"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.