He ground his teeth and shook his hands overhead; then, under the impulse of another idea, he walked away and back again to Ben-Hur swiftly, and caught his shoulder with a strong grasp.
“If I were as thou, son of Arrius- as young, as strong, as practised in arms; if I had a motive hissing me to revenge- a motive, like thine, great enough to make hate holy.- Away with disguise on thy part and on mine! Son of Hur, son of Hur, I say- ”
At that name all the currents of Ben-Hur’s blood stopped; surprised, bewildered, he gazed into the Arab’s eyes, now close to his, and fiercely bright.
“Son of Hur, I say, were I as thou, with half thy wrongs, bearing about with me memories like thine, I would not, I could not, rest.” Never pausing, his words following each other torrent-like, the old man swept on. “To all my grievances, I would add those of the world, and devote myself to vengeance. From land to land I would go firing all mankind. No war for freedom but should find me engaged; no battle against Rome in which I would not bear a part. I would turn Parthian, if I could not better. If men failed me, still I would not give over the effort- ha, ha, ha! By the splendour of God! I would herd with wolves, and make friends of lions and tigers, in hope of marshalling them against the common enemy. I would use every weapon. So my victims were Romans, I would rejoice in slaughter. Quarter I would not ask; quarter I would not give. To the flames everything Roman; to the sword every Roman born. Of nights I would pray the gods, the good and the bad alike, to lend me their special terrors- tempests, drought, heat, cold, and all the nameless poisons they let loose in air, all the thousand things of which men die on sea and on land. Oh, I could not sleep. I- I- ”
The sheik stopped for want of breath, panting, wringing his hands. And, sooth to say, of all the passionate burst Ben-Hur retained but a vague impression wrought by fiery eyes, a piercing voice, and a rage too intense for coherent expression.
For the first time in years, the desolate youth heard himself addressed by his proper name. One man at least knew him, and acknowledged it without demand of identity; and he an Arab fresh from the desert! How came the man by his knowledge? The letter? No. It told the cruelties from which his family had suffered; it told the story of his own misfortunes, but it did not say he was the very victim whose escape from doom was the theme of the heartless narrative. That was the point of explanation he had notified the sheik would follow the reading of the letter. He was pleased, and thrilled with hope restored, yet kept an air of calmness.