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Chapter 16

The TOURNAMENTS.


The Queen was receiv'd at _Babylon_ with all the Transports of Joy
that could possibly be express'd for the safe Return of so
illustrious and so beautiful a Personage, that had run thro' such a
long Series of Misfortunes. _Babylon_ at that Time seem'd to be
perfectly serene and quiet. As for the young Prince of _Hyrcania_,
he was slain in Battle. The _Babylonians_, who were the Victors,
declar'd that _Astarte_ should marry that Candidate for the Crown,
who should gain it by a fair and impartial Election. They were
determin'd, that the most valuable Post of Honour in the World,
namely, that of being the Royal Consort of _Astarte_, and the
Sovereign of _Babylon_, should be the Result of Merit only; and not
be procur'd by any Party-Factions or Court-Intrigues. A solemn Oath
was voluntarily taken by all Parties, that he who should distinguish
himself by his superior Valour and Wisdom, should unanimously be
acknowledg'd the Sovereign-Elect.

A spacious _List_, or _Circus_, was pitched upon, surrounded with
commodious Seats, erected in an Amphitheatrical Manner, and richly
embellish'd some few Leagues from the City. Thither the Combatants,
or Champions were to repair, compleatly accoutred. Each of them had
a distinct Apartment to himself behind the _Lists_, where no Soul
could either see them, or know who they were. They were to enter the
_Lists_ four several Times. Those who were so happy as to conquer
four Competitors, were afterwards to engage each other in single
Combat; in order that he who should remain Master of the Field
should be proclaim'd the happy Victor.

Four Days afterwards, they were to meet again, accoutred as before,
and to explain all such _Ænigmas_, or _Riddles_, as the _Magi_
should think proper to propose. If their Queries should prove too
intricate and perplext for them to resolve, they were to have
Recourse to the _Lists_ again, and after that, to fresh _Ænigmas_,
before they could be entitled to the Election: So that the
_Tournaments_ were to be continu'd till One of the Candidates should
be twice a Victor, and shine as conspicuous, with respect to his
internal Qualities, as to his Dexterity and Address in heroic
Atchievements. The Queen, in the mean Time, was to be narrowly
watch'd, and allow'd only to be a Spectator of both their
Amusements, at some considerable Distance; and moreover, to be
cover'd with a Vail: Nor was she indulg'd so far as to speak one
single Word to any Candidate whomsoever, in order to prevent the
least Jealousy or Suspicion either of Partiality or Injustice.

_Astarte_ took care, by the Courier, to inform her Lover of all the
Preliminary Articles abovemention'd, not doubting but that he would
exert both his Courage and Understanding for her Sake, beyond any of
the other Competitors.

_Zadig_ accordingly set out for _Babylon_, and besought the Goddess
_Venus_, not only to fortify his Courage, but to illuminate his Mind
with Wisdom on this important Occasion.

The Night before these martial Atchievements were to commence,
_Zadig_ arrived upon the Banks of the _Euphrates_. He inscrib'd his
Device amongst the List of Combatants; concealing, at the same Time,
both his Person and Name, as the Laws of the Election required; and
accordingly, withdrew to the Apartment that was provided for him,
according to his Lot.

_Cador_, who was just return'd to _Babylon_, having hunted all
_Egypt_ over to no Purpose, in Hopes to find his Friend _Zadig_,
brought a compleat set of Armour into his Lodge, by express Orders
from the Queen: She sent him likewise One of the finest Horses in
all _Persia_. _Zadig_ knew that these Presents could come from
No-body but his dear _Astarte_, which redoubled his Vigour and his
Hopes.

