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.He welcomed them, and gave them rest.Next morning they arose and prayed a prayer new to the sheik--a prayer addressed to God and his son--this with much mystery besides.After breaking fast with him, the Egyptian told who they were, and whence they had come.Each had seen a star, out of which a voice had bidden them go to Jerusalem and ask, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?' They obeyed.From Jerusalem they were led by a star to Bethlehem, where, in a cave, they found a child newly born, which they fell down and worshipped; and after worshipping it, and giving it costly presents, and bearing witness of what it was, they took to their camels, and fled without pause to the sheik, because if Herod--meaning him surnamed the Great--could lay hands upon them, he would certainly kill them.And, faithful to his habit, the sheik took care of them, and kept them concealed for a year, when they departed, leaving with him gifts of great value, and each going a separate way.""It is, indeed, a most wonderful story," Ben-Hur exclaimed at its conclusion."What did you say they were to ask at Jerusalem?""They were to ask, 'Where is he that is born King of the Jews?'""Was that all?""There was more to the question, but I cannot recall it.""And they found the child?""Yes, and worshipped him.""It is a miracle, Malluch.""Ilderim is a grave man, though excitable as all Arabs are.A lie on his tongue is impossible."Malluch spoke positively.Thereupon the dromedaries were forgotten, and, quite as unmindful of their riders, they turned off the road to the growing grass."Has Ilderim heard nothing more of the three men?" asked Ben-Hur."What became of them?""Ah, yes, that was the cause of his coming to Simonides the day of which I was speaking.Only the night before that day the Egyptian reappeared to him.""Where?""Here at the door of the tent to which we are coming.""How knew he the man?""As you knew the horses to-day--by face and manner.""By nothing else?""He rode the same great white camel, and gave him the same name--Balthasar, the Egyptian.""It is a wonder of the Lord's!"Ben-Hur spoke with excitement.And Malluch, wondering, asked, "Why so?""Balthasar, you said?""Yes.Balthasar, the Egyptian.""That was the name the old man gave us at the fountain today."Then, at the reminder, Malluch became excited."It is true," he said; "and the camel was the same--and you saved the man's life.""And the woman," said Ben-Hur, like one speaking to himself--"the woman was his daughter."He fell to thinking; and even the reader will say he was having a vision of the woman, and that it was more welcome than that of Esther, if only because it stayed longer with him; but no--"Tell me again," he said, presently."Were the three to ask, 'Where is he that is to be King of the Jews?'""Not exactly.The words were BORN TO BE KING OF THE JEWS.Those were the words as the old sheik caught them first in the desert, and he has ever since been waiting the coming of the king; nor can any one shake his faith that he will come.""How--as king?""Yes, and bringing the doom of Rome--so says the sheik."Ben-Hur kept silent awhile, thinking and trying to control his feelings."The old man is one of many millions," he said, slowly--"one of many millions each with a wrong to avenge; and this strange faith, Malluch, is bread and wine to his hope; for who but a Herod may be King of the Jews while Rome endures? But, following the story, did you hear what Simonides said to him?""If Ilderim is a grave man, Simonides is a wise one," Malluch replied."I listened, and he said-- But hark! Some one comes overtaking us."The noise grew louder, until presently they heard the rumble of wheels mixed with the beating of horse-hoofs--a moment later Sheik I1derim himself appeared on horseback, followed by a train, among which were the four wine-red Arabs drawing the chariot.The sheik's chin, in its muffling of long white beard, was drooped upon his breast.Our friends had out-travelled him; but at sight of them he raised his head and spoke kindly."Peace to you!--Ah, my friend Malluch! Welcome! And tell me you are not going, but just come; that you have something for me from the good Simonides--may the Lord of his fathers keep him in life for many years to come! Ay, take up the straps, both of you, and follow me.I have bread and leben, or, if you prefer it, arrack, and the flesh of young kid.Come!"They followed after him to the door of the tent, in which, when they were dismounted, he stood to receive them, holding a platter with three cups filled with creamy liquor just drawn from a great smoke-stained skin bottle, pendent from the central post."Drink," he said, heartily, "drink, for this is the fear-naught of the tentmen."They each took a cup, and drank till but the foam remained."Enter now, in God's name."And when they were gone in, Malluch took the sheik aside, and spoke to him privately; after which he went to Ben-Hur and excused himself."I have told the sheik about you, and he will give you the trial of his horses in the morning.He is your friend.Having done for you all I can, you must do the rest, and let me return to Antioch.There is one there who has my promise to meet him to-night.I have no choice but to go.I will come back to-morrow prepared, if all goes well in the meantime, to stay with you until the games are over."With blessings given and received, Malluch set out in return.CHAPTER XIWhat time the lower horn of a new moon touched the castellated piles on Mount Sulpius, and two thirds of the people of Antioch were out on their house-tops comforting themselves with the night breeze when it blew, and with fans when it failed, Simonides sat in the chair which had come to be a part of him, and from the terrace looked down over the river, and his ships a-swing at their moorings.The wall at his back cast its shadow broadly over the water to the opposite shore.Above him the endless tramp upon the bridge went on.Esther was holding a plate for him containing his frugal supper--some wheaten cakes, light as wafers, some honey, and a bowl of milk, into which he now and then dipped the wafers after dipping them into the honey."Malluch is a laggard to-night," he said, showing where his thoughts were."Do you believe he will come?" Esther asked."Unless he has taken to the sea or the desert, and is yet following on, he will come."Simonides spoke with quiet confidence."He may write," she said."Not so, Esther [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]