Esther caressed the faded hands, and said, as if her spirit with his were running forward to results, “He is gone. Will he come again?”

“Ay, Malluch, the faithful goes with him, and will bring him back when I am ready.”

“And when will that be, father?”

“Not long, not long. He thinks all his witnesses dead. There is one living who will not fail to know him, if he be indeed my master’s son.

“His mother?”

“Nay, daughter, I will set the witness before him; till then let us rest the business with the Lord. I am tired. Call Abimelech.”

Esther called the servant, and they returned into the house.


CHAPTER V.

THE GROVE OF DAPHNE.

WHEN Ben-Hur sallied from the great warehouse, it was with the thought that another failure was to be added to the many he had already met in the quest for his people; and the idea was depressing exactly in proportion as the objects of his quest were dear to him; it curtained him round about with a sense of utter loneliness on earth, which, more than anything else, serves to eke from a soul cast down its remaining interest in life.

Through the people, and the piles of goods, he made way to the edge of the landing, and was tempted by the cool shadows darkening the river’s depth. The lazy current seemed to stop and wait for him. In counteraction of the spell, the saying of the voyager flashed into memory- “Better be a worm, and feed upon the mulberries of Daphne, than a king’s guest.” He turned, and walked rapidly down the landing and back to the khan.

“The road to Daphne!” the steward said, surprised at the question Ben-Hur put to him. “You have not been here before? Well, count this the happiest day of your life. You cannot mistake the road. The next street to the left, going south, leads straight to Mount Sulpius, crowned by the altar of Jupiter and the Amphitheatre; keep it to the third cross street, known as Herod’s Colonnade; turn to your right there, and hold the way through the old city of Seleucus to the bronze gates of Epiphanes. There the road to Daphne begins- and may the gods keep you!”

A few directions respecting his baggage, and Ben-Hur set out.

The Colonnade of Herod was easily found; thence to the brazen gates, under a continuous marble portico, he passed with a multitude mixed of people from all the trading nations of the earth.

It was about the fourth hour of the day when he passed out the gate, and found himself one of a procession apparently interminable, moving to the famous Grove. The road was divided into separate ways for footmen, for men on horses, and men in chariots; and those again into separate ways for outgoers and incomers. The lines of division were guarded by low balustrading, broken by massive pedestals, many of which were surmounted with statuary. Right and left of the road extended margins of sward perfectly kept, relieved at intervals by groups of oak and sycamore trees, and vine-clad summer-houses for the accommodation of the weary, of whom, on the return side, there were always multitudes. The ways of the footmen were paved with red stone, and those of the riders strewn with white sand compactly rolled, but not so solid as to give back an echo to hoof or wheel. The number and variety of fountains at play were amazing, all gifts of visiting kings, and called after them. Out southwest to the gates of the Grove, the magnificent thoroughfare stretched a little over four miles from the city.