Infomotions, Inc.A Story of The Times of Hannibal / Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902



Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Title: A Story of The Times of Hannibal
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): malchus; hannibal; carthage; nessus; rome; army; troops; roman
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Title: The Young Carthaginian

Author: G.A. Henty

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The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Young Carthaginian:
A Story of The Times of Hannibal, by G. A. Henty
This etext was produced by Martin Robb (MartinRobb@ieee.org)



PREFACE.


MY DEAR LADS,

When I was a boy at school, if I remember rightly, our sympathies
were generally with the Carthaginians as  against the Romans.
Why they were so, except that one generally sympathizes with the
unfortunate, I do  not quite know; certainly we had but a hazy
idea as to the merits of the struggle and knew but little of its
events, for the Latin and Greek authors, which serve as the ordinary
textbooks in schools, do not treat of the  Punic wars. That it
was a struggle for empire at first, and latterly one for existence
on the part of Carthage,  that Hannibal was a great and skilful
general, that he defeated the Romans at Trebia, Lake Trasimenus,
and  Cannae, and all but took Rome, and that the Romans behaved
with bad faith and great cruelty at the capture  of Carthage,
represents, I think, pretty nearly the sum total of our knowledge.

I am sure I should have liked to know a great deal more about this
struggle for the empire of the world, and  as I think that most of
you would also like to do so, I have chosen this subject for my
story. Fortunately  there is no lack of authentic material from
which to glean the incidents of the struggle.  Polybius visited
all  the passes of the Alps some forty years after the event,
and conversed with tribesmen who had witnessed  the passage of
Hannibal, and there can be no doubt that his descriptions are far
more accurate than those of  Livy, who wrote somewhat later and had
no personal knowledge of the affair.  Numbers of books have  been
written as to the identity of the passes traversed by Hannibal.
The whole of these have been discussed  and summarized by Mr. W. J.
Law, and as it appears to me that his arguments are quite conclusive
I have  adopted the line which he lays down as that followed by
Hannibal.

In regard to the general history of the expedition, and of
the manners, customs, religion, and politics of  Carthage, I have
followed M. Hennebert in his most exhaustive and important work on
the subject. I think  that when you have read to the end you will
perceive that although our sympathies may remain with  Hannibal and
the Carthaginians, it was nevertheless for the good of the world
that Rome was the conqueror  in the great struggle for empire. At
the time the war began Carthage was already corrupt to the core,
and  although she might have enslaved many nations she would never
have civilized them.  Rome gave free  institutions to the people
she conquered, she subdued but she never enslaved them, but rather
strove to plant  her civilization among them and to raise them to
her own level.  Carthage, on the contrary, was from the  first a
cruel mistress to the people she conquered. Consequently while all
the peoples of Italy rallied round  Rome in the days of her distress,
the tribes subject to Carthage rose in insurrection against her as
soon as  the presence of a Roman army gave them a hope of escape
from their bondage.

Had Carthage conquered Rome in the struggle she could never have
extended her power over the known  world as Rome afterwards did,
but would have fallen to pieces again from the weakness of her
institutions  and the corruption of her people.  Thus then, although
we may feel sympathy for the failure and fate of the  noble and
chivalrous Hannibal himself, we cannot regret that Rome came out
conqueror in the strife, and  was left free to carry out her great
work of civilization.

Yours sincerely,

G. A. Henty



CHAPTER I: THE CAMP IN THE DESERT


It is afternoon, but the sun's rays still pour down with great power
upon rock and sand. How great the heat  has been at midday may be
seen by the quivering of the air as it rises from the ground and
blurs all distant  objects.  It is seen, too, in the attitudes and
appearance of a large body of soldiers encamped in a grove.  Their
arms are thrown aside, the greater portion of their clothing has
been dispensed with. Some lie  stretched on the ground in slumber,
their faces protected from any chance rays which may find their
way  through the foliage above by little shelters composed of their
clothing hung on two bows or javelins.   Some, lately awakened, are
sitting up or leaning against the trunks of the trees, but scarce
one has energy to  move.

The day has indeed been a hot one even for the southern edge of
the Libyan desert. The cream coloured  oxen stand with their heads
down, lazily whisking away with their tails the flies that torment
them. The  horses standing near suffer more; the lather stands on
their sides, their flanks heave, and from time to time  they stretch
out their extended nostrils in the direction from which, when the
sun sinks a little lower, the  breeze will begin to blow.

The occupants of the grove are men of varied races, and, although
there is no attempt at military order, it is  clear at once that
they are divided into three parties. One is composed of men more
swarthy than the others.  They are lithe and active in figure,
inured to hardship, accustomed to the burning sun. Light shields
hang  against the trees with bows and gaily painted quivers full of
arrows, and near each man are three or four  light short javelins.
They wear round caps of metal, with a band of the skin of the
lion or other wild animal,  in which are stuck feathers dyed with
some bright colour. They are naked to the waist, save for a light
breastplate of brass. A cloth of bright colours is wound round
their waist and drops to the knees, and they  wear belts of leather
embossed with brass plates; on their feet are sandals. They are
the light armed  Numidian horse.

Near them are a party of men lighter in hue, taller and stouter in
stature. Their garb is more irregular, their  arms are bare, but
they wear a sort of shirt, open at the neck and reaching to the
knees, and confined at the  waist by a leather strap, from which
hangs a pouch of the same material. Their shirts, which are of
roughly  made flannel, are dyed a colour which was originally a
deep purple, but which has faded, under the heat of  the sun, to
lilac. They are a company of Iberian slingers, enlisted among the
tribes conquered in Spain by  the Carthaginians. By them lie the
heavy swords which they use in close quarters.

The third body of men are more heavily armed. On the ground near
the sleepers lie helmets and massive  shields. They have tightly
fitting jerkins of well-tanned leather, their arms are spears and
battleaxes. They  are the heavy infantry of Carthage.  Very various
is their nationality; fair skinned Greeks lie side by side  with
swarthy negroes from Nubia. Sardinia, the islands of the Aegean,
Crete and Egypt, Libya and  Phoenicia are all represented there.

They are recruited alike from the lower orders of the great city
and from the tribes and people who own her  sway.

Near the large grove in which the troops are encamped is a smaller
one. A space in the centre has been  cleared of trees, and in this
a large tent has been erected. Around this numerous slaves are
moving to and  fro.

A Roman cook, captured in a sea fight in which his master, a wealthy
tribune, was killed, is watching three  Greeks, who are under his
superintendence, preparing a repast. Some Libyan grooms are rubbing
down the  coats of four horses of the purest breed of the desert,
while two Nubians are feeding, with large flat cakes,  three elephants,
who, chained by the leg to trees, stand rocking themselves from
side to side.

The exterior of the tent is made of coarse white canvas; this is
thickly lined by fold after fold of a thin  material, dyed a dark
blue, to keep out the heat of the sun, while the interior is hung
with silk, purple and  white. The curtains at each end are looped
back with gold cord to allow a free passage of the air.

A carpet from the looms of Syria covers the ground, and on it are
spread four couches, on which, in a  position half sitting half
reclining, repose the principal personages of the party. The elder
of these is a man  some fifty years of age, of commanding figure,
and features which express energy and resolution. His body  is bare
to the waist, save for a light short sleeved tunic of the finest
muslin embroidered round the neck and  sleeves with gold.

A gold belt encircles his waist, below it hangs a garment resembling
the modern kilt, but reaching halfway  between the knee and the
ankle. It is dyed a rich purple, and three bands of gold embroidery
run round the  lower edge. On his feet he wears sandals with broad
leather lacings covered with gold. His toga, also of  purple heavily
embroidered with gold, lies on the couch beside him; from one of
the poles of the tent hang  his arms, a short heavy sword, with a
handle of solid gold in a scabbard incrusted with the same metal,
and  a baldrick, covered with plates of gold beautifully worked
and lined with the softest leather, by which it is  suspended over
his shoulder.

Two of his companions are young men of three or four and twenty,
both fair like himself, with features of  almost Greek regularity
of outline. Their dress is similar to his in fashion, but the
colours are gayer. The  fourth member of the party is a lad of some
fifteen years old. His figure, which is naked to the waist, is of
a  pure Grecian model, the muscles, showing up clearly beneath the
skin, testify to hard exercise and a life of  activity.

Powerful as Carthage was, the events of the last few years had shown
that a life and death struggle with her  great rival in Italy was
approaching. For many years she had been a conquering nation. Her
aristocracy  were soldiers as well as traders, ready at once to
embark on the most distant and adventurous voyages, to  lead the
troops of Carthage on toilsome expeditions against insurgent tribes
of Numidia and Libya, or to  launch their triremes to engage the
fleets of Rome.

The severe checks which they had lately suffered at the hands
of the newly formed Roman navy, and the  certainty that ere long
a tremendous struggle between the two powers must take place, had
redoubled the  military ardour of the nobles.  Their training to
arms began from their very childhood, and the sons of the  noblest
houses were taught, at the earliest age, the use of arms and the
endurance of fatigue and hardship.

Malchus, the son of Hamilcar, the leader of the expedition in the
desert, had been, from his early childhood,  trained by his father
in the use of arms. When he was ten years old Hamilcar had taken him
with him on a  campaign in Spain; there, by a rigourous training,
he had learned to endure cold and hardships.

In the depth of winter his father had made him pass the nights
uncovered and almost without clothing in the  cold. He had bathed
in the icy water of the torrents from the snow clad hills, and had
been forced to keep  up with the rapid march of the light armed
troops in pursuit of the Iberians. He was taught to endure long
abstinence from food and to bear pain without flinching, to be
cheerful under the greatest hardships, to  wear a smiling face when
even veteran soldiers were worn out and disheartened.

"It is incumbent upon us, the rulers and aristocracy of this great
city, my son, to show ourselves superior to  the common herd. They
must recognize that we are not only richer and of better blood,
but that we are  stronger, wiser, and more courageous than they.
So, only, can we expect them to obey us, and to make the  sacrifices
which war entails upon them. It is not enough that we are of pure
Phoenician blood, that we come  of the most enterprising race the
world has ever seen, while they are but a mixed breed of many people
who  have either submitted to our rule or have been enslaved by
us.

"This was well enough in the early days of the colony when it was
Phoenician arms alone that won our  battles and subdued our rivals.
In our days we are few and the populace are many.  Our armies are
composed not of Phoenicians, but of the races conquered by us. Libya
and Numidia, Sicily, Sardinia, and  Spain, all in turn conquered
by us, now furnish us with troops.

"Carthage is a mighty city, but it is no longer a city of Phoenicians.
We form but a small proportion of the  population.  It is true
that all power rests in our hands, that from our ranks the senate
is chosen, the army  officered, and the laws administered, but the
expenses of the state are vast. The conquered people fret under
the heavy tributes which they have to pay, and the vile populace
murmur at the taxes.

"In Italy, Rome looms greater and more powerful year by year. Her
people are hardy and trained to arms,  and some day the struggle
between us and her will have to be fought out to the death. Therefore,
my son, it  behooves us to use every effort to make ourselves worthy
of our position. Set before yourself the example  of your cousin
Hannibal, who, young as he is, is already viewed as the greatest
man in Carthage. Grudge no  hardship or suffering to harden your
frame and strengthen your arms.

"Some day you too may lead armies in the field, and, believe me,
they will follow you all the better and  more cheerfully if they
know that in strength and endurance, as well as in position, their
commander is the  foremost man in his army."

Malchus had been an apt pupil, and had done justice to the pains
which his father had bestowed upon him  and to the training he had
undergone. He could wield the arms of a man, could swim the coldest
river,  endure hardship and want of food, traverse long distances
at the top of his speed, could throw a javelin with  unerring aim,
and send an arrow to the mark as truly as the best of the Libyan
archers.

"The sun is going down fast, father," the lad said, "the shadows
are lengthening and the heat is declining."

"We have only your word for the decline of the heat, Malchus," one
of the younger men laughed; "I feel  hotter than ever. This is the
fifteenth time that you have been to the door of the tent during
the last half  hour. Your restlessness is enough to give one the
fever."

"I believe that you are just as eager as I am, Adherbal," the boy
replied laughing. "It's your first lion hunt as  well as mine, and
I am sure you are longing to see whether the assault of the king
of beasts is more trying  to the nerves than that of the Iberian
tribesmen."

"I am looking forward to it, Malchus, certainly," the young man
replied; "but as I know the lions will not  quit their coverts
until after nightfall, and as no efforts on my part will hasten
the approach of that hour, I  am well content to lie quiet and to
keep myself as cool as may be."

"Your cousin is right," the general said, "and impatience is
a fault, Malchus. We must make allowances for  your impatience on
the present occasion, for the lion is a foe not to be despised,
and he is truly as  formidable an antagonist when brought to bay
as the Iberians on the banks of the Ebro -- far more so than  the
revolted tribesmen we have been hunting for the past three weeks."

"Giscon says nothing," Adherbal remarked; "he has a soul above
even the hunting of lions. I warrant that  during the five hours
we have been reclining here his thoughts have never once turned
towards the hunt we  are going to have tonight."

"That is true enough," Giscon said, speaking for the first time.
"I own that my thoughts have been of  Carthage, and of the troubles
that threaten her owing to the corruption and misgovernment which
are  sapping her strength."

"It were best not to think too much on the subject, Giscon," the
general said; "still better not to speak of it.  You know that
I lament, as you do, the misgovernment of Carthage, and mourn for
the disasters which have  been brought upon her by it. But the
subject is a dangerous one; the council have spies everywhere, and
to  be denounced as one hostile to the established state of things
is to be lost."

"I know the danger," the young man said passionately. "I know that
hitherto all who have ventured to raise  their voices against the
authority of these tyrants have died by torture -- that murmuring
has been stamped  out in blood. Yet were the danger ten times
as great," and the speaker had risen now from his couch and  was
walking up and down the tent, "I could not keep silent.  What have
our tyrants brought us to? Their  extravagance, their corruption,
have wasted the public funds and have paralyzed our arms. Sicily
and  Sardinia have been lost; our allies in Africa have been goaded
by their exactions again and again into  rebellion, and Carthage
has more than once lately been obliged to fight hard for her very
existence. The  lower classes in the city are utterly disaffected;
their earnings are wrung from them by the tax gatherers.  Justice
is denied them by the judges, who are the mere creatures of the
committee of five. The suffetes are  mere puppets in their hands.
Our vessels lie unmanned in our harbours, because the funds which
should pay  the sailors are appropriated by our tyrants to their
own purposes. How can a Carthaginian who loves his  country remain
silent?"

"All you say is true, Giscon," the general said gravely, "though
I should be pressed to death were it  whispered in Carthage that I
said so; but at present we can do nothing. Had the great Hamilcar
Barca lived I  believe that he would have set himself to work to
clear out this Augean stable, a task greater than that  accomplished
by our great hero, the demigod Hercules; but no less a hand can
accomplish it. You know  how every attempt at revolt has failed;
how terrible a vengeance fell on Matho and the mercenaries; how
the down trodden tribes have again and again, when victory seemed
in their hands, been crushed into the  dust.

"No, Giscon, we must suffer the terrible ills which you speak
of until some hero arises -- some hero whose  victories will bind
not only the army to him, but will cause all the common people of
Carthage -- all her  allies and tributaries -- to look upon him as
their leader and deliverer.

"I have hopes, great hopes, that such a hero may be found in my
nephew, Hannibal, who seems to possess  all the genius, the wisdom,
and the talent of his father. Should the dream which he cherished,
and of which  I was but now speaking to you, that of leading
a Carthaginian army across the Ebro, over the Apennines,  through
the plains of lower Gaul, and over the Alps into Italy, there to
give battle to the cohorts of Rome on  their own ground, -- should
this dream be verified I say, should success attend him, and Rome
be humbled  to the dust, then Hannibal would be in a position to
become the dictator of Carthage, to overthrow the  corrupt council,
to destroy this tyranny -- misnamed a republic -- and to establish
a monarchy, of which he  should be the first sovereign, and under
which Carthage, again the queen of the world, should be worthy of
herself and her people. And now let us speak of it no more. The
very walls have ears, and I doubt not but  even among my attendants
there are men who are spies in the pay of the council. I see and
lament as much  as any man the ruin of my country; but, until I
see a fair hope of deliverance, I am content to do the best I  can
against her enemies, to fight her battles as a simple soldier."

There was silence in the tent. Malchus had thrown himself down on
his couch, and for a time forgot even  the approaching lion hunt
in the conversation to which he had listened.

The government of Carthage was indeed detestable, and was the chief
cause both of the misfortunes which  had befallen her in the past,
and of the disasters which were in the future to be hers. The scheme
of  government was not in itself bad, and in earlier and simpler
times had acted well. Originally it had  consisted of three estates,
which answered to the king, lords, and commons. At the head of
affairs were two  suffetes chosen for life.  Below them was the
senate, a very numerous body, comprising all the aristocracy  of
Carthage. Below this was the democracy, the great mass of the
people, whose vote was necessary to  ratify any law passed by the
senate.

In time, however, all authority passed from the suffetes, the
general body of the senate and the democracy,  into the hands of
a committee of the senate, one hundred in number, who were called
the council, the real  power being invested in the hands of an inner
council, consisting of from twenty to thirty of the members.  The
deliberations of this body were secret, their power absolute. They
were masters of the life and property  of every man in Carthage,
as afterwards were the council of ten in the republic of Venice.
For a man to be  denounced by his secret enemy to them as being
hostile to their authority was to ensure his destruction and  the
confiscation of his property.

The council of a hundred was divided into twenty subcommittees, each
containing five members.  Each of  these committees was charged with
the control of a department -- the army, the navy, the finances, the
roads and communications, agriculture, religion, and the relations
with the various subject tribes, the more  important departments
being entirely in the hands of the members of the inner council of
thirty.

The judges were a hundred in number. These were appointed by the
council, and were ever ready to carry  out their behest, consequently
justice in Carthage was a mockery. Interest and intrigue were
paramount in  the law courts, as in every department of state.
Every prominent citizen, every successful general, every  man who
seemed likely, by his ability or his wealth, to become a popular
personage with the masses, fell  under the ban of the council,
and sooner or later was certain to be disgraced. The resources
of the state were  devoted not to the needs of the country but to
aggrandizement and enriching of the members of the  committee.

Heavy as were the imposts which were laid upon the tributary peoples
of Africa for the purposes of the  state, enormous burdens were
added by the tax gatherers to satisfy the cupidity of their patrons
in the  council. Under such circumstances it was not to be wondered
at that Carthage, decaying, corrupt, ill  governed, had suffered
terrible reverses at the hands of her young and energetic rival
Rome, who was  herself some day, when she attained the apex of her
power, to suffer from abuses no less flagrant and  general than
those which had sapped the strength of Carthage.

With the impetuosity of youth Malchus naturally inclined rather
to the aspirations of his kinsman Giscon  than to the more sober
counsels of his father. He had burned with shame and anger as he
heard the tale of  the disasters which had befallen his country,
because she had made money her god, had suffered her army  and her
navy to be regarded as secondary objects, and had permitted the
command of the sea to be wrested  from her by her wiser and more
far seeing rival.

As evening closed in the stir in the neighbouring camp aroused
Malchus from his thoughts, and the  anticipation of the lion hunt,
in which he was about to take part, again became foremost.

The camp was situated twenty days' march from Carthage at the foot
of some hills in which lions and other  beasts of prey were known
to abound, and there was no doubt that they would be found that
evening.

The expedition had been despatched under the command of Hamilcar
to chastise a small tribe which had  attacked and plundered some
of the Carthaginian caravans on their way to Ethiopia, then a rich
and  prosperous country, wherein were many flourishing colonies,
which had been sent out by Carthage.

The object of the expedition had been but partly successful. The
lightly clad tribesmen had taken refuge far  among the hills, and,
although by dint of long and fatiguing marches several parties had
been surprised and  slain, the main body had evaded all the efforts
of the Carthaginian general.

The expedition had arrived at its present camping place on the
previous evening. During the night the deep  roaring of lions had
been heard continuously among the hills, and so bold and numerous
were they that they  had come down in such proximity to the camp
that the troops had been obliged to rise and light great fires  to
scare them from making an attack upon the horses.

The general had therefore consented, upon the entreaties of his
nephew Adherbal, and his son, to organize a  hunt upon the following
night. As soon as the sun set the troops, who had already received
their orders, fell  into their ranks. The full moon rose as soon
as the sun dipped below the horizon, and her light was ample  for
the object they had in view.

The Numidian horse were to take their station on the plain; the
infantry in two columns, a mile apart, were  to enter the mountains,
and having marched some distance, leaving detachments behind them,
they were to  move along the crest of the hills until they met;
then, forming a great semicircle, they were to light torches,  which
they had prepared during the day, and to advance towards the plain
shouting and dashing their arms,  so as to drive all the wild
animals inclosed in the arc down into the plain.

The general with the two young officers and his son, and a party
of fifty spearmen, were to be divided  between the two groves in
which the camps were pitched, which were opposite the centre of the
space  facing the line inclosed by the beaters.  Behind the groves
the Numidian horse were stationed, to give chase  to such animals as
might try to make their escape across the open plain. The general
inspected the two  bodies of infantry before they started,
and repeated his instructions to the officers who commanded them,
and enjoined them to march as noiselessly as possible until the
semicircle was completed and the beat  began in earnest.

The troops were to be divided into groups of eight, in order to be
able to repel the attacks of any beasts  which might try to break
through the line. When the two columns had marched away right and
left towards  the hills, the attendants of the elephants and baggage
animals were ordered to remove them into the centre  of the groves.
The footmen who remained were divided into two parties of equal
strength. The general with  Malchus remained in the grove in which
his tent was fixed with one of these parties, while Adherbal and
Giscon with the others took up their station in the larger grove.

"Do you think the lions are sure to make for these groves?" Malchus
asked his father as, with a bundle of  javelins lying by his side,
his bow in his hand, and a quiver of arrows hung from his belt in
readiness, he  took his place at the edge of the trees.

"There can be no certainty of it, Malchus; but it seems likely that
the lions, when driven out of their refuges  among the hills, will
make for these groves, which will seem to offer them a shelter
from their pursuers.  The fires here will have informed them of
our presence last night; but as all is still and dark now they may
suppose that the groves are deserted. In any case our horses are
in readiness among the trees close at hand,  and if the lions take
to the plains we must mount and join the Numidians in the chase."

"I would rather meet them here on foot, father."

"Yes, there is more excitement, because there is more danger in
it, Malchus; but I can tell you the attack of  a wounded lion is no
joke, even for a party of twenty-five well armed men. Their force
and fury are  prodigious, and they will throw themselves fearlessly
upon a clump of spears in order to reach their  enemies. One blow
from their paws is certain death. Be careful, therefore, Malchus.
Stir not from my side,  and remember that there is a vast difference
between rashness and bravery."



CHAPTER II: A NIGHT ATTACK


The time seemed to Malchus to pass slowly indeed as he sat waiting
the commencement of the hunt. Deep  roars, sounding like distant
thunder, were heard from time to time among the hills. Once or twice
Malchus  fancied that he could hear other sounds such as would be
made by a heavy stone dislodged from its site  leaping down the
mountain side; but he was not sure that this was not fancy, or that
the sound might not be  caused by the roaring of lions far away
among the hills.

His father had said that three hours would probably elapse before
the circuit would be completed. The  distance was not great, but
the troops would have to make their way with the greatest care along
the rocky  hills through brushwood and forest, and their advance
would be all the more slow that they had to take such  pains to
move noiselessly.

It was indeed more than three hours after the column had left the
camp when the sound of a distant horn  was heard far up the hillside.
Almost instantaneously lights burst out in a great semicircle along
the hillside,  and a faint confused sound, as of the shouting of
a large body of men, was heard on the still night air.

"That is very well done," the general said in a tone of satisfaction.
"I had hardly expected it to be so well  managed; for the operation
on such broken and difficult ground was not easy to carry out, even
with the  moon to help them."

"But see, father!" Malchus said, "there are many patches of darkness
in the line, and the lions might surely  escape through these."

"It would not be possible, Malchus, to place the parties at equal
distances over such broken ground. Nor are  the lions likely to
discover the gaps in the line; they will be far too much terrified
by the uproar and sudden  blaze of light to approach the troops.
Hark, how they are roaring! Truly it is a majestic and terrible
sound,  and I do not wonder that the wild natives of these mountains
regard the animals with something of the  respect which we pay to
the gods. And now do you keep a sharp eye along the foot of the
hills. There is no  saying how soon the beasts may break cover."

Slowly the semicircle of light was seen to contract as the soldiers
who formed it moved forward towards  the foot of the hill; but
although Malchus kept his eyes strained upon the fringe of trees
at its foot, he could  see no signs of movement.

The roaring still continued at intervals, and it was evident that
the beasts inclosed in the arc had descended  to the lower slopes
of the hill.

"They may be upon us sooner than you expect, Malchus.  Their colour
well nigh matches with that of the  sand, and you may not see them
until they are close upon us."

Presently a Nubian soldier standing behind Malchus touched him on
the shoulder and said in a whisper:   "There they are!" pointing
at the same time across the plain.

Malchus could for a time see nothing; then he made out some indistinct
forms.

"There are six of them," the general said, "and they are making
for this grove. Get your bows ready."

Malchus could now clearly see the lions approaching. They were
advancing slowly, turning occasionally to  look back as if reluctant
to quit the shelter of the hills; and Malchus could hardly resist
a start of uneasiness  as one of them suddenly gave vent to a deep,
threatening roar, so menacing and terrible that the very leaves
of the trees seemed to quiver in the light of the moon under its
vibrations. The lions seemed of huge  dimensions, especially the
leader of the troop, who stalked with a steady and majestic step
at their head.  When within fifty yards of the grove the lions
suddenly paused; their leader apparently scented danger.  Again the
deep terrible roar rose in the air, answered by an angry snarling
noise on the part of the females.

"Aim at the leader," the general whispered, "and have your brands
in readiness."

Immediately behind the party a fire was burning; it had been
suffered to die down until it was a mere pile of  glowing embers,
and in this the ends of a dozen stakes of dried wood were laid.
The glow of the fire was  carefully hidden by a circle of sticks
on which thick cloths had been hung. The fire had been prepared in
readiness in case the lions should appear in numbers too formidable
to be coped with. The leading lion was  within twenty-five paces
of the spot where the party was standing when Hamilcar gave the
word, and a  volley of arrows shot forth from their hiding place.

The lion gave a roar of rage and pain, then, crouching for a moment,
with a few tremendous bounds he  reached the edge of the wood. He
could see his enemies now, and with a fierce spring threw himself
upon  them. But as soon as they had discharged their arrows the
soldiers had caught up their weapons and formed  in a close body,
and the lion was received upon the points of a dozen spears.

There was a crashing of wood and a snarling growl as one of the
soldiers was struck dead with a blow of  the mighty paw of the lion,
who, ere he could recover himself, received half a dozen javelins
thrust deep  into his flanks, and fell dead.

The rest of the troop had followed him as he sprang forward,
but some of the soldiers, who had been told  off for the purpose,
seized the lighted brands and threw them over the head of the leader
among his  followers. As the glowing brands, after describing fiery
circles in the air, fell and scattered at their feet, the  lions
paused, and turning abruptly off dashed away with long bounds across
the front of the grove.

"Now, Malchus, to horse!" Hamilcar exclaimed. And the general and
his son, leaping upon their steeds,  dashed out from the grove in
pursuit of the troop of lions. These, passing between the two clumps
of trees,  were making for the plain beyond, when from behind the
other grove a dark band of horsemen rode out.

"Let them pass," Hamilcar shouted; "do not head them back."

The cavalry reined up until the troop of lions had passed.  Hamilcar
rode up to the officer in command.

"Bring twenty of your men," he said; "let the rest remain here.
There will doubtless be more of them yet."

Then with the twenty horsemen he rode on in pursuit of the lions.

The chase was an exciting one. For a time the lions, with their
long bounds, kept ahead of the horsemen;  but the latter, splendidly
mounted on their well bred steeds, soon began to gain.  When they
were within a  hundred yards of them one of the lions suddenly
faced round. The Numidians, well accustomed to the  sport, needed
no orders from their chief. They scattered at once and broke off
on each flank so as to  encircle the lion, who had taken his post
on a hummock of sand and lay couched on his haunches, with his
tail lashing his sides angrily, like a great cat about to make his
spring.

The horsemen circled round him, dashing up to within five-and-twenty
yards, discharging their arrows, and  then wheeling away. Each
time the lion was struck he uttered a sharp, angry growl, and made
a spring in  the direction of the horsemen, and then fell back to
his post.

One of the soldiers, thinking that the lion was now nearly crippled,
ventured to ride somewhat closer; he  discharged his arrow, but
before he could wheel his horse the lion with two tremendous springs
was upon  him.

A single blow of his paw brought the horse to the ground.  Then
the lion seized the soldier by the shoulder,  shook him as a cat
would a mouse, and throwing him on the sand lay with his paw across
him. At this  moment Malchus galloped past at full speed, his bow
drawn to the arrow head and fixed. The arrow struck  the lion just
behind its shoulder. The fierce beast, which was in the act of
rising, sank down quietly again;  its majestic head drooped between
its forepaws on to the body of the Nubian, and there it lay as if
overtaken with a sudden sleep. Two more arrows were fired into it,
but there was no movement.

"The brave beast is dead," Malchus said. "Here is the arrow with
which I slew it."

"It was well done, Malchus, and the hide is yours. Let us set off
after the others."

But the stand which the lion had made had been sufficiently long
to enable the rest of the troop to escape.   Leaving two or three
of their comrades to remove the body of the soldier, the horsemen
scattered in various  directions; but although they rode far over
the plain, they could see no signs of the troop they had pursued.

After a time they gave up the pursuit and rode back towards the
camp. When they reached it they found that  another troop of lions,
eight in number, had approached the other grove, where two had been
killed by the  party commanded by Adherbal and Giscon, and the rest
of the cavalry were still in pursuit of the others.  They presently
returned, bringing in four more skins; so that eight lions in all
had fallen in the night's work.

"Well, Malchus, what do you think of lion hunting?" Adherbal asked
as they gathered again in the general's  tent.

"They are terrible beasts," Malchus said. "I had not thought that
any beast could make so tremendous a  roar. Of course I have heard
those in captivity in Carthage, but it did not seem nearly so
terrible as it  sounded here in the stillness of the desert."

"I own that it made my blood run cold," Adherbal said; "and their
charge is tremendous -- they broke  through the hedge of spears as
if they had been reeds. Three of our men were killed."

"Yes," Malchus agreed; "it seemed almost like a dream for a minute
when the great beast was among us. I  felt very glad when he rolled
over on to his side."

"It is a dangerous way of hunting," Hamilcar said. "The chase
on horseback in the plains has its dangers, as  we saw when that
Numidian was killed; but with proper care and skill it is a grand
sport. But this work on  foot is too dangerous, and has cost the
republic the loss of five soldiers. Had I had nets with me I would
have adopted the usual plan of stretching one across the trees ten
paces in front of us. This breaks the lion's  spring, he becomes
entangled in its meshes, and can be destroyed with but little
danger. But no skill or  address avails against the charge of a
wounded lion. But you are wounded, Giscon."

"It is a mere nothing," Giscon said.

"Nay," Hamilcar replied, "it is an ugly scratch, Giscon; he has
laid open your arm from the shoulder to the  elbow as if it were
by the cut of a knife."

"It served me right for being too rash," Giscon said. "I thought
he was nearly dead, and approached with  my sword to give him
a finishing thrust. When he struck viciously at me I sprang back,
but one of his claws  caught my shoulder. A few inches nearer and
he would have stripped the flesh from my arm, and perhaps  broken
the limb and shoulder bone."

While he was speaking a slave was washing the wound, which he then
carefully bandaged up. A few  minutes later the whole party lay
down to sleep. Malchus found it difficult to dose his eyes. His
pulse was  still throbbing with excitement, and his mind was busy
with the brief but stirring scene of the conflict.

Two or three hours passed, and he felt drowsiness creeping over
him, when he heard a sudden challenge,  followed instantly by a
loud and piercing yell from hundreds of throats. He sprang in an
instant to his feet,  as did the other occupants of the tent.

"To arms!" Hamilcar cried; "the enemy are upon us."

Malchus caught up his shield and sword, threw his helmet on his
head, and rushed out of the tent with his  father.

A tremendous din had succeeded the silence which had just before
reigned in the desert, and the yells of the  barbarians rose high
in the air, answered by shouts and loud words of command from the
soldiers in the  other grove. The elephants in their excitement
were trumpeting loudly; the horses stamped the ground; the  draught
cattle, terrified by the din, strove to break away.

Large numbers of dark figures occupied the space some two hundred
yards wide between the groves. The  general's guards, twenty in
number, had already sprung to their feet and stood to arms; the
slaves and  attendants, panic stricken at the sudden attack, were
giving vent to screams and cries and were running  about in confusion.

Hamilcar sternly ordered silence.

"Let each man," he said, "take a weapon of some kind and stand
steady. We are cut off from the main body  and shall have to fight
for our lives. Do you," he said to the soldiers, "lay aside your
spears and shoot  quickly among them. Fire fast. The great object
is to conceal from them the smallness of our number."

Moving round the little grove Hamilcar posted the slaves at short
distances apart, to give warning should  the enemy be attempting an
attack upon the other sides, and then returned to the side facing
the other grove,  where the soldiers were keeping up a steady fire
at the enemy.

The latter were at present concentrating their attention upon their
attack upon the main body. Their scouts  on the hills during the
previous day had no doubt ascertained that the Carthaginian force
was encamped  here, and the occupants of the smaller grove would
fall easy victims after they had dealt with the main  body.  The
fight was raging furiously here. The natives had crept up close
before they were discovered by  the sentries, and with a fierce
rush they had fallen upon the troops before they had time to seize
their arms  and gather in order.

The fight raged hand to hand, bows twanged and arrows flew, the
light javelins were hurled at close  quarters with deadly effect,
the shrill cries of the Numidians mingled with the deeper shouts
of the Iberians  and the yells of the natives. Hamilcar stood for
a minute irresolute.

"They are neglecting us," he said to Adherbal, "until they have
finished with the main body; we must go to  their assistance.  At
present our men are fighting without order or regularity.  Unless
their leaders are with  them they are lost, our presence will
encourage and reanimate them. Bring up the elephants quickly."

The three elephants were at once brought forward, their drivers
mounted on their necks. Four soldiers with  their bows and arrows
took their places on the back of each, the general with the rest
of the fighting men  followed closely behind.

At the orders of their drivers the well trained animals broke into
a trot, and the party advanced from the  shadow of the grove.  The
natives scattered between it and the wood fired a volley of arrows
and then broke  as the elephants charged down upon them.  Trained
to warfare the elephants dashed among them, catching  some up in
their trunks and dashing them lifeless to the ground, knocking down
and trampling upon others,  scattering terror wherever they went,
while the archers on their backs kept up a deadly fire. As soon
as the  way was open Hamilcar led the little party on foot at full
speed towards the wood.

As he entered it he ordered his trumpeter to blow his horn. The well
known signal revived the hopes and  courage of the sorely pressed
troops, who, surprised and discouraged, had been losing ground,
great  numbers falling before the arrows and javelins of their
swarming and active foes. The natives, surprised at  the trumpet
sound in the rear, paused a moment, and before they could turn
round to face their unexpected  adversaries, Hamilcar with his
little band burst his way through them and joined his soldiers, who,
gathered  now in a close body in the centre of the grove, received
their leader with a shout of welcome.

Hamilcar's measures were promptly taken. He saw that if stationary
his band must melt away under the  shower of missiles which was
being poured upon them. He gave the command and the troops rapidly
formed into three groups, the men of each corps gathering together.
Adherbal, who was in command of the  Numidians, placed himself at
their head, Giscon led the Iberians, and Hamilcar headed the heavily
armed  troops, Malchus taking his place at his side. Hamilcar had
already given his orders to the young officers.  No response was
to be made to the fire of the arrows and javelins, but with spear,
sword, and battleaxe the  troops were to fall upon the natives.

"Charge!" he shouted in a voice that was heard above the yells of
the barbarians. "Clear the wood of these  lurking enemies, they
dare not face you. Sweep them before your path."

With an answering shout the three bodies of men sprang forward, each
in a different direction. In vain the  natives poured in volleys
of arrows and javelins; many fell, more were wounded, but all who
could keep  their feet rushed forward with fury upon their assailants.

The charge was irresistible. The natives, fighting each for himself,
were unable for a moment to withstand  the torrent, and, vastly
superior in numbers as they were, were driven headlong before it.
When they  reached the edge of the wood each of the bodies broke into
two. The Numidians had directed their course  towards their horses,
which a party of their own men were still defending desperately
against the attacks of  a large body of natives. Through these they
cut their way, and springing upon their steeds dashed out into  the
plain, and sweeping round the grove fell upon the natives there,
and cut down the parties of men who  emerged in confusion from
its shelter, unable to withstand the assaults of Hamilcar and his
infantry within.

The heavy infantry and the Iberians, when they gained the edge of
the wood, had swept to the right and left,  cleared the edge of
the grove of their enemies until they met, then joining they again
plunged into the  centre. Thus they traversed the wood in every
direction until they had completely cleared it of foes.

When the work was done the breathless and exhausted troops gathered
outside, in the light of the moon.  More than half their number
had fallen; scarce one but was bleeding from wounds of arrow or
javelin. The  plain beyond was thickly dotted to the foot of the
hills with the bodies of the natives who had been cut up  by the
Numidian horse or trampled by the elephants, while the grove within
was thickly strewn with their  bodies.

As there was no fear of a renewal of the attack, Hamilcar ordered
the men to fall out of ranks, and the hours  until daybreak were
passed in extracting arrows and binding up wounds, and in assisting
their comrades  who were found to be still living in the grove.
Any natives still breathing were instantly slain.

Hamilcar found that a party of the enemy had made their way into
his own camp. His tent had been hastily  plundered, but most of
the effects were found in the morning scattered over the ground
between the groves  and the hills, having been thrown away in their
flight by the natives when the horsemen burst out of the  wood in
pursuit. Of the slaves and attendants several had been killed, but
the greater portion had, when  Hamilcar left the grove with the
troops, climbed up into trees, and remained there concealed until
the rout  of the assailants.

It was found in the morning that over one hundred and fifty of
the three hundred Carthaginian troops had  fallen, and that four
hundred of the natives had been slain either in the grove or in
the pursuit by cavalry.

The following day two envoys arrived from the hostile tribe offering
the submission of their chief.

As pursuit in the hills would be useless Hamilcar offered them
comparatively easy terms. A heavy fine in  horses and cattle was
to be paid to the republic, and ten of the principal members of the
tribe were to be  delivered up as hostages for their future good
behaviour. The next day the hostages were brought into the  camp
with a portion of the ransom; and Hamilcar, having thus accomplished
the mission he had been  charged to perform, marched away with his
troops to Carthage.

As they approached the coast the whole character of the scenery
changed. The desert had been left behind  them, and they entered
a fertile tract of country which had been literally turned into a
garden by the skill  and industry of the Carthaginian cultivators,
at that time celebrated throughout the world for their  knowledge
of the science of agriculture. The rougher and more sterile ground
was covered with groves of  olive trees, while rich vineyards and
orchards of fig and other fruit trees occupied the better soil.
Wherever  it was possible little canals leading water from reservoirs
and dammed up streams crossed the plains, and  every foot of the
irrigated ground was covered with a luxuriant crop.

The villages were scattered thickly, and when the troops arrived
within a day's march of Carthage they  came upon the country villas
and mansions of the wealthy inhabitants. These in the richness of
their  architecture, the perfection and order of their gardens, and
the beauty and taste of the orchards and grounds  which surrounded
them, testified alike to the wealth and taste of their occupants.

Fountains threw their water into the air, numerous waterfalls splashed
with a cool, soothing sound over  artificial rocks.  Statues wrought
by Greek sculptors stood on the terraces, shady walks offered a cool
retreat during the heat of the day, the vine, the pomegranate, and
the fig afforded refreshment to the palate  as well as pleasure
to the eye. Palm trees with their graceful foliage waved gently in
the passing breezes.  All the countries with which the Carthaginians
traded had supplied their contingent of vegetation to add to  the
beauty and production of these gardens, which were the admiration
and envy of the civilized world.

Crossing the brow of a low range of hills the detachment came in
sight of Carthage. The general and his  three companions, who were
riding in the rear of the column, drew in their horses and sat
for a while  surveying the scene. It was one which, familiar as it
might be, it was impossible to survey without the  deepest feeling
of admiration.

In the centre stood the great rock of Byrsa, a flat topped eminence
with almost perpendicular sides rising  about two hundred feet
above the surrounding plain. This plateau formed the seat of the
ancient Carthage,  the Phoenician colony which Dido had founded. It
was now the acropolis of Carthage. Here stood the  temples of the
chief deities of the town; here were immense magazines and storehouses
capable of  containing provisions for a prolonged siege for the
fifty thousand men whom the place could contain. The  craggy sides
of the rock were visible but in few places. Massive fortifications
rising from its foot to its  summit defended every point where the
rock was not absolutely perpendicular. These walls were of  enormous
thickness, and in casemates or recesses in their thickness were
the stables for the elephants,  horses, and cattle of the garrison.

Round the upper edge of the rock extended another massive wall,
above which in picturesque outline rose  the temple and other public
edifices. At the foot of this natural citadel stretched the lower
town, with its  crowded population, its dense mass of houses, its
temples and forum. The style of architecture was peculiar  to the
city. The Carthaginians abhorred straight lines, and all their
buildings presented curves. The rooms  were for the most part circular,
semicircular, or oval, and all exterior as well as interior angles
were  rounded off. The material used in their construction was
an artificial stone composed of pieces of rock  cemented together
with fine sand and lime, and as hard as natural conglomerate. The
houses were  surmounted by domes or cupolas. Their towers were
always round, and throughout the city scarce an angle  offended
the eye of the populace.

Extending into the bay lay the isthmus, known as the Tana, some
three miles in length, communicating  with the mainland by a tongue
of land a hundred yards wide.

This was the maritime quarter of Carthage; here were the extensive
docks in which the vessels which bore  the commerce of the city to
and from the uttermost parts of the known world loaded and unloaded.
Here  were the state dockyards where the great ships of war, which
had so long made Carthage the mistress of the  sea, were constructed
and fitted out. The whole line of the coast was deeply indented
with bays, where rode  at anchor the ships of the mercantile navy.
Broad inland lakes dotted the plain; while to the north of Byrsa,
stretching down to the sea and extending as far as Cape Quamart,
lay Megara, the aristocratic suburb of  Carthage.

Here, standing in gardens and parks, were the mansions of the
wealthy merchants and traders, the suburb  presenting to the eye
a mass of green foliage dotted thickly with white houses.  Megara
was divided from  the lower town by a strong and lofty wall, but
lay within the outer wall which inclosed Byrsa and the whole  of
Carthage and stretched from sea to sea.

The circumference of the inclosed space was fully twenty miles;
the population contained within it  amounted to over eight hundred
thousand. On the north side near the sea, within the line of the
outer  fortifications, rose a low hill, and here on the face which
sloped gently down to the sea was the great  necropolis -- the
cemetery of Carthage, shaded by broad spreading trees, dotted with
the gorgeous  mausoleums of the wealthy and the innumerable tombs
of the poorer families, and undermined by  thousands of great
sepulchral chambers, which still remain to testify to the vastness
of the necropolis of  Carthage, and to the pains which her people
bestowed upon the burying places of their dead.

Beyond all, from the point at which the travellers viewed it,
stretched the deep blue background of the  Mediterranean, its line
broken only in the foreground by the lofty citadel of Byrsa, and
far out at sea by the  faint outline of the Isle of Zinbre.

For some minutes the party sat immovable on their horses, then
Hamilcar broke the silence:

"`Tis a glorious view," he said; "the world does not contain a site
better fitted for the seat of a mighty city.  Nature seems to have
marked it out. With the great rock fortress, the splendid bays
and harbours, the  facilities for commerce, the fertile country
stretching away on either hand; give her but a government  strong,
capable, and honest, a people patriotic, brave, and devoted, and
Carthage would long remain the  mistress of the world."

"Surely she may yet remain so," Adherbal exclaimed.

"I fear not," Hamilcar said gravely, shaking his head. "It seems
to be the fate of all nations, that as they  grow in wealth so they
lose their manly virtues. With wealth comes corruption, indolence,
a reluctance to  make sacrifices, and a weakening of the feeling
of patriotism. Power falls into the hands of the ignorant  many.
Instead of the destinies of the country being swayed by the wisest
and best, a fickle multitude,  swayed by interested demagogues,
assumes the direction of affairs, and the result is inevitable --
wasted  powers, gross mismanagement, final ruin."

So saying Hamilcar set his horse in motion and, followed silently
by his companions, rode with a gloomy  countenance after his little
columns towards the capital.



CHAPTER III: CARTHAGE


Carthage was at that time divided between two factions, the one
led by the relatives and friends of the great  Hamilcar Barca and
known as the Barcine party. The other was led by Hanno, surnamed the
Rich.  This  man had been the rival of Hamilcar, and the victories
and successes of the latter had been neutralized by the  losses
and defeats entailed upon the republic by the incapacity of the
former. Hanno, however, had the  support of the greater part of the
senate, of the judges, and of the lower class, which he attached
to himself  by a lavish distribution of his vast wealth, or by the
common tie of wholesale corruption.

The Barcine party were very inferior in numbers, but they comprised
among them the energy, the military  genius, and the patriotism of
the community. They advocated sweeping reforms, the purification
of the  public service, the suppression of the corruption which was
rampant in every department, the fair  administration of justice,
the suppression of the tyranny of the committee, the vigourous
prosecution of the  struggle with Rome. They would have attached
to Carthage the but half subdued nations round her who  now groaned
under her yoke, ground down to the dust by the enormous tribute
necessitated by the  extravagance of the administration of the
state, the corruption and wholesale peculation of its officials.

Hamilcar Barca had been the founder of the party; in his absence
at the seat of war it had been led at  Carthage by his son-in-law
Hasdrubal, whose fiery energy and stirring eloquence had rendered
him a  popular idol in Carthage. But even the genius of Hamilcar and
the eloquence of Hasdrubal would not have  sufficed to enable the
Barcine party to make head against the enormous power of the council
and the  judges, backed by the wealth of Hanno and his associates,
had it not been for the military successes which  flattered the
patriotic feelings of the populace.

