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said the prince, coolly. Do you not see I started in angry surprise.
" What means am planning her downfall instead of my this intrusion upon our privacy?" she said, own? Since she prevailed upon the king haughtily. to give the government of Sardis, for The lord - chamberlain, with a lowly which I sued, to her favourite, Haman, I obeisance, delivered the king's command have vowed her destruction.
for her to appear before the princes in the I have not worshipped Ahri- banquet-hall. The queen gazed upon manes in vain. Vashti will refuse to him a moment in silence, while her brilcome,
for her spirit is high--the king will | liant eyes flashed fire, the colour grew be enraged, and I will so work upon his deep upon her cheek, and her bosom was anger that she will be degraded from her stirred with powerful emotion. ill-deserved state."
“Do I hear you aright, my lord ?" Repair to the Women's Court,” said “ You do, most royal lady. The king the king to his lord-chamberlain, who expects you.”. stood before him. “Bid Queen Vashti * Is the king mad ?" she cried, with a appear in her royal robes, with the crown burst of wrath, for her spirit was out in all upon her head, that all may behold her its power. “ What! does he bid me, the beauty and confess my taste unques- queen! descend from her state, to appear tioned."
in the midst of a drunken revel ? Doth The chamberlain bowed, and departed. he bid a delicate lady come forth from Passing through the starlit garden, whose her privacy to submit to the wanton gaze fresh air and sweet odours were grateful of his idle, half - inebriated courtiers ? after breathing the heat and fumes of the Return, my lord-there is some mistake banquet-hall, he was admitted through a in this." And the self-willed lady drew large gate into a marble court, with its her veil around her and resumed her seat, usual adornment of a whispering fountain panting with all the anger of outraged and vases of rare flowers. Around this dignity and womanly delicacy. were built the rooms appropriated to the Nay, royal Vashti, hear me," said women of the palace. A large saloon Harbona. "It is the king's command, fronted the gate, from which echoed the and I dare not return without the queen.” silvery laugh and melodious tones of "How! do ye stand arguing with me female voices.
thus, as if ye deemed I would obey this Here Queen Vashti held a feast to the insolent command!” and the diamonds in ladies of the court, and the wives of those her tiara flashed not more vividly than the princes who sat at the king's table. The eyes of the ireful queen, while gazing walls of this apartment were richly upon the trembling eunuchs. painted, or adorned with delicate flower- “ You will not thus rebel against-" work, carved in cedar and brightly gilded. began Abagtha, but he was cut short by Gorgeous Babylonian carpets were spread the enraged queen-rising from her seat, upon the marble floor, and the softened her glittering robes falling around her. light of alabaster lamps, reflected from “ Begone, slave !" she cried, stretching silver mirrors, threw a gentle moonlight her hand majestically towards radiance over the room and its fair young “begone! and tell your king I will not group.
come!” A circle of ladies surrounded a table The chamberlain turned and immeupon which was placed all that could diately quitted the saloon. A great comtempt a fastidious palate. Grapes, and motion succeeded his departure. Some wine, and pomegranates, Arabian dates, gentle spirits shrank aghast at the daring and all that was rare and delicious was of the queen; but there were many there before them. Upon a raised seat sat who applauded her lofty resolution. Queen Vashti. Tall and commanding, “What, ladies !” exclaimed the princess she looked the sovereign. Her dress was Roxa, wife of Mamucan; “shall we be of golden tissue, while from the royal abject slaves to our husbands ? Shall tiara glittering with jewels, fell a rose- they dare, when they may choose it, to coloured veil spotted with gold.
drag us from our retirement ?
Shall we When the chamberlain entered, she have no reserves, no rights uninvaded ?
Let us all imitate the strength of mind labouring in the city, and lived in this of our royal inistress, and resist all unlaw- retired spot in order to escape notice. ful usurpations, if we would have any When the news of the king's decree freedom left !"
reached hiin, his heart bounded with joy. The noble Roxa is right,” said princess | He now saw a way open for the advanceZeresh. “ As it is, we have not sufficientment of his people, and with many a liberty. In other lands, woman is free to silent prayer and ejaculation of praise, he walk out, or attend assemblies of both sought his home. The hut of Mordecai, sexes, when she pleases, while we are shut wretched as it was in appearance, contained up in our tiresome abodes, and watched a jewel of inestimable value. Here dwelt and guarded like children. If our royal a Jewish maiden of rare beauty, who, mistress had given way to this lawless upon the death of her father, was left to encroachment of our rights, it would have the care of her uncle Mordecai. Deterbecoine a precedent, and our lords would mined to place his peerless niece upon the be sending for us, like slaves, to amuse list of virgin candidates, he lost no time their drunken companions.”
in seeking her. The fair orators were applauded, and The next day Mordecai sought Hegai, encouraged by the example of their queen, the lord-chainberlain, in whose care the high resolves were passed to resist their candidates were placed. Concealing his husbands' orders when not agreeable, and relationship, he told him of a jewel even to demand from them more freedom. “worth all her tribe," of whose abode he
With treinbling lips the chamberlain was acquainted, and offered to lead her to bore to the king his queen's refusal to him, when he might judge if she were fit appear before him.
