The last writing assignment for our American Literature Course, came after our previously unplanned reading of Ben Hur.  Throughout the story, we often discussed the role of Esther. The poor girl!  What was she doing all the time as she served her father and waited to see what would become of Ben Hur?  

Therefore, we decided to use our imaginations to fill in some gaps.  We divided the book between the four girls, and each was to take the information Wallace provided and tell parts of the story from Esther’s point of view.

In some instances, quotes were borrowed from Ben Hur but, to avoid confusion for the reader, I have removed the quotes within quotes the girls used in their original drafts to avoid the appearance of plagiarism.  

Sighs, Tears, and Faith
Esther, Book 4
(B.B.)

    When Esther, the daughter of Simonides, first saw Ben-Hur, she was leaning against the back of a chair. As Ben-Hur approached, Esther said to herself, “This man is unusually attractive, I wonder who he could be?” She smiled because as he bowed his forehead reddened, which made him a little more handsome.

    Esther’s daydreaming was interrupted by her father who told her to get a chair for Ben-Hur. After placing the chair, she arose and their eyes met. She then walked back to her father’s chair and, while her father and Ben-Hur talked, she sighed, “What beautiful eyes.”

    Her daydreaming was again interrupted by her father telling her to get a cup of wine for Ben-Hur. As she was getting the cup of wine, she listened to Ben-Hur tell her father about his past. When he finished speaking, Esther stood in front of him with a cup of wine. She had kept her face down to keep Ben-Hur from seeing tears in her eyes. After Ben-Hur kindly rejected the cup of wine, Esther returned to her place by her father’s chair. She continued to  listen to Ben-Hur speak.

    Eventually, Ben-Hur asked of the whereabouts of his mother and sister. Esther’s father said he knew nothing, which was true, but it still brought tears to Esther’s eyes. Tears still flowed as Ben-Hur departed, but she had to wipe them away  to ring the service bell for her father. Esther’s father wanted his most trusted servant, Malluch, to follow Ben-Hur to see if he really was who he said he was. Soon Malluch departed and Esther and her father sat in the garden. It was here that her father told her about the Hur house and how her mother and he had come to be servants for them.

    A few days later Esther found out from her father that Ben-Hur had left the city. She felt like a part of her had slipped away. She sighed, “Will he ever return?” The days dragged on for Esther, and her father noticed a cloud over her. He said to himself,  “This can only be caused by one thing and that’s love.”

    As the weeks went by, Esther started to go to her room and pray that God would keep Ben-Hur safe and bring him back to her. One day, as Esther sat by her father’s chair, she asked earnestly, “Do you believe he will come back?”

    “Yes, I believe so,” he answered.

    That very day Malluch returned. When he told her father the events that had happened, Esther sat quietly. She did, however, raise her head and her heart began to bound when she heard the servant tell her father that Ben-Hur would race in the circus. She knew it was extremely dangerous, however, her worrying was cut short as her father told her to get dinner for Malluch and them. After dinner, the servant left and Esther and her father talked about what would happen now that they knew Ben-Hur was actually Ben-Hur.

    As the months went by, Esther heard bits and pieces about Ben-Hur in the market or at the well. She cherished every word she heard about him because every word was that he was alive and safe. Esther always wondered if Ben-Hur thought of her as much as she thought of him. She thought of Ben-Hur while she took care of her father. She saw his face in the water when she washed her hands. She saw him in the trees as she walked the garden paths,for she thought only of him.   

 

Esther, Book 5
(L.J.W.)

 

Esther glanced at her father, not surprised to find him sleeping. She crossed the room quietly, stopping before the window. Glancing down into the courtyard, she noticed two of her servants excitedly talking. Curiously, she walked toward the door.

“Esther,” Simonides said.

With a suppressed sigh, Esther turned back from the door, saying, “Father, I thought you were asleep.”

Smiling, Simonides said, “Perhaps I was, but call in refreshments, please.”

Esther obediently rang the bell, wishing that she knew what her servants were talking about. As one of the servants came into the room with the usual wine and bread, Esther looked at her inquisitively. The servant, Hannah, looked at her with a conspiratorial look. Simonides didn’t appear to have noticed either of the looks between them, and Esther hoped he had not. After Hannah left, Simonides asked, “You have heard me talking with Malluch and the sheik Ilderim, have you not?”