The loss of Sardinia, Corsica, and Sicily had been atoned for
by the conquest of the greater portion of Spain  by Hamilcar, and
that general might eventually have carried out his plans for the
purification of the  government of Carthage had he not fallen in
a battle with the Iberians. This loss was a terrible blow to the
Barcine faction, but the deep feeling of regret among the population
at the death of their great general  enabled them to carry the
election of Hasdrubal to be one of the suffetes in his place, and
to obtain for him  the command of the army in Spain.

There was the less difficulty in the latter appointment, since
Hanno's party were well content that the  popular leader should be
far removed from the capital. Hasdrubal proved himself a worthy
successor of his  father-in-law. He carried out the policy inaugurated
by the latter, won many brilliant victories over the  Iberians,
fortified and firmly established Carthagena as a port and city
which seemed destined to rival the  greatness of its mother city,
and Carthage saw with delight a great western settlement growing in
power  which promised to counterbalance the influence of the ever
spreading territory of her great rival in Italy.

After seeing his detachment safely lodged in the barracks Hamilcar
and his companions rode along the  streets to the Barcine Syssite,
or club, one of the grandest buildings in Carthage.  Throwing the
reins of  their horses to some slaves who stood in readiness at
the foot of the steps, they entered the building. As  they rode
through the streets they had noticed that the population appeared
singularly quiet and dejected,  and the agitation which reigned in
the club showed them that something unusual had happened. Groups
of  men were standing talking excitedly in the great hall. Others
with dejected mien were pacing the marble  pavement. As Hamilcar
entered, several persons hurried up to him.

"Welcome back again!" they exclaimed; "your presence is most
opportune at this sad moment."

"What has happened?" Hamilcar asked; "I have but this moment arrived,
and rode straight here to hear the  news of what has taken place
in my absence."

"What! have you not heard?" they exclaimed; "for the last four
days nothing else has been talked of,  nothing else thought of --
Hasdrubal has been assassinated!"

Hamilcar recoiled a step as if struck.

"Ye gods!" he exclaimed, "can this be so? Hasdrubal the handsome,
as he was well called, the true patriot,  the great general, the
eloquent orator, the soul of generosity and patriotism, our leader
and hope, dead!  Surely it cannot be."

"It is too true, Hamilcar. Hasdrubal is dead -- slain by the knife
of an Iberian, who, it seems, has for months  been in his service,
awaiting the chance for revenge for some injuries which his family
or people have  suffered from our arms.

"It is a terrible blow. This morning a swift sailing ship has
arrived with the news that the army of Spain  have with one voice
acclaimed the young Hannibal as their general, and that they demand
the ratification of  their choice by the senate and people.  Need
I tell you how important it is that this ratification should be
gained? Hanno and his satellites are furious, they are scattering
money broadcast, and moving heaven and  earth to prevent the choice
falling upon Hannibal, and to secure the appointment for Hanno
himself or one  of his clique. They say that to appoint a youth
like this to such a position would be a thing unheard of, that
it would bring countless dangers upon the head of the republic.
We know, of course, that what they fear is  not the youth and
inexperience, but the talent and genius of Hannibal.

"Young though he is, his wonderful abilities are recognized by
us all. His father, Hamilcar, had the very  highest hopes of him,
Hasdrubal has written again and again saying that in his young
kinsman he  recognized his superior, and that in loftiness of aim, in
unselfish patriotism, in clearness of judgment, in the  marvellous
ascendency he has gained over the troops, in his talent in
administration, and in the greatness of  his military conceptions,
he saw in him a genius of the highest order. If it be in man to
overthrow the rising  greatness of Rome, to reform our disordered
administration, to raise Carthage again to the climax of her  glory
and power, that man is Hannibal.

"Thus, then, on him our hopes rest. If we can secure for him the
command of the army in Spain, he may do  all and more than all
that Hamilcar and Hasdrubal have done for us.  If we fail, we are
lost; Hanno will be  supreme, the official party will triumph, man
by man we shall be denounced and, destroyed by the judges,  and,
worse than all, our hopes of saving Carthage from the corruption
and tyranny which have so long been  pressing her into the dust
are at an end. It is a good omen of success that you have returned
from your  expedition at such a critical moment. All has gone well
with you, I hope. You know the fate that awaits an  unsuccessful
general here."

"Ay, I know," Hamilcar said bitterly; "to be judged by a secret
tribunal of civilians, ignorant of even the  rudimentary laws of
war, and bent not upon arriving at the truth, but of gratifying
their patrons and  accomplices; the end, disgrace and execution.

"No, my success has been complete, although not brilliant.  I
have obtained the complete submission of the  Atarantes, and have
brought with me ten of their principal chiefs as hostages; but my
success narrowly  escaped being not only a failure but a disaster.
I had in vain striven to come to blows with them, when  suddenly
they fell upon me at night, and in the desperate combat which
followed, well nigh half my force  fell; but in the end we inflicted a
terrible chastisement upon them and completely humbled their pride."

"So long as you succeeded in humbling them and bringing home hostages
for their good behaviour, all is  well; the lives of a few score
of soldiers, more or less, matters little to Carthage.  We have
but to send out  an order to the tribes and we can replace them a
hundred fold in a week; `tis only a failure which would be  fatal.
Carthage has suffered such terrible disasters at the hands of her
tributaries that she trembles at the  slightest rising, for its
success might be the signal for another general insurrection. If
you have humbled the  Atarantes, all is well.

"I know the council have been anxiously expecting news of your
expedition. Our opinion here has been  from the first that, from
the small force they placed at your command, they purposely sent
you to disaster,  risking the chance of extended trouble in order
to obtain a ground of complaint by which they could  inflame the
minds of the populace against our party. But now, I recommend you
to take some refreshment  at once after your journey. The inner
council of the club will meet in an hour, and their deliberations
are  likely to be long as well as important, for the whole future
of our party, and of Carthage itself, depends  upon the issue."

"Malchus," Hamilcar said, "do you mount your horse and ride out
at once and tell your mother that all has  gone well with us, but
that I am detained here on important business, and may not return
until nightfall."

"May I come back here, father, after I see my mother? I would fain
be of some use, if I may. I am known to  many of the sailors down
at the port; I might go about among them trying to stir them up in
favour of  Hannibal."

"You may come back if you like, Malchus; your sailors may aid us
with their voices, or, should it come to  anything like a popular
disturbance, by their arms. But, as you know, in the voting the
common people  count for nothing, it is the citizens only who elect,
the traders, shopkeepers, and employers of labour.   Common people
count for no more than the slaves, save when it comes to a popular
tumult, and they  frighten the shopkeeping class into voting
in accordance with their views. However, we will leave no stone
unturned that may conduce to our success.  Do not hurry away from
home, my boy, for your mother would  think it unkind after three
months' absence. Our council is likely to last for some hours;
when it is at an end  I will look for you here and tell you what
has been determined upon."

Malchus mounted his horse and rode out through the narrow streets
of the lower city, through the gateway  leading into the suburb,
then he loosed the rein and the horse started at a gallop along
the broad road, lined  with stately mansions, and in a quarter of
an hour stopped in front of the villa of Hamilcar.

Throwing his bridle to a slave he ran up the broad steps of the
portico and entered the hall. His mother, a  stately woman, clad in
a long flowing garment of rich material embroidered in gold, arms
and neck bare,  her hair bound up in a knot at the back of her head,
which was encircled by a golden fillet, with pendants of  the same
metal encrusted with gems falling on her forehead, rose eagerly to
meet him, and his two sisters,  girls older than himself, clad in
white robes, confined at the waist with golden belts, leaped to
their feet  with a cry of gladness.

"Welcome back, my own son," his mother said; "all is well, I hope,
with your father; It is so, I am sure, for  I should read evil news
in your face."

"He is well, mother, well and victorious, though we had a rare
fight for it, I can tell you. But he is kept at  the Barcine Syssite
on matters connected with this terrible business of the death of
Hasdrubal. He bade me  give you his love, and say he would be back
here as soon as he could get away."

"It is terrible news indeed, Malchus. The loss is a grievous blow
to Carthage, but especially to us who are  his near kinsfolk; but
for the moment let us set it aside and talk of your doings.  How
the sun has bronzed  your face, child! You seem to have grown taller
and stouter since you have been away.

"Yes," one of the sisters laughed, "the child is growing up, mother;
you will have to choose another name  for him."

"I think it is about time," Malchus said, joining in the laugh,
"considering that I have killed a lion and have  taken part in a
desperate hand-to-hand fight with the wild Atarantes. I think even
my mother must own that  l am attaining the dignity of youth."

"I wonder your father let you take part in such strife," the mother
said anxiously; "he promised me that he  would, as far as possible,
keep you out of danger."

"Why, mother," Malchus said indignantly, "you don't suppose that
my father was going to coddle me as he  might do one of the girls
here. You know he has promised that I shall soon enter the Carthaginian
guard,  and fight in the next campaign. I think it has been very
hard on me not to have had a chance of  distinguishing myself as
my cousin Hannibal did when he was no older than I am."

"Poor boy," his sister laughed, "he has indeed been unfortunate.
Who can say but that if he had only had  opportunities he would
have been a general by this time, and that Rome would have been
trembling at the  clash of his armour."

Malchus joined heartily in the laugh about himself.

"I shall never grow to be a general," he said, "unless you get me
some food; it is past midday, and I have  not broken my fast this
morning. I warn you that I shall not tell you a word of our adventures
until I have  eaten, therefore the sooner you order a meal to be
served the better."

The meal was speedily served, and then for an hour Malchus sat with
his mother and sisters, giving them a  history of the expedition.
There was a little playful grumbling on the part of his sisters
when he told them  that he was going to return to the Syssite to
hear what had been determined by the conclave.

"Surely you can wait until our father returns here, Malchus," Thyra,
the elder, said.

"Yes; but I may be useful," Malchus replied. "There will be lots
to be done, and we shall all do our utmost."

"Listen to him, mother," Anna, the younger sister, said, clapping
her hands; "this comes of slaying lions  and combating with the
Atarantes; do not let us hinder him; beg the slaves to bring round
a horse instantly.  Carthage totters, let Malchus fly to its support.
What part are you thinking of taking, my brother, do you  mean to
harangue the people, or to urge the galley slaves to revolt, or to
lead the troops against the  council?"

The two girls burst into a peal of merry laughter, in which Malchus,
although colouring a little, joined  heartily.

"You are too bad, Anna; what I want is, of course, to hear what
has been done, and to join in the  excitement, and really I am not
such a boy as you girls think me, just because you happen to be two
or three  years older than I am. You persist in regarding me as a
child; father doesn't do so, and I can tell you I may  be more good
than you think."

"Well, go along, Malchus, do not let us keep you, and don't get into
mischief and remember, my boy," his  mother added, "that Carthage
is a place where it is well that no one should make more enemies
than he can  help. A secret foe in the council or among the judges
is enough to ruin the strongest. You know how many  have been
crucified or pressed to death without a shadow of pretext, save
that they had foes. I would not  see you other than your father's
son; you will belong, of course, to the Barcine party, but there
is no  occasion to draw enmity and hate upon yourself before you
are in a position to do real service to the cause.  And now ride
off with you; I know all our words are falling on deaf ears, and
that willful lads will go their  own way."

A few minutes later and Malchus was on his way back to the club. On
his arrival there he found that the  sitting of the inner council
was not yet finished. The building was thronged with the adherents
of the party  waiting to ascertain what course was determined
upon. He presently came across Adherbal and Giscon. The  former,
as usual, was gay, light hearted, and disposed to view matters in
a humorous light; Giscon was  stern and moody.

"So, here you are again, Malchus," Adherbal said. "I thought you
would soon be back. I am glad you have  come, for Giscon here grows
monotonous as a companion. Nature in making him forgot to give him
that  spice of humour which is to existence what seasoning is to
meat. I am ready to fight if it comes to fighting,  to orate if
talking is necessary, and to do anything else which may be within
the limits of my powers, but I  can't for the life of me take
matters as if the existence of the state depended on me alone. I
have already  heard that all is well with you at home. I shall ride
out there and see your mother when this business is  over. What
they can find to talk about so long I can't make out.

"The question is a simple one, surely. Will it be better for
Carthage at large, and our party in particular, for  Hannibal to
stay at the head of the army in Spain, or to come home and bring
the influence of his popularity  and reputation to bear upon the
populace? There is the question put in a nutshell, and if they can't
decide  upon it let them toss up. There is virtue, I am ready to
maintain, in an appeal to dame Fortune.

"Look round now, Malchus, is it not amusing to study men's characters.
Look at little Philene going about  among the groups, standing on
tiptoe to whisper into the ear first of one and then of another.
He prides  himself on his knowledge of affairs, and in his heart
believes that he is shamefully wronged inasmuch as he  is not
already on the secret committee.

"Look at Bomilca leaning against that pillar and lazily pulling
his mustache, an easygoing giant, who looks  upon the whole thing
as a nuisance, but who, if he received orders from the conclave,
would put himself at  the head of the Libyans, and would march to
storm Hanno's house, and to slaughter his Nubian guard  without a
question.

"Look at Magon's face of importance as he walks about without
speaking to anyone. He is trying to convey  to all the impression
that he knows perfectly well what is going on inside, and could if
he chose tell you  what the decision will be. There is Carthalon,
who is thinking at present, I warrant, more of the match  which he
has made of his Arab steed against that of his comrade Phano, than
of the matter in hand. But see,  there is a stir, the curtains are
drawing aside at last, the meeting is over."

As he spoke the heavy curtains which shut off an inner room from
the hall were drawn aside, and the  council of the Syssite came
out. Each was speedily surrounded by a group of the members of his
own  family, or those who specially looked up to him as a leader.
Malchus and the two young officers were  among those who gathered
round Hamilcar.

"It has been decided," the general said, "that Hannibal shall
be retained in his command. Therefore, now let  all set to work,
each in his own sphere. The populace must be stirred up.  We have
a small majority in the  council, but the middle class, the men who
will vote, are with Hanno. Some have been bought with his  gold,
some of the weak fools dream that Carthage can be great simply as a
trading power without army or  navy, and think only of the present
advantage they would gain by remission of taxation. It is these
we have  to fear, and we must operate upon them by means of the
populace.

"If the people gather in the streets and shout for Hannibal, these
cowards will hesitate. They are accessible  only in their moneybags,
and rather than risk a riot they would vote for the destruction of
Moloch's temple.  Giscon and Adherbal, do you go to the barracks,
get as many of your comrades together as are of our way  of thinking,
talk to the soldiers of the glories of Hamilcar Barca, of the rich
booty they won under him, of  the glory of their arms when he led
them, tell them that in Hannibal they have their old commander
revived,  and that Hanno and his companions seek only to have
him removed, because they fear that the luster of his  deeds will
overshadow them.

"Urge that he is the elect of the army of Spain, that the voice of
the soldiers has acclaimed him, and that the  troops here should
join their voices to those of their comrades in Spain. They too
may ere long have to take  share in the war, and would it not be
far better for them to be led by a soldier like Hannibal than by
Hanno,  whose incapacity has been proved a score of times, and who
is solely chosen because he is rich, and  because he has pandered
to the fat traders and lazy shopkeepers?

"Do you, Stryphex, go to the weavers' quarter; you have influence
there. Work upon the men, point out to  them how, since Hamilcar
and Hasdrubal have conquered Spain, and the gold and silver from
the mines  have poured into Carthage, their trade has flourished.
Before that gold was scarce known in the city, none  could purchase
their choice productions, their wages would scarce keep the wolf
from the door. Show them  that under Hanno disaster will be sure
to befall our arms, that the Iberians will reconquer their soil,
that the  mines will be lost, and we shall have to return to the
leather money of twenty years back."

So one by one Hamilcar despatched the groups round him on various
missions, until Malchus alone  remained.

"You, Malchus, can, as you suggested, go down to the port; ask the
sailors and fishermen what will become  of their trade were the
Roman galleys cruising in our bay. Point out that our conquests
in Spain have  already caused the greatest alarm in Rome, and that
under Hannibal our arms will so flourish that Rome  will be glad
to come to terms with us, and to leave us free to trade with the
world.

"Point out how great is the trade and commerce which Carthagena
has already produced. Ask them if they  are willing that all this
shall be hazarded, in order that Hanno may gratify his personal
ambition, and his  creatures may wring the last penny from the over
taxed people of Carthage. Don't try too much, my boy.  Get together
a knot of men whom you know; prime them with argument, and send
them among their  fellows. Tell them to work day and night, and
that you will see that their time is well paid. Find out if there
are any men who have special influence with their fellows, and
secure them on our side. Promise them  what they will; the Syssite
will spend money like water to carry its object. Be discreet,
Malchus; when you  have lit the fire, and see that it is well on
its way, withdraw quietly."

Malchus hurried off, and in half an hour was down by the port.
Through the densely packed district which  lay behind the lofty
warehouses crammed with goods brought by sea from all parts of the
world, he made  his way until he reached the abode of a fisherman,
in whose boat he often put to sea.

The old man, with three or four grownup sons, was reclining on a
pile of rushes.

"Welcome back, my lord Malchus," he said; "glad am I to see you
safely returned. We have often talked of  you, me and my sons, and
wondered when you would again go out for a night's fishing with us.
You have  come back at the right time. The tunny are just entering
the bay, and in another week we shall have rare  sport."

"I shall be glad, indeed, of another sail with you," Malchus said;
"but at present I have other matters in  hand. Hanno and his friends
have determined to oppose the appointment of Hannibal to the army
in Spain."  The fisherman gave a grunt, which signified that the
matter was one of which he knew nothing, and which  affected him
not in the slightest.

"Don't you see the importance of this?" Malchus said. "If Hannibal
doesn't get the command our troops will  be beaten, and we shall lose
all our trade with Spain." The fisherman still appeared apathetic.

"My sons have all taken to fishing," he said indifferently, "and
it matters nothing to them whether we lose  the trade of Spain or
not."

"But it would make a difference," Malchus said, "if no more gold
and silver came from Spain, because  then, you know, people wouldn't
be able to pay a good price for fish, and there would be bad times
for you  fishermen. But that is not the worst of it. The Romans
are so alarmed by our progress in Spain that they are  glad to keep
friends with us, but if we were driven out from there they would
soon be at war again. You  and your sons would be pressed for
the ships of war, and like enough you might see the Roman fleets
hovering on our coasts and picking up our fishing boats."

"By Astarte," the fisherman exclaimed, "but that would be serious,
indeed; and you say all this will happen  unless Hannibal remains
as general in Spain?"

"That is so," Malchus nodded.

"Then I tell you what, my boys," the fisherman said, rising and
rubbing his hands, "we must put our oars  into this business.  You
hear what my lord Malchus tells us. Get up, there is work to be
done. Now, sir,  what is the best way to stop this affair you tell
us of? If it's got to be done we will do it, and I think I can
answer for three or four thousand fishing hands here who ain't
going to stand by any more than I am and  see the bread taken out
of their mouths. They know old Calcon, and will listen to what he
says. I will set  about it at once."

"That is just what I want," Malchus said. "I want you and your sons
to go about among the fishermen and  tell them what is proposed
to be done, and how ruinous it will be for them. You know how fond
of  fishermen I am, and how sorry I should be to see them injured.
You stir them up for the next three or four  days, and get them to
boiling point. I will let you know when the time comes. There are
other trades who  will be injured by this business, and when the
time comes you fishermen with your oars in your hands must  join the
others and go through the streets shouting 'Hannibal for general!
Down with Hanno and the tax  gatherers!'"

"Down with the tax gatherers is a good cry," the old fisherman said.
"They take one fish of every four I  bring in, and always choose
the finest. Don't you be afraid, sir; we will be there, oars and
all, when you  give the word."

"And now I want you to tell me the names of a few men who have
influence among the sailors of the  mercantile ships, and among those
who load and discharge the cargoes; their interest is threatened
as well  as yours. I am commissioned to pay handsomely all who
do their best for the cause, and I promise you that  you and your
sons shall earn as much in four days' work as in a month's toiling
on the sea. The Barcine  Club is known to be the true friend of
Carthage, the opponent of those who grind down the people, and it
will spare no money to see that this matter is well carried out."

The fisherman at once went round with Malchus to the abodes of
several men regarded as authorities by the  sailors and stevedores.
With these, partly by argument, but much more by the promises
of handsome pay  for their exertions, Malchus established an
understanding, and paved the way for a popular agitation among  the
working classes of the waterside in favour of Hannibal.



CHAPTER IV: A POPULAR RISING


Day after day Malchus went down to the port. His father was well
pleased with his report of what he had  done and provided him with
ample funds for paying earnest money to his various agents, as
a proof that  their exertions would be well rewarded. He soon had
the satisfaction of seeing that the agitation was  growing.

Work was neglected, the sailors and labourers collected on the quays
and talked among themselves, or  listened to orators of their own
class, who told them of the dangers which threatened their trade
from the  hatred of Hanno and his friends the tax collectors for
Hannibal, whose father and brother-in-law had done  such great
things for Carthage by conquering Spain and adding to her commerce
by the establishment of  Carthagena and other ports. Were they
going to stand tamely by and see trade ruined, and their families
starving, that the tyrants who wrung from them the taxes should
fatten at ease?

Such was the tenor of the orations delivered by scores of men to
their comrades on the quays. A calm  observer might have noticed
a certain sameness about the speeches, and might have come to the
conclusion  that the orators had received their instructions from
the same person, but this passed unnoticed by the  sailors and
workmen, who were soon roused into fury by the exhortations of the
speakers. They knew  nothing either of Hannibal or of Hanno, but
they did know that they were ground down to the earth with  taxation,
and that the conquest of Spain and the trade that had arisen had
been of enormous benefit to them.  It was, then, enough to tell
them that this trade was threatened, and that it was threatened in
the interest of  the tyrants of Carthage, for them to enter heart
and soul into the cause.

During these four days the Barcine Club was like the headquarters
of an army. Night and day the doors  stood open, messengers came
and went continually, consultations of the leading men of the city
were held  almost without a break. Every man belonging to it had his
appointed task. The landed proprietors stirred up  the cultivators
of the soil, the manufacturers were charged with the enlightenment
of their hands as to the  dangers of the situation, the soldiers
were busy among the troops; but theirs was a comparatively easy task,
for these naturally sympathized with their comrades in Spain, and
the name of the great Hamilcar was an  object of veneration among
them.

Hanno's faction was not idle. The Syssite which was composed of
his adherents was as large as its rival. Its  orators harangued the
people in the streets on the dangers caused to the republic by the
ambition of the  family of Barca, of the expense entailed by the
military and naval establishments required to keep up the  forces
necessary to carry out their aggressive policy, of the folly of
confiding the principal army of the state  to the command of a mere
youth. They dilated on the wealth and generosity of Hanno, of his
lavish  distribution of gifts among the poor, of his sympathy with
the trading community. Each day the excitement  rose, business was
neglected, the whole population was in a fever of excitement.

On the evening of the fourth day the agents of the Barcine
Club discovered that Hanno's party were  preparing for a public
demonstration on the following evening. They had a certainty of
a majority in the  public vote, which, although nominally that of
the people, was, as has been said, confined solely to what  would
now be called the middle class.

Hitherto the Barcine party had avoided fixing any period for their
own demonstration, preferring to wait  until they knew the intention
of their opponents. The council now settled that it should take
place on the  following day at eleven o'clock, just when the working
classes would have finished their morning meal.

The secret council, however, determined that no words should be
whispered outside their own body until  two hours before the time,
in order that it should not be known to Hanno and his friends
until too late to  gather their adherents to oppose it.  Private
messengers were, however, sent out late to all the members to
assemble early at the club.

At nine o'clock next morning the Syssite was crowded, the doors
were closed, and the determination of the  council was announced
to the members, each of whom was ordered to hurry off to set the
train in motion  for a popular outbreak for eleven o'clock. It
was not until an hour later that the news that the Barcine party
intended to forestall them reached Hanno's headquarters. Then the
most vigourous efforts were made to get  together their forces,
but it was too late. At eleven o'clock crowds of men from all the
working portions of  the town were seen making their way towards
the forum, shouting as they went, "Hannibal for general!"  "Down
with Hanno and the tax gatherers!"

Conspicuous among them were the sailors and fishermen from the
port, armed with oars, and the gang of  stevedores with heavy clubs.
Hanno and a large number of his party hurried down to the spot and
tried to  pacify the crowd, but the yells of execration were so
loud and continuous that they were forced to leave the  forum. The
leaders of the Barcine party now appeared on the scene, and their
most popular orator ascended  the rostrum.  When the news spread
among the crowd that he was a friend of Hannibal and an opponent
of  Hanno, the tumult was stayed in order that all might hear his
words.

"My friends," he said, "I am glad to see that Carthage is still
true to herself, and that you resent the attempt  made by a faction
to remove the general of the army's choice, the son of the great
Hamilcar Barca.  To him  and to Hasdrubal, his son-in-law, you owe
the conquest of Spain, you owe the wealth which has of late  years
poured into Carthage, you owe the trade which is already doing so
much to mitigate your condition.  What have Hanno and his friends
done that you should listen to him? It is their incapacity which
has lost  Carthage so many of its possessions. It is their greed
and corruption which place such burdens on your  backs. They claim
that they are generous. It is easy to be generous with the money
of which they have  plundered you; but let them know your will, and
they must bend before it. Tell them that you will have  Hannibal
and none other as the general of your armies, and Spain is secure,
and year by year your  commerce with that country will increase
and flourish."

A roar of assent arose from the crowd. At the same instant a tumult
was heard at the lower entrance to the  forum, and the head of
a dense body of men was seen issuing from the street, with shouts
of "Hanno  forever!" They were headed by the butchers and tanners,
an important and powerful body, for Carthage did  a vast trade in
leather.

For a time they bore all before them, but the resistance increased
every foot they advanced. The shouts on  both sides became louder
and more angry. Blows were soon exchanged, and ere long a pitched
battle was  raging. The fishermen and sailors threw themselves into
the thick of it, and for ten minutes a desperate fight  raged in
the forum. Soon the battle extended, as bodies of men belonging
to either faction encountered each  other as they hurried towards
the forum.

Street frays were by no means unusual in Carthage, but this was a
veritable battle. Hanno had at its  commencement, accompanied by a
strong body of his friends, ridden to Byrsa, and had called upon the
soldiers to come out and quell the tumult They, however, listened
in sullen silence, their sympathies were  entirely with the
supporters of Hannibal, and they had already received orders from
their officers on no  account to move, whosoever might command them
to do so, until Hamilcar placed himself at their head.

The general delayed doing this until the last moment.  Hannibal's
friends had hoped to carry their object  without the intervention
of the troops, as it was desirable in every way that the election
should appear to be  a popular one, and that Hannibal should seem
to have the suffrages of the people as well as of the army.  That
the large majority of the people were with them they knew, but the
money which Hanno's friends had  lavishly spent among the butchers,
skinners, tanners, and smiths had raised up a more formidable
opposition than they had counted upon.

Seeing that their side was gaining but little advantage, that
already much blood had been shed, and that the  tumult threatened
to involve all Carthage, Hamilcar and a number of officers rode
to the barracks. The  troops at once got under arms, and, headed
by the elephants, moved out from Byrsa Being desirous to avoid
bloodshed, Hamilcar bade his men leave their weapons behind them,
and armed them with headless spear  shafts, of which, with all other
things needed for war, there was a large store in the citadel. As
the column  sallied out it broke up into sections. The principal
body marched toward the forum, while others, each led  by officers,
took their way down the principal streets.

The appearance of the elephants and troops, and the loud shouts
of the latter for Hannibal, quickly put an  end to the tumult.
Hanno's hired mob, seeing that they could do nothing against such
adversaries, at once  broke up and fled to their own quarters
of the city, and Hanno and his adherents sought their own houses.
The quiet citizens, seeing that the fight was over, issued from
their houses, and the forum was soon again  crowded.

The proceedings were now unanimous, and the shouts raised that the
senate should assemble and confirm  the vote of the army were loud
and strenuous. Parties of men went out in all directions to the
houses of the  senators to tell them the people demanded their
presence at the forum. Seeing the uselessness of further  opposition,
and fearing the consequences if they resisted, Hanno and his friends
no longer offered any  opposition.

The senate assembled, and, by a unanimous vote the election
of Hannibal as one of the suffetes in place of  Hasdrubal, and as
commander-in-chief of the army in Spain, was carried, and was ratified
by that of the  popular assembly, the traders and manufacturers
of Hanno's party not venturing to oppose the will of the  mass of
mechanics and seafaring population.

"It has been a victory," Hamilcar said, when, accompanied by a
number of his friends, he returned to his  home that evening, "but
Hanno will not forget or forgive the events of this day. As long as
all goes well in  Spain we may hope for the support of the people,
but should any disaster befall our arms it will go hard  with all
who have taken a prominent part in this day's proceedings.  Hanno's
friends have so much at stake  that they will not give up the
struggle. They have at their back all the moneys which they wring
from the  people and the tributaries of Carthage, and they will
work night and day to strengthen their party and to buy  over the
lower classes. We are the stronger at present; but to carry the
popular vote on a question which  would put a stop to the frightful
corruption of our administration, to suppress the tyranny of the
council, to  sweep away the abuses which prevail in every class in
the state -- for that we must wait till Hannibal  returns victorious.
Let him but humble the pride of Rome, and Carthage will be at his
feet."

The party were in high spirits at the result of the day's proceedings.
Not only had they succeeded in their  principal object of electing
Hannibal, but they had escaped from a great personal danger; for,
assuredly, had  Hanno and his party triumphed, a stern vengeance
would have been taken upon all the leading members of  the Barcine
faction.

After the banquet, while Hamilcar and his companions reclined on
their couches at tables, a Greek slave, a  captive in war, sang songs
of his native land to the accompaniment of the lyre. A party of
dancing girls  from Ethiopia performed their rhythmical movements to
the sound of the tinkling of a little guitar with  three strings,
the beating of a small drum, the clashing of cymbals, and the
jingling of the ornaments and  little metal bells on their arms
and ankles. Perfumes were burned in censers, and from time to time
soft  strains of music, played by a party of slaves among the trees
without, floated in through the casements.

Malchus was in wild spirits, for his father had told him that it
was settled that he was to have the command  of a body of troops
which were very shortly to proceed to Spain to reinforce the army
under Hannibal, and  that he should allow Malchus to enter the band
of Carthaginian horse which was to form part of the body  under
his command.

The regular Carthaginian horse and foot formed but a very small
portion of the armies of the republic. They  were a corps d'elite,
composed entirely of young men of the aristocratic families of
Carthage, on whom it  was considered as almost a matter of obligation
to enter this force. They had the post of honour in battle,  and
it was upon them the Carthaginian generals relied principally to
break the ranks of the enemy in close  battle. All who aspired to
distinguish themselves in the eyes of their fellow citizens, to rise
to power and  position in the state, to officer the vast bodies of
men raised from the tributary nations, and to command the  armies
of the country, entered one or other of these bodies. The cavalry
was the arm chosen by the richer  classes. It was seldom that it
numbered more than a thousand strong. The splendour of their armour
and  appointments, the beauty of their horses, the richness of
the garments of the cavaliers, and the trappings of  their steeds,
caused this body to be the admiration and envy of Carthage. Every man
in it was a member of  one of the upper ranks of the aristocracy;
all were nearly related to members of the senate, and it was  considered
the highest honour that a young Carthaginian could receive to be
admitted into it.

Each man wore on his wrist a gold band for each campaign which he
had undertaken. There was no attempt  at uniformity as to their
appointments. Their helmets and shields were of gold or silver,
surmounted with  plumes or feathers, or with tufts of white horsehair.
Their breastplates were adorned with arabesques or  repousse work
of the highest art. Their belts were covered with gold and studded
with gems. Their short  kilted skirts were of rich Tyrian purple
embroidered with gold.

The infantry were composed of men of good but less exalted families.
They wore a red tunic without a belt.  They carried a great circular
buckler of more than a yard in diameter, formed of the tough hide of
the river  horse, brought down from the upper Nile, with a central
boss of metal with a point projecting nearly a foot  in front
of the shield, enabling it to be used as an offensive weapon in a
close fight. They carried short  heavy swords similar to those of
the Romans, and went barefooted. Their total strength seldom exceeded
two thousand.

These two bodies constituted the Carthaginian legion, and formed but
a small proportion indeed of her  armies, the rest of her forces
being entirely drawn from the tributary states. The fact that
Carthage, with her  seven hundred thousand inhabitants, furnished
so small a contingent of the fighting force of the republic,  was
in itself a proof of the weakness of the state. A country which relies
entirely for its defence upon  mercenaries is rapidly approaching
decay.

She may for a time repress one tributary with the soldiers of the
others; but when disaster befalls her she is  without cohesion and
falls to pieces at once. As the Roman orator well said of Carthage:
"She was a figure  of brass with feet of clay" -- a noble and
imposing object to the eye, but whom a vigourous push would  level
in the dust. Rome, on the contrary, young and vigourous, was a people
of warriors. Every one of her  citizens who was capable of bearing
arms was a soldier.  The manly virtues were held in the highest
esteem, and the sordid love of wealth had not as yet enfeebled
her strength or sapped her powers. Her  citizens were men, indeed,
ready to make any sacrifice for their country; and such being the
case, her final  victory over Carthage was a matter of certainty.

The news which afforded Malchus such delight was not viewed with
the same unmixed satisfaction by the  members of his family. Thyra
had for the last year been betrothed to Adherbal, and he, too, was
to  accompany Hamilcar to Spain, and none could say how long it
might be before they would return.

While the others were sitting round the festive board, Adherbal
and Thyra strolled away among the groves  in the garden.

"I do not think you care for me, Adherbal," she said reproachfully
as he was speaking of the probabilities of  the campaign. "You know
well that this war may continue in Spain for years, and you seem
perfectly  indifferent to the fact that we must be separated for
that time."

"I should not be indifferent to it, Thyra, if I thought for a moment
that this was to be the case. I may  remain, it is true, for years
in Spain; but I have not the most remote idea of remaining there
alone. At the  end of the first campaign, when our army goes into
winter quarters, I shall return here and fetch you."

"That's all very well," the girl said, pouting; "but how do you know
that I shall be willing to give up all the  delights of Carthage
to go among the savage Iberians, where they say the ground is all
white in winter and  even the rivers stop in their courses?"

Adherbal laughed lightly.  "Then it is not for you to talk about
indifference, Thyra; but it won't be so bad as  you fear. At
Carthagena you will have all the luxuries of Carthage. I do not
say that your villa shall be  equal to this; but as you will have
me it should be a thousand times dearer to you."

"Your conceit is superb, Adherbal," Thyra laughed. "You get worse
and worse. Had I ever dreamed of it I  should never have consented
so submissively when my father ordered me to regard you as my future
husband."

"You ought to think yourself a fortunate girl, Thyra," Adherbal
said, smiling; "for your father might have  taken it into his head
to have done as Hamilcar Barca did, and married his daughters to
Massilian and  Numidian princes, to become queens of bands of nomad
savages."

"Well, they were queens, that was something, even if only of nomads."

"I don't think that it would have suited you, Thyra -- a seat on
horseback for a throne, and a rough tent for a  palace, would not
be in your way at all. I think a snug villa on the slopes of the
bay of Carthagena, will suit  you better, not to mention the fact
that I shall make an infinitely more pleasant and agreeable master
than a  Numidian chief would do."

"You are intolerable, Adherbal, with your conceit and your mastership.
However, I suppose when the time  comes I shall have to obey my
father. What a pity it is we girls cannot choose our husbands for
ourselves!  Perhaps the time may come when we shall do so."

"Well, in your case, Thyra," Adherbal said, "it would make no
difference, because you know you would  have chosen me anyhow; but
most girls would make a nice business of it. How are they to know
what men  really are? They might be gamesters, drunkards, brutal
and cruel by nature, idle and spendthrift. What can  maidens know
of a man's disposition? Of course they only see him at his best.
Wise parents can make  careful inquiries, and have means of knowing
what a man's disposition and habits really are."

"You don't think, Adherbal," Thyra said earnestly, "that girls are
such fools that they cannot read faces; that  we cannot tell the
difference between a good man and a bad one."

"Yes, a girl may know something about every man save the one she
loves, Thyra. She may see other's faults  clearly enough; but she
is blind to those of the man she loves. Do you not know that the
Greeks depict  Cupid with a bandage over his eyes?"

"I am not blind to your faults," Thyra said indignantly. "I know
that you are a great deal more lazy than  becomes you; that you
are not sufficiently earnest in the affairs of life; that you will
never rise to be a great  general like my cousin Hannibal."

"That is all quite true," Adherbal laughed; "and yet you see you
love me. You perceive my faults only in  theory and not in fact,
and you do not in your heart wish to see me different from what I
am. Is it not so?"

"Yes," the girl said shyly, "I suppose it is. Anyhow, I don't like
the thought of your going away from me to  that horrid Iberia."

Although defeated for the moment by the popular vote, the party
of Hanno were not discouraged. They had  suffered a similar check
when they had attempted to prevent Hannibal joining Hasdrubal in
Spain.

Not a moment was lost in setting to work to recover their lost
ground. Their agents among the lower classes  spread calumnies
against the Barcine leaders. Money was lavishly distributed, and
the judges, who were  devoted to Hanno's party, set their machinery
to work to strike terror among their opponents. Their modes  of
procedure were similar to those which afterwards made Venice
execrable in the height of her power.   Arrests were made secretly
in the dead of night. Men were missing from their families, and
none knew  what had become of them.

Dead bodies bearing signs of strangulation were found floating in
the shallow lakes around Carthage; and  yet, so great was the dread
inspired by the terrible power of the judges, that the friends and
relations of  those who were missing dared make neither complaint
nor inquiry. It was not against the leaders of the  Barcine party
that such measures were taken. Had one of these been missing the
whole would have flown  to arms.  The dungeons would have been
broken open, and not only the captives liberated, but their arrest
might have been made the pretext for an attack upon the whole system
under which such a state of things  could exist.

It was chiefly among the lower classes that the agents of Hanno'
s vengeance operated. Among these the  disappearance of so many
men who were regarded as leaders among the rest spread a deep and
mysterious  fear. Although none dared to complain openly, the news
of these mysterious disappearances was not long  in reaching the
leaders of the Barcine party.

These, however, were for the time powerless to act. Certain as they
might be of the source whence these  unseen blows descended, they
had no evidence on which to assail so formidable a body as the
judges. It  would be a rash act indeed to accuse such important
functionaries of the state, belonging, with scarcely an  exception,
to powerful families, of arbitrary and cruel measures against
insignificant persons.

The halo of tradition still surrounded the judges, and added to
the fear inspired by their terrible and  unlimited power. In such
an attack the Barcine party could not rely upon the population
to side with them;  for, while comparatively few were personally
affected by the arrests which had taken place, the fear of  future
consequences would operate upon all.

Among the younger members of the party, however, the indignation
aroused by these secret blows was  deep. Giscon, who was continually
brooding over the tyranny and corruption which were ruining his
country, was one of the leaders of this section of the party; with
him were other spirits as ardent as himself.  They met in a house
in a quiet street in the lower town, and there discussed all sorts
of desperate projects  for freeing the city of its tyrants.

One day as Giscon was making his way to this rendezvous he met
Malchus riding at full speed from the  port.

"What is it, Malchus, whither away in such haste?"

"It is shameful, Giscon, it is outrageous. I have just been down to
the port to tell the old fisherman with  whom I often go out that
I would sail with him tomorrow, and find that four days ago he was
missing, and  his body was yesterday found by his sons floating in
the lagoon. He had been strangled.  His sons are as  much overpowered
with terror as by grief, they believe that he has suffered for the
part he took in rousing  the fishermen to declare for Hannibal a
fortnight since, and they fear lest the terrible vengeance of Hanno
should next fall upon them.

"How it happened they know not. A man arrived late in the evening
and said that one of their father's best  customers wanted a supply
of fish for a banquet he was to give next day, and that he wanted
to speak to  him at once to arrange about the quantity and quality
of fish he required. Suspecting nothing the old man  left at once,
and was never heard of afterwards. Next morning, seeing that he had
not returned, one of his  sons went to the house to which he had
been fetched, but found that its owner knew nothing of the affair,
and denied that he had sent any message whatever to him. Fearing
that something was wrong they searched  everywhere, but it was not
until last night that his body was, as I have told you, found.

"They are convinced that their father died in no private feud.
He had not, as far as they know, an enemy in  the world. You may
imagine how l feel this; not only did I regard him as a friend,
but I feel that it was  owing to his acting as I led him that he
has come to his death."

"The tyrants!" Giscon exclaimed in a low voice. "But what can you
do, Malchus?"

"I am going to my father," Malchus replied, "to ask him to take
the matter up."

"What can he do?" Giscon said with a bitter laugh. "What can
he prove? Can he accuse our most noble  body of judges, without a
shadow of proof, of making away with this unknown old fisherman.
No,  Malchus, if you are in earnest to revenge your friend come with
me, I will introduce you to my friends, who  are banded together
against this tyranny, and who are sworn to save Carthage. You are
young, but you are  brave and full of ardour; you are a son of
General Hamilcar, and my friends will gladly receive you as one
of us."

Malchus did not hesitate. That there would be danger in joining
such a body as Giscon spoke of he knew,  but the young officer's
talk during their expedition had aroused in him a deep sense of
the tyranny and  corruption which were sapping the power or his
country, and this blow which had struck him personally  rendered
him in a mood to adopt any dangerous move.

"I will join you, Giscon," he said, "if you will accept me. I am
young, but I am ready to go all lengths, and  to give my life if
needs be to free Carthage."



CHAPTER V: THE CONSPIRACY


Giscon led his companion along the narrow lanes until he reached the
back entrance of the house where the  meetings were held. Knocking
in a particular way it was opened at once and closed behind them.
As they  entered a slave took Malchus' horse without a word and
fastened it to a ring in the wall, where four or five  other horses
were standing.

"I rather wonder you are not afraid of drawing attention by riding
on horseback to a house in such a  quarter," Malchus said.

"We dare not meet secretly, you know. The city is full of spies,
and doubtless the movements of all known  to be hostile to Hanno and
his party are watched, therefore we thought it best to meet here.
We have caused  it to be whispered as a secret in the neighbourhood,
that the house has been taken as a place where we can  gamble free
from the presence of our elders. Therefore the only comments we
excite is, `There go those  young fools who are ruining themselves.'
It is only because you are on horseback that I have come round
to  this gate; had you come on foot we should have entered by the
front. Fortunately there are among us many  who are deemed to be
mere pleasure seekers -- men who wager fortunes on their horses, who
are given to  banquets, or whose lives seem to be passed in luxury
and indolence, but who at heart are as earnest in the  cause of Carthage
as I am. The presence of such men among us gives a probability to
the tale that this is a  gambling house. Were we all of my stamp,
men known to be utterly hostile to Hanno and his party,  suspicion
would fall upon our meetings at once. But here we are."

As he spoke he drew aside some heavy curtains and entered a large
room. Some ten or twelve young men  were assembled there. They
looked up in surprise as Giscon entered followed by his companion.

"I have brought a recruit," Giscon said, "one whom all of you know
by repute if not personally; it is  Malchus, the son of General
Hamilcar. He is young to be engaged in a business like ours, but
I have been  with him in a campaign and can answer for him. He is
brave, ready, thoughtful and trustworthy. He loves  his country
and hates her tyrants. I can guarantee that he will do nothing
imprudent, but can be trusted as  one or ourselves. Being young
he will have the advantage of being less likely to be watched, and
may be  doubly useful. He is ready to take the oath of our society."

As Giscon was the leading spirit of the band his recommendation
was taken as amply sufficient.  The  young men rose and formed in
a circle round Malchus. All drew their daggers, and one, whom Malchus
recognized with a momentary feeling of surprise as Carthalon, whom
Adherbal had pointed out at the  Barcine Club as one who thought
only of horse racing, said:

"Do you swear by Moloch and Astarte to be true to this society, to
devote yourself to the destruction of the  oppressors of Carthage,
to carry out all measures which may be determined upon, even at
the certain risk of  your life, and to suffer yourself to be torn
to pieces by the torture rather than reveal aught that passes within
these walls?"

"That I swear solemnly," Malchus said.

"I need not say," Carthalon said carelessly, "that the punishment
of the violation of the oath is death. It is so  put in our rules.
But we are all nobles of Carthage, and nobles do not break their
oaths, so we can let that  pass. When a man's word is good enough
to make him beggar himself in order to discharge a wager, he can
be trusted to keep his word in a matter which concerns the lives
of a score of his fellows. And now that this  business is arranged
we can go on with our talk; but first let us have some wine, for
all this talking is thirsty  work at best."

The young men threw themselves upon the couches around the room
and, while slaves brought round wine,  chatted lightly with each
other about horses, the play presented the day before, the respective
merits of the  reigning beauties of Carthage, and other similar
topics, and Malchus, who was impressed with the serious  nature of
the secret conspiracy which he had just sworn to aid, could not help
being surprised at the careless  gaiety of the young men, although
engaged in a conspiracy in which they risked their lives.

It was not until some minutes after the slaves had left the apartment
that the light talk and banter ceased, as  Giscon rose and said:

"Now to business. Malchus has told me that an old fisherman, who
took a lead in stirring up his fellows to  declare for Hannibal,
has been decoyed away from his home and murdered; his body has been
found  floating in the lake, strangled.  This is the nineteenth in
the course of a week. These acts are spreading  terror among the
working classes, and unless they are put a stop to we can no longer
expect assistance from  them.

"That these deeds are the work of the officials of the tribunals
we have no doubt.  The sooner we strike the  better. Matters are
getting ripe. I have eight men sworn into my section among the
weavers, and need but  two more to complete it. We will instruct
our latest recruit to raise a section among the fishermen. The
sons  of the man just murdered should form a nucleus. We agreed
from the first that three hundred resolute men  besides ourselves
were required, and that each of us should raise a section of ten.
Malchus brings up our  number here to thirty, and when all the
sections are filled up we shall be ready for action.

