“A pretty invention, and cunning,” he said, directly; “but it is imperfect. What did Osiris afterwards?”
“Oh yes,” she replied. “He called the Divine Wife back to the sun, and they went on all pleasantly together, each helping the other.”
“And shall I not do as the first man?”
He carried the hand resting upon his neck to his lips. “In love- in love!” he said.
His head dropped softly into her lap.
“You will find the King,” she said, placing her other hand caressingly upon his head. “You will go on and find the King and serve him. With your sword you will earn his richest gifts; and his best soldier will be my hero.”
He turned his face, and saw hers close above. In all the sky there was that moment nothing so bright to him as her eyes, enshadowed though they were. Presently he sat up, and put his arms about her, and kissed her passionately, saying, “O Egypt, Egypt! If the King has crowns in gift, one shall be mine; and I will bring it and put it here over the place my lips have marked. You shall be a queen- my queen- no one more beautiful! And we will be ever, ever so happy!”
“And you will tell me everything, and let me help you in all?” she said, kissing him in return.
The question chilled his fervour.
“Is it not enough that I love you?” he asked.
“Perfect love means perfect faith,” she replied. “But never mind- you will know me better.”
She took her hand from him and arose.
“You are cruel,” he said.
Moving away, she stopped by the camel, and touched its front face with her lips.
“O thou noblest of thy kind!- that, because there is no suspicion in thy love.”
An instant, and she was gone.
THE third day of the journey the party nooned by the river Jabbok, where there were a hundred or more men, mostly of Peraea, resting themselves and their beasts. Hardly had they dismounted, before a man came to them with a pitcher of water and a bowl, and offered them drink; as they received the attention with much courtesy, he said, looking at the camel, “I am returning from the Jordan, where just now there are many people from distant parts, travelling as you are, illustrious friend; but they had none of them the equal of your servant here. A very noble animal. May I ask of what breed he is sprung?”
Balthasar answered, and sought his rest; but Ben-Hur, more curious, took up the remark.
“At what place on the river are the people?” he asked.
“It used to be a lonesome ford,” said Ben-Hur. “I cannot understand how it can have become of such interest.”
“I see,” the stranger replied; “you, too, are from abroad, and have not heard the good tidings.”