“But they found some proofs, surely,” said Ben-Hur, eagerly.
“Yes, proofs written in blood- a village in mourning; mothers yet crying for their little ones. You must know, when Herod heard of our flight, he sent down and slew the youngest-born of the children of Bethlehem. Not one escaped. The faith of my messengers was confirmed; but they came to me saying the Child was dead, slain with the other innocents.”
“Dead!” exclaimed Ben-Hur, aghast. “Dead, sayest thou?”
“Nay, my son, I did not say so. I said they, my messengers told me the Child was dead. I did not believe the report then; I do not believe it now.”
“I see- thou hast some special knowledge.”
“Not so, not so,” said Balthasar, dropping his gaze. “The Spirit was to go with us no farther than to the Child. When we came out of the cave, after our presents were given and we had seen the babe, we looked first thing for the star; but it was gone, and we knew we were left to ourselves. The last inspiration of the Holy One- the last I can recall- was that which sent us to Ilderim for safety.”
“Yes,” said the sheik, fingering his beard nervously. “You told me you were sent to me by a Spirit- I remember it.”
“I have no special knowledge,” Balthasar continued, observing the dejection which had fallen upon Ben-Hur; “but, my son, I have given the matter much thought- thought continuing through years, inspired by faith, which, I assure you, calling God for witness, is as strong. in me now as in the hour I heard the Spirit calling me by the shore of the lake. If you will listen to me, I will tell you why I believe the Child is living.”
Both Ilderim and Ben-Hur looked assent, and appeared to summon their faculties that they might understand as well as hear. The interest reached the servants, who drew near to the divan, and stood listening. Throughout the tent there was the profoundest silence.
“We three believe in God.”
Balthasar bowed his head as he spoke.
“And he is the Truth,” he resumed. “His word is God. The hills may turn to dust, and the seas be drunk dry by south winds, but his word shall stand, because it is the Truth.”
The utterance was in a manner inexpressibly solemn.
“The voice, which was his, speaking to me by the lake, said, ‘Blessed art thou, O son of Mizraim! The Redemption cometh. With two others from the remoteness of the earth thou shalt see the Saviour.’ I have seen the Saviour- blessed be his name!- but the Redemption, which was the second part of the promise, is yet to come. Seest thou now? If the Child be dead, there is no agent to bring the Redemption about, and the word is naught, and God- nay, I dare not say it!”