“Let him look to it, let him look to it! Ha, Antares- Aldebaran! Shall he not, O honest Rigel? and thou, Atair, king among coursers, shall he not beware of us? Ha, ha! good hearts!”
So in rests he passed from horse to horse, speaking, not as a master, but the senior of as many brethren.
After nightfall, Ben-Hur sat by the door of the tent waiting for Ilderim, not yet returned from the city. He was not impatient, or vexed, or doubtful. The sheik would be heard from, at least. Indeed, whether it was from satisfaction with the performance of the four, or the refreshment there is in cold water succeeding bodily exercise, or supper partaken with royal appetite, or the reaction which, as a kindly provision of nature, always follows depression, the young man was in good-humour verging upon elation. He felt himself in the hands of Providence no longer his enemy. At last there was a sound of horse’s feet coming rapidly, and Malluch rode up.
“Son of Arrius,” he said, cheerily, after salutation, “I salute you for Sheik Ilderim, who requests you to mount and go to the city. He is waiting for you.”
Ben-Hur asked no questions, but went in where the horses were feeding. Aldebaran came to him, as if offering his service. He played with him lovingly, but passed on, and chose another, not of the four- they were sacred to the race. Very shortly the two were on the road, going swiftly and in silence.
Some distance below the Seleucian Bridge, they crossed the river by a ferry, and, riding far round on the right bank, and recrossing by another ferry, entered the city from the west. The detour was long, but Ben-Hur accepted it as a precaution for which there was good reason.
Down to Simonides’ landing they rode, and in front of the great warehouse, under the bridge, Malluch drew rein.
“We are come,” he said. “Dismount.”
Ben-Hur recognised the place.
“Where is the sheik?” he asked.
“Come with me. I will show you.”
A watchman took the horses, and almost before he realised it Ben-Hur stood once more at the door of the house up on the greater one, listening to the response from within- “In God’s name, enter.”
SIMONIDES RENDERS ACCOUNT.
MALLUCH stopped at the door; Ben-Hur entered alone.
The room was the same in which he had formerly interviewed Simonides, and it had been in nowise changed, except now, close by the arm-chair, a polished brazen rod, set on a broad wooden pedestal, arose higher than a tall man, holding lamps of silver on sliding arms, half-a-dozen or more in number, and all burning. The light was clear, bringing into view the panelling on the walls, the cornice with its row of gilded balls, and the dome dully tinted with violet mica.
Within, a few steps, Ben-Hur stopped.