It may have been the twilight which seemed to cause such a sharp change
in the Procurator's appearance. He appeared to have aged visibly and he
looked hunched and worried. Once he glanced round and shuddered, staring at
the empty chair with his cloak thrown over its back. The night of the feast
was approaching, the evening shadows were playing tricks and the exhausted
Procurator may have thought he had seen someone sitting in the chair. In a
moment of superstitious fear the Procurator shook the cloak, then walked
away and began pacing the balcony, occasionally rubbing his hands, drinking
from the goblet on the table, or halting to stare unseeingly at the mosaic
floor as though trying to decipher some writing in it.
For the second time that day a brooding depression overcame him. Wiping
his brow, where he felt only a faintly nagging memory of the hellish pain
from that morning, the Procurator racked his brain in an attempt to define
the cause of his mental agony. He soon realised what it was, but unable to
face it, he tried to deceive himself. It was clear to him that this morning
he had irretrievably lost something and now he was striving to compensate
for that loss with a trivial substitute, which took the form of belated
action. His self-deception consisted in trying to persuade himself that his
actions this evening were no less significant than the sentence which he had
passed earlier in the day. But in this attempt the Procurator had little
At one of his turns he stopped abruptly and whistled. In reply there
came a low bark from the twilight shadows and a gigantic grey-coated dog
with pointed ears bounded in from the garden, wearing a gold-studded collar.
' Banga, Banga,' cried the Procurator weakly.
The dog stood up on its hind legs, put its forepaws on its master's
shoulders, almost knocking him over, and licked his cheek. The Procurator
sat down in a chair. Banga, tongue hanging out and panting fast, lay down at
Pilate's feet with an expression of delight that the thunderstorm was over,
the only thing in the world that frightened this otherwise fearless animal;
delighted, too, because it was back again with the man it loved, respected
and regarded as the most powerful being on earth, the ruler of all men,
thanks to whom the dog too felt itself a specially privileged and superior
creature. But lying at his feet and gazing into the twilit garden without
even looking at Pilate the dog knew at once that its master was troubled. It
moved, got up, went round to Pilate's side and laid its forepaws and head on
the Procurator's knees, smearing the hem of his cloak with wet sand. Banga's
action seemed to mean that he wanted to comfort his master and was prepared
to face misfortune with him. This he tried to express in his eyes and in the
forward set of his ears. These two, dog and man who loved each other, sat in
vigil together on the balcony that night of the feast.
Meanwhile Arthanius was busy. Leaving the upper terrace of the garden,
he walked down the steps to the next terrace and turned right towards the
barracks inside the palace grounds. These quarters housed the two centuries
who had accompanied the Procurator to Jerusalem for the feast-days, together
with the Procurator's secret bodyguard commanded by Arthanius. He spent a
little while in the barracks, no longer than ten minutes, but immediately
afterwards three carts drove out of the barrack yard loaded with entrenching
tools and a vat of water, and escorted by a section of fifteen mounted men
wearing grey cloaks. Carts and escort left the palace grounds by a
side-gate, set off westward, passed through a gateway in the city wall and
first took the Bethlehem road northward; they reached the crossroads by the
Hebron gate and there turned on to the Jaffa road, along the route taken by
the execution party that morning. By now it was dark and the moon had risen
on the horizon.
Soon after the carts and their escort section had set off, Ar-thanius
also left the palace on horseback, having changed into a shabby black
chiton, and rode into the city. After a while he could have been seen riding
towards the fortress of Antonia, situated immediately north of the great
temple. The visitor spent an equally short time in the fortress, after which
his route took him to the winding, crooked streets of the Lower City. He had
now changed his mount to a mule.
Thoroughly at home in the city, the man easily found the street he was
looking for. It was known as the street of the Greeks, as it contained a
number of Greek shops, including one that sold carpets. There the man
stopped his mule, dismounted and tethered it to a ring outside the gate. The
shop was shut. The guest passed through a wicket gate in the wall beside the
shop door and entered a small rectangular courtyard, fitted out as a
stables. Turning the corner of the yard the visitor reached the ivy-grown
verandah of the owner's house and looked round him. House and stables were
dark, the lamps not yet lit. He called softly:
At the sound of his voice a door creaked and a young woman, her head
uncovered, appeared on the verandah in the evening dusk. She leaned over the
railings, looking anxiously to see who had arrived. Recognising the visitor,
she gave him a welcoming smile, nodded and waved.
' Are you alone? ' asked Arthanius softly in Greek. ' Yes, I am,'
whispered the woman on the verandah. ' My husband went to Caesarea this
morning '--here the woman glanced at the door and added in a whisper--' but
the servant is here.' Then she beckoned him to come in.