Esther answered, “ Yes, I have.”

“Then you know the amount of money our young master is to gain?”

“Yes, Father.”

Simonides gazed at his daughter and Esther looked back.  “Daughter, you know you are to be a servant to Ben-Hur?”

She hesitated, then spoke, “Yes, Father, I have heard.”

    Simonides, pleased, nodded quietly. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. The conversation obviously over, Esther sat back in her chair, thinking of Ben-Hur. She had thought much of him since they had met. He was so handsome. She sat in silence for a time, until she noticed her father sleeping heavily. Quietly she rose, darting a quick look at her father.

    After leaving the room, Esther gave a sigh of relief. It was not often she could leave. She hurried to find Hannah, her gossipy servant. Stopping in the courtyard, she met Hannah.

“Hannah, wat-,” Esther began, but Hannah interrupted her.

“Oh, I heard the most shocking thing,” she gasped, “Zipporah was at the well, and she heard that Ben-Hur is going to drive the sheik Ilderim’s four bays in the circus. She also saw him last night with the Egyptian, Iras. They were in a boat on the lake. Can you imagine?”

There was more, but Esther ceased to hear anything after Hannah had mentioned Ben-Hur with Iras. It was then that she had felt a jealous sting. Esther abruptly turned and walked away. She had not realized to what extent she had grown to like Ben-Hur. She went listlessly back to the room where her father dozed. She sat again, but this time with more unpleasant thoughts.

An hour later, Esther left the room again, but this time went straight to the kitchen, where she had often spent many hours watching the servants cook and clean. Leaning against the wall, she listened to Hannah and Zipporah chatter.

Zipporah said, “I heard that Ben-Hur is training the four bays. Rebecca said she saw him driving them. The sheik who owns them is as proud of Ben-Hur as he is of his horses.” At this, Esther smiled.

Hannah giggled and said, “Many of the women prefer his looks over the Roman, Messala.” Esther shuddered at the name.

Zipporah laughed carelessly, saying, “ Many of the women change their preferences every week.” Esther stood upright as they moved on to a different subject.  

She went back to where her father slept, but found him awake and talking to Ilderim, excitedly. At her entrance, both men looked up and said, “Peace to thee,” then kept talking.

    After a moment, Esther realized they were speaking about Ben-Hur. Simonides called Malluch, said something in low tones to him, then spoke to Esther.

    Malluch left as Simonides said, “Esther, today we give ourselves and the money to Ben-Hur.” Surprised, she stared at him. He motioned her to take her place beside his chair. Esther took her place, seemingly calm and unmoved by the statement, but inside, her heart was pounding with the thought of her master.

After a half hour had passed, a knock sounded on the door. Simonides spoke, “In God’s name, enter.”

    The door swung open, and Ben-Hur, looking a bit confused, entered the room. Esther watched his face change from confused to instantly wary. He quickly surveyed the room, glancing at each of them hurriedly. He then looked at Esther again. She looked back, hoping her face would not betray her feelings inside. Then her father spoke. “Son of Hur.”

    As Ben-Hur looked toward him, he repeated the name. “Son of Hur, take thou the peace of the Lord God of our fathers—take it from me.”

   Esther waited, holding her breath, hoping he would add her part of the greeting. Then after a pause, “From me and mine.”

    Ben-Hur paused a moment, then spoke, “Simonides, the holy peace you tender is accepted. As son to father, I return it to you. Only let there be perfect understanding between us.”

    Esther stood, watching him gently turn aside her father’s submission. Simonides turned to her, saying, “ A seat for the master, daughter.” Esther hurried to do his bidding. She stopped and stood, waiting for either Ben-Hur or her father to say where to put it.

    After a prolonged silence, Ben-Hur went to her, took the stool gently, and, going to her father’s chair, placed it at the merchant’s feet. He said, “I will sit here.” He met her gaze only for a second, but Esther recognized his generosity and forbearance in that quick glance.

    Simonides said, with a bit of relief in his voice, “Esther, child, bring the paper.” Esther brought him a roll of papyri. She took a few steps back, listening carefully as her father and Ben-Hur discussed what he was supposed to gain. Simonides held forth the last sheet and continued, “Thou has not all the account. Take this and read—read aloud.”

