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Chapter 12

The RENDEZVOUS.


Whilst _Zadig_ attended his Friend _Setoc_ to _Balzora_, the Priests
of the Stars were determin'd to punish him. As all the costly
Jewels, and other valuable Decorations, in which every young Widow
that sacrificed her self on her Husband's Funeral-pile, were their
customary Fees, 'tis no great Wonder, indeed, that they were
inclin'd to burn poor _Zadig_, for playing them such a scurvy Trick.
_Zadig_ therefore, was accus'd of holding heretical and damnable
Tenets, in regard to the Celestial Host: They depos'd, and swore
point-blank, that he had been heard to aver, that the Stars never
sat in the Sea. This horrid blasphemous Declaration thunder-struck
all the Judges, and they were ready to rend their Mantles at the
Sound of such an impious Assertion; and they would have made
_Zadig_, had he been a Man of Substance, paid very severely for his
heretical Notions. But in the Height of their Pity and Compassion
for even such an Infidel, they would lay no Fine upon him; but
content themselves with seeing him roasted alive before a slow Fire.
_Setoc_, tho' without Hopes of Success, us'd all the Interest he had
to save his bosom Friend from so shocking a Death; but they turn'd a
deaf Ear to all his Remonstrances, and oblig'd him to hold his
Tongue. The young Widow _Almona_, who by this Time was not only
reconcil'd to living a little longer, but had some Taste for the
Pleasures of Life, and knew that she was entirely indebted to
_Zadig_ for it, resolv'd, if possible, to free her Benefactor from
being burnt, as he had before convinc'd her of the Folly of it in
her Case. She ponder'd upon this weighty Affair very seriously; but
said nothing to any one whomsoever. _Zadig_ was to be executed the
next Day; and she had only a few Hours left to carry her Project
into Execution. Now the Reader shall hear with how much Benevolence
and Discretion this amiable Widow behav'd on this emergent Occasion.

In the first Place, she made use of the most costly Perfumes; and
drest herself to the utmost Advantage to render her Charms as
conspicuous as possible; And thus gaily attir'd, demanded a private
Audience of the High Priest of the Stars. Upon her first Admittance
into his august and venerable Presence, she address'd herself in the
following Terms. O thou first-born and well-beloved Son of the Great
Bear, Brother of the Bull, and first Cousin to the Dog, (these you
must know were the Pontiff's high Titles) I come to confess myself
before you: My Conscience is my Accuser, and I am terribly afraid I
have been guilty of a mortal Sin, by declining the stated Custom of
burning my self on my Husband's Funeral-pile? What could tempt me,
in short, to a Prolongation of my Life, I can't imagine, I, who am
grown a perfect Skeleton, all wrinkled and deform'd. She paus'd, and
pulling off, with a negligent but artful Air, her long silk Gloves;
She display'd a soft, plump, naked Arm, and white as Snow: You see,
Sir, said she, that all my Charms are blasted. Blasted, Madam, said
the luscious Pontiff; No! Your Charms are still resistless: His
Eyes, and his Mouth, with which he kiss'd her Hand, confirm'd their
Power: Such an Arm, Madam, by the Great _Orasmades_, I never saw
before. Alas! said the Widow, with a modest Blush; my Arm Sir, 'tis
probable, may have the Advantage of any hidden Part; but see, good
Father, what a Neck is here; as yellow as Saffron, an Object not
worth regarding. Then she display'd such a snowy, panting Bosom,
that Nature could not mend it. A Rose-Bud on an Ivory Apple, would,
if set in Competition with her spotless Whiteness, make no better
Appearance than common Madder upon a Shrub; and the whitest Wool,
just out of the Laver, were she but by, would seem but of a
light-brown Hue.