Arthanius glanced round, mounted the stone steps and went indoors with
the woman. Here he spent no more than five minutes, after which he left the
house, pulled his cowl lower over his eyes and went out into the street. By
now candles were being lit in all the houses, there was a large feast-day
crowd in the streets, and Arthanius on his mule was lost in the stream of
riders and people on foot. Where he went from there is unknown.
When Arthanius had left her, the woman called Niza began to change in a
great hurry, though despite the difficulty of finding the things she needed
in her dark room she lit no candle and did not call her servant. Only when
she was ready, with a black shawl over her head, did she say :
' If anybody asks for me tell them that I've gone to see Enanta.'
Out of the dark her old serving-woman grumbled in reply :
' Enanta? Thait woman! You know your husband's forbidden you to see
her. She's nothing but a procuress, that Enanta of yours. I'll tell your
husband . . .'
' Now, now, now, be quiet,' retorted Niza and slipped out of doors like
a shadow, her sandals clattering across the paved courtyard. Still
grumbling, the servant shut the verandah door and Niza left her house.
At the same time a young man left a tumbledown little house with its
blind side to the street and whose only windows gave on to the courtyard,
and passed through the wicket into an unpaved alley that descended in steps
to one of the city's pools. He wore a white kefiyeh falling to his
shoulders, a new dark-blue fringed tallith fo:r the feast-day, and creaking
new sandals. Dressed up for the occasion, the handsome, hook-nosed young man
set off boldly, overtaking passers-by as he hurried home to the solemn
Passover-night table, watching the candles as they were lit in house after
house. The young man took the road leading past the bazaar towards the
palace of Caiaphas the High Priest at the foot of the temple hill.
After a while he entered the gates of Caiaphas' palace and left it a
short time later.
Leaving the palace, already bright with candles and torches and festive
bustle,, the young man returned, with an even bolder and more cheerful step,
to the Lower City. At the corner where the street joined the bazaar square,
he was passed in the seething crowd by a woman walking with the hip-swinging
gait of a prostitute and wearing a black shawl low over her eyes. As she
overtook him the woman raised her shawl slightly and flashed a glance in the
young man's direction, but instead of slowing down she walked faster as
though trying to run away from him.
The young man not only noticed the woman but recognised her. He gave a
start, halted, stared perplexedly at her back and at once set off to catch
her up. Almost knocking over a man carrying a jug, the young man drew level
with the woman and panting with agitation called out to her :
' Niza! '
The woman turned, frowned with a look of chilling irritation and coldly
replied in Greek :
' Oh, it's you, Judas. I didn't recognise you. Still, it's lucky. We
have a saying that if you don't recognise a person he's going to be rich. .
So excited that his heart began to leap like a wild bird in a cage,
Judas asked in a jerky whisper, afraid that the passers-by might hear:
' Where are you going, Niza? '
' Why do you want to know? ' answered Niza, slackening her pace and
staring haughtily at Judas.
In a childish, pleading voice Judas whispered distractedly :
' But Niza ... we agreed ... I was to come to see you, you said you'd
be at home all evening . . .'
' Oh no,' replied Niza, pouting capriciously, which to Judas made her
face, the most beautiful he had ever seen in the world, even prettier, ' I'm
bored. It's a feast-day for you, but what do you expect me to do? Sit and
listen to you sighing on the verandah? And always frightened of the servant
telling my husband? No, I've decided to go out of town and listen to the
' Out of town? ' asked Judas, bewildered. ' What--alone? ' ' Yes, of
course,' replied Niza.
' Let me go with you,' whispered Judas with a sigh. His mind was
confused, he had forgotten about everything and he gazed pleadingly into
Niza's blue eyes that now seemed black in the darkness. Niza said nothing
but walked faster.
' Why don't you say something, Niza? ' asked Judas miserably, hastening
to keep pace with her.
' Won't I be bored with you? ' Ni2a asked suddenly and stopped. Judas
now felt utterly hopeless.
' All right,' said Niza, relenting at last. ' Come on!'
' Where to? '
' Wait. . . let's go into this courtyard and arrange it, otherwise I'm
afraid of someone seeing me and then telling my husband that I was out on
the streets with my lover.'
Niza and Judas vanished from the bazaar and began whispering under the
gateway of a courtyard.
' Go to the olive-grove,' whispered Niza, pulling her shawl down over
her eyes and turning away from a man who came into the courtyard carrying a
bucket, ' in Gethsemane, over Kedron, do you know where I mean? '
' Yes, yes . . .'
' I'll go first,' Niza went on, ' but don't follow close behind me, go
separately. I'll go ahead. . . . When you've crossed the stream ... do you
know where the grotto is? '
' Yes, I know, I know . . .'
' Go on through the olive grove on the hill and then turn right towards
the grotto. I'll be there. But whatever you do, don't follow me at once, be
patient, wait a while here.' With these words Niza slipped out of the
gateway as though she had never spoken to Judas.
