A look of determined will knit his handsome face, giving emphasis to his further speech.
“Yes, it shall be. Hark, Malluch! Stop not in thy offer of sestertii. Advance them to talents, if any there be who dare so high. Five, ten, twenty talents; ay, fifty, so the wager be with Messala himself.”
“It is a mighty sum,” said Malluch. “I must have security.”
“So thou shalt. Go to Simonides, and tell him I wish the matter arranged. Tell him my heart is set on the ruin of my enemy and that the opportunity hath such excellent promise that I choose such hazards. On our side be the God of our fathers! Go, good Malluch. Let this not slip.”
And Malluch, greatly delighted, gave him parting salutation, and started to ride away, but returned presently.
“Your pardon,” he said to Ben-Hur. “There was another matter. I could not get near Messala’s chariot myself, but I had another measure it; and, from his report, its hub stands quite a palm higher from the ground than yours.”
“A palm! So much?” cried Ben-Hur, joyfully.
Then he leaned over to Malluch.
“As thou art a son of Judah, Malluch, and faithful to thy kin, get thee a seat in the gallery over the Gate of Triumph, down close to the balcony in front of the pillars, and watch well when we make the turns there; watch well, for if I have favour at all, I will- Nay, Malluch, let it go unsaid! Only get thee there, and watch well.
At that moment a cry burst from Ilderim.
“Ha! By the splendour of God! what is this?”
He drew near Ben-Hur with a finger pointing on the face of the notice.
“Read,” said Ben-Hur.
“No; better thou.”
Ben-Hur took the paper, which, signed by the prefect of the province as editor, performed the office of a modern programme, giving particularly the several divertisements provided for the occasion. It informed the public that there would be first a procession of extraordinary splendour; that the procession would be succeeded by the customary honours to the god Consus whereupon the games would begin; running, leaping, wrestling, boxing, each in the order stated. The names of the competitors were given, with their several nationalities and schools of training, the trials in which they had been engaged, the prizes won, and the prizes now offered; under the latter head the sums of money were stated in illuminated letters, telling of the departure of the day when the simple chaplet of pine or laurel was fully enough for the victor, hungering for glory as something better than riches, and content with it.
Over these parts of the programme Ben-Hur sped with rapid eyes. At last he came to the announcement of the race. He read it slowly. Attending lovers of the heroic sports were assured they would certainly be gratified by an Orestean struggle unparalleled in Antioch. The city offered the spectacle in honour of the consul. One hundred thousand sestertii and a crown of laurel were the prizes. Then followed the particulars. The entries were six in all- fours only permitted; and, to further interest in the performance, the competitors would be turned into the course together. Each four then received description.