Malluch kept watch on his companion as they went, and saw that for the moment at least his good spirits were out. To the people passing he gave no attention; over the wonders they came upon there were no exclamations; silently, even sullenly, he kept a slow pace.
The truth was, the sight of Messala had set Ben-Hur to thinking. It seemed scarce an hour ago that the strong hands had torn him from his mother, scarce an hour ago that the Roman had put seal upon the gates of his father's house. He recounted how, in the hopeless misery of the life--if such it might be called--in the galleys, he had had little else to do, aside from labor, than dream dreams of vengeance, in all of which Messala was the principal. There might be, he used to say to himself, escape for Gratus, but for Messala--never! And to strengthen and harden his resolution, he was accustomed to repeat over and over, Who pointed us out to the persecutors? And when I begged him for help--not for myself--who mocked me, and went away laughing? And always the dream had the same ending. The day I meet him, help me, thou good God of my people!--help me to some fitting special vengeance!
And now the meeting was at hand.
Perhaps, if he had found Messala poor and suffering, Ben-Hur's feeling had been different; but it was not so. He found him more than prosperous; in the prosperity there was a dash and glitter--gleam of sun on gilt of gold.
So it happened that what Malluch accounted a passing loss of spirit was pondering when the meeting should be, and in what manner he could make it most memorable.
They turned after a while into an avenue of oaks, where the people were going and coming in groups; footmen here, and horsemen; there women in litters borne slaves; and now and then chariots rolled by thunderously.
At the end of the avenue the road, by an easy grade, descended into a lowland, where, on the right hand, there was a precipitous facing of gray rock, and on the left an open meadow of vernal freshness. Then they came in view of the famous Fountain of Castalia.
Edging through a company assembled at the point, Ben-Hur beheld a jet of sweet water pouring from the crest of a stone into a basin of black marble, where, after much boiling and foaming, it disappeared as through a funnel.