On the way, they came upon Malluch in waiting for them. The faithful fellow gave no sign by which it was possible to infer any knowledge on his part of the relationship so recently admitted between Ben-Hur and Simonides, or of the treaty between them and Ilderim. He exchanged salutations as usual, and produced a paper, saying to the sheik, “I have here the notice of the editor of the games, just issued, in which you will find your horses published for the race. You will find in it also the order of exercises. Without waiting, good sheik, I congratulate you upon your victory.”
He gave the paper over, and, leaving the worthy to master it, turned to Ben-Hur.
“To you also, son of Arrius, my congratulations. There is nothing now to prevent your meeting Messala. Every condition preliminary to the race is complied with. I have the assurance from the editor himself.”
“I thank you, Malluch,” said Ben-Hur.
Malluch proceeded- “Your colour is white, and Messala’s mixed scarlet and gold. The good effects of the choice are visible already. Boys are now hawking white ribbons along the streets; to-morrow every Arab and Jew in the city will wear them. In the circus you will see the white fairly divide the galleries with the red.”
“The galleries- but not the tribunal over the Porta Pompae.”
“No; the scarlet and gold will rule there. But if we win”- Malluch chuckled with the pleasure of the thought- “if we win, how the dignitaries will tremble! They will bet, of course, according to their scorn of everything not Roman- two, three, five to one on Messala, because he is Roman.” Dropping his voice yet lower, he added, “it ill becomes a Jew of good standing in the Temple to put his money at such a hazard; yet, in confidence, I will have a friend next behind the consul’s seat to accept offers of three to one, or five, or ten- the madness may go to such height. I have put to his order six thousand shekels for the purpose.”
“Nay, Malluch,” said Ben-Hur, “a Roman will wager only in his Roman coin. Suppose you find your friend to-night, and place to his order sestertii in such amount as you choose. And look you, Malluch- let him be instructed to seek wagers with Messala and his supporters; Ilderim’s four against Messala’s.”
Malluch reflected a moment.
“The effect will be to centre interest upon your contest.”
“The very thing I seek, Malluch.”
“I see, I see.”
“Ay, Malluch; would you serve me perfectly, help me to fix the public eye upon our race- Messala’s and mine.”
Malluch spoke quickly- “It can be done.”
“Then let it be done,” said Ben-Hur.
“Enormous wagers offered will answer; if the offers are accepted, all the better.”
Malluch turned his eyes watchfully upon Ben-Hur.
“Shall I not have back the equivalent of his robbery?” said Ben-Hur, partly to himself. “Another opportunity may not come. And if I could break him in fortune as well as in pride! Our father Jacob could take no offence.”