As the charioteers move on in the circuit, the excitement increases; at the second goal, where, especially in the galleries, the white is the ruling colour, the people exhaust their flowers and rive the air with screams.
Such are the cries.
Upon the passage of the procession, the factionists take their seats and resume conversation.
“Ah, by Bacchus! was he not handsome?” exclaims a woman. whose Romanism is betrayed by the colours flying in her hair.
“And how splendid his chariot!” replies a neighbour, of the same proclivities. “It is all ivory and gold. Jupiter grant he wins!”
The notes on the bench behind them were entirely different.
“A hundred shekels on the Jew!”
The voice is high and shrill.
“Nay, be thou not rash,” whispers a moderating friend to the speaker. “The children of Jacob are not much given to Gentile sports, which are too often accursed in the sight of the Lord.”
“True, but saw you ever one more cool and assured? And what an arm he has!”
“And what horses!” says a third.
“And for that,” a fourth one adds, “they say he has all the tricks of the Romans.”
A woman completes the eulogium.
“Yes, and he is even handsomer than the Roman.”
Thus encouraged, the enthusiast shrieks again, “A hundred shekels on the Jew!”
“Thou fool!” answers an Antiochian, from a bench well forward on the balcony. “Knowest thou not there are fifty talents laid against him, six to one, on Messala? Put up thy shekels, lest Abraham rise and smite thee.”
“Ha, ha! thou ass of Antioch! Cease thy bray. Knowest thou not it was Messala betting on himself?”
Such the reply.
And so ran the controversy, not always good-natured.
When at length the march was ended and the Porta Pompae received back the procession, Ben-Hur knew he had his prayer.
The eyes of the East were upon his contest with Messala.
ABOUT three o’clock, speaking in modern style, the programme was concluded except the chariot-race. The editor, wisely considerate of the comfort of the people, chose that time for a recess. At once the vomitoria were thrown open, and all who could hastened to the portico outside where the restaurateurs had their quarters. Those who remained yawned, talked, gossiped, consulted their tablets, and, all distinctions else forgotten, merged into but two classes- the winners, who were happy, and the losers, who were grim and captious.
Now, however, a third class of spectators, composed of citizens who desired only to witness the chariot-race, availed themselves of the recess to come in and take their reserved seats; by so doing they thought to attract the least attention and give the least offence. Among these were Simonides and his party, whose places were in the vicinity of the main entrance on the north side, opposite the consul.