Ben Hur: A Tale Of The Christ, A Novel By: Lew Wallace

8792 words - 35 pages

chapter 1-5The Jebel es Zubleh is a mountain fifty miles and more in length,and so narrow that its tracery on the map gives it a likeness toa caterpillar crawling from the south to the north. Standing onits red-and-white cliffs, and looking off under the path of therising sun, one sees only the Desert of Arabia, where the eastwinds, so hateful to vinegrowers of Jericho, have kept theirplaygrounds since the beginning. Its feet are well covered bysands tossed from the Euphrates, there to lie, for the mountainis a wall to the pasture-lands of Moab and Ammon on the west--landswhich else had been of the desert a part.The Arab has impressed his language upon everything south andeast of Judea, so, in his tongue, the old Jebel is the parent ofnumberless wadies which, intersecting the Roman road--now a dimsuggestion of what once it was, a dusty path for Syrian pilgrimsto and from Mecca--run their furrows, deepening as they go, topass the torrents of the rainy season into the Jordan, or theirlast receptacle, the Dead Sea. Out of one of these wadies--or,more particularly, out of that one which rises at the extreme endof the Jebel, and, extending east of north, becomes at lengththe bed of the Jabbok River--a traveller passed, going to thetable-lands of the desert. To this person the attention of thereader is first besought.Judged by his appearance, he was quite forty-five years old.His beard, once of the deepest black, flowing broadly over hisbreast, was streaked with white. His face was brown as a parchedcoffee-berry, and so hidden by a red kufiyeh (as the kerchief ofthe head is at this day called by the children of the desert)as to be but in part visible. Now and then he raised his eyes,and they were large and dark. He was clad in the flowing garmentsso universal in the East; but their style may not be describedmore particularly, for he sat under a miniature tent, and rodea great white dromedary.It may be doubted if the people of the West ever overcome the impressionmade upon them by the first view of a camel equipped and loaded forthe desert. Custom, so fatal to other novelties, affects this feelingbut little. At the end of long journeys with caravans, after years ofresidence with the Bedawin, the Western-born, wherever they may be,will stop and wait the passing of the stately brute. The charm isnot in the figure, which not even love can make beautiful; nor inthe movement, the noiseless stepping, or the broad careen. As isthe kindness of the sea to a ship, so that of the desert to itscreature. It clothes him with all its mysteries; in such manner,too, that while we are looking at him we are thinking of them:therein is the wonder. The animal which now came out of the wadymight well have claimed the customary homage. Its color and height;its breadth of foot; its bulk of body, not fat, but overlaid withmuscle; its long, slender neck, of swanlike curvature; the head,wide between the eyes, and tapering to a muzzle which a lady'sbracelet might have almost...

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