The next Morning the Queen being seated under a Canopy of State,
enrich'd with precious Stones; and the Amphitheatres being crowded
with Gentlemen and Ladies of all Ranks and Conditions from
_Babylon_; the Competitors made their personal Appearance in the
_Circus_: Each of them went up to the grand _Magus_, and laid down
his particular _Device_ at his Feet. The _Devices_ were drawn by
Lot: That of _Zadig_ was the last. The first that advanc'd was a
Grandee, one _Itabod_ by Name, immensely rich, indeed, and very
haughty; but no ways couragious; exceedingly awkward, and a Man of
no acquir'd Parts. The Sycophants that hover'd round about him
flatter'd him, that a Man of his Merit couldn't fail of being King:
He imperiously replied, One of my Merit must be King: Whereupon he
was arm'd _Cap-a-pee_. His Armour was made of pure Gold, enamell'd
with Green. The Housings of his Saddle were green, and his Lance
embellish'd with green Ribbands. Every One was sensible, at first
Sight, by _Itobad's_ Manner of managing his Horse, that he was not
the Man whom Heav'n had pitch'd upon to sway the _Babylonish_
Scepter. The first Combatant that tilted with him, threw him out of
the Saddle; the second flung him quite over the Crupper, and laid
him sprawling on the Ground, with his Heels quiv'ring in the Air.
_Itobad_, 'tis true, remounted, but with so ill a Grace, that an
universal Laugh went round the Amphitheatre. The third, disdaining
to use his Lance, made only a Feint at him: Then catch'd hold of his
Right Leg, and whirling him round, threw him flat upon the Sand. The
Esquires, who were the Attendants, ran to his Assistance, and with a
Sneer remounted him. The fourth Combatant catch'd hold of his Left
Leg, and unhors'd him again. He was convey'd thro' the hissing
Multitude to his Lodge, where, according to the Law in that Case
provided, he was to pass the Night. And as he hobbled along, said
he, to the Esquires, what a sad Misfortune is this to One of my
Birth and Character!

The other Champions play'd their Parts much better; and all came off
with Credit. Some conquer'd two of their Antagonists, and others
were so far successful as to get the better of three. None of them,
however, except Prince _Hottam_, vanquish'd four. _Zadig_, at last,
enter'd the Lists, and dismounted all his four Opponents, one after
the other, with the utmost Ease, and with such an Air and Grace, as
gain'd him universal Applause. As the Case stood thus, _Zadig_ and
_Hottam_ were to close the Day's Entertainment in a single Combat.
The Armour of the latter was of a blue Colour mixt with Gold, and
the Housings of his Saddle were of the same. Those of the former
white as Snow. The Multitude were divided in their Wishes. The
Knight in blue was the Favourite of some of the Ladies; and others
again were Admirers of the Cavalier in white. The Queen, whose Heart
was in a perfect Palpitation, put up her secret Prayers to _Venus_
to assist her darling Hero.

The two Champions making their Passes and their Volta's, with the
utmost Dexterity and Address, and keeping firm in their Saddles,
gave each other such Rebuffs with their Lances, that all the
Spectators (the Queen only excepted) wish'd for two Kings of
_Babylon_. At last, their Horses being tired, and both their Lances
broke, _Zadig_ made use of the following Stratagem, which his
Antagonist wasn't any ways appriz'd of. He got artfully behind him,
and shooting with a Spring on his Horses Buttocks, grasp'd him
close, threw him headlong on the Sand, then jump'd into his Seat,
and wheel'd round Prince _Hottam_, while he lay sprawling on the
Ground. All the Spectators in general, with loud Acclamations, cried
out, Victory! Victory! in favour of the Champion in white. _Hottam_,
incens'd to the last Degree, got up, and drew his Sword. _Zadig_
sprang from his Horse with his Sabre in his Hand. Now, behold the
two Chieftains upon their Legs, commencing a new Trial of Skill!
where they seem'd to get the better of each other alternately; for
both were strong, and both were active. The Feathers of their
Helmets, the Studs of their Bracelets, their Coats of Mail, flew
about in Pieces, thro' the dry Blows which they a thousand Times
repeated. They struck at each other sometimes with the Edge of their
Swords, at other Times they push'd, as Occasion offer'd: Now on the
Right, then on the Left; now on the Head, then at the Breast; they
retreated; they advanc'd; they kept at a Distance; they clos'd
again; they grasp'd each other, turning and twisting like two
Serpents, and engag'd each other as fiercely as two _Libyan_ Lions
fighting for their Prey: Their Swords struck Fire almost at every
Blow. At last, _Zadig_, in order to recover his Breath, for a Moment
or two stood still, and afterwards, making a Feint at the Prince,
threw him on his Back, and disarm'd him. _Hottam_, thereupon, cried
out, O thou Knight of the white Armour! 'Tis you only are destin'd
to be the King of _Babylon_. The Queen was perfectly transported.
The two Champions were reconducted to their separate Lodges, as the
others had been before them, in Conformity to the Laws prescrib'd.
Several Mutes were order'd to wait on the Champions, and carry them
some proper Refreshment. We'll leave the Reader to judge whether the
Queen's Dwarf was not appointed to wait on _Zadig_ on this happy
Occasion. After Supper the Mutes withdrew, and left the Combatants
to rest their wearied Limbs till the next Morning; at which Time the
Victor was to produce his _Device_, before the _Grand Magus_, in
order to confer Notes, and discover the Hero whoever he might be.

