Taking the roll, Ben-Hur arose, struggling with emotion.
“All this is to me as a light from heaven, sent to drive away a night which has been so long I feared it would never end, and so dark I had lost the hope of seeing,” he said, with a husky voice. “I give first thanks to the Lord, who has not abandoned me, and my next to thee, O Simonides. Thy faithfulness outweighs the cruelty of others, and redeems our human nature. ‘There is nothing I cannot do:’ be it so. Shall any man in this my hour of such mighty privilege be more generous than I? Serve me as a witness now, Sheik Ilderim. Hear thou my words as I shall speak them- hear and remember. And thou, Esther, good angel of this good man! hear thou also.”
He stretched his hand with the roll to Simonides.
“The things these papers take into account- all of them: ships, houses, goods, camels, horses, money; the least as well as the greatest- give I back to thee, O Simonides, making them all thine, and sealing them to thee and thine forever.”
Esther smiled through her tears; Ilderim pulled his beard with rapid motion, his eyes glistening like beads of jet. Simonides alone was calm.
“Sealing them to thee and thine forever,” Ben-Hur continued, with better control of himself, “with one exception, and upon one condition.”
The breath of the listeners waited upon his words.
“The hundred and twenty talents which were my father’s thou shalt return to me.”
Ilderim’s countenance brightened.
“And thou shalt join me in search of my mother and sister, holding all thine subject to the expense of discovery, even as I will hold mine.”
Simonides was much affected. Stretching out his hand, he said, “I see thy spirit, son of Hur, and I am grateful to the Lord that he hath sent thee to me such as thou art. If I served well thy father in life, and his memory afterwards, be not afraid of default to thee; yet must I say the exception cannot stand.”
Exhibiting, then, the reserved sheet, he continued.
“Thou hast not all the account. Take this and read- read aloud.”
Ben-Hur took the supplement, and read it.
“Statement of the servants of Hur, rendered by Simonides, steward of the estate.
1. Amrah, Egyptian, keeping the palace in Jerusalem.
2. Simonides, the steward, in Antioch.
3. Esther, daughter of Simonides.”
Now, in all his thoughts of Simonides, not once had it entered Ben-Hur’s mind that, by the law, a daughter followed the parent’s condition. In all his visions of her, the sweet-faced Esther had figured as the rival of the Egyptian, and an object of possible love. He shrank from the revelation so suddenly brought him, and looked at her blushing; and, blushing, she dropped her eyes before him. Then he said, while the papyrus rolled itself together- “A man with six hundred talents is indeed rich, and may do what he pleases; but, rarer than the money, more priceless than the property, is the mind which amassed the wealth, and the heart it could not corrupt when amassed. O Simonides- and thou- fair Esther- fear not. Sheik Ilderim here shall be witness that in the same moment ye were declared my servants, that moment I declared ye free; and what I declare, that will I put in writing. Is it not enough? Can I do more?”