The exercises in the field continued but a little longer- in all about two hours. At their conclusion, Ben-Hur brought the four to a walk, and drove to Ilderim.
“With leave, O sheik,” he said, “I will return thy Arabs to the tent, and bring them out again this afternoon.”
Ilderim walked to him as he sat on Sirius, and said, “I give them to you, son of Arrius, to do with as you will until after the games. You have done with them in two hours what the Roman- may jackals gnaw his bones fleshless!- could not in as many weeks. We will win- by the splendour of God, we will win.”
At the tent Ben-Hur remained with the horses while they were being cared for; then, after a plunge in the lake and a cup of arrack with the sheik, whose flow of spirits was royally exuberant, he dressed himself in his Jewish garb again, and walked with Malluch on into the Orchard.
There was much conversation between the two, not all of it important. One part, however, must not be overlooked. Ben-Hur was speaking.
“I will give you,” he said, “an order for my property stored in the khan this side the river by the Seleucian Bridge. Bring it to me to-day, if you can. And, good Malluch- if I do not overtask you- ”
Malluch protested heartily his willingness to be of service.
“Thank you, Malluch, thank you,” said Ben-Hur. “I will take you at your word, remembering that we are brethren of the old tribe, and that the enemy is a Roman. First, then- as you are a man of business, which I much fear Sheik Ilderim is not- ”
“Arabs seldom are,” said Malluch, gravely.
“Nay, I do not impeach their shrewdness, Malluch. It is well, however, to look after them. To save all forfeit or hindrance in connection with the race, you would put me perfectly at rest by going to the office of the Circus, and seeing that he has complied with every preliminary rule; and if you can get a copy of the rules, the service may be of great avail to me. I would like to know the colours I am to wear, and particularly the number of the crypt I am to occupy at the starting; if it be next Messala’s on the right or left, it is well; if not, and you can have it changed so as to bring me next the Roman, do so. Have you good memory, Malluch?”
“It has failed me but never, son of Arrius, where the heart helped it as now.”
“I will venture, then, to charge you with one further service. I saw yesterday that Messala was proud of his chariot, as he might be, for the best of Caesar’s scarcely surpass it. Can you not make its display an excuse which will enable you to find if it be light or heavy? I would like to have its exact weight and measurements- and, Malluch, though you fail in all else, bring me exactly the height his axle stands above the ground. You understand, Malluch? I do not wish him to have any actual advantage of me. I do not care for his splendour; if I beat him, it will make his fall the harder, and my triumph the more complete. If there are advantages really important, I want them.”