So rapidly, and apparently so rashly, did she come that the landsmen of the tribune’s party were alarmed. Suddenly the man by the prow raised his hand with a peculiar gesture; whereupon all the oars flew up, poised a moment in air, then fell straight down. The water boiled and bubbled about them; the galley shook in every timber, and stopped as if scared. Another gesture of the hand, and again the oars arose, feathered, and fell; but this time those on the right, dropped towards the stern, pushed forward; while those on the left, dropping towards the bow, pulled backward. Three times the oars thus pushed and pulled against each other. Round to the right the ship swung as upon a pivot; then, caught by the wind, she settled gently broadside to the mole.
The movement brought the stern to view, with all its garniture- Tritons like those at the bow; name in large raised letters; the rudder at the side; the elevated platform upon which the helmsman sat, a stately figure in full armour, his hand upon the rudder-rope; and the aplustre, high, gilt, carved, and bent over the helmsman like a great runcinate leaf.
In the midst of the rounding-to, a trumpet was blown brief and shrill, and from the hatchways out poured the marines, all in superb equipment, brazen helms, burnished shields, and javelins. While the fighting-men thus went to quarters as for action, the sailors proper climbed the shrouds and perched themselves along the yard. The officers and musicians took their posts. There was no shouting or needless noise. When the oars touched the mole, a bridge was sent out from the helmsman’s deck. Then the tribune turned to his party and said, with a gravity he had not before shown: “Duty now, O my friends.”
He took the chaplet from his head and gave it to the dice-player.
“Take thou the myrtle, O favourite of the tesserae!” he said. “If I return, I will seek my sesterce again; if I am not victor, I will not return. Hang the crown in thy atrium.”
To the company he opened his arms, and they came one by one and received his parting embrace.
“The gods go with thee, O Quintus!” they said.
“Farewell,” he replied.
To the slaves waving their torches he waved his hand; then he turned to the waiting ship, beautiful with ordered ranks and crested helms, and shields and javelins. As he stepped upon the bridge the trumpets sounded, and over the aplustre rose the vexillum purpureum, or pennant of a commander of a fleet.
AT THE OAR.
THE tribune, standing upon the helmsman’s deck with the order of the duumvir open in his hand, spoke to the chief of the rowers.*
* Called hortator.
“What force hast thou?”
“Of oarsmen, two hundred and fifty-two; ten supernumeraries.”
“Making reliefs of- ”
“And thy habit?”