The procession was then formed, and, midst the shouting of the multitude which had had its will, passed out of the Gate of Triumph.

And the day was over.


CHAPTER XV.

THE INVITATION OF IRAS.

BEN-HUR tarried across the river with Ilderim; for at midnight, as previously determined, they would take the road which the caravan, then thirty hours out, had pursued.

The sheik was happy; his offers of gifts had been royal; but Ben-Hur had refused everything, insisting that he was satisfied with the humiliation of his enemy. The generous dispute was long continued.

“Think,” the sheik would say, “what thou hast done for me. In every black tent down to the Akaba and to the ocean, and across to the Euphrates, and beyond to the sea of the Scythians, the renown of my Mira and her children will go; and they who sing of them will magnify me, and forget that I am in the wane of life; and all the spears now masterless will come to me, and my sword-hands multiply past counting. Thou dost not know what it is to have sway of the desert such as will now be mine. I tell thee it will bring tribute incalculable from commerce, and immunity from kings. Ay, by the sword of Solomon! doth my messenger seek favour for me of Caesar, that will he get. Yet nothing- nothing?”

And Ben-Hur would answer- “Nay, sheik, have I not thy hand and heart? Let thy increase of power and influence inure to the King who comes. Who shall say it was not allowed thee for him? In the work I am going to, I may have great need. Saying no now will leave me to ask of thee with better grace hereafter.”

In the midst of a controversy of the kind, two messengers arrived- Malluch and one unknown. The former was admitted first.

The good fellow did not attempt to hide his joy over the event of the day.

“But, coming to that with which I am charged,” he said, “the master Simonides sends me to say that, upon the adjournment of the games, some of the Roman faction made haste to protest against payment of the money prize.”

Ilderim started up, crying, in his shrillest tones- “By the splendour of God! the East shall decide whether the race was fairly won.”

“Nay, good sheik,” said Malluch, “the editor has paid the money.”

“Tis well.”

“When they said Ben-Hur struck Messala’s wheel, the editor laughed, and reminded them of the blow the Arabs had at the turn of the goal.”

“And what of the Athenian?”

“He is dead.”

“Dead!” cried Ben-Hur.

“Dead!” echoed Ilderim. “What fortune these Roman monsters have! Messala escaped?”

“Escaped- yes, O sheik, with life; but it shall be a burden to him. The physicians say he will live, but never walk again.”

Ben-Hur looked silently up to heaven. He had a vision of Messala, chair-bound like Simonides, and, like him, going abroad on the shoulders of servants. The good man had abode well; but what would this one with his pride and ambition? “Simonides bade me say, further,” Malluch continued, “Sanballat is having trouble. Drusus, and those who signed with him, referred the question of paying the five talents they lost to the Consul Maxentius, and he has referred it to Caesar. Messala also refused his losses, and Sanballat, in imitation of Drusus, went to the consul, where the matter is still in advisement. The better Romans say the protestants shall not be excused; and all the adverse factions join with them. The city rings with the scandal.”