A servant came forward.
“Let my Arabs come!”
The man drew aside part of the division curtain of the tent, exposing to view a group of horses, who lingered a moment where they were as if to make certain of the invitation.
“Come!” Ilderim said to them. “Why stand ye there? What have I that is not yours? Come, I say!”
They stalked slowly in.
“Son of Israel,” the master said, “thy Moses was a mighty man, but- ha, ha, ha!- I must laugh when I think of his allowing thy fathers the plodding ox and the dull, slow-natured ass, and forbidding them property in horses. Ha, ha, ha! Thinkest thou he would have done so had he seen that one- and that- and this?” At the word he laid his hand upon the face of the first to reach him, and patted it with infinite pride and tenderness.
“It is a misjudgment, sheik, a misjudgment,” Ben-Hur said, warmly. “Moses was a warrior as well as a lawgiver beloved by God; and to follow war- ah, what is it but to love all its creatures- these among the rest?”
A head of exquisite turn- with large eyes, soft as a deer’s, and half hidden by the dense forelock, and small ears, sharp-pointed and sloped well forward- approached then quite to his breast, the nostrils open, and the upper lip in motion. “Who are you?” it asked, plainly as ever man spoke. Ben-Hur recognized one of the four racers he had seen on the course, and gave his open hand to the beautiful brute.
“They will tell you, the blasphemers!- may their days shorten as they grow fewer!”- the sheik spoke with the feeling of a man repelling a personal defamation- “they will tell you, I say, that our horses of the best blood are derived from the Nesaean pastures of Persia. God gave the first Arab a measureless waste of sand, with some treeless mountains, and here and there a well of bitter waters; and said to him, ‘Behold thy country!’ And when the poor man complained, the Mighty One pitied him, and said again, ‘Be of cheer for I will twice bless thee above other men.’ The Arab heard, and gave thanks, and with faith set out to find the blessings. He travelled all the boundaries first, and failed; then he made a path into the desert, and went on and on- and in the heart of the waste there was an island of green very beautiful to see; and in the heart of the island, lo! a herd of camels, and another of horses! He took them joyfully and kept them with care for what they were- best gifts of God. And from that green isle went forth all the horses of the earth; even to the pastures of Nesaea they went; and northward to the dreadful vales perpetually threshed by blasts from the Sea of Chill Winds. Doubt not the story; or if thou dost, may never amulet have charm for an Arab again. Nay, I will give thee proof.”