John C. Hastings, senior medical student in the Nebraska State University Medical School at Omaha, looked out of the window of the Packard sedan he was driving down the road along the top of the bluff, and out in the middle of the Missouri River he saw a Roman galley, sweeping down midstream with three tiers of huge oars.
A pang of alarm shot through him. The study of medicine is a terrible grind; he had been working hard. In a recent psychiatry class they had touched upon hysterical delusions and illusions. Was his mind slipping? Or was this some sort of optical delusion? He had stolen away from Omaha with Celestine Newbury to enjoy the green and open freshness of the country like a couple of stifled city folks. Perhaps the nearest he had come to foolishness had been when the stars had looked like her eyes and he had pointed out Mars and talked of flying with her to visit that mysterious red planet.
“Do you see it too?” he gasped at Celestine.
She saw it, too, and heard the creak of oars and the thumping of a drum; there floated up to them a hoarse chant, rhythmic but not musical, broken into by rough voices that might have been cursing.
It was a clumsy vessel, built of heavy timbers, with a high-beaked prow. There was a short mast and a red-and-yellow sail that bulged in the breeze. The long oars looked tremendously heavy and unwieldy, and swung in long, slow strokes, swirling up the muddy water and throwing up a yellow bow-wave. The decks were crowded with men, from whom came the gleam of metal shields, swords, and helmets.
“Some advertising scheme I suppose,” muttered John cynically.
“Or some traveling show, trying to be original,” Celestine suggested.