“And whence has he his power?”

“We may know by the use he makes of it. Can you tell me any he has done?”

“No.”

“By that sign then I answer. He has his power from God.”

It is not an easy thing to shake off in a moment the expectations nurtured through years until they have become essentially a part of us; and though Ben-Hur asked himself what the vanities of the world were to such a one, his ambition was obdurate and would not down. He persisted as men do yet every day in measuring the Christ by himself. How much better if we measured ourselves by the Christ! Naturally, the mother was the first to think of the cares of life.

“What shall we do now, my son? Where shall we go?”

Then Ben-Hur, recalled to duty, observed how completely every trace of the scourge had disappeared from his restored people; that each had back her perfection of person; that, as with Naaman when he came up out of the water, their flesh had come again like unto the flesh of a little child; and he took off his cloak, and threw it over Tirzah.

“Take it,” he said, smiling; “the eye of the stranger would have shunned you before; now it shall not offend you.”

The act exposed a sword belted to his side.

“Is it a time of war?” asked the mother, anxiously.

“No.”

“Why, then, are you armed?”

“It may be necessary to defend the Nazarene.”

Thus Ben-Hur evaded the whole truth.

“Has he enemies? Who are they?”

“Alas, mother, they are not all Romans!”

“Is he not of Israel, and a man of peace?”

“There was never one more so; but in the opinion of the rabbis and teachers he is guilty of a great crime.”

“What crime?”

“In his eyes the uncircumcised Gentile is as worthy favour as a Jew of the strictest habit. He preaches a new dispensation.”

The mother was silent, and they moved to the shade of the tree by the rock. Calming his impatience to have them home again and hear their story, he showed them the necessity of obedience to the law governing in cases like theirs, and in conclusion called the Arab, bidding him take the horses to the gate by Bethesda and await him there; whereupon they set out by the way of the Mount of Offence. The return was very different from the coming; they walked rapidly and with ease, and in good time reached a tomb newly made near that of Absalom, overlooking the depths of Cedron. Finding it unoccupied, the women took possession, while he went on hastily to make the preparations required for their new condition.


CHAPTER V.

PILGRIMS TO THE PASSOVER.

BEN-HUR pitched two tents out on the Upper Cedron east a short space of the Tombs of the Kings, and furnished them with every comfort at his command; and thither, without loss of time, he conducted his mother and sister, to remain until the examining priest could certify their perfect cleansing.