"Failure ought to be impossible. The houses of Hanno and thirty
of his party will be attacked, and the  tyrants slain before any
alarm can be given. Another thirty at least should be slain before
the town is fairly  aroused. Maybe each section can undertake three
if our plans are well laid, and each chooses for attack  three
living near each other. We have not yet settled whether it will be
better to separate when this is done,  content with the first blow
against our tyrants, or to prepare beforehand for a popular rising,
to place  ourselves at the head of the populace, and to make a
clean sweep of the judges and the leaders of Hanno's  party."

Giscon spoke in an ordinary matter-of-fact tone, as if he were
discussing the arrangements of a party of  pleasure; but Malchus
could scarcely repress a movement of anxiety as he heard this proposal
for the  wholesale destruction of the leading men of Carthage. The
council thus opened was continued for three  hours. Most of those
present spoke, but, to the surprise of Malchus, there was an entire
absence of that  gloom and mystery with which the idea of a state
conspiracy was associated in his mind.

The young men discussed it earnestly, indeed, but in the same
spirit in which they would have agreed over  a disputed question
as to the respective merits of two horses. They laughed, joked,
offered and accepted  wagers and took the whole matter with a
lightness of heart which Malchus imitated to the best of his power,
but which he was very far from feeling; and yet he felt that
beneath all this levity his companions were  perfectly in earnest
in their plans, but they joked now as they would have joked before
the commencement  of a battle in which the odds against them were
overwhelming and great.

Even Giscon, generally grave and gloomy, was as light hearted as
the rest. The aristocracy of Carthage  were, like the aristocracy
of all other countries, from tradition, training, and habit, brave
to excess. Just as  centuries later the noblesse of France chatted
gaily on the tumbril on their way to execution, and offered  each
other their snuff boxes on the scaffold, so these young aristocrats
of Carthage smiled and jested,  though well aware that they were
risking their lives.

No decision was arrived at, for this could only be decided upon at
a special meeting, at which all the  members of the society would
be present. Among those now in council opinions were nearly equally
divided. The one party urged that, did they take steps to prepare
the populace for a rising, a rumour would  be sure to meet the ears
of their opponents and they would be on their guard; whereas, if
they scattered  quickly after each section had slain two of their
tyrants, the operation might be repeated until all the  influential
men of Hanno's faction had been removed.

In reply to these arguments the other party urged that delays were
always dangerous, that huge rewards  would be offered after the
first attempts, that some of the men of the sections might turn
traitors, that  Hanno's party would be on their guard in future,
and that the judges would effect wholesale arrests and  executions;
whereas, were the populace appealed to in the midst of the excitement
which would be caused  by the death of Hanno and his principal
adherents, the people would rise and finish with their tyrants.

After all who wished to speak on the subject had given their
opinions, they proceeded to details; each gave  a statement of the
number of men enrolled in his section, with a few words as to the
disposition of each.  Almost without an exception each of these men
was animated with a sense of private wrong.  Some had  lost near
relatives, executed for some trifling offence by the tribunals,
some had been ruined by the  extortion of the tax gatherers. All
were stated to be ready to give their lives for vengeance.

"These agents of ours, you see, Malchus, are not for the most
part animated by any feeling of pure  patriotism, it is their own
wrongs and not the injuries of Carthage which they would avenge.
But we must  take them as we find them; one cannot expect any deep
feeling of patriotism on the part of the masses, who,  it must be
owned, have no very great reason to feel any lively interest in the
glories of the republic. So that  they eat and drink sufficiently,
and can earn their living, it matters not very greatly to them
whether  Carthage is great and glorious, or humbled and defeated.
But this will not always be so. When we have  succeeded in ridding
Carthage of her tyrants we must next do all we can so to raise the
condition of the  common people that they may feel that they too
have a common interest in the fate of our country. I should  not,
of course, propose giving to them a vote; to bestow the suffrage
upon the ignorant, who would simply  follow the demagogues who would
use them as tools, would be the height of madness.  The affairs
of state,  the government of the country, the making of the laws,
must be solely in the hands of those fitted for the  task -- of
the men who, by education, by birth, by position, by study and by
leisure have prepared their  minds for such a charge. But the people
should share in the advantages of a good government; they should
not be taxed more than they could reasonably pay, and any tax
gatherers who should extort a penny beyond  the legal amount should
be disgraced and punished.

"The courts should be open to all, the judges should be impartial
and incorruptible; every man should have  his rights and his
privileges, then each man, feeling an interest in the stability
of the state, would be ready  to bear arms in its defence, and
Carthage, instead of being dependent entirely upon her tributaries
and  mercenaries, would be able to place a great army in the field
by her own unaided exertions.

"The barbarian tribes would cease to revolt, knowing that success
would be hopeless. And as we should be  strong at home we should
be respected abroad, and might view without apprehension the rising
power of  Rome. There is plenty of room for both of us. For us,
Africa and Spain; for her all the rest of Europe and as  much of
Asia as she cares to take. We could look without jealousy at each
other's greatness, each secure in  his own strength and power. Yes,
there may be a grand future before Carthage yet."

The meeting now broke up.

"Where are you going, Malchus?" Giscon asked the lad as they went
out into the courtyard; "to see the  sacrifices? You know there is
a grand function today to propitiate Moloch and to pray for victory
for our  arms."

"No," Malchus said with a shudder. "I don't think I am a coward,
Giscon, but these terrible rites frighten  me. I was taken once by
my father, and I then swore that never again, unless it be absolutely
necessary for  me in the performance of public office, will I be
present at such a scene. For weeks afterwards I scarcely  slept;
day and night there was before me that terrible brazen image of
Moloch. If I fell off to sleep, I woke  bathed in perspiration as
I heard the screams of the infants as they were dropped into those
huge hands,  heated to redness, stretched out to receive them. I
cannot believe, Giscon, that the gods are so cruel.

"Then there was the slaughter of a score of captives taken in war.
I see them now, standing pale and stern,  with their eyes directed
to the brazen image which was soon to be sprinkled with their blood,
while the  priests in their scarlet robes, with the sacrificial
knives in hand, approached them. I saw no more, for I shut  my eyes
till all was over. I tell you again, Giscon, I do not believe the
gods are so cruel. Why should the  gods of Phoenicia and Carthage
alone demand blood? Those of Greece and Rome are not so bloodthirsty,
and yet Mars gives as many victories to the Roman arms as Moloch
does to ours."

"Blaspheme not the gods, Malchus," Giscon said gloomily; "you may
be sure that the wreath of a  conquering general will never be
placed around your brow if you honour them not."

"If honouring them means approval of shedding the blood of infants
and captives, I will renounce all hopes  of obtaining victory by
their aid."

"I would you had spoken so before, Malchus; had I known that you
were a scorner of the gods I would not  have asked you to join
in our enterprise. No good fortune can be expected to attend our
efforts unless we  have the help of the gods."

"The matter is easily mended, Giscon," Malchus said calmly.  "So
far I have taken no step towards carrying  out your plans, and have
but listened to what you said, therefore, no harm can yet have been
done. Strike  my name off the list, and forget that I have been
with you. You have my oath that I will say nought of  anything that
I have heard. You can well make some excuse to your comrades. Tell
them, for example, that  though I fear not for myself, I thought
that, being the son of Hamilcar, I had no right to involve his name
and family in such an enterprise, unless by his orders."

"Yes, it were better so," Giscon said after a pause; "I dare not
continue the enterprise with one who  condemns the gods among us;
it would be to court failure. I did not dream of this; who could
have thought  that a lad of your age would have been a spurner of
the gods?"

"I am neither a condemner nor a spurner," Malchus said indignantly;
"I say only that I believe you worship  them wrongfully, that you
do them injustice. I say it is impossible that the gods who rule
the world can  have pleasure in the screams of dying infants or
the groans of slaughtered men."

Giscon placed his hand to his ears as if to shut out such blasphemy,
and hurried away, while Malchus,  mounting his horse, rode out
slowly and thoughtfully to his father's villa.  He was not at heart
sorry that he  was freed from this association into which, without
knowing the measures by which it intended to carry out  its aims,
he had rashly entered. He was ready for armed insurrection against
the tyrants of Carthage, but he  revolted from the thought of this
plan for a midnight massacre -- it was not by such means that he
would  have achieved the regeneration of his country. He felt, too,
that the reason which he had given Giscon was  a valid one. He had
no right, at his age, to involve his family in such a conspiracy.
Did it fail, and were he  found to be among the conspirators, Hanno
and his associates would be sure to seize the fact as a pretext  for
assailing Hamilcar. They would say that Malchus would never have
joined in such a plot had he not  known that it had the approval
of his father, and that he was in fact but the representative of
his family in  the design for overthrowing the constitution of the
republic.

Fortunately for Malchus, a few days later orders were given for
the instant embarkation of a portion of the  reinforcements destined
for Hannibal. Hamilcar was to proceed in command of them, and,
busied with his  preparation for the start, Malchus thought little
more of the conspiracy which was brewing. Thirty large  merchant
ships were hired to convey the troops, who numbered six thousand.
These were principally  Libyan footmen. The main body, with
the Numidian horse, were to follow shortly. At last the day for
embarkation arrived, and the troops defiled through the temple of
Moloch, where sacrifices were offered up  for the success of the
enterprise.

Malchus, under the pretense that something was not ready, at the last
moment lingered at home, and only  joined his comrades, a hundred
young men of the Carthaginian horse, on the quays. This body, all
composed of young men of the best families of Carthage, were to
sail in the same ship which carried  Hamilcar. The scene was a busy
one -- the docks of Carthage were extensive, and the ships which
were to  convey the expedition lay in deep water by the quays, so
that the troops could march on board. A great  crowd of the populace
had assembled to view the embarkation. These were with difficulty
kept from  crowding the troops and impeding their movement by a
cordon of soldiers.

As the troops marched on to the quay they were formed up in parties
by the side of the ships which were to  convey them.  Very different
was the demeanour of the men of the different nationalities. The
Libyans were  stern and silent, they were part of the contingent
which their state was bound to furnish to Carthage, and  went
unwillingly, cursing in their hearts the power which tore them from
their homes to fight in a war in  which they had neither concern
nor interest.

Near them were a body of Garamantes, wrapped in the long bernous
which then as now was the garb of the  children of the desert.
Tall, swarthy figures these, lissome and agile, with every muscle
standing out clear  through the brown skin. Strange as must have
been the scene to them, there was no wonder expressed in the  keen
glances which they shot around them from underneath their dark
eyebrows. Silent and taciturn, scarce  a word was to be heard among
them as they stood awaiting the orders to embark; they were there
unwillingly, and their hearts were far away in the distant desert,
but none the less would they be willing to  fight when the time
came. Terrible foes these would be in a night attack, with their
stealthy tiger-like tread,  their gleaming, vengeful eyes, and
their cruel mouths.

Very different were the band of Ethiopians from the distant Soudan,
with their cloaks of lion skin, and the  gaudy feathers fastened
in a fillet round their heads. Their black faces were alive with
merriment and  wonder -- everything was new and extraordinary to
them. The sea, the ships, the mighty city, the gathered  crowd,
all excited their astonishment, and their white teeth glistened as
they chatted incessantly with a very  babel of laughter and noise.

Not less light hearted were the chosen band of young nobles grouped
by the general's ship. Their horses  were held in ranks behind them
for the last time by their slaves, for in future they would have
to attend to  them themselves, and as they gathered in groups they
laughed and jested over the last scandal in Carthage,  the play
which had been produced the night before at the theatre, or the horse
race which was to be run on  the following day. As to the desperate
work on which they were to be engaged -- for it was whispered that
Hannibal had in preparation some mighty enterprise -- it troubled
them not at all, nor the thought that many  of them might never
look on Carthage again. In their hearts perhaps some of them, like
Malchus, were  thinking sadly of the partings they had just gone
through with those they loved, but no signs of such  thoughts were
apparent in their faces or conversation.

Presently a blast of trumpets sounded, and the babel of voices was
hushed as if by magic. The soldiers fell  into military order, and
stood motionless. Then Hamilcar walked along the quays inspecting
carefully each  group, asking questions of the captains of the
ships as to their store of provisions and water, receiving from
the officers charged with that duty the lists of the war machines
and stores which were stored away in the  hulls; and, having assured
himself that everything was in order, he gave the signal to his
trumpeter, who  again blew a long and piercing blast.

The work of embarkation at once commenced. The infantry were soon
on board, but the operation of  shipping the horses of the cavalry
took longer. Half of these were stored away in the hold of the
general's  ship, the rest in another vessel. When the troops were
all on board the soldiers who had kept back the  crowd were withdrawn,
and the Carthaginians thronged down on to the quay. A small space
was still kept  clear on the wharf by whose side the admiral's ship
was lying, and here was gathered a throng of the  aristocracy of
the city to see the last of their sons and relatives of the guard.

Having seen their horses safely stowed below the young men crowded
to the side of the ship to exchange  adieus with their friends.
The parting was a brief one, for the wind was fair, and the general
anxious to be  well out of the bay before nightfall.  Therefore
the signal was hoisted. Numbers of slaves seized the  hawsers of
the ships and towed them along through the narrow passage which
connected the docks with the  sea. A shout of adieu rose from the
crowd, the sails were hoisted, and the fleet proceeded on its way.

The arrangements for the comfort of the troops at sea were simple
and primitive. Each man shifted for  himself. The whole space below
was occupied by cargo or horses. The troops lived and slept on
deck. Here,  on wide flat stones, they cooked their meals, whiled
away the day by games of chance, and slept at night on  skins
or thick rugs. Fortunately the weather was fair.  It was early in
March, but the nights were not cold.

The fleet hugged the coast, anchoring at night, until the northern
shores stood out clear and well defined as  Spain stretched down
towards Africa. Then they crossed and cruised along until they
arrived at Carthagena.  Short as was the time which had elapsed
since the foundation of that city, its aspect was already imposing
and extensive. It lay at the head of a gulf facing south, about a
mile in depth and nearly double that width.  Across the mouth of
this bay was an island, with but a narrow passage on each side,
protecting it from the  southern winds, and forming with it a
magnificent harbour.

On a bold hill at the head of the harbour stood the town.  This
hill rose from a wide lagoon, which  communicated on one side with
the sea, and was on the other separated from it only by a strip
of land, four  hundred yards wide. Through this a wide channel had
been dug. Thus the hill, which was of considerable  extent, rugged
and precipitous, was isolated, and could only be attacked by sea.

The town was built in a sort of amphitheatre facing the sea, and
was surrounded by a strong fortification  two miles and a half in
circumference, so that even should an assailant cross the lagoon,
which in summer  was nearly dry, he would have before him an almost
impregnable defence to carry.  Here, in buildings  whose magnitude
surprised the newcomers, acquainted as they were with the buildings
of Carthage, were  stored the treasures, the baggage, the ammunition
of war, and the provisions of the army.

It had been the aim of the great Hamilcar, and of Hasdrubal after
him, to render the army of Spain as far as  possible independent
of the mother country. They well knew how often the treasury of
Carthage was empty  owing to the extravagance and dishonesty of
her rulers, and how impossible it would be to obtain thence  the
supplies required for the army. Therefore they established immense
workshops, where arms, munitions  of war, machines for sieges, and
everything required for the use of the army were fabricated.

Vast as were the expenses of these establishments, the revenues of
Iberia were amply sufficient not only to  defray all the cost of
occupation, but to transmit large sums to Carthage.  These revenues
were derived  partly from the tribute paid by conquered tribes,
partly from the spoils taken in captured cities, but most of  all
from the mines of gold and silver, which were at that time immensely
rich, and were worked by the  labour of slaves taken in war or of
whole tribes subdued.

Some idea of the richness of these mines may be formed by the
fact that one mine, which Hannibal had  inherited from his father,
brought in to him a revenue of nearly a thousand pounds a day;
and this was but  one of his various sources of wealth. This was
the reason that Hamilcar, Hasdrubal, and Hannibal were able  to
maintain themselves in spite of the intrigues of their enemies in
the capital. Their armies were their own  rather than those of the
country.

It was to them that the soldiers looked for their pay, as well as
for promotion and rewards for valour, and  they were able, therefore,
to carry out the plans which their genius suggested untrammelled
by orders from  Carthage. They occupied, indeed, a position very
similar to that of Wallenstein, when, with an army raised  and
paid from his private means, he defended the cause of the empire
against Gustavus Adolphus and the  princes of the Protestant league.
It is true that the Carthaginian generals had always by their side
two  commissioners of the senate. The republic of Carthage, like
the first republic of France, was ever jealous of  her generals,
and appointed commissioners to accompany them on their campaigns,
to advise and control  their movements and to report on their
conduct; and many of the defeats of the Carthaginians were due in
no small degree to their generals being hampered by the interference
of the commissioners. They were  present, as a matter of course,
with the army of Hannibal, but his power was so great that their
influence  over his proceedings was but nominal.

The war which was about to break out with Rome is called the second
Punic war, but it should rather be  named the war of Hannibal
with Rome. He conceived and carried it out from his own resources,
without  interference and almost without any assistance from
Carthage. Throughout the war her ships lay idle in her  harbour.
Even in his greatest need Carthage never armed a galley for his
assistance. The pay of the army  came solely from his coffers, the
material for the war from the arsenals constructed by his father,
his  brother-in-law, and himself. It was a war waged by a single man
against a mighty power, and as such there  is, with the exception
of the case of Wallenstein, nothing to resemble it in the history
of the world.

Passing through the narrow passage into the harbour the fleet sailed
up to the end of the bay, and were soon  alongside the spacious
quays which had been erected. A large quantity of shipping already
lay there, for the  trade of Carthagena with the mother city and with
the ports of Spain, Africa, and the East already rivaled  that of
Carthage. A group of officers were gathered on the quay as Hamilcar's
ship, which was leading the  fleet, neared it, and Hamilcar exclaimed,
"There is Hannibal himself!"

As the ship moored alongside the quay Hannibal came on board and
warmly embraced his cousin, and then  bestowed a cordial greeting
upon Malchus.

"Why, cousin Malchus," he said, "though it is but a year since I
was in Carthage, I should scarce have  known you, so much have you
grown. I see you have entered the cavalry. That is well. You cannot
begin  too early to accustom yourself to war."

Then turning, he went among the young men of the guard, to all of
whom he was personally known,  greeting them with a cordiality and
kindness which greatly gratified them. Malchus gazed at him with
admiration. Fortunately an accurate description of Hannibal has come
down to us. He was one who, even at  first sight, won all hearts
by his lofty and noble expression, by the kindness and sincerity
which his face  expressed. The Carthaginians, as a race, were
short, but Hannibal was very tall, and his great width of  shoulders
testified to his immense strength.

The beauty of the Carthaginian race was proverbial, but even among
them he was remarkable. His head  was well placed on his shoulders;
his carriage was upright and commanding; his forehead lofty; his eye,
though soft and gentle at ordinary times, was said to be terrible
in time of battle. His head was bare. His  hair, of a golden brown,
was worn long, and encircled by a golden band. His nose was long
and straight,  forming, with the forehead, a perfect profile. The
expression of the mouth was kind but firm. His beard was  short.
The whole contour of the face was noble in the extreme.

In battle he wore a helmet of bronze closely fitting the head,
behind which projected a curved metal plate  covering his neck.
A band of gold surrounded the helmet; in front were five laurel
leaves in steel; at the  temples two leaves of the lotus of the
same metal. On the crest, rising from an ornament enriched with
pearls, was a large plume of feathers, sometimes red and sometimes
white. A tuft of white horsehair fell  from the plate behind. A
coat of mail, made of a triple tissue of chains of gold, covered
his body. Above  this he wore a shirt of the finest white linen,
covered to the waist by a jerkin of leather overlaid with gold
plates. A large mantle of purple embroidered with gold hung from
his shoulders. He wore sandals and  leggings of red morocco leather.

But it was only on special occasions that Hannibal was thus
magnificently clad. On the march he dressed  generally in a simple
blouse like that worn by his soldiers. His arms were borne behind
him by an esquire.  These consisted of his shield, of Galatian
manufacture. Its material was bronze, its shape circular. In the
centre was a conical, sharply pointed boss. The face of the shield
was ornamented with subjects taken from  the history of Carthage
in relief. The offensive arms were a sword, a lance, and a bow with
arrows. But it  was not to the splendour of his appearance that
Hannibal owed the enthusiasm by which he was regarded  by his
troops. His strength and skill were far superior to those of any
man in his army. His food was as  simple as that of his soldiers,
he was capable of going for days without eating, and it was seldom
that he  broke his fast until the day's work was over. When he ate
it would be sitting on horseback, or as he walked  about seeing to
the needs of the soldiers.

At night he slept among them, lying on a lion skin without covering.
He was indifferent to heat and cold,  and in the heaviest tempest
of wind and rain would ride bareheaded among his troops, apparently
unconscious of the tempest against which he was struggling. So far
as was known he was without a vice.  He seldom touched wine. His
morals were irreproachable. He never gave way to anger. His patience
under  trials and difficulties of all sorts was illimitable.

In the midst of the greatest trials and dangers he preserved his
cheerfulness, and had ever an encouraging  word for his soldiers.
Various as were the nationalities of the troops who followed
him, constrained as most  of them had been to enter the service of
Carthage, so great was their love and admiration for their  commander
that they were ready to suffer all hardships, to dare all dangers
for his sake. It was his personal  influence, and that alone,
which welded this army, composed of men of various nationalities
and tribes, into  one whole, and enabled it to perform the greatest
military exploits in the world's history, and for years to  sustain
a terrible struggle against the whole power of Rome.



CHAPTER VI: A CAMPAIGN IN SPAIN


Among the young officers who had followed Hannibal on board were
some who had left Carthage only a  few months before and were known
to Malchus.  From them he learned with delight that the troops
would  take the field at once.

"We are going on a campaign against the Vacaei," one of them said.
"The army marched out two days  since. Hannibal has been waiting
here for your arrival, for a fast sailing ship which started a few
hours after  you brought the news that you were on your way, and
you will set off to join the rest without delay. It is  going to
be a hard campaign."

"Where is the country of the Vacaei?" Malchus asked.

"A long way off," the other replied. "The marches will be long
and tiresome. Their country lies somewhat  to the northwest of the
great plateau in the centre of Iberia.  We shall have to ascend
the mountains on this  side, to cross the plateau, to follow the
rivers which flow to the great ocean."

The Vacaei, in fact, dwelt in the lands bordered by the upper
Duero, their country comprising a portion of  old Castille, Leon,
and the Basque provinces. The journey would indeed be a long and
difficult one; and  Hannibal was undertaking the expedition not
only to punish the turbulent Vacaei, who had attacked some  of the
tribes which had submitted to Carthage, but to accustom the troops
to fatigues and hardships, and to  prepare them for the great
expedition which he had in view. No time was indeed lost, for as
soon as the  troops were landed they were formed up and at once
started on their march.

"This is more than we bargained for," Trebon, a young guardsman whose
place in the ranks was next to  Malchus, said to him. "I thought
we should have had at least a month here before we set out. They
say the  city is as gay as Carthage; and as I have many friends
here I have looked forward to a month of jollity  before starting.
Every night when I lay down on the hard planks of the deck I have
consoled myself with  the thought that a soft bed awaited me here;
and now we have to take at once to the bare ground, with  nothing
but this skin strapped on the pommel of my saddle to sleep on, and
my bernous to cover me. It is  colder already a great deal than
it was at Carthage; and if that is so here, what will it be on the
tops of those  jagged mountains we see before us? Why, as I live,
that highest one over there is of dazzling white! That  must be the
snow we have heard of -- the rain turned solid by cold, and which
they say causes a pain to the  naked limbs something like hot iron.
Fancy having to sleep in such stuff!"

Malchus laughed at the complaints of his comrade.

"I confess I am glad we are off at once," he said, "for I was
sick of doing nothing but idling away my time  at Carthage; and I
suppose it would be just the same here. How busy are the streets
of the town! Except for  the sight of the mountains which we see
through the breaks of the houses, one might believe one's self
still  at home."

The aspect of Carthagena, indeed, closely resembled that of the
mother city, and the inhabitants were of the  same race and blood.

Carthagena had in the first place been formed by a great colony of
Libyans. The inhabitants of that  province inhabiting the seaports
and coasts near Carthage were a mixture of Phoenician and native
blood.  They were ever impatient of the supremacy of Carthage,
and their rebellions were frequent and often  dangerous.  After
the suppression of these insurrections, Carthage, sensible of the
danger arising from the  turbulence of her neighbours, deported
great numbers of them to form colonies.  Vast numbers were sent up
into the Soudan, which was then one of the most important possessions
of the republic. The most extensive,  however, of these forced
emigrations was the great colony sent to found Carthagena, which
had thus in a  very few years, under the fostering genius of the
great Hamilcar, become a great and prosperous city.

Carthage itself had thus suddenly sprung into existence.  After
many internal troubles the democracy of  Tyre had gained the upper
hand in that city; and finding their position intolerable, the
whole of the  aristocracy decided to emigrate, and, sailing with a
great fleet under their queen Dido or Elisa -- for she was  called
by both names -- founded Carthage. This triumph of the democracy
in Tyre, as might be expected,  proved the ruin of that city. Very
rapidly she fell from the lofty position she had held, and her place
in the  world and her proud position as Queen of the Seas was very
speedily taken by Carthage.

The original Libyan colony of Carthagena had been very largely
increased by subsequent emigration, and  the populace presented
an appearance very similar to that of the mother city, save that
instead of the  swarthy desert tribesmen, with their passive face
and air of proud indifference, mingling with the  population of the
town, there was in Carthagena a large admixture of native Iberians,
who, belonging to the  tribes first subdued by Carthage, had either
been forced to settle here to supply manual labour needed for  the
rising city, or who had voluntarily abandoned their wandering life
and adopted the more settled  habitudes and more assured comforts
of existence in a great town.

Skirting the lower part of the city, Hamilcar's force marched along
the isthmus and crossed the bridge over  the canal cut through it,
and was soon in the country beyond. The ground rose gradually, and
after  marching for six miles the brigade was halted at a spot to
which Hannibal had, when the fleet was first  discerned approaching
along the coast, despatched some bullocks and other provisions for
their use. The  march was a short one, but after a week's confinement
on board ship the men were little fitted for a long  journey. The
bullocks and other rations were served out to the various companies,
and the work of  preparing the repast began. Malchus was amused,
although rather disgusted at his first experience in a real  campaign.
When with Hamilcar on the expedition against the Atarantes he had
formed part of his father's  suite and had lived in luxury. He was
now a simple soldier, and was called upon to assist to cut up the
bullock which had fallen to the share of the Carthaginian cavalry.

Some of the party went out to cut and bring in wood for the fires
and cooking; others moistened the flour  and made dough for the
flat cakes which would be baked in the hot embers and eaten with
the meat. Loud  shouts of laughter rose as the young soldiers worked
at their unaccustomed tasks, superintended by the  officers, who,
having all made several campaigns, were able to instruct them as
to their duties. From a  culinary point of view the meal could not
be pronounced a success, and was, indeed, a contrast to the food
to which the young nobles were accustomed. The march, however,
and the keen bracing air had given them  good appetites, and the
novelty and strangeness of the experience gave a zest to the food;
and in spite of the  roughness of the meal, all declared that they
had never dined better. Many fires were now lit; and round  these,
as the evening closed in, the men gathered in groups, all closely
wrapped in their bernouses, which  were worn alike by officers and
men of the whole of the nationalities serving in the Carthaginian
army,  serving as a cloak by day and a blanket at night. Presently
a trampling of horses was heard, and Hannibal  and his personal
staff rode into the encampment.

He had not started until several hours after them, when, having
given his last orders and made all final  arrangements for the
management of affairs during his absence, he had ridden on to join
the army.  Dismounting, he went at once on foot among the troops,
chatting gaily with them and inquiring how they  fared.  After
visiting all the other detachments he came to the bivouac of the
Carthaginian horse, and for an  hour sat talking by their fires.

"Ah!" he said as he rose to go, "the others will sleep well enough
tonight; but you sybarites, accustomed to  your soft couches and
your luxuries, will fare badly. I remember my first night on the
hard ground,  although `tis now sixteen years back, how my limbs
ached and how I longed for morning. Now, let me give  you a hint
how to make your beds comfortable. Mind, this is not for the future,
but till your limbs get  accustomed to the ground you may indulge
in luxuries. Before you try to go off to sleep note exactly where
your hip bones and shoulders will rest; take your daggers and scoop
out the earth at these points so as to  make depressions in which
they may lie. Then spread your lion skins above them and lie down.
You will  sleep as comfortably as if on a soft couch."

Many of the young soldiers followed Hannibal's advice; others, among
whom was Malchus, determined to  accustom themselves at once to
the hard ground. Malchus was not long in getting to sleep, his last
thought  being that the precaution advised by Hannibal to ensure
repose was altogether unnecessary. But he changed  his opinion
when, two or three hours later, he woke up with acute pains in his
hip and shoulder. After trying  vainly, by changing his position,
again to go off to sleep, he rose, rolled up the skin, and set
to work to  make the excavations recommended by the general. Then
spreading out the skin again he lay down, and  was astonished to
find how immense was the relief afforded by this simple expedient.

At daybreak the party were in motion. Their march was a long one;
for Hannibal wished to come up with  the main army as soon as
possible, and no less than thirty miles were encompassed before
they halted for  the night. They were now far up on the slopes of
the Sierras. The latter part of the journey had been  exceedingly
toilsome. The route was mostly bare rock, which sorely tried the
feet of the soldiers, these  being in most cases unprotected even
by sandals. Malchus and his mounted companions did not of course
suffer in their feet. But they were almost as glad as the infantry
when the camping place was reached, for  nothing is more fatiguing
to a horseman than to be obliged to travel in the saddle for ten
hours at the pace  of footmen.  The halting place this time was near
the upper edge of the forest which then clothed the lower  slopes
of the mountains.

Enough meat had been killed on the previous evening for three days'
rations for the troops, and there was  therefore no loss of time
in preparing the meal. Wood, of course, was in abundance, and the
pots were soon  hanging from thick poles placed above the fires.
The night was exceedingly cold, and the soldiers were  grateful for
the shelter which the trees afforded from the piercing wind which
blew across the snow covered  peaks of the higher range of mountains.

"What is that noise?" Malchus asked one of the officers as, after
the meal was finished and silence began to  reign in the camp, a
deep sound was heard in the forest.

"That is the howling of a pack of wolves," the officer said. "They
are savage brutes, and when in company  will not hesitate to
attack small parties of men. They abound in the mountains, and are
a scourge to the  shepherds of the plains, especially in the cold
weather, when they descend and commit terrible damage  among the
flocks."

"I thought I did not know the sound," Malchus said. "The nights
were noisy enough sometimes at the  southern edge of the desert.
The packs of jackals, with their sharp yelping cry, abounded; then
there was the  deeper note of the hyenas, and the barking cry of
troops of monkeys, and the thundering roar of the lions.  They were
unpleasant enough, and at first used to keep one awake; but none
of them were so lugubrious as  that mournful howl I hear now.
I suppose sometimes, when there is nothing else to do, we get up
hunting  parties?"

"Yes," the officer replied; "it is the chief amusement of our garrisons
in winter among the wild parts of the  country. Of course, near
Carthagena these creatures have been eradicated; but among the
mountains they  abound, and the carcass of a dead horse is sure
to attract plenty of them. It is a sport not without danger;  and
there are many instances where parties of five or six have gone
out, taking with them a carcass to  attract the wolves, and have
never returned; and a search has resulted in the discovery of their
weapons,  injured and perhaps broken, of stains of blood and signs
of a desperate struggle, but of them not so much as  a bone has
remained behind."

"I thought lion hunting was an exciting sport but the lions, although
they may move and hunt in companies,  do not fight in packs, as
these fierce brutes seem to do. I hope some day to try it. I should
like to send back  two of their heads to hang on the wall by the
side of that of the lion I killed up in the desert."

"Next winter you may do so," the officer said. "The season is nearly
over now, and you may be sure that  Hannibal will give us enough
to do without our thinking of hunting wolves. The Vacaei are fierce
enough.  Perhaps two of their heads would do instead of those of
wolves."

"I do not think my mother and sisters would approve of that,"
Malchus laughed; "so I must wait for the  winter."

The night did not pass so quietly as that which had preceded it.
The distant howling of the wolves, as they  hunted in the forest,
kept the horses in a tremor of terror and excitement, and their
riders were obliged over  and over again to rise and go among them,
and by speaking to and patting them, to allay their fear. So long
as their masters were near them the well trained horses were quiet
and tractable, and would at a whispered  order lie down and remain
in perfect quiet; but no sooner had they left them and again settled
to sleep than,  at the first howl which told that the pack were at
all approaching, the horses would lift their heads, prick  their
ears in the direction of the sound, and rise to their feet and stand
trembling, with extended nostrils  snuffing the unknown danger,
pawing the ground, and occasionally making desperate efforts to
break loose  from their picket ropes.

The work of soothing had then to be repeated, until at last most
of the riders brought their lions' skins and  lay down by the
prostrate horses, with their heads upon their necks. The animals,
trained thus to sleep with  their riders by their side, and reassured
by the presence of their masters, were for the most part content
to  lie quiet, although the packs of wolves, attracted by the scent
of the meat that had been cooked, approached  close to the camp
and kept up a dismal chorus round it until morning.

Day by day the march was continued. The country was wild and rugged,
foaming torrents had to be  crossed, precipices surmounted, barren
tracts traversed. But after a week's hard marching the column
had  overcome the greater part of the difficulty, had crossed the
Sierras and gained the plateau, which with a  gradual fall slopes
west down to the Atlantic, and was for the most part covered with
a dense growth of  forests. They now to their satisfaction overtook
the main body of the army, and their marches would be  somewhat less
severe, for hitherto they had each day traversed extra distances
to make up for the two days'  loss in starting. Here Malchus for
the first time saw the bands of Gaulish mercenaries.

The Spanish troops had excited the admiration and astonishment of
the Carthaginians by their stature and  strength; but the Gauls
were a still more powerful race. They belonged to the tribes which
had poured down  over the Apennines, and occupied the northern
portion of Spain long anterior to the arrival of the  Carthaginians.
Their countenances were rugged, and as it seemed to Malchus, savage.
Their colour was  much lighter than that of any people he had yet
seen.  Their eyes were blue, their hair, naturally fair or  brown,
was dyed with some preparation which gave it a red colour.

Some wore their long locks floating over their shoulders, others
tied it in a knot on the top of their heads.  They wore a loose
short trouser fastened at the knee, resembling the baggy trousers
of the modern Turks. A  shirt with open sleeves came halfway down
their thighs, and over it was a blouse or loose tunic decorated
with ornaments of every description, and fastened at the neck by
a metal brooch. Their helmets were of  copper, for the most part
ornamented with the horns of stags or bulls. On the crest of the
helmet was  generally the figure of a bird or wild beast. The whole
was surmounted by immense tufts of feathers,  something like those
of our Highland bonnets, adding greatly to the height and apparent
stature of the  wearers.

The Gauls had a passion for ornaments, and adorned their persons
with a profusion of necklaces, bracelets,  rings, baldricks, and
belts of gold. Their national arms were long heavy pikes -- these
had no metal heads,  but the points were hardened by fire; javelins
of the same description -- these before going into battle they  set
fire to, and hurled blazing at the enemy -- lighter darts called
mat ras saunions, pikes with curved heads,  resembling the halberds
of later times; and straight swords. Hannibal, however, finding the
inconvenience  of this diversity of weapons, had armed his Gaulish
troops only with their long straight swords. These were  without
point, and made for cutting only, and were in the hands of these
powerful tribesmen terrible  weapons. These swords were not those
they had been accustomed to carry, which were made of copper  only,
and often bent at the first blow, but were especially made for them
in Carthage of heavy steel, proof  against all accident.

The march was conducted with all military precautions, although they
were still traversing a country which  had been already subdued.
Nevertheless they moved as if expecting an instant attack. The
light horse  scoured the country. The lithe and active soldiers
furnished by the desert tribes formed the advanced guard  of the
army, and marched also on its flanks, while the heavy armed soldiery
marched in solid column ready  for battle. Behind them came the
long train of baggage protected by a strong rear guard.

At last they reached a fertile country, and were now in the land
of the Vacaei and their allies. Arbocala,  now called Tordesillas,
was captured without much difficulty. The siege was then laid
to Salamanca, the  chief town of the enemy. In the actual siege
operations the Carthaginian horse took no part. The place  resisted
vigourously, but the machines of Hannibal effected a breach in the
walls, and the inhabitants,  seeing that further resistance was
impossible, offered to capitulate, stipulating that they should
be allowed  to depart unharmed, leaving behind them all their arms
and their treasure.

The Carthaginian army were drawn up in readiness to march into the
town as the Vacaei came out. As they  filed past the Carthaginians
they were inspected to see that they had carried out the terms of
the agreement.  It was found that they had done so rigidly -- not
an arm of any kind was found upon them. Their necklaces,  bracelets,
and ornaments had all been left behind.

"What a savage looking race!" Malchus remarked to Trebon; "they
look at us as if they would gladly spring  on us, unarmed as they
are, and tear us with their hands. They are well nigh as dark
skinned as the  Numidians."

"Here come their women!" Trebon said; "verily I would as soon fight
the men as these creatures. Look how  they glare at us!  You see
they have all had to give up their ornaments, so they have each
their private  grievance as well as their national one."

When the whole of the population had filed out, the Carthaginian
army entered the town, with the exception  of a body of light horse
who were ordered to remain without and keep an eye on the doings
of the late  garrison. Malchus was amused at the scene within. The
members of the Carthaginian horse disdained to  join in the work
of plunder, and were, therefore, free to watch with amusement their
comrades at work. The  amount of booty was large, for the number
of gold ornaments found in every house, deposited there by the
inhabitants on departing, was very great; but not satisfied with
this the soldiers dug up the floors in search  of buried treasure,
searched the walls for secret hiding places, and rummaged the houses
from top to  bottom. Besides the rich booty, the soldiers burdened
themselves with a great variety of articles which it  would be
impossible for them to carry away.

Men were seen staggering under the weight of four or five heavy
skins. Some had stuck feathers in their  helmets until their heads
were scarce visible. Some had great bundles of female garments,
which they had  collected with a vague idea of carrying them home
to their families. The arms had in the first place been  collected
and placed under a strong guard, and picked troops were placed as
sentries over the public  treasury, whose contents were allotted
to the general needs of the army.

Night fell soon after the sack commenced. Malchus with a number of
his comrades took possession of one  of the largest houses in the
place, and, having cleared it of the rubbish with which it was strewn,
prepared  to pass the night there. Suddenly a terrible uproar was
heard -- shouts, cries, the clashing of arms, the yells  of the
enemy, filled the air. The cavalry charged to watch the Vacaei,
believing that these had departed  quietly, had abandoned their
post, and had entered the town to join in the work of plunder.

As the garrison had marched out the men had been rigidly searched;
but the women had been allowed to  pass out without any close
inspection. This carelessness cost the Carthaginians dear, for
under their  garments they had hidden the swords and daggers of
the men. Relying upon the disorder which would reign  in the city,
the Vacaei had returned, and now poured in through the gates,
slaying all whom they met.

For a short time a terrible panic reigned among the Carthaginians,
great numbers were cut down, and it  seemed as if the whole force
would be destroyed. Hannibal and his generals rode about trying to
get the  scattered men to form and oppose the enemy; but the panic
was too general, and had it not been for the  Carthaginian legion
all would have been lost. The horse and foot, however, of this
body, having abstained  from joining in the pillage, had, for the
most part, kept together in bodies, and these now sallied out in
close  and regular order, and fell upon the attacking enemy.

The streets were too narrow for cavalry to act, and Malchus and
his comrades fought on foot. The enemy,  who had scattered on their
work of slaughter, were in their turn taken at a disadvantage, and
were unable to  withstand the steady attack of the solid bodies.
These, in the first place, cut their way to the square in the
centre of the town, and there united.  Hannibal, seeing he had now
a solid body of troops under his  command, at once broke them up
into parties and advanced down all the streets leading from the
central  square. The hand-to-hand fight which was going on all over
the town was soon terminated. The  Carthaginians fell in in good
order behind the ranks of their comrades, and the small bodies soon
became  columns which swept the enemy before them.

The enemy fought desperately, firing the houses, hurling stones from
the roofs upon the columns, and  throwing themselves with reckless
bravery upon the spears, but their efforts were in vain. Foot by
foot they  were driven back, until they were again expelled from the
town. Keeping together, and ever showing front  to the Carthaginians,
the Vacaei, now reduced to less than half their number, retired to
an eminence near  the town, and there prepared to sell their lives
dearly. The Carthaginians now fell into their regular ranks,  and
prepared to storm the enemy's position; but Hannibal rode forward
alone towards the Vacaei, being  plainly visible to them in the
broad blaze of light from the burning city.

From his long residence in Spain he was able to speak the Iberian
tongue with fluency, and indeed could  converse with all the troops
of the various nationalities under the banner of Carthage in their
own language.

"Men of Salamanca," he said, "resist no longer. Carthage knows how
to honour a brave enemy, and never  did men fight more valiantly
in defence of their homes than you have done, and although further
resistance  would be hopeless, I will press you no further. Your
lives are spared. You may retain the arms you know so  well how to
wield, and tomorrow my army will evacuate your town and leave you
free to return to it."

Hannibal's clemency was politic. He would have lost many more men
before he finally overcame the  desperate band, and he was by no
means desirous of exciting a deep feeling of hate among any of the
tribes,  just as he was meditating withdrawing the greater portion
of the army for his enterprise against Rome.   With the fall of
Salamanca the resistance of the Vacaei ceased, and Hannibal prepared
to march back to  Carthagena.

A storm, however, had gathered in his rear. Great numbers of the
Vacaei had sought refuge among the  Olcades, who had been subdued
the previous autumn, and together they had included the whole of
the  fierce tribes known as the Carpatans, who inhabited the country
on the right bank of the upper Tagus, to  make common cause with
them against the invaders. As Hannibal approached their neighbourhood
they  took up their position on the right bank of the river near
Toledo. Here the stream is rapid and difficult of  passage, its bed
being thickly studded with great boulders brought down in time of
flood from the  mountains. The country on each side of the river
is sandy, free from forests or valleys, which would cover  the
movements of an army.

The host gathered to oppose the Carthaginians were fully one hundred
thousand strong, and Hannibal saw  at once that his force, weakened
as it was with its loss at Salamanca, and encumbered by the great
train  laden with the booty they had gathered from the Vacaei,
would have no chance whatever in a battle with so  vast a body.
The enemy separated as he approached the river, their object being
evidently to fall upon his  rear when engaged in the difficult operation
of crossing. The Carthaginians moved in two heavy columns,  one on
each side of their baggage, and Hannibal's orders were stringent
that on no account should they  engage with the enemy.

The natives swarmed around the columns, hurling darts and javelins;
but the Carthaginians moved forward  in solid order, replying
only with their arrows and slings, and contenting themselves with
beating off the  attacks which the bolder of their foes made upon
them. Night was falling when they arrived on the bank of  the river.
The enemy then desisted from their attack, believing that in the
morning the Carthaginians would  be at their mercy, encumbered by
their vast booty on one side and cut off from retreat by a well
nigh  impassable river on the other.

As soon as the army reached the river Hannibal caused the tents of
all the officers to be erected. The  baggage wagons were arranged
in order, and the cattle unharnessed. The troops began to throw up
intrenchments, and all seemed to show that the Carthaginians were
determined to fight till the last on the  ground they held. It was
still light enough for the enemy to perceive what was being done,
and, secure of  their prey in the morning, they drew off to a short
distance for the night. Hannibal had learned from a  native that
morning of a ford across the river, and it was towards this that
he had been marching.  As soon  as it was perfectly dark a number
of men entered the river to search for the ford. This was soon
discovered.

Then the orders were passed noiselessly round to the soldiers, and
these, in regular order and in the most  perfect quiet, rose to
their feet and marched down to the ford. A portion of the infantry
first passed, then the  wagons were taken over, the rest of the
infantry followed, and the cavalry and the elephants brought up
the  rear. The point where the river was fordable was at a sharp
angle, and Hannibal now occupied its outer  side. As daylight
approached he placed his archers on the banks of the river where,
owing to the sharp  bend, their arrows would take in flank an enemy
crossing the ford, and would also sweep its approaches.

The cavalry were withdrawn some distance, and were ordered not to
charge until the Spaniards had got  across the river.  The elephants,
forty in number, were divided into two bodies.  One of these was
allotted  to protect each of the bodies of infantry on the bank
from attack, should the Spaniards gain a strong footing  on the
left bank. When day broke the enemy perceived that the Carthaginians
had made the passage of the  river. Believing that they had been
too much alarmed to risk a battle, and were retreating hastily, the
natives  thronged down in a multitude to the river without waiting
for their leaders or for orders to be given, and  rushing forward,
each for himself, leaped into the river.

Numbers were at once swept away by the stream, but the crowd who had
struck upon the ford pressed  forward. When they were in midstream
in a tumultuous mass Hannibal launched his cavalry upon them,  and
a desperate conflict ensued in the river. The combat was too unequal
to last long. The Spaniards, waist  deep in the rapid stream, had
difficulty in retaining their feet, they were ignorant of the width
or precise  direction of the ford, and were hampered by their own
masses; the cavalry, on the other hand, were free to  use their
weapons, and the weight and impetus of their charge was alone
sufficient to sweep the Spanish  from their footing into deep water.

Many were drowned, many more cut down, and the rest driven in
disorder back across the river. But fresh  hordes had now arrived;
Hannibal sounded the retreat, and the cavalry retired as the
Spaniards again threw  themselves into the stream. As the confused
mass poured across the ford the two divisions of infantry fell  upon
them, while the arrows of the archers swept the struggling mass.
Without order or discipline,  bewildered at this attack by a foe
whom they had regarded as flying, the Spaniards were driven back
across  the river, the Carthaginians crossing in their rear.

The flying Iberians scattered terror among their comrades still
flocking down to the bank, and as the  Carthaginian infantry
in solid column fell upon them, a panic seized the whole host and
they scattered over  the plain. The Carthaginian cavalry followed
close behind the infantry, and at once dashed forward among  the
broken masses, until the Spanish army, lately so confident of
victory, was but a broken mass of panic  stricken fugitives.

The victory of Toledo was followed at once by the submission of
the whole of the tribes of Spain south of  the Ebro, and Hannibal,
having seen that the country was everywhere pacified, marched back
with his army  to Carthagena to pass the winter there (220-219
B.C.).



