“Son of Hur,” said Simonides, “verily thou dost make servitude lightsome. I was wrong; there are some things thou canst not do; thou canst not make us free in law. I am thy servant forever, because I went to the door with thy father one day, and in my ear the awl-marks yet abide.”

“Did my father that?”

“Judge him not,” cried Simonides, quickly. “He accepted me a servant of that class because I prayed him to do so. I never repented the step. It was the price I paid for Rachel, the mother of my child here; for Rachel, who would not be my wife unless I became what she was.”

“Was she a servant forever?”

“Even so.”

Ben-Hur walked the floor in pain of impotent wish.

“I was rich before,” he said, stopping suddenly. “I was rich with the gifts of the generous Arrius; now comes this greater fortune, and the mind which achieved it. Is there not a purpose of God in it all? Counsel me, O Simonides! Help me to see the right and do it. Help me to be worthy my name, and what thou art in law to me, that will I be to thee in fact and deed. I will be thy servant forever.”

Simonides’ face actually glowed.

“O son of my dead master! I will do better than help; I will serve thee with all my might of mind and heart. Body, I have not; it perished in thy cause; but with mind and heart I will serve thee. I swear it, by the altar of our God, and the gifts upon the altar! Only make me formally what I have assumed to be.”

“Name it,” said Ben-Hur, eagerly.

“As steward the care of the property will be mine.”

“Count thyself steward now; or wilt thou have it in writing?”

“Thy word simply is enough; it was so with the father, and I will not more from the son. And now, if the understanding be perfect”- Simonides paused.

“It is with me,” said Ben-Hur.

“And thou, daughter of Rachel, speak!” said Simonides, lifting her arm from his shoulder.

Esther, left thus alone, stood a moment abashed, her colour coming and going; then she went to Ben-Hur, and said, with a womanliness singularly sweet, “I am not better than my mother was; and, as she is gone, I pray you, O my master, let me care for my father.”

Ben-Hur took her hand, and led her back to the chair, saying, “Thou art a good child. Have thy will.”

Simonides replaced her arm upon his neck, and there was silence for a time in the room.


CHAPTER VIII.

SPIRITUAL OR POLITICAL?- SIMONIDES ARGUES.

SIMONIDES looked up, none the less a master.

“Esther,” he said, quietly, “the night is going fast; and, lest we become too weary for that which is before us, let the refreshments be brought.”