“Nothing more,” Arrius replied. “What ye have of the affair is by this time old news in Rome, especially between the palace and the Forum. The duumvir is discreet; what I am to do, where go to find my fleet, he will tell on the ship, where a sealed package is waiting me. If, however, ye have offerings for any of the altars to-day, pray the gods for a friend plying oar and sail somewhere in the direction of Sicily. But she is here, and will come to,” he said, reverting to the vessel. “I have interest in her masters; they will sail and fight with me. It is not an easy thing to lay ship side on a shore like this; so let us judge their training and skill.”
“What, is she new to thee?”
“I never saw her before; and, as yet, I know not if she will bring me one acquaintance.”
“Is that well?”
“It matters but little. We of the sea come to know each other quickly; our loves, like our hates, are born of sudden dangers.”
The vessel was of the class called naves liburnicae- long, narrow, low in the water, and modelled for speed and quick manoeuvre. The bow was beautiful. A jet of water spun from its foot as she came on, sprinkling all the prow, which rose in graceful curvature twice a man’s stature above the plane of the deck. Upon the bending of the sides were figures of Triton blowing shells. Below the bow, fixed to the keel, and projecting forward under the water-line was the rostrum, or beak, a device of solid wood, reinforced and armed with iron, in action used as a ram. A stout moulding extended from the bow the full length of the ship’s sides, defining the bulwarks, which were tastefully crenelated; below the moulding, in three rows, each covered with a cap or shield of bull-hide, were the holes in which the oars were worked- sixty on the right, sixty on the left. In further ornamentation, caducei leaned against the lofty prow. Two immense ropes passing across the bow marked the number of anchors stowed on the foredeck.
The simplicity of the upper works declared the oars the chief dependence of the crew. A mast, set a little forward of midship, was held by fore and back stays and shrouds fixed to rings on the inner side of the bulwarks. The tackle was that required for the management of one great square sail and the yard to which it was hung. Above the bulwark the deck was visible.
Save the sailors who had reefed the sail, and yet lingered on the yard, but one man was to be seen by the party on the mole, and he stood by the prow helmeted and with a shield.
The hundred and twenty oaken blades, kept white and shining by pumice and the constant wash of the waves, rose and fell as if operated by the same hand, and drove the galley forward with a speed rivalling that of a modern steamer.