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Chapter 17

The HERMIT.


As _Zadig_ was travelling along, he met with a Hermit, whose grey
and venerable Beard descended to his Girdle. He had in his Hand a
little Book, on which his Eyes were fix'd. _Zadig_ threw himself in
his Way, and made him a profound Bow. The Hermit return'd the
Compliment with such an Air of Majesty and Benevolence, that
_Zadig's_ Curiosity prompted him to converse with so agreeable a
Stranger. Pray, Sir, said he, what may be the Contents of the
Treatise you are reading with such Attention. 'Tis call'd, said the
Hermit, the _Book of Fate_; will you please to look at it. He put
the Book into the Hands of _Zadig_, who, tho' he was a perfect
Master of several Languages, couldn't decypher one single Character.
This rais'd his Curiosity still higher. You seem dejected, said the
good Father to him. Alas! I have Cause enough, said _Zadig_. If
you'll permit me to accompany you, said the old Hermit, perhaps I
may be of some Service to you. I have sometimes instill'd Sentiments
of Consolation into the Minds of the Afflicted. _Zadig_ had a secret
Regard for the Air of the old Man, for his Beard, and his Book. He
found, by conversing with him, that he was the most learned Person
he had ever met with. The Hermit harangu'd on Destiny, Justice,
Morality, the sovereign Good, the Frailty of Nature; on Virtue and
Vice, in such a lively Manner, and in such a Flow of Words, that
_Zadig_ was attach'd to him by an invincible Charm. He begg'd
earnestly that he would favour him with his Company to _Babylon_.
That Favour I was going to ask my self, said the old Man. Swear to
me by _Orosmades_, that you won't leave me, for some Days at least,
let me do what I please. _Zadig_ took the Oath requir'd, and both
pursu'd their Journey.

The two Travellers arriv'd that Evening at a superb Castle. The
Hermit begg'd for an hospitable Reception of himself and his young
Comrade. The Porter, whom any One might have taken for some Grandee,
let them in, but with a kind of Coldness and Contempt. However, he
conducted them to the Head-Steward, who went with them thro' every
rich Apartment of his Master's House. They were seated at Supper
afterwards at the lower End, indeed, of the Table, and where they
were taken little or no Notice of by the Host; but they were serv'd
with as much Delicacy and Profusion, as any of the other Guests.
When they arose from Table, they wash'd their Hands in a Golden
Bason set with Emeralds, and other costly Stones. When 'twas Time to
go to Rest, they were conducted into a Bed-chamber richly furnish'd;
and the next Morning two Pieces of Gold were presented to him for
their mutual Service, by a Valet in waiting; and then they were
dismiss'd.

The Proprietor of this Castle, said _Zadig_, as they were upon the
Road, seems to me to be a very hospitable Gentleman; tho' somewhat
too haughty indeed, and too imperious: The Words were no sooner out
of his Mouth, but he perceiv'd that the Pocket of his Comrade's
Garment, tho' very large, was swell'd, and greatly extended: He soon
saw what was the Cause, and that he had clandestinely brought off
the Golden Laver. He durst not immediately take Notice of the Fact;
but was ready to sink at the very Thoughts on't. About Noon, the
Hermit rapp'd at a petty Cottage with his Staff, the beggarly
Residence of an old, rich Miser. He desir'd that he and his
Companion might refresh themselves there for a few Hours. An old,
shabby Domestick let them in indeed, but with visible Reluctance,
and carried them into the Stable, where all their Fare was a few
musty Olives, and a Draught or two of sower small Beer. The Hermit
seem'd as content with his Repast, as he was the Night before. At
last, rising off from his Seat, he paid his Compliments to the old
Valet (who had as watchful an Eye over them all the Time, as if they
had been a Brace of Thieves, and intimated every now and then that
he fear'd they would be benighted) and gave him the two Pieces of
Gold, he had but just receiv'd that Morning, as a Token of his
Gratitude for his courteous Entertainment. He added moreover, I
would willingly speak one Word with your Master before I go. The
Valet, thunder-struck at his unexpected Gratuity, comply'd with his
Request: Most hospitable Sir, said the Hermit, I couldn't go away
without returning you my grateful Acknowledgments for the friendly
Reception we have met with this Afternoon. Be pleas'd to accept this
Golden Bason as a small Token of my Gratitude and Esteem. The Miser
started, and was ready to fall down backwards at the Sight of so
valuable a Present. The Hermit gave him no Time to recover out of
his Surprise, but march'd off that Moment with his young Comrade.
Father, said _Zadig_, What is all this that I have seen? You seem to
me to act in a quite different Manner from the Generality of
Mankind. You plunder One, who entertain'd you with all the Pomp and
Profusion in the World, to enrich a covetous, sordid Wretch, who
treated you in the most unworthy Manner. Son, said the old Man, that
Grandee, who receives Visits of Strangers, with no other View than
to gratify his Pride, and to raise their Astonishment at the
Furniture of his Palace, will henceforward learn to be wiser; and
the Miser to be more liberal for the Time to come. Don't be
surpris'd, but follow me. _Zadig_ was at a stand at present; and
couldn't well determine whether his Companion was a Man of greater
Wisdom than ordinary, or a Mad-man. But the Hermit assum'd such an
Ascendency over him, exclusive of the Oath he had taken, that he
couldn't tell how to leave him. At Night they came to a House very
commodiously built, but neat and plain; where nothing was wanting,
and yet nothing profuse. The Master was a Philosopher, that had
retir'd from the busy World, in order to live in Peace, and form his
Mind to Virtue. He was pleas'd to build this little Box for the
Reception of Strangers, in a handsome Manner, but without
Ostentation. He came in Person to meet them at the Door, and for a
Time, advis'd them to sit down and rest themselves in a commodious
Apartment. After some Respite, he invited them to a frugal, yet
elegant Repast; during which, he talk'd very intelligently about the
late Revolutions in _Babylon_. He seem'd entirely to be in the
Queen's Interest, and heartily wish'd that _Zadig_ had entred the
Lists for the regal Prize: But _Babylon_, said he, don't deserve a
King of so much Merit. A modest Blush appear'd in _Zadig's_ Face at
this unexpected Compliment, which innocently aggravated his
Misfortunes. It was agreed, on all Hands, that the Affairs of this
World took sometimes a quite different Turn from what the wisest
Patriots would wish them. The Hermit replied, the Ways of Providence
are often very intricate and obscure, and Men were much to blame for
casting Reflections on the Conduct of the Whole, upon the bare
Inspection of the minutest Part.