The wrath of the enter the ranks of the candidate king was loud and deep. “ She refuses to maidens.. Hegai appointed a time and a come!” he exclaimed. “Is my royal will place for the meeting, and the sanguine disputed ? Am I bearded by a subject in Hebrew spent his last beral in purchasing my own palace ?"
rich robes to deck his favourite. Soon a decree went forth into all the The eunuch gazed with delight upon hundred and twenty provinces over which leis beauteous charge, and took her small Artaxerxes reigned, that Vashti, the queen white hand in his, and led her into the of Persia, was repudiated for refusing to presence of Artaxerxes. Like the evencomply with the king's commands. The ing star she beamed upon the king, all fate of Vashti was thus soon decided; brilliancy and softness. The monarch and she was sent from the palace in dis raised her as she knelt before him. grace. Her followers, the revolutionary “Bring hither no more maidens, Hegai," chieftainesses, lowered their standards in he said, gazing with ecstasy upon the token of submission, and silence and fear lovely Esther—"this is my queen-earth reigned in the Women's Court.
can give no fairer !" How gentle a touch will sometimes set The important news soon flew over the in motion the machinery of the world! palace and city. Esther was chosen These events, apparently unimportant queen, and the royal crown was placed exccpt to the actors, were big with the upon her head. fate of the Jews who were spread over Haman, the brother of Vashti, no* Persia and Media.
aroused all his energy to compass his In the suburbs of the city of Susa, by plans. Revenge for his sister's degradathe river's side, and concealed from view tion, and an ambitious wish to advance by a grove of stunted cypresses, stood a himself to power, were the mainsprings of lone hut, formed of mud which was his actions. His first step was to obtain hardened in the sun, and thatched with the king's confidence. This, with extreme date leaves. Here resided Mordecai, once cunning, he contrived to do. a man of wealth in Judea, but subse- placed above all the nobles of the court ; quently carried captive to Babylon with and the king even sent forth a decree, his king, Jeconiah, when the country was commanding all, at the approach of Haconquered by Nebuchodnossor. Mordecai man, to bow down and worship him as a now gained a scanty subsistence by i.god. Exulting in his success, Haman
now, with renewed hope, endeavoured to messages have gone between them, and accomplish the destruction of Esther, Hegai said he brought Esther to the hoping by his influence to induce the palace." king to place Vashti again upon the “A Jew, and a relative of the queen!" throne.
thought Haman. “Esther is in my power, Soon after the decree in his favour, i and the throne is mine! for Haman is Haman clad in costly robes of purple and not so weak as to work for another ; no, scarlet, on an Arab courser, whose velvet my fair sister, thou art but iny agent, and housings were embroidered with gold, rode when the king is dead, my faithful Macethrough the city, with a long train of fol- donians, whom I have secreted in the city, lowers, to satisfy his insatiable pride, by will place me upon the throne of Persia !" the adoration of all whom he passed. He Haman asked no more questions, but, rode loftily ont of the gate, around which bending over his horse, whispered to his was collected a crowd of slaves and idlers, slave,who bowed themselves to the dust at his Bring me the surety of all you say, approach, crying, “ Hail, Haman! son of and a golden darick shall reward you!" Mythra!" One alone stood erect, gazing A few days after this, Haman rushed with a calm brow at the pageant as it , eagerly into his sister's presence. passed. Haman was astonished at his * Joy, joy, Vashti !” he cried, "thy rival daring, but supposing him some stranger, is in my power, and thou shalt see her ignorant of the king's command, satisfied blood flow at thy feet!" his malignity by frowning darkly at the “Ha! what sayest thou ?” exclaimed offender. The next day the same thing the queen. occurred. All were prostrate except the “I have discovered her well-kept secre! stranger, who stood proudly with folded at last. Vashti, Esther is a Jewess! de. arms as Haman passed. The slaves who spised, captive Hebrew !" stood around and marked the anger of “ Then shall I be avenged, Haman! F Haman, expostulated with Mordecai–for breathe free once more !” and shaking back he it was --
upon his singular conduct. her neglected locks, the face of Vashti They urged the king's decree, and the beamed with triumph. power of Haman, and warned him of the · Yes, she is of that hated, obnoxious danger of offending the haughty favourite. As yet the king knows it not, nor To all this, Mordecai vouchsafed no reply, shall he until my plans be arranged. and when Haman again rode forth, stood “Quick, tell me all !” exclaimed the among the kneeling group, like some tall eager princess. tree, erect amid the wreck of forests. “ Listen. By the many arts of which Haman was galled past endurance. I am'master, I will work upon the king
“What, slave!” he cried, riding fiercely against the Jews, then taking advantage up to him, “know you not the king's of some little disturbance which frequently command ? Down there and kneel before occurs between these people and ours
because, forsooth, they cannot bear opI bow not to mortal, my lord,” said pression, I will represent them as a danthe Hebrew, calmly: “to my God alone gerous race which it is the king's duty to my knee is bent in adoration." And exterminate. I can guide Artaxerxes as folding his linen robe around him, he a child, by his own good qualities; for the slowly strode awar.