Judas stood alone for some time, trying to collect his whirling
thoughts. Among other things he tried to think how he would explain his
absence from the Passover table to his parents. He stood and tried to work
out some lie, but in his excitement his mind refused to function properly,
and still lacking an excuse he slowly walked out of the gateway.
Now he took another direction and instead of making for the Lower City
he turned back towards the palace of Caiaphas. The celebrations had already
begun. From windows on all sides came the murmur of the Passover ceremony.
Latecomers hastening home urged on their donkeys, whipping them and shouting
at them. On foot Judas hurried on, not noticing the menacing turrets of the
fortress of Antonia, deaf to the call of trumpets from the fortress,
oblivious of the Roman mounted patrol with their torches that threw an
alarming glare across his path.
As he turned past the fortress Judas saw that two gigantic
seven-branched candlesticks had been lit at a dizzy height above the temple.
But he only saw them in a blur. They seemed like dozens of lamps that burned
over Jerusalem in rivalry with the single lamp climbing high above the
Judas had no thought for anything now but his urgent haste to leave the
city as quickly as possible by the Gethsemane gate. Occasionally he thought
he could see, among the backs and faces of the people in front of him, a
figure dancing along and drawing him after it. But it was an illusion. Judas
realised that Niza must be well ahead of him. He passed a row of
moneychangers' shops and at last reached the Gethsemane gate. Here, burning
with impatience, he was forced to wait. A camel caravan was coming into the
city, followed by a mounted Syrian patrol, which Judas mentally cursed. . .
But the delay was short and the impatient Judas was soon outside the
city wall. To his left was a small cemetery, beside it the striped tents of
a band of pilgrims. Crossing the dusty, moonlit road Judas hurried on
towards the stream Kedron and crossed it, the water bubbling softly under
his feet as he leaped from stone to stone. Finally he reached the Gethsemane
bank and saw with joy that the road ahead was deserted. Not far away could
be seen the half-ruined gateway of the olive grove.
After the stifling city Judas was struck by the intoxicating freshness
of the spring night. Across a garden fence the scent of myrtles and acacia
was blown from the fields of Gethsemane.
The gateway was unguarded and a few minutes later Judas was far into
the olive grove and running beneath the mysterious shadows of the great,
branching olive trees. The way led uphill. Judas climbed, panting,
occasionally emerging from darkness into chequered carpets of moonlight
which reminded him of the carpets in the shop kept by Niza's jealous
Soon an oil-press came in sight in a clearing to Judas' left, with its
heavy stone crushing-wheel and a pile of barrels. There was no one in the
olive grove--work had stopped at sunset and choirs of nightingales were
singing above Judas' head.
He was near his goal. He knew that in a moment from the darkness to his
right he would hear the quiet whisper of running water from the grotto.
There was the sound now and the air was cooler near the grotto. He checked
his pace and called:
' Niza! '
But instead of Niza slipping out from behind a thick olive trunk, the
stocky figure of a man jumped out on to the path. Something glittered
momentarily in his hand. With a faint cry Judas started running back, but a
second man blocked his way.
The first man asked Judas:
' How much did you get? Talk, if you want to save your life.'
Hope welled up in Judas' heart and he cried desperately :
' Thirty tetradrachms! Thirty tetradrachms! I have it all on me.
There's the money! Take it, but don't kill me! '
The man snatched the purse from Judas' hand. At the same moment a knife
was rammed into Judas' back under his shoulder-blade. He pitched forward,
throwing up his hands, fingers clutching. The man in front caught Judas on
his knife and thrust it up to the hilt into Judas' heart.
' Ni . . . 2a . . .' said Judas, in a low, reproachful growl quite
unlike his own, youthful, high-pitched voice and made not another sound. His
body hit the ground so hard that the air whistled as it was knocked out of
Then a third figure stepped out on to the path, wearing a hooded cloak,
' Don't waste any time,' he ordered. The cowled man gave the murderers
a note and they wrapped purse and note into a piece of leather which they
bound criss-cross with twine. The hooded man put the bundle down his
shirt-front, then the two assassins ran off the path and were swallowed by
the darkness between the olive trees.
The third man squatted down beside the body and looked into his face.
It seemed as white as chalk, with an expression not unlike spiritual beauty.
A few seconds later there was not a living soul on the path. The
lifeless body lay with arms outstretched. Its left foot was in a patch of
moonlight that showed up every strap and lace of the man's sandal. The whole
of Gethsemane rang with the song of nightingales.
