So it happened he never approached the chasm thinking to surmount it, but he was beaten back; and so incessantly had he failed in the object that he had about given it over, except as a thing of chance. The hero might be discovered in his day, or he might not. God only knew. Such his state of mind, there need be no lingering upon the effect of Malluch’s skeleton recital of the story of Balthasar. He heard it with a bewildering satisfaction- a feeling that here was the solution of the trouble- here was the requisite hero found at last; and he a son of the Lion tribe, and King of the Jews! Behind the hero, lo! the world in arms.
The king implied a kingdom; he was to be a warrior glorious as David, a ruler wise and magnificent as Solomon; the kingdom was to be a power against which Rome was to dash itself to pieces. There would be colossal war, and the agonies of death and birth- then peace, meaning, of course, Judean dominion forever.
Ben-Hur’s heart beat hard as for an instant he had a vision of Jerusalem the capital of the world, and Zion, the site of the throne of the Universal Master.
It seemed to the enthusiast rare fortune that the man who had seen the king was at the tent to which he was going. He could see him there, and hear him, and learn of him what all he knew of the coming change, especially all he knew of the time of its happening. If it were at hand, the campaign with Maxentius should be abandoned; and he would go and set about organizing and arming the tribes, that Israel might be ready when the great day of the restoration began to break.
Now, as we have seen, from Balthasar himself Ben-Hur had the marvellous story. Was he satisfied? There was a shadow upon him deeper than that of the cluster of palms- the shadow of a great uncertainty, which- take note, O reader I which pertained more to the kingdom than the king.
“What of this kingdom? And what is it to be?” Ben-Hur asked himself in thought.
Thus early arose the questions which were to follow the Child to his end, and survive him on earth- incomprehensible in his day, a dispute in this- an enigma to all who do not or cannot understand that every man is two in one- a deathless Soul and a mortal Body.
“What is it to be?” he asked.
For us, O reader, the Child himself has answered; but for Ben-Hur there were only the words of Balthasar, “On the earth, yet not of it- not for men, but for their souls- a dominion, nevertheless, of unimaginable glory.”
What wonder the hapless youth found the phrases but the darkening of a riddle? “The hand of man is not in it,” he said, despairingly. “Nor has the king of such a kingdom use for men; neither toilers, nor councillors, nor soldiers. The earth must die or be made anew, and for government new principles must be discovered- something besides armed hands- something in place of Force. But what?”