“Whom else can a Roman trust?”
“What have you to fight with?”
They looked at him silently.
“Well,” he continued, “we will have to do the best we can; but had we not better choose a leader? The legionaries always have one, and so are able to act with one mind.”
The Galileans stared more curiously, as if the idea were new to them.
“Let us at least agree to stay together,” he said. “Now I am ready, if you are.”
“Yes, let us go.”
The khan, it should not be forgotten, was in Bezetha, the new town; and to get to the Praetorium, as the Romans resonantly styled the palace of Herod on Mount Zion, the party had to cross the lowlands north and west of the Temple. By streets- if they may be so called- trending north and south, with intersections hardly up to the dignity of alleys, they passed rapidly round the Akra district to the Tower of Mariamne, from which the way was short to the grand gate of the walled heights. In going, they overtook, or were overtaken by, people like themselves stirred to wrath by news of the proposed desecration. When, at length, they reached the gate of the Praetorium, the procession of elders and rabbis had passed in with a great following, leaving a greater crowd clamouring outside.
A centurion kept the entrance with the guard drawn up full armed under the beautiful marble battlements. The sun struck the soldiers fervidly on helm and shield; but they kept their ranks indifferent alike to its dazzle and to the mouthings of the rabble. Through the open bronze gates a current of citizens poured in, while a much lesser one poured out.
“What is going on?” one of the Galileans asked an outcomer.
“Nothing,” was the reply. “The rabbis are before the door of the palace asking to see Pilate. He has refused to come out. They have sent one to tell him they will not go away till he has heard them. They are waiting.”
“Let us go in,” said Ben-Hur, in his quiet way, seeing what his companions probably did not, that there was not only a disagreement between the suitors and the governor, but an issue joined, and a serious question as to who should have his will.
Inside the gate there was a row of trees in leaf, with seats under them. The people, whether going or coming, carefully avoided the shade cast gratefully upon the white, clean-swept pavement; for, strange as it may seem, a rabbinical ordinance, alleged to have been derived from the law, permitted no green thing to be grown within the walls of Jerusalem. Even the wise king, it was said, wanting a garden for his Egyptian bride, was constrained to found it down in the meeting-place of the valleys above En-rogel.
Through the tree-tops shone the outer fronts of the palace. Turning to the right, the party proceeded a short distance to a spacious square, on the west side of which stood the residence of the governor. An excited multitude filled the square. Every face was directed towards a portico built over a broad doorway which was closed. Under the portico there was another array of legionaries.