Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, a novel by: Lew Wallace

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chapter 1-5

The 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 to

a caterpillar crawling from the south to the north. Standing on

its red-and-white cliffs, and looking off under the path of the

rising sun, one sees only the Desert of Arabia, where the east

winds, so hateful to vinegrowers of Jericho, have kept their

playgrounds since the beginning. Its feet are well covered by

sands tossed from the Euphrates, there to lie, for the mountain

is a wall to the pasture-lands of Moab and Ammon on the west--lands

which else had been of the desert a part.

The Arab has impressed his language upon everything south and

east of Judea, so, in his tongue, the old Jebel is the parent of

numberless wadies which, intersecting the Roman road--now a dim

suggestion of what once it was, a dusty path for Syrian pilgrims

to and from Mecca--run their furrows, deepening as they go, to

pass the torrents of the rainy season into the Jordan, or their

last receptacle, the Dead Sea.

Out of one of these wadies--or,

more particularly, out of that one which rises at the extreme end

of the Jebel, and, extending east of north, becomes at length

the bed of the Jabbok River--a traveller passed, going to the

table-lands of the desert. To this person the attention of the

reader is first besought.

Judged by his appearance, he was quite forty-five years old.

His beard, once of the deepest black, flowing broadly over his

breast, was streaked with white. His face was brown as a parched

coffee-berry, and so hidden by a red kufiyeh (as the kerchief of

the head is at this day called by the children...