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Chapter 7

The Force of JEALOUSY.


The Misfortunes that attended _Zadig_ proceeded, in a great Measure,
from his Preferment; but more from his intrinsic Merit. Every Day he
had familiar Converse with the King, his Royal Master, and his
august Consort, _Astarte_. And the Pleasure arising from thence was
greatly enhanc'd from an innate Ambition of pleasing, which, in
regard to Wit, is the same, as Dress is to Beauty. His Youth, and
graceful Deportment, had a greater Influence on _Astarte_, than she
was at first aware of. Tho' her Affection for him daily encreas'd;
yet she was perfectly innocent. _Astarte_ would say, without the
least Reserve or Apprehension of Fear, that she was extreamly
pleas'd with the Company of one, who was, not only a Favourite of
her Husband, but the Darling of the whole Empire. She was
continually speaking in his Commendation before the King: He was the
Subject of her whole Discourse amongst her Ladies of Honour, who
were as lavish of their Praises as herself. Such repeated
Discourses, however innocent, made a deeper Impression on her Heart,
than she at that Time apprehended. She would every now and then send
_Zadig_ some little Present or another; which he construed as the
Result of a greater Value for him than she intended. She said no
more of him, as she thought, than a Queen might innocently do, who
was perfectly assur'd of his Attachment to her Husband; sometimes,
indeed, she would express her self with an Air of Tenderness and
Affection.

_Astarte_ was much handsomer than either his Mistress _Semira_, who
had such a natural Antipathy to a one-eyed Lord, or _Azora_, his
late loving Spouse, that would innocently have cut his Nose off. The
Freedoms which _Astarte_ took, her tender Expressions, at which she
began to blush, the Glances of her Eye, which she would turn away,
if perceiv'd, and which she fix'd upon his, kindled in the Heart of
_Zadig_ a Fire, which struck him with Amazement. He did all he could
to smother it; he call'd up all the Philosophy he was Master of to
his Aid; but all in vain, for no Consolation arose from those
Reflections.

Duty, Gratitude, and an injur'd Monarch, presented themselves before
his Eyes, as avenging Deities: He bravely struggled; he triumph'd
indeed; but this Conquest over his Passions, which he was oblig'd to
check every Moment, cost him many a deep Sigh and Tear. He durst not
talk with the Queen any more, with that Freedom which was too
engaging on both Sides; his Eyes were obnubilated; his Discourse was
forc'd and unconnected; he turn'd his Eyes another Way; and when,
against his Inclination, they met with those of the Queen, he found,
that tho' drown'd in Tears, they darted Flames of Fire: They seem'd
in Silence to intimate, that they were afraid of being in love with
each other; and that both burn'd with a Fire which both condemn'd.

_Zadig_ flew from her Presence, like one beside himself, and in
Despair; his Heart was over-charg'd with a Burthen, too great for
him to bear: In the Heat of his Conflicts, he disclos'd the Secrets
of his Heart to his trusty Friend _Cador_, as one, who, having long
groan'd under the Weight of an inexpressible Anguish of Mind, at
once makes known the Cause of his Torments by the Groans, as it
were, extorted from him, and by the Drops of a cold Sweat, that
trickled down his Cheeks.

_Cador_ said to him; 'tis now some considerable Time since, I have
discover'd that secret Passion which you have foster'd in your
Bosom, and yet endeavour'd to conceal even from your self. The
Passions carry along with them such strong Impressions, that they
cannot be conceal'd. Tell me ingenuously _Zadig_; and be your own
Accuser, whether or no, since I have made this Discovery, the King
has not shewn some visible Marks of his Resentment. He has no other
Foible, but that of being the most jealous Mortal breathing. You
take more Pains to check the Violence of your Passion, than the
Queen herself does; because you are a Philosopher; because, in
short, you are _Zadig_; _Astarte_ is but a weak Woman; and tho' her
Eyes speak too visibly, and with too much Imprudence; yet she does
not think her self blame-worthy. Being conscious of her Innocence,
to her own Misfortune, as well as yours, she is too unguarded. I
tremble for her; because I am sensible her Conscience acquits her.
Were you both agreed, you might conceal your Regard for each other
from all the World: A rising Passion, that is smother'd, breaks out
into a Flame; Love, when once gratified, knows how to conceal itself
with Art. _Zadig_ shudder'd at the Proposition of ungratefully
violating the Bed of his Royal Benefactor; and never was there a
more loyal Subject to a Prince, tho' guilty of an involuntary Crime.
The Queen, however, repeated the Name of _Zadig_ so often, and her
Cheeks glow'd with such a red, when ever she utter'd it; she was one
while so transported, and at another, so dejected, when the
Discourse turn'd upon him in the King's Presence; she was in such a
Reverie, so confus'd and stupid, when he went out of the Presence,
that her Deportment made the King extremely uneasy. He was convinc'd
of every Thing he saw, and form'd in his Mind an Idea of a thousand
Things he did not see. He observ'd, particularly, that _Astarte's_
Sandals were blue; so _Zadig's_ were blue likewise; that as the
Queen wore yellow Ribbands, _Zadig's_ Turbet was of the same Colour:
These were shocking Circumstances for a Monarch of his Cast of Mind
to reflect on! To a Mind, in short, so distemper'd as his was,
Suspicions were converted into real Facts.

