Then in thy conscience, Queen,
Thou feelest the King requiring thanks of thee.
Be careful of thy tongue,—and of the wine.—
Who watches me? Eyes are fixt on my soul,
Eyes of desire. I think some great event
Hath pusht its spirit forward of its time,
To stand here quietly waiting, into my mind
Inflicting its strange want of me, and ready
To fetch my heart, and ready to take my hand
And lead me away shrinking: is it Death?
It is some marvellous thing: for I know surely
Behind it crowd out of their discipline
The coming hours to watch me seized, and stare
With questioning brows on me, and lift lean hands
From under gowns of shadow to point me out
One to another, saying: “This is she:
How will she bear it, think ye?”—Is it not cold?
Was there not wind just then?—The flames are steady.
1st Woman. No wind at all: the air’s like one closed room.
2nd Woman. There is no talk like this at the King’s feast, I warrant. Were we not best be merry, And thank the King so for these wines and sweets?
Vashti. Yes, let us not forget our thankfulness; For is not, sisters, everything we have Mere gift?
My beauty pays for what I get.
Vashti. I would, ’twere not so.
Queen, I doubt thee not.
Vashti. Pert little fool, where lies thy beauty, then? Thou hast it not: its place is not thy flesh, But the delighting loins of men, there only. Thy beauty! And thou knowest not that man Hath forged in his furnace of desire our beauty Into that chain of law which binds our lives— Man, please thyself, and woman, please thou man. But thou wilt have thy beauty pence, thou sayest? And what’s thy purchase? Listen, I will tell thee: Just that thou art not whipt and drudged: the rest, All that thou hast beyond, is gift.
Vashti. Truly, for thee, why not?
Wouldst thou, ’twere yours?
1st Woman. Thou shudderest again; what ails thee, Queen?
Vashti. I would have lived in beauty once.
Vashti. I know the King finds relish in thy looks, Wench, and I have no care to grudge thy pride; But when thy face is named throughout the world For wonder, I will bear thy impudence.
1st Woman. But tell us, Queen, thy thought; for we have made An end almost of eating; and it seems It will be somewhat strange, pleasing our mood.
Vashti. Strange you will find it doubtless; but scarce pleasing, Unless ’tis pleasing to have news of danger. Listen! your lives are propt like a rotten house. Your souls, that should have noble lodging here, Have crept like peasants into huts that have No force within their walls, but must be shored With borrowed firmness. Yea, man’s stubborn lust To feed his heart upon your beauty, is all The strength your lives have, all that holdeth you Safe in the world,—propt like a rotten house.