On the Method of Zadig
by Thomas Henry Huxley
The excerpt below is from On the Method of Zadig by Thomas Henry Huxley
"One day, walking near a little wood, he saw, hastening that
way, one of the Queen's chief eunuchs, followed by a troop of
officials, who appeared to be in the greatest anxiety, running
hither and thither like men distraught, in search of some
"'Young man,' cried the eunuch, 'have you seen the Queen's dog?'
Zadig answered modestly, 'A bitch, I think, not a dog.'
'Quite right,' replied the eunuch; and Zadig continued, 'A very
small spaniel who has lately had puppies; she limps with the
left foreleg, and has very long ears.' 'Ah! you have seen her
then,' said the breathless eunuch. 'No,' answered Zadig, 'I have
not seen her; and I really was not aware that the Queen
possessed a spaniel.'
"By an odd coincidence, at the very same time, the handsomest
horse in the King's stables broke away from his groom in the
Babylonian plain. The grand huntsman and all his staff were
seeking the horse with as much anxiety as the eunuch and his
people the spaniel; and the grand huntsman asked Zadig if he had
not seen the King's horse go that way.
"'A first-rate galloper, small-hoofed, five feet high;
tail three feet and a half long; cheek pieces of the bit of
twenty-three carat gold; shoes silver?' said Zadig.
"'Which way did he go? Where is he?' cried the grand huntsman.
"'I have not seen anything of the horse, and I never heard of
him before,' replied Zadig.
"The grand huntsman and the chief eunuch made sure that Zadig
had stolen both the King's horse and the Queen's spaniel, so
they haled him before the High Court of Desterham, which at once
condemned him to the knout, and transportation for life to
Siberia. But the sentence was hardly pronounced when the lost
horse and spaniel were found. So the judges were under the
painful necessity of reconsidering their decision: but they
fined Zadig four hundred ounces of gold for saying he had seen
that which he had not seen.
"The first thing was to pay the fine; afterwards Zadig was
permitted to open his defence to the court, which he did in the
"'Stars of justice, abysses of knowledge, mirrors of truth,
whose gravity is as that of lead, whose inflexibility is as that
of iron, who rival the diamond in clearness, and possess no
little affinity with gold; since I am permitted to address your
august assembly, I swear by Ormuzd that I have never seen the
respectable lady dog of the Queen, nor beheld the sacrosanct
horse of the King of Kings.
"'This is what happened. I was taking a walk towards the little
wood near which I subsequently had the honour to meet the
venerable chief eunuch and the most illustrious grand huntsman.
I noticed the track of an animal in the sand, and it was easy to
see that it was that of a small dog. Long faint streaks upon the
little elevations of sand between the footmarks convinced me
that it was a she dog with pendent dugs, showing that she must
have had puppies not many days since. Other scrapings of the
sand, which always lay close to the marks of the forepaws,
indicated that she had very long ears; and, as the imprint of
one foot was always fainter than those of the other three, I
judged that the lady dog of our august Queen was, if I may
venture to say so, a little lame.
"'With respect to the horse of the King of Kings, permit me to
observe that, wandering through the paths which traverse the
wood, I noticed the marks of horse-shoes. They were all
equidistant. "Ah!" said I, "this is a famous galloper." In a
narrow alley, only seven feet wide, the dust upon the trunks of
the trees was a little disturbed at three feet and a half from
the middle of the path. "This horse," said I to myself, "had a
tail three feet and a half long, and, lashing it from one side
to the other, he has swept away the dust." Branches of the trees
met overhead at the height of five feet, and under them I saw
newly fallen leaves; so I knew that the horse had brushed some
of the branches, and was therefore five feet high. As to his
bit, it must have been made of twenty-three carat gold, for he
had rubbed it against a stone, which turned out to be a
touchstone, with the properties of which I am familiar by
experiment. Lastly, by the marks which his shoes left upon
pebbles of another kind, I was led to think that his shoes were
of fine silver.'
"All the judges admired Zadig's profound and subtle discernment;
and the fame of it reached even the King and the Queen. From the
ante-rooms to the presence-chamber, Zadig's name was in
everybody's mouth; and, although many of the magi were of
opinion that he ought to be burnt as a sorcerer, the King
commanded that the four hundred ounces of gold which he had been
fined should be restored to him. So the officers of the court
went in state with the four hundred ounces; only they retained
three hundred and ninety-eight for legal expenses, and their
servants expected fees."
Those who are interested in learning more of the fateful history
of Zadig must turn to the original; we are dealing with him only
as a philosopher, and this brief excerpt suffices for the
exemplification of the nature of his conclusions and of the
methods by which he arrived at them.
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