All Court Slaves, and Sycophants, are so many Spies on Kings and
Queens: They soon discover'd that _Astarte_ was fond, and _Moabdar_
jealous. _Arimazius_, his envious Foe, who was as incorrigible as
ever; for Flints will never soften; and Creatures, that are by
Nature venemous, forever retain their Poison. _Arimazius_, I say,
wrote an anonymous Letter to _Moabdar_, the infamous Recourse of
sordid Spirits, who are the Objects of universal Contempt; but in
this Case, an Affair of the last Importance; because this Letter
tallied with the baneful Suggestions that Monarch had conceiv'd. In
short, his Thoughts were now wholly bent upon Revenge. He determin'd
to poison _Astarte_ on a certain Night, and to have _Zadig_
strangled by Break of Day. Orders for that Purpose were expressly
given to a merciless, inhuman Eunuch, the ready Executioner of his
Vengeance. At that critical Conjuncture, there happen'd to be a
Dwarf, who was dumb, but not deaf, in the King's Apartment. Nobody
regarded him: He was an Eye and Ear-witness of all that pass'd, and
yet no more suspected than any irrational Domestic Animal. This
little Dwarf had conceiv'd a peculiar Regard for _Astarte_ and
_Zadig_: He heard, with equal Horror and Surprize, the King's Orders
to destroy them both. But how to prevent those Orders from being put
into Execution, as the Time was so short, was all his Concern. He
could not write, 'tis true, but he had luckily learnt to draw, and
take a Likeness. He spent a good Part of the Night in delineating
with Crayons, on a Piece of Paper, the imminent Danger that thus
attended the Queen. In one Corner, he represented the King highly
incens'd, and giving his cruel Eunuch the fatal Orders; in another,
a Bowl and a Cord upon a Table; in the Center was the Queen,
expiring in the Arms of her Maids of Honour, with _Zadig_ strangled,
and laid dead at her Feet. In the Horizon was the rising Sun, to
denote, that this execrable Scene was to be exhibited by Break of
Day. No sooner was his Design finish'd, but he ran with it to one of
_Astarte's_ Female Favourites, then in waiting, call'd her up, and
gave her to understand, that she must carry the Draught to _Astarte_
that very Moment.

In the mean Time, the Queen's Attendants, tho' it was Dead of Night,
knock'd at the Door of _Zadig's_ Apartment, wak'd him, and deliver'd
into his Hands a Billet from the Queen. At first he could not well
tell whether he was only in a Dream or not, but soon read the
Letter, with a trembling Hand, and a heavy Heart: Words can't
express his Surprise, and the Agonies of Despair which he was in
upon his perusal of the Contents. _Fly_, said she, _Dear_ Zadig,
_this very Moment; for your Life's in the utmost Danger: Fly, Dear_
Zadig, _I conjure you, in the Name of that fatal Passion, with which
I have long struggled, and which I now venture to discover, as I
am to make Atonement for it, in a few Moments, by the Loss of my
Life. Tho' I am conscious to myself of my Innocence, I find I am to
feel the Weight of my Husband's Resentment, and die the Death of a
Traitor._

_Zadig_ was scarce able to speak. He order'd his Friend _Cador_ to
be instantly call'd, and gave him the Letter the Moment he came,
without opening his Lips. _Cador_ press'd him to regard the
Contents, and to make the best of his Way to _Memphis_. If you
presume, said he, to have an Interview with her Majesty first, you
inevitably hasten her Execution; or if you wait upon the King, the
fatal Consequence will be the same: I'll prevent her unhappy Fate,
if possible; you follow but your own: I'll give it out, that you are
gone to the _Indies_: I'll wait on you as soon as the Hurricane is
blown over, and I'll let you know all that occurs material in
_Babylon_.

_Cador_, that Instant, order'd two of the fleetest Dromedaries that
could be got, to be in readiness at a private Back-Door belonging to
the Court; he help'd _Zadig_ to mount his Beast, tho' ready to drop
into the Earth. He had but one trusty Servant to attend him, and
_Cador_, overwhelm'd with Grief, soon lost Sight of his dearly
beloved Friend.

This illustrious Fugitive soon reach'd the Summit of a little Hill,
that afforded him a fair Prospect of the whole City of _Babylon_:
But turning his Eyes back towards the Queen's Palace, he fainted
away; and when he had recover'd his Senses, he drown'd his Eyes in a
Flood of Tears, and with Impatience wish'd for Death. To conclude,
after he had reflected, with Horror, on the deplorable Fate of the
most amiable Creature in the Universe, and of the most meritorious
Queen that ever liv'd; he for a Moment commanded his Passion, and
with a Sigh, made the following Exclamations: What is this mortal
Life! O Virtue, Virtue, of what Service hast thou been to me! Two
young Ladies, a Mistress, and a Wife, have prov'd false to me; a
third, who is perfectly innocent, and ten thousand Times handsomer
than either of them, has suffer'd Death, 'tis probable, before this,
on my Account! All the Acts of Benevolence which I have shewn, have
been the Foundation of my Sorrows, and I have been only rais'd to
the highest Spoke of Fortune's Wheel, for no other Purpose than to
be tumbled down with the greater Force. Had I been as abandon'd as
some Miscreants are, I had like them been happy. His Head thus
overwhelm'd with these melancholy Reflections, his Eyes thus sunk in
his Head, and his meagre Cheeks all pale and languid; and, in a
Word, his very Soul thus plung'd in the Abyss of deep Despair, he
pursu'd his Journey towards _Egypt_.

Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire

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