The man with the hood left the path and plunged deep through the olive
grove, heading southward. He climbed over the wall at the southernmost
corner of the olive grove where the upper course of masonry jutted out. Soon
he reached the bank of Kedron, where he waded in and waited in midstream
until he saw the distant outlines of two horses and a man beside them, also
standing in the stream. Water flowed past, washing their hooves. The groom
mounted one of the horses, the cowled man the other and both set off walking
down the bed of the stream, pebbles crunching beneath the horses' hooves.
The riders left the water, climbed up the bank and followed the line of the
city walls at a walk. Then the groom galloped ahead and disappeared from
sight while the man in the cowl stopped his horse, dismounted on the empty
road, took off his cloak, turned it inside out, and producing a flat-topped,
uncrested helmet from the folds, put it on. The rider was now in military
uniform with a short sword at his hip. He flicked the reins and the fiery
cavalry charger broke into a trot. He had not far to go before he rode up to
the southern gate of Jerusalem.
Torch-flames danced and flickered restlessly under the arch of the gate
where the sentries from the second cohort of the Lightning legion sat on
stone benches playing dice. As the mounted officer approached the soldiers
jumped up, the officer waved to them and rode into the city.
The town was lit up for the festival. Candle flames played at every
window and from each one came the sound of sing-song incantations. Glancing
occasionally into the windows that opened on to the street the rider saw
people at their tables set with kid's meat and cups of wine between the
dishes of bitter herbs. Whistling softly the rider made his way at a
leisurely trot through the deserted streets of the Lower City, heading
towards the fortress of Antonia and looking up now and then at vast
seven-branched candlesticks flaring over the temple or at the moon above
The palace of Herod the Great had no part in the ceremonies of Passover
night. Lights were burning in the outbuildings on the south side where the
officers of the Roman cohort and the Legate of the Legion were quartered,
and there were signs of movement and life. The frontal wings, with their one
involuntary occupant--the Procurator--with their arcades and gilded statues,
seemed blinded by the brilliance of the moonlight. Inside the palace was
darkness and silence.
The Procurator, as he had told Arthanius, preferred not to go inside.
He had ordered a bed to be prepared on the balcony where he had dined and
where he had conducted the interrogation that morning. The Procurator lay
down on the couch, but he could not sleep. The naked moon hung far up in the
clear sky and for several hours the Procurator lay staring at it.
Sleep at last took pity on the hegemon towards midnight. Yawning
spasmodically, the Procurator unfastened his cloak and threw it off, took
off the strap that belted his tunic with its steel sheath-knife, put it on
the chair beside the bed, took off his sandals and stretched out. Banga at
once jumped up beside him on the bed and lay down, head to head. Putting his
arm round the dog's neck the Procurator at last closed his eyes. Only then
did the dog go to sleep.
The couch stood in half darkness, shaded from the moon by a pillar,
though a long ribbon of moonlight stretched from the staircase to the bed.
As the Procurator drifted away from reality he set off along that path of
light, straight up towards the moon. In his sleep he even laughed from
happiness at the unique beauty of that transparent blue pathway. He was
walking with Banga and the vagrant philosopher beside him. They were arguing
about a weighty and complex problem over which neither could gain the upper
hand. They disagreed entirely, which made their argument the more absorbing
and interminable. The execution, of course, had been a pure misunderstanding
: after all this same man, with his ridiculous philosophy that all men were
good, was walking beside him--consequently he was alive. Indeed the very
thought of executing such a man was absurd. There had been no execution I It
had never taken place! This thought comforted him as he strode along the
They had as much time to spare as they wanted, the storm would not
break until evening. Cowardice was undoubtedly one of the most terrible
sins. Thus spake Yeshua Ha-Notsri. No, philosopher, I disagree--it is the
most terrible sin of all!
Had he not shown cowardice, the man who was now Procurator of Judaea
but who had once been a Tribune of the legion on that day in the Valley of
the Virgins when the wild Germans had so nearly clubbed Muribellum the Giant
to death? Have pity on me, philosopher! Do you, a man of your intelligence,
imagine that the Procurator of Judaea would ruin his career for the sake of
a man who had committed a crime against Caesar?
' Yes, yes . . .' Pilate groaned and sobbed in his sleep.
Of course he would risk ruining his career. This morning he had not
been ready to, but now at night, having thoroughly weighed the matter, he
was prepared to ruin himself if need be. He would do anything to save this
crazy, innocent dreamer, this miraculous healer, from execution.
' You and I will always be together,' said the ragged tramp-philosopher
who had so mysteriously become the travelling companion of the Knight of the
Golden Lance. ' Where one of us goes, the other shall go too. Whenever
people think of me they will think of you--me, an orphan child of unknown
parents and you the son of an astrologer-king and a miller's daughter, the
beautiful Pila! '
' Remember to pray for me, the astrologer's son,' begged Pilate in his
dream. And reassured by a nod from the pauper from Ein-Sarid who was his
companion, the cruel Procurator of Judaea wept with joy and laughed in his
The hegemon's awakening was all the more fearful after the euphoria of
his dream. Banga started to growl at the moon, and the blue pathway,
slippery as butter, collapsed in front of the Procurator. He opened his eyes
and the first thing he remembered was that the execution had taken place.
