The throng was so close the friends could not well have advanced if such had been their desire; they remained therefore in the rear, observers of what was going on. About the portico they could see the high turbans of the rabbis, whose impatience communicated at times to the mass behind them; a cry was frequent to the effect, “Pilate, if thou be a governor, come forth, come forth!”
Once a man coming out pushed through the crowd, his face red with anger.
“Israel is of no account here,” he said, in a loud voice. “On this holy ground we are no better than dogs of Rome.”
“Will he not come out, think you?”
“Come? Has he not thrice refused?”
“What will the rabbis do?”
“As at Caesarea- camp here till he gives them ear.”
“He will not dare touch the treasure, will he?” asked one of the Galileans.
“Who can say? Did not a Roman profane the Holy of Holies? Is there anything sacred from Romans?”
An hour passed, and though Pilate deigned them no answer, the rabbis and crowd remained. Noon came, bringing a shower from the west, but no change in the situation, except that the multitude was larger and much noisier, and the feeling more decidedly angry. The shouting was almost continuous, Come forth, come forth! The cry was sometimes with disrespectful variations. Meanwhile Ben-Hur held his Galilean friends together. He judged the pride of the Roman would eventually get the better of his discretion, and that the end could not be far off. Pilate was but waiting for the people to furnish him an excuse for resort to violence.
And at last the end came. In the midst of the assemblage there was heard the sound of blows, succeeded instantly by yells of pain and rage, and a most furious commotion. The venerable men in front of the portico faced about aghast. The common people in the rear at first pushed forward; in the centre, the effort was to get out; and for a short time the pressure of opposing forces was terrible. A thousand voices made inquiry, raised all at once; as no one had time to answer, the surprise speedily became a panic.
Ben-Hur kept his senses.
“You cannot see,” he said to one of the Galileans.
“I will raise you up.”
He caught the man about the middle, and lifted him bodily.
“What is it?”
“I see now,” said the man. “There are some armed with dubs, and they are beating the people. They are dressed like Jews.”
“Who are they?”
“Romans, as the Lord liveth! Romans in disguise. Their clubs fly like flails! There, I saw a rabbi struck down- an old man! They spare nobody!”
Ben-Hur let the man down.
“Men of Galilee,” he said, “it is a trick of Pilate’s. Now, will you do what I say, we will get even with the club-men.”