By-and-by, the sleep being yet upon him, another woman appeared at the corner of the palace. The two in the shade saw her plainly in the light; a small figure, much-bent, dark-skinned, grey-haired, dressed neatly in servant’s garb, and carrying a basket full of vegetables.
At sight of the man upon the step the new-comer stopped; then, as if decided, she walked on- very lightly as she drew near the sleeper. Passing round him, she went to the gate, slid the wicket latch easily to one side, and put her hand in the opening. One of the broad boards in the left valve swung ajar without noise. She put the basket through, and was about to follow, when, yielding to curiosity, she lingered to have one look at the stranger whose face was below her in open view.
The spectators across the street heard a low exclamation, and saw the woman rub her eyes as if to renew their power, bend closer down, clasp her hands, gaze wildly around, look at the sleeper, stoop and raise the outlying hand, and kiss it fondly- that which they wished so mightily to do, but dared not.
Awakened by the action, Ben-Hur instinctively withdrew the hand; as he did so, his eyes met the woman’s.
“Amrah! O Amrah, is it thou?” he said.
The good heart made no answer in words, but fell upon his neck, crying for joy.
Gently he put her arms away, and lifting the dark face wet with tears, kissed it, his joy only a little less than hers. Then those across the way heard him say- “Mother- Tirzah- O Amrah, tell me of them! Speak, speak, I pray thee!”
Amrah only cried afresh.
“Thou hast seen them, Amrah. Thou knowest where they are; tell me they are at home.”
Tirzah moved, but the mother, divining her purpose, caught her and whispered, “Do not go- not for life. Unclean, unclean!”
Her love was in a tyrannical mood. Though both their hearts broke, he should not become what they were; and she conquered.
Meantime Amrah, so entreated, only wept the more.
“Wert thou going in?” he asked, presently, seeing the board swung back. “Come, then. I will go with thee.” He arose as he spoke. “The Romans- be the curse of the Lord upon them!- the Romans lied. The house is mine. Rise, Amrah, and let us go in.”
A moment and they were gone, leaving the two in the shade to behold the gate staring blankly at them- the gate which they might not ever enter more. They nestled together in the dust.
They had done their duty.
Their love was proven.
Next morning they were found, and driven out the city with stones.
“Begone! Ye are of the dead; go to the dead!”
With the doom ringing in their ears, they went forth.
THE TOMB ABOVE THE KING’S GARDEN.