When the gloom of the burial was nigh gone, on the ninth day after the healing, the law being fulfilled, Ben-Hur brought his mother and Tirzah home; and from that day, in that house the most sacred names possible of utterance by men were always coupled worshipfully together-
GOD THE FATHER AND CHRIST THE SON.
About five years after the crucifixion, Esther, the wife of Ben-Hur, sat in her room in the beautiful villa by Misenum. It was noon, with a warm Italian sun making summer for the roses and vines outside. Everything in the apartment was Roman, except that Esther wore the garments of a Jewish matron. Tirzah and two children at play upon a lion’s skin on the floor were her companions; and one had only to observe how carefully she watched them to know that the little ones were hers.
Time had treated her generously. She was more than ever beautiful, and in becoming mistress of the villa, she had realized one of her cherished dreams.
In the midst of this simple, home-like scene, a servant appeared in the doorway, and spoke to her.
“A woman in the atrium to speak with the mistress.”
“Let her come. I will receive her here.”
Presently the stranger entered. At sight of her the Jewess arose, and was about to speak; then she hesitated, changed colour, and finally drew back, saying, “I have known you, good woman. You are- ”
“I was Iras, the daughter of Balthasar.”
Esther conquered her surprise, and bade the servant bring the Egyptian a seat.
“No,” said Iras, coldly. “I will retire directly.”
The two gazed at each other. We know what Esther presented- a beautiful woman, a happy mother, a contented wife. On the other side, it was very plain that fortune had not dealt so gently with her former rival. The tall figure remained, with some of its grace; but an evil life had tainted the whole person. The face was coarse; the large eyes were red and pursed beneath the lower lids; there was no colour in her cheeks. The lips were cynical and hard, and general neglect was leading rapidly to premature old age. Her attire was ill chosen and draggled. The mud of the road clung to her sandals. Iras broke the painful silence.
“These are thy children?”
Esther looked at them, and smiled.
“Yes. Will you not speak to them?”
“I would scare them,” Iras replied. Then she drew closer to Esther, and seeing her shrink, said, “Be not afraid. Give thy husband a message for me. Tell him his enemy is dead, and that for the much misery he brought me I slew him.”
“The Messala. Further, tell thy husband that for the harm I sought to do him I have been punished until even he would pity me.”
Tears arose in Esther’s eyes, and she was about to speak.