The harness was brought. With his own hands Ben-Hur equipped the horses; with his own hands he led them out of the tent, and there attached the reins.
“Bring me Sirius,” he said.
An Arab could not have better sprung to seat on the courser’s back.
“And now the reins.”
They were given him, and carefully separated.
“Good sheik,” he said, “I am ready. Let a guide go before me to the field, and send some of thy men with water.”
There was no trouble at starting. The horses were not afraid. Already there seemed a tacit understanding between them and the new driver, who had performed his part calmly, and with the confidence which always begets confidence. The order of going was precisely that of driving, except that Ben-Hur sat upon Sirius instead of standing in the chariot. Ilderim’s spirit arose. He combed his beard, and smiled with satisfaction as he muttered, “He is not a Roman, no, by the splendour of God!” He followed on foot, the entire tenantry of the dowar- men, women, and children- pouring after him, participants all in his solicitude, if not in his confidence.
The field, when reached, proved ample and well fitted for the training, which Ben-Hur began immediately by driving the four at first slowly, and in perpendicular lines, and then in wide circles. Advancing a step in the course, he put them next into a trot; again progressing, he pushed into a gallop; at length he contracted the circles, and yet later drove eccentrically here and there, right, left, forward, and without a break. An hour was thus occupied. Slowing the gait to a walk, he drove up to Ilderim.
“The work is done, nothing now but practice,” he said. “I give you joy, Sheik Ilderim, than you have such servants as these. See,” he continued, dismounting and going to the horses, “see, the gloss of their red coats is without spot; they breathe lightly as when I began. I give thee great joy, and it will go hard if”- he turned his flashing eyes upon the old man’s face- “if we have not the victory and our- ”
He stopped, coloured, bowed. At the sheik’s side he observed, for the first time, Balthasar, leaning upon his staff, and two women closely veiled. At one of the latter he looked a second time, saying to himself, with a flutter about his heart, “‘Tis she- ’tis the Egyptian!” Ilderim picked up his broken sentence- “The victory, and our revenge!” Then he said aloud, “I am not afraid; I am glad. Son of Arrius, thou art the man. Be the end like the beginning, and thou shalt see of what stuff is the lining of the hand of an Arab who is able to give.”
“I thank thee, good sheik,” Ben-Hur returned, modestly. “Let the servants bring drink for the horses.”
With his own hands he gave the water.
Remounting Sirius, he renewed the training, going as before from walk to trot, from trot to gallop; finally, he pushed the steady racers into the run, gradually quickening it to full speed. The performance then became exciting; and there were applause for the dainty handling of the reins, and admiration for the four, which were the same, whether they flew forward or wheeled in varying curvature. In their action there were unity, power, grace, pleasure, all without effort or sign of labour. The admiration was unmixed with pity or reproach, which would have been as well bestowed upon swallows in their evening flight.