit, in order to refund the four Hundred Ounces of Gold, pursuant to the King’s express Order; modestly reserving only three Hundred and ninety Ounces, part thereof, to defray the Fees of the Court. And the Domesticks swarm’d about him likewise, in Hopes of some small Consideration.

Zadig, upon winding up of the Bottom, was fully convinc’d, that it was very dangerous to be over-wise; and was determin’d to set a Watch before the Door of his Lips for the future.

An Opportunity soon offer’d for the Trial of his Resolution. A Prisoner of State had just made his Escape, and pass’d under the Window of Zadig’s House. Zadig was examin’d thereupon, but was absolutely dumb. However, as it was plainly prov’d upon him, that he did look out of the Window at the same Time, he was sentenc’d to pay five Hundred Ounces of Gold for that Misdemeanor; and moreover, was oblig’d to thank the Court for their Indulgence; a Compliment which the Magistrates of Babylon expect to be paid them. Good God! said he, to himself, have I not substantial Reason to complain, that my impropitious Stars should direct me to walk by a Wood’s-Side, where the Queen’s Bitch and the King’s Palfrey should happen to pass by? How dangerous is it to pop one’s Head out of one’s Window? And, in a Word, how difficult is it for a Man to be happy on this Side the Grave?

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