    Ben-Hur, perplexed, took the sheet, and read:

“’Statement of the servants of Hur, rendered by Simonides, steward of the estate. 1. Amrah, Egyptian, keeping the palace in Jerusalem. 2. Simonides, the steward, in Antioch. 3. Esther, daughter of Simonides.’”

    Esther blushed as Ben-Hur looked at her. A second before dropping her eyes, she saw he himself was blushing. He began to speak, but Esther heard not, for she was trying to compose herself enough to look up. What she did hear was the end of what he said:

    “…that in the same moment ye were declared my servants, that moment I declared ye free; and what I declare, that will I put in writing. Is it not enough? Can I do more?”

    Esther looked down again, her composure again gone. One moment she was free, then a servant, then her master was declaring her free. Though she knew it was impossible because she was a bondservant, she felt pleased he would try to free her and her father.  

    When she looked up, Ben-Hur was saying, “Count thyself steward now; or wilt thou have it in writing?”

    Simonides shook his head and said, “Thy word is simply enough; it was so with the father, and I will not more from the son. And now, if the understanding be perfect—,” her father paused.

    Ben-Hur agreed, “It is with me.”

    Then Simonides lifted her arm, saying, “And thou, daughter of Rachel, speak!”

    Esther stood a moment, feeling left alone, then she went to Ben-Hur, and said, “I am not better than my mother was; and as she is gone, I pray you, O my master, let me care for my father.”

    Ben-Hur took her hand and led her back to the chair, saying, “Thou art a good child. Have thy will.”

    Simonides replaced her arm upon his neck, and there was silence for a time in the room. And in the silence, Esther was remembering Ben-Hur’s touch on her hand.  

After a while, Simonides looked up, saying, “Esther, the night is going fast; and, lest we become too weary for that which is before us, let the refreshments be brought.” She obediently rang a bell, waiting near the door until Hannah came in with wine and bread.

    As she took the tray of food, Esther saw Hannah glance toward the guests and her eyes open wide. As Hannah stood near the door, waiting for the tray to be emptied, Esther could just imagine the thoughts circulating through Hannah’s mind as she served Ben-Hur first. As she gave him a cup and morsel of bread, he looked up with a smile, making him more handsome than he had ever been before. She ducked her head respectfully, and quickly went on to Ilderim, before he could see the flush of color in her cheeks. After they were all served and eating, she took a portion and gave the tray back to Hannah. When she met Hannah’s eyes for a moment, Hannah looked surprised and slightly triumphant.      Esther began to give her a warning look, but Hannah turned and left. She took her place at her father’s side and began to think about Hannah’s expression.

    She jerked back to the present, when her father told her, “Bring me the Torah, Esther.”

    She left the room quickly, still thinking about the gossipy servant’s face. After returning to her father, she drifted off again, until he spoke gently to her, “Some wine, Esther, and then the Torah.”

    She smiled at him, giving him a cup. When he returned it, she gave him the Torah. She stood by him, as she always did, waiting as they spoke more. She heard Ilderim say, “but thou shalt have my oath, binding me, and the ready hands of my tribe, and whatever serviceable thing I have.”

    At this all three of them—her father, Ilderim, and herself—gazed at Ben-Hur. He began to speak, with a sad, yet content manner about him. Esther listened for a moment, then bit her lip, trying to hold back a sob. However, it broke loose and she, embarrassed, put her head upon her father’s shoulder.

    Simonides tenderly said, “I did not think of you, Esther.”

    Ben-Hur looked at her, a gentleness showing in his gaze she had never seen before, saying, “It is well enough, Simonides. A man bears a hard doom better, knowing there is pity for him. Let me go on.”

    Esther heard nothing more, for she was attempting to hold back more sobs. She also felt a bit ashamed, for her sobs were half in pity for Ben-Hur, and half for herself, for she despaired of the idea of him leaving.

    She stood up straight, when her father said, “ The bread and wine again, Esther.” She started for the door, but stopped when Ben-Hur declined. As he and Malluch left, she stared after them, wishing he did not have to leave.

The next evening, Esther could not sleep for thinking of her conversation with Ben-Hur. She finally stood and walked to the window. He had been standing with her on the terrace of the great warehouse, and had begun to discuss Rome.  

