To quicken the conclusion, there were signs, too, that she well knew the influence she was exercising over him. From some place under hand she had since morning drawn a caul of golden coins, and adjusted it so the gleaming strings fell over her forehead and upon her cheeks, blending lustrously with the flowing of her blue-black hair. From the same safe deposit she had also produced articles of jewelry- rings for finger and ear, bracelets, a necklace of pearls- also, a shawl embroidered with threads of fine gold- the effect of all which she softened with a scarf of Indian lace skilfully folded about her throat and shoulders. And so arrayed, she plied Ben-Hur with countless coquetries of speech and manner; showering him with smiles; laughing in flute-like tremolo- and all the while following him with glances, now melting-tender, now sparkling-bright. By such play Antony was weaned from his glory; yet she who wrought his ruin was really not half so beautiful as this her countrywoman.
And so to them the nooning came, and the evening.
The sun, at his going down behind a spur of the old Bashan, left the party halted by a pool of clear water of the rains out in the Abilene Desert. There the tent was pitched, the supper eaten, and preparations made for the night.
The second watch was Ben-Hur’s; and he was standing spear in hand, within arm-reach of the dozing camel, looking awhile at the stars, then over the veiled land. The stillness was intense; only after long spells a warm breath of wind would sough past, but without disturbing him, for yet in thought he entertained the Egyptian, recounting her charms, and sometimes debating how she came by his secrets, the uses she might make of them, and the course he should pursue with her. And through all the debate Love stood off but a little way- a strong temptation, the stronger of a gleam of policy behind. At the very moment he was most inclined to yield to the allurement, a hand very fair even in the moonless gloaming was laid softly upon his shoulder. The touch thrilled him; he started, turned- and she was there.
“I thought you asleep,” he said, presently.
“Sleep is for old people and little children, and I came out to look at my friends, the stars of the south- those now holding the curtains of midnight over the Nile. But confess yourself surprised!”
He took the hand which had fallen from his shoulder, and said, “Well, was it by an enemy?”
“Oh no! To be an enemy is to hate, and hating is a sickness which Isis will not suffer to come near me. She kissed me, you should know, on the heart when I was a child.”
“Your speech does not sound in the least like your father’s. Are you not of his faith?”
“I might have been”- and she laughed low- “I might have been had I seen what he has. I may be when I get old like him. There should be no religion for youth, only poetry and philosophy; and no poetry except such as is the inspiration of wine and mirth and love, and no philosophy that does not nod excuse for follies which cannot outlive a season. My father’s God is too awful for me. I failed to find him in the Grove of Daphne. He was never heard of as present in the atria of Rome. But, son of Hur, I have a wish.”