benefit of his country he would sacrifice Haman's wrath was great, but his nature his dearest friend. A decree goes fortir was wily, and detecting a smile among his for the massacre of the Jews, Mordecai followers he smothered his ire, and rode and Esther share the fate of their people, on, devising some sure and cruel punish- -and Vashti mounts the throne of Perinent to the man who dared to resist his sia !” will. Calling to his side one
“Oh, soul-ravishing news! Now I servants, he asked him the name of the shall know that peace which fled my offender.
bosom while my rival lived and was be“ It is Mordecai, my lord, a Jew, and loved !" we do suspect a relation of the queen, for “ Vashti," said Haman, with a wither
ing frown, “ remember thy oath! If we Bigthana, “this murder of the Jews and require the king at thy hands, strike the innocent queen are the worst.” sure!"
“Let them die 1" said Teresh, gloomily; With a wild shriek, the unhappy woman “they are Jews, and deserve death.” fled into an inner room.
“I care not much for the Jews," reBy the wiles of Haman, his revenge was plied Bigthana, “but it does seem a pity gratified, and the voice of mourning was this gentle creature should be massacred; heard throughout Persia, when the King's however, I am sure the king will prevent cruel decree, consigning to death all Jews, it.” both young and old, was known. The “His leave will not be asked," said despair of Mordecai was great. He rent Teresh, with a sneer. “In the confusion of his clothes, and putting on a garment of the day it is my province to see that she sackcloth, covered his head with ashes, shares the fate of her people. Haman and placed himself before the king's gate hopes to excuse himself to the king afteruttering loud moans and lamentations. wards, and even place Vashti upon the
The queen, meanwhile, was ignorant of throne.”' all that was to befall her people, nor knew “But if he should not be pardoned ?". she of her uncle's distress, until informed “ Then the king dies. It is for this of it by her maids and chamberlains, who purpose I sought thee at thy house, and beheld him as he mourned at the gate. gave that vial. Three drops in the king's He implored his niece, if she would save cup, and Haman is king. I believe, howher people, to sue to the king for mercy. ever, that is the fate reserved for him at The lovely Esther was much distressed at every issue of this affair." this news, and saw not how to obey her “ What a needless waste of life. Haman uncle's request, for she knew it was death will never be king: think you our princes for any one to enter the king's presence will suffer a stranger like the vile Haman uncalled ; and thirty days had passed since upon the throne ? " she had been sent for. How, then, could “He takes care of that. The Maceshe see him to implore mercy ?
donians, who are ravaging the nations Esther, however, at once resolved to around, are his countrymen, and as a last offer her life as a sacrifice to her country. resource he will call them to his assistShe would brave the king's laws, and per- ance." haps fall a victim to his anger ; but she The guards arrived to open the gates, should have made an effort to save Judah and the dark conspirators passed through. from destruction, and, her duty done, she Their career of guilt had now, however, could die in peace.