The next Topick they entred upon was the Passions. Alas! said
_Zadig_, how fatal in their Consequences! However, said the Hermit,
they are the Winds that swell the Sail of the Vessel. Sometimes,
'tis true, they overset it; but there is no such Thing as sailing
without them. Phlegm, indeed, makes Men peevish and sick; but then
there is no living without it. Tho' every Thing here below is
dangerous, yet All are necessary.

In the next Place, their Discourse turn'd on sensual Pleasures; and
the Hermit demonstrated, that they were the Gifts of Heaven; for,
said he, Man cannot bestow either Sensations or Ideas on himself; he
receives them all; his Pain and Pleasure, as well as his Being,
proceed from a superior Cause.

_Zadig_ stood astonish'd, to think how a Man that had committed such
vile Actions, could argue so well on such Moral Topicks. At the
proper Hour, after an Entertainment, not only instructive, but ev'ry
way agreeable, their Host conducted them to their Bed-chamber,
thanking Heaven for directing two such polite and virtuous Strangers
to his House. He offer'd them at the same Time some Silver, to
defray their Expences on the Road; but with such an Air of Respect
and Benevolence, that 'twas impossible to give the least Disgust.
The Hermit, however, refus'd it, and took his leave, as he propos'd
to set forward for _Babylon_ by Break of Day. Their Parting was very
affectionate and friendly; _Zadig_, in particular, express'd a more
than common Regard for a Man of so amiable a Behaviour. When the
Hermit and he were alone, and preparing for Bed, they talk'd long in
Praise of their new Host. As soon as Day-light appear'd, the old
Hermit wak'd his young Comrade. 'Tis Time to be gone, said he; but
as all the House are fast asleep, I'll leave a Token behind me of my
Respect and Affection for the Master of it. No sooner were the Words
out of his Mouth, but he struck a Light, kindled a Torch, and set
the Building in a Flame: _Zadig_, in the utmost Confusion, shriek'd
out, and would, if possible, have prevented him from being guilty of
such a monstrous Act of Ingratitude. The Hermit dragg'd him away, by
a superior Force. The House was soon in a Blaze: When they had got
at a convenient Distance, the Hermit, with an amazing Sedateness,
turn'd back and survey'd the destructive Flames. Behold, said he,
our fortunate Friend! In the Ruins, he will find an immense
Treasure, that will enable him, from henceforth, to exert his
Beneficence, and render his Virtues more and more conspicuous.
_Zadig_, tho' astonish'd to the last Degree, attended him to their
last Stage, which was to the Cottage of a very virtuous and
well-dispos'd Widow, who had a Nephew of about fourteen Years of
Age. He was a hopeful Youth, and the Darling of her Heart. She
entertain'd her two Guests with the best Provisions her little House
afforded. In the Morning she order'd her Nephew to attend them to an
adjacent Bridge, which, having been broken down some few Days
before, render'd the Passage dangerous to Strangers.

