“And I please myself thinking I see thee when this letter is put into thy hand. I see thee read it once, thy countenance all gravity, and then again with a smile; then, hesitation ended, and thy judgment formed, it is this, or it is that; wisdom like Mercury’s, promptitude like Caesar’s.

“The sun is now fairly risen. An hour hence two messengers will depart from my door, each with a sealed copy hereof; one of them will go by land, the other by sea, so important do I regard it that thou shouldst be early and particularly informed of the appearance of our enemy in this part of our Roman world.

“I will await thy answer here.

“Ben-Hur’s going and coming will of course be regulated by his master, the consul, who, though he exert himself without rest day and night, cannot get away under a month. Thou knowest what work it is to assemble and provide for an army destined to operate in a desolate, townless country.

“I saw the Jew yesterday in the Grove of Daphne; and if he be not there now, he is certainly in the neighbourhood, making it easy for me to keep him in eye. Indeed, wert thou to ask me where he is now, I should say, with the most positive assurance, he is to be found at the Orchard of Palms, under the tent of the traitor Sheik Ilderim, who cannot long escape our strong hand. Be not surprised if Maxentius, as his first measure, places the Arab on ship for forwarding to Rome.

“I am so particular about the whereabouts of the Jew because it will be important to thee, O illustrious! when thou comest to consider what is to be done; for already I know, and by the knowledge I flatter myself I am growing in wisdom, that in every scheme involving human action there are three elements always to be taken into account- time, place, and agency.

“If thou sayest this is the place, have thou then no hesitancy in trusting the business to thy most loving friend, who would be thy aptest scholar as well.

“MESSALA.”


CHAPTER II.

ILDERIM’S ARABS UNDER THE YOKE.

ABOUT the time the couriers departed from Messala’s door with the despatches (it being yet the early morning hour), Ben-Hur entered Ilderim’s tent. He had taken a plunge into the lake, and breakfasted, and appeared now in an under-tunic, sleeveless, and with skirt scarcely reaching to the knee.

The sheik saluted him from the divan.

“I give thee peace, son of Arrius,” he said, with admiration, for, in truth, he had never seen a more perfect illustration of glowing, powerful, confident manhood. “I give thee peace and good-will. The horses are ready, I am ready. And thou?”

“The peace thou givest me, good sheik, I give thee in return. I thank thee for so much good-will. I am ready.”

Ilderim clapped his hands.