“Thou hast interest in the good man here, whose pardon, if not granted now, I shall seek with the greater diligence hereafter; his daughter, I should say.”
She made him no reply.
“By Pallas, thou art beautiful! Beware Apollo mistake thee not for his lost love. I wonder what land can boast herself thy mother. Turn not away. A truce! a truce! There is the sun of India in thine eyes; in the corners of thy mouth, Egypt hath set her love-signs. Perpol! Turn not to that slave, fair mistress, before proving merciful to this one. Tell me at least that I am pardoned.”
At this point she broke in upon him.
“Wilt thou come here?” she asked, smiling, and with gracious bend of the head to Ben-Hur.
“Take the cup and fill it, I pray thee,” she said to the latter. “My father is thirsty.”
“I am thy most willing servant!”
Ben-Hur turned about to do the favour, and was face to face with Messala. Their glances met; the Jew’s defiant; the Roman’s sparkling with humour.
“O stranger, beautiful as cruel!” Messala said, waving his hand to her. “If Apollo get thee not, thou shalt see me again. Not knowing thy country, I cannot name a god to commend thee to; so, by all the gods, I will commend thee to- myself!”
Seeing the Myrtilus had the four composed and ready, he returned to the chariot. The woman looked after him as he moved away, and whatever else there was in her look, there was no displeasure. Presently she received the water; her father drank; then she raised the cup to her lips, and, leaning down, gave it to Ben-Hur; never action more graceful and gracious.
“Keep it, we pray of thee! It is full of blessings- all thine!”
Immediately the camel was aroused, and on his feet, and about to go, when the old man called- “Stand thou here.”
Ben-Hur went to him respectfully.
“Thou hast served the stranger well to-day. There is but one God. In his holy name I thank thee. I am Balthasar, the Egyptian. In the Great Orchard of Palms, beyond the village of Daphne, in the shade of the palms, Sheik Ilderim the Generous abideth in his tents, and we are his guests. Seek us there. Thou shalt have welcome sweet with the savour of the grateful.”
Ben-Hur was left in wonder at the old man’s clear voice and reverend manner. As he gazed after the two departing, he caught sight of Messala going as he had come, joyous, indifferent, and with a mocking laugh.
THE CHARIOT RACE DISCUSSED.
As a rule, there is no surer way to the dislike of men than to behave well where they have behaved badly. In this instance, happily, Malluch was an exception to the rule. The affair he had just witnessed raised Ben-Hur in his estimation, since he could not deny him courage and address; could he now get some insight into the young man’s history, the results of the day would not be all unprofitable to good master Simonides.