“By nothing else?”
“He rode the same great white camel, and gave him the same name- Balthasar, the Egyptian.”
“It is a wonder of the Lord’s!”
Ben-Hur spoke with excitement.
And Malluch, wondering, asked, “Why so?”
“Balthasar, you said?”
“Yes, Balthasar, the Egyptian.”
“That was the name the old man gave us at the fountain to-day.”
Then, at the reminder, Malluch became excited.
“It is true,” he said; “and the camel was the same- and you saved the man’s life.”
“And the woman,” said Ben-Hur, like one speaking to himself- “the woman was his daughter.”
He fell to thinking; and even the reader will say he was having a vision of the woman, and that it was more welcome than that of Esther, if only because it stayed longer with him; but no- “Tell me again,” he said, presently. “Were the three to ask, ‘Where is he that is to be King of the Jews?'”
“Not exactly. The words were born to be King of the Jews. Those were the words as the old sheik caught them first in the desert, and he has ever since been waiting the coming of the king; nor can any one shake his faith that he will come.”
“How- as king?”
“Yes, and bringing the doom of Rome- so says the sheik.”
Ben-Hur kept silent awhile, thinking and trying to control his feelings.
“The old man is one of many millions,” he said, slowly- “one of many millions each with a wrong to avenge; and this strange faith, Malluch, is bread and wine to his hope; for who but a Herod may be King of the Jews while Rome endures? But, following the story, did you hear what Simonides said to him?”
“If Ilderim is a grave man, Simonides is a wise one,” Malluch Replied. “I listened, and he said- But hark! Some one comes overtaking us.”
The noise grew louder, until presently they heard the rumble of wheels mixed with the beating of horse-hoofs- a moment later Sheik Ilderim himself appeared on horseback, followed by a train, among which were the four wine-red Arabs drawing the chariot. The sheik’s chin, in its muffling of long white beard, was drooped upon his breast. Our friends had out-travelled him; but at sight of them, he raised his head, and spoke kindly.
“Peace to you!- Ah, my friend Malluch! Welcome! And tell me you are not going, but just come; that you have something for me from the good Simonides- may the Lord of his fathers keep him in life for many years to come! Aye, take up the straps, both of you, and follow me. I have bread and leben, or, if you prefer it, arrack and the flesh of young kid. Come!”
They followed after him to the door of the tent, in which, when they were dismounted, he stood to receive them, holding a platter with three cups filled with creamy liquor just drawn from a great smoke-stained skin bottle, pendent from the central post.