    When she had asked, he had told her of the property he had inherited near Rome. She had listened in awe as he had described it with perfect details. When she had started to explain why she had asked of the property, (here, even remembering, she flushed again) she had started with, “Good, my master—,” when Ben-Hur had interrupted, objecting to the title. She had reddened with pleasure at his saying, “Call me brother.” He had gone to explain why he must go to Rome. She had asked if nothing could be done, and looked up at him.   

    His face had softened and he said quietly, “Do you care so much for me?” She had answered simply, “Yes.” Now, recollecting, she wondered if she should have said something else. Her thoughts flew back to earlier that evening. He had taken her hand, then kissed it.

    When he had said gently, “You shall be another Tirzah to me, Esther,” she had glanced up curiously, and asked, “Who is Tirzah?” He then told her of the little sister the Romans stole from him. It was then that the conversation had ended for a servant had wheeled Simonides out the door.

    Esther sat down in the windowsill, staring out at the dark sky, dashed with stars. She sat for a while, wondering if she had spoken what she should or could have. She stood and walked back to her bed, finally tired. When she arose, the sun was high in the sky.

After serving her father until he fell asleep, she walked out into the courtyard, listening to the busy sounds of servants working. Hannah mostly worked in the kitchen, so she was not out here. Looking around the courtyard she watched the busy servants scurry about with their tasks. She had often wished she could work, busying herself with some small task. Just then, Zipporah came in after her daily well trip. Setting the jug down, she walked toward Esther.

    Zipporah smiled, saying, “ Good morning. I just heard from Rebecca what colors the drivers are to have.”

    Esther asked, “What are they?”

    Zipporah said, “Well, Ben-Hur’s color is white and Messala’s mixed scarlet and gold.”

    Esther said, with a laugh, “And how does Rebecca know so much?”

    Zipporah began to explain that Rebecca passed by the Orchard of the Palms everyday, and she had heard about Messala’s colors from another friend. Esther shook her head with a look of slight annoyance at her servant’s gossipy ways.

    Zipporah laughed, saying, “Hannah told me about you and Ben-Hur.”

    Esther stared at her. “What about Ben-Hur and I ?

    Zipporah laughed again. “That Ben-Hur may be comparing your beauty with that of Iras, the Egyptian.”

    Esther looked away, quickly, her color coming and going. She finally said, “You think foolishly. I am only his bondservant. Nothing more.” She turned to leave, but then turned back with a sick feeling in her stomach, saying with a hurried tone, “You have not told anyone else this?”

    Zipporah raised an eyebrow. “Of course. Most of the girls know it, and any that don’t, will soon.”

    Esther sighed. She should have guessed. Servant girls knew what went on in every household, and that included her own. Most of their gossip was harmless, for if they spread any news about their masters, they could lose their jobs. Esther turned and left. Well, at least she knew what color Ben-Hur was going to have. She went back to her father, who still slept peacefully.

Two days later, Esther stood by her father’s chair, waiting for Malluch to finish speaking with her father. Malluch bowed to Simonides and herself, saying, “Peace to thee and thine, Simonides.”

    Her father inclined his head slightly, while Esther smiled. After Malluch had left, Simonides laid his head back with a sigh, saying, “Esther, child, you are excused to do whatever you wish. I am weary.”

    Esther did not leave until she was sure her father was comfortable. She then wandered down into the garden to rest. She sat upon a bench, and began to think back upon the race. She remembered Ben-Hur’s face the most. He had been so white and determined. After he had won the race, he had glanced toward where her father’s party sat. Iras had stood, giving him a smile and a wave of her fan. Esther had felt a jealous sting not just because the smile had been returned, but also because she wondered if Iras loved Messala. Esther sat quietly, feeling alone. Ben-Hur was the kind of man she had dreamed of marrying. He was so handsome and—in love with Iras. He had been completely won over by her beauty and wit, and he had not stopped to realize her true personality. She arose suddenly, feeling trapped. That feeling  made her quicken her pace. She was watching Ben-Hur be taken by the bewitching mannerisms of Iras, and all the while, she felt sure Iras did not love him at all. Esther sighed. There was absolutely nothing she could do.

