Zadig, by Voltaire

Chapter IX.

The Captive.

No sooner was Zadig arriv’d at the Egyptian Village before-mention’d, but he found himself surrounded by a Croud. The People one and all cried out! See! See! there’s the Man that ran away with the beauteous Lady Missouf, and murder’d Cletofis. Gentlemen, said he, God forbid that I should ever entertain a Thought of running away with the Lady you speak of: She is too much of a Coquet: And as to Cletofis, I did not murder him, but kill’d him in my own Defence. He endeavour’d all he could to take my Life away, because I entreated him to take some Pity and Compassion on the beauteous Missouf, whom he beat most unmercifully. I am a Stranger, who am fled hither for Shelter, and ’tis highly improbable, that upon my first Entrance into a Country, where I came for Safety and Protection, I should be guilty of two such enormous Crimes, as that of running away with another Man’s Partner, and that of clandestinely murdering him on her Account.

The Egyptians at that Time were just and humane. The Populace, tis true, hurried Zadig to the Town–Goal; but they took care in the first Place to stop the Bleeding of his Wounds, and afterwards examin’d the suppos’d Delinquents apart, in order to discover, if possible, the real Truth. They acquitted Zadig of the Charge of wilful and premeditated Murder; but as he had taken a Subject’s Life away, tho’ in his own Defence, he was sentenc’d to be a Slave, as the Law directed. His two Beasts were sold in open Market, for the Service of the Hamlet; What Money he had was distributed amongst the Inhabitants; and he and his Attendant were expos’d in the Market-place to public Sale. An Arabian Merchant, Setoc by Name, purchas’d them both; but as the Valet, or Attendant, was a robust Man, and better cut out for hard Labour than the Master, he fetch’d the most Money. There was no Comparison to be made between them. Zadig therefore was a Slave subordinate to his Valet; they secur’d them both, however, by a Chain upon their Legs; and so link’d they accompanied their Master home. Zadig, as they were on the Road, comforted his Fellow–Slave, and exhorted him to bear his Misfortunes with Patience: But, according to Custom, he made several Reflections on the Vicissitudes of human Life. I am now sensible, said he, that my impropitious Fortune has some malignant Influence over thine; every Occurrence of my Life hitherto has prov’d strangely odd and unaccountable. In the first Place, I was sentenc’d to die at Babylon, for writing a short Panegyrick on the King, my Master. In the next, I narrowly escap’d being strangled, for the Queen his Royal Consort’s speaking a little too much in my Favour; and here I am a joint-Slave with thy self; because a turbulent Fellow of a Gallant would beat his Lady. However, Comrade, let us march on boldly; let not our Courage be cast down; all this may possibly have a happier Issue than we expect. ’Tis absolutely necessary that these Arabian Merchants should have Slaves, and why should not you and I, as we are but Men, be Slaves as Thousands of others are? This Master of ours may not prove inexorable. He must treat his Slaves with some Thought and Consideration, if he expects them to do his Work. This was his Discourse to his Comrade; but his Mind was more attentive to the Misfortunes of the Queen of Babylon.

Two Days afterwards Setoc set out with his two Slaves and his Camels, for Arabia Deserta. His Tribe liv’d near the Desert of Horeb. The Way was long and tedious. Setoc, during the Journey, paid a much greater Regard to Zadig’s Valet, than to himself; because the former was the most able to load the Camels; and therefore what little Distinctions were made, they were in his Favour. It so happen’d that one of the Camels died upon the Road: The Load which the Beast carried was immediately divided, and thrown upon the Shoulders of the two Slaves; Zadig had his Share. Setoc, couldn’t forbear laughing to see his two Slaves crouching under their Burthen. Zadig took the Liberty to explain the Reason thereof; and convinc’d him of the Laws of the Equilibrium. The Merchant was a little startled at his philosophical Discourse, and look’d upon him with a more favourable Eye than at first. Zadig, perceiving he had rais’d his Curiosity, redoubled it, by instructing him in several material Points, which were in some Measure, advantageous to him in his Way of Business: Such as, the specific Weight of Metals, and other Commodities of various Kinds, of an equal Bulk; the Properties of several useful Animals, and the best Ways and Means to make Such as were wild, tame by Degrees, and fit for Service: In short, Zadig was look’d upon by his Master, as a perfect Oracle. Setoc now thought the Master the much better Man of the two. He us’d him courteously, and had no Room to repent of his Indulgence towards him.

Being got to their Journey’s End, the first Step that Setoc took was to claim a Debt of five hundred Ounces of Silver of a Jew, who had borrow’d it in the Presence of two Witnesses; but both of them were dead; and as the Jew was conscious he couldn’t be cast for Want of Evidence, appropriated the Merchant’s Money to his own Use, and thank’d God that it lay in his Power for once to bite an Arabian with Impunity. Setoc discover’d to Zadig the unhappy Situation of his Case, as he was now become his Confident. Where was it, pray, said Zadig, that you lent this large Sum to that ungrateful Infidel? Upon a large Stone, said the Merchant, at the Foot of Mount Horeb. What sort of a Man is your Debtor, said Zadig? Oh! he is as errand a Rogue as ever breath’d, reply’d Setoc. That I take for granted; but, says Zadig, is he a lively, active Man, or is he a dull heavy-headed Fellow? He is one of the worst of Pay-masters in the World, but the merriest, most sprightly Fellow I ever met with. Very well! said Zadig, let me be one of your Council when your Cause comes to be heard. In short, he summon’d the Jew to attend the Court; where, when the Judge was sat, Zadig open’d the Cause: Thou impartial Judge of this Court of Equity, I am come here, in behalf of my Master, to demand of the Defendant five hundred Ounces of Silver, which he refuses to pay, and would fain traverse the Debt. Have you, Friend, your Witnesses ready to prove the Loan, said the Judge? No, they are dead; but there is a large Stone still subsisting, on which the Money was deposited; and if your Excellence, will be pleas’d to order the Stone to be brought in Court, I don’t doubt but the Evidence it will give, will be Proof sufficient of the Fact. I hope your Excellence will order, that the Jew and myself shall be oblig’d to attend the Court, till the Stone comes, and I’ll dispatch a special Messenger to fetch it, at my Master’s Expence. Your Request is very reasonable, said the Judge. Do as you propose; and so call’d another Cause.

When the Court was ready to break up, Well! said the Judge to Zadig, is your Stone come yet? The Jew, with a Sneer, replied, your Excellence may wait here till this Time To-morrow, before the Stone will appear in Court; for ’tis above six Mile off, and it will require fifteen Men to remove it from its Place. ’Tis well! replied Zadig. I told your Excellence that the Stone would be a very material Evidence. Since the Defendant can point out the Place where the Stone lies, he tacitly confesses, that it was upon that Stone the Money was deposited. The Jew thus unexpectedly confuted, was soon oblig’d to acknowledge the Debt. The Judge order’d that the Jew should be tied fast to the Stone, without Victuals or Drink, till he should advance the five hundred Ounces of Silver, which were soon paid accordingly, and the Jew releas’d. The Slave Zadig, and this remarkable Stone–Witness, were in great Repute all over Arabia.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01