He rattled the dice overhead while waiting.
“The Orontes against the Tiber!” he repeated, with an increase of scornful emphasis.
Not a man moved; then he flung the box upon the table, and, laughing, took up the receipts.
“Ha, ha, ha! By the Olympian Jove, I know now we have fortunes to make or to mend; therefore are ye come to Antioch. Ho, Cecilius!”
“Here, Messala!” cried a man behind him; “here am I, perishing in the mob, and begging a drachma to settle with the ragged ferryman. But, Pluto take me! these new ones have not so much as an obolus among them.”
The sally provoked a burst of laughter, under which the saloon rang and rang again, Messala alone kept his gravity.
“Go, thou,” he said to, Cecilius, “to the chamber whence we came, and bid the servants bring the amphorae here, and the cups and goblets. If these our countrymen, looking for fortune, have not purses, by the Syrian Bacchus, I will see if they are not better blessed with stomachs! Haste thee!”
Then he turned to Drusus, with a laugh heard throughout the apartment.
“Ha, ha, my friend! Be thou not offended because I levelled the Caesar in thee down to the denarii. Thou seest I did but use the name to try these fine fledglings of our old Rome. Come, my Drusus, come!” He took up the box again and rattled the dice merrily. “Here, for what sum thou wilt, let us measure fortunes.”
The manner was frank, cordial, winsome. Drusus melted in a moment.
“By the Nymphae, yes!” he said laughing. “I will throw with thee, Messala- for a denarius.”
A very boyish person was looking over the table, watching the scene. Suddenly Messala turned to him.
“Who art thou?” he asked.
The lad drew back.
“Nay, by Castor I and his brother too! I mean not offence. It is a rule among men, in matters other than dice, to keep the record closest when the deal is least. I have need of a clerk. Wilt thou serve me?”
The young fellow drew his tablets ready to keep the score; the manner was irresistible.
“Hold, Messala, hold!” cried Drusus. “I know not if it be ominous to stay the poised dice with a question; but one occurs to me, and I must ask it though Venus slap me with her girdle.”
“Nay, my Drusus, Venus with her girdle off is Venus in love. To thy question- I will make the throw and hold it against mischance. Thus- ”
He turned the box upon the table, and held it firmly over the dice.
And Drusus asked. “Did you ever see one Quintus Arrius?”
“No- his son?”
“I knew not he had a son.”
“Well, it is nothing,” Drusus added, indifferently; “only, my Messala, Pollux was not more like Castor than Arrius is like thee.”