“Where are thy legions, son of Hur?” asked Simonides, aroused.
“Hannas can tell thee better than I.”
“All but these two.”
“Then all is lost, and this good man must die!”
The face of the merchant knit convulsively as he spoke, and his head sank upon his breast. He had borne his part in Ben-Hur’s labours well, and he had been inspired by the same hopes, now blown out never to be rekindled.
Two other men succeeded the Nazarene, bearing cross-beams.
“Who are these?” Ben-Hur asked of the Galileans.
“Thieves appointed to die with the Nazarene,” they replied.
Next in the procession stalked a mitred figure clad all in the golden vestments of the high-priest. Policemen from the Temple curtained him round about; and after him, in order, strode the sanhedrim, and a long array of priests, the latter in their plain white garments overwrapped by abnets of many folds and gorgeous colours.
“The son-in-law of Hannas,” said Ben-Hur, in a low voice.
“Caiaphas! I have seen him,” Simonides replied, adding, after a pause during which he thoughtfully watched the haughty pontiff, “and now am I convinced. With such assurance as proceeds from clear enlightenment of the spirit- with absolute assurance- now know I that he who first goes yonder with the inscription about his neck is what the inscription proclaims him- KING OF THE JEWS. A common man, an impostor, a felon was never thus waited upon. For look! Here are the nations- Jerusalem, Israel. Here is the ephod, here the blue robe with its fringe, and purple pomegranates, and golden bells, not seen in the street since the day Jaddua went out to meet the Macedonian- proofs all that this Nazarene is King. Would I could rise and go after him!”
Ben-Hur listened surprised; and directly, as if himself awakening to his unusual display of feeling, Simonides said, impatiently- “Speak to Balthasar, I pray you, and let us begone. The vomit of Jerusalem is coming.”
Then Esther spoke.
“I see some women there, and they are weeping. Who are they?”
Following the pointing of her hand, the party beheld four women in tears; one of them leaned upon the arm of a man of aspect not unlike the Nazarene’s. Presently Ben-Hur answered- “The man is the disciple whom the Nazarene loves the best of all; she who leans upon his arm is Mary, the Master’s mother; the others are friendly women of Galilee.”
Esther pursued the mourners with glistening eyes, until the multitude received them out of sight.
It may be the reader will fancy the foregoing snatches of conversation were had in quiet; but it was not so. The talking was, for the most part, like that indulged by people at the seaside under the sound of the surf; for to nothing else can the clamour of this division of the mob be so well likened.
The demonstration was the forerunner of those in which, scarce thirty years later, under rule of the factions, the Holy City was torn to pieces; it was quite as great in numbers, as fanatical and bloodthirsty; boiled and raved, and had in it exactly the same elements- servants, camel-drivers, marketmen, gate-keepers, gardeners, dealers in fruits and wines, proselytes, and foreigners not proselytes, watchmen and menials from the Temple, thieves, robbers, and the myriad not assignable to any class, but who, on such occasions as this, appeared no one could say whence, hungry and smelling of caves and old tombs- bareheaded wretches with naked arms and legs, hair and beard in uncombed mats, and each with one garment the colour of clay; beasts with abysmal mouths, in outcry effective as lions calling each other across desert spaces. Some of them had swords; a greater number flourished spears and javelins; though the weapons of the many were staves and knotted clubs, and slings, for which latter selected stones were stored in scrips, and sometimes in sacks improvised from the foreskirt of their dirty tunics. Among the mass here and there appeared persons of high degree- scribes, elders, rabbis, Pharisees with broad fringing, Sadducees in fine cloaks- serving for the time as prompters and directors. If a throat tired of one cry, they invented another for it; if brassy lungs showed signs of collapse, they set them going again; and yet the clamour, loud and continuous as it was, could have been reduced to a few syllables- King of the Jews!- Room for the King of the Jews!- Defiler of the Temple!- Blasphemer of God!- Crucify him, crucify him! And of these cries the last one seemed in greatest favour, because, doubtless, it was more directly expressive of the wish of the mob, and helped to better articulate its hatred of the Nazarene.