Ben-Hur received the papers, but glanced at Ilderim.

“Nay,” said Simonides, “the sheik shall not deter thee from reading. The account- such thou wilt find it- is of a nature requiring a witness. In the attesting place at the end thou wilt find, when thou comest to it, the name- Ilderim, Sheik. He knows all. He is thy friend. All he has been to me, that will he be to thee also.”

Simonides looked at the Arab, nodding pleasantly, and the latter gravely returned the nod, saying, “Thou hast said.”

Ben-Hur replied, “I know already the excellence of his friendship, and have yet to prove myself worthy of it.” Immediately he continued, “Later, O Simonides, I will read the papers carefully; for the present, do thou take them, and if thou be not too weary, give me their substance.”

Simonides took back the roll.

“Here, Esther, stand by me and receive the sheets, lest they fall into confusion.”

She took place by his chair, letting her right arm fall lightly across his shoulder, so, when he spoke, the account seemed to have rendition from both of them jointly.

“This,” said Simonides, drawing out the first leaf, “shows the money I had of thy father’s, being the amount saved from the Romans; there was no property saved, only money, and that the robbers would have secured but for our Jewish custom of bills of exchange. The amount saved, being sums I drew from Rome, Alexandria, Damascus, Carthage, Valentia, and elsewhere within the circle of trade, was one hundred and twenty talents Jewish money.”

He gave the sheet to Esther, and took the next one.

“With that amount- one hundred and twenty talents- I charged myself. Hear now my credits. I use the word, as thou wilt see, with reference rather to the proceeds gained from the use of the money.”

From separate sheets he then read footings, which, fractions omitted, were as follows:-

CR.

By ships…………………………… 60 talents ” goods in store…………………… 110 ”

” cargoes in transit……………….. 75 ”

” camels, horses, etc………………. 20 ”

” warehouses………………………. 10 ”

” bills due……………………….. 54 ”

” money on hand and subject to draft…. 224 ”

Total…………………… 553 ”

“To these now, to the five hundred and fifty-three talents gained, add the original capital I had from thy father, and thou hast SIX HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-THREE TALENTS!- and all thine- making thee, O son of Hur, the richest subject in the world.”

He took the papyri from Esther, and, reserving one, rolled them and offered them to Ben-Hur. The pride perceptible in his manner was not offensive; it might have been from a sense of duty well done; it might have been for Ben-Hur without reference to himself.

“And there is nothing,” he added, dropping his voice, but not his eyes- “there is nothing now thou mayst not do.”

The moment was one of absorbing interest to all present. Simonides crossed his hands upon his breast again; Esther was anxious; Ilderim nervous. A man is never so on trial as in the moment of excessive good-fortune.