    Esther sat again, trying to calm herself. She could be mistaken. She sat there for a half-hour, trying her best to convince herself that she was mistaken. She finally stood, walking quickly to the gate. Perhaps a walk to the well would calm her nerves. When she returned, she was as distraught as when she had begun. She could not think of anything but Ben-Hur possibly being in danger at the hand of Iras. Esther went back to her father, feeling weary and agitated.

A few hours later, Ben-Hur came in, and told of how he had been nearly killed in the Palace of Idernee. Esther’s heart was in her throat by the time he had finished. He and her father agreed on a plan, and he prepared to leave. A servant pushed Simonides in his chair to the terrace. Esther watched him give Ben-Hur his farewell and peace of the Lord as a father would to a son. She then went with Ben-Hur to the head of the steps.

    He looked down upon her with a smile. “If I find my mother, Esther, thou shalt go to her at Jerusalem, and be a sister to Tirzah.”

    Esther was about to bid him farewell when he bent and kissed her lightly upon the forehead. With a parting farewell, he turned and left. Esther could only stand there and stare after him. Esther knew then and admitted to herself that she loved Ben-Hur. Perhaps he did not love Iras so much after all. With the remembrance of his kiss upon her forehead, she turned, and, with a smile on her lips, returned to her father.

 

Esther,  Books 6&7

(G.B.)

    After the kiss between Ben-Hur and Esther, Esther had been thinking of what could become of it. She was so happy that the strong Ben-Hur would choose her. Although Ben-Hur technically owned her and her father, she felt as though there was no distance between them. The messengers that brought news to Esther occasionally made her ecstatic when they brought a letter from Ben-Hur. Although sometimes the content of his letters did not concern her, she still loved to read them. The letters made Esther feel close to him.

Going on a walk took up Esther’s time most pleasantly. During her quiet long walks she would contemplate the activities going on around her, but mainly about the large amounts of news being brought in about the Son of God. Since Ben-Hur had left for Jerusalem and Esther stayed in Antioch, Esther had heard of who people were calling Jesus. Esther knew that the Jews in Antioch were praying that Jesus would destroy the Romans and take back their land, but that could not happen. There were mainly just two things on Esther’s mind at this time and they were Ben-Hur and Jesus. Every day she prayed that Ben-Hur would come back safe and secure, but on a few days she would doubt herself even though Ben-Hur had promised that he would. Also, every day her faith in Jesus grew. She always hoped to meet him. Esther was a faithful servant to Ben-Hur and to the Lord.

    Esther continued to write letters to Ben-Hur and received the equal. She dreamed of the day where she would see Ben-Hur again. Although there had been rumors proved true of mobs in Jerusalem, Ben-Hur’s leadership took victory over the mobs.

Esther cared for her father and others in Antioch. Her generous soul reached out to people before she even got to them.The letters from Ben-Hur became fewer and fewer, which got Esther a little worried. Although some days Esther almost gave up hope, she persevered and kept believing that Ben-Hur would one day come home.

     Because Ben-Hur’s letters had become so few, Esther became desperate for news. She traveled to the market where she would always hear news about everything except Ben-Hur. But one day, as she walked her daily route to the market she befriended a produce seller named Rebecca. Rebecca’s cousin was friends with the guide that Ben-Hur was using on his way to Jerusalem. Here she heard stories, whether they were true or false, about Ben-Hur. On a sunny day, she heard that Iras and Balthasar had met Ben-Hur in the desert. In addition, she heard that Ben-Hur had met Jesus. Esther gasped when she heard this. Her body trembled and a tear soon fell from her eye. Rebecca thought about delivering a letter to Ben-Hur for Esther but the burden was too great. So Esther was left just hearing from Rebecca the only words about Ben-Hur she could almost trust.

Esther, Book 8

(L.W.)

A few weeks later, Esther and Simonides had joined Balthasar and Iras in the house of Ben-Hur in Jerusalem. As Esther sat with her father one day, a servant came in with a letter. Esther received the letter from the servant, and, as she glanced at the seal, her heart began to beat quicker and color rushed to her face. It was from Ben-Hur. She hurried to take it to her father, who looked at the seal, then opened the letter. Simonides handed it to her to read it to him and noticed the flush of excitement on her dusky olive skin.