drawn to a close. Mordecai, who had Three days did the sons of Israel in overheard all, denounced them to the Susa fast and pray to God to avert the soldiers as plotters against the king's life, calamity, and to soften the heart of Arta- and they were speedily loaded with chains, xerxes, that the queen might find favour and cast into a dungeon to await the in his eyes. On the fourth day, Mordecai king's pleasure. An account of this event directed his steps to the palace. It was was despatched to Esther by Mordecai, yet early, and the palace gates were not who sent a relation of it to the king, but open. Weary and faint with three days of he, satisfied the men were in his power, fasting and of woe, he threw himself upon gave no heed to the particulars of the plot. the ground, and, concealed by the pillars -The day arrived which was to decide the of the gate, indulged in mournful medita- fate of the captive Jews. Queen Esther, tion and prayer.
willing to risk her life for the hope of His thoughts were interrupted by the saving her people, prepared to enter the arrival of two persons, whom he recog- king's apartment uncalled. If he were nised as Bigthana and Teresh, two cham- wroth, her instant death would follow; berlains of the court. They seated them but if he felt inclined to grant the boon selves near to Mordecai, and entered into she came to ask, he would stretch forth conversation without perceiving him. his sceptre in token she might approach
“Of all the villanous deeds which our and present her petition. The queen's employer, Haman, has been guilty," said gentle spirit shrunk from her enterprise;
but once more resorting to her closet in guest of the queen, at her own request prayer, she came forth strong in the Lord. an honour she had not conferred on any of The queen and her maidens were arrayed the princes and nobles of the court. Inin the costliest robes. Radiant with beauty, fiated with vanity and triumph, Haman and smiling cherfully, although her heart looked forward to a course of honours and was heavy, Queen Esther, followed by a prosperity. Alas for thee, Haman! train of lovely maidens, entered the for- Joy in his eye, and exultation in his bidden courts of the king,
step, Haman was passing from the palace, Artaxerxes was sitting upon his ivory to give orders for new and sumptuous throne, glittering with gold and jewels. attire for the banquet, when, behold ! He wore the royal robe of Persia, purple, there, in the king's gate sat Mordecai, with stripes of silver. A tiara of the same who, when the others around kissed the was surrounded with a diadem of priceless dust at his feet, stood erect, unmoved ! jems, while his scarlet tunic was one bril. What a check to all his greatness! What liant mass of jewels and gold.
a spectre in his path to remind him of his As the king gazed upon Esther, his heart mortality! With a groan of anguish he softened, for he loved his gentle queen, and fled to his own house. the Lord so wrought upon him by means That night, the king being restless, of her beauty, that his heart was changed. awoke very early and commanded the While each eye was watching him with records of the palace to be brought him, intense interest, he stretched out his that he might occupy his leisure hour in golden sceptre towards her. In a mild looking them over. There he beheld the voice he said, " What wouldst thou, Queen service rendered him by Mordecai, when Esther ? Come near-look upon me as a he secured the conspirators. brother and be of good cheer!”
“Have the traitors been examined ?" Tears of joy were in every, eye, and he asked. smiles upon every face when the king “No, my lord.” pronounced these words. The queen re- “Let it then be done instantly, for I see viving, with an effort advanced and touched by these papers Mordecai accuses some the sceptre she was safe!
great lord of the court as their employer. Moved by her loveliness, and her dis- Surely I have been very negligent! Hats tress, Artaxerxes descended from his the man been rewarded who discovered. throne, and embracing her, bade her to be the conspiracy ?" comforted, and speak freely her mind, and “He hath not yet, О king!” he would grant her request, were it half “There hath just arrived without, I his kingdom. “I humbly thank my lord hear, one of my nobles. Let him enter." * for this favour," said the queen.
The door was opened, and Haman. I entered, and beheld the king's terrible entered. His gallows was erected, and he majesty, I thought to see an avenging now came to win from the king permisangel before and my heart was sion to hang his enemy upon it. troubled within me."
“Come hither, Haman,” said Arta"Thou shalt not die, Esther, although xerxes. “What shall be done with the man our commandment is not regarded, but whom the king delighteth to honour?” speak thy request, and it shall be granted." The prond heart of Haman exulted,
"If it seemeth good to the king, let my for he thought the king intended to conlord come to my banquet to-morrow, and fer some new favour upon him. bring with him the lord Haman, where I “ For the man whom the king delightwill demand my boon, which is of great eth to honour,” said the wily Haman, importance, touching even my life.” The “ let the king's royal robes be brought, king promised to be there; and Queen and the horse which the king rideth upon, Esther, with a glad and grateful heart, and the crown royal. Let this apparel withdrew.
and horse be delivered into the hands Great was the pride of Haman then! of the king's most noble princes, that he He was invited to feast with the king and may array with these the man whom the queen! he, a stranger and adventurer, had king delighteth to honour, and bring him arrived at the high honour of being the on horseback through the street of the