Then the Procurator groped mechanically for Banga's collar, then turned his
aching eyes in search of the moon and noticed that it had moved slightly to
one side and was silver in colour. Competing with its light was another more
unpleasant and disturbing light that nickered in front of him. Holding a
naming, crackling torch, Muribellum scowled with fear and dislike at the
dangerous beast, poised to spring.
' Lie down, Banga,' said the Procurator in a suffering voice, coughing.
Shielding his eyes from the torch-flame, he went on:
' Even by moonlight there's no peace for me at night. . . . Oh, ye
gods! You too have a harsh duty. Mark. You have to cripple men. . . .'
Startled, Mark stared at the Procurator, who recollected himself. To
excuse his pointless remark, spoken while still half-dreaming, the
Procurator said :
' Don't be offended, centurion. My duty is even worse, I assure you.
What do you want? '
' The chief of the secret service has come to see you,' said Mark
' Send him in, send him in,' said the Procurator, clearing his throat
and fumbling for his sandals with bare feet. The flame danced along the
arcade, the centurion's caligae rang out on the mosaic as he went out into
' Even by moonlight there's no peace for me,' said the Procurator to
himself, grinding his teeth.
The centurion was replaced by the man in the cowl.
' Lie down, Banga,' said the Procurator quietly, pressing down on the
Before speaking Arthanius gave his habitual glance round and moved into
a shadow. Having ensured that apart from Banga there were no strangers on
the balcony, he said :
' You may charge me with negligence, Procurator. You were right. I
could not save Judas of Karioth from being murdered. I deserve to be
court-martialled and discharged.'
Arthanius felt that of the two pairs of eyes watching him; one was a
dog's, the other a wolf's. From under his tunic he took out a bloodstained
purse that was sealed with two seals.
' The murderers threw this purseful of money into the house of the High
Priest. There is blood on it--Judas of Kariodh's blood.'
' How much money is there in it? ' asked Pilate, noddling towards the
' Thirty tetradrachms.'
The Procurator smiled and said :
' Not much.'
Arthanius did not reply.
' Where is the body? '
' I do not know,' replied the cowled man with dignity. ' This morning
we will start the investigation.'
The Procurator shuddered and gave up trying to lace his sandal, which
refused to tie.
' But are you certain he was killed? '
To this the Procurator received the cool reply :
' I have been working in Judaea for fifteen years. Procurator. I began
my service under Valerius Gratus. I don't have to see a body to be able to
say that a man is dead and I am stating that the man called Judas of Karioth
was murdered several hours ago.'
' Forgive me, Arthanius,' replied Pilate. ' I made that remaa-k because
I haven't quite woken up yet. I sleep badly,' the Procurator smiled, ' I was
dreaming of a moonbeam. It was funny, because I seemed to be walking along
it. ... Now, I want your suggestions for dealing with this affair. Where are
you going to look for him? Sit down.'
Arthanius bowed, moved a chair closer to the bed and sat down, his
' I shall look for him not far from the oil-press in the Geth-semane
' I see. Why there? '
' I believe, hegemon, that Judas was killed neither in Jerusalem itself
nor far from the city, but somewhere in its vicinity.'
' You are an expert at your job. I don't know about Rome itself, but in
the colonies there's not a man to touch you. Why do you think that? '
' I cannot believe for one moment,' said Arthanius in a low voice, '
that Judas would have allowed himself to be caught by any ruffians within
the city limits. The street is no place for a clandestine murder. Therefore
he must have been enticed into some cellar or courtyard. But the secret
service has already made a thorough search of the Lower City and if he were
there they would have found him by now. They have not found him and I am
therefore convinced that he is not in the city. If he had been killed a long
way from Jerusalem, then the packet of money could not have been thrown into
the High Priest's palace so soon. He was murdered near the city after they
had lured him out.'
' How did they manage to do that? '
' That, Procurator, is the most difficult problem of all and I am not
even sure that I shall ever be able to solve it.'
' Most puzzling, I agree. A believing Jew leaves the city to go heaven
knows where on the eve of Passover and is killed. Who could have enticed him
and how? Might it have been done by a woman? ' enquired the Procurator,
making a sudden inspired guess.
Arthanius replied gravely :
' Impossible, Procurator. Out of the question. Consider it logically:
who wanted Judas done away with? A band of vagrant cranks, a group of
visionaries which, above all, contains no women. To marry and start a family
needs money, Procurator. But to kill a man with a woman as decoy or
accomplice needs a very great deal of money indeed and these men are
tramps-- homeless and destitute. There was no woman involved in this affair,
Procurator. What is more, to theorise on those lines may even throw us off
the scent and hinder the investigation.' ' I see, Arthanius, that you are
quite right,' said Pilate. ' I was merely putting forward a hypothesis.'
