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
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.
TYRANTS ARE PRONE TO FLAGRANT CRIMES.
TO CLEMENCY HIS CROWN HE OWES.
TO CONCORD AND TO PEACEFUL TIMES.
LOVE ONLY IS THE WORST OF FOES.
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