The Lad, being very attentive to wait on them, went formost. When
they were got upon the Bridge; come hither, my pretty Boy, said the
Hermit, I must give your Aunt some small Token of my Respect for her
last Night's Favours. Upon that, he twisted his Fingers in the Hair
of his Head, and threw him, very calmly, into the River. Down went
the little Lad; he came up once again to the Surface of the Water;
but was soon lost in the rapid Stream. O thou Monster! thou worst of
Villains, cry'd _Zadig_! Didn't you promise, said the Hermit, to
view my Conduct with Patience? Know then, that had that Boy liv'd
but one Year longer, he would have murder'd his Foster-Mother. Who
told you so, you barbarous Wretch, said _Zadig_? And when did you
read that inhuman Event in your _Black-Book_ of _Fate_? Who gave you
Permission pray, to drown so innocent a Youth, that had never
disoblig'd you?

No sooner had our young _Babylonian_ ceas'd his severe Reflections,
but he perceiv'd that the old Hermit's long Beard grew shorter and
shorter; that the Furrows in his Face began to fill up, and that his
Cheeks glow'd with a Rose-coloured Red, as if he had been in the
Bloom of Fifteen. His Mantle was vanish'd at once; and on his
Shoulders, which were before cover'd, appear'd four angelic Wings,
each refulgent as the Sun. O thou Messenger of Heaven! O thou
angelic Form! cry'd _Zadig_, and fell prostrate at his Feet; thou
art descended from the Empireum, I find, to instruct such a poor
frail Mortal as I am, how to submit to the Mysteries of Fate.
Mankind in general, said the Angel _Jesrad_, judge of the Whole, by
only viewing the hither Link of the Chain. Thou, of all the human
Race, wast the only Man that deserv'd to have thy Mind enlighten'd.
_Zadig_, begg'd Leave to speak. I am somewhat diffident of myself,
'tis true; but may I presume, Sir, to beg the Solution of one
Scruple? Would it not have been better to have chastiz'd the Lad,
and by that Means reform'd him, than to have cut him off thus
unprepar'd in a Moment. _Jesrad_, replied, had he been virtuous, and
had he liv'd, 'twas his _Fate_ not only to be murder'd himself, but
his Wife, whom he would afterwards have married, and the little
Infant, that was to have been the Pledge of their mutual Affection.
Is it necessary then, venerable Guide, that there should be
Wickedness and Misfortunes in the World, and that those Misfortunes
should fall with Weight on the Heads of the Righteous? The Wicked,
replied _Jesrad_, are always unhappy. Misfortunes are intended only
as a Touch-stone, to try a small Number of the Just, who are thinly
scatter'd about this terrestrial Globe: Besides, there is no Evil
under the Sun, but some Good proceeds from it: But, said _Zadig_,
Suppose the World was all Goodness, and there was no such Thing in
Nature as Evil. Then, that World of yours, said _Jesrad_, would be
another World; the Chain of Events would be another Wisdom; and that
other Order, which would be perfect, must of Necessity be the
everlasting Residence of the supreme Being, whom no Evil can
approach. That great and first Cause has created an infinite Number
of Worlds, and no two of them alike. This vast Variety is an
Attribute of his Omnipotence. There are not two Leaves on the Trees
throughout the Universe, nor any two Globes of Light amongst the
Myriad of Stars that deck the infinite Expanse of Heaven, which are
perfectly alike. And whatever you see on that small Atom of Earth,
whereof you are a Native, must exist in the Place, and at the Time
appointed, according to the immutable Decrees of him who comprehends
the Whole. Mankind imagine, that the Lad, whom I plung'd into the
River, was drown'd by _Chance_; and that our generous Benefactor's
House was reduc'd to Ashes by the same _Chance_; but know, there is
no such Thing as _Chance_, all Misfortunes are intended, either as
severe Trials, Judgments, or Rewards; and are the Result of
Foreknowledge. You remember, Sir, the poor Fisherman in Despair,
that thought himself the most unhappy Mortal breathing. The great
_Orasmades_, sent you to amend his Situation. Frail Mortal! Cease to
contend with what you ought to adore. But, said _Zadig_--whilst the
Sound of the Word But dwelt upon his Tongue, the Angel took his
Flight towards the tenth Sphere. _Zadig_ sunk down upon his Knees,
and acknowledg'd an over-ruling Providence with all the Marks of the
profoundest Submission. The Angel, as he was soaring towards the
Clouds, cried out in distinct Accents; Make thy Way towards
_Babylon_.

Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire

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