She rang a bell. A servant answered with wine and bread, which she bore round.
“The understanding, good my master,” continued Simonides, when all were served, “is not perfect in my sight. Henceforth our lives will run on together like rivers which have met and joined their waters. I think their flowing will be better if every cloud is blown from the sky above them. You left my door the other day with what seemed a denial of the claims which I have just allowed in the broadest terms; but it was not so, indeed it was not. Esther is witness that I recognised you; and that I did not abandon you, let Malluch say.”
“Malluch!” exclaimed Ben-Hur.
“One bound to a chair, like me, must have many hands far-reaching, if he would move the world from which he is so cruelly barred. I have many such, and Malluch is one of the best of them. And, sometimes”- he cast a grateful glance at the sheik- “sometimes I borrow from others good of heart, like Ilderim the Generous- good and brave. Let him say if I either denied or forgot you.”
Ben-Hur looked at the Arab.
“This is he, good Ilderim, this is he who told you of me?”
Ilderim’s eyes twinkled as he nodded his answer.
“How, O my master,” said Simonides, “may we without trial tell what a man is? I knew you; I saw your father in you; but the kind of man you were I did not know. There are people to whom fortune is a curse in disguise. Were you of them? I sent Malluch to find out for me, and in the service he was my eyes and ears. Do not blame him. He brought me report of you which was all good.”
“I do not,” said Ben-Hur, heartily. “There was wisdom in your goodness.”
“The words are very pleasant to me,” said the merchant, with feeling, “very pleasant. My fear of misunderstanding is laid. Let the rivers run on now as God may give them direction.”
After an interval he continued- “I am compelled now by truth. The weaver sits weaving, and, as the shuttle flies, the cloth increases, and the figures grow, and he dreams dreams meanwhile; so to my hands the fortune grew, and I wondered at the increase, and asked myself about it many times. I could see a care not my own went with the enterprises I set going. The simooms which smote others on the desert pumped over the things which were mine. The storms which heaped the seashore with wrecks did but blow my ships the sooner into port. Strangest of all, I, so dependent upon others, fixed to a place like a dead thing, had never a loss by an agent- never. The elements stooped to serve me, and all my servants, in fact, were faithful.”
“It is very strange,” said Ben-Hur.
“So I said, and kept saying. Finally, O my master, finally I came to be of your opinion- God was in it- and, like you, I asked, What can his purpose be? Intelligence is never wasted; intelligence like God’s never stirs except with design. I have held the question in heart, lo! these many years, watching for an answer. I felt sure, if God were in it, some day, in his own good time, in his own way, he would show me his purpose, making it clear as a whited house upon a hill. And I believe he has done so.”