She bent over him, and laid her cheek against his head.

“Speak, Esther. I will be the stronger of the knowledge. In warning there is strength.”

She sat up then, and spoke as if she were Truth’s holy self.

“Comfort thee, father. I will never leave thee; though he take my love, I will be thy handmaid ever as now.”

And, stooping, she kissed him.

“And more,” she said, continuing; “he is comely in my sight, and the pleading of his voice drew me to him, and I shudder to think of him in danger. Yes, father, I would be more than glad to see him again. Still, the love that is unrequited cannot be perfect love, wherefore I will wait a time, remembering I am thy daughter and my mother’s.”

“A very blessing of the Lord art thou, Esther! A blessing to keep me rich, though all else be lost. And by his holy name and everlasting life, I swear thou shalt not suffer.”

At his request, a little later, the servant came and rolled the chair into the room, where he sat for a time thinking of the coming of the king, while she went off and slept the sleep of the innocent.


CHAPTER XII.

A ROMAN ORGIE.

THE palace across the river nearly opposite Simonides’ place is said to have been completed by the famous Epiphanes, and was all such a habitation can be imagined; though he was a builder whose taste ran to the immense rather than the classical, now so called- an architectural imitator, in other words, of the Persians instead of the Greeks.

The wall enclosing the whole island to the water’s edge, and built for the double purpose of bulwark against the river and defence against the mob, was said to have rendered the palace unfit for constant occupancy, insomuch that the legates abandoned it and moved to another residence erected for them on the western ridge of Mount Sulpius, under the Temple of Jupiter. Persons were not wanting, however, who flatly denied the bill against the ancient abode. They said, with shrewdness at least, that the real object of the removal of the legates was not a more healthful locality, but the assurance afforded them by the huge barracks, named, according to the prevalent style, citadel, situated just over the way on the eastern ridge of the mount. And the opinion had plausible showing. Among other pertinent things, it was remarked that the palace was kept in perpetual readiness for use; and when a consul, general of the army, king, or visiting potentate of any kind arrived at Antioch, quarters were at once assigned him on the island.

As we have to do with but one apartment in the old pile, the residue of it is left to the reader’s fancy; and as pleases him, he may go through its gardens, baths, halls, and labyrinth of rooms to the pavilions on the roof, all furnished as became a house of fame in a city which was more nearly Milton’s “gorgeous East” than any other in the world.