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Chapter 13

The FREE-BOOTER.


_Zadig_, arriving at the Frontiers which separate _Arabia Petrĉa_
from _Syria_, and passing by a very strong Castle, several arm'd
_Arabians_ rush'd out upon him, and surrounding him, cried out:
Whatever you have belonging to you is our Property, but as for your
Person, that is entirely at our Sovereign's Disposal. _Zadig_,
instead of making any Reply, drew his Sword, and as his Attendant
was a very couragious Fellow, he drew likewise. Those who laid hold
on them, first fell a Sacrifice to their Fury: Their Numbers
redoubled: Yet still, Both dauntless, determin'd to conquer or to
die. When two Men defend themselves against a whole Gang, the
Contest, doubtless, cannot last long. The Master of the Castle, one
_Arbogad_ by Name, having been an Eye-Witness from his Window, of
the Intrepidity and surprising Exploits of _Zadig_, took a Fancy to
him. He ran down therefore in Haste, and giving Orders himself to
his Vassals to desist, deliver'd the two Travellers out of their
Hands. Whatever Goods or Chattels, said he, come upon my
Territories, are my Effects; and whatever I find likewise that is
valuable upon the Premises of others, is my free Booty; but, as you
appear, Sir, to me to be a Gentleman of uncommon Courage, you shall
prove an Exception to my general Rule. Upon this, he invited _Zadig_
into his magnificent Mansion, giving his inferior Officers strict
Orders to use him with all due Respect; and at Night _Arbogad_ was
desirous of supping with _Zadig_. The Lord of the Mansion was one of
those _Arabians_, that are call'd _Free-booters_; but a Man who now
and then did good Actions amongst a Thousand bad ones. He plunder'd
without Mercy; but was liberal in his Benefactions. When in Action,
intrepid; but in Traffick, easy enough; a perfect _Epicure_ in his
Eating and Drinking, an absolute _Debauchee_, but very frank and
open. _Zadig_ pleas'd him extremely; his Conversation being very
lively, prolong'd their Repast: At last, _Arbogad_ said to him; I
would advise you, Sir, to enlist yourself in my Troop; you cannot
possibly do a better Thing: My Profession is none of the worst; and
in Time, you may become perhaps as great a Man as myself. May I
presume, Sir, to ask you one Question; how long may you have
follow'd this honourable Calling? From my Youth upwards, replied his
Host, I was only a _Valet_ at first to an _Arabian_, who indeed was
courteous enough; but Servitude was a State of Life I could not
brook. It made me stark-mad to see, in a wide World, which ought to
be divided fairly between Mankind, that Fate had reserv'd for me so
scanty a Portion. I communicated my Grievance to an old Sage
_Arabian_. Son, said he, never despair; once upon a Time, there was
a Grain of Sand, that bemoan'd itself, as being nothing more than a
worthless _Atom_ of the Deserts. At the Expiration, however, of a
few Years, it became that inestimable Diamond, which at this very
Hour, is the richest, and most admir'd Ornament of the _Indian_
Crown. The old Man's Discourse fir'd me with some Ambition; I was
conscious to myself that I was at that Time the _Atom_ he mention'd,
but was determin'd, if possible, to become the _Diamond_. At my
first setting out, I stole two Horses; then I got into a Gang; where
we play'd at small Game, and stopp'd the small Caravans; thus I
gradually lessen'd the wide Disproportion, which there was at first
between me and the rest of Mankind: I enjoy'd not only my full Share
of the good Things of this Life, but enjoy'd them with Usury. I was
look'd upon as a Man of Consequence, and I procur'd this Castle by
my military Atchievements. The _Satrap_ of _Syria_ had Thoughts of
dispossessing me; but I was then too rich to be any Ways afraid of
him; I gave the _Satrap_ a certain Sum of Money, upon Condition that
I kept quiet Possession of my Castle. And, moreover, I aggrandiz'd
my Domains; for he constituted me, at the same Time, Treasurer of
the Imports that _Arabia Petrĉa_ paid to the King of Kings. I
executed my Trust, in every Respect, as I ought, in the Capacity of
a Collector; but I never did, nor never intended to balance my
Accounts.

