The Envious Man

Zadig resolved to comfort himself by philosophy and friendship for the

evils he had suffered from fortune. He had in the suburbs of Babylon a

house elegantly furnished, in which he assembled all the arts and all

the pleasures worthy the pursuit of a gentleman. In the morning his

library was open to the learned. In the evening his table was

surrounded by good company. But he soon found what very dangerous

guests these m
n of letters are. A warm dispute arose on one of

Zoroaster's laws, which forbids the eating of a griffin. "Why," said

some of them, "prohibit the eating of a griffin, if there is no such an

animal in nature?" "There must necessarily be such an animal," said the

others, "since Zoroaster forbids us to eat it." Zadig would fain have

reconciled them by saying, "If there are no griffins, we cannot

possibly eat them; and thus either way we shall obey Zoroaster."

A learned man who had composed thirteen volumes on the properties of

the griffin, and was besides the chief theurgite, hastened away to

accuse Zadig before one of the principal magi, named Yebor, the

greatest blockhead and therefore the greatest fanatic among the

Chaldeans. This man would have impaled Zadig to do honors to the sun,

and would then have recited the breviary of Zoroaster with greater

satisfaction. The friend Cador (a friend is better than a hundred

priests) went to Yebor, and said to him, "Long live the sun and the

griffins; beware of punishing Zadig; he is a saint; he has griffins in

his inner court and does not eat them; and his accuser is an heretic,

who dares to maintain that rabbits have cloven feet and are not


"Well," said Yebor, shaking his bald pate, "we must impale Zadig for

having thought contemptuously of griffins, and the other for having

spoken disrespectfully of rabbits." Cador hushed up the affair by means

of a maid of honor with whom he had a love affair, and who had great

interest in the College of the Magi. Nobody was impaled.

This levity occasioned a great murmuring among some of the doctors, who

from thence predicted the fall of Babylon. "Upon what does happiness

depend?" said Zadig. "I am persecuted by everything in the world, even

on account of beings that have no existence." He cursed those men of

learning, and resolved for the future to live with none but good


He assembled at his house the most worthy men and the most beautiful

ladies of Babylon. He gave them delicious suppers, often preceded by

concerts of music, and always animated by polite conversation, from

which he knew how to banish that affectation of wit which is the surest

method of preventing it entirely, and of spoiling the pleasure of the

most agreeable society. Neither the choice of his friends, nor that of

the dishes was made by vanity; for in everything he preferred the

substance to the shadow; and by these means he procured that real

respect to which he did not aspire.

Opposite to his house lived one Arimazes, a man whose deformed

countenance was but a faint picture of his still more deformed mind.

His heart was a mixture of malice, pride, and envy. Having never been

able to succeed in any of his undertakings, he revenged himself on all

around him by loading them with the blackest calumnies. Rich as he was,

he found it difficult to procure a set of flatterers. The rattling of

the chariots that entered Zadig's court in the evening filled him with

uneasiness; the sound of his praises enraged him still more. He

sometimes went to Zadig's house, and sat down at table without being

desired; where he spoiled all the pleasure of the company, as the

harpies are said to infect the viands they touch. It happened that one

day he took it in his head to give an entertainment to a lady, who,

instead of accepting it, went to sup with Zadig. At another time, as he

was talking with Zadig at court, a minister of state came up to them,

and invited Zadig to supper without inviting Arimazes. The most

implacable hatred has seldom a more solid foundation. This man, who in

Babylon was called the Envious, resolved to ruin Zadig because he was

called the Happy. "The opportunity of doing mischief occurs a hundred

times in a day, and that of doing good but once a year," as sayeth the

wise Zoroaster.

The envious man went to see Zadig, who was walking in his garden with

two friends and a lady, to whom he said many gallant things, without

any other intention than that of saying them. The conversation turned

upon a war which the king had just brought to a happy conclusion

against the prince of Hircania, his vassal. Zadig, who had signalized

his courage in this short war, bestowed great praises on the king, but

greater still on the lady. He took out his pocketbook, and wrote four

lines extempore, which he gave to this amiable person to read. His

friends begged they might see them; but modesty, or rather a

well-regulated self love, would not allow him to grant their request.

He knew that extemporary verses are never approved of by any but by the

person in whose honor they are written. He therefore tore in two the

leaf on which he had wrote them, and threw both the pieces into a

thicket of rosebushes, where the rest of the company sought for them in

vain. A slight shower falling soon after obliged them to return to the

house. The envious man, who stayed in the garden, continued the search

till at last he found a piece of the leaf. It had been torn in such a

manner that each half of a line formed a complete sense, and even a

verse of a shorter measure; but what was still more surprising, these

short verses were found to contain the most injurious reflections on

the king. They ran thus:

To flagrant crimes.

His crown he owes,

To peaceful times.

The worst of foes.

The envious man was now happy for the first time of his life. He had it

in his power to ruin a person of virtue and merit. Filled with this

fiendlike joy, he found means to convey to the king the satire written

by the hand of Zadig, who, together with the lady and his two friends,

was thrown into prison.

His trial was soon finished, without his being permitted to speak for

himself. As he was going to receive his sentence, the envious man threw

himself in his way and told him with a loud voice that his verses were

good for nothing. Zadig did not value himself on being a good poet; but

it filled him with inexpressible concern to find that he was condemned

for high treason; and that the fair lady and his two friends were

confined in prison for a crime of which they were not guilty. He was

not allowed to speak because his writing spoke for him. Such was the

law of Babylon. Accordingly he was conducted to the place of execution,

through an immense crowd of spectators, who durst not venture to

express their pity for him, but who carefully examined his countenance

to see if he died with a good grace. His relations alone were

inconsolable, for they could not succeed to his estate. Three fourths

of his wealth were confiscated into the king's treasury, and the other

fourth was given to the envious man.

Just as he was preparing for death the king's parrot flew from its cage

and alighted on a rosebush in Zadig's garden. A peach had been driven

thither by the wind from a neighboring tree, and had fallen on a piece

of the written leaf of the pocketbook to which it stuck. The bird

carried off the peach and the paper and laid them on the king's knee.

The king took up the paper with great eagerness and read the words,

which formed no sense, and seemed to be the endings of verses. He loved

poetry; and there is always some mercy to be expected from a prince of

that disposition. The adventure of the parrot set him a-thinking.

The queen, who remembered what had been written on the piece of Zadig's

pocketbook, caused it to be brought. They compared the two pieces

together and found them to tally exactly; they then read the verses as

Zadig had wrote them.





The king gave immediate orders that Zadig should be brought before him,

and that his two friends and the lady should be set at liberty. Zadig

fell prostrate on the ground before the king and queen; humbly begged

their pardon for having made such bad verses and spoke with so much

propriety, wit, and good sense, that their majesties desired they might

see him again. He did himself that honor, and insinuated himself still

farther into their good graces. They gave him all the wealth of the

envious man; but Zadig restored him back the whole of it. And this

instance of generosity gave no other pleasure to the envious man than

that of having preserved his estate.

The king's esteem for Zadig increased every day. He admitted him into

all his parties of pleasure, and consulted him in all affairs of state.

From that time the queen began to regard him with an eye of tenderness

that might one day prove dangerous to herself, to the king, her august

comfort, to Zadig, and to the kingdom in general. Zadig now began to

think that happiness was not so unattainable as he had formerly