“Ye are punctual!” said the king, with a meaning glance.
“We take unbounded pleasure in obeying all the requirements of our king,” said Fraggood, “and may the gods curse all those that are disobedient!”
“Since ye left my presence yesterday, I have had an interview with the first president, and from his venerable lips I learn that he had no voice in the formation of this law that ye say he hath violated.”
“This is as thy servant expected, O king!” answered Kinggron. “What transgressor do we ever find that will not strive to hide his guilt?”
“Daniel strives not to hide his guilt,” replied the king in a firm tone. “He freely acknowledges that he violated the law, and moreover he assures me that he will continue to violate it three times every day. Thus ye perceive that the first president wishes not to hide his guilt, nor even to escape the punishment. But with all the weight of reason, consistency and humanity on his side, he pronounces the law at war with all goodness, and denies having had any part in bringing it into existence. Now, with all due respect to your testimonies, which, in point of law, must outweigh the declaration of one man, I freely acknowledge to you, my presidents and princes, that it is my firm conviction that ye are a band of unprincipled liars, fully bent on the destruction of this Daniel!”
At this plain, royal truth, the “Union Safety Committee” turned pale, and the other three appeared to be similarly affected. But Fraggood, recovering his self-possession, hastened to the rescue.
“Then my lord the king had rather believe a man that defies his power by boasting his determination to violate the king’s decree at least three times a day, than his faithful servants who honor his laws, and who desire to bring the guilty to punishment. Let not the king be deceived by the smooth tongue of this intriguing old Israelite, who can by the eloquence of his lips give to truth the color of falsehood, and to deception the appearance of sincerity. Thy servants now in the presence of the king are ready to prove all the declarations of thy servants who testified in thy presence yesterday. But what would avail their testimony in the ears of Darius? But, O king, remember that thy decree hath gone forth, and it cannot be recalled. And, moreover, it is well understood in Babylon that Daniel sets thy power at defiance, and thy decision in this matter is watched for by tens of thousands; and if this Daniel escapes the punishment of the law, we may as well burn up our statute books and give absolute liberty to every ruffian and desperado. Law and order will be at an end, the union of the provinces will be forever dissolved, and confusion and desolation shall follow. The question now to be settled is not, ‘How came this law to be enacted?’ but, seeing that it is enacted, is there power enough in the king of the Medes and Persians to put it in force; and, if there is, will he do it? Or does he wish us to retire