In course of the duty, the young man had subjected himself to such serious defilement as to debar him from participation in the ceremonies of the great feast, then near at hand. He could not enter the least sacred of the courts of the Temple. Of necessity, not less than choice, therefore, he stayed at the tents with his beloved people. There was a great deal to hear from them, and a great deal to tell them of himself.
Stories such as theirs- sad experiences extending through a lapse of years, sufferings of body, acuter sufferings of mind- are usually long in the telling, the incidents seldom following each other in threaded connection. He listened to the narrative and all they told him, with outward patience masking inward feelings. In fact, his hatred of Rome and Romans reached a higher mark than ever; his desire for vengeance became a thirst which attempts at reflection only intensified. In the almost savage bitterness of his humour many mad impulses took hold of him. The opportunities of the highways presented themselves with singular force of temptation; he thought seriously of insurrection in Galilee; even the sea, ordinarily a retrospective horror to him, stretched itself map-like before his fancy, laced and interlaced with lines of passage crowded with imperial plunder and imperial travellers; but the better judgment matured in calmer hours was happily too firmly fixed to be supplanted by present passion however strong. Each mental venture in reach of new expedients brought him back to the old conclusion- that there could be no sound success except in a war involving all Israel in solid union; and all musing upon the subject, all inquiry, all hope, ended where they began- in the Nazarene and his purposes.
At odd moments the excited schemer found a pleasure in fashioning a speech for that person- “Hear, O Israel! I am he, the promised of God, born King of the Jews- come to you with the dominion spoken of by the prophets. Rise now, and lay hold on the world!”
Would the Nazarene but speak these few words, what a tumult would follow! How many mouths performing the office of trumpets would take them up and blow them abroad for the massing of armies! Would he speak them? And eager to begin the work, and answering in the worldly way, Ben-Hur lost sight of the double nature of the man, and of the other possibility, that the divine in him might transcend the human. In the miracle of which Tirzah and his mother were the witnesses even more nearly than himself, he saw and set apart and dwelt upon a power ample enough to raise and support a Jewish crown over the wrecks of the Italian, and more than ample to remodel society, and convert mankind into one purified happy family; and when that work was done, could any one say the peace which might then be ordered without hindrance was not a mission worthy a son of God? Could any one then deny the Redeemership of the Christ? And discarding all consideration of political consequences, what unspeakable personal glory there would then be to him as a man? It was not in the nature of any mere mortal to refuse such a career.