“She kissed his cheek and said, ‘Take me back, O good king, for I am cured.’ “Oraetes laughed, none the worse, that moment, of his hundred and fourteen years.
“‘Then it is true, as Menopha said: ha, ha, ha! it is true, the cure of love is love.’ “‘Even so,’ she replied.
“Suddenly his manner changed, and his look became terrible.
“‘I did not find it so,’ he said.
“She shrank affrighted.
“‘Thou guilty!’ he continued. ‘Thy offence to Oraetes the man he forgives; but thy offence to Oraetes the king remains to be punished.’ “She cast herself at his feet.
“‘Hush!’ he cried. ‘Thou art dead!’ “He clapped his hands, and a terrible procession came in- a procession of parachistes, or embalmers, each with some implement or material of his loathsome art.
“The king pointed to Ne-ne-hofra.
“‘She is dead. Do thy work well.’
“Ne-ne-hofra the beautiful, after seventy-two days, was carried to the crypt chosen for her the year before, and laid with her queenly predecessors; yet there was no funeral procession in her honour across the sacred lake.”
At the conclusion of the story, Ben-Hur was sitting at the Egyptian’s feet, and her hand upon the tiller was covered by his hand.
“Menopha was wrong,” he said.
“Love lives by loving.”
“Then there is no cure for it?”
“Yes. Oraetes found the cure.”
“What was it?”
“You are a good listener, O son of Arrius.”
And so with conversation and stories, they whiled the hours away. As they stepped ashore, she said, “To-morrow we go to the city.”
“But you will be at the games?” he asked.
“I will send you my colours.”
With that they separated.
MESSALA ON GUARD.
ILDERIM returned to the dowar next day about the third hour. As he dismounted, a man whom he recognized as of his own tribe came to him and said, “O sheik, I was bidden give thee this package, with request that thou read it at once. If there be answer, I was to wait thy pleasure.”
Ilderim gave the package immediate attention. The seal was already broken. The address ran, To Valerius Gratus at Caesarea.
“Abaddon take him!” growled the sheik, at discovering a letter in Latin.
Had the missive been in Greek or Arabic, he could have read it; as it was, the utmost he could make out was the signature in bold Roman letters- MESSALA- whereat his eyes twinkled.
“Where is the young Jew?” he asked.
“In the field with the horses,” a servant replied.
The sheik replaced the papyrus in its envelopes, and, tucking the package under his girdle, remounted the horse. That moment a stranger made his appearance, coming, apparently, from the city.
“I am looking for Sheik Ilderim, surnamed the Generous,” the stranger said.