They were too late! “Let us stay here,” said Ben-Hur to Balthasar, who was wringing his hands. “The Nazarite may come this way.”
The people were too intent upon what they had heard, and too busy in discussion, to notice the new-comers. When some hundreds were gone by, and it seemed the opportunity to so much as see the Nazarite was lost to the latter, up the river not far away they beheld a person coming towards them of such singular appearance they forgot all else.
Outwardly the man was rude and uncouth, even savage. Over a thin, gaunt visage of the hue of brown parchment, over his shoulders and down his back below the middle, in witch-like locks, fell a covering of sun-scorched hair. His eyes were burning-bright. All his right side was naked, and of the colour of his face, and quite as meagre; a shirt of the coarsest camel’s hair- coarse as Bedouin tent-cloth- clothed the rest of his person to the knees, being gathered at the waist by a broad girdle of untanned leather. His feet were bare. A scrip, also of untanned leather, was fastened to the girdle. He used a knotted staff to help him forward. His movement was quick, decided, and strangely watchful. Every little while he tossed the unruly hair from his eyes, and peered round as if searching for somebody.
The fair Egyptian surveyed the son of the desert with surprise, not to say disgust. Presently, raising the curtain of the houdah, she spoke to Ben-Hur, who sat his horse near by.
“Is that the herald of thy King?”
“It is the Nazarite,” he replied, without looking up.
In truth, he was himself more than disappointed. Despite his familiarity with the ascetic colonists in En-gedi- their dress, their indifference to all worldly opinion, their constancy to vows which gave them over to every imaginable suffering of body, and separated them from others of their kind as absolutely as if they had not been born like them- and notwithstanding he had been notified on the way to look for a Nazarite whose simple description of himself was a Voice from the Wilderness- still Ben-Hur’s dream of the King who was to be so great and do so much had coloured all his thought of him, so that he never doubted to find in the forerunner some sign or token of the goodliness and royalty he was announcing. Gazing at the savage figure before him, the long trains of courtiers whom he had been used to see in the thermae and imperial corridors at Rome arose before him, forcing a comparison. Shocked, shamed, bewildered, he could only answer- “It is the Nazarite.”
With Balthasar it was very different. The ways of God, he knew, were not as men would have them. He had seen the Saviour a child in a manger, and was prepared by his faith for the rude and simple in connection with the Divine reappearance. So he kept his seat, his hands crossed upon his breast, his lips moving in prayer. He was not expecting a king.