Three persons were present, looking at him- Simonides, Ilderim, and Esther.
He glanced hurriedly from one to another, as if to find answer to the question half formed in his mind, What business can these have with me? He became calm, with every sense on the alert, for the question was succeeded by another, Are they friends or enemies? At length, his eyes rested upon Esther.
The men returned his look kindly; in her face there was something more than kindness- something too spirituel for definition, which yet went to his inner consciousness without definition.
Shall it be said, good reader? Back of his gaze there was a comparison in which the Egyptian arose and set herself over against the gentle Jewess; but it lived an instant, and, as is the habit of such comparisons, passed away without a conclusion.
“Son of Hur- ”
The guest turned to the speaker.
“Son of Hur,” said Simonides, repeating the address slowly, and with distinct emphasis, as if to impress all its meaning upon him most interested in understanding it, “take thou the peace of the Lord God of our fathers- take it from me.” He paused, then added, “From me and mine.”
The speaker sat in his chair; there were the royal head, the bloodless face, the masterful air, under the influence of which visitors forgot the broken limbs and distorted body of the man. The full black eyes gazed out under the white brows steadily, but not sternly. A moment thus, then he crossed his hands upon his breast.
The action, taken with the salutation, could not be misunderstood, and was not.
“Simonides,” Ben-Hur answered, much moved, “the holy peace you tender is accepted. As son to father, I return it to you. Only let there be perfect understanding between us.”
Thus delicately he sought to put aside the submission of the merchant, and, in place of the relation of master and servant, substitute one higher and holier.
Simonides let fall his hands, and, turning to Esther, said, “A seat for the master, daughter.”
She hastened, and brought a stool, and stood, with suffused face, looking from one to the other- from Ben-Hur to Simonides, from Simonides to Ben-Hur; and they waited, each declining the superiority direction would imply. When at length the pause began to be embarrassing, Ben-Hur advanced, and gently took the stool from her, and, going to the chair, placed it at the merchant’s feet.
“I will sit here,” he said.
His eyes met hers- an instant only; but both were better of the look. He recognised her gratitude, she his generosity and forbearance.
Simonides bowed his acknowledgment.
“Esther, child, bring me the paper,” he said, with a breath of relief.
She went to a panel in the wall, opened it, took out a roll of papyri, and brought and gave it to him.
“Thou saidst well, son of Hur,” Simonides began, while unrolling the sheets. “Let us understand each other. In anticipation of the demand- which I would have made hadst thou waived it- I have here a statement covering everything necessary to the understanding required. I could see but two points involved- the property first, and then our relation. The statement is explicit as to both. Will it please thee to read it now?”