I finally fell asleep just before dawn, and when I awoke the sun had almost finished climbing the side of the sky. Mary must have risen long ago but I was aware of someone looking down at me. It was Cyrus, no doubt keen to start on another day’s work. I really didn’t know if I could face it. I felt drained. He looked pale and tired and probably hadn’t slept much either. I kept thinking how close we had come to being killed last night. Nobody would have said anything about it if we had. We’d have just been reported as two troublemakers trying to stir the people up and start a riot, and the soldiers would have just been keeping the peace. If they overdid the violence they could trigger a full-blown rebellion, but they knew how much they could get away with.
The other thing that had kept going through my mind, as I fidgeted restlessly in the darkness, was my excitement at the wonders I had witnessed, mixed with an unaccountable sense of emptiness and a sense that something was wrong. I was disappointed that I still had my chronic pain in my left side, but at least my appendix hadn’t ruptured, so the cure must have worked.
“Well,” said Cyrus eventually, “were you impressed by that charlatan?”
“That what?” I said. “I know you’re an expert on these things, but I can’t believe you’ve just said that. All those people healed. All those illnesses that he knew about without being told. All…”
“Stop!” he shouted. “You actually heard people being asked about what was wrong with them down at the front there before it all started. You even told a helper about your own pain and gave a false name, which Ananias used later instead of knowing your real name. You saw people being gathered together in that small area so they could be found easily. You saw how nobody with a visible problem, such as a missing arm, was allowed in that area.”
“What about the blind man then?”
“He was partially sighted when he arrived, and he was still partially sighted after his so-called cure. I spoke to him at the beginning and again afterwards. He didn’t even get the number of fingers right.”
“Oh…” I said. “But he cured my appendicitis. I still feel a bit sore, but otherwise I’m fine.”
Cyrus watched me rub my left side and quietly reminded me that my appendix was on my right. He then sat down beside me and explained how the helpers had gathered together suitable ‘patients’ and then made careful notes of names and conditions which were given to Ananias to memorise, no doubt using a well-developed mnemonic system, and use later in the show. He reminded me how the people who had got up from the stretchers and walked had been able bodied on their arrival. He reminded me of the little boy with polio whose sorrow at not being cured had broken my heart. He reminded me how full the collection plates were and how grandly Ananias was dressed. He reminded me, as if I needed it, of how near I had come to death.
“Mind you,” he said, “I have to say I like your style. I have never seen anyone take on a Roman soldier and win before, but your idea of non-violence had him totally flummoxed. Where did you dream that one up?”
I had to admit I hadn’t had time to think about it and had just relied on my inner feelings to guide me.
“I suppose you’ll be wanting to start today’s lessons pretty soon,” I said. “What are we going to learn today?”
“I think you’ve learned more than enough already,” he said. “Take the day off. Go and sit by the sea and think about what you’ve seen and what we’ve talked about.”