That seemed an introduction; for next he saw the man of Nazareth.
In certain moods the mind is disposed to mock itself with inapposite fancies.
The tearful woman-like face of the Christ stayed with him while he crossed the roof to the parapet above the street on the north side of the house, and there was in it no sign of war; but rather as the heavens of the calm evenings look peace upon everything, so it looked, provoking the old question, What manner of man is he? Ben-Hur permitted himself one glance over the parapet, then turned and walked mechanically towards the summer-house.
“Let them do their worst,” he said, as he went slowly on. “I will not forgive the Roman. I will not divide my fortune with him, nor will I fly from this city of my fathers; I will call on Galilee first, and here make the fight. By brave deeds I will bring the tribes to our side. He who raised up Moses will find us a leader, if I fail. If not the Nazarene, then some one of the many ready to die for freedom.”
The interior of the summer-house, when Ben-Hur, slow sauntering, came to it, was murkily lighted. The faintest of shadows lay along the floor from the pillars on the north and west sides. Looking in, he saw the arm-chair usually occupied by Simonides drawn to a spot from which a view of the city over towards the Market-place could be best had.
“The good man is returned. I will speak with him, unless he be asleep.”
He walked in, and with a quiet step approached the chair. Peering over the high back, he beheld Esther nestled in the seat asleep- a small figure snugged away under her father’s lap-robe. The hair dishevelled fell over her face. Her breathing was low and irregular. Once it was broken by a long sigh, ending in a sob. Something- it might have been the sigh or the loneliness in which he found her- imparted to him the idea that the sleep was a rest from sorrow rather than fatigue. Nature kindly sends such relief to children, and he was used to thinking Esther scarcely more than a child. He put his arms upon the back of the chair, and thought.
“I will not wake her. I have nothing to tell her- nothing unless- unless it be my love…. She is a daughter of Judah, and beautiful, and so unlike the Egyptian; for there it is all vanity, here all truth; there ambition, here duty; there selfishness, here self-sacrifice…. Nay, the question is not do I love her, but does she love me? She was my friend from the beginning. The night on the terrace at Antioch, how childlike she begged me not to make Rome my enemy, and had me tell her of the villa by Misenum, and of the life there! That she should not see I saw her cunning drift I kissed her. Can she have forgotten the kiss? I have not. I love her…. They do not know in the city that I have back my people. I shrank from telling it to the Egyptian; but this little one will rejoice with me over their restoration, and welcome them with love and sweet services of hand and heart. She will be to my mother another daughter; in Tirzah she will find her other self. I would wake her and tell her these things, but- out on the sorceress of Egypt! Of that folly I could not command myself to speak. I will go away, and wait another and a better time. I will wait. Fair Esther, dutiful child, daughter of Judah!”