At this allusion Simonides bowed his head, and, as if to help him conceal his feelings and her own deep sympathy, the daughter hid her face on his neck. Directly he raised his eyes, and said, in a clear voice, “I am listening.”
“O good Simonides!” Ben-Hur then said, advancing a step, his whole soul seeking expression, “I see thou art not convinced, and that yet I stand in the shadow of thy distrust.”
The merchant held his features fixed as marble, and his tongue as still.
“And not less clearly I see the difficulties of my position,” Ben-Hur continued. “All my Roman connection I can prove; I have only to call upon the consul, now the guest of the governor of the city; but I cannot prove the particulars of thy demand upon me. I cannot prove I am my father’s son. They who could serve me in that- alas! they are dead or lost.”
He covered his face with his hands; whereupon Esther arose, and, taking the rejected cup to him, said, “The wine is of the country we all so love. Drink, I pray thee!”
The voice was sweet as that of Rebekah offering drink at the well near Nahor the city; he saw there were tears in her eyes, and he drank, saying, “Daughter of Simonides, thy heart is full of goodness; and merciful art thou to let the stranger share it with thy father. Be thou blessed of our God! I thank thee.”
Then he addressed himself to the merchant again: “As I have no proof that I am my father’s son, I will withdraw that I demanded of thee, O Simonides, and go hence to trouble you no more; only let me say I did not seek thy return to servitude nor account of thy fortune; in any event, I would have said, as now I say, that all which is product of thy labour and genius is thine; keep it in welcome. I have no need of any part thereof. When the good Quintus, my second father, sailed on the voyage which was his last, he left me his heir, princely rich. If, therefore, thou dost think of me again, be it with remembrance of this question, which, as I do swear by the prophets and Jehovah, thy God and mine, was the chief purpose of my coming here: What dost thou know- what canst thou tell me- of my mother and Tirzah, my sister- she who should be in beauty and grace even as this one, thy sweetness of life, if not thy very life? Oh! what canst thou tell me of them?”
The tears ran down Esther’s cheeks; but the man was willful: in a clear voice, he replied, “I have said I knew the Prince Ben-Hur. I remember hearing of the misfortune which overtook his family. I remember the bitterness with which I heard it. He who wrought such misery to the widow of my friend is the same who, in the same spirit, hath since wrought upon me. I will go further, and say to you, I have made diligent quest concerning the family, but- I have nothing to tell you of them. They are lost.”