And hear from afar the Memnonian strain,

And calls from dear Simbel;

And wake to a passion of grief and pain

That e’er I said- Farewell!”

At the conclusion of the song the singer was past the cluster of palms. The last word- farewell- floated past Ben-Hur weighted with all the sweet sorrow of parting. The passing of the boat was as the passing of a deeper shadow into the deeper night.

Ben-Hur drew a long breath hardly distinguishable from a sigh.

“I know her by the song- the daughter of Balthasar. How beautiful it was! And how beautiful is she!”

He recalled her large eyes curtained slightly by the drooping lids, the cheeks oval and rosy rich, the lips full and deep with dimpling in the corners, and all the grace of the tall lithe figure.

“How beautiful she is!” he repeated.

And his heart made answer by a quickening of its movement.

Then, almost the same instant, another face, younger and quite as beautiful- more childlike and tender, if not so passionate- appeared as if held up to him out of the lake.

“Esther!” he said, smiling. “As I wished, a star has been sent to me.”

He turned, and passed slowly back to the tent.

His life had been crowded with griefs and with vengeful preparations- too much crowded for love. Was this the beginning of a happy change? And if the influence went with him into the tent, whose was it? Esther had given him a cup.

So had the Egyptian.

And both had come to him at the same time under the palms.

Which?


Ben-Hur Table of Contents of the On-Line Edition. Cf. Ben-Hur in Print, at Amazon