Zadig, by Voltaire

Chapter VI.

The Judgments.

Young as Zadig was, he was constituted chief Judge of all the Tribunals throughout the Empire. He fill’d the Place, like one, whom the Gods had endow’d with the strictest Justice, and the most solid Wisdom. It was to him, the Nations round about were indebted for that generous Maxim; that ’tis much more Prudence to acquit two Persons, tho’ actually guilty, than to pass Sentence of Condemnation in one that is virtuous and innocent. It was his firm Opinion, that the Laws were intended to be a Praise to those who did well, as much as to be a Terror to Evildoers. It was his peculiar Talent to render Truth as obvious as possible: Whereas most Men study to render it intricate and obscure. On the very first Day of his Entrance into his High Office, he exerted this peculiar Talent. A rich Merchant, and a Native of Babylon, died in the Indies. He had made his Will, and appointed his two Sons Joint–Heirs of his Estate, as soon as they had settled their Sister, and married her with their mutual Approbation. Moreover, he left a specific Legacy of 30,000 Pieces of Gold to that Son, who should, after his Decease, be prov’d to love him best. The Eldest erected to his Memory a very costly Monument: The Youngest appropriated a considerable Part of his Bequest to the Augmentation of his Sister’s Fortune: Every one, without Hesitation, gave the Preference to the Elder, allowing the Younger to have the greatest Affection for his Sister. The Legacy therefore was doubtless due to the Eldest.

Their Cause came before Zadig, and he examin’d them apart. To the former, said Zadig, Your Father, Sir, is not dead, as is reported, but being happily recover’d, is on his Return to Babylon. God be praised, said the young Man! but I hope the Expence I have been at in raising this superb Monument will be consider’d. After this, Zadig repeated the same Story to the Younger. God be praised, said he! I will immediately restore all that he has left me; but I hope my Father will not recal the little Present I have made my Sister. You have nothing to restore, Sir; you shall have the Legacy of the thirty thousand Pieces; for ’tis you that have the greatest Veneration for your deceased Father.

A young Lady that was very rich, had entred into a Marriage–Contract with two Magis; and having receiv’d Instructions from both Parties for some Months, she prov’d with Child. They were both ready and willing to marry her. But, said she, he shall be my Husband, that has put me into a Capacity of serving my Country, by adding one to it. ’Tis I, Madam, that have answered that valuable End, said one; but the other insisted ’twas his Operation. Well! said she, since this is a Moot-point, I’ll acknowledge him for the Father of the Child, that will give him the most liberal Education. In a short Time after, my Lady was brought to Bed of a hopeful Boy. Each of them insisted on being Tutor, and the Cause was brought before Zadig. The two Magi were order’d to appear in Court. Pray Sir, said Zadig to the first, what Method of Instruction do you propose to pursue for the Improvement of your young Pupil? He shall first be grounded, said this learned Pedagogue, in the Eight Parts of Speech; then I’ll teach him Logic, Astrology, Magick, the wide Difference between the Terms Substance and Accident, Abstract and Concrete, &c. &c. As for my Part, Sir, I shall take another Course, said the second; I’ll do my utmost to make him an honest Man, and acceptable to his Friends. Upon this, Zadig said, you, Sir, shall marry the Mother, let who will be the Father.

There came daily Complaints to Court against the Itimadoulet of Media, whose Name was Irax. He was a Person of Quality, who was possess’d of a very considerable Estate, notwithstanding he had squander’d away a great Part of it, by indulging himself in all Manner of expensive Pleasures. It was but seldom that an Inferior was suffer’d to speak to him; but not a Soul durst contradict him: No Peacock was more gay; no Turtle more amorous; and no Tortoise more indolent and inactive. He made false Glory and false Pleasures his sole Pursuit.

Zadig, undertaking to cure him, sent him forthwith, as by express Order from the King, a Musick–Master with twelve Voices, and 24 Violins, as his Attendants; a Head Steward, with six Men Cooks, and 4 Chamberlains, who were never to be out of his Sight. The King issued out his Writ for the punctual Observance of his Royal Will; and thus the Affair proceeded.

The first Morning, as soon as the voluptuous Irax had open’d his Eyes, his Musick–Master, with the Voices and Violins, entred his Apartment. They sang a Cantata, that lasted two Hours and three Minutes. Every three Minutes the Chorus, or Burthen of the Song, was to this Effect.

Tisn’t in Words to speak your Praise;
  What mighty Honours are your Due!
 To worth like yours we Altars raise,
  No Monarch’s happier, Sir, than you.

After the Cantata was over, the Chamberlain address’d him in a formal Harangue for three Quarters of an Hour without ceasing; wherein he took Occasion to extol every Virtue to which he was a perfect Stranger; when the Oration was over, he was conducted to Dinner, where the Musicians were all in waiting, and play’d, as soon as he was seated at his Table. Dinner lasted three Hours before he condescended to speak a Word. When he did; you say Right, Sir, said the chief Chamberlain; scarce had he utter’d four Words more, but Right, Sir, said the second. The other two Chamberlain’s Time was taken up in laughing with Admiration at Irax’s Smart Repartees, or at least such as he ought to have made. After the Cloth was taken away, the adulating Chorus was repeated.

This first Day Irax was all in Raptures; he imagin’d, that this Honour done him by the King of Kings, was the sole Result of his exalted Merit. The second wasn’t altogether so agreeable; The third prov’d somewhat troublesome; the fourth insupportable; the fifth was tormenting; and at last, he was perfectly outrageous at the continual Peal in his Ears of No Monarch’s happier Sir, than you, You say right, &c. and at being daily harangu’d at the same Hour. Whereupon he wrote to Court, and begg’d of his Majesty to recal his Chamberlain, his Musick–Master, and all his Retinue, his Head Steward and his Cooks, and promis’d, in the most submissive Manner, to be less vain, and more industrious for the future. Tho’ he didn’t require so much Adulations, nor such grand Entertainments, he was much more happy; for, as Sadder has it, One continued Scene of Pleasure, is no Pleasure at all.

Zadig every Day gave incontestable Proofs of his wondrous Penetration, and the Goodness of his Heart; he was ador’d by the People, and was the Darling of the King. The little Difficulties that he met with in the first Stage of his Life, serv’d only to augment his present Felicity. Every Night, however, he had some unlucky Dream or another, that gave him some Disturbance. One while, he imagin’d himself extended on a Bed of wither’d Plants, amongst which there were some that were sharp pointed, and made him very restless and uneasy; another Time, he fancied himself repos’d on a Bed of Roses, out of which rush’d a Serpent, that stung him to the Heart with his envenom’d Tongue. Alas! said he, waking, I was one while upon a Bed of hard and nauseous Plants, and just this Moment repos’d on a Bed of Roses. But then the Serpent. —

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