“I will have the horses brought. Be seated.”
“Are they yoked?”
“Then suffer me to serve myself,” said Ben-Hur. “It is needful that I make the acquaintance of thy Arabs. I must know them by name, O sheik, that I may speak to them singly; nor less must I know their temper, for they are like men: if bold, the better of scolding; if timid, the better of praise and flattery. Let the servants bring me the harness.”
“And the chariot?” asked the sheik.
“I will let the chariot alone to-day. In its place, let them bring me a fifth horse, if thou hast it; he should be barebacked, and fleet as the others.”
Ilderim’s wonder was aroused, and he summoned a servant immediately.
“Bid them bring the harness for the four,” he said; “the harness for the four, and the bridle for Sirius.”
Ilderim then arose.
“Sirius is my love, and I am his, O son of Arrius. We have been comrades for twenty years- in tent, in battle, in all stages of the desert we have been comrades. I will show him to you.”
Going to the division curtain, he held it, while Ben-Hur passed under. The horses came to him in a body. One with a small head, luminous eyes, neck like the segment of a bended bow, and mighty chest, curtained thickly by a profusion of mane soft and wavy as a damsel’s locks, nickered low and gladly at sight of him.
“Good horse,” said the sheik, patting the dark-brown cheek. “Good horse, good-morning.” Turning then to Ben-Hur, he added, “This is Sirius, father of the four here. Mira, the mother, awaits our return, being too precious to be hazarded in a region where there is a stronger hand than mine. And much I doubt,” he laughed as he spoke- “much I doubt, O son of Arrius, if the tribe could endure her absence. She is their glory; they worship her; did she gallop over them, they would laugh. Ten thousand horsemen, sons of the desert, will ask to-day, ‘Have you heard of Mira?’ And to the answer, ‘She is well,’ they will say, ‘God is good! blessed be God!'”
“Mira- Sirius- names of stars, are they not, O sheik?” asked Ben-Hur, going to each of the four, and to the sire, offering his hand.
“And why not?” replied Ilderim “Wert thou ever abroad on the desert at night?”
“Then thou canst not know how much we Arabs depend upon the stars. We borrow their names in gratitude, and give them in love. My fathers all had their Miras, as I have mine; and these children are stars no less. There, see thou, is Rigel, and there Antares; that one is Atair, and he whom thou goest to now is Aldebaran, the youngest of the brood, but none the worse of that- no, not he! Against the wind he will carry thee till it roar in thy ears like Akaba; and he will go where thou sayest, son of Arrius- aye, by the glory of Solomon! he will take thee to the lion’s jaws, if thou darest so much.”