CHAPTER VII: A WOLF HUNT


The summer's work had been a hard one and the young soldiers of the
Carthaginian cavalry rejoiced when  they marched into Carthagena
again, with the prospect of four months' rest and gaiety. When in
the field  their discipline was as strict and their work as hard as
that of the other corps, but, whereas, when they went  into winter
quarters, the rest of the army were placed under tents or huts,
this corps d'elite were for the time  their own masters.

Two or three times a week they drilled and exercised their horses,
but with these exceptions they were free  to do as they chose.
Scarce one but had relations or friends in Carthagena with whom
they took up their  abode, and those who were not so fortunate found
a home at the great military club, of which, ranking as  they did
with the officers of other corps, they were all members.

Hamilcar and Malchus had rooms assigned to them in the splendid
mansion of Hannibal, which was the  centre of the life and gaiety
of the place, for Hannibal had, before starting on his campaign in
the spring,  married Imilce, the daughter of Castalius, a Spaniard
of noble blood, and his household was kept up with a  lavish
magnificence, worthy alike of his position as virtual monarch of
Spain and of his vast private wealth.  Fetes were given constantly
for the amusement of the people. At these there were prizes for
horse and foot  racing, and the Numidian cavalry astonished the
populace by the manner in which they maneuvered their  steeds;
bowmen and slingers entered the lists for prizes of value given by
the general; and the elephants  exhibited proof of their docility
and training.

In the bay there were races between the galleys and triremes, and
emulation was encouraged among the  troops by large money prizes
to the companies who maneuvered with the greatest precision and
activity.  For the nobles there were banquets and entertainments
of music. The rising greatness of Carthagena had  attracted to her
musicians and artists from all parts of the Mediterranean. Snake
charmers from the far  Soudan and jugglers from the distant East
exhibited their skill.  Poets recited their verses, and bards sung
their lays before the wealth and beauty of Carthagena. Hannibal,
anxious at once to please his young wife  and to increase his
popularity, spared no pains or expense in these entertainments.

Gay as they were Malchus longed for a more stirring life, and with
five or six of his comrades obtained  leave of absence for a month,
to go on a hunting expedition in the mountains. He had heard, when
upon the  campaign, the issue of the plot in which he had been so
nearly engaged. It had failed. On the very eve of  execution one
of the subordinates had turned traitor, and Giscon and the whole
of those engaged in it had  been arrested and put to a cruel death.

Malchus himself had been denounced, as his name was found upon the
list of the conspirators, and an order  had been sent to Hannibal
that he should be carried back a prisoner to Carthage. Hannibal had
called the lad  before him, and had inquired of him the circumstances
of the case. Malchus explained that he had been to  their meeting
but once, being taken there by Giscon, and being in entire ignorance
of the objects of the plot,  and that he had refused when he
discovered them to proceed in the matter. Hannibal and Hamilcar
blamed  him severely for allowing himself at his age to be mixed up
in any way in public affairs; but they so  represented the matter
to the two Carthaginian commissioners with the army, that these
had written home to  say, that having inquired into the affair they
found that beyond a boyish imprudence in accompanying  Giscon to
the place where the conspirators met, Malchus was not to blame in
the matter.

The narrow escape that he had had was a lesson which was not lost
upon Malchus. Hamilcar lectured him  sternly, and pointed out to him
that the affairs of nations were not to be settled by the efforts
of a handful of  enthusiasts, but that grievances, however great,
could only be righted when the people at large were  determined
that a change should be made.

"There would be neither order nor stability in affairs, Malchus, if
parties of desperate men of one party or  another were ever striving
for change, for revolution would be met by counter revolution.
The affairs of  nations march slowly; sudden changes are ever to
be deprecated. If every clique of men who chance to be  supported
by a temporary wave of public opinion, were to introduce organic
changes, there would be no  stability in affairs. Capital would be
alarmed; the rich and powerful, seeing their possessions threatened
and  their privileges attacked by the action of the demagogues of
the hour, would do as did our forefathers of  Tyre, when the whole
of the aristocracy emigrated in a body to Carthage, and Tyre received
a blow from  which she has never recovered."

For some time after this event Malchus had felt that he was in
disgrace, but his steadiness and good conduct  in the campaign, and
the excellent reports which his officers gave of him, had restored
him to favour; and  indeed his father and Hannibal both felt that
a lad might well be led away by an earnest enthusiast like  Giscon.

The hunting party took with them a hundred Iberian soldiers used
to the mountains, together with six  peasants acquainted with the
country and accustomed to the chase. They took several carts laden
with tents,  wine, and provisions. Four days' journey from Carthagena
took the party into the heart of the mountains,  and here, in
a sheltered valley through which ran a stream, they formed their
camp.

They had good sport. Sometimes with dogs they tracked the bears to
their lair, sometimes the soldiers made  a wide sweep in the hills,
and, having inclosed a considerable tract of forest, moved forward,
shouting and  clashing their arms until they drove the animals
inclosed down through a valley in which Malchus and his  companions
had taken post.

Very various was the game which then fell before their arrows
and javelins. Sometimes a herd of deer  would dart past, then two
bears with their family would come along growling fiercely as they
went, and  looking back angrily at the disturbers of their peace.
Sometimes a pack of wolves, with their red tongues  hanging out,
and fierce, snarling barks, would hurry along, or a wild boar would
trot leisurely past, until he  reached the spot where the hunters
were posted. The wolves and deer fell harmlessly before the javelins
of  the Carthaginians, but the bears and wild boars frequently
showed themselves formidable opponents, and  there were several
desperate fights before these yielded to the spears and swords of
the hunters.

Sometimes portions of the animals they had killed were hung up at
night from the bough of a tree at a  distance from the camp, to
attract the bears, and one or two of the party, taking their post
in neighbouring  trees, would watch all night for the coming of the
beasts. The snow was now lying thick on the tops of the  mountains,
and the wolves were plentiful among the forests.

One day Malchus and two of his companions had followed a wounded
deer far up among the hills, and  were some miles away from the
camp when the darkness began to set in.

"I think we had better give it up," Malchus said; "we shall find
it difficult as it is to find our way back; I had  no idea that it
was so late."

His companions at once agreed, and they turned their faces towards
the camp. In another half hour it was  perfectly dark under the
shadow of the trees, but the moon was shining, and its position
afforded them a  means of judging as to the direction where the
camp lay. But even with such assistance it was no easy  matter
making their way. The country was rough and broken; ravines had to
be crossed, and hills ascended.  After pushing on for two hours,
Halcon, the eldest of the party, said:

"I am by no means sure that we are going right after all.  We have
had a long day's work now, and I do not  believe we shall find
the camp tonight. I think we had better light a fire here and wrap
ourselves in our  cloaks. The fire will scare wild beasts away,
and we shall be easily able to find the camp in the morning."

The proposal was at once accepted; sticks were collected, and,
with flint and steel and the aid of some dried  fungus which they
carried in their pouches, a fire was soon lit, and some choice
portions of a deer which  they had killed early in the day were
soon broiling on sticks over it.

"We must keep watch by turns," Halcon said; "it will not do to let
the fire burn low, for likely enough we  may be visited by bears
before morning."

After eating their meal and chatting for some time, Halcon and
his companions lay down to rest, Malchus  volunteering to keep the
first watch. For some time he sat quietly, occasionally throwing logs
on the fire  from the store which they had collected in readiness.
Presently his attitude changed, he listened intently and  rose to
his feet. Several times he had heard the howls of wolves wandering
in the woods, but he now made  out a long, deep, continuous howling;
he listened for a minute or two and then aroused his companions.

"There is a large pack of wolves approaching," he said, "and by the
direction of the sound I judge they are  hunting on the traces of
our footsteps. That is the line by which we came down from yonder
brow, and it  seems to me that they are ascending the opposite
slope."

"Yes, and by the sound there must be a very large pack of them,"
Halcon agreed; "pile up the fire and set  yourselves to gather
more wood as quickly as possible; these beasts in large packs are
formidable foes."

The three men set to work, vigourously cutting down brushwood and
lopping off small boughs of trees with  their swords.

"Divide the fire in four," Halcon said, "and pile the fuel in the
centre; they will hardly dare to pass between  the fires."

The pack was now descending the slope, keeping up a chorus of howls
and short yelps which sent a shiver  of uneasiness through Malchus.
As the wolves approached the spot the howling suddenly ceased.

"They see us," Halcon said; "keep a sharp lookout for them, but do
not throw away a shot, we shall need all  our arrows before daylight."

Standing perfectly quiet, the friends could hear the pattering sound
made by the wolves' feet upon the fallen  leaves; but the moon had
sunk now, and they were unable to make out their figures.

"It seems to me," Malchus said in a whisper, "that I can see specks
of fire gleaming on the bushes."

"It is the reflection of the fire in their eyes," Halcon replied.
"See! they are all round us! There must be  scores of them."

For some time the wolves approached no closer; then, encouraged
by the silence of the little group standing  in the centre of the
fire, two or three gray forms showed themselves in the circle of
light. Three bows  twanged. Two of the wolves fell, and the third,
with a howl of pain, fled in the darkness. There was a sound  of
snarling and growling; a cry of pain, a fierce struggle, and then
a long continued snarling.

"What are they doing?" Malchus asked with a shudder.

"I believe they are eating their wounded comrade," Halcon replied.
"I have heard such is the custom of the  savage brutes.  See, the
carcasses of the other two have disappeared already."

Short as had been the time which had elapsed since they had fallen,
other wolves had stolen out, and had  dragged away the bodies
of the two which had been killed. This incident, which showed how
extreme was  the hunger of the wolves, and how noiseless were their
motions, redoubled the vigilance of the party.

Malchus threw a handful of brushwood on to each of the fires.

"We must be careful of the fuel," Halcon said. "I would we had
thought of this before we lay down to sleep.  If we had collected
fuel enough for our fires we should have been safe; but I doubt
much if our supply will  last now till morning."

As the hours went on the attitude of the wolves became more and
more threatening, and in strong bodies  they advanced close up to
the fires. Every time that they did so armfuls of fuel were thrown
on, and as the  flames leaped up brightly they each time fell back,
losing several of their numbers from the arrows of the  little
party. But the pile of fuel was now sinking fast, and except when
the wolves advanced it was  necessary to let the fires burn down.

"It must want four hours yet of daylight," Halcon said, as he threw
on the last piece of wood. "Look round  as the fire blazes up and
see if you can make out any tree which may be climbed. I would that
we had taken  to them at first instead of trusting to our fires."

Unfortunately they had chosen a somewhat open space of ground for
their encampment, for the brushwood  grew thick among the trees.

"There is a tree over there," Malchus said, pointing to it, "with
a bough but six feet from the ground. One  spring on to that and
we are safe."

"Very well," Halcon assented; "we will attempt it at once before
the fire burns low. Put your swords into  your sheaths, sling your
bows and arrows behind you, and take each a burning brand. These
will be better  weapons in such a case than swords or spears. Now,
are you ready? Now!"

Waving the burning brands over their heads, the three Carthaginians
dashed across the intervening space  towards the tree.

It seemed as if the wolves were conscious that their prey were
attempting to escape them; for, with a fierce  howl, they sprang
from the bushes and rushed to meet them; and, undeterred by the
blazing brands, sprang  upon them.

Malchus scarce knew what passed in the short, fierce struggle. One
wolf sprang upon his shield and nearly  brought him to the ground;
but the sharp boss pierced its body, and he flung it from him,
at the same  moment that he dashed the brand full in the face of
another. A third sprang upon his shoulder, and he felt its  hot
breath in his face. Dropping his brand, he drove his dagger deep
into its side. Then he hurled his heavy  shield among the mass of
wolves before him, took a bound into their midst, and grasping the
bough, swung  himself into the tree and sat there with his legs drawn
up as a score of wolves leaped up towards him with  open mouths.

He gave a cry of horror. His two friends were down, and a confused
mass of struggling bodies alone  showed where they had fallen. For
an instant he hesitated, debating whether he should leap down and
strive  to rescue them; but a glance below showed him that he would
be pulled down long before he could reach  the spot where they had
fallen.

Shifting himself along the arm until he reached the trunk, he rose
to his feet and sent his arrows vengefully  into the midst of the
struggling mass of wolves until he had but three or four shafts
left. These he reserved  as a last resource.

There was nothing to do now, and he sat down on the branch, and
burst into tears over the fate of his  comrades.  When he looked
up again all was quiet. The fierce pack had devoured not only his
comrades,  but their own fallen companions, and now sat in a circle
with their red tongues hanging out and their eyes  fixed upon him.
As the fire gradually died out their form disappeared; but he could
hear their quick  breathing, and knew that they were still on the
watch.

Malchus climbed the tree until he reached a fork where he could sit
at ease, and there waited for morning,  when he hoped that his foes
would disappear. But as the gray light dawned he saw them still
on the watch;  nor, as the dawn brightened into day, did they show
any signs of moving.

When he saw they had no intention of leaving the place, Malchus
began to consider seriously what he had  best do. He might still
be, for aught he knew, miles away from the camp, and his friends
there would have  no means of knowing the position in which he was
placed. They would no doubt send out all the soldiers in  search
of the party; but in that broken wilderness of forest and mountain,
it was the merest chance whether  they would find the spot where
he was prisoner. Still, it appeared to him that this was the only
possibility of  his rescue. The trees grew thickly together, and
he could easily have climbed from that in which he was  stationed
to the next, and might so have made his way for some distance; but
as the wolves were watching  him, and could see as well by night
as by day, there was no advantage in shifting his position.

The day passed slowly. The wolves had for the most part withdrawn
from beneath the tree, but a few kept  their station there steadily,
and Malchus knew that the rest were only lying beneath the bushes
round; for he  could hear their frequent snarling, and sometimes a
gray head was thrust out, and a pair of eager eyes  looked hungrily
towards him. From time to time Malchus listened breathlessly in
hopes of hearing the  distant shouts of his comrades; but all was
still in the forest, and he felt sure that the wolves would hear
anyone approaching before he should.

Once or twice, indeed, he fancied that by their pricked ears and
attitude of attention they could hear sounds  inaudible to him; but
the alarm, if such it was, soon passed away, and it might have been
that they were  listening only to the distant footsteps of some
stag passing through the forest. Night came again with its  long,
dreary hours. Malchus strapped himself by his belt to the tree to
prevent himself from falling and  managed to obtain a few hours of
uneasy sleep, waking up each time with a start, in a cold perspiration
of  fear, believing that he was falling into the hungry jaws below.
In the morning a fierce desire to kill some of  his foes seized
him, and he descended to the lowest branch.

The wolves, seeing their prey so close at hand, thronged thickly
under it, and strove to leap up at him.  Lying down on the bough,
and twisting his legs firmly under it to give him a purchase,
Malchus thrust his  sword nearly to the hilt between the jaws,
which snapped fiercely as a wolf sprang to within a few inches of
the bough. Several were killed in this way, and the rest, rendered
cautious, withdrew to a short distance.  Suddenly an idea struck
Malchus. He took off his belt and formed it into a running noose,
and then waited  until the wolves should summon up courage to attack
again. It was not long. Furious with hunger, which  the prey they
had already devoured was only sufficient to whet, the wolves again
approached and began to  spring towards the bough.

Malchus dropped the noose over one of their necks, and with an
effort, hauled it to the bough, and  despatched it with his dagger.
Then he moved along the bough and hung it on a branch some ten
feet from  the ground, slashing open with his dagger its chest and
stomach. Having done this he returned to his place.   Six wolves
were one after the other so hauled up and despatched, and as Malchus
expected, the smell of  their blood rendered the pack more savage
than ever. They assembled round the foot of the tree, and  continued
to spring at the trunk, making vain endeavours to get at the supply
of food which hung  tantalizingly at so short a distance beyond
their reach.

So the day passed as before without signs of rescue. When it
became dark Malchus again descended to the  lowest trunk, and fired
his three remaining arrows among the wolves below him. Loud howls
followed each  discharge, followed by a desperate struggle below.
Then he tumbled from their position the six dead wolves  to the
ground below, and then as noiselessly as possible made his way along
a bough into an adjoining tree,  and so into another, till he had
attained some distance from the spot where the wolves were fighting
and  growling over the remains of their companions, far too absorbed
in their work for any thought of him.

Then he dropped noiselessly to the ground and fled at the top of
his speed. It would be, he was sure, some  time before the wolves
had completed their feast; and even should they discover that he
was missing from  the tree, it would probably be some time before
they could hit upon his scent, especially, as, having just  feasted
on blood, their sense of smell would for a time be dulled. His
previsions were accurate.  Several  times he stopped and listened
in dread lest he should hear the distant howl, which would tell
him that the  pack was again on his scent. All was quiet, save for
the usual cries and noises in the forest.  In two hours he  saw a
distant glow of light, and was soon in the encampment of his friends.

"Why, Malchus!" his comrades exclaimed as he entered the tent,
"where have you been these two days?  Why, you are splashed with
blood. Where are Halcon and Chalcus?"

"Dead," Malchus said -- "devoured by wolves."

A cry of horror broke from the three young guardsmen.

"`Tis too true," Malchus went on; "but give me food and wine.
I have neither eaten nor drunk for the last  two days, and I have
gone through a terrible time. Even now I seem to see all round
me countless cruel  eyes, and hungry open mouths with their red
tongues."

Seeing that Malchus was utterly worn and exhausted his companions
hastened to place food and drink  before him before asking any
further questions.

Malchus drank a cup of wine and took a mouthful of bread; but he was
too faint and exhausted at present to  eat more. He had supported
well the terrible strain for the last forty-eight hours, and as
he had run through  the forest he had not noticed how it had told
upon him; but now that he was safe among his friends he felt  as
weak as a child. For a time he lay upon the lion skin on which he
had thrown himself upon entering the  tent, unable to reply to his
comrades' questions. Then, as the cordial began to take effect,
he roused himself  and forced himself to eat more.  After that he
told his friends what had happened.

"You have indeed had an escape, Malchus; but how was it you did
not take to the trees at once?"

"I did not think of it," Malchus said, "nor, I suppose, did
the others. Halcon was our leader, and we did as  he told us.  He
thought the fires would keep them off. Who could have thought the
beasts would have  ventured to attack us!"

"I have always heard they were terrible," one of the others said;
"but I should have thought that three armed  men would have been
a match for any number of them."

"It would have been as much as thirty could have done to withstand
them," Malchus replied; "they did not  seem to care for their lives,
but sought only to slay. There were hundreds and hundreds of them.
I would  rather march alone to the assault of a walled city than
face those terrible beasts."

In the morning the whole party started for the scene of the encounter.

Malchus had some difficulty in discovering it; but at last, after
searching a long time he came upon it.

The ground beneath the tree was everywhere trampled and torn by the
wolves in their struggles, and was  spotted with patches of dry
blood. The helmets, shields and arms of Halcon and Chalcus lay there,
but not a  remnant of their bones remained, and a few fragments of
skin and some closely gnawed skulls alone  testified to the wolves
which had fallen in the encounter.  The arms were gathered up, and
the party  returned to their camp, and the next day started for
Carthagena for, after that experience, none cared for any  further
hunting.

It was some weeks before Malchus completely recovered from the
effects of the strain he had undergone.  His nights were disturbed
and restless. He would constantly start from his couch, thinking
that he heard the  howl of the wolves, and any sudden noise made
him start and turn pale. Seeing how shaken his young  kinsmen was,
and what he had passed through, Hannibal sent him several times
in ships which were going  across to Africa for stores. He did not
venture to send him to Carthage; for although his influence with
the  commissioners had been sufficient to annul the order of the
council for the sending of Malchus as a  prisoner there, it was
probable that were he to return he would be seized and put to death
-- not for the  supposed crime he had committed, but to gratify
the hatred of Hanno against himself and his adherents.

The sea voyages soon restored Malchus to his accustomed health.
Trained and disciplined as his body had  been by constant exercise,
his nerves were not easily shaken, and soon recovered their tone,
and when,  early in March, he rejoined his regiment, he was able
to enter with zest and energy into the preparations  which Hannibal
was making for the siege of Saguntum. Difficult as this operation
would be, the  preparations which were being made appeared enormous.
Every week ships brought over reinforcements  of troops, and the
Iberian contingents were largely increased.

One day Malchus entered an apartment where his father and Hannibal
were talking earnestly together with  a large map spread out before
them. He would have retired at once, but Hannibal called him in.

"Come in, Malchus, I would have no secrets from you.  Although
you are young I know that you are  devoted to Carthage, that you
are brave and determined. I see in you what I was myself at your
age, but  nine years ago, and it may be that some day you will be
destined to continue the work which I am  beginning. You, too, have
commenced early, your training has been severe. As your father's
son and my  cousin your promotion will naturally be rapid. I will,
therefore, tell you my plans. It is clear that Rome and  Carthage
cannot both exist -- one or the other must be destroyed. It is
useless to strike at extremities, the  blow must be dealt at the
heart. Unfortunately our fleet is no longer superior to that of
Rome, and victories  at sea, however important, only temporarily
cripple an enemy.

"It is by land the blow must be struck. Were the sea ours, I should
say, land troops in southern Italy, and  continue to pour over
reinforcements until all the fighting men of North Africa are at
the gates of Rome.  But without the absolute command of the sea
this cannot be done. Therefore I intend to make Spain our  base,
and to march through Southern Gaul over the Alps into Italy, and
there to fight the Romans on their  own ground. Already I have
agents at work among the Gauls and the northern tribes of Italy,
who will, I  trust, join me in the war against our common enemy.
The enterprise is a great one, but it is not impossible;  if it
succeeds, Rome will be destroyed and Carthage will reign, without
a rival, mistress of the world. The  plan was Hasdrubal's, but it
has fallen to me to carry it out."

"It is a grand plan indeed," Malchus exclaimed enthusiastically --
"a glorious plan, but the difficulties seem  tremendous."

"Difficulties are made to be overcome by brave men," Hannibal said.
"The Alps are the greatest barrier, but  my agents tell me that the
difficulties are not insuperable even for elephants.  But before
we start we have  Spain to subdue. Saguntum is under the protection
of Rome, and must be crushed, and all the country north  of the
Ebro conquered and pacified. This done the passage of reinforcements
to my army in Italy will be  easy. The Gauls will favour us, the
mountains tribes will be crushed or bought over, so that the route
for the  advance of reinforcements, or for our retreat, if too
hardly pressed, will be always open. But all this is for  yourself
alone.

"My plans must not yet be known. Already our enemies in Carthage are
gaining in strength. Many of our  adherents have been put to death
and the estates of others confiscated; but the capture of Saguntum
will  restore our supremacy, and the enthusiasm which it will incite
among the populace will carry all before it.  The spoils which
will be taken there will be sufficient to silence every murmur in
Carthage. Now leave us,  Malchus, we have much to talk over and to
arrange, and I have given you plenty to think about for the  present."



CHAPTER VIII: A PLOT FRUSTRATED


After leaving Hannibal, Malchus did not rejoin his comrades, but
mounted the hills behind the town and sat  down there, looking over
the sea, and thinking over the vast plan which Hannibal's words
had laid before  him, and to which his father had once alluded in
his presence. Malchus had been brought up by Hamilcar to  regard
Rome as the deadly enemy of Carthage, but he had not till now seen
the truth which Hannibal had  grasped, that it was a struggle not
for empire only between the two republics, but one of life and
death --  that Carthage and Rome could not coexist, and that one
or other of them must be absolutely destroyed.

This, indeed, was the creed of the Barcine party, and was, apart
from the minor questions of internal  reforms, the great point
on which they differed from Hanno and the trading portion of the
community, who  were his chief supporters. These were in favour
of Carthage abandoning her colonies and conquests, and  devoting
herself solely to commerce and the acquisition of wealth.  Believing
that Rome, who would then  have open to her all Europe and Asia
to conquer, would not grudge to Carthage the northern seaboard of
Africa, they forgot that a nation which is rich and defenceless
will speedily fall a victim to the greed of a  powerful and warlike
neighbour, and that a conqueror never needs excuses for an attack
upon a defenceless  neighbour.

Hitherto Malchus had thought only of a war with Rome made up of
sea fights and of descents upon Sicily  and Sardinia.  The very
idea of invading Italy and striking at Rome herself had never even
entered his  mind, for the words of his father had been forgotten
in the events which followed so quickly upon them.   The prospect
which the words opened seemed immense. First Northern Spain was
to be conquered, Gaul to  be crossed, the terrible mountains of
which he had heard from travellers were next to be surmounted, and
finally a fight for life and death to be fought out on the plains
of Italy. The struggle would indeed be a  tremendous one, and
Malchus felt his heart beat fast at the thought that he was to be
an actor in it. Surely  the history of the world told of no greater
enterprise than this. Even the first step which was to be taken, a
mere preliminary to this grand expedition, was a most formidable
one.

Saguntum stood as an outpost of Rome. While Carthage had been
advancing from the south Rome had  been pressing forward from the
east along the shores of the Mediterranean, and had planted herself
firmly  at Marseilles, a port which gave her a foothold in Gaul,
and formed a base whence she could act in Spain.  In order to check
the rising power of the Carthaginians there she had entered into
a firm alliance with the  Saguntines, whose country occupied what
is now the district of Valencia. By the terms of the last treaty
between the two republics each was forbidden to make war upon tribes
in alliance with their rivals, and  Saguntum being thus under the
jurisdiction of Rome, an attack upon it would be almost equivalent
to a  declaration of war.

The position of the city was one of great strength. It stood on an
almost isolated rock at the foot of a spur of  the mountains which
formed an amphitheatre behind it. Around it extended a rich and
fertile country, the  sea was less than a mile from its walls, and
the Romans could thus quickly send succour to their allies. The
rock on which the town stood was well nigh inaccessible, falling
sheer down from the foot of the walls, and  was assailable only
on the western side, where the rocks sloped gradually down to the
plain. Here the walls  were extremely strong and lofty, and were
strengthened by a great tower which dominated the whole slope.  It
would be difficult to form approaches, for the rock was bare of
soil and afforded no cover of any kind.

Hitherto the Carthaginian generals had scrupulously respected the
territory of the Saguntines, but now that  the rest of Spain was
subdued it was necessary to reduce this advanced post of Rome --
this open door  through which Rome, now mistress of the sea, could
at any moment pour her legions into the heart of  Spain.

The Saguntines were not ignorant of the danger which threatened
them. They had again and again sent  urgently to Rome to demand
that a legion should be stationed there for their protection. But
Rome hesitated  at despatching a legion of troops to so distant a
spot, where, in case of a naval reverse, they would be  isolated
and cut off.

Hannibal had not far to look for an excuse for an attack upon
Saguntum. On the previous year, while he had  been engaged in his
campaign against the Carpatans, the Saguntines, taking advantage
of his critical  position, had made war upon the town of Torbola,
an ally of Carthage. Torbola had implored the assistance  of Hannibal,
and he was now preparing to march against Saguntum with his whole
force without waiting  for the arrival of spring. His preparations
had been silently made. The Saguntines, although uneasy, had no
idea of any imminent danger, and the Carthaginian army collected
in and around Carthagena were in entire  ignorance that they were
about to be called upon to take the field.

"What say you, Malchus?" Hannibal asked that evening.  "It is time
now that I gave you a command. As  my near relative it is fitting
that you should be in authority. You have now served a campaign,
and are  eligible for any command that I may give you. You have
shown yourself prompt in danger and worthy to  command men. Which
would you rather that I should place under you -- a company of
these giant Gauls, of  the steady Iberians, of the well disciplined
Libyans, or the active tribesmen of the desert? Choose which  you
will, and they shall be yours."

Malchus thought for some time.

"In the day of battle," he said at last, "I would rather lead Gauls,
but, in such a march as you have told me  you are meditating, I
would rather have a company of Numidian footmen to act as scouts
and feel the way  for the army. There would not, perhaps, be so
much glory to be obtained, but there would be constant work  and
excitement, and this will be far better than marching in the long
column of the army."

"I think your choice is a good one," Hannibal replied.  "Such
a corps will be needed to feel the way as we  advance, to examine
the roads and indicate that by which the column had best move, and
to guard against  ambushes and surprises. Tomorrow I will inspect
the Numidian footmen and will put them through their  exercises. We
will have foot races and trials of skill with the bow, and I will
bid their officers pick me out  two hundred of the most active and
vigourous among them; these you shall have under your command.  You
can choose among your comrades of the guards one whom you would
like to have as your lieutenant."

"I will take Trebon," Malchus said; "we fought side by side through
the last campaign. He is prompt and  active, always cheerful under
fatigue, and as brave as a lion. I could not wish a better comrade."

"So be it," Hannibal replied, "henceforth you are captain
of the advanced company of the army. Remember,  Malchus, that the
responsibility is a great one, and that henceforward there must be
no more boyish tricks.  Your company will be the eyes of the army,
and upon your vigilance its safety, when we once start upon  our
expedition, will in no slight degree depend. Remember, too, that
you have by your conduct to justify  me in choosing my young kinsman
for so important a post."

The next day the Numidians were put through their exercises, and
by nightfall the two hundred picked men  were chosen from their
ranks and were placed by Hannibal under the command of Malchus.
Trebon was  greatly pleased when he found himself appointed as
lieutenant of the company. Although of noble family  his connections
were much less influential than those of the majority of his comrades,
and he had deemed  himself exceptionally fortunate in having been
permitted to enter the chosen corps of the Carthaginian  cavalry,
and had not expected to be made an officer for years to come, since
promotion in the Carthaginian  army was almost wholly a matter of
family influence.

"I am indeed obliged to you, Malchus," he said as he joined his
friend after Hannibal had announced his  appointment to him.  "The
general told me that he had appointed me at your request.  I never
even hoped  that such good fortune would befall me.  Of course I
knew that you would speedily obtain a command, but  my people have
no influence whatever. The general says that your company are to
act as scouts for the  army, so there will be plenty of opportunity
to distinguish ourselves.  Unfortunately I don't see much  chance
of fighting at present.  The Iberian tribesmen had such a lesson
last autumn that they are not likely  for a long time to give us
further trouble."

"Do not make yourself uneasy on that score, Trebon," Malchus said,
"I can tell you, but let it go no further,  that ere long there
will be fighting enough to satisfy even the most pugnacious."

One evening Malchus had left the club early. Full as he was of
the thoughts of the tremendous struggle  which was soon to begin
between the great antagonists, he wearied of the light talk of his
gay comrades.  The games of chance, to which a room in the club
was allotted, afforded him no pleasure; nor had he any  interest
in the wagering which was going on as to the merits of the horses
which were to run in the races on  the following day.  On leaving
the club he directed his footsteps towards the top of the hill on
which  Carthagena stood, and there, sitting alone on one of the
highest points, looked over the sea sparkling in the  moonlight,
the many vessels in the harbour and the lagoons stretching inland
on each side of the city.

He tried to imagine the course that the army was to follow, the
terrible journey through the snow covered  passes of that tremendous
range of mountains of which he had heard, the descent into the plains
of Italy,  and the first sight of Rome. He pictured to himself the
battles which would have to be fought by the way,  and above all,
the deadly conflict which would take place before Rome could be
carried by assault, and the  great rival of Carthage be humbled to
the dust. Then he pictured the return of the triumphant expedition, the
shouting multitudes who would acclaim Hannibal the sole arbitrator
of the destinies of Carthage, and in his  heart rejoiced over the
changes which would take place -- the overthrow of the faction of
Hanno, the reform  of abuses, the commencement of an era of justice,
freedom, and prosperity for all.

For more than three hours he sat thus, and then awoke to the fact
that the night was cold and the hour late.  Drawing his bernous
tightly round him he descended into the city, which was now for
the most part  wrapped in sleep. He was passing through the native
quarter when a door opened and several men came  out. Scarcely
knowing why he did so Malchus drew back into a doorway until they
had moved on ahead of  him, and then followed them at some little
distance. At any other time he would have thought nothing of  such
an incident, but his nerves were highly strung at the moment,
and his pause was dictated more by an  indisposition to encounter
anything which might disturb the current of his thoughts than by
any other  motive.

In the moonlight he could see that two of the five men ahead of
him were members of the Carthaginian  horse guard, for the light
glittered on their helmets; the other three were, by their attire,
natives. Two of the  latter soon separated from the others, and on
reaching the better part of the town the two Carthaginians  turned
down a side street, and in the still night Malchus heard the parting
words to their neighbour, "At the  same place tomorrow night." The
remaining native kept straight along the road which Malchus was
following. Still onward he went, and Malchus, to his surprise, saw
him go up to one of the side entrances to  Hannibal's palace. He
must have knocked very quietly, or someone must have been waiting
to admit him,  for without a sound the door was opened and the man
entered.

Malchus went round to the principal entrance, and after a little
badinage from the officer on guard as to the  lateness of the hour
at which he returned, made his way to his apartment.

He was puzzled by what he had seen. It was strange that two of the
Carthaginian guard, men necessarily  belonging to noble families,
should have been at a native gathering of some sort in the upper
town. Strange,  too, that a man probably an attendant or slave
belonging to the palace should also have been present.  The  more
he thought of it the more he was puzzled to account for it, and
before he went to sleep he came to the  resolution that he would,
if possible, on the following night discover the object of such a
gathering.

Next evening, therefore, he returned from the Syssite early,
exchanged his helmet for a skullcap, and,  wrapping himself in his
cloak, made his way to the house from which he had seen the men
come forth. It  stood at the corner of the street.  Thick hangings
hung across the openings for the windows, and prevented  even a ray
of light from finding its way out.  Listening attentively Malchus
could hear a low hum of voices  within. As there were still people
about he moved away for half an hour.

On his return the street was deserted. Malchus put his hand through
a window opening into the side street  and felt that the hanging
was composed of rushes tightly plaited together. With the point
of his dagger he  very cautiously cut a slit in this, and applying
his eye to it was able to obtain a glimpse of the apartment  within.
On low stools by a fire two Carthaginians were sitting, while four
natives were seated on the rushes  which covered the floor. Malchus
recognized the Carthaginians at once, for they were members of the
troop  in which he had served. Neither of them were men popular
among their fellows, for they belonged to  families closely related
to Hanno. They had always, however, professed the greatest admiration
for  Hannibal, and had declared that for their part they altogether
repudiated the doings of the party to which  their family belonged.

The conversation was carried on in low tones, a precaution absolutely
necessary in the day when glass  windows were unknown, unless the
discourse was upon general subjects.  Malchus listened attentively,
but  although he thought he caught the words Hanno and Hannibal
repeated several times, he was unable to hear  more. At the end
of the half hour the conference was apparently at an end, for all
rose to their feet. One of  the Carthaginians put a bag, which
was evidently heavy, into the hands of one of the natives, and the
party  then went out. Malchus stepped to the corner and caught the
words, "Tomorrow night, then, without fail."

The party then separated, the Carthaginians passing straight on,
the natives waiting until they had gone  some little distance ahead
before they followed. Malchus remained for some little time in the
side street  before he sallied out and took his way after them.
After he saw two of the natives leave the other, he  quickened his
steps and passed the man, who proceeded alone towards the palace,
a short distance before  he arrived there.  As he did so he glanced
at his face, and recognized him as one of the attendants who  waited
at Hannibal's table. Malchus did not turn his head, however, but
kept straight on his way and entered  the palace as usual.

"Malchus," the captain of the guard laughed as he went in, "assuredly
I shall have to tell Hamilcar of your  doings. Last night you entered
an hour after every one had retired to rest, tonight you are back
in better  time, but assuredly you have not been to the Syssite in
that hunting cap. This savours of a mystery.  Do not  pretend to
me that you have been looking after your company of Numidians at
this time of the night,  because, did you swear it by Astarte, I
should not believe you."

"No; I think I could invent a better story than that if I were put
to it," Malchus said with a laugh; "but as I  am not obliged to
invent one at all, I will leave you to do so for me. In truth I
have been about some private  business, but what that business is
is a profound secret."

"A secret of state, no doubt," the officer rejoined. "Well, I will
say nothing this time; but do not let it occur  again, or I shall
think that some Iberian maiden has captured that susceptible heart
of yours."

After Malchus had reached his chamber he sat down for some time in
deep thought. It was clear to him that  something was wrong. This
secret meeting of the two Carthaginians with natives, one of whom
was  employed in Hannibal's household, could mean no good. Money
had passed, too, and, judging from the size  and apparent weight
of the bag, no inconsiderable amount.  What could it mean? It was
but a few months  before that Hasdrubal had fallen beneath the
dagger of a native servant. Could this be a plot against the life
of Hannibal?

The two Carthaginians were connected with Hanno, and might well
be agents employed to rid him of his  great rival. And yet he had
heard nothing which would justify his bringing so grave an accusation
against  these men. The money which he had seen exchanged might
be for the price of a horse or of a slave, and he  might only make
himself ridiculous were he to speak to Hannibal or his father as
to what had occurred. He  decided, therefore, that any action he
might take must be on his own account. If the words he had overheard
meant anything, and if a plot were really on hand, it was to be
carried out on the following night. Malchus  determined to take
steps to meet it.

The next day he took Trebon into his counsels and told him of the
mysterious meetings which he had  accidentally discovered. There was
free access to Hannibal's palace; officers were constantly coming
in and  out, and soldiers arriving and leaving with messages and
orders. Malchus, had, therefore, had no difficulty  in passing into
his apartment, one by one, ten picked men of his company. They had
orders to remain there  perfectly quiet, and Trebon also took post
with them, Malchus telling him to make some excuse or other to
prevent any attendant or slave from entering the apartment while
he was absent.

There was a concert that evening; the palace was crowded with
guests. From time to time Malchus stole  away to his room, where
the Numidians were seated on the ground silent and immovable as so
many  bronze statues. At other times he kept near Hannibal, watching
closely the movements of every native who  passed near him; and
ready to spring forward instantly if he saw any signs of an evil
intention. However, he  did not much apprehend, that even if his
suspicions were correct and a plot was on foot against Hannibal,
any attempt would be made to assassinate him in the midst of a
crowded assembly, where there would be  no possibility of escape
for the perpetrators of such a deed. At last the guests began
to depart, and an hour  later all was quiet in the palace. Laying
aside his sandals, Malchus stole noiselessly over the marble
pavements until he approached the entrance which he had twice seen
opened so late. A slave was lying  close to it.

Unobserved Malchus stole away again to his chamber and bade the
Numidians follow him. Noiselessly the  troop of barefooted Arabs
moved shadowlike through the lofty halls and corridors. Two of them
he placed  at the entrance to the chamber where Hannibal slept,
with orders to allow no one to pass until he returned,  then with
the others he proceeded to the entrance.  Few lights only were
burning in the passages, and it was  not until they were close at
hand that the slave perceived the approaching figures. He leaped
to his feet, but  before he could cry out Malchus stepped forward
and said:

"Silence, if you value your life. You know me; I am Malchus the
son of Hamilcar. Now, tell me the truth,  or tomorrow the torture
shall wring it from you. Who placed you here, and why?"

"Carpadon, one of the chief attendants, ordered me to remain here
to admit him on his return. I knew not  there was harm in it," the
slave said.

"Is it the first time you have kept watch for such a purpose?"

"No, my lord, some six or seven times he has gone out late."

"Do you know the cause of his absence?"

"No, my lord, it would not become a slave to question one of the
chief attendants of my lord Hannibal as to  why he goes or comes."

The man's manner was so natural, and his surprise at the interest
which one of the rank of Malchus showed  in the doings of an
attendant so genuine, that Malchus was convinced he knew nothing
of any enterprise in  which the man who had placed him there might
be engaged.

"Very well," he said, "I will believe what you tell me. Now, do
you resume your place at the door, and open  it as usual at his
signal. Say no word and make no sign which may lead him to know of
our presence here.  Mind, my eye will be upon you, and your life
will pay for any treachery."

Malchus with four of his men now took post on one side of the door,
standing well back in the shadow so  that their presence would not
be noticed by anyone entering. Trebon with the remaining four men
took up a  similar position on the other side of the doorway.

Two hours passed. At length a low tap followed by two others was
heard at the door. The slave at once  opened it.  Carpadon entered,
and with a sudden movement threw one arm round the slave's neck and
with  the other stabbed him to the heart. Then he opened the door
wide, and said in a low tone:

"Enter, all is safe."

In a moment a dark mass of men poured in at the door.  The matter
was more serious than Malchus had  expected. He had looked for the
entry perhaps of three or four men, and had intended to close in
behind  them and cut them off; but here were a score at least, and
how many more might be outside he knew not.  He therefore gave the
signal by shouting "Carthage," and at once with his followers fell
upon one flank of  the natives, for such their dress showed them
to be, while Trebon attacked them on the other. There was a  shout
of surprise and alarm at the unexpected onslaught, and several
were cut down at once.  The others,  drawing their swords, began
to defend themselves, trying at the same time to retreat to the
door, through  which, however, many others were still pressing
in. For a few minutes a severe fight went on, and the  numbers and
desperation of Carpadon's followers began to tell, and, in spite
of the efforts of Malchus and  the Numidians, they would have been
forced to fall back and allow the others to pass out, had not help
been  at hand.

The shouting and clashing of weapons had awakened the palace, and
the officer of the guard with ten of his  men, some of them bearing
torches, came running at full speed from their post at the chief
entrance. As the  guard came up and stood gazing uncertain what to
do, or among whom the conflict was raging, Malchus for  a moment
drew out from the fray.

"Seize and disarm all the natives," he said; "the Numidians are
here by my orders."

The instant the soldiers understood the situation they fell to,
and the natives, whose retreat was cut off by  the Numidians, were
speedily disarmed; those nearer to the door had, the instant they
saw the torches  approaching, taken to flight.

A moment later Hannibal, Hamilcar, and many other officers resident
at the palace came running up.

"What means this fray, Malchus?"

"It means an attempt upon your life, Hannibal, which I have been
fortunate enough to discover and defeat."

"Who are these men?" Hamilcar asked.

"So far as I know they are natives," Malchus replied. "The chief of
the party is that man who lies bleeding  there; he is one of your
attendants."

One of the soldiers held a torch close to the man's face.

"It is Carpadon," Hannibal said. "I believed him honest and faithful."

"He is the tool of others, Hannibal; he has been well paid for this
night's work."

Hannibal gave orders for the prisoners to be strictly guarded, and
then, with Hamilcar and Malchus,  returned to his private study.
The lamps were lighted by the attendants, who then withdrew.

"Now, Malchus, tell us your story," Hannibal said. "It seems
strange to me that you should have said  nought to your father or
me of what you had learned, and left us to take such measures as
might seem fit to  us, instead of taking the matter into your own
hands."

"Had I had certainties to go upon I should assuredly have done
so, but, as you will see when I tell you all I  had learned, I had
nothing but suspicions, and those of the vaguest, and for aught I
knew I might be  altogether in the wrong."

Malchus then gave the full details of the manner in which his
suspicions had been first excited, and in  which on the previous night
he had taken steps to ascertain whether there were any foundation
for them.

"You see," he concluded, "there was no sort of certainty, nothing
to prove that the money was not paid for  the purchase of a horse
or slave. It was only the one fact that one of the party was a
servant here that  rendered what I discovered serious. Had it not
been for the fate of Hasdrubal I should never have given the  matter
a second thought; but, knowing that he was assassinated by a trusted
servant, and seeing two men  whose families I knew belonged to Hanno's
faction engaged in secret talk with one of your attendants, the
suspicion struck me that a similar deed might again be attempted.
The only words I had to go upon were,  `Tomorrow night, then,
without fail.' This was not enough for me to bring an accusation
against two men of  noble family; and, had I told you the tale
without the confirmation it has now received, you would probably
have treated it but lightly. I resolved, therefore, to wait and
see, taking such precaution that no harm could  come of my secrecy.
I concealed in my room ten of my Numidians, with my lieutenant
Trebon -- an ample  force whatever might betide.

"If, as I suspected, this man intended, with two or three others,
to steal into your chamber and slay you  while you slept, we could
at once have stopped the attempt; should he come with a larger
force, we could,  as is proved, resist them until the guard arrived
on the spot. If, on the other hand, night passed off quietly  and
my suspicions proved to be altogether erroneous, I should escape
the ridicule which would certainly  have been forthcoming had I
alarmed you without cause."

"You have acted very wisely and well, my son," Hamilcar said, "and
Carthage owes you the life of our  beloved Hannibal.  You indeed
reasoned with great wisdom and forethought. Had you informed us
of what  you had discovered we should have taken precautions which
would doubtless have effected the object; but  they would probably
have become known to the plotters, and the attempt would have been
postponed and  attempted some other time, and perhaps with success.
What say you, Hannibal, have I not reason to be  proud of this
young son of mine?"

"You have indeed, Hamilcar, and deeply am I indebted to him. It is
not my life I care for, although that now  is precious to me for
the sake of my beloved Imilce, but had I fallen now all the plans
which we have  thought of together would have been frustrated, and
the fairest chance which Carthage ever had of fighting  out the
quarrel with her rival would have been destroyed.  Truly it has been
a marvellous escape, and it  seems to me that the gods themselves
must have inspired Malchus to act as he did on such slight grounds
as  seeing two Carthaginians of the guard in company with three or
four natives at a late hour of the evening."

"What do you think will be best to do with the traitors who have
plotted against your life, Hannibal? Shall  we try and execute them
here, or send them to Carthage to be dealt with?"

Hannibal did not answer for a minute.

"I think, Hamilcar, the best plan will be to keep silent altogether
as to the danger I have run. The army  would be furious but would
at the same time be dispirited were it known in Carthage that two
of her nobles  had been executed for an attempt on my life. It would
only cause a fresh outbreak of animosity and an even  deadlier feud
than before between Hanno's friends and ours. Therefore, I say, let
the men taken tonight be  executed in the morning without question
asked, and let no word be said by them or by us that they were
bribed by Carthaginians. All in the palace now know that a party
of natives have broken in, and will guess  that my life was their
object; there is no need that they should know more. As to the
two men, I will call  them before me tomorrow, with none but you
present, and will let them know that I am aware that they are  the
authors of this attempt, and will bid them resign their places in
the guard and return at once to  Carthage."

"It grieves me that they should go unpunished," Hamilcar said; "but
doubtless your plan is the wisest."

