A light wind was now blowing, and the sails began to fill.
Suddenly all rushed forward, falling upon the deck. Their trireme had lost half her headway and was now crashing over rocks and trembling as her bow rose. She stopped, all her timbers groaning in the shock, and rolled sideways and lay with tilted deck above the water. Cries of alarm rose from her galley. Men fought their way up the ladders and scrambled like dripping rats to every place of vantage. After the shock, Appius had leaped to the upper rail, and, rushing forward to the door of Arria’s deck-house, found her and the slave-girl within it, unharmed. The two were crying with fear, and he bade them dress quickly and await his orders. Then he took command. Soon a raft and small boats were ready alongside the wreck. Within half an hour Appius and the two maidens and part of the crew landed.
Before daylight all were safely carried to the bare, lonely rocks, with a goodly store of food and water.
It was a clear morning and the tenth day before the kalends of January. Since the ides, Vergilius had been lying in camp with a cohort, near the port of Ascalon. Night and day on the headland velites had been watching for the trireme of Antipater. A little before dawn their beacon-fires had flamed up. Since daylight all had been watching the far-come vessel of the son of Herod, and, as she came near, they could see the pattern of gold upon the royal vestments of Antipater. Now, presently, he would set foot upon the unhappy land of his inheritance. The cohort had formed in a long arc at the landing. Before now, on his return, the king’s horsemen had greeted him with cheers; to-day he greeted them with curses. Vergilius, hard by, faced the cohort, his back turned to the new-comer. Antipater halted as he came ashore, looking in surprise at the tribune. He seized a lance, and, crouching as he ran, with sly feet approached the Roman officer. He was like the cat nearing its prey. Vergilius, now seeming unmindful of his pursuer, walked in the direction of the cohort. Swiftly, stealthily, the prince came near, intending to plunge his lance into the back of the young tribune. Suddenly there rose an outcry among the soldiers. Vergilius turned; the prince halted, breathing heavily, for he had run near a hundred paces in the sea-sand. A roar of rage burst from his lips.
“Dog!” he shouted. “Bid them cheer me or I will run you through!” His lance threatened.
“There shall be cheers in a moment, son of Herod,” said Vergilius, calmly and respectfully approaching him. Antipater, unaware of his peril, stood with lance at rest. With a hand quick as the paw of a leopard, Vergilius whirled it away and caught the wrist of the Jew and flung him down. While Antipater struggled in his great robe the tribune had disarmed him. Every man of the cohort was now cheering. Antipater rose in terrible wrath and flung off his robe of gold and purple.