“Drink,” he said, heartily, “drink, for this is the fear-naught of the tentmen.”

They each took a cup, and drank till but the foam remained.

“Enter now, in God’s name.”

And when they were gone in, Malluch took the sheik aside, and spoke to him privately; after which he went to Ben-Hur and excused himself.

“I have told the sheik about you, and he will give you the trial of his horses in the morning. He is your friend. Having done for you all I can, you must do the rest, and let me return to Antioch. There is one there who has my promise to meet him to-night. I have no choice but to go. I will come back to-morrow; prepared, if all goes well in the meantime, to stay with you until the games are over.”

With blessings given and received, Malluch set out in return.


CHAPTER XI.

THE WISE SERVANT AND HIS DAUGHTER.

WHAT time the lower horn of a new moon touched the castellated piles on Mount Sulpius, and two-thirds of the people of Antioch were out on their house-tops comforting themselves with the night breeze when it blew, and with fans when it failed, Simonides sat in the chair which had come to be a part of him, and from the terrace looked down over the river, and his ships a-swing at their moorings. The wall at his back cast its shadow broadly over the water to the opposite shore. Above him the endless tramp upon the bridge went on. Esther was holding a plate for him containing his frugal supper- some wheaten cakes light as wafers, some honey, and a bowl of milk, into which he now and then dipped the wafers after dipping them into the honey.

“Malluch is a laggard to-night,” he said, showing where his thoughts were.

“Do you believe he will come?” Esther asked.

“Unless he has taken to the sea or the desert, and is yet following on, he will come.”

Simonides spoke with quiet confidence.

“He may write,” she said.

“Not so, Esther. He would have despatched a letter when he found he could not return, and told me so; because I have not received such a letter, I know he can come, and will.”

“I hope so,” she said, very softly.

Something in the utterance attracted his attention; it might have been the tone, it might have been the wish. The smallest bird cannot light upon the greatest tree without sending a shock to its most distant fibre; every mind is at times no less sensitive to the most trifling words.

“You wish him to come, Esther?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said, lifting her eyes to his.

“Why? Can you tell me?” he persisted.

“Because”- she hesitated, then began again- “because the young man is- ” The stop was full.

“Our master. Is that the word?”