Besides that, sympathy is in great degree a result of the mood we are in at the moment: anger forbids the emotion. On the other hand, it is easiest taken on when we are in a state of most absolute self-satisfaction. Ben-Hur walked with a quicker step, holding his head higher; and, while not less sensitive to the delightfulness of all about him, he made his survey with calmer spirit, though sometimes with curling lip; that is to say, he could not so soon forget how nearly he himself had been imposed upon.
THE STADIUM IN THE GROVE.
IN front of Ben-Hur there was a forest of cypress-trees, each a column tall and straight as a mast. Venturing into the shady precinct, he heard a trumpet gaily blown, and an instant after saw lying upon the grass close by the countryman whom he had run upon in the road going to the temples. The man arose, and came to him.
“I give you peace again,” he said, pleasantly.
“Thank you,” Ben-Hur replied, then asked, “go you my way?”
“I am for the stadium, if that is your way.”
“Yes. The trumpet you heard but now was a call for the competitors.”
“Good friend,” said Ben-Hur, frankly, “I admit my ignorance of the Grove; and if you will let me be your follower, I will be glad.”
“That will delight me. Hark! I hear the wheels of the chariots. They are taking the track.”
Ben-Hur listened a moment, then completed the introduction by laying his hand upon the man’s arm, and saying, “I am the son of Arrius, the duumvir, and thou?”
“I am Malluch, a merchant of Antioch.”
“Well, good Malluch, the trumpet, and the gride of wheels, and the prospect of diversion excite me. I have some skill in the exercises. In the palaestrae of Rome I am not unknown. Let us to the course.”
Malluch lingered to say, quickly, “The duumvir was a Roman, yet I see his son in the garments of a Jew.”
“The noble Arrius was my father by adoption,” Ben-Hur answered.
“Ah! I see, and beg pardon.”
Passing through the belt of forest, they came to a field with a track laid out upon it, in shape and extent exactly like those of the stadia. The course, or track proper, was of soft earth, rolled and sprinkled, and on both sides defined by ropes, stretched loosely upon upright javelins. For the accommodation of spectators, and such as had interests reaching forward of the mere practice, there were several stands shaded by substantial awnings, and provided with seats in rising rows. In one of the stands the two new-comers found places.
Ben-Hur counted the chariots as they went by- nine in all.
“I commend the fellows,” he said, with good-will. “Here in the East I thought they aspired to nothing better than the two; but they are ambitious, and play with royal fours. Let us study their performance.”