"Then," Hannibal said, rising, "we will to bed again.  Malchus,
acquaint Trebon of our determination that  silence is to be kept;
tell him that I shall bear him in mind, and not forget his share
in this night's work. As  for you, Malchus, henceforth you are more
than my cousin; you have saved my life, and I shall never forget
it. I shall tell Imilce in the morning of the danger which has
passed, for it is sure to come to her ears, and  she will know
better than I do how to thank you."

Accordingly in the morning Hannibal's orders were carried out;
the twelve natives taken prisoners were  beheaded without any of
the usual tortures which would have been inflicted upon a similar
occasion. No  less than fourteen others had been killed in the fight.
The two Carthaginian nobles were sent for by  Hannibal.  They came
prepared to die, for they knew already by rumour that the attempt
had failed, and  doubted not when the summons reached them that
Carpadon had denounced them as his accomplices. But  they went to
their certain doom with the courage of their class -- pale, perhaps,
but otherwise unmoved.  Hannibal was alone with Hamilcar when they
entered.

"That assassination is not an altogether unknown crime in Carthage,"
he said quietly, "I was well aware, but  I did not before think
that nobles in the Carthaginian horse would stoop to it.  I know
that it was you who  provided the gold for the payment of the men
who made an attempt upon my life, that you personally paid  my
attendant Carpadon to hire assassins, and to lead them to my chamber.
Were I to denounce you, my  soldiers would tear you in pieces. The
very name of your families would be held accursed by all honest  men
in Carthage for all time. I do not ask you whether I have given you
cause for offence, for I know that I  have not done so; you acted
simply for the benefit of Hanno. Whether you were instructed by
him I do not  deign to ask. I shall not harm you. The tale of your
infamy is known to but four persons, and none others  will ever
know it. I am proud of the honour of the nobles of Carthage, and
would not that the scum of the  people should bandy the name of
your families on their lips as guilty of so foul an act of treason.
You will,  of course, at once resign your positions in the Carthaginian
horse. Make what pretext you will -- illness or  private affairs.
Tomorrow sail for Carthage, and there strive by efforts for the
good of your country to  efface the remembrance of this blow which
you would have struck her."

So saying, with a wave of the hand he dismissed them.

They went without a word, too astonished at his clemency, too
humiliated by their own disgrace even to  utter a word of thanks.
When they were fairly beyond the palace they looked at each other
as men  awakened from a dream.

"What a man!" one of them exclaimed. "No wonder the soldiers adore
him! He has given us our lives --  more, he has saved our names
from disgrace. Henceforth, Pontus, we, at least, can never again
take part  against him."

"It is almost too much to bear," the other said; "I feel that I
would rather that he had ordered us to instant  execution."

"Ay, for our own sakes, Pontus, but not for those of others.  For
myself I shall retire to the country; it seems  to me that never
again shall I be able to mix with others; they may know nothing of
it, but it will be ever on  my mind. How they would shrink back in
horror were what we have done whispered to them!  Truly, were  it
not for my family, I would prefer death with the worst torture to
life as it will be now."

The excitement in the army was intense when it became known that
a body of Iberians had attempted to  break into Hannibal's palace
with the design of murdering him, and many of the soldiers, seizing
their arms,  hurried towards the city, and had not an officer ridden
with the news to Hannibal, they would assuredly  have fallen upon
the native inhabitants, and a general massacre would have taken
place.

Hannibal at once mounted and rode out to meet the soldiers.  He
was received with enthusiastic  acclamations; at length he raised
his arm to restore silence, and then addressed the troops, telling
them how  deeply he valued the evidence of their affection, but that
he prayed them to return to their camps and lay by  their arms.

"We must not," he said, "confound the innocent with the guilty.
Those who were concerned in the attempt  have paid the penalty with
their lives; it is not because a handful of Spaniards have plotted
against me that  you are to swear hatred against the whole race;
were you to punish the innocent for the guilty you would  arouse
the fury of the Iberians throughout the whole peninsula, and all
our work would have to be done  over again.  You know that above
all things I desire the friendship and goodwill of the natives.
Nothing  would grieve me more than that, just as we are attaining
this, our efforts should be marred by a quarrel  between yourselves
and the people here. I pray you, therefore, as a personal favour
to me, to abstain from  all tumult, and go quietly back to your
camp. The attack upon my palace was made only by some thirty or
forty of the scum of the inhabitants, and the attempt was defeated
by the wisdom and courage of my young  cousin Malchus, whom you
must henceforth regard as the saviour of my life."

The soldiers at once acceded to the request of their general, and
after another outburst of cheering they  returned quietly to their
camp.

The result of this affair was to render Malchus one of the most
popular personages in the army, and the lad  was quite abashed
by the enthusiastic reception which the soldiers gave him when he
passed among them.  It removed, too, any feeling of jealousy which
might have existed among his former comrades of the  Carthaginian
horse, for although it was considered as a matter of course
in Carthage that generals should  appoint their near relatives to
posts of high command, human nature was then the same as now, and
men  not possessed of high patronage could not help grumbling a
little at the promotion of those more fortunate  than themselves.
Henceforth, however, no voice was ever raised against the promotion
of Malchus, and had  he at once been appointed to a command of
importance none would have deemed such a favour undeserved  by the
youth who had saved the life of Hannibal.



CHAPTER IX: THE SIEGE OF SAGUNTUM


A few days later the Carthaginian army were astonished by the issue
of an order that the whole were to be  in readiness to march upon
the following day. The greatest excitement arose when the news got
abroad.  None knew against whom hostilities were to be directed.
No one had heard aught of the arrival of  messengers announcing
fresh insurrection among the recently conquered tribes, and all
sorts of surmises  were indulged in as to the foe against whom this
great force, the largest which had ever been collected by  Carthage,
were about to get in motion.

The army now gathered around Carthagena amounted, indeed, to
a hundred and fifty thousand men, and  much surprise had for some
time existed at the continual arrival of reinforcements from home,
and at the  large number of troops which had during the winter been
raised and disciplined from among the friendly  tribes.

Simultaneously with the issue of the order long lines of wagons,
laden with military stores, began to pour  out from the arsenals,
and all day long a procession of carts moved across the bridge over
the canal in the  isthmus to the mainland. The tents were struck
at daylight, the baggage loaded up into the wagons told off  to
accompany the various bodies of soldiers, and the troops formed up
in military order.

When Hannibal rode on to the ground, surrounded by his principal
officers, a shout of welcome rose from  the army; and he proceeded
to make a close inspection of the whole force. The officers then
placed  themselves at the head of their respective commands, the
trumpets gave the signal, and the army set out on  a march, as to
whose direction and distance few present had any idea, and from
which few, indeed, were  ever destined to return.

There was no longer any occasion for secrecy as to the object of
the expedition. The generals repeated it to  their immediate staffs,
these informed the other officers, and the news speedily spread
through the army  that they were marching against Saguntum. The
importance of the news was felt by all. Saguntum was the  near ally
of Rome, and an attack upon that city could but mean that Carthage
was entering upon another  struggle with her great rival.

Saguntum lay about 140 miles north of Carthagena, and the army had
to cross the range of mountains now  known as the Sierra Morena,
which run across the peninsula from Cape St.  Vincent on the west
to Cape St.  Martin on the east. The march of so large an army,
impeded as it was by a huge train of wagons with stores  and the
machines necessary for a siege, was toilsome and arduous in the
extreme. But all worked with the  greatest enthusiasm and diligence;
roads were made with immense labour through forests, across ravines,
and over mountain streams.

Hannibal himself was always present, encouraging the men by his
praises, and sharing all their hardships.

At last the mountains were passed, and the army poured down into
the fertile plains of Valencia, which  town, however, was not then
in existence. Passing over the site where it is now situated they
continued their  march north until Saguntum, standing on Its rocky
eminence, came into view.

During the march Malchus and his company had led the way, guided
by natives, who pointed out the  easiest paths. As there were no
enemies to be guarded against, they had taken their full share in
the labours  of the army.

The Saguntines were already aware of the approach of the expedition.
No sooner had it crossed the crest of  the mountains than native
runners had carried the news of its approach, and the inhabitants had
spent the  intervening time in laying in great stores of provisions,
and in making every preparation for defence. The  garrison was
small in comparison with the force marching against it, but it was
ample for the defence of the  walls, for its position rendered the
city well nigh impregnable against the machines in use at the time,
and  was formidable in the extreme even against modern artillery,
for 2000 years afterwards Saguntum, with a  garrison of 3000 men,
resisted for a long time all the efforts of a French army under
General Suchet. As  soon as his force arrived near the town Hannibal
rode forward, and, in accordance with the custom of the  times,
himself summoned the garrison to surrender. Upon their refusal he
solemnly declared war by hurling  his javelin against the walls.
The troops at once advanced to the assault, and poured flights of
arrows,  masses of stones from their machines, javelins, and missiles
of all descriptions into the city, the defenders  replying with
equal vigour from the walls. At the end of the first day's fighting
Hannibal perceived that his  hopes of carrying the place by assault
were vain -- for the walls were too high to be scaled, too thick
to be  shaken by any irregular attack -- and that a long siege must
be undertaken.

This was a great disappointment to him, as it would cause a long
delay that it would be scarce possible to  commence the march
which he meditated that summer. As to advancing, with Saguntum in
his rear, it was  not to be thought of, for the Romans would be able
to land their armies there and to cut him off from all  communication
with Carthagena and Carthage. There was, then, nothing to be done
but to undertake the  siege in regular order.

The army formed an encampment in a circle round the town. A strong
force was left to prevent the garrison  from making a sortie, and
the whole of the troops were then marched away in detachments to
the hills to  fell and bring down the timber which would be required
for the towers and walls, the bareness of the rock  rendering
it impossible to construct the approaches as usual with earth. In
the first place, a wall,  strengthened by numerous small towers,
was erected round the whole circumference of the rock; then the
approaches were begun on the western side, where attack was alone
possible.

This was done by lines of wooden towers, connected one with another
by walls of the same material;  movable towers were constructed to
be pushed forward against the great tower which formed the chief
defence of the wall, and on each side the line of attack was
carried onward by portable screens covered  with thick hide. In the
meantime the Saguntines were not idle.  Showers of missiles of all
descriptions were  hurled upon the working parties, great rocks from
the machines on the walls crashed through the wooden  erections, and
frequent and desperate sorties were made, in which the Carthaginians
were almost always  worsted. The nature of the ground, overlooked
as it was by the lofty towers and walls, and swept by the  missiles
of the defenders, rendered it impossible for any considerable force
to remain close at hand to  render assistance to the workers, and
the sudden attacks of the Saguntines several times drove them far
down the hillside, and enabled the besieged, with axe and fire, to
destroy much of the work which had been  so labouriously carried
out.

In one of these sorties Hannibal, who was continually at the front,
overlooking the work, was seriously  wounded by a javelin in the
thigh. Until he was cured the siege languished, and was converted
into a  blockade, for it was his presence and influence alone
which encouraged the men to continue their work  under such extreme
difficulties, involving the death of a large proportion of those
engaged. Upon  Hannibal's recovery the work was pressed forward
with new vigour, and the screens and towers were  pushed on almost
to the foot of the walls. The battering rams were now brought up,
and -- shielded by  massive screens, which protected those who worked
them from the darts and stones thrown down by the  enemy, and by
lofty towers, from whose tops the Carthaginian archers engaged the
Saguntines on the wall -- began their work.

The construction of walls was in those days rude and primitive, and
they had little of the solidity of such  structures in succeeding
ages. The stones were very roughly shaped, no mortar was used, and
the  displacement of one stone consequently involved that of several
others. This being the case it was not long  before the heavy
battering rams of the Carthaginians produced an effect on the walls,
and a large breach  was speedily made. Three towers and the walls
which connected them fell with a mighty crash, and the  besiegers,
believing that the place was won, advanced to the assault. But
the Saguntines met them in the  breach, and for hours a desperate
battle raged there.

The Saguntines hurled down upon the assailants trunks of trees
bristling with spearheads and spikes of iron,  blazing darts and
falariques -- great blocks of wood with projecting spikes, and
covered thickly with a mass  of pitch and sulphur which set on
fire all they touched. Other species of falariques were in the form
of  spindles, the shaft wrapped round with flax dipped in pitch.
Hannibal fought at the head of his troops with  desperate bravery,
and had a narrow escape of being crushed by an enormous rock which
fell at his feet;  but in spite of his efforts and those of his
troops they were unable to carry the breach, and at nightfall fell
back to their camp, having suffered very heavy losses.

Singularly enough the French columns were repulsed in an effort
to carry a breach at almost the same spot,  the Spaniards hurling
among them stones, hand grenades of glass bottles and shells, and
defending the  breach with their long pikes against all the efforts
of Suchet's troops.

Some days passed before the attack was renewed, as the troops were
worn out by their labours. A strong  guard in the meantime held
the advanced works against any sorties of the Saguntines.

These, on their side, worked night and day, and by the time the
Carthaginians again advanced the wall was  rebuilt and the breach
closed. But Hannibal had also been busy. Seeing that it was
impossible for his troops  to win an entrance by a breach, as long
as the Saguntines occupied every point commanding it, he caused a
vast tower to be built, sufficiently lofty to overlook every point
of the defences, arming each of its stages  with catapults and
ballistas. He also built near the walls a great terrace of wood
higher than the walls  themselves, and from this and from the
tower he poured such torrents of missiles into the town that the
defenders could no longer remain upon the walls. Five hundred
Arab miners now advanced, and these,  setting to work with their
implements, soon loosened the lower stones of the wall, and this
again fell with a  mighty crash and a breach was opened.

The Carthaginians at once swarmed in and took possession of the
wall; but while the besiegers had been  constructing their castle
and terrace, the Saguntines had built an interior wall, and Hannibal
saw himself  confronted with a fresh line of defences.

As preparations were being made for the attack of the new defences
messengers arrived saying that the  Carpatans and Orotans, furious
at the heavy levies of men which had been demanded from them for
the  army, had revolted. Leaving Maharbal to conduct the siege in
his absence, Hannibal hurried away with a  portion of his force,
and returned in two months, having put down the revolt and severely
punished the  tribesmen.

While the siege had been continuing the Romans had been making vain
efforts to induce the Carthaginians  to desist. No sooner had the
operations commenced than agents from the Roman senate waited on
Hannibal  and begged him to abandon the siege. Hannibal treated
their remonstrance with disdain, at the same time  writing to
Carthage to say that it was absolutely necessary that the people of
Saguntum, who were insolent  and hostile, relying on the protection
of Rome, should be punished.  The envoys then went to Carthage,
where they made an animated protest against what they regarded as
an unprovoked attack upon their allies.  Rome, in fact, was anxious
at this moment to postpone the struggle with Carthage for the same
reason that  Hannibal was anxious to press it on.

She had but just finished a long struggle with the Gaulish tribes
of Northern Italy, and was anxious to  recover her strength before she
engaged in another war. It was for this very reason that Hannibal
desired to  force on the struggle. His friends at Carthage persuaded
the senate to refuse to listen to the envoys of  Rome. Another
embassy was sent to Hannibal, but the general would not give them
an interview, and,  following the instructions they had received,
the ambassadors then sailed to Carthage to make a formal  demand
for reparation, and for the person of Hannibal to be delivered over
to them for punishment.

But the Barcine party were for the moment in the ascendancy; long
negotiations took place which led to  nothing, and all this time
the condition of the Saguntines was becoming more desperate. Five
new  ambassadors were therefore sent from Rome to ask in the name
of the republic whether Hannibal was  authorized by the Carthaginians
to lay siege to Saguntum, to demand that he should be delivered to
Rome,  and, in case of refusal, to declare war. The Carthaginian
senate met in the temple of Moloch and there  received the Roman
ambassadors.  Q. Fabius, the chief man of the embassy, briefly laid
the demands of  Rome before the senate. Cestar, one of the Barcine
leaders, replied, refusing the demands. Fabius then rose.

"I give you the choice -- peace or war?"

"Choose yourself," the Carthaginians cried.

"Then I choose war," Fabius said.

"So be it," the assembly shouted.

And thus war was formally declared between the two Republics. But
Saguntum had now fallen. The second  wall had been breached by the
time Hannibal had returned from his expedition, and an assault was
ordered.  As before, the Saguntines fought desperately, but after
a long struggle the Carthaginians succeeded in  winning a footing
upon the wall.

The Saguntines, seeing that further resistance was vain, that the
besiegers had already won the breach, that  there was no chance
of assistance from Rome, and having, moreover, consumed their last
provisions,  sought for terms. Halcon, the Saguntine general, and
a noble Spaniard named Alorcus, on the part of  Hannibal, met in the
breach. Alorcus named the conditions which Hannibal had imposed --
that the  Saguntines should restore to the Torbolates the territory
they had taken from them, and that the inhabitants,  giving up all
their goods and treasures, should then be permitted to leave the
town and to found a new city  at a spot which Hannibal would name.

The Saguntines, who were crowding round, heard the terms.  Many of
the principal senators at once left the  place, and hurrying into
their houses carried the gold and silver which they had there,
and also some of that  in the public treasury, into the forum, and
piling up a vast heap of wood set it alight and threw themselves
into the flames. This act caused a tremendous commotion in the
city. A general tumult broke out, and  Hannibal, seeing that his
terms were refused, poured his troops across the breach, and after a
short but  desperate fight captured the city. In accordance with
the cruel customs of the times, which, however, were  rarely carried
into effect by Hannibal, the male prisoners were all put to the
sword, as on this occasion he  considered it necessary to strike
terror into the inhabitants of Spain, and to inflict a lesson which
would not  be forgotten during his absence in the country.

The siege had lasted eight months. The booty taken was enormous.
Every soldier in the army had a rich  share of the plunder, and a
vast sum was sent to Carthage; besides which the treasure chests
of the army  were filled up. All the Spanish troops had leave given
them to return to their homes for the winter, and they  dispersed
highly satisfied with the booty with which they were laden. This
was a most politic step on the  part of the young general, as the
tribesmen, seeing the wealth with which their countrymen returned,
no  longer felt it a hardship to fight in the Carthaginian ranks,
and the levies called out in the spring went  willingly and even
eagerly.

Hannibal returned with his African troops to spend the winter
at Carthagena He was there joined by the  emissaries he had sent
to examine Southern Gaul and the passes of the Alps, to determine
the most  practicable route for the march of the army, and to form
alliances with the tribes of Southern Gaul and  Northern Italy.
Their reports were favourable, for they had found the greatest
discontent existing among the  tribes north of the Apennines, who
had but recently been conquered by the Romans.

Their chiefs, smarting under the heavy yoke of Rome, listened
eagerly to the offers of Hannibal's agents,  who distributed large
sums of money among them, and promised them, in return for their
assistance, not  only their freedom from their conqueror, but a full
share in the spoils of Rome. The chiefs replied that they  would
render any assistance to the Carthaginians as soon as they passed
the Alps, and that they would then  join them with all their forces.
The reports as to the passes of the Alps were less satisfactory.
Those who  had examined them found that the difficulties they offered
to the passage of an army were enormous, and  that the tribes who
inhabited the lower passes, having suffered in no way yet at the
hands of Rome, would  probably resist any army endeavouring to
cross.

By far the easiest route would be to follow the seashore, but this
was barred against the Carthaginians by  the fact that the Massilians
(the people of Marseilles) were the close allies of Rome. They had
admitted  Roman colonists among them, and carried on an extensive
trade with the capital. Their town was strong,  and their ports
would be open to the Roman fleets.  The tribes in their neighourhood
were all closely allied  with them.

Hannibal saw at once that he could not advance by the route by the
sea without first reducing Marseilles.  This would be an even more
difficult operation than the siege of Saguntum, as Rome would be
able to send  any number of men by sea to the aid of the besieged,
and the great struggle would be fought out in  Southern Gaul
instead of, as he wished, in Italy. Thus he decided to march by a
route which would take him  far north of Marseilles, even although
it would necessitate a passage through the terrible passes of the
Alps.

During the winter Hannibal laboured without intermission in preparing
for his expedition. He was ever  among his soldiers, and personally
saw to everything which could conduce to their comfort and well
being.  He took a lively interest in every minute detail which
affected them; saw that their clothing was abundant  and of good
quality, inspected their rations, and saw that these were well
cooked.

It was this personal attention to the wants of his soldiers which,
as much as his genius as a general, his  personal valour, and
his brilliant qualities, endeared him to his troops. They saw how
anxious he was for  their welfare; they felt that he regarded every
man in his army as a friend and comrade, and in return they  were
ready to respond to every appeal, to make every sacrifice, to
endure, to suffer, to fight to the death for  their beloved leader.
His troops were mercenaries -- that is, they fought for pay in
a cause which in no way  concerned them -- but personal affection
for their general supplied in them the place of the patriotism
which inspires modern soldiers, and transformed these semi barbarous
tribesmen into troops fit to cope  with the trained legionaries of
Rome.

Hannibal was far in advance of any of the generals of his time in
all matters of organization. His  commissariat was as perfect as
that of modern armies. It was its duty to collect grain from the
country  through which the army marched, to form magazines, to
collect and drive with the troops herds of cattle, to  take over
the provisions and booty brought in by foraging parties, and, to
see to the daily distribution of  rations among the various divisions.

Along the line of communication depots were formed, where provisions,
clothing, and arms were stored in  readiness for use, and from which
the whole army could, in case of necessity, be supplied with fresh
clothing and shoes. A band of surgeons accompanied the army, at the
head of whom was Synhalus, one of  the most celebrated physicians
of the time. So perfect were the arrangements that it is said that
throughout  the long campaign in Italy not a single day passed
but that the troops, elephants, and animals of all  descriptions
accompanying the army received their daily rations of food.



CHAPTER X: BESET

During the winter Hannibal made every preparation to ensure the
tranquillity of Spain while he was absent.   In order to lessen
the number of possible enemies there he raised a body of twelve
hundred horse and  fourteen thousand infantry from among the
most turbulent tribes, and sent them across to Africa to serve
as  garrisons in Carthage and other points, while an equal number
of African troops were brought over to  garrison Spain, of which
Hasdrubal, Hannibal's brother, was to have the government during
his absence.

Hanno, an able general, was to command the force which was to be
left in southern Gaul to keep open the  communications between the
Pyrenees and the Alps, while the youngest brother, Mago, a youth
of about  the same age as Malchus, was to accompany him to Italy.
Hannibal's wife and a child which had been born  in the preceding
spring, were sent by ship to Carthage.

In the early spring the march commenced, the army following the
coast line until it reached the mouth of  the Ebro.  The mountainous
and broken country lying between this river and the Pyrenees, and
now known  as Catalonia, was inhabited by fierce tribes unconquered
as yet by Roman or Carthaginian.  Its conquest  presented enormous
difficulties. There was no coherence between its people; but each
valley and mountain  was a stronghold to be defended desperately
until the last. The inhabitants, accustomed to the mountains,
were hardy, active, and, vigourous, ready to oppose a desperate
resistance so long as resistance was  possible, and then to flee
across their hills at a speed which defied the fleetest of their
pursuers.

Every man was a soldier, and at the first alarm the inhabitants
of the villages abandoned their houses,  buried their grain, and
having driven away their cattle into almost inaccessible recesses
among the hills,  returned to oppose the invaders. The conquest of
such a people was one of the most difficult of  undertakings, as
the French generals of Napoleon afterwards discovered, to their
cost. The cruelty of the  mountaineers was equal to their courage,
and the lapse of two thousand years changed them but little, for
in  their long struggle against the French they massacred every
detachment whom they could surprise among  the hills, murdered the
wounded who fell into their hands, and poisoned wells and grain.

The army which Hannibal had brought to the foot of this country through
which he had to pass, amounted  to 102,000 men, of which 12,000
were cavalry and 90,000 infantry.  This force passed the Ebro in
three  bodies of equal strength.  The natives opposed a desperate
resistance, but the three columns pressed  forward on parallel
lines. The towns were besieged and captured, and after two months
of desperate  fighting Catalonia was subdued, but its conquest
cost Hannibal twenty-one thousand men, a fifth of his  whole army.
Hanno was for the time left here with ten thousand infantry and
a thousand cavalry. He was to  suppress any fresh rising, to hold
the large towns, to form magazines for the army, and to keep open
the  passes of the Pyrenees. He fixed his headquarters at Burgos.
His operations were facilitated by the fact that  along the line
of the sea coast were a number of Phoenician colonies who were
natural allies of the  Carthaginians, and aided them in every way
in their power. Before advancing through the passes of the  Pyrenees
Hannibal still further reduced the strength of his force by weeding
out all those who had in the  conflict among the mountains shown
themselves wanting in personal strength or in military qualities.
Giving these leave to return home he advanced at the head of fifty
thousand picked infantry and nine  thousand cavalry.

The company under Malchus had rendered good service during the
campaign of Catalonia. It had  accompanied the column marching
by the seashore; with this were the elephants, the treasure, and
the  heavy baggage of the army. It had throughout been in advance
of the column, feeling the way, protecting it  from ambushes, and
dispersing any small bodies of tribesmen who might have placed
themselves on  heights, whence with arrows and slings they could
harass the column on its march.  The company had lost  comparatively
few men in the campaign, for it had taken no part in the various
sieges. Its duties, however,  were severe in the extreme. The men
were ever on the watch, scouting the country round, while the army
was engaged in siege operations, sometimes ascending mountains whence
they could command views over  the interior or pursuing bands of
tribesmen to their refuges among the hills.

Severely as Malchus had trained himself in every exercise, he found
it at first difficult to support the  fatigues of such a life; but
every day his muscles hardened, and by the end of the campaign he
was able to  keep on foot as long as the hardest of his men.

One day he had followed a party of the tribesmen far up among the
mountains. The enemy had scattered,  and the Arabs in their hot
pursuit had also broken up into small parties.  Malchus kept his
eye upon the man  who appeared to be the chief of the enemy's party,
and pressing hotly upon him brought him to bay on the  face of a
steep and rugged gorge.  Only one of the Numidians was at hand, a
man named Nessus, who was  greatly attached to his young leader,
and always kept close to him in his expeditions. The savage, a bulky
and heavy man, finding he could no longer keep ahead of his fleet
footed pursuers, took his post at a  narrow point in the path where
but one could oppose him; and there, with his heavy sword drawn, he
awaited the attack. Malchus advanced to meet him, sword in hand,
when an arrow from Nessus whizzed  past him and struck the chief
in the throat, and his body fell heavily down the rocks.

"That is not fair," Malchus said angrily. "I would fain have fought
him hand to hand."

The Arab bowed his head.

"My lord," he said, "the combat would not have been even; the man
had the upper ground, and you would  have fought at a grievous
disadvantage. Why should you risk your life in a fight with the
swords, when my  arrow has answered all purposes?  What should I
have said if I had gone back without you? What  satisfaction would
it have been to me to avenge your fall? What would they have said
to me when I told  them that I looked on idly while you engaged in
such a struggle? Valour is valour, and we all know that my  lord
is the bravest among us; but the life of the cousin of our general
is too valuable to be risked for nought  when we are embarked upon
a great enterprise."

"Look, Nessus! what is there?" Malchus exclaimed, his attention
attracted by a dark object which was  crossing the narrow path some
distance ahead and ascending the steep side of the gorge. "It is
a bear, let us  follow him; his flesh will form a welcome change
for the company tonight."

The bear, who had been prowling in the bottom of the ravine, had
been disturbed by the fall of the body of  the savage near him,
and started hastily to return to its abode, which lay high up on
the face of the cliff.  Malchus and his companion hurried forward to
the spot where it had crossed the path. The way was plain  enough;
there were scratches on the rock, and the bushes growing in the
crevices were beaten down. The  path had evidently been frequently
used by the animal.

"Look out, my lord!" Nessus exclaimed as Malchus hurried along.
"These bears of the Pyrenees are savage  brutes. See that he does
not take you unawares."

The rocks were exceedingly steep; and Malchus, with his bow in his
hand and the arrow fitted and ready to  draw, climbed on, keeping
his eyes on every clump of bush lest the bear should be lurking
there. At last he  paused. They had reached a spot now but a short
distance from the top. The cliff here fell almost  perpendicularly
down, and along its face was a narrow ledge scarcely a foot wide.
Along this it was evident  the bear had passed.

"I should think we must be near his den now, Nessus. I trust this
ledge widens out before it gets there. It  would be an awkward
place for a conflict, for a stroke of his paw would send one over
the edge."

"I shall be close behind you, my lord," said Nessus, whose blood
was now up with the chase.  "Should you  fall to stop him, drop on
one knee that I may shoot over you."

For some fifty yards the ledge continued unbroken.  Malchus moved
along cautiously, with his arrow in the  string and his shield shifted
round his shoulder, in readiness for instant action. Suddenly, upon
turning a  sharp corner of the cliff, he saw it widened ten feet
ahead into a sort of platform lying in the angle of the  cliff,
which beyond it again jutted out.  On this platform was a bear,
which with an angry growl at once  advanced towards him. Malchus
discharged his arrow; it struck the bear full on the chest, and
penetrated  deeply.  With a stroke of his paw the animal broke the
shaft asunder and rushed forward. Malchus threw  forward the point
of his spear, and with his shield on his arm awaited the onset He
struck the bear fairly on  the chest, but, as before, it snapped
the shaft with its paw, and rising to its feet advanced.

"Kneel, my lord!" Nessus exclaimed.

Malchus dropped on one knee, bracing himself as firmly as he could
against the rock, and, with his shield  above his head and his
sword in his hand, awaited the attack of the enraged animal.  He
heard the twang of  the bow behind him; then he felt a mighty blow,
which beat down his shield and descended with terrible  force upon
his helmet, throwing him forward on to his face. Then there was
a heavy blow on his back; and  it was well for him that he had
on backpiece as well as breastplate, or the flesh would have been
torn from  his shoulder to his loins. As the blow fell there was an
angry roar. For a moment he felt crushed by a  weight which fell
upon him. This was suddenly removed, and he heard a crash far below
as the bear,  pierced to the heart by the Arab's spear, fell over
the precipice. Nessus hastened to raise him.

"My lord is not hurt, I hope?"

"In no way, Nessus, thanks to you; but my head swims and my arm is
well nigh broken with that blow.  Who would have thought a beast
like that could have struck so hard? See, he has dented in my
helmet and  has bent my shield! Now, before we go back and search
for the body, let us see what its den is like."

"Do you take my spear, my lord; your own is broken, and your bow
has gone over the precipice. It may be  that there is another bear
here. Where one is, the other is seldom far off."

They advanced on to the platform, and saw in the corner of the angle
a cave entering some distance into the  hill. As they approached
the entrance a deep growl was heard within.

"We had best leave it alone, my lord," Nessus said as they both
recoiled a step at the entrance. "This is  doubtless the female,
and these are larger and fiercer than the males."

"I agree with you, Nessus," Malchus said. "Were we on other ground
I should say let us attack it, but I have  had enough of fighting
bears on the edge of a precipice. There is as much meat as we can
carry ready for us  below. Besides, the hour is late and the men
will be getting uneasy. Moreover, we are but half armed; and  we
cannot get at her without crawling through that hole, which is
scarce three feet high. Altogether, we had  best leave her alone."

While they were speaking the bear began to roar angrily, the deeper
notes being mingled with a chorus of  snarls and whinings which
showed that there was a young family with her.

"Do you go first, Nessus," Malchus said. "The rear is the post of
honour here, though I fancy the beast does  not mean to come out."

Nessus without a word took the lead, and advanced across the platform
towards the corner.

As he was in the act of turning it he sprang suddenly back, while
an arrow flew past, grazing the corner of  the rock.

"There are a score of natives on the path!" he exclaimed.  "We are
in a trap."

Malchus looked round in dismay. It was evident that some of the
natives must have seen the fall of their  leader and watched them
pursue the bear, and had now closed in behind them to cut off
their retreat. The  situation was a most unpleasant one. The ledge
extended no further than the platform; below, the precipice  fell
away sheer down a hundred feet; above, it rose as high. The narrow
path was occupied with numerous  foes. In the den behind them was
the angry bear.

For a moment the two men looked at each other in consternation.

"We are fairly caught, Nessus," Malchus said. "There is one thing,
they can no more attack us than we can  attack them.  Only one can
come round this corner at a time, and we can shoot or spear them
as they do so.  We are tolerably safe from attack, but they can
starve us out."

"They can shoot over from the other side of the ravine," Nessus said;
"their arrows will carry from the  opposite brow easily enough."

"Then," Malchus said firmly, "we must dispose of the bear; we must
have the cave. We shall be safe there  from their arrows, while,
lying at the entrance, we could shoot any that should venture past
the corner.  First, though, I will blow my horn. Some of our men
may be within hearing."

Malchus pulled forth the horn which he carried. It was useless,
being completely flattened with the blow  that the bear had struck
him.

"That hope is gone, Nessus," he said. "Now let us get the bear to
come out as soon as possible, and finish  with her. Do you stand
at the corner with your arrow ready, in case the natives should
try to surprise us, and  be ready to aid me when she rushes out."

Malchus went to the mouth of the den, struck his spear against the
side, and threw in some pieces of stone;  but, although the growling
was deep and continuous, the bear showed no signs of an intention
of coming  out.

The Arab was an old hunter, and he now asked Malchus to take his
place with the bow while he drove the  bear out. He first took off
his bernous, cut off several strips from the bottom, knotted them
together, and  then twisted the strip into a rope. Growing out
from a crevice in the rock, some three feet above the top of  the
cave, was a young tree; and round this, close to the root, Nessus
fastened one end of his rope, the other  he formed into a slip-knot
and let the noose fall in front of the cave, keeping it open with
two twigs placed  across it. Then he gathered some brushwood and
placed it at the entrance, put a bunch of dried twigs and  dead
leaves among it, and, striking a light with his flint and steel
on some dried fungus, placed this in the  middle of the sticks and
blew upon it. In a minute a flame leaped up. "Now, my lord," he
said, "be ready  with your sword and spear. The beast will be out
in a minute; she cannot stand the smoke."

Malchus ran to the corner and looked round. The natives were at a
distance along the ledge, evidently with  no intention of attacking
a foe of whom they felt sure. A taunting shout was raised and an
arrow flew  towards him, but he instantly withdrew his head and
ran back to the platform.

A minute later there was a fierce growl and the bear rushed out. The
brushwood was scattered as, checked  suddenly in its rush by the
noose, the animal rose on its hind legs. In an instant the spear
of Nessus was  plunged deeply into it on one side, while Malchus
buried his sword to the hilt in its body under the fore  shoulder
of the other. Stabbed to the heart, the beast fell prostrate.
Nessus repeated his blow, but the  animal was dead. Five young
bears rushed out after their mother, growling and snapping; but as
these were  only about a quarter grown they were easily despatched.

"There is a supply of food for a long time," Malchus said cheerfully;
"and as there is a drip of water coming  down in this angle we
shall be able to quench our thirst. Ah! we are just in time."

As he spoke an arrow struck the rock close to them and dropped
at their feet. Others came in rapid  succession; and, looking at
the brow of the opposite side of the ravine, they saw a number of
natives.

"Pull the bear's body across the mouth of the cave," Malchus said,
"it will prevent the arrows which strike  the rock in front from
glancing in. The little bears will do for food at present."

They were soon in the cave, which opened beyond the entrance and
extended some distance into the  mountain; it was seven or eight
feet wide and lofty enough to stand upright in.  Nessus lay down
behind the  bear, with his bow and arrow so as to command the angle
of the rock. Malchus seated himself further in the  cave, sheltered
by the entrance from the arrows which from time to time glanced in
at the mouth. Only once  did Nessus have to shoot. The natives on
the ledge, informed by their comrades on the opposite side of the
gorge that their foes had sought refuge in the cave, ventured to
advance; but the moment the first turned the  corner he fell over
the precipice, transfixed by an arrow from the bow of Nessus, and
the rest hastily  retreated.

"Hand me your flint and steel, Nessus, and a piece of fungus. I
may as well have a look round the cave."

A light was soon procured, and Malchus found that the cave extended
some fifty feet back, narrowing  gradually to the end. It had
evidently been used for a long time by wild animals. The floor was
completely  covered with dry bones of various sizes.

As soon as he saw that this was the case Malchus tore off a strip
of his linen shirt, and rolling it into a ball  set it on fire.
On this he piled up small bones, which caught readily, and he soon
had a bright and almost  smokeless fire. He now took the place of
Nessus. The latter skinned and cut up one of the small bears, and
soon had some steaks broiling over the fire. By this time it was
getting dusk without.

When the meat was cooked Nessus satisfied his hunger and then
sallied out from the cave and took his post  as sentry with his
spear close to the angle of the rock, as by this time the natives
on the opposite side, being  no longer able to see in the gathering
darkness, had ceased to shoot.  Malchus ate his food at his leisure,
and then joined his companion.

"We must get out of here somehow, Nessus. Our company will search
for us tomorrow; but they might  search for a week without finding
us here; and, as the army is advancing, they could not spare more
than a  day; so, if we are to get away, it must be by our own
exertions."

"I am ready to fight my way along this ledge, my lord, if such is
your wish. They cannot see us to fire at,  and as only one man can
stand abreast, their numbers would be of no avail to them."

"Not on the ledge, Nessus; but they would hardly defend that.  No
doubt they are grouped at the further  end, and we should have to
fight against overwhelming numbers. No, that is not to be thought
of. The only  way of escape I can think of would be to let ourselves
down the precipice; but our bernouses would not  make a rope long
enough."

"They would not reach a third of the distance," Nessus replied,
shaking his head. "They have been worn  some time, and the cloth
is no longer strong. It would need a broad strip to support us."

"That is so, Nessus, but we have materials for making the rope long
enough, nevertheless."

"I do not understand you, my lord. Our other garments would be of
but little use."

"Of no use at all, Nessus, and I was not thinking of them; but we
have the skins of the bears -- the hide of  the old bear at least
is thick and tough -- and a narrow strip would bear our weight."

"Of course," Nessus said. "How stupid of me not to think of it,
for in the desert we make all our rope of  twisted slips of hide.
If you will stand sentry here, my lord, I will set about it at
once."

Malchus took the spear, and Nessus at once set to work to skin the
bear, and when that was done he cut  long strips from the hide,
and having fastened them together, twisted them into a rope.

The bernouses -- which when on the march were rolled up and worn
over one shoulder like a scarf, as the  German and Italian soldiers
carry their blankets in modern times -- were also cut up and twisted,
and in  three hours Nessus had a rope which he assured Malchus was
long enough to reach to the bottom of the  precipice and sufficiently
strong to bear their weight.

One end was fastened to the trunk of the young tree, and the rope
was then thrown over the edge of the  platform. One of the young
bear's skins was fastened round and round it at the point where it
crossed the  edge of the rocky platform, to prevent it from being
cut when the weight was put upon it, and they then  prepared for
their descent.

"Do you go first," Malchus said. "As soon as I feel that the rope
is loose, I will follow you."

The Arab swung himself off the edge, and in a very short time Malchus
felt the rope slacken. He followed  at once. The first twenty feet
the descent was absolutely perpendicular, but after that the rock
inclined  outward in a steep but pretty regular slope.  Malchus was
no longer hanging by the rope; but throwing the  principal portion
of his weight still upon it, and placing his feet on the inequalities
of the rock, he made his  way down without difficulty. Presently
he stood by Nessus at the foot of the slope.

"We had better make up the ravine. There will be numbers of them
at its mouth. We can see the glow of  their fires from here."

"But we may not be able to find a way up," Nessus said; "the sides
seem to get steeper and steeper, and we  may find ourselves caught
in a trap at the end of this gorge." `At any rate we will try that
way first. I wish  the moon was up; it is as black as a wolf's mouth
here, and the bottom of the gorge is all covered with  boulders.
If we stumble, and our arms strike a stone, it will be heard by
the natives on the opposite heights."

They now set forward, feeling their way with the greatest care;
but in the dense darkness the task of making  their way among the
boulders was difficult in the extreme. They had proceeded but a
short distance when a  loud yell rose from the height above them.
It was repeated again and again, and was answered by shouts  from
the opposite side and from the mouth of the ravine.

"By Astarte!" Malchus exclaimed, "they have found out that we have
escaped already."

It was so. One of the natives had crept forward along the path,
hoping to find the sentry asleep, or to steal  up noiselessly and
stab him. When he got to the angle of the rock he could see no
form before him, nor hear  the slightest sound. Creeping forward
he found the platform deserted. He listened attentively at the
entrance  to the cave, and the keen ear of the savage would have
detected had any been slumbering there; but all was  still.

He rose to his feet with the intention of creeping into the cave,
when his head struck against something. He  put up his hand and
felt the rope, and saw how the fugitives had escaped.  He at once
gave the alarm to his  comrades. In a minute or two a score of men
with blazing brands came running along the path.  On seeing  the
rope, they entered the cave, and found that their prey had really
escaped.

Malchus and his companion had not moved after the alarm was given.

"We had better be going, my lord," the Arab said as he saw the men
with torches retracing their steps along  the brow. "They will soon
be after us."

"I think not, Nessus. Their chance of finding us among these boulders
in the dark would be small, and they  would offer such good marks
to our arrows that they would hardly enter upon it. No, I think they
will wait  till daybreak, planting a strong force at the mouth of
the ravine, and along both sides of the end, wherever  an ascent
could be made. Hark, the men on the heights there are calling to
others along the brow."

"Very well, my lord," Nessus said, seating himself on a rock, "then
we will sell our lives as dearly as  possible."

"I hope it has not come to that, Nessus. There is a chance of safety
for us yet. The only place they are not  likely to look for us is
the cave, and as we have climbed down from above with the rope,
there will be no  difficulty in ascending."

Nessus gave an exclamation, which expressed at once admiration of
his leader's idea and gratification at the  thought of escape. They
began without delay to retrace their steps, and after some trouble
again found the  rope.

Nessus mounted first; his bare feet enabled him to grip any
inequality of the surface of the rock. Whenever  he came to a ledge
which afforded him standing room he shook the rope, and waited
until Malchus joined  him.

At last they stood together at the foot of the perpendicular rock
at the top. The lightly armed Arab found no  difficulty whatever in
climbing the rope; but it was harder work for Malchus, encumbered
with the weight  of his armour. The numerous knots, however, helped
him, and when he was within a few feet of the top,  Nessus seized
the rope and hauled it up by sheer strength until Malchus was level
with the top. Then he  gave him his hand, and assisted him to gain
his feet. They entered the cave and made their way to the  further
end, and there threw themselves down. They had not long been there
when they saw a flash of light  at the mouth of the cave and heard
voices.

Malchus seized his spear and would have leaped to his feet, but
Nessus pressed his hand on his shoulder.

"They are come for the she bear," he said. "It is not likely they
will enter."

Lying hidden in the darkness the fugitives watched the natives
roll the bear over, tie its legs together, and  put a stout pole
through them. Then four men lifted the pole on their shoulders and
started.

Another holding a brand entered the cave. The two fugitives held
their breath, and Nessus sat with an arrow  in the string ready to
shoot. The brand, however, gave but a feeble light, and the native,
picking up the  bodies of three of the young bears, which lay close
to the entrance, threw them over his shoulder, and  crawled back
out of the cave again. As they heard his departing footsteps the
fugitives drew a long breath  of relief.

Nessus rose and made his way cautiously out of the cave.  He returned
in a minute.

"They have taken the rope with them," he said, "and it is well,
for when they have searched the valley  tomorrow, were it hanging
there, it might occur to them that we have made our way up. Now
that it is gone  they can never suspect that we have returned here."

"There is no chance of our being disturbed again tonight, Nessus.
We can sleep as securely as if were in our  camp."

So saying, Malchus chose a comfortable place, and was soon asleep.

Nessus, however, did not lie down, but sat watching with unwearied
eyes the entrance to the cave. As soon  as day had fairly broken,
a chorus of loud shouts and yells far down the ravine told that the
search had  begun. For hours it continued.  Every bush and boulder
in the bottom was searched by the natives.

Again and again they went up and down the gorge, convinced that the
fugitives must be hidden somewhere;  for, as Nessus had anticipated,
the cliffs at the upper end were so precipitous that an escape
there was  impossible, and the natives had kept so close a watch
all night along the slopes at the lower end, and at the  mouth,
that they felt sure that their prey could not have escaped them
unseen. And yet at last they were  forced to come to the confusion
that in some inexplicable way this must have been the case, for how
else  could they have escaped? The thought that they had reascended
by the rope before it was removed, and that  they were hidden in the
cave at the time the bodies of the bear and its cubs were carried
away, never  occurred to them.

All day they wandered about in the bottom of the ravine, searching
every possible place, and sometimes  removing boulders with great
labour, where these were piled together in such a manner that any
one could  be hidden beneath them.

At nightfall they feasted upon the body of the bear first killed,
which had been found where it had fallen in  the ravine. The body
of one of the young bears which lay far up the cave, had escaped
their search, and a  portion of this furnished a meal to the two
prisoners, who were, however, obliged to eat it raw, being afraid
to light a fire, lest the smoke, however slight, should be observed
coming out at the entrance.

The next morning, so far as they could see, the place was deserted
by the natives. Lying far back in the  cave they could see that
the men on the opposite side of the ravine had retired; but as it
was quite possible  that the natives, feeling still convinced that
the fugitives must be hidden somewhere, had set a watch at  some
spot commanding a view of the whole ravine, they did not venture
to show themselves at the  entrance.

After making another meal of the bear, they sallied out, when it
again became dark, and made their way  along the path.  When they
neared the end they saw a party of the enemy sitting round a great
fire at the  mouth of the ravine below them. They retired a short
distance, and sat down patiently until at last the fire  burned
low, and the natives, leaving two of the party on watch, lay down
to sleep. Then Malchus and his  companion rose to their feet, and
made their way along the path. When they were nearly abreast of
the fire,  Malchus happened to tread upon a loose stone, which went
bouncing down the side of the hill.

The scouts gave a shout, which called their companions to their
feet, and started up the hillside towards the  spot where the stone
had fallen.

Nessus discharged an arrow, which struck full on the chest of the
leader of the party, and then followed  Malchus along the hillside.

A shout of rage broke from the natives as their comrade fell; but
without pausing they pushed on. Malchus  did not hurry.  Silence
now was of more importance than speed. He strode along, then, with
a rapid but  careful step, Nessus following closely behind him.
The shouts of the savages soon showed that they were at  fault.
Malchus listened attentively as he went. Whenever the babel of
tongues ceased for a moment he  stopped perfectly still, and only
ventured on when they were renewed.

