Studying the situation after two thousand years, we can see and say that religiously there was no relief from the universal confusion except some God could prove himself a true God, and a masterful one, and come to the rescue; but the people of the time, even the discerning and philosophical, discovered no hope except in crushing Rome; that done, the relief would follow in restorations and reorganizations; therefore they prayed, conspired, rebelled, fought, and died, drenching the soil to-day with blood, to-morrow with tears- and always with the same result.

It remains to be said now that Ben-Hur was in agreement with the mass of men of his time not Romans. The five years’ residence in the capital served him with opportunity to see and study the miseries of the subjugated world; and in full belief that the evils which afflicted it were political, and to be cured only by the sword, he was going forth to fit himself for a part in the day of resort to the heroic remedy. By practice of arms he was a perfect soldier; but war has its higher fields, and he who would move successfully in them must know more than to defend with shield and thrust with spear. In those fields the general finds his tasks, the greatest of which is the reduction of the many into one, and that one himself; the consummate captain is a fighting man armed with an army. This conception entered into the scheme of life to which he was further swayed by the reflection that the vengeance he dreamed of, in connection with his individual wrongs, would be more surely found in some of the ways of war than in any pursuit of peace.

The feelings with which he listened to Balthasar can be now understood. The story touched two of the most sensitive points of his being so they rang within him. His heart beat fast- and faster still when, searching himself, he found not a doubt either that the recital was true in every particular, or that the Child so miraculously found was the Messiah. Marvelling much that Israel rested so dead to the revelation, and that he had never heard of it before that day, two questions presented themselves to him as centring all it was at that moment further desirable to know- Where was the Child then? And what was his mission? With apologies for the interruptions, he proceeded to draw out the opinions of Balthasar, who was in nowise loath to speak.


CHAPTER XVI.

CHRIST IS COMING- BALTHASAR.

“IF I could answer you,” Balthasar said, in his simple, earnest, devout way- “oh, if I knew where he is, how quickly I would go to him! The seas should not stay me, nor the mountains.”

“You have tried to find him, then?” asked Ben-Hur.

A smile flitted across the face of the Egyptian.

“The first task I charged myself with after leaving the shelter given me in the desert!”- Balthasar cast a grateful look at Ilderim- “was to learn what became of the Child. But a year had passed, and I dared not go up to Judea in person, for Herod still held the throne bloody-minded as ever. In Egypt, upon my return, there were a few friends to believe the wonderful things I told them of what I had seen and heard- a few who rejoiced with me that a Redeemer was born- a few who never tired of the story. Some of them came up for me looking after the Child. They went first to Bethlehem, and found there the khan and the cave; but the steward- he who sat at the gate the night of the birth, and the night we came following the star- was gone. The king had taken him away, and he was no more seen.”