Arriving on the frontiers which divide Arabia Petraea from Syria, he
passed by a pretty strong castle, from which a party of armed Arabians
sallied forth. They instantly surrounded him and cried, "All thou hast
belongs to us, and thy person is the property of our master." Zadig
replied by drawing his sword; his servant, who was a man of courage,
did the same. They killed the first Arabians that presumed to lay hands
them; and, though the number was redoubled, they were not dismayed,
but resolved to perish in the conflict. Two men defended themselves
against a multitude; and such a combat could not last long.
The master of the castle, whose name was Arbogad, having observed from
a window the prodigies of valor performed by Zadig, conceived a high
esteem for this heroic stranger. He descended in haste and went in
person to call off his men and deliver the two travelers.
"All that passes over my lands," said he, "belongs to me, as well as
what I find upon the lands of others; but thou seemest to be a man of
such undaunted courage that I will exempt thee from the common law." He
then conducted him to his castle, ordering his men to treat him well;
and in the evening Arbogad supped with Zadig.
The lord of the castle was one of those Arabians who are commonly
called robbers; but he now and then performed some good actions amid a
multitude of bad ones. He robbed with a furious rapacity, and granted
favors with great generosity; he was intrepid in action; affable in
company; a debauchee at table, but gay in debauchery; and particularly
remarkable for his frank and open behavior. He was highly pleased with
Zadig, whose lively conversation lengthened the repast.
At last Arbogad said to him: "I advise thee to enroll thy name in my
catalogue; thou canst not do better; this is not a bad trade; and thou
mayest one day become what I am at present."
"May I take the liberty of asking thee," said Zadig, "how long thou
hast followed this noble profession?"
"From my most tender youth," replied the lord. "I was a servant to a
pretty good-natured Arabian, but could not endure the hardships of my
situation. I was vexed to find that fate had given me no share of the
earth, which equally belongs to all men. I imparted the cause of my
uneasiness to an old Arabian, who said to me: 'My son, do not despair;
there was once a grain of sand that lamented that it was no more than a
neglected atom in the deserts; at the end of a few years it became a
diamond; and is now the brightest ornament in the crown of the king of
the Indies.' This discourse made a deep impression on my mind. I was
the grain of sand, and I resolved to become the diamond. I began by
stealing two horses; I soon got a party of companions; I put myself in
a condition to rob small caravans; and thus, by degrees, I destroyed
the difference which had formerly subsisted between me and other men. I
had my share of the good things of this world; and was even recompensed
with usury for the hardships I had suffered. I was greatly respected,
and became the captain of a band of robbers. I seized this castle by
force. The Satrap of Syria had a mind to dispossess me of it; but I was
too rich to have anything to fear. I gave the satrap a handsome
present, by which means I preserved my castle and increased my
possessions. He even appointed me treasurer of the tributes which
Arabia Petraea pays to the king of kings. I perform my office of
receiver with great punctuality; but take the freedom to dispense with
that of paymaster.
"The grand Desterham of Babylon sent hither a pretty satrap in the name
of King Moabdar, to have me strangled. This man arrived with his
orders: I was apprised of all; I caused to be strangled in his presence
the four persons he had brought with him to draw the noose; after which
I asked him how much his commission of strangling me might be worth. He
replied, that his fees would amount to above three hundred pieces of
gold. I then convinced him that he might gain more by staying with me.
I made him an inferior robber; and he is now one of my best and richest
officers. If thou wilt take my advice thy success may be equal to his;
never was there a better season for plunder, since King Moabdar is
killed, and all Babylon thrown into confusion."
"Moabdar killed!" said Zadig, "and what is become of Queen Astarte?"
"I know not," replied Arbogad. "All I know is, that Moabdar lost his
senses and was killed; that Babylon is a scene of disorder and
bloodshed; that all the empire is desolated; that there are some fine
strokes to be struck yet; and that, for my own part, I have struck some
that are admirable."
"But the queen," said Zadig; "for heaven's sake, knowest thou nothing
of the queen's fate?"
"Yes," replied he, "I have heard something of a prince of Hircania; if
she was not killed in the tumult, she is probably one of his
concubines; but I am much fonder of booty than news. I have taken
several women in my excursions; but I keep none of them. I sell them at
a high price, when they are beautiful, without inquiring who they are.
In commodities of this kind rank makes no difference, and a queen that
is ugly will never find a merchant. Perhaps I may have sold Queen
Astarte; perhaps she is dead; but, be it as it will, it is of little
consequence to me, and I should imagine of as little to thee." So
saying he drank a large draught which threw all his ideas into such
confusion that Zadig could obtain no further information.
Zadig remained for some time without speech, sense, or motion. Arbogad
continued drinking; told stories; constantly repeated that he was the
happiest man in the world; and exhorted Zadig to put himself in the
same condition. At last the soporiferous fumes of the wine lulled him
into a gentle repose.
Zadig passed the night in the most violent perturbation. "What," said
he, "did the king lose his senses? and is he killed? I cannot help
lamenting his fate. The empire is rent in pieces; and this robber is
happy. O fortune! O destiny! A robber is happy, and the most beautiful
of nature's works hath perhaps perished in a barbarous manner or lives
in a state worse than death. O Astarte! what is become of thee?"
At daybreak he questioned all those he met in the castle; but they were
all busy, and he received no answer. During the night they had made a
new capture, and they were now employed in dividing the spoils. All he
could obtain in this hurry and confusion was an opportunity of
departing, which he immediately embraced, plunged deeper than ever in
the most gloomy and mournful reflections.
Zadig proceeded on his journey with a mind full of disquiet and
perplexity, and wholly employed on the unhappy Astarte, on the King of
Babylon, on his faithful friend Cador, on the happy robber Arbogad; in
a word, on all the misfortunes and disappointments he had hitherto