At last they had placed a long gap between them and their pursuers,
and came out on a level shoulder of the  hill.  They continued their
way until they found themselves at the edge of the forest. It was
so dark under  the trees that they could no longer advance, and
Malchus therefore determined to wait till the dawn should  enable
them to continue their journey. Whether they were in a clump of trees
or in the forest, which  covered a large portion of the mountain
side, they were unable to tell; nor, as not a single star could be
seen, had they any indication of the direction which they should
take. Retiring then for some little distance  among the trees, they
lay down and were soon asleep.

When the first dawn of day appeared they were on their way again,
and soon found that the trees under  which they had slept formed
part of the forest. Through occasional openings, formed by trees
which had  fallen from age or tempest, they obtained a view of the
surrounding country, and were enabled to form an  idea where lay
the camp which they had left two days before.

They had not proceeded far when they heard in the distance behind
them the shouting of men and the  barking of dogs, and knew that
the enemy were upon their track. They ran now at the top of their
speed,  convinced, however, that the natives, who would have to
follow the track, could not travel as fast as they  did. Suddenly
Malchus stopped.

"Listen!" he said. They paused, and far down the hillside heard
the distant sound of a horn. "Those must be  our men," Malchus
exclaimed, "they are searching for us still; Hannibal must have
allowed them to stay  behind when the army proceeded on its way."

In another half hour the horn sounded close at hand and they were
speedily among a body of Malchus' own  followers, who received them
with shouts of delight. The men were utterly worn out, for they had
searched  continuously day and night from the time they had missed
their leader, sometimes high up among the hills,  sometimes among
the lower valleys. The party which he met comprised but a fourth
of the band, for they  had divided into four parties, the better
to range the country.

They were now ascending the hills again at a distance of two miles
apart, and messengers were at once sent  off to the other bodies
to inform them that Malchus had returned. Malchus quickly recounted
to his men the  story of what had befallen them, and then bade them
lie down to rest while he and Nessus kept watch.

The natives who had been in pursuit did not make their appearance,
having doubtless heard the horn which  told of the approach of a
body of the Carthaginians. In two hours the whole of the band were
collected, and  after a few hours' halt, to enable the men to recover
from their long fatigue and sleeplessness, Malchus put  himself
at their head and they marched away to join the main body of their
army, which they overtook two  days later.

Malchus was received with great delight by his father and Hannibal,
who had given him up for lost. Nessus  had over and over again
recounted all the details of their adventure to his comrades, and
the quickness of  Malchus at hitting upon the stratagem of returning
to the cave, and so escaping from a position where  escape seemed
well nigh impossible, won for him an even higher place than before
in the admiration of his  followers.



CHAPTER XI: THE PASSAGE OF THE RHONE


The army was now moving through the passes of the Pyrenees. The
labour was great; no army had ever  before crossed this mountain
barrier; roads had to be made, streams bridged, and rocks blasted
away, to  allow the passage of the elephants and baggage wagons.
Opinions have differed as to the explosives used  by the Carthaginian
miners, but it is certain that they possessed means of blasting
rocks. The engineers of  Hannibal's force possessed an amount
of knowledge and science vastly in excess of that attained by the
Romans at that time, and during the campaign the latter frequently
endeavoured, and sometimes with  success, by promises of high
rewards, to induce Hannibal's engineers to desert and take service
with them.   A people well acquainted with the uses of sulphur and
niter, skilled in the Oriental science of chemistry,  capable of
manufacturing Greek fire -- a compound which would burn under water
-- may well have been  acquainted with some mixture resembling
gunpowder.

The art of making this explosive was certainly known to the Chinese
in very remote ages, and the  Phoenicians, whose galleys traversed
the most distant seas to the east, may have acquired their knowledge
from that people.

The wild tribes of the mountains harassed the army during this
difficult march, and constant skirmishes  went on between them and
Hannibal's light armed troops. However, at last all difficulties
were overcome,  and the army descended the slopes into the plains
of Southern Gaul.

Already Hannibal's agents had negotiated for an unopposed passage
through this country; but the Gauls,  alarmed at the appearance of
the army, and at the news which had reached them of the conquest
of  Catalonia, assembled in arms. Hannibal's tact and a lavish
distribution of presents dissipated the alarm of  the Gauls, and
their chiefs visited Hannibal's camp at Elne, and a treaty was
entered into for the passage of  the army.

A singular article of this treaty, and one which shows the esteem
in which the Gauls held their women, was  that all complaints on the
part of the natives against Carthaginian troops should be carried
to Hannibal  himself or the general representing him, and that
all complaints of the Carthaginians against the natives  should
be decided without appeal by a council composed of Gaulish women.
This condition caused much  amusement to the Carthaginians, who,
however, had no cause to regret its acceptance, for the decisions
of  this singular tribunal were marked by the greatest fairness
and impartiality. The greater part of the tribes  through whose
country the army marched towards the Rhone observed the terms of the
treaty with good  faith; some proved troublesome, but were wholly
unable to stand against the Carthaginian arms.

The exact route traversed by the army has been a subject of long
and bitter controversy; but, as no events of  very great importance
occurred on the way, the precise line followed in crossing Gaul
is a matter of but  slight interest. Suffice that, after marching
from the Pyrenees at a high rate of speed, the army reached the
Rhone at the point where Roquemaure now stands, a short distance
above Avignon.

This point had been chosen by Hannibal because it was one of the
few spots at which the Rhone runs in a  single stream, its course
being for the most part greatly broken up by islands.  Roquemaure
lies sixty-five  miles from the sea, and it was necessary to
cross the Rhone at some distance from its mouth, for Rome was  now
thoroughly alarmed, and Scipio, with a fleet and powerful army, was
near Marseilles waiting to  engage Hannibal on the plains of Gaul.

During the last few days' march no inhabitants had been encountered.
The Arecomici, who inhabited this  part of the country, had not
been represented at the meeting, and at the news of the approach
of the  Carthaginians had deserted their country and fled across
the Rhone, where, joined by the tribes dwelling  upon the further
bank, they prepared to offer a desperate opposition to the passage
of the river. The  appearance of this mass of barbarians, armed
with bows and arrows and javelins, on the further side of the  wide
and rapid river which had to be crossed, was not encouraging.

"It was bad enough crossing the Pyrenees," Malchus said to Trebon,
"but that was nothing to this  undertaking; it is one thing to climb
a precipice, however steep, to the assault of an enemy, another to
swim  across at the head of the army under such a shower of missiles
as we shall meet with on the other side."

Hannibal, however, had prepared to overcome the difficulty.
Messengers had been sent up and down the  river to all the people
living on the right bank, offering to buy from them at good prices
every barge and  boat in their possession, promising them freedom
from all exactions and hard treatment, and offering good  pay
to those who would render assistance to the army in the passage.
Hannibal's offers were accepted  without hesitation. That the army,
which could, had it chosen, have taken all their boats by force and
impressed their labour, should offer to pay liberally for both,
filled them with admiration, and they were,  moreover, only too
glad to aid this formidable army of strangers to pass out of their
country.

The dwellers upon the Rhone at this period carried on an extensive
commerce, not only with the tribes of  the upper river, but with
Marseilles and the ports of Spain and Northern Italy, consequently
a large number  of vessels and barges of considerable tonnage were
at once obtained.

To add to the means of transport the whole army were set to work,
and, assisted by the natives, the soldiers  cut down trees, and,
hollowing them out roughly, formed canoes capable of carrying two
or three men. So  industriously did the troops work that in two
days enough canoes were made to carry the army across the  river;
but there was still the opposition of the natives to be overcome,
and when the canoes were finished  Hannibal ordered Hanno, one of
his best generals, to start with a division at nightfall up the
bank of the  river.

Hanno marched five miles, when he found a spot where the river was
smooth and favourable for the  passage. The troops set to at once
to cut trees; rafts were formed of these, and the troops passed
over. The  Spanish corps, accustomed to the passage of rivers,
simply stripped, and putting their broad shields of hides  beneath
them, passed the river by swimming.  Once across Hanno gave his
men twenty-four hours' rest, and  then, calculating that Hannibal's
preparations would be complete, he marched down the river until
he  reached a hill, whose summit was visible from Hannibal's camp
at daybreak.  Upon this he lit a signal fire.

The moment the smoke was seen in the camp Hannibal gave orders
for the troops to embark. The light  infantry took to their little
canoes, the cavalry embarked in the larger vessels, and, as these
were  insufficient to carry all the horses, a great many of the
animals were made to enter the river attached by  ropes to the
vessels. The heavier craft started highest up, in order that they
might to some extent break the  roughness of the waves and facilitate
the passage of the canoes.

The din was prodigious. Thousands of men tugged at the oars,
the roughly made canoes were dashed  against each other and often
upset, while from the opposite bank rose loudly the defiant yells
of the natives,  prepared to dispute to the last the landing of
the flotilla. Suddenly these cries assumed a different character.
A mass of smoke was seen to rise from the tents of the enemy's camp,
and Hanno's division poured down  upon their rear. The Arecomici,
taken wholly by surprise, were seized with a panic, and fled
hastily in all  directions, leaving the bank clear for the landing
of Hannibal. The whole of the army were brought across  at once
and encamped that night on the river.

In the morning Hannibal sent off five hundred Numidian horse to
reconnoitre the river below, and ascertain  what Scipio's army,
which was known to have landed at its mouth, was doing.  He then
assembled his army  and introduced to them some chiefs of the tribes
beyond the Alps, who had a day or two before arrived in  the camp
with the agents he had sent to their country. They harangued the
soldiers, an interpreter  translating their speeches, and assured
them of the welcome they would meet in the rich and fertile country
beyond the Alps, and of the alacrity with which the people there
would join them against the Romans.

Hannibal himself then addressed the soldiers, pointed out to them
that they had already accomplished by far  the greatest part of their
journey, had overcome every obstacle, and that there now remained
but a few days'  passage over the mountains, and that Italy, the
goal of all their endeavours, would then lie before them.

The soldiers replied with enthusiastic shouts, and Hannibal, after
offering up prayers to the gods on behalf  of the army, dismissed
the soldiers, and told them to prepare to start on the following
day. Soon after the  assembly had broken up the Numidian horse
returned in great confusion, closely pressed by the Roman  cavalry,
who had been sent by Scipio to ascertain Hannibal's position and
course. The hostile cavalry had  charged each other with fury. A
hundred and forty of the Romans and two hundred of the Numidians
were  slain.

Hannibal saw that there was no time to be lost. The next morning,
at daybreak, the whole of his cavalry  were posted to the south
to cover the movements of the army and to check the Roman advance.
The  infantry were then set in motion up the bank of the river and
Hannibal, with a small party, remained behind  to watch the passage
of the elephants, which had not yet been brought across.

The elephants had not been trained to take to the water, and the
operation was an extremely difficult one.  Very strong and massive
rafts were joined together until they extended two hundred feet into
the river,  being kept in their place by cables fastened to trees
on the bank above them. At the end of this floating pier  was placed
another raft of immense size, capable of carrying four elephants
at a time. A thick covering of  earth was laid over the whole, and
on this turf was placed. The elephants were then led forward.

So solid was the construction that they advanced upon it without
hesitation. When four had taken their  place on the great raft at the
end, the fastenings which secured it to the rest of the structure
were cut, and a  large number of boats and barges filled with rowers
began to tow the raft across the river. The elephants  were seized
with terror at finding themselves afoot, but seeing no way of escape
remained trembling in the  centre of the raft until they reached
the other side. When it was safely across, the raft and towing boats
returned, and the operation was repeated until all the elephants
were over.

Some of the animals, however, were so terrified that they flung
themselves from the rafts into the river and  made their way
to shore, keeping their probosces above the surface of the water.
The Indians who directed  them were, however, all swept away and
drowned. As soon as the elephants were all across Hannibal called
in his cavalry, and with them and the elephants followed the army.

The Romans did not arrive at the spot until three days after
the Carthaginians had left. Scipio was greatly  astonished when
he found that Hannibal had marched north, as he believed that the
Alps were impassable  for an army, and had reckoned that Hannibal
would certainly march down the river and follow the seashore.
Finding that the Carthaginians had left he marched his army down to
his ships again, re-embarked them,  and sailed for Genoa, intending
to oppose Hannibal as he issued from the defiles of the Alps, in
the event of  his succeeding in making the passage.

Four days' march up the Rhone brought Hannibal to the point where
the Isere runs into that river. He  crossed it, and with his army
entered the region called by Polybius "The Island," although the
designation is  an incorrect one, for while the Rhone flows along
one side of the triangle and the Isere on the other, the  base is
formed not by a third river, but by a portion of the Alpine chain.

Malchus and his band had been among the first to push off from
the shore when the army began to cross the  Rhone. Malchus was in
a roughly constructed canoe, which was paddled by Nessus and another
of his men.  Like most of the other canoes, their craft soon became
waterlogged, for the rapid and angry current of the  river, broken
and agitated by so large a number of boats, splashed over the sides
of the clumsy canoes,  which were but a few inches above the water.
The buoyancy of the wood was sufficient to float them even  when
full, but they paddled slowly and heavily.

The confusion was prodigious. The greater part of the men, unaccustomed
to rowing, had little control over  their boats.  Collisions were
frequent, and numbers of the boats were upset and their occupants
drowned.  The canoe which carried Malchus was making fair progress,
but, to his vexation, was no longer in the front  line.  He was
urging the paddlers to exert themselves to the utmost, when Nessus
gave a sudden cry.

A horse which had broken loose from its fastenings behind one of
the barges was swimming down,  frightened and confused at the din.
It was within a few feet of them when Nessus perceived it, and in
another moment it struck the canoe broadside with its chest. The
boat rolled over at once, throwing its  occupants into the water.
Malchus grasped the canoe as it upset, for he would instantly have
sunk from the  weight of his armour. Nessus a moment later appeared
by his side.

"I will go to the other side, my lord," he said, "that will keep
the tree from turning over again."

He dived under the canoe, and came up on the opposite side, and
giving Malchus his hand across it, there  was no longer any fear
of the log rolling over. The other rower did not reappear above the
surface. Malchus  shouted in vain to some of the passing boats to
pick him up, but all were so absorbed in their efforts to  advance
and their eagerness to engage the enemy that none paid attention to
Malchus or the others in like  plight. Besides, it seemed probable
that all, if they stuck to their canoes, would presently gain one
bank or  other of the river. Malchus, too, had started rather low
down, and he was therefore soon out of the flotilla.

The boat was nearly in midstream when the accident happened.

"The first thing to do," Malchus said when he saw that there was no
chance of their being picked up, "is to  rid myself of my armour.
I can do nothing with it on, and if the tree turns over I shall
go down like a stone.  First of all, Nessus, do you unloose your
sword belt. I will do the same. If we fasten them together they are
long enough to go round the canoe, and if we take off our helmets
and pass the belts through the chin  chains they will, with our
swords, hang safely."

This was with some difficulty accomplished.

"Now," Malchus continued, "let us make our way to the stern of the
canoe. I will place my hand on the tree  there, and do you unfasten
the shoulder and waist straps of my breast and backpieces. I cannot
do it  myself."

This was also accomplished, and the two pieces of armour laid on
the tree. They were now free to look  round. The rapid stream had
already taken them half a mile below the point where the army were
crossing,  and they were now entering a spot where the river was
broken up by islands, and raced along its pent up  channel with
greater velocity than before, its surface broken with short angry
waves, which rendered it  difficult for them to retain their hold
of the tree.

For a time they strove by swimming to give the canoe an impetus
towards one bank or the other; but their  efforts were vain.
Sometimes they thought they were about to succeed, and then an eddy
would take the  boat and carry it into the middle of the stream
again.

"It is useless, Nessus," Malchus said at last. "We are only wearing
ourselves out, and our efforts are of no  avail whatever.  We must
be content to drift down the river until our good luck throws us
into some eddy  which may carry us near one bank or the other."

It was a long time, indeed, before that stroke of fortune befell
them, and they were many miles down the  river before the current
took them near the eastern bank at a point where a sharp curve of
the river threw the  force of the current over in that direction;
but although they were carried to within a few yards of the shore,
so numbed and exhausted were they by their long immersion in the
cold water that it was with the greatest  difficulty that they could
give the canoe a sufficient impulsion to carry it to the bank.

At last, however, their feet touched the bottom, and they struggled
to shore, carrying with them the arms  and armour; then, letting
the canoe drift away again, they crawled up the bank, and threw
themselves down,  utterly exhausted. It was some time before either
of them spoke. Then Malchus said:

"We had best strip off our clothes and wring them as well as we can;
after that they will soon dry on us. We  have no means of drying
them here, so we must lie down among some bushes to shelter us from
this bitter  wind which blows from the mountains."

The clothes were wrung until the last drop was extracted from them
and then put on again. They were still  damp and cold, but Malchus
and his companion had been accustomed to be drenched to the skin,
and  thought nothing of this. They were still too exhausted, however,
to walk briskly, and therefore lay down  among some thick bushes
until they should feel equal to setting out on the long tramp to
rejoin their  companions.  After lying for a couple of hours Malchus
rose to his feet, and issuing from the bushes looked  round. He
had resumed his armour and sword. As he stepped out a sudden shout
arose, and he saw within a  hundred yards of him a body of natives
some hundred strong approaching. They had already caught sight of
him.

"Nessus," he exclaimed, without looking round, "lie still. I am
seen, and shall be taken in a minute. It is  hopeless for me to try
to escape. You will do me more good by remaining hid and trying to
free me from  their hands afterwards."

So saying, and without drawing his sword, Malchus quietly advanced
towards the natives, who were  rushing down towards him with loud
shouts. Flight or resistance would be, as he had at once seen,
hopeless, and it was only by present submission he could hope to
save his life.

The natives were a portion of the force which had opposed Hannibal's
landing, and had already killed  several Carthaginians who had, like
Malchus, struggled to the bank after being upset in the passage.
Seeing  that he attempted neither to fly nor to defend himself,
they rushed upon him tumultuously, stripped him of  his arms and
armour, and dragged him before their leader. The latter briefly
ordered him to be brought  along, and the party continued their
hurried march, fearing that the Carthaginian horse might at any
moment pursue them. For the rest of the afternoon they marched
without a halt, but at nightfall stopped in a  wood.

No fires were lit, for they knew not how close the Carthaginians
might be behind them. Malchus was bound  hand and foot and thrown
down in their midst. There was no sleep that night.  Half the party
remained on  watch, the others sat together round the spot where
Malchus lay and discussed the disastrous events of the  day -- the
great flotilla of the Carthaginians, the sudden attack in their
rear, the destruction of their camp,  the capture of the whole of
their goods, and the slaughter and defeat which had befallen them.

As their dialect differed but little from that of the Gauls in
the Carthaginian service, Malchus was enabled  to understand the
greater part of their conversation, and learned that the only reason
why he was not put to  death at once was that they wished to keep
him until beyond the risk of pursuit of the Carthaginians, when
he could be sacrificed to their gods formally and with the usual
ceremonies.

All the time that they were talking Malchus listened anxiously
for any sudden outbreak which would tell  that Nessus had been
discovered. That the Numidian had followed on their traces and was
somewhere in  the neighbourhood Malchus had no doubt, but rescue
in his present position was impossible, and he only  hoped that his
follower would find that this was so in time and would wait for a
more favourable  opportunity. The night passed off quietly, and in
the morning the natives continued their march. After  proceeding
for three or four hours a sudden exclamation from one of them caused
the others to turn, and in  the distance a black mass of horsemen
was seen approaching. At a rapid run the natives started off for
the  shelter of a wood half a mile distant. Malchus was forced to
accompany them. He felt sure that the  horsemen were a party of
Hannibal's cavalry, and he wondered whether Nessus was near enough
to see  them, for if so he doubted not that he would manage to join
them and lead them to his rescue.

Just before they reached the wood the natives suddenly stopped, for,
coming from the opposite direction  was another body of cavalry.
It needed not the joyous shouts of the natives to tell Malchus that
these were  Romans, for they were coming from the south and could
only be a party of Scipio's cavalry.  The natives  halted at
the edge of the wood to watch the result of the conflict, for the
parties evidently saw each other,  and both continued to advance
at full speed. The Roman trumpets were sounding, while the wild
yells  which came up on the breeze told Malchus that Hannibal's
cavalry were a party of the Numidians.

The Romans were somewhat the most numerous; but, had the cavalry
opposed to them consisted of the  Carthaginian horse, Malchus would
have had little doubt as to the result; he felt, however, by no
means  certain that the light armed Numidians were a match for the
Roman cavalry. The party had stopped but a  quarter of a mile from
the spot where the rival bands met, and the crash of bodies driven
violently against  each other and the clash of steel on armour
could be plainly heard.

For a few minutes it was a wild confused melee, neither party
appearing to have any advantage. Riderless  steeds galloped off
from the throng, but neither party seemed to give way afoot.  The
whole mass seemed  interlaced in conflict. It was a moving struggling
throng of bodies with arms waving high and swords rising  and
falling. The Romans fought in silence, but the wild yells of the
Numidians rose shrill and continuous.

At last there was a movement, and Malchus gave a groan while the
natives around him shouted in triumph  as the Numidians were seen
to detach themselves from the throng and to gallop off at full
speed, hotly  followed by the Romans, both, however, in greatly
diminished numbers, for the ground on which the  conflict had taken
place was thickly strewn with bodies; nearly half of those who had
engaged in that short  but desperate strife were lying there.

No sooner had the pursuers and pursued disappeared in the distance
than the natives thronged down to the  spot. Such of the Numidians
as were found to be alive were instantly slaughtered, and all were
despoiled of  their clothes, arms, and ornaments.  The Romans were
left untouched, and those among them who were  found to be only
wounded were assisted by the natives, who unbuckled their armour,
helped them into a  sitting position, bound up their wounds, and
gave them water.

Highly satisfied with the booty they obtained, and having no longer
any fear of pursuit, the natives halted to  await the return of the
Romans. Malchus learned from their conversation that they had some
little doubt  whether the Romans would approve of their appropriating
the spoils of the dead Numidians, and it was  finally decided to
hand over Malchus, whose rich armour proclaimed him to be a prisoner
of importance, to  the Roman commander.

The main body of the natives, with all the spoil which had been
collected, moved away to the wood, while  the chief, with four of
his companions and Malchus, remained with the wounded Romans. It
was late in the  evening before the Romans returned, after having,
as has been said, followed the Numidians right up to  Hannibal's
camp. There was some grumbling on the part of the Roman soldiers
when they found that their  allies had forestalled them with the
spoil; but the officer in command was well pleased at finding that
the  wounded had been carefully attended to, and bade the men be
content that they had rendered good service  to the public, and
that Scipio would be well satisfied with them. The native chief now
exhibited the helmet  and armour of Malchus, who was led forward
by two of his men.

"Who are you?" the commander asked Malchus in Greek, a language
which was understood by the  educated both of Rome and Carthage.

"I am Malchus, and command the scouts of Hannibal's army."

"You are young for such a post," the officer said; "but in Carthage
it is interest not valour which secures  promotion.  Doubtless you
are related to Hannibal."

"I am his cousin," Malchus said quietly.

"Ah!" the Roman said sarcastically, "that accounts for one who is
a mere lad being chosen for so important  a post.  However, I shall
take you to Scipio, who will doubtless have questions to ask of
you concerning  Hannibal's army."

Many of the riderless horses on the plain came in on hearing the
sound of the Roman trumpets and rejoined  the troop.  Malchus was
placed on one of these. Such of the wounded Romans as were able to
ride mounted  others, and a small party being left behind to look
after those unable to move, the troops started on their  way.

They were unable, however, to proceed far; the horses had
been travelling since morning and were now  completely exhausted;
therefore, after proceeding a few miles the troop halted.  Strong
guards were posted,  and the men lay down by their horses, ready
to mount at a moment's notice, for it was possible that  Hannibal
might have sent a large body of horsemen in pursuit.  As on the
night before, Malchus felt that  even if Nessus had so far followed
him he could do nothing while so strong a guard was kept up, and
he  therefore followed the example of the Roman soldiers around
him and was soon fast asleep.

At daybreak next morning the troops mounted and again proceeded to
the south. Late in the afternoon a  cloud of dust was seen in the
distance, and the party presently rode into the midst of the Roman
army, who  had made a day's march from their ships and were just
halting for the night. The commander of the cavalry  at once hastened
to Scipio's tent to inform him of the surprising fact that Hannibal
had already, in the face  of the opposition of the tribes, forced
the passage of the Rhone, and that, with the exception of the
elephants, which had been seen still on the opposite bank, all the
army were across.

Scipio was greatly mortified at the intelligence, for he had deemed
it next to impossible that Hannibal could  carry his army across
so wide and rapid a river in the face of opposition. He had little
doubt now that  Hannibal's intention was to follow the Rhone down
on its left bank to its mouth, and he prepared at once for  a battle.
Hearing that a prisoner of some importance had been captured, he
ordered Malchus to be brought  before him. As the lad, escorted
by a Roman soldier on each side, was led in, Scipio, accustomed
to  estimate men, could not but admire the calm and haughty self
possession of his young prisoner. His eye fell  with approval upon
his active sinewy figure, and the knotted muscles of his arms and
legs.

"You are Malchus, a relation of Hannibal, and the commander of the
scouts of his army, I hear," Scipio  began.

Malchus bowed his head in assent.

"What force has he with him, and what are his intentions?"

"I know nothing of his intentions," Malchus replied quietly, "as
to his force, it were better that you inquired  of your allies,
who saw us pass the river. One of them was brought hither with me,
and can tell you what he  saw."

"Know you not," Scipio said, "that I can order you to instant
execution if you refuse to answer my  questions?"

"Of that I am perfectly well aware," Malchus replied; "but I
nevertheless refuse absolutely to answer any  questions."

"I will give you until tomorrow morning to think the matter over,
and if by that time you have not made up  your mind to give me the
information I require, you die."

So saying he waved his hand to the soldiers, who at once removed
Malchus from his presence. He was  taken to a small tent a short
distance away, food was given to him, and at nightfall chains were
attached to  his ankles, and from these to the legs of two Roman
soldiers appointed to guard him during the night, while  a sentry
was placed at the entrance. The chains were strong, and fitted so
tightly round the ankles that  escape was altogether impossible.
Even had he possessed arms and could noiselessly have slain the
two  soldiers, he would be no nearer getting away, for the chains
were fastened as securely round their limbs as  round his own.
Malchus, therefore, at once abandoned any idea of escape, and lying
quietly down  meditated on his fate in the morning.



CHAPTER XII: AMONG THE PASSES


It was not until long after the guards to whom he was chained had
fallen asleep that Malchus followed their  example. It seemed to
him he had been asleep a long time when a pressure by a hand on
his shoulder woke  him; at the same moment another hand was placed
over his mouth.

"Hush, my lord!" a voice said. It was Nessus. "Arise and let us go.
There is no time to be lost, for it is nigh  morning. I have been
the whole night in discovering where you were."

"But the guards, Nessus?"

"I have killed them," Nessus said in a tone of indifference.

"But I am chained to them by the ankles."

Nessus gave a little exclamation of impatience, and then in the
darkness felt the irons to discover the nature  of the fastenings.
In a minute there was a sound of a dull crashing blow, then Nessus
moved to the other  side and the sound was repeated. With two blows
of his short heavy sword the Arab had cut off the feet of  the dead
Romans at the ankle, and the chains were free.

"Put on the clothes of this man, my lord, and take his arms; I will
take those of the other."

As soon as this was done Nessus wrapped some folds of cloth round
each of the chains to prevent their  clanking, then passing a band
through the ends he fastened them to Malchus' waist.

"Quick, my lord," he said as he finished the work; "daylight is
beginning to break."

They stepped over the dead sentry at the door of the tent and were
going on when Malchus said:

"Best lift him inside, Nessus; it may be some little time before
it is noticed that he is missing from his  post."

This was quickly done, and they then moved away quietly among the
tents till they approached the rear of  the camp. It was now light
enough to enable them to see dimly the figures of the Roman sentries
placed at  short intervals round the camp.

"We cannot get through unseen," Malchus said.

"No, my lord," Nessus replied; "I have wasted too much time in
finding you."

"Then we had best lie down quietly here," Malchus said; "in a short
time the men will be moving about,  and we can then pass through
the sentries without remark."

As the light spread over the sky sounds of movement were heard in
the camp, and soon figures were  moving about, some beginning to
make fires, others to attend to their horses. The two Carthaginians
moved  about among the tents as if similarly occupied, secure
that their attire as Roman soldiers would prevent any  observation
being directed towards them. They were anxious to be off, for they
feared that at any moment  they might hear the alarm raised on the
discovery that the sentry was missing.

It was nearly broad daylight now, and when they saw two or three
soldiers pass out between the sentries  unquestioned they started
at once to follow them. The morning was very cold, and the soldiers
who were  about were all wearing their military cloaks.  Malchus
had pulled the irons as high up as he could possibly  force them,
and they did not show below his cloak.

Walking carelessly along they passed through the sentries, whose
duties, now that morning had dawned,  related only to discovering
an enemy approaching the camp, the soldiers being now free to enter
or leave as  they pleased.

"It is of no use to go far," Malchus said; "the nearer we hide to
the camp the better. We are less likely to be  looked for there
than at a distance, and it is impossible for me to travel at any
speed until I get rid of these  heavy irons. As soon as we get over
that little brow ahead we shall be out of sight of the sentries,
and will  take to the first hiding place we see."

The little rise was but a short distance from camp, the country
beyond was open but was covered with low  brushwood. As soon as
they were over the brow and were assured that none of those who
had left the camp  before them were in sight, they plunged into
the brushwood, and, making their way on their hands and  knees for
a few hundred yards, lay down in the midst of it.

"They are not likely to search on this side of the camp," Malchus
said. "They will not know at what hour I  escaped, and will naturally
suppose that I started at once to regain our camp.  Listen, their
trumpets are  blowing. No doubt they are about to strike their camp
and march; by this time my escape must be known.  And now tell me,
Nessus, how did you manage to follow and discover me?"

"It was easy to follow you, my lord," Nessus said. "When I heard
your order I lay still, but watched through  the bushes your meeting
with the Gauls. My arrow was in the string, and had they attacked
you I should  have loosed it among them, and then rushed out to
die with you, but when I saw them take you a prisoner I  followed
your orders. I had no difficulty in keeping you in sight until
nightfall. Then I crept up to the wood  and made my way until I was
within a few yards of you and lay there till nearly morning; but,
as the men  around you never went to sleep, I could do nothing
and stole away again before daylight broke. Then I  followed again
until I saw our horsemen approaching. I had started to run towards
them to lead them to you  when I saw the Roman horse, and I again
hid myself.

"The next night again the Romans kept too vigilant a watch for
me to do anything, and I followed them all  yesterday until I saw
them enter the Roman camp. As soon as it was dark I entered, and,
getting into the  part of the camp occupied by the Massilians,
whose Gaulish talk I could understand a little, I gathered that  a
Carthaginian prisoner who had been brought in was to be executed
in the morning. So I set to work to  find you; but the night was
too dark to see where the sentries were placed, and I had to crawl
round every  tent to see if one stood at the entrance on guard,
for I was sure that a sentry would be placed over you. I  entered
seven tents, at whose doors sentries were placed, before I found
yours, but they were all those of  Roman generals or persons of
importance. I entered each time by cutting a slit in the back of
the tent. At  last when I was beginning to despair, I found your
tent.

"It was the smallest of any that had been guarded, and this made
me think I was right. When I crawled in I  found feeling cautiously
about, that two Roman soldiers were asleep on the ground and that
you were lying  between them. Then I went to the entrance. The
sentry was standing with his back to it.  I struck a blow on  his
neck from behind, and he died without knowing he was hurt. I caught
him as I struck and lowered him  gently down, for the crash of his
arms as he fell would have roused everyone near. After that it was
easy to  stab the two guards sleeping by you, and then I woke you."

"You have saved my life, Nessus, and I shall never forget it,"
Malchus said gratefully.

"My life is my lord's," the Arab replied simply. "Glad am I indeed
that I have been able to do you a  service."

Just as he spoke they saw through the bushes a party of Roman horse
ride at a gallop over the brow  between them and the camp. They
halted, however, on passing the crest, and an officer with them
gazed  long and searchingly over the country.  For some minutes he
sat without speaking, then he gave an order  and the horsemen rode
back again over the crest.

"I think we shall see no more of them," Malchus said. "His orders
were, no doubt, that if I was in sight they  were to pursue, if
not, it would be clearly useless hunting over miles of brushwood
in the hope of finding  me, especially as they must deem it likely
that I am far away in the opposite direction."

An hour later Nessus crept cautiously forward among the bushes,
making a considerable detour until he  reached the spot whence he
could command a view of the Roman camp. It had gone, not a soul
remained  behind, but at some distance across the plain he could see
the heavy column marching north. He rose to his  feet and returned
to the spot where he had left Malchus, and told him that the Romans
had gone.

"The first thing, Nessus, is to get rid of these chains."

"It is easy as to the chains," Nessus said, "but the rings around
your legs must remain until we rejoin the  camp, it will need a
file to free you from them."

The soil was sandy, and Nessus could find no stone sufficiently
large for his purpose. They, therefore,  started in the direction
which the Romans had taken until, after two hours' slow walking,
they came upon  the bed of a stream in which were some boulders
sufficiently large for the purpose.

The rings were now pushed down again to the ankles, and Nessus wound
round them strips of cloth until he  had formed a pad between the
iron and the skin to lessen the jar of the blow, then he placed the
link of the  chain near to the leg upon the edge of the boulder,
and, drawing his sharp heavy sword, struck with all his  force upon
the iron.

A deep notch was made; again and again he repeated the blow, until
the link was cut through, then, with  some difficulty, he forced
the two ends apart until the shackle of the ring would pass between
them. The  operation was repeated on the other chain, and then
Malchus was free, save for the two iron rings around  his ankles.
The work had taken upwards of an hour, and when it was done they
started at a rapid walk in the  direction taken by the column. They
had no fear now of the natives, for should any come upon them they
would take them for two Roman soldiers who had strayed behind the
army.

Scipio made a long day's march, and it was not until nightfall
that his army halted. Malchus and his  companion made a long detour
round the camp and continued their way for some hours, then they
left the  track that the army would follow, and, after walking for
about a mile, lay down among some bushes and  were soon asleep.

In the morning they agreed that before proceeding further it was
absolutely necessary to obtain some food.  Malchus had been fed
when among the Romans, but Nessus had had nothing from the morning
when he  had been upset in the Rhone four days before, save a manchet
of bread which he had found in one of the  tents he had entered.
Surveying the country round carefully, the keen eye of the Arab
perceived some light  smoke curling up at the foot of the hills on
their right, and they at once directed their course towards it. An
hour's walking brought them within sight of a native village.

As soon as they perceived it they dropped on their hands and knees
and proceeded with caution until within  a short distance of it.
They were not long in discovering a flock of goats browsing on the
verdure in some  broken ground a few hundred yards from the village.
They were under the charge of a native boy, who was  seated on a
rock near them. They made their way round among the brushwood until
they were close to the  spot.

"Shall I shoot him?" Nessus asked, for he had carried his bow and
arrows concealed in his attire as a  Roman soldier.

"No, no," Malchus replied, "the lad has done us no harm; but we
must have one of his goats. His back is  towards us, and, if we
wait, one of them is sure to come close to us presently."

They lay quiet among the bushes until, after a delay of a quarter
of an hour, a goat, browsing upon the  bushes, passed within a yard
or two of them.

Nessus let fly his arrow, it passed almost through the animal, right
behind its shoulder, and it fell among the  bushes. In an instant
Nessus was upon it, and, grasping its mouth tightly to prevent it
from bleating, cut its  throat. They dragged it away until a fall
in the ground hid them from the sight of the natives, then they
quickly skinned and cut it up, devoured some of the meat raw, and
then, each taking a leg of the animal,  proceeded upon their way.

They now walked without a halt until, late in the evening, they
came down upon the spot where the  Carthaginian army had crossed.
It was deserted. Going down to the edge of the river they saw the
great  rafts upon which the elephants had crossed.

"We had best go on a mile or two ahead," Nessus said, "the Roman
cavalry may be here in the morning,  though the column will be
still a day's march away. By daylight we shall have no difficulty
in finding the  traces of the army."

Malchus took the Arab's advice, and the next morning followed on the
traces of the army, which were  plainly enough to be seen in the
broken bushes, the trampled ground, and in various useless articles
dropped or thrown away by the troops. They were forced to advance
with caution, for they feared meeting  any of the natives who might
be hanging on the rear of the army.

After three days' travelling with scarce a pause they came upon the
army just as the rear guard was crossing  the Isere, and Malchus
received a joyous welcome from his friends, who had supposed him
drowned at the  passage of the Rhone. His account of his adventure
was eagerly listened to, and greatly surprised were they  when
they found that he had been a prisoner in the camp of Scipio, and
had been rescued by the fidelity and  devotion of Nessus. Hannibal
asked many questions as to the strength of Scipio's army, but
Malchus could  only say that, not having seen it except encamped,
he could form but a very doubtful estimate as to its  numbers, but
considered it to be but little superior to that of the Carthaginian.

"I do not think Scipio will pursue us," Hannibal said. "A defeat
here would be as fatal to him as it would be  to us, and I think
it more likely that, when he finds we have marched away north, he
will return to his ships  and meet us in Italy."

Malchus learned that everything had progressed favourably since the
army had crossed the Rhone, the  natives having offered no further
opposition to their advance. A civil war was going on in the region
the  army had now entered, between two rival princes, brothers,
of the Allobroges. Hannibal was requested to  act as umpire in the
quarrel, and decided in favour of the elder brother and restored
order. In return he  received from the prince whom he reseated on
his throne, provisions, clothing, and other necessaries for the
army, and the prince, with his troops, escorted the Carthaginians
some distance up into the Alps, and  prevented the tribes dwelling
at the foot of the mountains from attacking them.

The conquest of Catalonia, the passage of the Pyrenees, and the
march across the south of Gaul, had  occupied many months.  Summer
had come and gone, autumn had passed, and winter was at hand. It
was  the eighteenth of October when Hannibal led his army up the
narrow valleys into the heart of the Alps. The  snow had already fallen
thickly upon the upper part of the mountains, and the Carthaginians
shuddered at  the sight of these lofty summits, these wild, craggy,
and forbidding wastes.  The appearance of the  wretched huts of
the inhabitants, of the people themselves, unshaved and unkempt
and clad in sheepskins,  and of the flocks and herds gathering in
sheltered spots and crowding together to resist the effects of the
already extreme cold, struck the Carthaginian troops with dismay.
Large bodies of the mountaineers were  perceived posted on the
heights surrounding the valleys, and the column, embarrassed by
its length and the  vast quantity of baggage, was also exposed to
attack by hordes who might at any moment rush out from the  lateral
ravines. Hannibal, therefore, ordered his column to halt.

Malchus was now ordered to go forward with his band of scouts,
and to take with him a party of Gauls,  who, their language being
similar to that of the natives, could enter into conversation
with them. The  mountaineers, seeing but a small party advancing,
allowed them to approach peaceably and entered freely  into conversation
with them. They declared that they would on no account permit the
Carthaginian army to  pass forward, but would oppose every foot of
their advance.

The Gauls learned, however, that, believing the great column could
only move forward in the daytime, the  natives were in the habit of
retiring from their rocky citadels at nightfall. Malchus returned
with this news  to Hannibal, who prepared to take advantage of it.
The camp was at once pitched, and the men set to work  to form an
intrenchment round it as if Hannibal meditated a prolonged halt
there. Great fires were lit and  the animals unloaded. The natives,
seeing from above everything that was being done, deserted their
posts  as usual at nightfall, confident that the Carthaginians had
no intention of moving forward.

Malchus with his scouts crept on along the path, and soon sent
down word to Hannibal that the heights  were deserted. The general
himself now moved forward with all his light troops, occupied
the head of the  pass, and posted strong parties of men upon the
heights commanding it. As soon as day broke the rest of the  army
got into motion and proceeded up the pass. The natives were now
seen approaching in great numbers,  but they halted in dismay on
seeing that the Carthaginians had already gained possession of the
strong  places.

The road by which the column was ascending wound along the face of
a precipice, and was so narrow that  it was with difficulty that
the horses, snorting with fright, could be persuaded to proceed.
The natives,  seeing the confusion which the fright of the animals
created in the column, at once took to the mountains,  climbing up
rugged precipices which appeared to the Carthaginians absolutely
inaccessible, and presently  made their appearance far up on the
mountain side above the column.

Here, sending up the most piercing yells, they began to roll
rocks and stones down upon the column. The  confusion below became
terrible. The horses, alarmed by the strange wild cries, echoed
and re-echoed a  score of times among the mountains, and struck by
the falling stones, plunged and struggled wildly to  escape. Some
tore along the path, precipitating those in front of them over the
precipice, others lost their  footing, and, dragging with them the
carts to which they were attached, fell into the valley below. All
order  was lost. Incapable of defence or of movement the column
appeared to be on the verge of destruction.

"Come, my men," Malchus exclaimed to his Arabs, "where these men
can climb we can follow them; the  safety of the whole column is
at stake."

Slinging their weapons behind them the scouts began to climb the
crags. Sure footed and hardy as they  were, it was with the greatest
difficulty that they could make their way up. Many lost their
footing, and  rolling down were dashed to pieces; but the great
majority succeeded in climbing the heights, and at once  became
engaged in desperate battle with the natives.

Every narrow ledge and crag was the scene of a conflict.  The
natives from the distant heights encouraged  their companions with
their shouts, and for a time the confusion in the column below
was heightened by the  combat which was proceeding far above them.
Every stone dislodged by the feet of the combatants  thundered down
upon them, and the falling bodies of those hit by arrow or javelin
came crushing down  with a dull thud among the mass.

At last the bravery and superior weapons of the Arabs prevailed.
The precipice was cleared of the natives,  and as the uproar ceased
and the missiles ceased to fall, the column recovered its order,
and again moved  forward until the whole army gained the top of
the pass. Here Hannibal took possession of a rough fort  erected
by the natives, captured several villages, and enough flocks and
herds to feed his army for three  days.  Then descending from the
top of the pass, which is now known as the Gol-du-Chat, he entered
the  valley of Chambery, and marched forward for three days without
opposition.

Malchus and his scouts received the warmest congratulations for
their conduct at the pass, for they had  undoubtedly saved the army
from what had at one time threatened to be a terrible disaster.
On arrival at a  town supposed to be identical with the modern
Conflans, the inhabitants came out with green boughs and  expressed
their desire for peace and friendship. They said that they had heard
of the fate which had befallen  those who ventured to oppose the
Carthaginians, and that they were anxious to avoid such misfortunes.
They offered to deliver hostages as a proof of their good intentions,
to supply sheep and goats for the army,  and to furnish guides
through the difficult country ahead.

For two days the march continued. The route the army was passing
was that now known as the little St.  Bernard. Fortunately Hannibal
had from the first entertained considerable doubt as to the good
faith of his  guides, and never relaxed his vigilance. The scouts
and light infantry, with the cavalry, preceded the great  column
of baggage, the heavy cavalry defended the rear.

The track, which had for the last five days' march proceeded along
a comparatively level valley, now  mounted rapidly, and turning
aside from the valley of the Isere it led up the deep bed of the
mountain  torrent known as the Reclus; this stream ran in a deep
trough hollowed out in a very narrow valley. The bed  is now so
piled with rocks and stones as to be impassable, and the Romans
afterwards cut a road along on  the side of the mountain.  But at
this time it was possible for men and animals to proceed along the
bed of  the torrent.

Suddenly while struggling with the difficulties of the ascent, a
vast number of the natives appeared on the  hills on either side,
and began to hurl down stones and rocks upon the column below,
while at the same  time a still stronger force attacked them in the
rear. The instant the natives made their appearance the  treacherous
guides, who were proceeding with the scouts at the head of the
column, attempted to make their  escape by climbing the mountain
side. The Arabs were starting off in pursuit, but Malchus checked
them.

"Keep together," he shouted, "and on no account scatter; the enemy
are upon us in force, and it behooves us  all to be steady and
deliberate in our action."

A flight of arrows was, however, sent after the traitors, and most
of them rolled lifeless down the slope  again.

Hannibal's first care was to extricate his cavalry from the gorge.
This was performed with great difficulty,  and they were drawn up
in good order on the narrow piece of level ground between the gorge
in which the  river ran and the mountains bordering the side of
the pass.

The light troops now ascended the hills on both sides, and speedily
became engaged with the enemy. The  confusion in the bed of the
torrent was tremendous. Great numbers of men and animals were killed
by the  rocks and missiles from above, but more of the soldiers
were trampled to death by the frightened horses.  The heavy infantry
in the rear remained steady, and repulsed every effort of the main
body of the enemy to  break in upon the column.

As night fell the combat ceased, but Hannibal and the troops in
advance of the column passed the night  under arms at the foot of
a certain white rock standing above the ravine, and which still
marks the exact site  of the conflict. The natives had suffered
heavily both from their conflict with the light troops upon the
hillside, and from the repulse of their assaults upon the rear guard,
and in the morning they did not venture  to renew the attack, and
the column moved forward out of the ravine and continued its march,
the natives  from time to time dashing down to attack it.

The elephants were placed on the flank of the line of march, and
the appearance of these strange beasts so  terrified the enemy that
they desisted from their attack, and by evening the army encamped
on the summit  of the pass.

The snow had already fallen deeply, the army were worn out and
dispirited by the exertions and dangers  through which they had
passed, and had suffered great losses in men and animals in the
nine days which  had elapsed since they first entered the mountains.
Hannibal gave them two days' rest, in which time they  were joined
by many stragglers who had fallen behind, and by beasts of burden
which, in the terror and  confusion of the attack, had got rid of
their loads and had escaped, but whose instinct led them to follow
the  line of march.

At the end of the second day Hannibal assembled his troops and
addressed them in a stirring speech. He  told them that the worst
part of their journey was now over. He pointed to them the plains of
Italy, of which  a view could be obtained through the pass ahead,
and told them that there they would find rest and friends,  wealth
and glory. The soldiers as usual responded to the words of their
beloved general with shouts of  acclamation, and with renewed spirits
prepared to meet the difficulties which still lay before them.

