“Be not afraid,” he heard him say to her; “but stay and watch with me. Thou mayst live twice the span of my life, and see nothing of human interest equal to this; and there may be revelations more. Let us stay to the close.”
When the third hour was about half gone, some men of the rudest class- wretches from the tombs about the city- came and stopped in front of the centre cross.
“This is he, the new King of the Jews,” said one of them.
The others cried, with laughter, “Hail, all hail, King of the Jews!”
Receiving no reply, they went closer.
“If thou be King of the Jews, or Son of God, come down,” they said, loudly.
At this, one of the thieves quit groaning, and called to the Nazarene, “Yes, if thou be Christ, save thyself and us.”
The people laughed and applauded; then, while they were listening for a reply, the other felon was heard to say to the first one, “Dost thou not fear God? We receive the due rewards of our deeds; but this man hath done nothing amiss.”
The bystanders were astonished; in the midst of the hush which ensued, the second felon spoke again, but this time to the Nazarene- “Lord,” he said, “remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”
Simonides gave a great start. “When thou comest into thy kingdom!” It was the very point of doubt in his mind; the point he had so often debated with Balthasar.
“Didst thou hear?” said Ben-Hur to him. “The kingdom cannot be of this world. Yon witness saith the King is but going to his kingdom; and, in effect, I heard the same in my dream.”
“Hush!” said Simonides, more imperiously than ever before in speech to Ben-Hur. “Hush, I pray thee. If the Nazarene should answer- ”
And as he spoke the Nazarene did answer, in a clear voice, full of confidence- “Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise!”
Simonides waited to hear if that were all; then he folded his hands and said, “No more, no more, Lord! The darkness is gone; I see with other eyes- even as Balthasar, I see with eyes of perfect faith.”
The faithful servant had at last his fitting reward. His broken body might never be restored; nor was there riddance of the recollection of his sufferings, or recall of the years imbittered by them; but suddenly a new life was shown him, with assurance that it was for him- a new life lying just beyond this one- and its name was Paradise. There he would find the Kingdom of which he had been dreaming, and the King. A perfect peace fell upon him.
Over the way, in front of the cross, however, there were surprise and consternation. The cunning casuists there put the assumption underlying the question and the admission underlying the answer together. For saying through the land that he was the Messiah, they had brought the Nazarene to the cross; and, lo! on the cross, more confidently than ever, he had not only reasserted himself, but promised enjoyment of his Paradise to a malefactor. They trembled at what they were doing. The pontiff, with all his pride, was afraid. Where got the man his confidence except from Truth? And what should the Truth be but God? A very little now would put them all to flight.