_Zadig_ slept very sound, notwithstanding his amorous Regard for the
Queen, being perfectly fatigu'd. _Itabod_, who lay in the Lodge
contiguous to his, could not once close his Eyes for Vexation. He
got up therefore in the Dead of the Night, stole imperceptibly into
_Zadig's_ Apartment, took his white Armour and Device away with him,
and substituted his green One in its Place.

As soon as the Day began to dawn, he repair'd, with a seemingly
undaunted Courage, to the _Grand Magus_, to inform him, that he was
the mighty Hero, the happy Victor. Without the least Hesitation, he
gain'd his Point, and was proclaim'd Victor before _Zadig_ was
awake. _Astarte_, astonish'd at this unexpected Disappointment,
return'd with a Heart overwhelm'd with Despair, to the Court of
_Babylon_. Almost all the Spectators were mov'd off from the
Amphitheatre before _Zadig_ wak'd: He hunted for his Arms; but could
find nothing but those in green. He was oblig'd, tho' sorely against
his Will, to put it on, having nothing else in his Lodge to appear
in: Confounded, and big with Resentment, he drest himself, and made
his personal Appearance in that despicable Equipage. The Populace
that were left behind in the _Circus_, hiss'd him every Step he
took, they made a Ring about him, and treated him with all the Marks
of Ignominy and Contempt. The most cowardly Wretch breathing was
never sure so sweated, or hunted down as poor _Zadig_! He grew quite
out of Patience at last, and cut his Way thro' the insulting Mob,
with his Rival's Sabre; but he did not know what Measures to pursue,
or how to rectify so gross a Mistake. It was not in his Power to
have a Sight of the Queen; he could never recover the white Armour
again which She had sent him; That was the Compromise, or the
Engagement, to which the Combatants had all unanimously agreed:
Thus, as he was on the one Hand, plung'd in an Abyss of Sorrow; so
on the other, he was almost drove distracted with Vexation and
Resentment. He withdrew therefore, in a solitary Mood, to the Banks
of the _Euphrates_, now fully persuaded, that his impropitious Star
had shed its most baleful Influence on him, and that his Misfortunes
were irretrievable, revolving in his Mind, all his Disappointments
from his first Adventure with the Court-Coquet, who had entertain'd
an utter Aversion to a blind Eye, down to his late Loss of his white
Armour. See! said he, the fatal Consequence of being a Sluggard! Had
I been more vigilant, I had been King of _Babylon_; but what is
more, I had been happy in the Embraces of my dearest _Astarte_. All
the Knowledge of Books or Mankind; all the personal Valour that I
can boast of, has only prov'd an Aggravation of my Sorrows. He
carried the Point so far at last, as to murmur at the unequal
Dispensations of Divine Providence; and was tempted to believe, that
all Occurrences were govern'd by a malignant Destiny, which never
fail'd to oppress the Virtuous, and always crown'd the Actions of
such Villains as the green Knight, with uncommon Success. In one of
his frantick Fits, he put on the green Armour, that had created him
such a World of Disgrace. A Merchant happening to pass by, he sold
it to him for a Trifle, and took in Exchange nothing more than a
Mantle, and a Cap. In this Disguise, he took a solitary Walk along
the Banks of the _Euphrates_, every Minute reflecting in his Mind on
the partial Proceedings of Providence, which never ceas'd to torment
him.

Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire

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