Balthasar raised his eyes devoutly.
"There is a kingdom on the earth, though it is not of it--a kingdom of wider bounds than the earth--wider than the sea and the earth, though they were rolled together as finest gold and spread by the beating of hammers. Its existence is a fact as our hearts are facts, and we journey through it from birth to death without seeing it; nor shall any man see it until he hath first known his own soul; for the kingdom is not for him, but for his soul. And in its dominion there is glory such as hath not entered imagination--original, incomparable, impossible of increase."
"What thou sayest, father, is a riddle to me," said Ben-Hur. "I never heard of such a kingdom."
"And I may not tell more of it," Balthasar added, humbly dropping his eyes. "What it is, what it is for, how it may be reached, none can know until the Child comes to take possession of it as his own. He brings the key of the viewless gate, which he will open for his beloved, among whom will be all who love him, for of such only the redeemed will be."
After that there was a long silence, which Balthasar accepted as the end of the conversation.
"Good sheik," he said, in his placid way, "to-morrow or the next day I will go up to the city for a time. My daughter wishes to see the preparations for the games. I will speak further about the time of our going. And, my son, I will see you again. To you both, peace and good-night."
They all arose from the table. The sheik and Ben-Hur remained looking after the Egyptian until he was conducted out of the tent.
"Sheik Ilderim," said Ben-Hur then, "I have heard strange things tonight. Give me leave, I pray, to walk by the lake that I may think of them."