The king had lost his first minister and chose Zadig to supply his
place. All the ladies in Babylon applauded the choice; for since the
foundation of the empire there had never been such a young minister.
But all the courtiers were filled with jealousy and vexation. The
envious man in particular was troubled with a spitting of blood and a
prodigious inflammation in his nose. Zadig, having thanked the king and
their goodness, went likewise to thank the parrot. "Beautiful
bird," said he, "'tis thou that hast saved my life and made me first
minister. The queen's spaniel and the king's horse did me a great deal
of mischief; but thou hast done me much good. Upon such slender threads
as these do the fates of mortals hang! But," added he, "this happiness
perhaps will vanish very soon."
"Soon," replied the parrot.
Zadig was somewhat startled at this word. But as he was a good natural
philosopher and did not believe parrots to be prophets, he quickly
recovered his spirits and resolved to execute his duty to the best of
He made everyone feel the sacred authority of the laws, but no one felt
the weight of his dignity. He never checked the deliberation of the
diran; and every vizier might give his opinion without the fear of
incurring the minister's displeasure. When he gave judgment, it was not
he that gave it, it was the law; the rigor of which, however, whenever
it was too severe, he always took care to soften; and when laws were
wanting, the equity of his decisions was such as might easily have made
them pass for those of Zoroaster. It is to him that the nations are
indebted for this grand principle, to wit, that it is better to run the
risk of sparing the guilty than to condemn the innocent. He imagined
that laws were made as well to secure the people from the suffering of
injuries as to restrain them from the commission of crimes. His chief
talent consisted in discovering the truth, which all men seek to
This great talent he put in practice from the very beginning of his
administration. A famous merchant of Babylon, who died in the Indies,
divided his estate equally between his two sons, after having disposed
of their sister in marriage, and left a present of thirty thousand
pieces of gold to that son who should be found to have loved him best.
The eldest raised a tomb to his memory; the youngest increased his
sister's portion, by giving her part of his inheritance. Everyone said
that the eldest son loved his father best, and the youngest his sister;
and that the thirty thousand pieces belonged to the eldest.
Zadig sent for both of them, the one after the other. To the eldest he
said: "Thy father is not dead; he is recovered of his last illness, and
is returning to Babylon." "God be praised," replied the young man; "but
his tomb cost me a considerable sum." Zadig afterwards said the same to
the youngest. "God be praised," said he, "I will go and restore to my
father all that I have; but I could wish that he would leave my sister
what I have given her." "Thou shalt restore nothing," replied Zadig,
"and thou shalt have the thirty thousand pieces, for thou art the son
who loves his father best."