He illustrated the process by clapping his hand over his own mouth.
“I see,” said Ben-Hur; “ten thousand sestertii is a fortune. It will enable you to return to Rome, and open a wine-shop near the Great Circus, and live as becomes the first of the lanistae.”
The very scars on the giant’s face glowed afresh with the pleasure the picture gave him.
“I will make it four thousand,” Ben-Hur continued; “and in what you shall do for the money there will be no blood on your hands, Thord. Hear me now. Did not your friend here look like me?”
“I would have said he was an apple from the same tree.”
“Well, if I put on his tunic, and dress him in these clothes of mine, and you and I go away together, leaving him here, can you not get your sestertii from Messala all the same? You have only to make him believe it me that is dead.”
Thord laughed till the tears ran into his mouth.
“Ha, ha, ha! Ten thousand sestertii were never won so easily. And a wine-shop by the Great Circus!- all for a lie without blood in it! Ha, ha, ha! Give me thy hand, O son of Arrius. Get on now, and- ha, ha, ha!- if ever you come to Rome, fail not to ask for the wine-shop of Thord the Northman. By the beard of Irmin, I will give you the best, though I borrow it from Caesar!”
They shook hands again; after which the exchange of clothes was effected. It was arranged then that a messenger should go at night to Thord’s lodging-place with the four thousand sestertii. When they were done, the giant knocked at the front door; it opened to him; and, passing out of the atrium, he led Ben-Hur into a room adjoining, where the latter completed his attire from the coarse garments of the dead pugilist. They separated directly in the Omphalus.
“Fail not, O son of Arrius, fail not the wine-shop near the Great Circus! Ha, ha, ha! By the beard of Irmin, there never was fortune gained so cheap. The gods keep you.”
Upon leaving the atrium, Ben-Hur gave a last look at the myrmidon as he lay in the Jewish vestments, and was satisfied. The likeness was striking. If Thord kept faith, the cheat was a secret to endure forever.
* * * * *
At night, in the house of Simonides, Ben-Hur told the good man all that had taken place in the palace of Idernee; and it was agreed that, after a few days, public inquiry should be set afloat for the discovery of the whereabouts of the son of Arrius. Eventually the matter was to be carried boldly to Maxentius; then, if the mystery came not out, it was concluded that Messala and Gratus would be at rest and happy, and Ben-Hur free to betake himself to Jerusalem, to make search for his lost people.