ARRIUS AND BEN-HUR ON DECK.
THE fourth day out, and the Astraea- so the galley was named- speeding through the Ionian Sea. The sky was clear, and the wind blew as if bearing the good-will of all the gods.
As it was possible to overtake the fleet before reaching the bay east of the island of Cythera, designated for assemblage, Arrius, somewhat impatient, spent much time on deck. He took note diligently of matters pertaining to his ship, and, as a rule, was well pleased. In the cabin, swinging in the great chair, his thought continually reverted to the rower on number sixty.
“Knowest thou the man just come from yon bench?” he at length asked of the hortator.
A relief was going on at the moment.
“From number sixty?” returned the chief.
The chief looked sharply at the rower then going forward.
“As thou knowest,” he replied, “the ship is but a month from the maker’s hand, and the men are as new to me as the ship.”
“He is a Jew,” Arrius remarked, thoughtfully.
“The noble Quintus is shrewd.”
“He is very young,” Arrius continued.
“But our best rower,” said the other. “I have seen his oar bend almost to breaking.”
“Of what disposition is he?”
“He is obedient; further I know not. Once he made request of me.”
“He wishes me to change him alternately from the right to the left.”
“Did he give a reason?”
“He had observed that the men who are confined to one side become misshapen. He also said that some day of storm or battle there might be sudden need to change him, and he might then be unserviceable.”
“Perpol! The idea is new. What else hast thou observed of him?”
“He is cleanly above his companions.”
“In that he is Roman,” said Arrius, approvingly. “Have you nothing of his history?”
“Not a word.”
The tribune reflected awhile, and turned to go to his own seat.
“If I should be on deck when his time is up,” he paused to say, “send him to me. Let him come alone.”
About two hours later Arrius stood under the aplustre of the galley; in the mood of one who, seeing himself carried swiftly towards an event of mighty import, has nothing to do but wait- the mood in which philosophy vests an even-minded man with the utmost calm, and is ever so serviceable. The pilot sat with a hand upon the rope by which the rudder paddles, one on each side of the vessel, were managed. In the shade of the sail some sailors lay asleep, and up on the yard there was a look-out. Lifting his eyes from the solarium set under the aplustre for reference in keeping the course, Arrius beheld the rower approaching.
“The chief called thee the noble Arrius, and said it was thy will that I should seek thee here. I am come.”