' It is, alas, a faulty one, Procurator.'
' Well then--what is your theory? ' exclaimed the Procurator, staring
at Arthanius with avid curiosity.
' I still think that the bait was money.'
' Remarkable! Who, might I ask, would be likely to entice him out of
the city limits in the middle of the night to offer him money? '
' No one, of course, Procurator. No, I can only make one guess and if
it is wrong, then I confess I am at a loss.' Arthanius leaned closer to
Pilate and whispered : ' Judas intended to hide his money in a safe place
known only to himself.'
' A very shrewd explanation. That must be the answer. I see it now : he
was not lured out of town--he went of his own accord. Yes, yes, that must be
' Precisely. Judas trusted nobody. He wanted to hide his money.'
' You said Gethsemane . . . Why there? That, I confess, I don't
' That, Procurator, is the simplest deduction of all. No one is going
to hide money in the road or out in the open. Therefore Judas did not take
the road to Hebron or to Bethany. He will have gone to somewhere hidden,
somewhere where there are trees. It's obvious--there is no place round about
Jerusalem that answers to that description except Gethsemane. He cannot have
' You have completely convinced me. What is your next move? '
' I shall Immediately start searching for the murderers who followed
Judas out of the city and meanwhile, as I have already proposed to you, I
shall submit myself to be court-martialled.'
' What for? '
' My men lost track of Judas this evening in the bazaar after he had
left Caiaphas' palace. How it occurred, I don't know. It has never happened
to me before. He was put under obser-vation immediately after our talk, but
somewhere an the bazaar area he gave us the slip and disappeared without
' I see. You will be glad to hear that I do not consider it necessary
for you to be court-martialled. You did all you could and no one in the
world,'--the Procurator smiled--' could possibly have done more. Reprimand
the men who lost Judas. But let me warn you that I do not wish your
reprimand to be a severe one. After all, we did our best to protect tlhe
scoundrel. Oh yes--I forgot to ask '--the Procurator wiped his forehead-- '
how did they manage to return the money to Caiaphas? '
' That was not particularly difficult. Procurator. The avengers went
behind Caiaphas' palace, where that back street overlooks the rear
courtyard. Then they threw the packet over the fence.'
' With a note? '
' Yes, just as you said they would. Procurator. Oh, by the way . . .'
Arthanius broke the seals on the packet and showed its contents to Pilate.
' Arthanius! Take care what you're doing. Tho se are temple seals.'
' The Procurator need have no fear on that sicore,' replied Arthanius
as he wrapped up the bag of money.
' Do you mean to say that you have copies of all their seals? ' asked
' Naturally, Procurator,' was Arthanius' curt, unsmiling reply.
' I can just imagine how Caiaphas must have felt! '
' Yes, Procurator, it caused a great stir. They sent for me at
Even in the dark Pilate's eyes could be seen glittering.
' Interesting . . .'
' If you'll forgive my contradicting, Procurator, it was most
uninteresting. A boring and time-wasting case. When I enquired whether
anybody in Caiaphas' palace had paid out this money I was told categorically
that no one had.'
' Really? Well, if they say so, I suppose they didn't. That will make
it all the harder to find the murderers.' ' Quite so, Procurator.'
' Arthanius, it has just occurred to me--might he not have killed
' Oh no. Procurator,' replied Arthanius, leaning back in his chair and
staring in astonishment, ' that, if you will forgive me, is most unlikely! '
' Ah, in this city anything is likely. I am prepared to bet that before
long the city will be full of rumours about his suicide.'
Here Arthanius gave Pilate his peculiar stare, thought a moment, and
' That may be, Procurator.'
Pilate was obviously obsessed with the problem of the murder of Judas
of Karioth, although it had been fully explained,
He said reflectively:
' I should have liked to have seen how they killed him.'
' He was killed with great artistry. Procurator,' replied Arthanius,
giving Pilate an ironic look.
' How do you know? '
' If you will kindly inspect the bag, Procurator,' Arthanius replied, '
I can guarantee from its condition that Judas' blood flowed freely. I have
seen some murdered men in my time.'
' So he will not rise again? '
' No, Procurator. He will rise again,' answered Arthanius, smiling
philosophically, ' when the trumpet-call of their messiah sounds for him.
But not before.'
' All right, Arthanius, that case is dealt with. Now what about the
' The executed prisoners have been buried. Procurator.'