    He spoke: “You know who it is from, I see, Esther.”

    “’Yes—from—our master.’ Though the manner was halting, she met his gaze with modest sincerity.”

    “’You love him, Esther,” he said quietly.

    “’Yes,” she answered. Her heart thrilled at the thought, but, as her father told her what she knew to be true of Ben-Hur and Iras, the Egyptian, it sank. Iras was beautiful, but very cunning and devious, and though she knew it was wrong of her, Esther was angry at Iras’s hold over Ben-Hur. However, Esther could say nothing to Ben-Hur without betraying her true feelings, so she was forced to hold her tongue.

She read the letter from Ben-Hur to her father, then gave it to him. When he handed it back to her, tears burned at the backs of her eyes. Not one word had even alluded to her, and there was nothing addressed to her. She was foolish to think that he thought of her as anything more than his servant, or the daughter of his servant, but it stung her gentle, sincere heart to be so completely and utterly ignored.

    As Simonides finished scanning the letter, Iras came out onto the roof. Esther’s first thought was that Iras was very beautiful, and her second thought was a fierce stab of jealousy. In the next instant, she was ashamed of herself and glad that no one could see her thoughts. After a few words with Simonides, Iras turned to Esther and called her aside. She spoke idly for a few minutes of Rome, then confided, “’Let me…tell you what I would not to any other.’” Esther waited as a feeling of dread tightened her throat.

“’The King is coming,’” Iras said. Esther was confused—she had been expecting Iras to speak of Ben-Hur; who could she be speaking of? Rome and the Roman Empire had an emperor, not a king. Iras, seeing her surprise and confusion, hastened to add, “’The Nazarene will be here tomorrow, and Ben-Hur tonight.’”

Esther’s heart jumped—in the letter to her father, Ben-Hur had not mentioned when he would arrive. How did Iras know? Esther struggled to remain outwardly indifferent, but color flamed in her cheeks. She dropped her eyes, and so missed the tell-tale smile that played across Iras’s face.

“See, here is his promise,” and saying so, Iras produced a rolled parchment. Esther wanted to cry, but would not allow herself to do so in front of Iras. She was ashamed of herself for the fierce jealousy she felt towards Iras. Ben-Hur had not mentioned her at all in the letter to her father, and he had sent news to Iras. At the sound of hurried footsteps on the street, both girls started, and Iras looked down to see who was coming.

    She turned to Esther and said, “Tis he—Ben-Hur himself! That he should appear while I had such thought of him! There are no gods if it be not a good omen. Put your arms about me, Esther—and a kiss!”

    Esther looked steadily, though somewhat angrily, at Iras. “Upon each cheek there was a glow; her eyes sparkled with a light more nearly of anger than ever her nature emitted before. Her gentleness had been too roughly overridden. It was not enough for her to be forbidden more than fugitive dreams of the man she loved; a boastful rival must tell her in confidence of her better success and of the brilliant promises that were its reward. Of her, the servant of a servant, there had been no hint of remembrance; this other could show his letter, leaving her to imagine all it breathed.

So she said, “Dost thou love him so much, then, or Rome so much better.”

Iras looked startled for a moment, then bent threateningly toward Esther and said, “What is he to thee, daughter of Simonides?”

Esther began, refusing to back down, “He is my–”

A thought blasting as lightning stayed the word: She paled, trembled, recovered, and answered, “He is my father’s friend.”

Her tongue had refused to admit her servile condition. Iras laughed more lightly than before. “Not more than that!” she said. “Ah, by the love gods of Egypt, thou mayst keep thy kisses—keep them. Thou hast taught me but now that there are others vastly more estimable waiting me here in Judea; and—” She turned away, looking back over her shoulder. “—I will go get them. Peace to thee.”

“Esther watched her disappear down the steps; then, putting her hands over her face, she burst into tears so they ran scalding through her fingers—tears of shame and choking passion.” It was some time before she recovered enough to join Simonides in the summerhouse.

