Ben-Hur’s imagination was heated, his feelings aroused, his will all unsettled.
So the palms, the sky, the air, seemed to him of the far south zone into which Balthasar had been driven by despair for men; the lake, with its motionless surface, was a suggestion of the Nilotic mother by which the good man stood praying when the Spirit made its radiant appearance. Had all these accessories of the miracle come to Ben-Hur? or had he been transferred to them? And what if the miracle should be repeated- and to him? He feared, yet wished, and even waited for the vision. When at last his feverish mood was cooled, permitting him to become himself, he was able to think.
His scheme of life has been explained. In all reflection about it heretofore there had been one hiatus which he had not been able to bridge or fill up- one so broad he could see but vaguely to the other side of it. When, finally, he was graduated a captain as well as a soldier, to what object should he address his efforts? Revolution he contemplated, of course; but the processes of revolution have always been the same, and to lead men into them there have always been required, first, a cause or pretence to enlist adherents; second, an end, or something as a practical achievement. As a rule he fights well who has wrongs to redress; but vastly better fights he who, with wrongs as a spur, has also steadily before him a glorious result in prospect- a result in which he can discern balm for wounds, compensation for valour, remembrance and gratitude in the event of death.
To determine the sufficiency of either the cause or the end, it was needful that Ben-Hur should study the adherents to whom he looked when all was ready for action. Very naturally, they were his countrymen. The wrongs of Israel were to every son of Abraham, and each one was a cause vastly holy, vastly inspiring.
Aye, the cause was there; but the end- what should it be? The hours and days he had given this branch of his scheme were past calculation- all with the same conclusion- a dim, uncertain general idea of national liberty. Was it sufficient? He could not say no, for that would have been the death of his hope; he shrank from saying yes, because his judgment taught him better. He could not assure himself even that Israel was able single-handed to successfully combat Rome. He knew the resources of that great enemy; he knew her art was superior to her resources. A universal alliance might suffice, but, alas! that was impossible, except- and upon the exception how long and earnestly he had dwelt!- except a hero would come from one of the suffering nations, and by martial successes accomplish a renown to fill the whole earth. What glory to Judea could she prove the Macedonia of the new Alexander! Alas, again! Under the rabbis valour was possible, but not discipline. And then the taunt of Messala in the garden of Herod- “All you conquer in the six days, you lose on the seventh.”