' Arthanius, it would be a crime to court-martial you. You deserve the
highest praise. What happened? '
While Arthanius had been engaged on the Judas case, a secret service
squad under the command of Arthanius' deputy had reached the hill shortly
before dark. At the hilltop one body was missing. Pilate shuddered and said
' Ah, now why didn't I foresee that? '
' There is no cause for worry. Procurator,' said Arthanius and went on
: ' The bodies of Dismas and Hestas, their eyes picked out by carrion crows,
were loaded on to a cart. The men at once set off to look for the third
body. It was soon found. A man called . . .'
' Matthew the Levite,' said Pilate. It was not a question but an
' Yes, Procurator . . . Matthew the Levite was hidden in a cave on the
northern slope of Mount Golgotha, waiting for darkness. With him was
Ha-Notsri's naked body. When the guard entered the cave with a torch, the
Levite fell into a fit. He shouted that he had committed no crime and that
according to the law every man had a right to bury the body of an executed
criminal if he wished to. Matthew the Levite refused to leave the body. He
was excited, almost delirious, begging, threatening, cursing . . .'
' Did they have to arrest him? ' asked Pilate glumly.
' No, Procurator,' replied Arthanius reassuringly. ' They managed to
humour the lunatic by telling him that the body would be buried. The Levite
calmed down but announced that he still refused to leave the body and wanted
to assist in the burial. He said he refused to go even if they threatened to
kill him and even offered them a bread knife to kill him with.'
' Did they send him away? ' enquired Pilate in a stifled voice.
' No, Procurator. My deputy allowed him to take part in the burial.'
' Which of your assistants was in charge of this detail? '
' Tolmai,' replied Arthanius, adding anxiously : ' Did I do wrong? '
' Go on,' replied Pilate. ' You did right. I am beginning to think,
Arthanius, that I am dealing with a man who never makes a mistake--I mean
' Matthew the Levite was taken away by cart, together with the bodies,
and about two hours later they reached a deserted cave to the north of
Jerusalem. After an hour working in shifts the squad had dug a deep pit in
which they buried the bodies of the three victims.'
' Naked?' ' No, Procurator, the squad had taken chitons with them for
the purpose. Rings were put on the bodies' fingers : Yeshua's ring had one
incised stroke, Dismas' two and Hestas' three. The pit was filled and
covered with stones. Tolmai knows the recognition mark.'
' Ah, if only I could have known! ' said Pilate, frowning. ' I wanted
to see that man Matthew the Levite.' ' He is here, Procurator.'
Pilate stared at Arthanius for a moment with wide-open eyes, then said:
' Thank you for everything you have done on this case. Tomorrow please
send Tolmai to see me and before he comes tell him that I am pleased with
him. And you, Arthanius,'-- the Procurator took out a ring from the pocket
of his belt and handed it to the chief of secret service--' please accept
this as a token of my gratitude.'
With a bow Arthanius said :
' You do me a great honour, Procurator.' ' Please give my commendation
to the squad that carried out the burial and a reprimand to the men who
failed to protect Judas. And send Matthew the Levite to me at once. I need
certain details from him on the case of Yeshua.'
' Very good. Procurator,' replied Arthanius and bowed himself out. The
Procurator clapped his hands and shouted:
' Bring me candles in the arcade! '
Arthanius had not even reached the garden when servants began to appear
bearing lights. Three candlesticks were placed on the table in front of the
Procurator and instantly the moonlit night retreated to the garden as though
Arthanius had taken it with him. In his place a small, thin stranger mounted
to the balcony accompanied by the giant centurion. At a nod from the
Procurator Muribellum turned and marched out.
Pilate studied the new arrival with an eager, slightly fearful look, in
the way people look at someone of whom they have heard a great deal, who has
been in their thoughts and whom they finally meet.
The man who now appeared was about forty, dark, ragged, covered in
dried mud, with a suspicious, wolfish stare. In a word he was extremely
unsightly and looked most of all like one of the city beggars who were to be
found in crowds on the terraces of the temple or in the bazaars of the noisy
and dirty Lower City.
The silence was long and made awkward by the man's strange behaviour.
His face worked, he staggered and he would have fallen if he had not put out
a dirty hand to grasp the edge of the table.
' What's the matter with you? ' Pilate asked him.
' Nothing,' replied Matthew the Levite, making a movement as though he
were swallowing something. His thin, bare, grey neck bulged and subsided
' What is it--answer me,' Pilate repeated.
' I am tired,' answered the Levite and stared dully at the floor.
' Sit down,' said Pilate, pointing to a chair.
Matthew gazed mistrustfully at the Procurator, took a step towards the
chair, gave a frightened look at its gilded armrests and sat down on the
floor beside it.
' Why didn't you sit in the chair? ' asked Pilate.
' I'm dirty, I would make it dirty too,' said the Levite staring at the
' You will be given something to eat shortly.'
