“A knave, upon my honor! ’Tis better to be drunk, for then one has hope of recovery. You long-haired dog! Here is something would make you bay the moon. Drink and howl. You weary me with silence.”
Tepas, familiar with the contempt of Romans, took the flask, and, pouring into his cup, drank of the rich wine. Then Appius held the flask above his head, and with a word of scorn flung it into the sea. He started to cross the deck and fell heavily. Now, after striving, as it seemed, to regain his feet, he lay awhile muttering and helpless and soon began to snore. The deck was deserted by all save him and the pilot. Tepas looked down at the young Roman. Already, far off in the moonlight, he had seen cliffs and knew they were on the Isle of Doom. He must be about his business. He went to where Appius lay and bent over him. The pilot drew his dagger; the youth rolled drowsily and his hands were now upon the feet of Tepas. The latter leaned to strike. A sound startled him. It was a footfall close behind. The Jew rose, turning to listen. Suddenly his feet went from under him and he fell head-long; quickly two seamen leaped upon him, seizing his head and hands. One disarmed him, the other covered his mouth. Appius clung upon the feet of the Jew. A Roman slave had taken the wheel.
“Shall we bind him?” said one of the seamen.
“No,” said Appius, breathing heavily as the pilot tried to shake him off. “Give the dog a chance. Yonder is an island. We shall soon be near it, and by swimming he may save his life.”
“The gold is upon him,” said a seaman; “I can feel it under his tunic.”
“But we shall not rob him,” was the answer of Appius.
“It is heavy. It will be like a stone to sink him.”
“However, we shall not rob him,” the young Roman repeated.
Now, when they were come as near the isle as they dare bring their ship, Appius gave a command. They lifted the body of that cursing wretch. Back and forth they swung it as one counted. Then over it went with reaching hands and fell upon the moonlit plane of water. They could see him rise and turn towards the isle, swimming. Weighted by his burden, he swam not twice his length before the sea closed above him.
“I thought he had struck you with his dagger,” said one of the seamen.
“It would have done no harm,” Appius replied. “I have a corselet under my tunic. Is the ship still leaking?”
“A little, good sire. We found a wedge in the planks. He would have driven it through, no doubt, if all had gone well with him. I know not why, unless he meant to beach her under the cliffs yonder.”
The young Roman stood silent for a little time. Presently his thought came in a whisper to his lips: “And hold my sister until Antipater should come.”
He called the seamen to his side.
“I, who am a friend of the great father of Rome,” said he, “shall see you well rewarded. The little I gave you is not enough. Without your help and warning worse luck than death might soon have come to us.”