“Happy Quintus! We congratulate thee!”
“The preferment forerunneth promotion. We salute thee duumvir; nothing less.”
“Quintus Arrius, the duumvir, hath a better sound than Quintus Arrius, the tribune.”
In such manner they showered him with congratulations.
“I am glad with the rest,” said the bibulous friend, “very glad; but I must be practical, O my duumvir; and not until I know if promotion will help thee to knowledge of the tesserae will I have an opinion as to whether the gods mean thee ill or good in this- this business.”
“Thanks, many thanks!” Arrius replied, speaking to them collectively. “Had ye but lanterns, I would say ye were augurs. Perpol! I will go further, and show what master diviners ye are! See- and read.”
From the folds of his toga he drew a roll of paper, and passed it to them, saying, “Received while at table last night from- Sejanus.”
The name was already a great one in the Roman world; great, and not so infamous as it afterwards became.
“Sejanus!” they exclaimed, with one voice, closing in to read what the minister had written.
“Sejanus to C. Caecilius Rufus, Duumvir.
“Rome, XIX. Kal. Sept.
“Caesar hath good report of Quintus Arrius, the tribune. In particular he hath heard of his valour, manifested in the western seas; insomuch that it is his will that the said Quintus be transferred instantly to the East.
“It is our Caesar’s will, further, that you cause a hundred triremes, of the first class, and full appointment, to be despatched without delay against the pirates who appeared in the AEgean, and that Quintus be sent to command the fleet so despatched.
“Details are thine, my Caecilius.
“The necessity is urgent, as thou wilt be advised by the reports enclosed for thy perusal and the information of the said Quintus.
Arrius gave little heed to the reading. As the ship drew more plainly out of the perspective, she became more and more an attraction to him. The look with which he watched her was that of an enthusiast. At length he tossed the loosened folds of his toga in the air; in reply to the signal, over the aplustre, or fan-like fixture at the stern of the vessel, a scarlet flag was displayed; while several sailors appeared upon the bulwarks, and swung themselves hand over hand up the ropes to the antenna, or yard, and furled the sail. The bow was put round, and the time of the oars increased one half; so that at racing speed she bore down directly towards him and his friends. He observed the maneuvering with a perceptible brightening of the eyes. Her instant answer to the rudder, and the steadiness with which she kept her course, were especially noticeable as virtues to be relied upon in action.
“By the Nymphae!” said one of the friends, giving back the roll, “we may not longer say our friend will be great; he is already great. Our love will now have famous things to feed upon. What more hast thou for us?”