' I don't want to eat.'
' Why tell lies? ' Pilate asked quietly. ' You haven't eaten all day
and probably longer. All right, don't eat. I called you here to show me your
' The soldiers took it away from me when they brought me here,' replied
the Levite and added dismally: ' You must give it back to me, because I have
to return it to its owner. I stole it.'
' To cut the ropes.'
' Mark!' shouted the Procurator and the centurion stepped into the
arcade. ' Give me his knife.'
The centurion pulled a dirty breadknife out of one of the two leather
sheaths on his belt, handed it to the Procurator and withdrew.
' Where did you steal the knife? '
' In a baker's shop just inside the Hcbron gate, on the left.'
Pilate inspected the wide blade and tested the edge with his finger.
Then he said :
' Don't worry about the knife, it will be returned to the shop. Now I
want something else--show me the parchment you carry with you on which you
have written what Yeshua has said.'
The Levite looked at Pilate with hatred and smiled a smile of such
ill-will that his face was completely distorted.
' Are you going to take it away from me? The last thing I possess? '
' I didn't say " give it ",' answered Pilate. ' I said " show it to
The Levite fumbled in his shirt-front and pulled out a roll of
parchment. Pilate took it, unrolled it, spread it out in the light of two
candles and with a frown began to study the barely decipherable script. The
uneven strokes were hard to understand and Pilate frowned and bent over the
parchment, tracing the lines with his finger. He nevertheless managed to
discern that the writings were a disjointed sequence of sayings, dates,
household notes and snatches of poetry. Pilate managed to read:
' there is no death . . . yesterday we ate sweet cakes . . .'
Grimacing with strain, Pilate squinted and read: '... we shall see a
pure river of the water of life . . . mankind will look at the sun through
transparent crystal. . .'
Pilate shuddered. In the last few lines of the parchment he deciphered
the words: '. . . greatest sin ... cowardice . . .'
Pilate rolled up the parchment and with a brusque movement handed it
back to the Levite.
' There, take it,' he said, and after a short silence he added:
' I see you are a man of learning and there is no need for you, living
alone, to walk around in such wretched clothes and without a home. I have a
large library at Caesarea, I am very rich and I would like you to come and
work for me. You would catalogue and look after the papyruses, you would be
fed and clothed.'
The Levite stood up and replied :
' No, I don't want to.'
' Why not? ' asked the Procurator, his expression darkening. ' You
don't like me ...are you afraid of me? '
The same evil smile twisted Matthew's face and he said :
' No, because you would be afraid of me. You would not find it very
easy to look me in the face after having killed him.'
' Silence,' Pilate cut him off. ' Take this money.'
The Levite shook his head and the Procurator went on :
' You, I know, consider yourself a disciple of Yeshua, but I tell you
that you have acquired nothing of what he taught you. For if you had, you
would have certainly accepted something from me. Remember--before he died he
said that he blamed no one--' Pilate raised his finger significantly and his
face twitched --' and I know that he would have accepted something. You are
hard. He was not a hard man. Where will you go? '
Matthew suddenly walked over to Pilate's table, leaned on it with both
hands and staring at the Procurator with burning eyes he whispered to him :
' Know, hegemon, that there is one man in Jerusalem whom I shall kill.
I want to tell you this so that you are warned-- there will be more blood.'
' I know that there will be more blood,' answered Pilate. ' What you
have said does not surprise me. You want to murder me,I suppose?'
' I shall not be able to murder you,' replied the Levite, baring his
teeth in a smile. ' I am not so stupid as to count on that. But I shall kill
Judas of Karioth if it takes the rest of my life.'
At this the Procurator's eyes gleamed with pleasure. Beckoning Matthew
the Levite closer he said :
' You will not succeed, but it will not be necessary. Judas was
The Levite jumped back from the table, stared wildly round and cried:
' Who did it? '
Pilate a.nswered him :
• I did it.
' You must not be jealous,' said Pilate, baring his teeth mirthlessly
and rubbing his hands, ' but I'm afraid he had other admirers Ibeside
' Who did it? ' repeated the Levite in a whisper.
Matthew opened his mouth and stared at the Procurator, who said
' It is mot much, but I did it.' And he added : ' Now will you accept
The Levite thought for a moment, relented and finally said :
' Order them to give me a clean piece of parchment.'
An hour had passed since the Levite had left the palace. The dawn
silence was only disturbed by the quiet tread of the sentries in the garden.
The moon was fading and on the other edge of heaven there appeared the
whitish speck of the morning star. The candles had long been put out. The
Procurator lay on his couch. He was sleeping with his hand under his cheek
and breathing noiselessly. Beside him slept Banga.
Thus Pontius Pilate, fifth Procurator of Judaea, met the dawn of the
fifteenth of Nisan.
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