As Esther attended her father, she noticed that Ben-Hur was not present in the room, nor did Simonides give the impression that he had already come and gone. She concluded bitterly that he must be with Iras. Nearly an hour later, Balthasar requested to meet Simonides, and as they spoke, Ben-Hur entered with Iras. He greeted Balthasar first, then turned to Simonides while Esther waited with a quaking heart, not daring to look fully at him or at Iras. Because of her downcast eyes, she did not see the startled look in his as he glanced at her. He had not seen her for some time, and she had matured and become quite beautiful between his visits.

    For an instant, he was startled; but recovering, he went to Esther and said, ‘Peace to thee, sweet Esther—peace; and thou, Simonides—’ He looked to the merchant as he spoke. ‘—the blessing of the Lord be thine, if only because thou hast been a good father to the fatherless.’”

Simonides answered him and requested that he sit and tell of his travels, but most of all, of the Nazarene.

Esther listened intently as Ben-Hur told of the Nazarene. Could this indeed be the Messiah for whom they had been waiting so long? When Ben-Hur left, late that night, or, in fact, early the next morning, she settled the weary Simonides for the rest of the night, then went to bed, but she did not sleep immediately, because her mind was too full of the discussion of the evening.

    Over the next few days, Simonides and Balthasar kept careful watch on what the Nazarene was doing, from information they received from Ben-Hur. Esther listened eagerly, as well, but the letters dropped off suddenly. Simonides, Balthasar, and Esther all wondered what had happened, but weren’t very worried. Ben-Hur was very busy.

The night of the Passover, a servant came to Simonides with news of Ben-Hur’s arrival. The evening dragged on, but Ben-Hur did not come to speak with Simonides. Esther was disappointed, and she supposed that Ben-Hur was with Iras. After she settled Simonides for the night, she went back to his chair on the summerhouse roof and tried to sort out her thoughts. She wept because of the jealousy she felt toward Iras, and eventually fell asleep, missing Ben-Hur, who came to the roof in search of Simonides.

The next morning, Esther learned that Ben-Hur was gone again. As the feast of the Passover was still continuing, she was kept busy, but not busy enough to stop thinking of him. She wondered where he was, for she knew the Nazarene was in either Jerusalem or one of the surrounding cities. She had heard very little of the Nazarene’s movements since the beginning of the festivities, and because Ben-Hur was a follower of the Nazarene, she heard very little of Ben-Hur. Early that morning, however, a messenger brought news, not from Ben-Hur, but of the city happenings—the Nazarene was being taken to be crucified on Golgotha. Esther, horrified, turned to Simonides. What were they to do? They had not expected this man, whom they believed to be the Messiah, to be killed. Simonides immediately sent a servant to notify Balthasar, then began ordering servants around and making preparations as if preparing to leave the house. Esther said anxiously, “Father, what are you doing? Are we going somewhere?”

    Everything was happening so fast that she could hardly follow it. About half an hour later, she left with her father and Balthasar. Iras was nowhere to be found. Because of his missing daughter, the traumatic news of the Nazarene, and partly from old age, Balthasar was very ill and weak and had to be carried in a litter.

The crowds in the street were gigantic. Esther was frightened, and she stayed close to her father’s chair. Just then, she saw Ben-Hur. Simonides saw him in almost the same instant. They joined him where he stood, and, when the crowds thinned a little bit, they walked on toward Golgotha. Ben-Hur seemed to be in a state of shock at the happenings. Esther walked beside him, wishing she could offer him some comfort, but she too was reeling.

Several hours later, after witnessing the horrors of the Crucifixion, they returned to the house of Hur. Balthasar was dead. Iras was still gone, and though Ben-Hur searched for her, she was nowhere to be found.

Five joy-filled years later, as Esther lay awake in the middle of the night, she thought about the strange happenings of the day. As she had sat, watching her and Ben-Hur’s two children play with Tirzah, a visitor had come. When Esther realized the haggard, prematurely old woman was Iras, she was shocked. They had heard nothing of her since she disappeared before the Crucifixion five years previously. When Iras told Esther that Ben-Hur’s enemy Messala was dead, and that Iras had killed him, Esther was surprised. Ben-Hur believed that Iras had deserted Balthasar for Messala five years ago, but they had never been able to verify that assumption. Iras refused to stay, and, after she left, they never saw her again. Esther was saddened by Iras’s visit, but she was glad that there was no longer any need to worry about Messala. I am so happy, Esther thought as she finally drifted off to sleep.