“’It is hereby enacted, for the safety of the Union: Let no person offer any prayer or petition to any god or man, except the king, for the space of thirty days; and whosoever shall violate this decree shall be taken and thrown into the den of lions.
“’Given under my hand, at the city of Babylon, on this twelfth day of the ninth month, and sealed with the seal of the Medes and Persians, which changeth not.’”
“In this, surely, there is nothing unreasonable,” said the easily flattered king. “My wise presidents and faithful princes could never propose and advocate a measure that was not highly beneficial in its results. That which has any tendency to weaken the glorious bond of our union must be put down, and the safety of the united provinces must be placed on an immovable basis. If, in your superior wisdom, ye have judged that this law is called for, may the gods forbid that I should refuse to give it countenance.”
“The measure shall be hailed with universal joy, O king, among all thy loyal subjects, and let those who dare disobey suffer the consequence! From this day the name of Darius the Mede shall be a terror to every evil doer, and all his enemies shall be put to shame.”
“Let the king have the writing.”
The writing was delivered over to the monarch by a hand that trembled with excitement.
“It is surely a peculiar enactment,” said the king, as he took the pen in his hand. “I fail to see its strong points, but at this stage of my reign I am not prepared to oppose a measure that is the offspring of the combined wisdom of the realm. If my Persian nephew were present, I would deem it advisable to have his opinion; but, as he is out in the wars, I cannot avail myself of that.”
So the king’s name was given to the fatal parchment; and, moreover, it was sealed with the seal of the Medes and Persians.
“The thing is done,” said Darius. “Is there anything more that ye wish to communicate to the king?”
“Thy goodness is ever abundant, O king,” answered Fraggood. “This is all that we have to present this day. Will the king accept our united gratitude for the kind manner in which we have been received into the presence of the mightiest monarch that ever swayed a scepter? Long live our matchless king! We shall no longer trespass on thy time. We return to our respective stations, to carry out the pleasure of our king.”