The next morning the march was renewed. The snow lay deep on the
track, and the soldiers found that,  great as had been the difficulties
of the ascent, those of the descent were vastly greater, for the
slopes of the  Alps on the Italian side are far steeper and more
abrupt than are those on the French. Every step had to be  made
with care; those who strayed in the slightest from the path found
the snow gave way beneath their  feet and fell down the precipice
beside them.

Many of the baggage animals thus perished; but at last the head
of the column found itself at the foot of the  steep descent in a
ravine with almost perpendicular walls, amid whose foot was in summer
occupied by a  mountain stream. Into the depth of this ravine the
rays of the sun never penetrated, and in it lay a mass of  the
previous year's snow which had never entirely melted, but which
formed with the water of the torrent a  sheet of slippery ice.

The newly formed snow prevented the troops from seeing the nature
of the ground, and as they stepped  upon it they fell headlong,
sliding in their armour down the rapidly sloping bed of ice, many
dashing out  their brains or breaking their limbs against the great
boulders which projected through it. The cavalry next  attempted the
passage, but with even less success, for the hoofs of the horses
broke through the hard upper  crust of the old snow and the animals
sank in to their bellies. Seeing that it was impossible to pass
this  obstacle, Hannibal turned back the head of the column until
they reached the top of the ascent down which  they had just come.
There he cleared away the snow and erected a camp; all the infantry
were then brought  down into the pass and set to work to build up
a road along the side of the ravine.

The engineers with fire and explosives blasted away the foot of the
cliffs; the infantry broke up the rocks  and formed a level track.
All night the work continued, the troops relieving each other
at frequent intervals,  and by the morning a path which could be
traversed by men on foot, horses, and baggage animals was  constructed
for a distance of three hundred yards, beyond which the obstacle
which had arrested the  advance of the army did not continue.

The cavalry, baggage animals, and a portion of the infantry at
once continued their way down the valley,  while the rest of the
infantry remained behind to widen the road sufficiently for the
elephants to pass along.  Although the work was pressed on with
the greatest vigour it needed three days of labour in all before
the  elephants could be passed through. The animals were by this
time weak with hunger, for from the time  when they had turned
aside from the valley of the Isere the Alps had been wholly bare
of trees, and the  ground being covered with snow, no foliage or
forage had been obtainable to eke out the store of flour  which
they carried for their consumption. Nor was any wood found with
which to manufacture the flat  cakes into which the flour was formed
for their rations.

The elephants once through, the march was continued, and, joining
the troops in advance, who had halted  in the woods below the
snow level, the column continued its march. On the third day after
passing the  gorge they issued out on to the plain of the Po, having
lost in the fifteen days' passage of the Alps great  numbers of
men from the attacks of the enemy, from the passage of the rapid
torrents, from falls over the  precipices, and from cold, and having
suffered still more severely in horses and baggage animals.

Of the 59,000 picked troops with which he had advanced after the
conquest of Catalonia, Hannibal reached  the plains of Italy with
but 12,000 African infantry, 8,000 Spanish and Gaulish infantry,
and 6,000 cavalry -- in all 26,000 men. A small force indeed with
which to enter upon the struggle with the might and power  of Rome.
Of the 33,000 men that were missing, 13,000 had fallen in the passes
of the Pyrenees and the  march through Gaul, 20,000 had died in
the passage of the Alps.



CHAPTER XIII: THE BATTLE OF THE TREBIA


Well was it for the Carthaginians that Hannibal had opened
communications with the Gaulish tribes in the  plains at the foot
of the Alps, and that on its issue from the mountain passes his
army found itself among  friends, for had it been attacked it was
in no position to offer a vigorous resistance, the men being utterly
broken down by their fatigues and demoralized by their losses.
Many were suffering terribly from  frostbites, the cavalry were
altogether unable to act, so worn out and enfeebled were the horses.
Great  numbers of the men could scarce drag themselves along owing
to the state of their feet; their shoes and  sandals, well enough
adapted for sandy plains, were wholly unfitted for traversing rocky
precipices, and the  greater part of the army was almost barefoot.

So long as they had been traversing the mountains they had struggled
on doggedly and desperately; to lag  behind was to be slain by the
natives, to lie down was to perish of cold; but with the cessation
of the  absolute necessity for exertion the power for exertion
ceased also. Worn out, silent, exhausted, and almost  despairing,
the army of Hannibal presented the appearance of one which had
suffered a terrible defeat,  rather than that of a body of men who
had accomplished a feat of arms unrivalled in the history of war.

Happily they found themselves among friends. The Insubres, who had
been looking forward eagerly to  their coming, flocked in great
numbers to receive them as they issued out into the plain, bringing
with them  cattle, grain, wine, and refreshments of all kinds,
and inviting the army to take up their quarters among  them until
recovered from their fatigues. This offer Hannibal at once accepted.
The army was broken up  and scattered among the various towns and
villages, where the inhabitants vied with each other in attending
to the comforts of the guests.  A fortnight's absolute rest, an
abundance of food, and the consciousness that  the worst of their
labours was over, did wonders for the men.

Malchus had arrived in a state of extreme exhaustion, and had,
indeed, been carried for the last two days of  the march on the back
of one of the elephants. The company which he commanded no longer
existed; they  had borne far more than their share of the fatigues
of the march; they had lost nearly half their number in  the conflict
among the precipices with the natives, and while the rest of the
army had marched along a track  where the snow had already been
beaten hard by the cavalry in front of them, the scouts ahead had
to make  their way through snow knee deep. Inured to fatigue and
hardship, the Arabs were unaccustomed to cold,  and every day had
diminished their numbers, until, as they issued out into the plain,
but twenty men of the  company remained alive.

Hannibal committed his young kinsman to the care of one of the
chiefs of the Insubres. The latter caused a  litter to be constructed
by his followers, and carried the young Carthaginian away to his
village, which was  situated at the foot of the hills on the banks
of the river Orcus.

Here he was handed over to the care of the women. The wounds and
bruises caused by falls on the rocks  and ice were bathed and bandaged,
then he was placed in a small chamber and water was poured on to
heated stones until it was filled with hot steam, and Malchus began
to think that he was going to be boiled  alive. After being kept
for an hour in this vapour bath, he was annointed with oil, and
was rubbed until  every limb was supple, he was then placed on a
couch and covered with soft skins, and in a few more  minutes was
sound asleep.

It was late next day before he woke, and on rising he found himself
a new man. A breakfast of meat, fresh  cheese formed from goats'
milk, and flat cakes was set before him, and, had it not been that
his feet were  still completely disabled from the effects of the
frostbites, he felt that he was fit again to take his place in  the
ranks. The chief's wife and daughters waited upon him.  The former
was a tall, majestic looking  woman. She did not belong to the
Insubres, but was the daughter of a chief who had, with a portion
of his  tribe, wandered down from their native home far north of
the Alps and settled in Italy.

Two of the daughters were young women of over twenty, tall and
robust in figure like their mother, the  third was a girl of some
fifteen years of age. The girls took after their German mother,
and Malchus  wondered at the fairness of their skins, the clearness
of their complexion, and the soft light brown of their  hair, for
they were as much fairer than the Gauls as these were fairer than
the Carthaginians. Malchus was  able to hold little converse with
his hosts, whose language differed much from that of the Transalpine
Gauls.

His stay here was destined to be much longer than he had anticipated,
for his feet had been seriously  frostbitten, and for some time it
was doubtful whether he would not lose them.  Gradually, however,
the  inflammation decreased, but it was six weeks after his
arrival before he was able to walk. From time to time  messengers
had arrived from Hannibal and his father to inquire after him,
and from them he learned that the  Carthaginians had captured the
towns of Vercella, Valentinum, and Asta, and the less important
towns of  Ivrea, Chivasso, Bodenkmag, and Carbantia.

By the time he was cured he was able to talk freely with his hosts, for
he soon mastered the points of  difference between their language
and that of the Gauls, with which he was already acquainted.
The chief,  with the greater part of his followers, now started
and joined the army of Hannibal, which laid siege to the  town of
Turin, whose inhabitants were in alliance with Rome. It was strongly
fortified. Hannibal erected an  intrenchment at a distance of sixty
yards from the wall, and under cover of this sank a well, and thence
drove a wide gallery, the roof above being supported by props.

Divided in brigades, each working six hours, the troops laboured
night and day, and in three days from its  commencement the gallery
was carried under the walls. It was then driven right and left for
thirty yards  each way, and was filled with wood, combustibles,
and explosives. The workers then retired and the wood  was fired,
the props supporting the roof were soon burned away, the earth
above fell in bringing down the  walls, and a great breach was made,
through which the besiegers, drawn up in readiness, rushed in and
captured the town.

On the same day that Hannibal captured Turin, Scipio entered Piacenza.
After finding that Hannibal had  escaped him on the Rhone, he had
despatched the principal part of his army, under his brother Cneius,
to  Spain, their original destination, and with the rest sailed to
Pisa and landed there. Marching with all haste  north he enlisted
10,000 troops from among the inhabitants of the country, many
of them having already  served in the Roman army. He then marched
north to Tenneto, where he was joined by the praetors  Manlius and
Attilius with over 20,000 men, with whom he marched to Piacenza.

Hannibal, after, as usual, rousing the enthusiasm of his soldiers
by an address, marched towards Scipio. The  latter, with his cavalry,
had crossed the Ticino and was within five miles of Vercella, when
Hannibal, also  with his cavalry, came within sight.  Scipio's front
was covered with a swarm of foot skirmishers mixed  with irregular
Gaulish horsemen; the Roman cavalry and the cavalry of the Italian
allies formed his main  body.

Hannibal ordered the Carthaginian horse to charge full upon the
centre of the enemy, and the Numidians to  attack them on both
flanks. The Romans, in those days, little understood the use of
cavalry, the troops  frequently dismounting and fighting on foot.
Hannibal's soldiers were, on the other hand, trained to fight in
tactics resembling those of modern days. No sooner was the word
given to charge than the Carthaginian  horse, delighted at being
at last, after all their toils and sufferings, within striking
distance of their foes,  gave a mighty shout, and setting spurs to
their splendid horses flung themselves at the enemy.

The charge of this solid mass of picked cavalry was irresistible.
They swept before them the skirmishers  and Gaulish horse, and fell
with fury upon the main body, cleaving a way far into its ranks.
Before the  Romans could recover from their confusion the Numidian
horse burst down upon their flanks. The charge  was irresistible;
large numbers of the Romans were killed and the rest fled in panic,
hotly pursued by the  Carthaginians, until they reached the shelter
of the Roman infantry, which was advancing behind them.  Scipio,
who had been wounded in the fight, at once led his army back to
Piacenza.

The news of this battle reached Malchus just as he was preparing to
depart.  The messenger who brought it  brought also a lead horse,
which Hamilcar had sent for his son's use. Resuming his armour
Malchus  mounted and rode off at once, after many warm thanks to
his friends, whom he expected to see again  shortly, as they, with
the rest of that section of the tribe, were about to join the chief
-- the Gaulish women  frequently accompanying their husbands in
their campaigns.

Malchus was delighted to rejoin the army, from which he had now
been separated more than two months.  He saw with pleasure that they
had now completely recovered from the effects of their hardships,
and  presented as proud and martial an appearance as when they had
started from Carthagena.

The issue of their first fight with the Romans had raised their
spirits and confidence, and all were eager to  enter upon the campaign
which awaited them. Malchus, upon his arrival, was appointed to
the command of  the company of Gauls who formed the bodyguard of
the general. Hannibal moved up the Po and prepared  to cross that
river at Gambio, two days' easy march above its junction with the
Ticino. The army was  accompanied by a considerable number of the
Insubres. The work of constructing a bridge was at once  commenced.

Malchus, riding through the camp, came upon the tents of his late
host, who had been joined that day by his  family. To them Malchus
did the honours of the camp, took them through the lines of
the Carthaginian  cavalry, showed them the elephants, and finally
conducted them to Hannibal, who received them most  kindly, and
presented them with many presents in token of his thanks for their
care of his kinsman. The  next day the bridge was completed and
the troops began to pass over, the natives crowding to the banks
and  even venturing on the bridge to witness the imposing procession
of the troops.

Malchus remained with Hannibal in the rear, but seeing that there
was a delay as the elephants crossed, he  was ordered to ride on
to the bridge and see what was the matter. Finding the crowd too
great to enable him  to pass on horseback, Malchus gave his horse
to a soldier and pressed forward on foot. When he reached  the
head of the column of elephants he found that one of the leading
animals, entertaining a doubt as to the  stability of the bridge at
this point, obstinately refused to move further. Ordering the mahout
to urge the  animal forward, and telling some soldiers to prick the
beast with a spear from behind, Malchus entered into  conversation
with the wife and daughters of the Insubrian chief, who had
received from Hannibal a special  order allowing them to take up
their position on the bridge to witness their crossing.

While he was speaking to them the elephant suddenly wheeled round
and, trumpeting loudly, tried to force  his way back. A scene of wild
confusion ensued. The crowd gave way before him, several soldiers
were  thrust off the bridge into the river, and Malchus and his
companions were borne along by the crowd; there  was a little cry,
and Malchus saw the youngest of the girls pushed off the bridge
into the river.

He flung off his helmet, unbuckled the fastenings of his breast
plate and back piece, undid the belt of his  sword, and leaped
in. As he rose to the surface he heard a merry laugh beside him,
and saw the girl  swimming quietly close by. Although mortified
at having so hastily assumed that she was unable to take  care of
herself he joined in her laugh, and swam by her side until they
reached the bank some distance  down. Encumbered by the trappings
which he still retained, Malchus had far more difficulty than the
girl in  gaining the shore.

"What, did you think," she asked, laughing as he struggled up the
bank, "that I, a Gaulish maiden, could not  swim?"

"I did not think anything about it," Malchus said; "I saw you pushed
in and followed without thinking at  all."

Although they imperfectly understood each other's words the meaning
was clear; the girl put her hand on  his shoulder and looked frankly
up in his face.

"I thank you," she said, "just the same as if you had saved my life.
You meant to do so, and it was very  good of you, a great chief
of this army, to hazard your life for a Gaulish maiden.  Clotilde
will never  forget."

By the time they reached the bridge the column had moved on. A more
docile elephant had been placed in  front, and this having moved
across the doubtful portion of the bridge, the others had quickly
followed. Just  as Malchus and his companion reached the end of
the bridge they met her mother and sisters coming to  meet them.

There was a smile of amusement on their faces as they thanked Malchus
for his attempt at rescue, and  Clotilde's sisters whispered some
laughing remarks into her ear which caused the girl to flush hotly,
and to  draw her slight figure indignantly to its full height.
Malchus retired to his tent to provide himself with fresh  armour
and sword, for he doubted not that those thrown aside had been
carried over the bridge in the  confusion. The soldier had returned
with his horse, and in a few minutes he took his place at the head
of the  Gauls who were drawn up near Hannibal's tent.

The general himself soon appeared, and mounting his horse rode
forward. Malchus followed with his  command, waving an adieu to the
party who stood watching the departure, and not ill pleased that
those  who had before known him only as a helpless invalid, should
now see him riding at the head of the splendid  bodyguard of the
great commander.

Hannibal was marching nearly due east, with the intention of forcing
Scipio to give battle south of the Po.  A strong Roman fortress,
Castegglo (Clastidium), lying at the foot of the hills, should have
barred his way;  but Hannibal, by the medium of one of his native
allies, bribed the Roman commander to abstain from  interrupting
his march. Then he pressed forward until on the third day after
crossing the Po he came within  sight of Piacenza, under whose
walls the Roman army were ranged.

Scipio, after his disastrous cavalry conflict, had written to Rome
urging his inability, with the force under  his command, to give
battle single handed to Hannibal, and begging that he might be at
once reinforced by  the army under Sempronius, then lying at Ariminum
(Rimini). The united consular armies, he represented,  should take
up their position on the river Trebia.

This river rose in the Apennines but a short distance from Genoa,
and flowed nearly due north into the Po  at Piacenza.  The Roman
army there would therefore effectually bar Hannibal's march into
the rich plains to  the east, and would prevent him from making
across the Apennines and following the road by the coast, as  they
would, should he undertake such a movement, be able to fall on his
rear.

Hannibal pitched his camp on the Nure, about five miles from
Piacenza, but Scipio remained immovable in  his lines waiting for
the arrival of his colleague. Hannibal's position was a difficult
one. He had traversed  the Pyrenees and the Alps that he might
attack Rome; but between him and Southern Italy lay yet another
barrier, the Apennines. Scipio had missed him after he had crossed
the Pyrenees, had been too late to attack  him when, exhausted
and worn out, his army emerged from the Alps; but now, united with
Sempronius, he  hoped to crush him at the foot of the Apennines.
Hannibal wished, if possible, to prevent a junction of the  two
Roman armies, but if that could not be done he determined to fight
them together.

Scipio perceived the danger of his position; and in order to be
able the better to join Sempronius he left  Piacenza under cover
of night, and took up a strong position on the banks of the Trebia.
Here he could  maintain his communications direct with Rome, and,
if absolutely necessary, fall back and join his  colleague advancing
towards him. Hannibal, when he perceived Scipio's change of position,
broke up his  camp and took post on the Trebiola, a little stream
running into the Trebia and facing the Roman camp at a  distance
of four miles.

He was now powerless to prevent the junction of the two Roman
armies, and for nearly a month Scipio and  Hannibal lay watching
each other. By that time Sempronius was within a day's march of
Scipio. Hannibal  had not been idle during this time of rest. He
had been occupied in cementing his alliance with the Gaulish  tribes
inhabiting the Lombard plains. These, seeing how rapidly Hannibal
had cleared the province of the  Romans, believed that their
deliverance would be accomplished, and for the most part declared
for the  Carthaginians.

Hannibal's agents had also been at work at Clastidium, and the prefect
of the garrison was induced by a  bribe to surrender the place to
him. This was of enormous advantage to Hannibal, and a corresponding
blow to the Romans, for Clastidium was the chief magazine north of
the Apennines. The news of the fall of  this important place filled
Sempronius, an energetic and vigorous general, with fury. He at
once rode down  from his camp to that of Scipio and proposed that
Hannibal should be attacked instantly.

Scipio, who was still suffering from the wound he had received in
the cavalry engagement, urged that the  Roman army should remain
where they were, if necessary, through the coming winter. He pointed
out that  Hannibal's Gaulish allies would lose heart at seeing him
inactive, and would cease to furnish him with  supplies, and that
he would be obliged either to attack them at a disadvantage or
to retire from the position  he occupied. But Sempronius was an
ambitious man, the time for the consular election was approaching,
and he was unwilling to leave for his successor the glory of crushing
Hannibal.

The fact, too, that Scipio was wounded and unable to take part in
the battle added to his desire to force it  on, since the whole
glory of the victory would be his. He therefore told his colleague
that although he saw  the force of his arguments, public opinion
in Rome was already so excited at Hannibal having been  allowed,
without a battle, to wrest so wide a territory from Rome, that it
was absolutely necessary that an  action should be fought.  The
two armies were now united on the Trebia, and opinion was among the
officers and troops, as between the consuls, widely divided as to
the best course to be pursued.

Hannibal's spies among the natives kept him acquainted with what
was going on in the Roman camp, and  he determined to provoke the
Romans to battle. He therefore despatched two thousand infantry and
a  thousand cavalry to ravage the lands of some Gaulish allies of
the Romans. Sempronius sent off the greater  part of his cavalry,
with a thousand light infantry, to drive back the Carthaginians.

In the fight which ensued the Romans were worsted. Still more furious,
Sempronius marched to support  them with his army. Hannibal called
in his troops and drew them off before Sempronius would arrive.
The  disappointment and rage of the Roman general were great, and
Hannibal felt that he could now bring on a  battle when he would.
He determined to fight in the plain close to his own position. This
was flat and bare,  and was traversed by the Trebiola. This stream
ran between steep banks below the level of the plain; its  banks
were covered with thick bushes and reeds, and the narrow gap across
the plain was scarce noticeable.

On the evening of the twenty-fifth of December Hannibal moved
his army out from the camp and formed  up on the plain facing the
Trebia, ordering the corps commanded by his brother Mago to enter
the bed of  the Trebiola, and to conceal themselves there until
they received his orders to attack. The position Mago  occupied
would bring him on the left rear of an army which had crossed
the Trebia, and was advancing to  attack the position taken up by
Hannibal. Having thus prepared for the battle, Hannibal proceeded
to  provoke it.

At daybreak on the twenty-sixth he despatched a strong body of
horsemen across the river. Crossing the  Trebia partly by ford and
partly by swimming, the Carthaginian horse rode up to the palisade
surrounding  the Roman camp, where, with insulting shouts and the
hurling of their javelins, they aroused the Roman  soldiers from
their slumber. This insult had the desired effect, Sempronius rushed
from his tent, furious at  what he deemed the insolence of the
Carthaginians, and called his troops to arms.  With their accustomed
discipline the Romans fell into their ranks.  The light cavalry
first issued from the palisade, the infantry  followed, the heavy
cavalry brought up the rear. The insulting Numidians had already
retired, but  Sempronius was now determined to bring on the battle.
He marched down the river and crossed at a ford.

The water was intensely cold, the river was in flood, the ford
waist deep as the soldiers marched across it.  Having gained the
opposite bank, the Roman general formed his army in order of battle.
His infantry, about  forty-five thousand strong, was formed in
three parallel lines; the cavalry, five thousand strong, was on the
flanks. The infantry consisted of sixteen thousand Roman legionary
or heavy infantry, and six thousand  light infantry. The Italian
tribes, allied to Rome, had supplied twenty thousand infantry; the
remaining three  thousand were native allies.  The infantry occupied
a front of two and a half miles in length; the cavalry  extended
a mile and a quarter on each flank. Thus the Roman front of battle
was five miles in extent.

Hannibal's force was inferior in strength; his infantry of the line
were twenty thousand strong. He had eight  thousand light infantry
and ten thousand cavalry. The Carthaginian formation was much deeper
than the  Roman, and Hannibal's line of battle was less than two
miles long. In front of it were the elephants, thirty-six in number,
divided in pairs, and placed in intervals of a hundred yards between
each pair.

While the Romans, exposed to a bitterly cold wind, chilled to the
bone by their immersion in the stream,  and having come breakfastless
from camp, were forming their long order of battle, Hannibal's troops,
gathered round blazing fires, were eating a hearty breakfast; after
which, in high spirits and confidence,  they prepared for the fight.

Hannibal called the officers together and addressed them in stirring
words, which were repeated by them to  the soldiers.  The Roman
preparations had occupied a long time, and it was afternoon before
they advanced  in order of battle. When within a short distance
of the Carthaginians they halted, and the trumpets and  musical
instruments on both sides blew notes of defiance.  Then the
Carthaginian slingers stole out between  the ranks of their heavy
infantry, passed between the elephants, and commenced the battle.

Each of these men carried three slings, one of which was used for
long distances, another when nearer to  the foe, the third when
close at hand. In action one of these slings was wound round the
head, one round the  body, the third carried in hand.  Their long
distance missiles were leaden bullets, and so skilful were they
that it is said they could hit with certainty the face of a foe
standing at slinging distance.

Naked to the waist they advanced, and with their long distance
slings hurled the leaden bullets at the  Roman infantry.  When
closer they exchanged their slings and discharged from them egg
shaped pebbles  which they had gathered from the bed of the Trebia.
When within still closer distance with the third slings  they poured
in volleys of much larger and heavier stones, with such tremendous
force that it seemed as  though they were sent from catapults.
Against such a storm of missiles the Roman skirmishers could make
no stand, and were instantly driven back.

Their Cretan archers, after shooting away their arrows with but
small effect, for the strings had been  damped in crossing the
river, also fled behind the heavy troops; and these in turn were
exposed to the hail  of stones. Disorganized by this attack, the
like of which they had never experienced before, their helmets
crushed in, their breastplates and shields battered and dented, the
front line of the Romans speedily fell into  confusion. Sempronius
ordered up his war machines for casting stones and javelins, but
these too had been  injured in their passage across the river.

The hail of Carthaginian missiles continued until the Roman light
infantry were forced to fall back; and the  slingers were then
recalled, and the heavy infantry of the two armies stood facing
each other. The  Carthaginians took up close order, and, shoulder
to shoulder, their bodies covered with their shields, they  advanced
to meet the legions of Rome. As they moved, their music -- flute,
harp, and lyre -- rose on the air  in a military march, and keeping
step the long line advanced with perfect order and regularity. In
the centre  were the Carthaginian foot soldiers and their African
allies, clothed alike in a red tunic, with helmet of  bronze, steel
cuirass and circular shield, and carrying, besides their swords,
pikes of twenty feet in length.  On the left were the Spaniards, in
white tunics bordered with purple, with semicircular shields four
feet in  length and thirty-two inches in width, armed with long
swords used either for cutting or thrusting.

On the left were the native allies, naked to the waist, armed with
shields and swords similar to those of the  Gauls, save that the
swords were used only for cutting.

Sempronius brought up his second line to fill the intervals in the
first, and the Romans advanced with equal  steadiness to the conflict;
but the much greater closeness of the Carthaginian formation served
them in  good stead. They moved like a solid wall, their shields
locked closely together, and pressed steadily  forward in spite of
the desperate efforts of the Roman centre in its more open order
to resist them; for each  Roman soldier in battle was allowed the
space of a man's width between him and his comrade on either  side,
to allow him the free use of his weapon. Two Carthaginians were
therefore opposed to each Roman, in  addition to which the greater
depth of the African formation gave them a weight and impetus which
was  irresistible.

While this fight was going on the Numidian horsemen, ten thousand
strong, charged the Roman cavalry.  These, much more lightly armed
than their opponents and inferior in numbers, were unable for a
moment to  withstand the shock, and were at once driven from the
field. Leaving the elephants to pursue them and  prevent them from
rallying, the Numidian horsemen turned and fell on the flanks of
the long Roman line;  while at the same moment the Carthaginian
slingers, issuing out again from behind the main body, opened  a
tremendous fire with stones heated in furnaces brought to the spot.

Although taken in flank, crushed under a storm of missiles, with
their cavalry defeated and their centre  broken, the Romans fought
steadily and well. Hannibal now launched against their ranks the
elephants  attached to the infantry, which, covered in steel armour
and trumpeting loudly, carried death and confusion  into the Roman
ranks. But still the legions fought on obstinately and desperately
until the sound of wild  music in their rear filled them with
dismay, as Mago, with his division of Numidian infantry, emerged
from  his hiding place and fell upon the Romans from behind.

Struck with terror at the sudden appearance of these wild soldiers,
of whose ferocity they had heard so  much, the Romans lost all heart
and strove now only to escape. But it was in vain.  The Carthaginian
infantry were in their front, the cavalry on their flank, the
Numidians in their rear.

Some ten thousand Roman soldiers only, keeping in a solid body,
cut their way through the cavalry and  reached Piacenza.

Thirty thousand were slaughtered on the plain. Many were drowned in
trying to swim the Trebia, and only  the legion which had remained
to guard the camp, the broken remains of the cavalry, and the body
which  had escaped from Piacenza remained of the fifty thousand
men whom Sempronius commanded.

The exultation of the victors was unbounded. The hitherto
invincible legions of Rome had been crushed.  The way to Rome was
clear before them. All the fatigues and hardships they had undergone
were forgotten  in the hour of triumph, and their native allies
believed that their freedom from Rome was now assured.

The verdict of great commanders of all ages has assigned to the
battle of the Trebia the glory of being the  greatest military
exploit ever performed. The genius of Hannibal was shown not only in
the plan of battle  and the disposition of his troops, but in the
perfection with which they were handled, in the movements  which he
had himself invented and taught them, and the marvellous discipline
with which he had inculcated  them.

Napoleon the First assigned to Hannibal the leading place among the
great generals of the world, and the  Trebia was his masterpiece.
But the Carthaginians, exulting in their victory, did not gauge
the extent of the  stubbornness and resources of Rome.  Sempronius
himself set the example to his countrymen. At Piacenza  he rallied
the remnants of his army, and wrote to Rome, saying that he had
been victorious, but that a  sudden storm had saved the enemy from
destruction.

The senate understood the truth, but acted in the spirit in which
he had written. They announced to the  people that a victory had
been won, and ordered the consular election to take place as usual,
at the same  time issuing orders to all parts of the Roman dominion
for the enrolment of fresh troops.

Hannibal attempted to surprise Piacenza, but Scipio issued out
with his cavalry and inflicted a check upon  him, Hannibal himself
being slightly wounded. The Carthaginians then marched away and
stormed the  town of Vicumve, and during their absence the two consuls
evacuated Piacenza and marched south. Scipio  led his portion of
the little army to Ariminum (Rimini), Sempronius took his command
to Arretium  (Mezzo), where they both speedily received reinforcements.
Hannibal made an attempt to cross the  Apennines, but the snow lay
deep among the mountains, and, unable to effect his purpose, he
fell back  again to winter in the plain.

In the meantime Cneius Servilius Geminus and Caius Flaminius had
been elected consuls. Flaminius  succeeded Sempronius in command
of the Roman army at Arretium, while Geminus took the command of
that at Rimini. Between these consuls, as was usually the case in
Rome, a bitter jealousy existed.  Geminus  was the nominee of the
aristocratic party, while Flaminius was the idol of the populace,
and, as has often  been the case in war, this rivalry between
two generals possessing equal authority wrought great evil to the
armies they commanded.



CHAPTER XIV: THE BATTLE OF LAKE TRASIMENE


The battle of Trebia cost Malchus the loss of his father.  It
was against the portion of the force headed by  Hamilcar that the
Romans, who cut their way through the circle of foes which Hannibal
had thrown round  them, flung themselves. Hamilcar had in vain
attempted to stem the torrent. Surrounded by his bravest  officers,
he had cast himself in the way of the Roman legion; but nothing
could withstand the rush of the  heavy armed spearmen, who, knowing
that all was lost, and that their only hope was in cutting their way
through the Carthaginians, pressed forward, shoulder to shoulder,
and swept aside the opposition of their  more lightly armed foes.
Hamilcar and most of his officers fell, striving to the last to
stem the current.

It was a grievous blow to Malchus, when, as he was exulting in the
great victory which had been gained,  the news came to him that his
father had fallen. Hamilcar was very dear to him.  He had been his
companion and his friend, his guide and adviser.  He had encouraged
him in his aspirations, and had from  his earliest years urged him
to make the sacrifices and exertions necessary to qualify him to
bear a  prominent part under his cousin Hannibal.

He had been his tutor in arms, and had striven to inspire him with
the noblest sentiments. Since they had  reached Spain he had seen
less of him than before, for Hamilcar felt that it was best for his
son to depend  upon himself alone. He was proud of the name which
Malchus was already winning for himself, and knew  that it was
better for him that his advancement should be considered due to his
own exertions and gallantry  and not to the influence of his father.

When, however, they were thrown together, their relations were
unchanged. Malchus was as affectionate,  as respectful, and as
eager to listen to his father's advice, as he had been as a boy,
while Hamilcar was glad  in the society of his son to forget the
cares and toils of the expedition in which they had embarked and
to  talk of the dear ones at home.

It was only three days before the battle that they had rejoiced
together over the news which had reached  them by a messenger from
Gaul that Thyra had married Adherbal, and had immediately set out
with him  for Carthagena, where Adherbal had been offered a command
by Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal, the  governor of Spain, in his
absence.

Father and son had rejoiced at this for several reasons.  Hanno's
faction had now gained the upper hand, and  the friends of Hannibal
were subjected to persecution of all kinds. The very life of Adherbal
as a prominent  member of the Barcine party had been menaced. And
it was only by embarking secretly for Spain that he  had succeeded
in avoiding arrest. The property of many of Hannibal's friends had
been confiscated. Several  had been put to death under one pretext or
another, and although Hamilcar did not think that Hanno's  faction
would venture to bring forward any accusation against him while he
was fighting the battles of his  country, he experienced a sense
of relief at the knowledge that, should the worst happen, his wife
and Anna  would find a refuge and asylum with Adherbal in Spain.
Hamilcar and Malchus had discussed the matter  long and seriously,
and had talked, Hamilcar with sorrow, Malchus with indignation and
rage, of the state  of Carthage.

"It makes one hate one's country," Malchus exclaimed passionately,
"when one hears of these things. You  taught me to love Carthage,
father, and to be proud of her. How can one be proud of a country
so  misgoverned, so corrupt, so base as this?  Of what use are
sacrifices and efforts here, when at home they  think of nothing
but luxury and ease and the making of money, when the best and
bravest of the  Carthaginians are disgraced and dishonoured, and
the people bow before these men whose wealth has been  gained solely
by corruption and robbery? It makes one wish one had been born a
Roman."

"Did not one hope that a better time would come, Malchus, when
Carthage will emancipate herself from  the rule of men like Hanno
and his corrupt friends, I should, indeed, despair of her, for even
the genius of  Hannibal and the valour of his troops cannot avail
alone to carry to a successful conclusion a struggle  between
such a state as Carthage now is and a vigourous, patriotic, and
self-reliant people like those of  Rome.

"We may win battles, but, however great the victories may be, we
can never succeed in the long run against  the power of Rome unless
Carthage proves true to herself. Our army is not a large one. Rome
and her Latin  allies can, if need be, put ten such in the field. If
Carthage at this crisis of her fate proves worthy of the  occasion,
if she by a great effort again wins the sovereignty of the sea,
and sends over armies to support us  in our struggle, we may in the
end triumph. If not, glorious as may be our success for a time, we
are in the  end doomed to failure, and our failure will assuredly
involve the final destruction of Carthage.

"Rome will not be slow to profit by the lesson which Hannibal is
teaching her. His genius perceives that  only by striking at Rome
in Italy could a vital blow be given to her. The Romans in turn
will perceive that  only by an invasion of Africa can Carthage be
humbled. Her task will then be far easier than ours is now,  for
not only is Rome fresh, strong, and vigourous, but she has had
the wisdom to bind the Latin peoples  around her closely to her by
bestowing upon them the rights of citizenship, by making them feel
that her  cause is theirs.

"Upon the other hand, Carthage has throughout her history been
paving the way for her fall. She fights, but  it is with foreign
mercenaries. She stamps under foot the people she has conquered, and
while her tax  collectors grind them to the earth, and she forces
them to send their sons to fight her battles, she gives them  no
share in her privileges, no voice in her councils.

"I had hoped, Malchus, that at such a moment as this faction would
have been silent at Carthage, and a  feeling of patriotism would
once again have asserted itself. I find that it is not so, and my
heart sinks for my  country. Were it not for my wife and family,
Malchus, I would gladly die in the coming battle."

The words recurred to Malchus as he sat in his tent by the side
of his father's body on the night after the  battle of the Trebia,
and a deep bitterness mingled with his sorrow.

"Giscon was right," he exclaimed. "All means are justifiable to
rid one's country of those who are  destroying her. It makes one
mad to think that while men like my father are fighting and dying
for their  country, the tribunes of the democracy, who fatten
on our spoils, are plotting against them at home.  Henceforth, I
fight not as a Carthaginian, but as a soldier of Hannibal, and will
aid him in his endeavour to  humble Rome; not that Carthage, with
her blood stained altars, her corrupt officials, and her indolent
population, may continue to exist, but that these manly and
valiant Gauls who have thrown in their lot with  us may live free
and independent of the yoke of Rome. These people are rude and
primitive, but their  simple virtues, their love of freedom, their
readiness to die rather than to be slaves, put the sham patriotism
of Carthage to shame."

When the army went into winter quarters, and Hannibal dismissed his
Gaulish allies, with many rich  presents, to their homes, Malchus
obtained leave from Hannibal to depart with Allobrigius -- the
chief of  the Insubrian tribe living on the Orcus -- who had, with
his fighting men, accompanied Hannibal through  the campaign. The
chief's wife and daughters had returned after seeing the army across
the Po. Malchus had  sought the society of his late host during
the campaign, had often ridden beside him on the march, and had
spent the evening in his tent talking either of the civilization
of Carthage, which seemed wonderful indeed  to the simple Gaulish
chieftain, or of the campaign on which they were engaged.

Malchus had by this time mastered the differences between the
dialect of the Cisalpine Gauls and that of  those in Gaul itself
and Iberia, with which he was already acquainted. The chief was
gratified by the  friendship of Hannibal's kinsman, and liked the
frank simplicity of his manner. He had laughed loudly  when his
wife had told him how Malchus had leaped from the bridge to save
the life of Clotilde when she  fell into the river. But the act had
proved that Malchus was grateful for the kindness which had been
shown  him, and had cemented the friendship between them. Therefore,
when the campaign came to a close, he had  offered a hearty invitation
to Malchus to spend the time, until the army should again assemble,
with him in  his village on the banks of the Orcus. Hannibal had
smiled when Malchus had asked for leave of absence.

"Those daughters of the chief whom you presented to me on the day
when we crossed the Po are the fairest  I have seen in Gaul. Malchus,
are you thinking of keeping up the traditions of our family? My
father  wedded all my sisters, as you know, to native princes in
Africa, and I took an Iberian maiden as my wife. It  would be in
every way politic and to be desired that one so nearly related to
me as yourself should form an  alliance by marriage with one of
these Gaulish chiefs."

Malchus laughed somewhat confusedly.

"It will be time to talk about marriage some years hence, Hannibal;
I am scarce twenty yet, and she is but a  girl."

"Oh! there is a she in the case," Hannibal laughed; "and my arrow
drawn at a venture has struck home. Ah!  yes, there were three
of them, two tall and stately maidens and one still a slim and
unformed girl. Indeed, I  remember now having heard that you lost
your armour and helmet in jumping off the bridge across the Po  to
fish out one of the daughters of Allobrigius, who turned out to
be able to swim much better than you  could. I had a hearty laugh
over it with your poor father, but with the Romans at Piacenza and
a great battle  before us the matter passed from my mind. So that
is how the wind lies. Well, as you say, you are both  young, and
there is no saying what the next two or three years may bring forth.
However, bear in mind that  such an alliance would please me much,
and remember also that the Gaulish maidens marry young, and in
times like ours, Malchus, it is never well to delay long."

Malchus took with him Nessus, who had, from the day when they
escaped together from Scipio's camp,  been always near his person,
had carried his helmet on the line of march, slept next to him by
the campfire,  and fought by his side in battle, ready at any moment
to give his life to avert harm from his leader.

The return of Allobrigius and his tribesmen was celebrated by great
rejoicings on the Orcus. The women  and old men and boys met them
some miles from the village, raising loud cries of welcome and
triumph as  they returned from their successful campaign against
their former oppressors. Among no people were  family ties held
more precious than among the Gauls, and the rough military order
which the tribesmen had  preserved upon their march was at once
broken up when the two parties met.

Wives rushed into the arms of husbands, mothers embraced their sons,
girls hung on the necks of their  fathers and brothers.  There was
nothing to mar the joy of the meeting, for messengers had from time
to  time carried news from the army to the village, and the women
who had lost those dearest to them in the  campaign remained behind
in the village, so that their mourning should not mar the brightness
of the return  of the tribe.

Brunilda, the wife of the chief, stood with her daughters a little
apart from the crowd on a rising knoll of  ground, and the chief,
who was mounted upon a horse taken from the Romans at the Trebia,
spurred  forward towards them, while Malchus hung behind to let
the first greeting pass over before he joined the  family circle.
He had, however, been noticed, and Clotilde's cheeks were colouring
hotly when her father  rode up, from some laughing remark from her
sisters. Brunilda received Malchus cordially, saying that she  had
often heard of him in the messages sent by her husband.

"He has come to stop the winter with us," Allobrigius said.  "I
promised him a warm welcome, and he  needs rest and quiet, as do we
all, for it has been hard work even to seasoned men like us. What
with snow  and rain I have scarcely been dry since I left you."

"That would not matter to the young Carthaginian lord," the eldest
girl said with a smile; "we know that he  rather likes getting
wet, don't we, Clotilde?" she said, turning to her sister, who was,
contrary to her usual  custom, standing shyly behind her.

"I am afraid I shall never hear the last of that," Malchus laughed;
"I can only say that I meant well."

"Of course you did," Allobrigius said; "you could not know that
our Gaulish maidens could swim and  march, and, if necessary, fight
as stoutly as the men. The Romans before now have learned that, in
the  absence of the men from the camp, the women of Gaul can fight
desperately for country, and home, and  honour. Do not let yourself
be troubled by what these wild girls say, my lord Malchus; you know
our  Gaulish women are free of tongue, and hold not their men in
such awe and deference as is the custom  among other nations."

"I am accustomed to be laughed at," Malchus said smiling; "I have
two sisters at home, and, whatever  respect women may pay to their
lords in Carthage, I suppose that neither there nor anywhere else
have girls  respect for their brothers."

The music at this moment struck up, the harpers began a song which
they had composed in honour of the  occasion, the tribesmen fell
into their ranks again, and Allobrigius placed himself at their
head. Malchus  dismounted, and, leading his horse, walked by the
side of Brunilda, who, with the rest of the women,  walked on the
flanks of the column on its way back to the village.

The next three months passed very pleasantly to Malchus.  In the
day he hunted the boar, the bear, and the  wolf among the mountains
with Allobrigius; of an evening he sat by the fire and listened to
the songs of the  harpers or to the tales of the wars and wanderings
of the Gaulish tribes, or himself told the story of  Carthage and
Tyre and the wars of the former with the Romans, described the life
and manners of the great  city, or the hunting of the lion in the
Libyan deserts.

While his listeners wondered at the complex life and strange arts
and magnificence of Carthage, Malchus  was struck with the simple
existence, the warm family ties, the honest sincerity, and the
deep love of  freedom of the Gauls. When Brunilda and her daughter
sighed with envy at the thought of the luxuries and  pleasures
of the great city, he told them that they would soon weary of so
artificial an existence, and that  Carthage, with its corruption,
its ever present dread of the rising of one class against another,
its constant  fear of revolt from the people it had enslaved, its
secret tribunals, its oppression and tyranny, had little  which
need be envied by the free tribes of Gaul.

"I grant," he said, "that you would gain greater comfort by adopting
something of our civilization. You  might improve your dwellings,
hangings round your walls would keep out the bitter winds, well
made  doors are in winter very preferable to the skins which hang
at your entrance, and I do think that a  Carthaginian cook might,
with advantage, give lessons to the tribes as to preparations of
food; but beyond  that I think that you have the best of it."

"The well built houses you speak of," Allobrigius said, "have their
advantages, but they have their  drawbacks. A people who once settle
down into permanent abodes have taken the first step towards losing
their freedom. Look at all the large towns in the plains; until
lately each of them held a Roman garrison. In  the first place,
they offer an incentive to the attack of a covetous foe; in the
second, they bind their owners  to them. The inhabitants of a town
cling to their houses and possessions, and, if conquered, become
mere  slaves to their captors; we who live in dwellings which cost
but a few weeks of work, whose worldly goods  are the work of our
own hands, or the products of the chase, should never be conquered;
we may be beaten,  but if so, we can retire before our enemies and
live in freedom in the forest or mountains, or travel beyond  the
reach of our foes.

"Had not your army come and freed us from Rome I was already
meditating moving with my tribe across  the great mountains to the
north and settling among Brunilda's people in the German forests,
far beyond the  reach of Rome. What though, as she tells me, the
winters are long and severe, the people ignorant of many  of the
comforts which we have adopted from our neighbours; at least we
should be free, and of all blessings  none is to compare with that."

"I agree with you," Malchus said, thinking of the plots and
conspiracies, the secret denunciations, the  tyranny and corruption
of Carthage, "it is good to be great, but it is better to be free.
However," he added  more cheerfully, "I trust that we are going to
free you from all future fear of Rome, and that you will be  able
to enjoy your liberty here without having to remove to the dark
forests and long winter of the country  north of the Alps."

So passed the winter. Early in the spring a messenger arrived from
Hannibal bidding Malchus rejoin him,  and calling upon Allobrigius
to prepare to take the field against the Romans.  Similar messages
had been  sent to all the Gaulish tribes friendly to Carthage, and
early in March Hannibal prepared to cross the  Apennines and to
advance against Rome.

The position occupied by the two Roman armies barred the only two
roads by which it was believed that  Hannibal could march upon
Rome, but as soon as the spring commenced Hannibal started by a
path,  hitherto untrodden by troops, across the Apennines. In the
march the troops suffered even greater hardships  than those which
they had undergone in the passage of the Alps, for during four
days and three nights they  marched knee deep in water, unable for
a single moment to lie down.

While ever moving backwards and forwards among his men to encourage
them with his presence and  words, even the iron frame of Hannibal
gave way under the terrible hardships.  The long continued strain,
the want of sleep, and the obnoxious miasma from the marshes,
brought on a fever and cost him the sight of  one of his eyes. Of
all the elephants but one survived the march, and it was with an
army as worn out and  exhausted as that which had issued from the
Alps that he descended into the fertile plains of Tuscany, near
Fiesole.

The army of Flaminius, 30,000 strong, was still lying at Arezzo,
on his direct road south, and it was with  this only that Hannibal
had now to deal, the force of Servilius being still far away
at Rimini. His own army  was some 35,000 strong, and crossing the
Upper Arno near Florence, Hannibal marched towards Arezzo.  Flaminius,
as soon as he had heard that Hannibal was ascending the slopes of
the Apennines, had sent to  Servilius to join him, but the latter,
alleging that he feared an invasion by the Gaulish tribes on the
north,  refused to move, but sent four thousand cavalry to Flaminius.
This brought the armies to nearly equal  strength, but, although
Hannibal marched his troops within sight of Arezzo, Flaminius would
not issue  from his camp to attack him.

He knew that Hannibal had defeated a force of tried troops, much
exceeding his own in numbers, in the  north, and that he would
therefore probably be successful against one which scarcely equalled
his own. He  hoped, too, that Hannibal would attack him in his
intrenched position. This the Carthaginian general had no  intention
of doing, but, leaving the camp behind him, marched on, plundering
and ravaging the country  towards Rome. Flaminius at once broke up
his camp and followed on his track, preparing to take any  opportunity
which might occur to fall upon the Carthaginians, and knowing that
the senate would at once  call up the army of Servilius to assist
him.

Hannibal, by means of scouts left in his rear, found that Flaminius
was marching on with his troops in solid  column, taking no precaution
against surprise, secure in the belief that Hannibal's object was
to march on  Rome without a stop. The Carthaginian general prepared
at once to take advantage of his enemy's  carelessness. He halted
his troops at Cortona. The road by which he had passed wound along
the shore of  Lake Trasimene, at the foot of a range of steep hills,
which approached closely to the water.

