THE GOING TO CALVARY.
NEXT morning, about the second hour, two men rode full speed to the doors of Ben-Hur’s tents, and dismounting, asked to see him. He was not yet risen, but gave directions for their admission.
“Peace to you, brethren,” he said, for they were of his Galileans, and trusted officers. “Will you be seated?”
“Nay,” the senior replied, bluntly, “to sit and be at ease is to let the Nazarene die. Rise, son of Judah, and go with us. The judgment has been given. The tree of the cross is already at Golgotha.”
Ben-Hur stared at them.
“The cross!” was all he could for the moment say.
“They took him last night, and tried him,” the man continued. “At dawn they led him before Pilate. Twice the Roman denied his guilt; twice he refused to give him over. At last he washed his hands, and said, ‘Be it upon you then;’ and they answered- ”
“They- the priests and people- ‘His blood be upon us and our children.'”
“Holy father Abraham!” cried Ben-Hur; “a Roman kinder to an Israelite than his own kin! And if- ah, if he should indeed be the son of God, what shall ever wash his blood from their children? It must not be- ’tis time to fight!”
His face brightened with resolution, and he clapped his hands.
“The horses- and quickly!” he said to the Arab who answered the signal. “And bid Amrah send me fresh garments, and bring my sword! It is time to die for Israel, my friends. Tarry without till I come.”
He ate a crust, drank a cup of wine, and was soon upon the road.
“Whither would you go first?” asked the Galilean.
“To collect the legions.”
“Alas!” the man replied, throwing up his hands.
“Master”- the man spoke with shame- “master, I and my friend here are all that are faithful. The rest do follow the priests.”
“Seeking what?” and Ben-Hur drew rein.
“To kill him.”
“Not the Nazarene?”
“You have said it.”
Ben-Hur looked slowly from one man to the other. He was hearing again the question of the night before- “The cup my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” In the ear of the Nazarene he was putting his own question, “If I bring thee rescue, wilt thou accept it?” He was saying to himself, “This death may not be averted. The man has been travelling towards it with full knowledge from the day he began his mission: it is imposed by a will higher than his; whose but the Lord’s! If he is consenting, if he goes to it voluntarily, what shall another do?” Nor less did Ben-Hur see the failure of the scheme he had built upon the fidelity of the Galileans; their desertion, in fact, left nothing more of it. But how singular it should happen that morning of all others! A dread seized him. It was possible his scheming, and labour, and expenditure of treasure might have been but blasphemous contention with God. When he picked up the reins and said, “Let us go, brethren,” all before him was uncertainty. The faculty of resolving quickly, without which one cannot be a hero in the midst of stirring scenes, was numb within him.