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Chapter 11

The Evening's Entertainment.

_Setoc_, who would never stir out without his Bosom-Friend (in whom
alone, as he thought, all Wisdom center'd) resolv'd to take him with
him to _Balzora_ Fair, whither the richest Merchants round the whole
habitable Globe, us'd annually to resort. _Zadig_ was delighted to
see such a Concourse of substantial Tradesmen from all Countries,
assembled together in one Place. It appear'd to him, as if the whole
Universe was but one large Family, and all happily met together at
_Balzora_. On the second Day of the Fair, he sat down to Table with
an _Egyptian_, an _Indian_, that liv'd on the Banks of the River
_Ganges_, an Inhabitant of _Cathay_, a _Grecian_, a _Celt_, and
several other Foreigners, who by their frequent Voyages towards the
_Arabian_ Gulf, were so far conversant with the _Arabic_ Language,
as to be able to discourse freely, and be mutually understood. The
_Egyptian_ began to fly into a Passion; what a scandalous Place is
this _Balzora_, said he, where they refuse to lend me a thousand
Ounces of Gold, upon the best Security that can possibly be offer'd.
Pray, said _Setoc_, what may the Commodity be that you would deposit
as a Pledge for the Sum you mention. Why, the Corpse of my deceased
Aunt, said he, who was one of the finest Women in all _Egypt_. She
was my constant Companion; but unhappily died upon the Road. I have
taken so much Care, that no Mummy whatever can equal it: And was I
in my own Country, I could be furnish'd with what Sum soever I
pleas'd, were I dispos'd to mortgage it. 'Tis a strange Thing that
Nobody here will advance so small a Sum upon so valuable a
Commodity. No sooner had he express'd his Resentment, but he was
going to cut up a fine boil'd Pullet, in order to make a Meal on't,
when an _Indian_ laid hold of his Hand, and with deep Concern, cried
out, For God's Sake what are you about? Why, said the _Egyptian_, I
design to make a Wing of this Fowl one Part of my Supper. Pray, good
Sir, consider what you are doing, said the _Indian_. 'Tis very
possible, that the Soul of the deceas'd Lady may have taken its
Residence in that Fowl. And you wouldn't surely run the Risque of
eating up your Aunt? To boil a Fowl is, doubtless, a most shameful
Outrage done to Nature. Pshaw! What a Pother you make about the
boiling of a Fowl, and flying in the Face of Nature, replied the
_Egyptian_ in a Pet; tho' we _Egyptians_ pay divine Adoration to the
Ox; yet we can make a hearty Meal of a Piece of roast Beef for all
that. Is it possible, Sir, that your Country-men should act so
absurdly, as to pay an Ox the Tribute of divine Worship, said the
_Indian_? Absurd as you think it, said the other, the Ox has been
the principal Object of Adoration all over _Egypt_, for these
hundred and thirty five thousand Years, and the most abandon'd
_Egyptian_ has never been as yet so impious as to gain-say it. Ay,
Sir, an hundred thirty five thousand Years, say you, surely you must
be out a little in your Calculation. 'Tis but about fourscore
thousand Years, since _India_ was first inhabited. Sure I am, we are
a more antient People than you are, and our _Brama_ prohibited the
eating of Beef long before your Nation ever erected an Altar in
Honour of the Ox, or ever put one upon a Spit. What a Racket you
make about your _Brama_! Is he able to stand the least in
Competition with our _Apis_, said the _Egyptian_? Let us hear, pray,
what mighty Feats have been done by your boasted _Brama_? Why,
replied the _Bramin_, he first taught his Votaries to write and
read; and 'tis to him alone, all the World is indebted for the
Invention of the noble Game of Chess. You are quite out, Sir, in
your Notion, said a _Chaldean_, who sat within Hearing: All these
invaluable Blessings were deriv'd from the Fish _Oannés_; and 'tis
that alone to which the Tribute of divine Adoration is justly due.
All the World will tell you, that 'twas a divine Being whose Tail
was pure Gold, whose Head resembled that of a Man, tho' indeed the
Features were much more beautiful; and that he condescended to visit
the Earth three Hours every Day, for the Instruction of Mankind. He
had a numerous Issue, as is very well known, and all of them were
powerful Monarchs. I have a Picture of it at Home, to which, as in
Duty I ought, I Say my Prayers at Night before I go to Bed, and
every Morning that I rise. There is no Harm, Sir, as I can conceive,
in partaking of a Piece of roast Beef; but, doubtless, 'tis a mortal
Sin, a Crime of the blackest Dye, to touch a Piece of Fish. Besides,
you cannot justly boast of so illustrious an Origin, and you are
both of you mere Moderns, in Comparison to us _Chaldeans_, You
_Egyptians_ lay claim to no more than 135,000 Years, and you
_Indians_, but of 80,000. Whereas we have Almanacks that are dated
4000 Centuries backwards. Take my Word for it; I speak nothing but
Truth; renounce your Errors, and I'll make each of you a Present of
a fine Portrait of our _Oannés_.

