“Nay,” said Iras, “I do not want pity or tears. Tell him, finally, I have found that to be a Roman is to be a brute. Farewell.”
She moved to go. Esther followed her.
“Stay, and see my husband. He has no feeling against you. He sought for you everywhere. He will be your friend. I will be your friend. We are Christians.”
The other was firm.
“No; I am what I am of choice. It will be over shortly.”
“But”- Esther hesitated- “have we nothing you would wish; nothing to- to- ”
The countenance of the Egyptian softened; something like a smile played about her lips. She looked at the children upon the floor.
“There is something,” she said.
Esther followed her eyes, and with quick perception answered, “It is yours.”
Iras went to them, and knelt on the lion’s skin, and kissed them both. Rising slowly, she looked at them; then passed to the door and out of it without a parting word. She walked rapidly, and was gone before Esther could decide what to do.
Ben-Hur, when he was told of the visit, knew certainly what he had long surmised- that on the day of the crucifixion Iras had deserted her father for Messala. Nevertheless, he set out immediately and hunted for her vainly; they never saw her more, or heard of her. The blue bay, with all its laughing under the sun, has yet its dark secrets. Had it a tongue, it might tell us of the Egyptian.
Simonides lived to be a very old man. In the tenth year of Nero’s reign he gave up the business so long centred in the warehouse at Antioch. To the last he kept a clear head and a good heart, and was successful.
One evening, in the year named, he sat in his arm-chair on the terrace of the warehouse. Ben-Hur and Esther, and their three children, were with him. The last of the ships swung at mooring in the current of the river; all the rest had been sold. In the long interval between this and the day of the crucifixion but one sorrow had befallen them; that was when the mother of Ben-Hur died; and then and now their grief would have been greater but for their Christian faith.
The ship spoken of had arrived only the day before, bringing intelligence of the persecution of Christians begun by Nero in Rome, and the party on the terrace were talking of the news when Malluch, who was still in their service, approached and delivered a package to Ben-Hur.
“Who brings this?” the latter asked, after reading.
“Where is he?”
“He left immediately.”
“Listen,” said Ben-Hur to Simonides.
He read then the following letter:-
“I, Ilderim the Generous, and sheik of the tribe of Ilderim, to Judah, son of Hur.
“Know, O friend of my father’s, how my father loved you. Read what is herewith sent, and you will know. His will is my will; therefore what he gave is thine.