CHAPTER VI.

ARRIUS ADOPTS BEN-HUR.

THE throes of recovery from drowning are more painful than the drowning. These Arrius passed through, and, at length, to Ben-Hur’s delight, reached the point of speech.

Gradually, from incoherent questions as to where he was, and by whom and how he had been saved, he reverted to the battle. The doubt of the victory stimulated his faculties to full return, a result aided not a little by a long rest- such as could be had on their frail support. After a while he became talkative.

“Our rescue, I see, depends upon the result of the fight. I see also what thou hast done for me. To speak fairly, thou hast saved my life at the risk of thy own. I make the acknowledgment broadly; and, whatever cometh, thou hast my thanks. More than that, if fortune doth but serve me kindly, and we get well out of this peril, I will do thee such favour as becometh a Roman who hath power and opportunity to prove his gratitude. Yet, yet it is to be seen if, with thy good intent, thou hast really done me a kindness; or, rather, speaking to thy good-will”- he hesitated- “I would exact of thee a promise to do me, in a certain event, the greatest favour one man can do another- and of that let me have thy pledge now.”

“If the thing be not forbidden, I will do it,” Ben-Hur replied.

Arrius rested again.

“Art thou, indeed, a son of Hur, the Jew?” he next asked.

“It is as I have said.”

“I knew thy father- ”

Judah drew himself nearer, for the tribune’s voice was weak- he drew nearer, and listened eagerly- at last he thought to hear of home.

“I knew him, and loved him,” Arrius continued.

There was another pause, during which something diverted the speaker’s thought.

“It cannot be,” he proceeded, “that thou, a son of his, hast not heard of Cato and Brutus. They were very great men, and never as great as in death. In their dying, they left this law- A Roman may not survive his good fortune. Art thou listening?”

“I hear.”

“It is a custom of gentlemen in Rome to wear a ring. There is one on my hand. Take it now.”

He held the hand to Judah, who did as he asked.

“Now put it on thine own hand.”

Ben-Hur did so.

“The trinket hath its uses,” said Arrius next. “I have property and money. I am accounted rich even in Rome. I have no family. Show the ring to my freedman who hath control in my absence; you will find him in a villa near Misenum. Tell him how it came to thee, and ask anything, or all he may have; he will not refuse the demand. If I live, I will do better by thee. I will make thee free, and restore thee to thy home and people; or thou mayst give thyself to the pursuit that pleaseth thee most. Dost thou hear?”