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Chapter 8

The Thrash'd WIFE.

_Zadig_ steer'd his Course by the Stars that shone over his Head.
The Constellation of Orion, and the radiant Dog-star directed him
towards the Pole of Canope. He reflected with Admiration on those
immense Globes of Light, which appear'd to the naked Eye no more
than little twinkling Lights; whereas the Earth he was then
traversing, which, in Reality, is no more than an imperceptible
Point in Nature, seem'd, according to the selfish Idea we generally
entertain of it, something very immense, and very magnificent. He
then reflected on the whole Race of Mankind, and look'd upon them,
as they are in Fact, a Parcel of Insects, or Reptiles, devouring one
another on a small Atom of Clay. This just Idea of them greatly
alleviated his Misfortunes, recollecting the Nothingness, if we may
be allow'd the Expression, of his own Being, and even of _Babylon_
itself. His capacious Soul now soar'd into Infinity, and he
contemplated, with the same Freedom, as if she was disencumber'd
from her earthly Partner, on the immutable Order of the Universe.
But as soon as she cower'd her Wings, and resumed her native Seat,
he began to consider that _Astarte_ might possibly have lost her
Life for his Sake; upon which, his Thoughts of the Universe vanish'd
all at once, and no other Objects appear'd before his distemper'd
Eyes, but his _Astarte_ giving up the Ghost, and himself overwhelm'd
with a Sea of Troubles: As he gave himself up to this Flux and
Reflux of sublime Philosophy and Anxiety of Mind, he was insensibly
arriv'd on the Frontiers of _Egypt_: And his trusty Attendant had,
unknown to him, stept into the first Village, and sought out for a
proper Apartment for his Master and himself. _Zadig_ in the mean
Time made the best of his Way to the adjacent Gardens; where he saw,
not far distant from the High-way, a young Lady, all drown'd in
Tears, calling upon Heaven and Earth for Succour in her Distress,
and a Man, fir'd with Rage and Resentment, in pursuit after her. He
had now just overtaken her, and she fell prostrate at his Feet
imploring his Forgiveness. He loaded her with a thousand Reproaches;
nor did he spare to chastise her in the most outrageous Manner. By
the _Egyptian's_ cruel Deportment towards her, he concluded that the
Man was a jealous Husband, and that the Lady was an Inconstant, and
had defil'd his Bed: But when he reflected, that the Woman was a
perfect Beauty, and to his thinking something like the unfortunate
_Astarte_, he perceiv'd his Heart yearn with Compassion towards the
Lady, and swell with Indignation against her Tyrant. For Heaven's
sake, Sir, assist me, said she, to _Zadig_, sobbing as if her Heart
would break, Oh! deliver me out of the Hands of this _Barbarian_:
Save, Sir, O save my Life. Upon these her shocking Outcries, _Zadig_
threw himself between the injur'd Lady and the inexorable Brute. And
as he had some smattering of the _Egyptian_ Tongue, he expostulated
with him in his own Dialect, and said: Dear Sir, if you are endow'd
with the least Spark of Humanity, let me conjure you to have some
Pity and Remorse for so beautiful a Creature; have some Regard, Sir,
to the Weakness of her Sex. How can you treat a Lady, who is one of
Nature's Master-pieces, in such a rude and outrageous Manner, one
who lies weeping at your Feet for Forgiveness, and one who has no
other Recourse than her Tears for her Defence? Oh! Oh! said the
jealous-pated Fellow in a Fury to _Zadig_, What! You are one of her
Gallants, I suppose. I'll be reveng'd of thee, thou Villain, this
Moment. No sooner were the Words out of his Mouth, but he quits hold
of the Lady, in whose Hair he had twisted his Fingers before, takes
up his Lance in a Fury, and endeavours to the utmost of his Pow'r to
plunge it in the Stranger's Heart: _Zadig_, however, being cool,
warded the intended Blow with Ease. He laid fast hold of his Lance
towards the Point. One strove to recover it, and the other to snatch
it away by Force. They broke it between them. Whereupon the
_Egyptian_ drew his Sword. _Zadig_ drew his: They fought: The former
made a hundred rash Passes one after another, which the latter
parried with the utmost Dexterity. The Lady sat herself upon a
Grass-plat, adjusting her Head-dress, and looking on the Combatants.
The _Egyptian_ was too strong for _Zadig_, but _Zadig_ was more
nimble and active. The latter fought as a Man whose Hand was guided
by his Head; the former as a Mad-man who dealt about his Blows at
random. _Zadig_ took the Advantage, made a Plunge at him, and
disarm'd him. And forasmuch as he found that the _Egyptian_ was
hotter than ever, and endeavour'd all he could to throw him down by
Dint of Strength, _Zadig_ laid fast hold of him, flew upon him, and
tripp'd up his Heels: After that, holding the Point of his Sword to
his Breast, like a Man of Honour, gave him his Life. The _Egyptian_,
fir'd with Rage, and having no Command of his Passion, drew his
Dagger, and wounded _Zadig_ like a Coward, whilst the Victor
generously forgave him. Upon that unexpected Action, _Zadig_, being
incens'd to the last Degree, plung'd his Sword deep into his Bosom.
The _Egyptian_ fetch'd a hideous Groan, and died upon the Spot.
_Zadig_ then approach'd the Lady, and with a kind of Concern, in the
softest Terms told her, that he was oblig'd to kill her Insulter,
tho' against his Inclinations. I have aveng'd your Cause, and
deliver'd you out of the merciless Hands of the most outrageous Man
I ever saw. Now, Madam, let me know your farther Will and Pleasure
with me. You shall die, you Villain! You have murder'd my Love. Oh!
I could tear your Heart out. Indeed, Madam, said _Zadig_, you had
one of the most hot-headed, oddest Lovers I ever saw. He beat you
most unmercifully, and would have taken away my Life because you
call'd me in to your Assistance. Would to God he was but alive to
beat me again, said she, blubbering and roaring; I deserv'd to be
beat. I gave him too just Occasion to be jealous of me. Would to God
that he had beat me, and you had died in his Stead! _Zadig_ more
astonish'd, and more exasperated than ever he was in all his Life,
said to her: Really, Madam, you put on such extravagant Airs, that
you tempt me, pretty as you are, to thresh you most cordially in my
Turn; but I scorn to concern my self any more about you. Upon this,
he remounted his Dromedary, and made the best of his Way towards the
Village: But before he had got near a hundred Yards, he return'd
upon an Out-cry that was made by four Couriers from _Babylon_. They
rode full Speed. One of them, spying the young Widow, cried out.
There she is, That's she. She answers in every Respect to the
Description we had of her. They never took the least Notice of her
dead Gallant, but secur'd her directly. Oh! Sir, cried she to
_Zadig_, again and again, dear Sir, most generous Stranger, once
more deliver me from a Pack of Villains. I most humbly beg your
Pardon for my late Conduct and unjust Complaint of you. Do but stand
my Friend, at this critical Conjuncture, and I'll be your most
obedient Vassal till Death. _Zadig_ had now no Inclination to fight
for one so undeserving any more. Find some other to be your Fool
now, Madam; you shan't impose upon me a second Time. I'll assure
you, Madam, I know better Things. Besides he was wounded; and bled
so fast that he wanted Assistance himself: And 'tis very probable,
that the Sight of the _Babylonian_ Couriers, who were dispatch'd
from King _Moabdar_, might discompose him very much. He made all the
Haste he could towards the Village, not being able to conceive what
should be the real Cause of the young Lady's being secur'd by those
_Babylonish_ Officers, and as much at a Loss, at the same Time, what
to think of such a Termagant and a Coquet.

Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire

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