Judah looked, and saw- Messala.
“What, the assassin- that?” said a tall man, in legionary armour of beautiful finish. “Why, he is but a boy.”
“Gods!” replied Messala, not forgetting his drawl. “A new philosophy! What would Seneca say to the proposition that a man must be old before he can hate enough to kill? You have him; and that is his mother; yonder his sister. You have the whole family.”
For love of them, Judah forgot his quarrel.
“Help them, O my Messala! Remember our childhood, and help them. I- Judah- pray you.”
Messala affected not to hear.
“I cannot be of further use to you,” he said to the officer. “There is richer entertainment in the street. Down Eros, up Mars!”
With the last words he disappeared. Judah understood him, and, in the bitterness of his soul, prayed to Heaven.
“In the hour of thy vengeance, O Lord,” he said, “be mine the hand to put it upon him!”
By great exertion he drew nearer the officer.
“O sir, the woman you hear is my mother. Spare her, spare my sister yonder. God is just, he will give you mercy for mercy.”
The man appeared to be moved.
“To the tower with the women!” he shouted, “but do them no harm. I will demand them of you.” Then to those holding Judah, he said, “Get cords, and bind his hands, and take him to the street. His punishment is reserved.”
The mother was carried away. The little Tirzah, in her home attire, stupefied with fear, went passively with her keepers. Judah gave each of them a last look, and covered his face with his hands, as if to possess himself of the scene fadelessly. He may have shed tears, though no one saw them.
There took place in him then what may be justly called the wonder of life. The thoughtful reader of these pages has ere this discerned enough to know that the young Jew in disposition was gentle even to womanliness- a result that seldom fails the habit of loving and being loved. The circumstances through which he had come had made no call upon the harsher elements of his nature, if such he had. At times he had felt the stir and impulses of ambition, but they had been like the formless dreams of a child walking by the sea and gazing at the coming and going of stately ships. But now, if we can imagine an idol, sensible of the worship it was accustomed to, dashed suddenly from its altar, and lying amidst the wreck of its little world of love, an idea may be had of what had befallen the young Ben-Hur, and of its effect upon his being. Yet there was no sign, nothing to indicate that he had undergone a change, except that when he raised his head, and held his arms out to be bound, the bend of the Cupid’s, bow had vanished from his lips. In that instant he had put off childhood and become a man.