He lifted his head proudly; their eyes met; each read the other’s thought. “What shall I with the treasure, Esther?” he asked, without lowering his gaze.
“My father,” she answered, in a low voice, “did not the rightful owner call for it but now?”
Still his look did not fail.
“And thou, my child; shall I leave thee a beggar?”
“Nay, father, am not I, because I am thy child, his bond-servant? And of whom was it written, ‘Strength and honour are her clothing, and she shall rejoice in time to come?'”
A gleam of ineffable love lighted his face as he said, “The Lord hath been good to me in many ways; but thou, Esther, art the sovereign excellence of his favour.”
He drew her to his breast and kissed her many times.
“Hear now,” he said, with clearer voice- “hear now why I laughed this morning. The young man faced me the apparition of his father in comely youth. My spirit arose to salute him. I felt my trial-days were over and my labours ended. Hardly could I keep from crying out. I longed to take him by the hand and show the balance I had earned, and say, ‘Lo, ’tis all thine! and I am thy servant, ready now to be called away.’ And so I would have done, Esther, so I would have done, but that moment three thoughts rushed to restrain me. I will be sure he is my master’s son- such was the first thought; if he is my master’s son, I will learn somewhat of his nature. Of those born to riches, bethink you, Esther, how many there are in whose hands riches are but breeding curses”- he paused, while his hands clutched, and his voice shrilled with passion- “Esther, consider the pains I endured at the Roman’s hands; nay, not Gratus’s alone: the merciless wretches who did his bidding the first time and the last were Romans, and they all alike laughed to hear me scream. Consider my broken body, and the years I have gone shorn of my stature; consider thy mother yonder in her lonely tomb, crushed of soul as I of body; consider the sorrows of my master’s family if they are living, and the cruelty of their taking-off if they are dead; consider all, and, with heaven’s love about thee, tell me, daughter, shall not a hair fall or a red drop run in expiation? Tell me not, as the preachers sometimes do- tell me not that vengeance is the Lord’s. Does he not work his will harmfully as well as in love by agencies? Has he not his men of war more numerous than his prophets? Is not his the law, Eye for eye, hand for hand, foot for foot? Oh, in all these years I have dreamed of vengeance, and prayed and provided for it, and gathered patience from the growing of my store, thinking and promising, as the Lord liveth, it will one day buy me punishment of the wrongdoers? And when, speaking of his practice with arms, the young man said it was for a nameless purpose, I named the purpose even as he spoke- vengeance! and that, Esther, that it was- the third thought which held me still and hard while his pleading lasted, and made me laugh when he was gone.”