“A wish! Where is he who could say it no?”
“I will try you.”
“Tell it then.”
“It is very simple. I wish to help you.”
She drew closer as she spoke.
He laughed, and replied, lightly, “O Egypt!- I came near saying dear Egypt!- does not the sphinx abide in your country?”
“You are one of its riddles. Be merciful, and give me a little clue to help me understand you. In what do I need help? And how can you help me?”
She took her hand from him, and, turning to the camel, spoke to it endearingly, and patted its monstrous head as it were a thing of beauty.
“O thou last and swiftest and stateliest of the herds of Job! Sometimes thou, too, goest stumbling, because the way is rough and stony and the burden grievous. How is it thou knowest the kind intent by a word, and always makest answer gratefully, though the help offered is from a woman? I will kiss thee, thou royal brute!”- she stooped and touched its broad forehead with her lips, saying immediately, “because in thy intelligence there is no suspicion!”
And Ben-Hur, restraining himself, said calmly, “The reproach has not failed its mark, O Egypt! I seem to say thee no; may it not be because I am under seal of honour, and by my silence cover the lives and fortunes of others?”
“May be!” she said, quickly. “It is so.”
He shrank a step, and asked, his voice sharp with amazement, “What all knowest thou?”
She answered, after a laugh- “Why do men deny that the senses of women are sharper than theirs? Your face has been under my eyes all day. I had but to look at it to see you bore some weight in mind; and to find the weight, what had I to do more than recall your debates with my father? Son of Hur!”- she lowered her voice with singular dexterity, and, going nearer, spoke so her breath was warm upon his cheek- “son of Hur! he thou art going to find is to be King of the Jews, is he not?”
His heart beat fast and hard.
“A King of the Jews like Herod, only greater,” she continued.
He looked away- into the night, up to the stars; then his eyes met hers, and lingered there; and her breath was on his lips, so near was she.
“Since morning,” she said, further, “we have been having visions. Now if I tell you mine, will you serve me as well? What! silent still?”
She pushed his hand away, and turned as if to go; but he caught her, and said eagerly, “Stay- stay and speak!”
She went back, and with her hand upon his shoulder, leaned against him; and he put his arm around her, and drew her close, very close; and in the caress was the promise she asked.