“Hush! One to one, my countrymen- one to one, for love of our ancient Roman name.”
The timely action recovered him his ascendancy.
“O thou circumcised dog!” he continued, to Sanballat, “I gave thee six to one, did I not?”
“Yes,” said the Jew, quietly.
“Well, give me now the fixing of the amount.”
“With reserve, if the amount be trifling, have thy will,” answered Sanballat.
“Write, then, five in place of twenty.”
“Hast thou so much?”
“By the mother of the gods, I will show you receipts.”
“Nay, the word of so brave a Roman must pass. Only make the sum even- six make it, and I will write.”
“Write it so.”
And forthwith they exchanged writings.
Sanballat immediately arose and looked around him, a sneer in place of his smile. No man better than he knew those with whom he was dealing.
“Romans,” he said, “another wager, if you dare! Five talents against five talents that the white will win. I challenge you collectively.”
They were again surprised.
“What!” he cried louder. “Shall it be said in the Circus to-morrow that a dog of Israel went into the saloon of the palace full of Roman nobles- among them the scion of a Caesar- and laid five talents before them in challenge, and they had not the courage to take it up?”
The sting was unendurable.
“Have done, O insolent!” said Drusus; “write the challenge, and leave it on the table; and to-morrow, if we find thou hast indeed so much money to put at such hopeless hazard, I, Drusus, promise it shall be taken.”
Sanballat wrote again, and, rising, said, unmoved as ever, “See, Drusus, I leave the offer with you. When it is signed, send it to me any time before the race begins. I will be found with the consul in a seat over the Porta Pompae. Peace to you; peace to all.”
He bowed, and departed, careless of the shout of derision with which they pursued him out of the door.
In the night the story of the prodigious wager flew along the streets and over the city; and Ben-Hur, lying with his four, was told of it, and also that Messala’s whole fortune was on the hazard.
And he slept never so soundly.
THE Circus at Antioch stood on the south bank of the river, nearly opposite the island, differing in no respect from the plan of such buildings in general.
In the purest sense, the games were a gift to the public; consequently, everybody was free to attend; and, vast as the holding capacity of the structure was, so fearful were the people, on this occasion, lest there should not be room for them, that, early the day before the opening of the exhibition, they took up all the vacant spaces in the vicinity, where their temporary shelter suggested an army in waiting.