He threw up both hands in horror.
“The Redemption was the work for which the Child was born; and so long as the promise abides, not even death can separate him from his work until it is fulfilled, or at least in the way of fulfillment. Take you that now as one reason for my belief; then give me further attention.”
The good man paused.
“Wilt thou not taste the wine? It is at thy hand- see,” said Ilderim, respectfully.
Balthasar drank, and, seeming refreshed, continued- “The Saviour I saw was born of woman, in nature like us, and subject to all our ills- even death. Let that stand as the first proposition. Consider next the work set apart to him. Was it not a performance for which only a man is fitted?- a man wise, firm, discreet- a man, not a child? To become such he had to grow as we grow. Bethink you now of the dangers his life was subject to in the interval- the long interval between childhood and maturity. The existing powers were his enemies; Herod was his enemy; and what would Rome have been? And as for Israel- that he should not be accepted by Israel was the motive for cutting him off. See you now? What better way was there to take care of his life in the helpless growing time than by passing him into obscurity? Wherefore I say to myself, and to my listening faith, which is never moved except by yearning of love- I say he is not dead, but lost; and, his work remaining undone, he will come again. There you have the reasons for my belief. Are they not good?”
Ilderim’s small Arab eyes were bright with understanding, and Ben-Hur, lifted from his dejection, said heartily, “I, at least, may not gainsay them. What further, pray?”
“Hast thou not enough, my son? Well,” he began, in calmer tone, “seeing that the reasons were good- more plainly, seeing it was God’s will that the Child should not be found- I settled my faith into the keeping of patience, and took to waiting.” He raised his eyes, full of holy trust, and broke off abstractedly- “I am waiting now. He lives, keeping well his mighty secret. What though I cannot go to him, or name the hill or the vale of his abiding-place? He lives- it may be as the fruit in blossom, it may be as the fruit just ripening; but by the certainty there is in the promise and reason of God, I know he lives.”
A thrill of awe struck Ben-Hur- a thrill which was but the dying of his half-formed doubt.
“Where thinkest thou he is?” he asked in a low voice, and hesitating, like one who feels upon his lips the pressure of a sacred silence.
Balthasar looked at him kindly, and replied, his mind not entirely freed from its abstraction- “In my house on the Nile, so close to the river that the passers-by in boats see it and its reflection in the water at the same time- in my house, a few weeks ago, I sat thinking. A man thirty years old, I said to myself, should have his fields of life all ploughed, and his planting well done; for after that it is summer-time, with space scarce enough to ripen his sowing. The Child, I said further, is now twenty-seven- his time to plant must be at hand. I asked myself, as you here asked me, my son, and answered by coming hither, as to a good resting-place close by the land they fathers had from God. Where else should he appear, if not in Judea? In what city should he begin his work, if not in Jerusalem? Who should be first to receive the blessings he is to bring, if not the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; in love, at least, the children of the Lord? If I were bidden go seek him, I would search well the hamlets and villages on the slopes of the mountains of Judea and Galilee falling eastwardly into the valley of the Jordan. He is there now. Standing in a door or on a hill-top, only this evening he saw the sun set one day nearer the time when he himself shall become the light of the world.”