At a few leagues' distance from Arbogad's castle he came to the banks
of a small river, still deploring his fate, and considering himself as
the most wretched of mankind. He saw a fisherman lying on the brink of
the river, scarcely holding, in his weak and feeble hand, a net which
he seemed ready to drop, and lifting up his eyes to Heaven.
"I am certainly," said the fisherman, "the most unhappy man in the
world. I was universally allowed to be the most famous dealer in cream
cheese in Babylon, and yet I am ruined. I had the most handsome wife
that any man in my station could have; and by her I have been betrayed.
I had still left a paltry house, and that I have seen pillaged and
destroyed. At last I took refuge in this cottage, where I have no other
resource than fishing, and yet I cannot catch a single fish. Oh, my
net! no more will I throw thee into the water; I will throw myself in
thy place." So saying, he arose and advanced forward in the attitude of
a man ready to throw himself into the river, and thus to finish his
"What!" said Zadig to himself, "are there men as wretched as I?" His
eagerness to save the fisherman's life was as this reflection. He ran
to him, stopped him, and spoke to him with a tender and compassionate
air. It is commonly supposed that we are less miserable when we have
companions in our misery. This, according to Zoroaster, does not
proceed from malice, but necessity. We feel ourselves insensibly drawn
to an unhappy person as to one like ourselves. The joy of the happy
would be an insult; but two men in distress are like two slender trees,
which, mutually supporting each other, fortify themselves against the
"Why," said Zadig to the fisherman, "dost thou sink under thy
"Because," replied he, "I see no means of relief. I was the most
considerable man in the village of Derlback, near Babylon, and with the
assistance of my wife I made the best cream cheese in the empire. Queen
Astarte and the famous minister Zadig were extremely fond of them."
Zadig, transported, said, "What, knowest thou nothing of the queen's
"No, my lord," replied the fisherman; "but I know that neither the
queen nor Zadig has paid me for my cream cheeses; that I have lost my
wife, and am now reduced to despair."
"I flatter myself," said Zadig, "that thou wilt not lose all thy money.
I have heard of this Zadig; he is an honest man; and if he returns to
Babylon, as he expects, he will give thee more than he owes thee.
Believe me, go to Babylon. I shall be there before thee, because I am
on horseback, and thou art on foot. Apply to the illustrious Cador;
tell him thou hast met his friend; wait for me at his house; go,
perhaps thou wilt not always be unhappy.
"O powerful Oromazes!" continued he, "thou employest me to comfort this
man; whom wilt thou employ to give me consolation?" So saying, he gave
the fisherman half the money he had brought from Arabia. The fisherman,
struck with surprise and ravished with joy, kissed the feet of the
friend of Cador, and said, "Thou are surely an angel sent from Heaven
to save me!"
Meanwhile, Zadig continued to make fresh inquiries, and to shed tears.
"What, my lord!" cried the fisherman, "art thou then so unhappy, thou
who bestowest favors?"
"An hundred times more unhappy than thou art," replied Zadig.
"But how is it possible," said the good man, "that the giver can be
more wretched than the receiver?"
"Because," replied Zadig, "thy greatest misery arose from poverty, and
mine is seated in the heart."
"Did Orcan take thy wife from thee?" said the fisherman.
This word recalled to Zadig's mind the whole of his adventures. He
repeated the catalogue of his misfortunes, beginning with the queen's
spaniel, and ending with his arrival at the castle of the robber
Arbogad. "Ah!" said he to the fisherman, "Orcan deserves to be
punished; but it is commonly such men as those that are the favorites
of fortune. However, go thou to the house of Lord Cador, and there wait
my arrival." They then parted, the fisherman walked, thanking Heaven
for the happiness of his condition; and Zadig rode, accusing fortune
for the hardness of his lot.