Once Upon a Time ....
Long ago there was a king named Ahasuerus, ruler of the Medes and the Persians. So mighty was he that his domain extended from Ethiopia to India, and he ruled over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces. Now it happened once that King Ahasuerus ordered a feast in Shushan, his capital, and he invited all the princes and governors of his provinces. For seven days, he showed off his riches and ate and drank with his guests.

When the feasting was at its height and the king was quite drunk, he began to boast. Anything that he had, he said, was the best in the world. His horses were the best, his jewels the finest, his gardens the most luxurious.

"And your queen?" asked the princes.

The Boast That Failed
Queen Vashti, replied Ahasuerus, was the most beautiful woman in the whole world. To prove it, he would order her to appear at once, dressed only in her royal crown!

The queen was deeply insulted and refused to appear. Her husband, who saw the princes giggling behind their wine goblets, was infuriated. He ordered Vashti driven from the palace and he banished her from his kingdom. Now King Ahasuerus found himself very lonely and he issued a proclamation, stating that all the fairest maidens of the land were to gather before him. The one whom he found most pleasing would be made queen in place of Vashti.

Beauty On Parade
Hundreds upon hundreds of contestants arrived and paraded before the king. Now there was in the royal palace at Shushan a certain Jew named Mordecai, who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylonia. He had adopted Esther, his uncle's daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The maiden was very beautiful, and, after her father and mother died, Mordecai took Hadassah, that is, Esther, as his own daughter.

When the king's command was made known, among the many maidens brought to the royal palace at Shushan, Esther also was taken and placed in charge of Hegai, who took care of the women.

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