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Mary Macgregor

Cæsar and the Pilot

As Cæsar marched through Italy, town after town threw open its gates to welcome the general who had at last returned from Gaul, where his victories had covered him with glory.

What Pompey thought as he heard of the triumphal progress of his rival we do not know. But he could not fail to see how he had been deceived when he believed that the affection of the people had been centered on himself alone.

Not a single battle did Cæsar have to fight before he reached the gates of Rome. Even here he was free to enter the city, for Pompey, although his army was as large as that of his rival, had fled.

The defence of the city had been left in the hands of the Consuls. But they felt unable to face the general, who came with his army behind him, so they also escaped from the city and joined Pompey. In their fear they did not even stay to open the treasury to take from it the money that would be needed to help Pompey to carry on the war.

Pompey meanwhile crossed the Adriatic Sea and reached Epirus. He knew that in the East his name was still powerful, and would draw many brave warriors to fight for him.

And so it proved, for ere long the numbers of his army were nearly doubled. But the warriors of the East, even when they were brave, had neither the discipline nor the experience of Cæsar's faithful legions.

Cæsar did not stay long in Rome, but after adding to his army many strong soldiers from Gaul and from Germany, he went to Spain. Here he found that Pompey had left officers to guard the Roman provinces, but he forced them to withdraw and soon won over their troops.

Yet, although he was successful in this, the time he spent in Spain was beset with difficulties. Often he had not food enough for his army, while he himself was in danger from ambushes and from plots that were made by his enemies, to take his life.

After securing Spain, Cæsar went back to Rome, where he was at once made Dictator. He only held the position for eleven days, but during that time he used his power to recall the exiles whom Sulla's cruelty had driven away, and to restore to them, or to their children, their privileges as citizens of Rome. He also passed a law for the relief of debtors, which was sure to please the people.

Then having resigned his Dictatorship and been elected Consul, Cæsar hastened to Brundisium, where he had commanded his troops to assemble.

Here he found that there were not nearly enough ships to take his army across to Epirus. But no obstacle could turn him from his purpose, which just then was to pursue Pompey. So he determined to sail at once with seven legions, leaving the others, under Mark Antony, to follow as soon as a sufficient number of ships could be found.

It was only with great difficulty that Cæsar, with his seven legions, was able to land, for the coast of Epirus was being closely watched by Pompey's fleet.

But by sailing to the south he eluded its vigilance, and succeeded in landing at a town called Oricum. Here, day after day, he watched for Mark Antony, with the legions he had left behind. Months passed and still he did not come. For after Cæsar had landed, Pompey bade his fleet guard the coasts still more closely, and Antony was afraid to set sail.

Cæsar, at length, determined that he would wait no longer. He would himself go back and bring his army to Oricum. So he disguised himself as a slave, and hiring a small boat was rowed away, although the sea was covered with the ships of the enemy.

Not only his enemies, but Nature herself, threatened to endanger the life of the great commander. For a storm arose, and the wind blew more and more violently. The current too was strong against the boat, and at length the pilot, thinking that it was impossible to proceed, ordered the rowers to return.

Then Cæsar went to the pilot, and taking his hand he said, "Go on, my friend, and fear nothing. You carry Cæsar and his fortune on your boat."

Cæsar! The name was as magic, and the sailors forgot their fears, and once again they pulled their hardest against waves and wind. But their efforts were vain, while each moment the danger became greater.

When the boat began to fill with water, even Cæsar had to yield, and bade the sailors pull for the shore.

As he reached the land, his soldiers, who had missed him, eagerly helped him from the boat, and chid him for risking his life so heedlessly.

Moreover, it seemed that their pride was hurt, for why, they said, should he go into danger for the legions who were at Brundisium? Could he not trust them to gain the victories he desired?

With the spring, Antony and the legions at length arrived, and Cæsar determined to force Pompey to fight without delay.