“Last night, while acting as master of the feast for a party just from Rome- their extreme youth and inexperience appealed to my compassion- I heard a singular story. Maxentius, the consul, as you know, comes to-day to conduct a campaign against the Parthians. Of the ambitious who are to accompany him there is one, a son of the late duumvir Quintus Arrius. I had occasion to inquire about him particularly. When Arrius set out in pursuit of the pirates, whose defeat gained him his final honours, he had no family; when he returned from the expedition, he brought back with him an heir. Now be thou composed as becomes the owner of so many talents in ready sestertia! The son and heir of whom I speak is he whom thou didst send to the galleys- the very Ben-Hur who should have died at his oar five years ago- returned now with fortune and rank, and possibly as a Roman citizen, too.- Well, thou art too firmly seated to be alarmed, but I, O my Midas! I am in danger- no need to tell thee of what. Who should know, if thou dost not? “Sayst thou to all this, tut-tut? “When Arrius, the father, by adoption, of this apparition from the arms of the most beautiful of the Oceanides (see above my opinion of what she should be), joined battle with the pirates, his vessel was sunk, and but two of all her crew escaped drowning- Arrius himself, and this one, his heir.
“The officers who took them from the plank on which they were floating say the associate of the unfortunate tribune was a young man who, when lifted to the deck, was in the dress of a galley slave.
“This should be convincing, to say least; but lest thou say tut-tut again, I tell thee. O my Midas! that yesterday, by good chance- I have a vow to Fortune in consequence- I met the mysterious son of Arrius face to face; and I declare now that, though I did not then recognize him, he is the very Ben-Hur who was for years my playmate; the very Ben-Hur who, if he be a man, though of the commonest grade, must this very moment of my writing be thinking of vengeance- for so would I were I he- vengeance not to be satisfied short of life; vengeance for country, mother, sister, self, and- I say it last, though thou mayst think it should be first- for fortune lost.
“By this time, O good my benefactor and friend! my Gratus! in consideration of thy sesteria in peril, their loss being the worst which could befall one of thy high estate- I quit calling thee after the foolish old King of Phrygia- by this time, I say (meaning after having read me so far), I have faith to believe thou hast ceased saying tut-tut, and art ready to think what ought to be done in such emergency.
“It were vulgar to ask thee now what shall be done. Rather let me say I am thy client; or, better yet, thou art my Ulysses whose part it is to give me sound direction.