"If thou dost think of me again, O tribune, let it not be lost in thy mind that I prayed thee only for word of my people—mother, sister."
He moved on.
Arrius followed him with admiring eyes.
"Perpol!" he thought. "With teaching, what a man for the arena! What a runner! Ye gods! what an arm for the sword or the cestus!—Stay!" he said aloud.
Ben-Hur stopped, and the tribune went to him.
"If thou wert free, what wouldst thou do?"
"The noble Arrius mocks me!" Judah said, with trembling lips.
"No; by the gods, no!"
"Then I will answer gladly. I would give myself to duty the first of life. I would know no other. I would know no rest until my mother and Tirzah were restored to home. I would give every day and hour to their happiness. I would wait upon them; never a slave more faithful. They have lost much, but, by the God of my fathers, I would find them more!"
The answer was unexpected by the Roman. For a moment he lost his purpose.
"I spoke to thy ambition," he said, recovering. "If thy mother and sister were dead, or not to be found, what wouldst thou do?"
A distinct pallor overspread Ben-Hur’s face, and he looked over the sea. There was a struggle with some strong feeling; when it was conquered, he turned to the tribune.
"What pursuit would I follow?" he asked.
"Tribune, I will tell thee truly. Only the night before the dreadful day of which I have spoken, I obtained permission to be a soldier. I am of the same mind yet; and, as in all the earth there is but one school of war, thither I would go."
"The palæstra!" exclaimed Arrius.
"No; a Roman camp."
"But thou must first acquaint thyself with the use of arms."