The grand _Desterham_ of _Babylon_ sent hither, in the Name of the
King _Moabdar_, a petty _Satrap_, with a Commission to strangle me.
He and his Attendants arriv'd here with his Royal Warrant. I was
appriz'd of the whole Affair, and, accordingly, order'd his whole
Retinue, consisting of four inferior Officers, to be strangled
before his Face, after the same Manner as was intended for my
Execution. After this, I ask'd him what he thought the Commission
with which he was entrusted, might reasonably be valued at; he
answer'd, that he presum'd his Premium (had he succeeded) might have
amounted to about three Hundred Pieces of Gold. I made him sensible,
that it would be for his Interest to be a commission'd Officer under
me; I made him accordingly Deputy _Free-booter_. He is at this very
Day not only the best Officer, but the richest I have in all my
Court. If my Word may be credited, I'll raise your Fortune as I have
done his. Never was Trade brisker in our Way; for _Moabdar_, is
knock'd on the Head, and all _Babylon_ in the utmost Confusion.
_Moabdar_ kill'd, said you! cry'd _Zadig_, and pray, Sir, what is
become of his Royal Consort, _Astarte_? I know nothing at all of
that Affair, replied _Arbogad_, all that I have to say, is, that
_Moabdar_ became a perfect Madman, and had his Brains beat out; that
all the People in _Babylon_ are cutting one another's Throats, and
that the whole Empire is laid waste; that there is still an
Opportunity for making several bold Pushes; and let me tell you,
Sir, I have done my Part, and made the most on't. But the Queen,
Sir, said _Zadig_; pray favour me so far, as to inform me, if you
know any Thing of the Queen. I have heard great Talk, said he, of a
certain Prince of _Hyrcania_; 'tis very possible, she may have
listed herself amongst his Concubines, if she had the good Fortune
to escape the Resentment of those popular Tumults; but my Head, Sir,
is better turn'd for the Highway than for News; I have taken several
Ladies Prisoners in the Course of my Excursions; I keep none of them
for my Part; and as to such as are handsomer than ordinary, I make
the best Market I can of them, without enquiring who they are. Their
Quality or Titles will fetch no Price at all; a Queen, if she be
homely, is worth nothing. 'Tis probable, Sir, I have dispos'd of the
Lady myself; and 'tis possible, likewise, she may be dead; 'tis no
Concern of mine; and to my thinking, it should be an Affair of no
Manner of Importance to you. After this Declaration, he drank so
hard, and confounded his Ideas in such a Manner, that _Zadig_ was
not one whit the wiser. Upon which he was struck dumb, confounded,
and stood as motionless as a Statue. _Arbogad_, in the mean while,
swill'd down whole Bumpers, told a Hundred merry Tales, and swore a
thousand Times over, that he was the happiest Creature upon God's
Earth; persuading _Zadig_ to be as merry, and thoughtless as
himself. At last, being gradually overcome by the Fumes of his
Liquor, he fell fast asleep. _Zadig_ spent the Remainder of the
Night in deep Contemplation, and in all the Uneasiness of Mind
imaginable. What, said he, the King first became crazy, and then was
murder'd. I think I have just Grounds for Complaint. The whole
Empire is in Confusion, and torn to Pieces, and this Free-booter is
as happy as a King. O Fortune! O Fate! a Highwayman as happy as a
Monarch! and the most amiable Creature that Nature ever fram'd has
suffer'd perhaps, an ignominious Death, or perhaps, is in a State of
Life a thousand Times worse than Death itself! O _Astarte! Astarte!_
What art thou become?

As soon as it was Break of Day he went out, and ask'd every one he
saw if they knew any Thing of her: But the whole Gang were too
intent upon other Matters, to return him any Answer. By Virtue of
their Night's Excursions, they had brought in some fresh Booty, and
were busy in dividing the Spoil. All the Favour he could procure, in
their Hurry and Tumult, was, to go away without the least
Examination. He took the Advantage of their Remissness, and mov'd
off the Premises, but more overwhelm'd with Grief and deep
Reflection than ever.

_Zadig_, in his March, was very restless and uneasy. His Thoughts
were forever rolling on the unfortunate _Astarte_, the King of
_Babylon_, his Bosom-Friend _Cador_, the happy _Free-booter_,
_Arbogad_, the fair _Coquet_, that was taken Prisoner on the
Confines of _Egypt_, by the _Babylonish_ Courier; in a Word, on the
various Scenes of Misfortunes and Disappointments, which he had
successively met with.

Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire

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