Angry, hopeless, vengeful, he entered the court of the khan, and found it crowded with people come in during the night. While he ate his breakfast, he listened to some of them. To one party he was specially attracted. They were mostly young, stout, active, hardy men, in manner and speech provincial. In their look, the certain indefinable air, the pose of the head, glance of the eye, there was a spirit which did not, as a rule, belong to the outward seeming of the lower orders of Jerusalem; the spirit thought by some to be a peculiarity of life in mountainous districts, but which may be more surely traced to a life of healthful freedom. In a short time he ascertained they were Galileans, in the city for various purposes, but chiefly to take part in the Feast of Trumpets, set for that day. They became to him at once objects of interest, as hailing from the region in which he hoped to find readiest support in the work he was shortly to set about.
While observing them, his mind running ahead in thought of achievements possible to a legion of such spirits disciplined after the severe Roman style, a man came into the court, his face much flushed, his eyes bright with excitement.
“Why are you here?” he said to the Galileans. “The rabbis and elders are going from the Temple to see Pilate. Come, make haste, and let us go with them.
They surrounded him in a moment.
“To see Pilate! For what?”
“They have discovered a conspiracy. Pilate’s new aqueduct is to be paid for with money of the Temple.”
“What, with the sacred treasure?”
They repeated the question to each other with flashing eyes.
“It is Corban- money of God. Let him touch a shekel of it if he dare!”
“Come,” cried the messenger. “The procession is by this time across the bridge. The whole city is pouring after. We may be needed. Make haste!”
As if the thought and the act were one, there was quick putting-away of useless garments, and the party stood forth bareheaded, and in the short sleeveless under-tunics they were used to wearing as reapers in the field and boatmen on the lake- the garb in which they climbed the hills following the herds, and plucked the ripened vintage, careless of the sun. Lingering only to tighten their girdles, they said, “We are ready.”
Then Ben-Hur spoke to them.
“Men of Galilee,” he said, “I am a son of Judah. Will you take me in your company?”
“We may have to fight,” they replied.
“Oh, then, I will not be first to run away!”
They took the retort in good-humour, and the messenger said- “You seem stout enough. Come along.”
Ben-Hur put off his outer garments.
“You think there may be fighting?” he asked, quietly, as he tightened his girdle.