A Native of _Cambalu_, entring into the Debate, said, I have a very
great Veneration, not only for the _Egyptians_, _Chaldeans_,
_Greeks_, and _Celtĉ_; but for _Brama_, _Apis_, and the _Oannés_,
but in my humble Opinion, the *_Li_, or as 'tis by some call'd,
the *_Tien_, is an Object more deserving of divine Adoration than
any Ox, or Fish, how much soever you may boast of their respective
Perfections. All I shall say, in regard to my native Country, 'tis
of much greater Extent, than all _Egypt_, _Chaldea_, and the
_Indies_ put together. I shall lay no Stress on the Antiquity of my
Country; for I imagine 'tis of much greater Importance to be the
happiest People, than the most antient under the Sun. However, since
you were talking of the Almanacks, I must beg the Liberty to tell
you, that ours are look'd upon to be the best all over _Asia_; and
that we had several very correct ones before the Art of Arithmetick
was ever heard of in _Chaldea_.

* _The_ Chinese _Term_, Li, _signifies, properly
speaking, natural Light, or Reason; and_ Tien, _the
Heavens, or the supreme Being._

You are all of you a Parcel of illiterate, ignorant Bigots, cry'd a
_Grecian_: 'Tis plain, you know nothing of the Chaos, and that the
World, as it now stands, is owing wholly to _Matter_ and _Form_. The
_Greek_ ran on for a considerable Time; but was at last interrupted
by a _Celt_, who having drank deep, during the whole Time of this
Debate, thought himself ten Times wiser than any of his Antagonists;
and wrapping out a great Oath, insisted, that all their Gods were
nothing, if set in Competition with the _Teutath_ or the Misletoe on
the Oak. As for my part, said he, I carry some of it always in my
Pocket: As to my Ancestors, they were _Scythians_, and the only Men
worth talking of in the whole World: 'Tis true, indeed, they would
now and then make a Meal of their Country-men, but that ought not to
be urg'd as any Objection to his Country; and, in short, if any one
of you, or all of you, shall dare to say any thing disrespectful of
_Teutath_, I'll defend its Cause to the last Drop of my Blood. The
Quarrel grew warmer and warmer, and _Setoc_ expected that the Table
would be overset, and that Blood-shed would ensue. _Zadig_, who
hadn't once open'd his Lips during the whole Controversy, at last
rose up, and address'd himself to the _Celt_, in the first Place, as
being the most noisy and outrageous. Sir, said he, Your Notions in
this Affair are very just: Good Sir, oblige me with a Bit of your
Misletoe. Then turning about, he expatiated on the Eloquence of the
_Grecian_, and in a Word, soften'd in the most artful Manner all the
contending Parties. He said but little indeed to the _Cathayian_;
because he was more cool, and sedate than any of the others. To
conclude, he address'd them all in general Terms, to this or the
like Effect: My dear Friends, You have been contesting all this
while about an important Topick, in which 'tis evident, you are all
unanimously agreed. Agreed, quotha! they all cried, in an angry
Tone, How so, pray? Why said he to the hot, testy _Celt_, is it not
true, that you do not in effect adore this Misletoe, but that Being
who created that Misletoe and the Oak, to which it is so closely
united? Doubtless, Sir, reply'd the _Celt_. And you, Sir, said he,
to the _Egyptian_, You revere, thro' your venerable _Apis_, the
great Author of every Ox's Being. We do so, said the _Egyptian_. The
mighty _Oannés_, tho' the Sovereign of the Sea, continued he, must
give Precedence to that Power, who made both the Sea, and every Fish
that dwells therein. We allow it, said the _Chaldean_. The _Indian_,
adds he, and the _Cathayan_, acknowledge one supreme Being, or first
Cause, as well as you. As to what that profound worthy Gentleman the
_Grecian_ has advanc'd, is, I must own, a little above my weak
Comprehension, but I am fully persuaded, that he will allow there is
a supreme Being on whom his favourite Matter and Form are entirely
dependent. The _Grecian_, who was look'd upon as a Sage amongst
them, said, with Abundance of Gravity, that _Zadig_, had made a very
just Construction of his Meaning. Now, Gentlemen, I appeal to you
all, said _Zadig_, whether you are not unanimous to a Man, in the
Debate upon the Carpet, and whether there are any just Grounds for
the least Divisions or Animosities amongst you. The whole Company,
cool at once, caress'd him; and _Setoc_, after he had sold off all
his Goods and Merchandize at a round Price, took his Friend _Zadig_
Home with him to the Land of _Horeb_. _Zadig_, upon his first
Arrival was inform'd, that a Prosecution had been carried on against
him during his Absence, and that the Sentence pronounc'd against him
was, that he should be burnt alive before a slow Fire.

Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire

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