"I--I am a Jew"--Ben-Hur seemed shrinking within himself as he spoke--"and, though I wear a Roman name, I dared not do professionally a thing to sully my father's name in the cloisters and courts of the Temple. In the palaestrae I could indulge practise which, if followed into the Circus, would become an abomination; and if I take to the course here, Malluch, I swear it will not be for the prize or the winner's fee."
"Hold--swear not so!" cried Malluch. "The fee is ten thousand sestertii--a fortune for life!"
"Not for me, though the prefect trebled it fifty times. Better than that, better than all the imperial revenues from the first year of the first Caesar--I will make this race to humble my enemy. Vengeance is permitted by the law."
Malluch smiled and nodded as if saying, "Right, right--trust me a Jew to understand a Jew."
"The Messala will drive," he said, directly. "He is committed to the race in many ways--by publication in the streets, and in the baths and theaters, the palace and barracks; and, to fix him past retreat, his name is on the tablets of every young spendthrift in Antioch."
"Yes, in wager; and every day he comes ostentatiously to practise, as you saw him."
"Ah! and that is the chariot, and those the horses, with which he will make the race? Thank you, thank you, Malluch! You have served me well already. I am satisfied. Now be my guide to the Orchard of Palms, and give me introduction to Sheik Ilderim the Generous."
"To-day. His horses may be engaged to-morrow."