Meantime down the Cedron, and in towards Bezetha, especially on the roadsides quite up to the Damascus Gate, the country filled rapidly with all kinds of temporary shelters for pilgrims to the Passover. Ben-Hur visited the strangers and talked with them; and returning to his tents, he was each time more and more astonished at the vastness of their numbers. And when he further discovered that every part of the world was represented among them- cities upon both shores of the Mediterranean far off as the Pillars of the West, river-towns in distant India, provinces in northernmost Europe; and that, though they frequently saluted him with tongues unacquainted with a syllable of the old Hebrew of the fathers, these representatives had all the same object- celebration of the notable feast- an idea tinged mistily with superstitious fancy forced itself upon him. Might he not after all have misunderstood the Nazarene? Might not that person by patient waiting be covering silent preparation, and proving his fitness for the glorious task before him? How much better this time for the movement than that other when, by Gennesaret, the Galileans would have forced assumption of the crown? Then the support would have been limited to a few thousands; now his proclamation would be responded to by millions- who could say how many? Pursuing this theory to its conclusions, Ben-Hur moved amidst brilliant promises, and glowed with the thought that the melancholy man, under gentle seeming and wondrous self-denial, was in fact carrying in disguise the subtlety of a politician and the genius of a soldier.
Several times also, in the meanwhile, low-set, brawny men, bare-headed and black-bearded, came and asked for Ben-Hur at the tent: his interviews with them were always apart; and to his mother’s questions who they were he answered- “Some good friends of mine from Galilee.”
Through them he kept informed of the movements of the Nazarene, and of the schemes of the Nazarene’s enemies, Rabbinical and Roman. That the good man’s life was in danger he knew; but that there were any bold enough to attempt to take it at that time he could not believe. It seemed too securely intrenched in a great fame and an assured popularity. The very vastness of the attendance in and about the city brought with it a seeming guaranty of safety. And yet, to say truth, Ben-Hur’s confidence rested most certainly upon the miraculous power of the Christ. Pondering the subject in the purely human view, that the master of such authority over life and death, used so frequently for the good of others, would not exert it in care of himself, was simply as much past belief as it was past understanding.
Nor should it be forgotten that all these were incidents of occurrence between the twenty-first day of March- counting by the modern calendar- and the twenty-fifth. The evening of the latter day Ben-Hur yielded to his impatience, and rode to the city, leaving behind him a promise to return in the night.