What may be thought of the life of the mother and daughter during the eight years must have relation to their culture and previous habits. Conditions are pleasant or grievous to us according to our sensibilities. It is not extreme to say, if there was a sudden exit of all men from the world, heaven, as prefigured in the Christian idea, would not be a heaven to the majority; on the other hand, neither would all suffer equally in the so-called Tophet. Cultivation has its balances. As the mind is made intelligent, the capacity of the soul for pure enjoyment is proportionally increased. Well, therefore, if it be saved! If lost, however, alas that it ever had cultivation! its capacity for enjoyment in the one case is the measure of its capacity to suffer in the other. Wherefore repentance must be something more than mere remorse for sins; it comprehends a change of nature befitting heaven.
We repeat, to form an adequate idea of the suffering endured by the mother of Ben-Hur, the reader must think of her spirit and its sensibilities as much as, if not more than, of the conditions of the immurement; the question being, not what the conditions were, but how she was affected by them. And now we may be permitted to say it was in anticipation of this thought that the scene in the summer-house on the roof of the family palace was given so fully in the beginning of the Second Book of our story. So, too, to be helpful when the inquiry should come up, we ventured the elaborate description of the palace of the Hurs.
In other words, let the serene, happy, luxurious life in the princely house be recalled and contrasted with this existence in the lower dungeon of the Tower of Antonia; then if the reader, in his effort to realize the misery of the woman, persists in mere reference to conditions physical, he cannot go amiss: as he is a lover of his kind, tender of heart, he will be melted with much sympathy. But will he go further; will he more than sympathize with her; will he share her agony of mind and spirit; will he at least try to measure it- let him recall her as she discoursed to her son of God, and nations, and heroes; one moment a philosopher, the next a teacher, and all the time a mother.
Would you hurt a man keenest, strike at his self-love; would you hurt a woman worst, aim at her affections.
With quickened remembrance of these unfortunates- remembrance of them as they were- let us go down and see them as they are.
The cell VI. was in form as Gesius drew it on his map. Of its dimensions but little idea can be had; enough that it was a roomy, roughened interior, with ledged and broken walls and floors.
In the beginning, the site of the Macedonian Castle was separated from the site of the Temple by a narrow but deep cliff somewhat in shape of a wedge. The workmen, wishing to hew out a series of chambers, made their entry in the north face of the cleft, and worked in, leaving a ceiling of the natural stone; delving farther, they executed the cells V., IV., III., II., I., with no connection with number VI. except through number V. In like manner, they constructed the passage and stairs to the floor above. The process of the work was precisely that resorted to in carving out the Tombs of the Kings, yet to be seen a short distance north of Jerusalem; only when the cutting was done, cell VI. was enclosed on its outer side by a wall of prodigious stones, in which, for ventilation, narrow apertures were left bevelled like modern portholes. Herod, when he took hold of the Temple and Tower, put a facing yet more massive upon this outer wall, and shut up all the apertures but one, which yet admitted a little vitalizing air, and a ray of light not nearly strong enough to redeem the room from darkness.