Ben-Hur saw the consequences of his act more distinctly than before, yet he did not falter.
“In the three years of my servitude, O tribune, thou wert the first to look upon me kindly. No, no! There was another.” The voice dropped, the eyes became humid, and he saw plainly, as if it were then before him, the face of the boy who helped him to a drink by the old well at Nazareth. “At least,” he proceeded, “thou wert the first to ask me who I was; and if, when I reached out and caught thee, blind and sinking the last time, I, too, had thought of the many ways in which thou couldst be useful to me in my wretchedness, still the act was not all selfish; this I pray you to believe. Moreover, seeing as God giveth me to now, the ends I dream of are to be wrought by fair means alone. As a thing of conscience I would rather die with thee than be thy slayer. My mind is firmly set as thine; though thou wert to offer me all Rome, O tribune, and it belonged to thee to make the gift good, I would not kill thee. Thy Cato and Brutus were as little children compared to the Hebrew whose law a Jew must obey.”
“But my request. Hast- ”
“Thy command would be of more weight, and that would not move me. I have said.”
Both became silent, waiting.
Ben-Hur looked often at the coming ship. Arrius rested with closed eyes, indifferent.
“Art thou sure she is an enemy?” Ben-Hur asked.- “I think so,” was the reply.- “She stops, and puts a boat over the side.”- “Dost thou see her flag?” “Is there no other sign by which she may be known if Roman?”- “If Roman, she hath a helmet over the mast’s top.”- “Then be of cheer. I see the helmet.”
Still Arrius was not assured.
“The men in the small boat are taking in the people afloat. Pirates are not humane.”
“They may need rowers,” Arrius replied, recurring, possibly, to times when he had made rescues for the purpose.
Ben-Hur was very watchful of the actions of the strangers.
“The ship moves off,” he said.
“Over on our right there is a galley which I take to be deserted. The new-comer heads towards it. Now she is alongside. Now she is sending men aboard.”
Then Arrius opened his eyes and threw off his calm.
“Thank thou thy God,” he said to Ben-Hur, after a look at the galleys, “thank thou thy God, as I do my many gods. A pirate would sink, not save, yon ship. By the act and the helmet on the mast I know a Roman. The victory is mine. Fortune hath not deserted me. We are saved. Wave thy hand- call to them- bring them quickly. I shall be duumvir, and thou! I knew thy father, and loved him. He was a prince indeed. He taught me a Jew was not a barbarian. I will take thee with me. I will make thee my son. Give thy God thanks, and call the sailors. Haste! The pursuit must be kept. Not a robber shall escape. Hasten them!”