Her Neck, her large black, sparkling Eyes, that languishingly
roll'd, and seem'd as 'twere, on Fire; her lovely Cheeks, glowing
with White and Red, her Nose, that was not unlike the Tower of Mount
_Lebanon_, her Lips, which were like two Borders of Coral, inclosing
two Rows of the best Pearls in the _Arabian_ Sea; such a
Combination, I say, of Charms, made the old Pontiff judge she was
scarce twenty Years of Age; and in a kind of Flutter, to make her a
Declaration of his tender Regard for her. _Almona_, perceiving him
enamour'd, begg'd his Interest in Favour of _Zadig_. Alas! my dear
Charmer, my Interest alone, when you request the Favour, would be
but a poor Compliment; I'll take care his Acquittance shall be
signed by three more of my Brother Priests. Do you sign first,
however, said _Almona_. With all my Soul, said the amorous Pontiff,
provided----you'll be kind, my dearest. You do me too much Honour,
said _Almona_; but should you give your self the Trouble to pay me a
Visit after Sunset, and as soon as the Star _Sheat_ twinkles on the
Horizon, you shall find me, most venerable Father, repos'd upon a
rosy-colour'd silver Sopha, where you shall use your Pleasure with
your humble Servant. With that she made him a low Courtesy; took up
_Zadig's_ general Release as soon as duely sign'd, and left the old
Doatard all over Love, tho' somewhat diffident of his own Abilities.
The Residue of the Day he spent in his Bagnio; he drank large
enlivening Draughts of a Water distill'd from the Cinnamon of
_Ceilan_, and the costly Spices of _Tidor_ and _Ternate_, and waited
with the utmost Impatience for the up-rising of the brilliant
_Sheat_.

In the mean time _Almona_ went to the second Pontiff. He assur'd her
that the Sun, Moon, and all the starry Host of Heav'n, were but
languid Fires to her bright Eyes. He put the Question to her, in
short, at once, and agreed to sign upon her Compliance. She suffer'd
herself to be over-persuaded, and made an Assignation to meet him at
a certain Place, as soon as the Star _Algenib_ should make its
Appearance. From him she repair'd to the third and fourth Pontiff,
taking care, wherever she went, to see _Zadig's_ Acquittance duely
sign'd, and made fresh Appointments at the Rising of Star after
Star.

When she had carried her Point thus far, she sent a proper Message
to the Judges of the Court, who had condemn'd _Zadig_, requesting
that they would come to her House, that she might advise with them
upon an Affair of the last Importance. They waited on her
accordingly; she produc'd _Zadig's_ Discharge duly sign'd by four
several Hands, and told them the Definitive Treaty between all the
contracting Parties. Each of the pontifical Gallants observ'd their
Summons to a Moment. Each was startled at the Sight of his Rival;
but perfectly thunderstruck to see the Judges, before whom the Widow
had laid open her Case. _Zadig_ procur'd an absolute Pardon, and
_Setoc_ was so charm'd with the artful Address of _Almona_, that he
married her the next Day. _Zadig_ went afterwards to throw himself
at the Feet of his fair Benefactress. _Setoc_ and he took their
Leave of each other with Tears in their Eyes, and vowing that an
eternal mutual Friendship should be preserv'd between them; and, in
short, should Fortune at any Time afterwards prove more propitious
than could well be expected to either Party; the other should
partake of an equal Share of his Success.

_Zadig_ steer'd his Course towards _Syria_; forever pondering on the
hard Fate of the justly-admir'd _Astarte_, and reflecting on his own
Stars that so obstinately darted down their malignant Rays, and
continu'd daily to torment him. What, said he! to pay four hundred
Ounces of Gold for only seeing a Bitch pass by me; to be condemn'd
to be beheaded for four witless Verses in Praise of the King; to be
strangled to Death, because a Queen was pleas'd to look upon me; to
be made a Prisoner, and sold as a Slave for saving a young Lady from
being sorely abus'd by a Brute rather than a Man; and to be upon the
Brink of being roasted alive, for no other Offence than saving for
the future all the Widows in _Arabia_ from becoming idle
Burnt-Offerings, and mingling their Ashes with those of their
deceased worthless Husbands.

Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire

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