The Galilean spirit arose.
“Yes, yes!” they answered.
“Let us go back to the trees by the gate, and we may find the planting of Herod, though unlawful, has some good in it after all. Come!”
They ran back all of them fast as they could; and, by throwing their united weight upon the limbs, tore them from the trunks. In a brief time they, too, were armed. Returning, at the corner of the square they met the crowd rushing madly for the gate. Behind, the clamour continued- a medley of shrieks, groans, and execrations.
“To the wall!” Ben-Hur shouted. “To the wall!- and let the herd go by!”
So, clinging to the masonry at their right hand, they escaped the might of the rush, and little by little made headway until, at last, the square was reached.
“Keep together now, and follow me!”
By this time Ben-Hur’s leadership was perfect; and as he pushed into the seething mob his party closed after him in a body. And when the Romans, clubbing the people and making merry as they struck them down, came hand to hand with the Galileans, lithe of limb, eager for the fray, and equally armed, they were in turn surprised. Then the shouting was close and fierce; the crash of sticks rapid and deadly; the advance furious as hate could make it. No one performed his part as well as Ben-Hur, whose training served him admirably; for, not merely he knew to strike and guard; his long arm, perfect action, and incomparable strength helped him, also, to success in every encounter. He was at the same time fighting-man and leader. The club he wielded was of goodly length and weighty, so had need to strike a man but once. He seemed, moreover, to have eyes for each combat of his friends, and the faculty of being at the right moment exactly where he was most needed. In his fighting cry there were inspiration for his party and alarm for his enemies. Thus surprised and equally matched, the Romans at first retired, but finally turned their backs and fled to the portico. The impetuous Galileans would have pursued them to the steps, but Ben-Hur wisely restrained them.
“Stay, my men!” he said. “The centurion yonder is coming with the guard. They have swords and shields; we cannot fight them. We have done well; let us get back and out of the gate while we may.”
They obeyed him, though slowly; for they had frequently to step over their countrymen lying where they had been felled; some writhing and groaning, some praying help, others mute as the dead. But the fallen were not all Jews. In that there was consolation.
The centurion shouted to them as they went off; Ben-Hur laughed at him, and replied in his own tongue, “If we are dogs of Israel, you are Jackals of Rome. Remain here and we will come again.”