"It is as he says, son of Hur," the Arab responded. "I have given my word, and he is content with it; but thou shalt have my oath, binding me, and the ready hands of my tribe, and whatever serviceable thing I have."
The three--Simonides, Ilderim, Esther--gazed at Ben-Hur fixedly.
"Every man," he answered, at first sadly, "has a cup of pleasure poured for him, and soon or late it comes to his hand, and he tastes and drinks--every man but me. I see, Simonides, and thou, O generous sheik!--I see whither the proposal tends. If I accept, and enter upon the course, farewell peace, and the hopes which cluster around it. The doors I might enter and the gates of quiet life will shut behind me, never to open again, for Rome keeps them all; and her outlawry will follow me, and her hunters; and in the tombs near cities and the dismal caverns of remotest hills, I must eat my crust and take my rest."
The speech was broken by a sob. All turned to Esther, who hid her face upon her father's shoulder.
"I did not think of you, Esther," said Simonides, gently, for he was himself deeply moved.
"It is well enough, Simonides," said Ben-Hur. "A man bears a hard doom better, knowing there is pity for him. Let me go on."
"I was about to say," he continued, "I have no choice, but take the part you assign me; and as remaining here is to meet an ignoble death, I will to the work at once."
"Shall we have writings?" asked Simonides, moved by his habit of business.