Half way along these hills a stream runs down a valley into the
lake, and in the valley, completely hidden  from the sight of an
enemy approaching, Hannibal placed the Numidian cavalry and the
Gaulish infantry.  Among some woods clothing the lower slope of
the hills facing the lake he placed his light troops, while  the
Spanish and African infantry and the Gaulish cavalry were similarly
hidden on the outer slopes of the  hill in readiness to close in
on the rear of the Romans when they had entered on the road between
the hills  and the lake.

No better position could have been chosen for a surprise.  When
once the Romans had entered the path  between the hills and the
lake there was no escape for them. They were shut up between the
wood clad hills  swarming with the Carthaginian light troops and
the lake, while the heavy infantry and cavalry of Hannibal  were
ready to fall on them front and rear.

When Flaminius arrived at Cortona late at night he heard of the
ravages and executions committed by the  Carthaginians, as they had
passed through early in the morning, and resolved to press forward
at daybreak  in hopes of finding some opportunity for falling upon
and punishing them. When day broke it seemed  favourable to his
design, for a thick mist was rising from the lake and marshes.
This, he thought, would  conceal his advance from the Carthaginians,
while, as the high ground ahead rose above the mist, he would
be enabled to see their position. He pushed forward then rapidly,
thinking that he should be able to overtake  the rear of the
Carthaginian army as it moved slowly along encumbered with its
plunder.

As he neared the entrance to the pass he caught sight of the heavy
armed Carthaginians on the distant hill  above the level of the
mist, and believing that his own movements were hidden from the
enemy, pushed  forward as fast as the infantry could march. But the
moment the rear of his column had entered the narrow  flat between
the foot of the hills and the lake, the Numidians quietly moved
down and closed the pass  behind them, while Hannibal with his
heavy infantry descended from the farther hill to confront him.
When  all was ready he gave the signal, and at once in front, on
their right flank, and on their rear the  Carthaginians fell upon
them.

The light troops heralded their attack by rolling a vast quantity
of rocks down the hill on the long column,  and then, pressing
down through the woods, poured their arrows and javelins into the
struggling mass.

Taken wholly by surprise, unable to advance or retreat, desperate
at finding themselves thus caught in a  trap, the Romans fought
bravely but in vain. An earthquake shook the ground on which the
terrible fight  was going on; but not for a moment did it interrupt
the struggle. For three hours the Romans, although  suffering
terribly, still fought on; then Flaminius was killed, and from that
time they thought only of  escape. But this was next to impossible.
Six thousand only cut their way out. Fifteen thousand fell, and
nine  thousand were taken prisoners.

As soon as the battle was over Hannibal despatched Maharbal with
his division of the army in pursuit of the  six thousand who had
escaped, and, overtaking them next morning at Perugia, Maharbal
forced them to  surrender. At the same time he detached a strong
force against the four thousand horsemen, whom Servilius  had
despatched from Rimini to aid his colleague, and the whole of
these were surrounded and taken  prisoners. Thus of the Roman army,
thirty-six thousand strong, not a single man escaped.

In all history there is no record of so great and successful a
surprise. Hannibal retained as prisoners the  Roman citizens and
Latins, but released the rest of the captives, telling them that,
far from being their  enemy, he had invaded Italy for the purpose
of liberating its helpless people from the tyranny of the Roman
domination. The loss to the Carthaginians in the battle of Lake
Trasimene was only fifteen hundred men.

Hannibal has been blamed for not advancing against Rome after the
battle of Lake Trasimene; but he knew  that he could not hope to
subdue that city so long as she was surrounded by faithful allies.
His army was  numerically insufficient to undertake such a siege,
and was destitute of the machines for battering the walls.   Rome
was still defended by the city legions, besides which every man
capable of bearing arms was a  soldier. The bitter hostility of the
Latins would have rendered it difficult in the extreme for the army
to  have obtained provisions while carrying on the siege, while in
its rear, waiting for an opportunity to attack,  would have lain
the army of Servilius, thirty thousand strong, and growing daily
more numerous as the  friends and allies of Rome flocked to its
banners.

Hannibal saw that to undertake such an enterprise at present would
be ruin. His course was clear. He had to  beat the armies which Rome
could put into the field; to shake the confidence of the Italian
tribes in the  power of Rome; to subsist his army upon their
territories, and so gradually to detach them from their  alliance
with Rome. He hoped that, by the time this work was finished,
Carthage would send another great  army to his assistance provided
with siege materials, and he would then be able to undertake with
confidence the great task of striking a vital blow at Rome herself.

"Malchus," Hannibal said one day, "I wish you to ride north.  The
tribes at the foot of the hills promised to  aid us, but have so
far done nothing. If they would pour down to the plains now they
would occupy the  tribes friendly to the Romans, and would prevent
them from sending men and stores to them. They sent me  a message
a month ago, saying that they were still willing to help us, and
I then replied that I had been long  waiting to hear that they had
risen, and urged them to do so without loss of time. I have not
heard since, and  fear that the Roman agents have, by promises of
money and privileges, prevailed upon them to keep quiet.  It is a
service of danger; for if they have been bought over they may seize
you and send you in token of  their goodwill as a prisoner to Rome;
but I know that will not deter you."

"I am ready to go," Malchus said, "and will start today.  What force
shall I take with me, and which of the  chiefs shall I first see?"

"You had best go first to Ostragarth. He is the most powerful of
the chiefs on this side of the Apennines.  You can select from the
treasury such presents as you may choose for him and the others.
You can promise  them large grants of the land of the tribes aiding
the Romans, together with a share in the plunder of the  cities. I
leave you quite free. In those respects you will be guided by what
you see they want; but any  promises you may make I will ratify.
As to men I should not take a large escort.  Force will, of course,
be  of no avail, and the appearance of a large number of troops
might alarm them at once. Twenty men will be  sufficient for dignity,
and as a protection against any small bodies of the hostile tribesmen
you may meet on  your way; but have no frays if you can avoid it.
The mission is an important one, and its success should not  be
risked merely to defeat a body of tribesmen. Go in your handsomest
armour, and make as brave a show  as you can, as my ambassador and
kinsman. Take twenty of the Carthaginian horse; they will impose
more  upon the barbarians than would the Libyans or Numidians. Take
your friend Trebon as their commander  and a companion for yourself."

In two hours Malchus and his escort were ready to start.  As their
journey would be rapid they carried no  stores with them, save
three days' provisions, which each man carried at his saddlebow,
and a bag  containing a few feeds of corn for the horse.  They took
with them, however, two baggage horses laden  with arms, armour,
garments, and other presents for the chiefs.

They passed rapidly across the country, meeting with no hostile
parties, for the raids of Hannibal's light  armed horse had
so terrified the people that the villages were for the most part
deserted, the inhabitants  having sought refuge in the fortified
towns. After two days' brisk riding they arrived at the foot of the
hills,  and their progress was now slower. The village of Ostragarth
lay far up among them, and, being ignorant of  the direction,
Malchus broke the troop up into parties of four, and sent them up
different valleys with orders  to capture the first native they
came across, and oblige him either by threats or promises to act
as a guide to  the stronghold of the chief.

"I sincerely trust that this barbarian is friendly, Malchus, for the
country looks wild and difficult in the  extreme, and the forests
which clothe these hills are thick and tangled. On the plain we
can laugh at the  natives, however numerous, and with twenty men
I would charge a thousand of them; but among these hills  it is
different, one cannot find a level spot for a charge, and, if it
comes to running, the mountaineers are as  fleet as a horse on the
broken ground of their hills."

"I agree with you, Trebon, that it would go hard with us, and that
the utmost we could hope for would be a  visit to Rome as captives.
Still, these chiefs all offered alliance to Hannibal as he went
south, and the  success which has attended us should surely bind
them to our interests. They are ever willing to join the  winning
side, and so far fortune has been wholly with us."

"That is so, Malchus, but then they see that the tribes of the
plains still hold aloof from us and pin their faith  on Rome. They
must know that we are receiving no reinforcements to fill the gaps
made in battle, and may  well fear to provoke the anger of Rome
by taking part with us before our success is, as they consider,
absolutely secure."

"On the same grounds then, Trebon, they will be equally unwilling
to offend us by any hostility until the  scale is decidedly weighed
down against us. Hannibal's anger might be as terrible as that of
the Romans."

"There is something in that, Malchus, but not so much as you think.
If Rome wins, Rome will have ample  time and ample power, with the
aid of all her native allies, to punish any who may have declared
against  her. On the other hand, should Carthage triumph, they may
consider it probable that we should sack and  burn Rome and then
retire, or that if we remain there will be so much to arrange,
so many tribes in the  plains to subjugate and pacify, that we
shall be little likely to undertake expeditions in the mountains.
Therefore, you see, prudent men would decide for Rome. Could we
have marched straight on after the  victory at Lake Trasimene and
have captured Rome, all these mountain tribes would have taken the
opportunity to pour down into the plains to plunder and slay under
the pretence of being our allies."

It was not until nightfall that the five parties returned to the spot
where they had left their leaders. Three of  them had been entirely
unsuccessful, but the other two had each brought in a native. These
men looked  sullen and obstinate, and it was not until Malchus had
ordered a halter to be placed round their necks and  threatened
them with instant death that they consented to act as guides.

A vigilant watch was kept over them all night, and at daybreak next
morning the party started. For some  miles they rode along at the
foot of the mountains, and then entered a valley up which a little
used track  ran. The men upon being questioned intimated that it
was several hours' journey to the village of the chief  of whom
they were in search.

This, indeed, proved to be the case, for it was not till the
afternoon, after many hours' weary journey up  gorges and through
mountain valleys, that they arrived within sight of the village
of Ostragarth. It was  situated on one side of the valley, and
consisted of huts surrounded by a rough stone wall of such height
that only the tops of the circular roofs were visible above it. A
loud shrill cry was heard as they came in  sight, a cow horn was
blown in the village, and instantly men could be seen running in.
Others, engaged in  tending flocks of goats high up on the mountain
side, left their charges and began to hurry down.



CHAPTER XV: A MOUNTAIN TRIBE


"It is a petty place for a chief of any power," Trebon said.

"Yes," Malchus agreed, "but I fancy these hill tribes are broken
up into a very large number of small  villages in isolated valleys,
only uniting when the order of the chief calls upon them to defend
the  mountains against an invader, or to make a simultaneous raid
upon the plains."

As they neared the village several persons were seen to issue
out from the gate, and among these was a  small and elderly man,
evidently the chief of the party. His white hair descended to
his waist; a boy  standing behind him carried his bow and several
javelins. The rest of the men appeared to be unarmed.

"He is a crafty looking old fellow," Malchus said as he alighted
and advanced towards the chief, "but I  suppose he has made up his
mind to receive us as friends, at any rate for the present.

"I come, chief, as an ambassador from the Carthaginian general.
When we passed south he received  messengers from you, saying that
you were ready to enter into an alliance with him. To this he agreed,
and  sent presents. Since then you have done nothing, although he
has sent to you urging you to aid him by  making an attack on the
tribes allied to Rome. In every battle which he has fought with
the Romans he has  defeated them with great slaughter; but, owing
to the aid which they have received from the tribes in  alliance
with them, they are enabled continually to put fresh armies in
the field. Therefore it is that he has  sent me to you and to the
other chiefs of the tribes inhabiting the mountains, to urge you
to descend with  your forces into the plains, and so oblige the
tribes there to turn their attention to their own defence rather
than to the sending of assistance to Rome. He has sent by my hands
many valuable presents, and has  authorized me to promise you, in
his name, such lands as you may wish to obtain beyond the foot of
the  hills. He promises you, also, a share in the booty taken at
the sack of the Italian cities."

"Will you please to enter," the chief said, speaking a patois of
Latin which Malchus found it difficult to  understand. "We will
then discuss the matters concerning which you speak."

So saying he led the way through the gates to a hut somewhat larger
than the rest.

"Do you enter with me, Trebon, but let your men remain in their
saddle, and hold our horses in readiness  for us to mount speedily
if there be need. I doubt the friendliness of this old fellow and
his people."

Upon entering the hut Malchus observed at once that the walls were
covered with hangings which were  new and fresh, and he detected
some costly armour half hidden in a corner.

"The Romans have been here before us," he muttered to his companion;
"the question is, how high have  they bid for his support."

The chief took his seat on a roughly carved chair, and seats were
brought in for his visitors. He began by  asking an account of the
state of affairs in the plains. Malchus answered him truthfully,
except that he  exaggerated a little the effects that the Carthaginian
victories had produced among the natives. The chief  asked many
questions, and was evidently by some means well informed on the
subject. He then expressed a  desire to see the presents which they
had brought him. Trebon went out and returned with two soldiers
bearing them.

"I don't like the look of things," he said in a low voice.  "The
number of men in the village has trebled since  we arrived, and
they still keep coming in. None of them show arms at present, but
no doubt they are hidden  close at hand. I believe the chief is
only keeping us in conversation till he considers that a sufficient
force  has arrived to make sure of us."

"We can't break it off now," Malchus said, "and must take our
chance. It would not do to ensure a failure by  showing suspicion."

The chief examined the presents with great care and announced his
satisfaction at them. Then he entered  upon the question of the
land which he was to receive, inquired whether the towns were to
be captured by  the Carthaginians and handed over to him, or were
to be captured by his forces.  When these points had  been arranged,
as it seemed, satisfactorily, he entered upon questions in dispute
between himself and other  chiefs of the mountain tribes. Malchus
said he had no instructions as to these points, which were new to
him, but that in all questions between the chief and tribes hostile
to Carthage, full satisfaction would be  given him. As to those
between himself and other chiefs, who might also join against the
Romans, if they  elected to submit them to Hannibal for decision
he would arbitrate between them.

At this moment a horn was blown outside. A din of voices instantly
arose, which was followed immediately  afterwards by the clashing
of weapons. Malchus and his companion leaped to their feet and
rushed from the  hut. They found that their men were attacked by a
crowd of mountaineers. In an instant they leaped on their  horses,
and drawing their swords joined in the fray. The number of their
foes was large, a great many men  having come in since Trebon had
last issued out. The attack was a determined one. Those next to the
horsemen hewed at them with axes, those further back hurled darts
and javelins, while others crept in  among the horses and stabbed
them from beneath with their long knives.

"We must get out of this or we are lost," Trebon exclaimed, and,
encouraging the men with his shouts, he  strove to hew a way through
the crowd to the gate, while Malchus faced some of the men round
and  covered the rear. Several of the Carthaginians were already
dismounted, owing to their horses being slain,  and some of them
were despatched before they could gain their feet.  Malchus shouted
to the others to leap  up behind their comrades.

By dint of desperate efforts Trebon and the soldiers with him
cleared the way to the gate, but those behind  were so hampered by
the enemy that they were unable to follow. The natives clung to
their legs and strove  to pull them off their horses, while a storm
of blows was hurled upon them. Trebon, seeing the danger of  those
behind, had turned, and in vain tried to cut his way back to them;
but the number of the natives was  too great. Malchus seeing this
shouted at the top of his voice:

"Fly, Trebon, you cannot help us, save those you can." Seeing that
he could render his friend no assistance,  Trebon turned round and
galloped off with nine of the soldiers who had made their way with
him to the  gate. Five had already fallen, and Malchus shouted to
the other six to throw down their arms and yield  themselves as
prisoners. This they did, but two of them were killed before the
villagers perceived they had  surrendered.

Malchus and the others were dragged from their horses, bound hand
and foot, and thrown into one of the  huts. The natives shouted in
triumph, and yells of delight arose as the packages borne by the
baggage  animals were examined, and the variety of rich presents,
intended for the various chiefs, divided among  them.

Most of the captives were more or less severely wounded, and some
of the natives presently came into the  hut and examined and bound
up the wounds.

"Keep up your spirits," Malchus said cheerfully, "it is evident
they don't intend to kill us. No doubt they are  going to send us
prisoners to the Romans, and in that case we shall be exchanged
sooner or later. At any  rate the Romans would not dare ill treat
us, for Hannibal holds more than a hundred prisoners in his hands
to every one they have taken."

Three days passed, food was brought to the captives regularly, and
their bonds were sufficiently relaxed for  them to feed themselves.
At the end of that time they were ordered to rise and leave the hut.
Outside the  chief with some forty of his followers were waiting
them. All were armed, and the prisoners being placed  in their
midst, the party started.

They proceeded by the same road by which Malchus had ridden to the
village, and some miles were passed  without incident, when, as
they were passing through a narrow valley, a great number of rocks
came  bounding down the hillside, and at different points along
it several Carthaginians appeared. In these  Malchus recognized at
once the soldiers of his escort.  One of these shouted out:

"Surrender, or you are all dead men. A strong force surrounds you
on both sides, and my officers, whom  you see, will give orders to
their men, who will loose such an avalanche of rocks that you will
all be swept  away."

"It is only the men who escaped us," the chief cried; "push forward
at once."

But the instant the movement began the Carthaginians all shouted
orders, and a great number of rocks came  bounding down, proving that
they were obeyed by an invisible army.  Several of the mountaineers
were  crushed by the stones, and the old chief, struck by a great
rock in the chest, fell dead. A Carthaginian  standing next to
Malchus was also slain.

The tribesmen gave a cry of terror. Hand to hand they were ready to
fight valiantly, but this destruction by  an unseen foe terrified
them. The Carthaginian leader raised his hand, and the descent of
the stones ceased.

"Now," he said, "you see the truth of my words. Hesitate any
longer and all will be lost; but if you throw  down your arms, and,
leaving your captives behind, retire by the way you came, you are
free to do so.  Hannibal has no desire for the blood of the Italian
people. He has come to free them from the yoke of  Rome, and your
treacherous chief, who, after our making an alliance with him, sold
you to the Romans, has  been slain, therefore I have no further
ill will against you."

The tribesmen, dismayed by the loss of their chief, and uncertain
as to the strength of the foes who  surrounded them, at once threw
down their arms, and, glad to escape with their lives, fled at all
speed up  the pass towards their village, leaving their captives
behind them.

The Carthaginians then descended, Trebon among them.

"I did not show myself, Malchus," the latter said as he joined his
friend, "for the chief knew me by sight,  and I wished him to be
uncertain whether we were not a fresh party who had arrived."

"But who are your army?" Malchus asked; "you have astonished me as
much as the barbarians."

"There they are," Trebon said, laughing, as some fifty or sixty
women and a dozen old men and boys began  to make their way down
the hill. "Fortunately the tribesmen were too much occupied with
their plunder and  you to pursue us, and I got down safely with my
men. I was, of course, determined to try to rescue you  somehow,
but did not see how it was to be done.  Then a happy thought struck
me, and the next morning  we rode down to the plain till we came
to a walled village. I at once summoned it to surrender, using
threats  of bringing up a strong body to destroy the place if they
refused. They opened the gates sooner than I had  expected, and I
found the village inhabited only by women, old men, and children,
the whole of the fighting  men having been called away to join the
Romans.  They were, as you may imagine, in a terrible fright, and
expected every one of them to be killed. However, I told them that
we would not only spare their lives, but  also their property, if
they would obey my orders.

"They agreed willingly enough, and I ordered all those who were
strong enough to be of any good to take  each sufficient provisions
for a week and to accompany me. Astonished as they were at the
order, there was  nothing for them to do but to obey, and they
accordingly set out. I found by questioning them that the road  we
had travelled was the regular one up to the village, and that you
would be sure to be brought down by it  if the chief intended to
send you to Rome.

"By nightfall we reached this valley. The next morning we set to
work and cut a number of strong levers,  then we went up on the
hillside to where you saw us, and I posted them all behind the
rocks. We spent all  the day loosing stones and placing them in
readiness to roll down, and were then prepared for your coming.
At nightfall I assembled them all, and put a guard over them. We
posted them again at daybreak yesterday,  but watched all day in
vain, and here we should have remained for a month if necessary,
as I should have  sent down some of the boys for more provisions
when those they brought were gone. However, I was right  glad when
I saw you coming today, for it was dull work. I would have killed
the whole of these treacherous  savages if I had not been afraid of
injuring you and the men. As it was I was in terrible fright when
the  stones went rushing down at you. One of our men has been
killed, I see; but there was no help for it."

The whole party then proceeded down the valley. On emerging from
the hills Trebon told his improvised  army that they could return
to their village, as he had no further need of their services,
and, delighted at  having escaped without damage or injury, they
at once proceeded on their way.

"We had best halt here for the night," Trebon said, "and in the
morning I will start off with the mounted  men and get some horses
from one of the villages for the rest of you. No doubt they are
all pretty well  stripped of fighting men."

The next day the horses were obtained, and Malchus, seeing that, now
he had lost all the presents intended  for the chiefs, it would be
useless to pursue his mission further, especially as he had learned
that the Roman  agents had already been at work among the tribes,
returned with his party to Hannibal's camp.

"I am sorry, Malchus," the Carthaginian general said, when he
related his failure to carry out the mission,  "that you have not
succeeded, but it is clear that your failure is due to no want of
tact on your part. The  attack upon you was evidently determined
upon the instant you appeared in sight of the village, for men
must have been sent out at once to summon the tribe. Your friend
Trebon behaved with great intelligence in  the matter of your
rescue, and I shall at once promote him a step in rank."

"I am ready to set out again and try whether I can succeed better
with some of the other chiefs if you like,"  Malchus said.

"No, Malchus, we will leave them alone for the present.  The Romans
have been beforehand with us, and as  this man was one of their
principal chiefs, it is probable that, as he has forsaken his
alliance with us, the  others have done the same. Moreover, the
news of his death, deserved as it was, at the hands of a party of
Carthaginians, will not improve their feelings towards us. Nothing
short of a general movement among the  hill tribes would be of any
great advantage to us, and it is clear that no general movement
can be looked for  now. Besides, now that we see the spirit which
animates these savages, I do not care to risk your loss by  sending
you among them."

The news of the disaster of Lake Trasimene was met by Rome in a
spirit worthy of her. No one so much as  breathed the thought of
negotiations with the enemy, not even a soldier was recalled from
the army of  Spain. Quintus Fabius Maximus was chosen dictator, and
he with two newly raised legions marched to  Ariminum and assumed
the command of the army there, raised by the reinforcements he
brought with him  to fifty thousand men.

Stringent orders were issued to the inhabitants of the districts
through which Hannibal would march on his  way to Rome to destroy
their crops, drive off their cattle, and take refuge in the fortified
towns. Servilius  was appointed to the command of the Roman fleet,
and ordered to oppose the Carthaginians at sea. The  army of Fabius
was now greatly superior to that of Hannibal, but was inferior in
cavalry. He had, moreover,  the advantage of being in a friendly
country, and of being provisioned by the people through whose
country  he moved, while Hannibal was obliged to scatter his army
greatly to obtain provisions.

Fabius moved his army until within six miles of that of Hannibal,
and then took up his position upon the  hills, contenting himself
with watching from a distance the movements of the Carthaginians.
Hannibal  marched unmolested through some of the richest provinces
of Italy till he descended into the plain of  Campania. He obtained
large quantities of rich booty, but the inhabitants in all cases
held aloof from him,  their belief in the star of Rome being still
unshaken in spite of the reverses which had befallen her.

Fabius followed at a safe distance, avoiding every attempt of
Hannibal to bring on a battle.

The Roman soldiers fretted with rage and indignation at seeing
the enemy, so inferior in strength to  themselves, wasting and
plundering the country at their will. Minucius, the master of horse
and second in  command, a fiery officer, sympathized to the full
with the anger of the soldiers, and continually urged upon  Fabius
to march the army to the assault, but Fabius was immovable.
The terrible defeats which Hannibal  had inflicted upon two Roman
armies showed him how vast would be the danger of engaging such an
opponent unless at some great advantage.

Such advantage he thought he saw when Hannibal descended into the
plain of Campania. This plain was  inclosed on the south by the river
Vulturnus, which could be passed only at the bridge at Casilinum,
defended by the Roman garrison at that town, while on its other
sides it was surrounded by an unbroken  barrier of steep and wooded
hills, the passes of which were strongly guarded by the Romans.

After seeing that every road over the hills was strongly held by
his troops, Fabius sat down with his army  on the mountains, whence
he could watch the doings of Hannibal's force on the plains. He
himself was  amply supplied with provisions from the country in
his rear, and he awaited patiently the time when  Hannibal, having
exhausted all the resources of the Campania, would be forced by
starvation to attack the  Romans in their almost impregnable position
in the passes.

Hannibal was perfectly aware of the difficulties of his position.
Had he been free and unencumbered by  baggage he might have led
his army directly across the wooded mountains, avoiding the passes
guarded by  the Romans, but with his enormous trail of baggage
this was impossible unless he abandoned all the rich  plunder which
the army had collected. Of the two outlets from the plain, by the
Appian and Latin roads  which led to Rome, neither could be safely
attempted, for the Roman army would have followed in his rear,
and attacked him while endeavouring to force the passages in the
mountains.

The same objection applied to his crossing the Vulturnus.  The only
bridge was strongly held by the  Romans, and the river was far too
deep and rapid for a passage to be attempted elsewhere with the
great  Roman army close at hand. The mountain range between the
Vulturnus and Cades was difficult in the  extreme, as the passes
were few and very strongly guarded, but it was here that Hannibal
resolved to make  the attempt to lead his army from the difficult
position in which it was placed. He waited quietly in the  plain
until the supplies of food were beginning to run low, and then
prepared for his enterprise.

An immense number of cattle were among the plunder.  Two thousand
of the stoutest of these were  selected, torches were fastened to
their horns, and shortly before midnight the light troops drove
the oxen to  the hills, avoiding the position of the passes guarded
by the enemy. The torches were then lighted, and the  light troops
drove the oxen straight up the hill. The animals, maddened by fear,
rushed tumultuously  forward, scattering in all directions on the
hillside, but, continually urged by the troops behind them,  mounting
towards the summits of the hills.

The Roman defenders of the passes, seeing this great number of
lights moving upwards, supposed that  Hannibal had abandoned all
his baggage, and was leading his army straight across the hills.
This idea was  confirmed by the light troops, on gaining the crest
of the hills, commencing an attack upon the Romans  posted below
them in the pass through which Hannibal intended to move. The
Roman troops thereupon  quitted the pass, and scaled the heights
to interrupt or harass the retreating foe.

As soon as Hannibal saw the lights moving on the top of the hills
he commenced his march. The African  infantry led the way; they
were followed by the cavalry; then came the baggage and booty, and
the rear was  covered by the Spaniards and Gauls.  The defile was
found deserted by its defenders, and the army marched  through
unopposed. Meanwhile Fabius with his main army had remained inactive.
The Roman general had  seen with astonishment the numerous lights
making their way up the mountain side, but he feared that this  was
some device on the part of Hannibal to entrap him into an ambush,
as he had entrapped Flaminius on  Lake Trasimene. He therefore held
his army in readiness for whatever might occur until morning broke.

Then he saw that he had been outwitted. The rear of the Carthaginian
army was just entering the defile, and  in a short time Fabius saw
the Gauls and Spaniards scaling the heights to the assistance of
their comrades,  who were maintaining an unequal fight with the
Romans. The latter were soon driven with slaughter into  the plain,
and the Carthaginian troops descended into the defile and followed
their retreating army.  Hannibal now came down into the fertile
country of Apulia, and determined to winter there. He took by  storm
the town of Geronium, where he stored his supplies and placed his
sick in shelter, while his army  occupied an intrenched camp which
he formed outside the town.



CHAPTER XVI: IN THE DUNGEONS OF CARTHAGE


Fabius, after the escape of Hannibal from the trap in which he
believed he had caught him, followed him  into Apulia, and encamped
on high ground in his neighbourhood intending to continue the same
waiting  tactics. He was, however, soon afterwards recalled to Rome
to consult with the senate on matters connected  with the army. He
left Minucius in command, with strict orders that he should on no
account suffer himself  to be enticed into a battle. Minucius moved
forward to within five miles of Geronium, and then encamped  upon
a spur of the hills.

Hannibal, aware that Fabius had left, hoped to be able to tempt
the impatient Minucius to an action. He  accordingly drew nearer to
the Romans and encamped upon a hill three miles from their position.

Another hill lay about halfway between the two armies.  Hannibal
occupied this during the night with two  thousand of his light
troops, but next day Minucius attacked the position, drove off its
defenders, and  encamped there with his whole army. For some days
Hannibal kept his force united in his intrenchments,  feeling sure
that Minucius would attack him. The latter, however, strictly obeyed
the orders of Fabius and  remained inactive.

It was all important to the Carthaginians to collect an ample
supply of food before winter set in, and  Hannibal, finding that
the Romans would not attack him, was compelled to resume foraging
expeditions.  Two-thirds of the army were despatched in various
directions in strong bodies, while the rest remained to  guard the
intrenchment.

This was the opportunity for which Minucius had been waiting. He
at once despatched the whole of his  cavalry to attack the foraging
parties, and with his infantry he advanced to the attack of the
weakly  defended Carthaginian camp. For a time Hannibal had the
greatest difficulty in resisting the assault of the  Romans; but
at last a body of four thousand of the foragers, who had beaten
off the Roman cavalry and  made their way into Geronium, came out
to his support, and the Romans retired.

Hannibal, seeing the energy which Minucius had displayed, fell back
to his old camp near Geronium, and  Minucius at once occupied the
position which he had vacated. The partial success of Minucius
enabled the  party in Rome who had long been discontented with the
waiting tactics of Fabius to make a fresh attack  upon his policy,
and Minucius was now raised to an equal rank with Fabius.

Minucius, elated with his elevation, proposed to Fabius either
that they should command the whole army  on alternate days, or
each should permanently command one-half. Fabius chose the latter
alternative, for he  felt certain that the impetuosity of his
colleague would sooner or later get him into trouble with such an
adversary as Hannibal, and that it was better to risk the destruction
of half the army than of the whole.

Minucius withdrew the troops allotted to him, and encamped in the
plains at a distance of a mile and a half  from Fabius.  Hannibal
resolved at once to take advantage of the change, and to tempt the
Romans to attack  him by occupying a hill which lay about halfway
between the camp of Minucius and Geronium.

The plain which surrounded the hill was level and destitute of
wood, but Hannibal on a careful examination  found that there were
several hollows in which troops could be concealed, and in these
during the night he  posted five thousand infantry and five hundred
cavalry. The position occupied by them was such that they  would
be able to take the Romans in flank and rear should they advance
against the hill. Having made these  dispositions he sent forward
a body of light troops in the morning to occupy the hill. Minucius
immediately  despatched his light troops, supported by cavalry,
to drive them from it. Hannibal reinforced his  Carthaginians by
small bodies of troops, and the fight was obstinately maintained
until Minucius, whose  blood was now up, marched towards the hill
with his legions in order of battle.

Hannibal on his side advanced with the remains of his troops, and
the battle became fierce and general,  until Hannibal gave the signal
to his troops in ambush, who rushed out and charged the Romans in
rear and  flank. Their destruction would have been as complete and
terrible as that which had befallen the army of  Sempronius at the
Trebia, had not Fabius moved forward with his troops to save the
broken legions of  Minucius.

Fabius now offered battle, but Hannibal, well content with the
heavy blow which he had struck, and the  great loss which he had
inflicted upon the command of Minucius, fell back to his camp.
Minucius  acknowledged that Fabius had saved his army from total
destruction, and at once resigned his command  into his hands, and
reverted to his former position under him. Both armies then went
into winter quarters.

Malchus had not been present at the fighting near Geronium.  Two
days after Hannibal broke through the  Roman positions round the
plains of Campania he intrusted Malchus with an important commission.
Commanding the bodyguard of the general, and being closely related to
him, Malchus was greatly in  Hannibal's confidence, and was indeed
on the same footing with Mago, Hannibal's brother, and two or  three
other of his most trusted generals. Gathered in the general's tent
on the previous evening, these had  agreed with their leader that
final success could not be looked for in their enterprise unless
reinforcements  were received from Carthage.

It was now a year since they had emerged from the Alps on to the
plains of Northern Italy. They had  annihilated two Roman armies,
had marched almost unopposed through some of the richest provinces
of  Italy, and yet they were no nearer the great object of their
enterprise than they were when they crossed the  Alps.

Some of the Cisalpine Gauls had joined them, but even in the plains
north of the Apennines the majority of  the tribes had remained
firm to their alliance with the Romans, while south of that range
of mountains the  inhabitants had in every case shown themselves
bitterly hostile. Everywhere on the approach of the  Carthaginians
they had retired to their walled towns, which Hannibal had neither
the time nor the necessary  machines to besiege.

Although Rome had lost two armies she had already equipped and
placed in the field a third force superior  in number to that of
the Carthaginians; her army in Spain had not been drawn upon; her
legion north of the  Apennines was operating against the revolted
tribes; other legions were in course of being raised and  equipped,
and Rome would take the field in the spring with an army greatly
superior in strength to that of  Carthage. Victorious as Hannibal
had been in battle, the army which had struggled through the Alps
had in  the year which had elapsed, greatly diminished in numbers.
Trebia and Trasimene had both lessened their  strength, but their
losses had been much heavier in the terrible march across the
Apennines in the spring,  and by fevers subsequently contracted
from the pestiferous malaria of the marshes in the summer.  In
point  of numbers the gaps had been filled up by the contingents
furnished by their Gaulish allies. But the loss of  all the elephants,
of a great number of the cavalry, and of the Carthaginian troops,
who formed the  backbone of the army, was not to be replaced.

"Malchus," Hannibal said, "you know what we were speaking
of yesterday evening. It is absolutely  necessary that we should
receive reinforcements. If Carthage aids me I regard victory as
certain. Two or  three campaigns like the last would alike break
down the strength of Rome, and will detach her allies from  her.

"The Latins and the other Italian tribes, when they find that Rome
is powerless to protect them, that their  flocks and herds, their
crops and possessions are at our mercy, will at length become weary
of supporting  her cause, and will cast in their lot with us; but
if the strife is to be continued, Carthage must make an effort  --
must rouse herself from the lethargy in which she appears to be
sunk. It is impossible for me to leave the  army, nor can I well
spare Mago. The cavalry are devoted to him, and losing him would
be like losing my  right hand; yet it is clear that someone must go
to Carthage who can speak in my name, and can represent  the true
situation here.

"Will you undertake the mission? It is one of great danger.  In
the first place you will have to make your  way by sea to Greece,
and thence take ship for Carthage. When you arrive there you will
be bitterly  opposed by Hanno and his faction, who are now all
powerful, and it may be that your mission may cost you  your life;
for not only do these men hate me and all connected with me, but,
like most demagogues, they  place their own selfish aims and ends,
the advantage of their own faction, and the furtherance of their
own  schemes far above the general welfare of the state, the loss
of all the colonies of Carthage, and the  destruction of her imperial
power. The loss of national prestige and honour are to these men
as nothing in  comparison with the question whether they can retain
their places and emoluments as rulers of Carthage.

"Rome is divided as we are, her patricians and plebeians are ever
bitterly opposed to each other; but at  present patriotism rises
above party, and both sink their disputes when the national cause
is at stake. The  time will doubtless come -- that is, unless we
cut her course short -- that as Rome increases in wealth and in
luxury she will suffer from the like evils that are destroying
Carthage. Party exigencies will rise above  patriotic considerations,
and Rome will fall to pieces unless she finds some man strong and
vigourous  enough to grasp the whole power of the state, to silence
the chattering of the politicians, and to rule her  with a rod of
iron. But I am wandering from my subject.  Will you undertake this
mission?"

"I will," Malchus replied firmly, "if you think me worthy of it.
I have no eloquence as a speaker, and know  nothing of the arts of
the politician."

"There will be plenty of our friends there who will be able to
harangue the multitude," Hannibal replied. "It  is your presence
there as the representative of the army, as my kinsman, and as the
son of the general who  did such good service to the state that
will profit our cause.

"It is your mission to tell Carthage that now is her time or never;
that Rome already totters from the blows I  have struck her, and
that another blow only is requisite to stretch her in the dust. A
mighty effort is needed  to overthrow once for all our great rival.

"Sacrifices will be needed, and great ones, to obtain the object,
but Rome once fallen the future of Carthage  is secure.  What is
needed is that Carthage should obtain and keep the command of the
sea for two years,  that at least twenty-five thousand men should
be sent over in the spring, and as many in the spring  following.
With such reinforcements I will undertake to destroy absolutely
the power of Rome. Tomorrow I  will furnish you with letters to our
friends at home, giving full details as to the course they should
pursue  and particulars of our needs.

"A party of horse shall accompany you to the coast, with a score
of men used to navigation. There you will  seize a ship and sail
for Corinth, whence you will have no difficulty in obtaining passage
to Carthage."

After nightfall the next day Malchus started, taking Nessus with
him as his attendant and companion. The  party travelled all night,
and in the morning the long line of the sea was visible from the
summits of the  hills they were crossing. They waited for some
hours to rest and refresh their horses, and then, continuing  their
journey, came down in the afternoon upon a little port at the mouth
of the river Biferno. So  unexpected was their approach that the
inhabitants had not time to shut their gates, and the troops entered
the town without resistance, the people all flying to their houses.

Malchus at once proclaimed that the Carthaginians came as friends,
and would, if, unmolested, injure no  one; but if any armed attempt
was made against them they would sack and destroy the town. Two or
three  vessels were lying in the port; Malchus took possession of
the largest, and, putting his party of seamen on  board her, ordered
the crew to sail for Corinth. The horsemen were to remain in the
town until the vessel  returned, when, with the party on board her,
they would at once rejoin Hannibal.

The wind was favourable, and the next morning the mountains of
Greece were in sight, and in the afternoon  they entered the port
of Corinth. The anchor was dropped at a short distance from the
shore, the small boat  was lowered, and Malchus, accompanied by
Nessus, was rowed ashore by two of his own men. These then  returned
on board the ship, which at once weighed anchor and set sail on
her return.

Corinth was a large and busy port, and the arrival and departure
of the little vessel from Italy passed  altogether unnoticed, and
without attracting any particular attention Malchus and his companion
made their  way along the wharves.  The trade of Corinth was large
and flourishing, and the scene reminded Malchus  of that with which
he was so familiar in Carthage. Ships of many nationalities were
ranged along the quays.  Galleys from Tyre and Cyprus, from Syria
and Egypt, from Carthage and Italy, were all assembled in this
neutral port.

Corinth was, like Carthage, essentially a trading community; and
while the power and glory of the rival  cities of the Peloponnesus
were rapidly failing Corinth was rising in rank, and was now
the first city of  Greece. Malchus had no difficulty in finding a
Carthaginian trading ship. He was amply supplied with  money, and
soon struck a bargain that the captain should, without waiting to
take in further cargo, at once  sail for Carthage.

The captain was much surprised at the appearance in Corinth of
a young Carthaginian evidently of high  rank, but he was too well
satisfied at the bargain he had made to ask any questions.  An hour
later the  mooring ropes were cast off, and the vessel, spreading her
sails, started on her voyage. The weather was  warm and pleasant,
and Malchus, stretched on a couch spread on the poop, greatly
enjoyed the rest and  quiet, after the long months which had been
spent in almost incessant activity. Upon the following day  Nessus
approached him.

"My lord Malchus," he said, "there are some on board the ship who
know you. I have overheard the men  talking together, and it seems
that one of them recognized you as having been in the habit of
going out with  a fisherman who lived next door to him at Carthage."

"It matters not," Malchus said indifferently; "I have no particular
motive in concealing my name, though it  would have been as well
that I should be able to meet my friends in Carthage and consult
with them before  my arrival there was generally known. However,
before I leave the ship I can distribute some money  among the crew,
and tell them that for certain reasons of state I do not wish them
to mention on shore that I  have been a passenger."

Had Malchus been aware that the ship in which he had taken passage
was one of the great fleet of traders  owned by Hanno, he would
have regarded the discovery of his personality by the sailors in a
more serious  light; as it was, he thought no more of the matter.
No change in the manner of the captain showed that he  was aware
of the name and rank of his passenger, and Malchus, as he watched
the wide expanse of sea,  broken only by a few distant sails, was
too intent upon the mission with which he was charged to give the
matter another moment's thought.

The wind fell light and it was not until the evening of the eighth
day after leaving Corinth that Carthage,  with the citadel of Byrsa
rising above it, could be distinguished. The ship was moving but
slowly through  the water, and the captain said that unless a change
took place they would not make port until late the next  morning.
Malchus retired to his couch feeling sorry that the period of rest
and tranquillity was at an end,  and that he was now about to embark
in a difficult struggle, which, though he felt its importance, was
altogether alien to his taste and disposition.

He had not even the satisfaction that he should see his mother
and sister, for news had come a short time  before he sailed that
their position was so uncomfortable at Carthage that they had left
for Spain, to take up  their abode there with Adherbal and Anna.
His mother was, he heard, completely broken down in health by  grief
for the loss of his father.

He was wakened in the night by the splash of the anchor and the
running out of he cable through the hawse  hole, and supposed that
the breeze must have sprung up a little, and that they had anchored
at the entrance  to the harbour. He soon went off to sleep again,
but was presently aroused by what seemed to him the  sound of a
short struggle followed by another splash; he dreamingly wondered
what it could be and then  went off to sleep again. When he awoke
it was daylight.  Somewhat surprised at the non-appearance of  Nessus,
who usually came into his cabin the first thing in the morning to
call him, he soon attired himself.

On going to the door of his cabin he was surprised to find it fastened
without. He knocked loudly against it  to attract attention, but
almost immediately found himself in darkness.  Going to the porthole
to discover  the cause of this sudden change, he found that a sack
had been stuffed into it, and immediately afterwards  the sound of
hammering told him that a plank was being nailed over this outside
to keep it in its place.

The truth washed across him -- he was a prisoner. Drawing his sword
he flung himself with all his force  against the door, but this
had been so securely fastened without that it did not yield in the
slightest to his  efforts. After several vain efforts he abandoned
the attempt, and sitting down endeavoured to realize the  position.
He soon arrived at something like the truth: the trading interests
of Carthage were wholly at the  disposal of Hanno and his party,
and he doubted not that, having been recognized, the captain had
determined to detain him as a prisoner until he communicated to
Hanno the fact of his arrival, and received  instructions from him
as to whether Malchus was to be allowed to land.

Malchus recalled the sounds he had heard in the night, and uttered
an exclamation of grief and anger as he  concluded that his faithful
follower had been attacked and doubtless killed and thrown overboard.
At  present he was powerless to do anything, and with his sword
grasped in his hand he lay on the couch in  readiness to start up
and fight his way out, as soon as he heard those without undoing
the fastenings of the  door.

The day passed slowly. He could hear voices without and footsteps
on the deck of the poop overhead, but  no one came near him; and
after a time his watchfulness relaxed, as he made up his mind that
his captors,  whatever their intentions might be, would not attempt
to carry them out until after nightfall. At last he  heard a moving
of the heavy articles which had been piled against the door; he
sprang to his feet, the door  opened two or three inches, and a
voice said:

"In the name of the republic I declare you to be my prisoner."

"I warn you I shall resist," Malchus exclaimed. "I am Malchus, the
son of Hamilcar, late a general of the  republic, and I come to
Carthage on a mission from Hannibal. Whatever complaint the state
may have  against me I am ready to answer at the proper time, and
shall not fail to appear when called upon; but at  present I have
Hannibal's mission to discharge, and those who interfere with me
are traitors to the republic,  whomsoever they may be, and I will
defend myself until the last."

"Open the door and seize him," a voice exclaimed.

As the door was opened Malchus sprang forward, but the lights of
several lanterns showed a dozen men  with levelled spears standing
in front of the cabin.

"I surrender," he said, seeing that against such a force as this
resistance would be vain, "but in the name of  Hannibal I protest
against this interference with the messenger whom he has sent to
explain, in his name, to  the senate the situation in Italy."

So saying Malchus laid down his shield and sword, took off his
helmet, and walked quietly from the cabin.  At an order from their
superior four of the men laid down their weapons and seized him.
In a minute he was  bound hand and foot, a gag was forced into his
mouth, a cloak thrown over his head, and he was roughly  thrown
into a large boat alongside the ship.

Short as was the time which he had at liberty, Malchus had thrown
a glance over the bulwarks of each side  of the ship, and perceived
that any resistance would have been useless, for far away lay the
lights of  Carthage; and it was evident that the vessel had made
little progress since he had retired to rest on the  previous
evening. Had she been inside the harbour he had intended to spring
overboard at once and to trust  to escape by swimming.

The person in command of the party which had seized Malchus took
his place at the helm of the boat, and  his twelve agents seated
themselves at the oars and rowed away towards Carthage. The town
was nearly  eight miles away, and they were two hours before they
arrived there. The place where they landed was at  some distance
from the busy part of the port. Two men were waiting for them there
with a stretcher. Upon  this Malchus was laid, four men lifted it
on their shoulders, the others fell in round it as a guard, and
the  party then proceeded through quiet streets towards the citadel.

The hour was late and but few people were about.  Any who paused
for a moment to look at the little  procession, shrank away hastily
on hearing the dreaded words, "In the name of the republic," uttered
by the  leader of the party. The citizens of Carthage were too well
accustomed to midnight arrests to give the  matter further thought,
save a momentary wonder as to who was the last victim of the tyrants
of the city,  and to indulge, perhaps, in a secret malediction upon
them.  Malchus had from the first no doubt as to his  destination,
and when he felt a sudden change in the angle at which the stretcher
was carried, knew that he  was being taken up the steep ascent to
Byrsa.

He heard presently the challenge of a sentry, then there was a
pause as the gates were opened, then he was  carried forward for
awhile, there was another stop, and the litter was lowered to the
ground, his cords were  unfastened, and he was commanded to rise.
It needed but a glance upwards to tell him where he was.   Above
him towered the dark mass of the temple of Moloch, facing him was
a small door known to every  citizen of Carthage as leading to the
dungeons under the temple.

Brave as he was, Malchus could not resist a shudder as he entered
the portal, accompanied by four of his  guards and preceded by a
jailer. No questions were asked by the latter, and doubtless the
coming of the  prisoner had been expected and prepared for. The
way lay down a long flight of steps and through several  passages,
all hewn in the solid rock. They passed many closed doors, until
at last they turned into one  which stood open.  The gag was
then removed from Malchus' mouth, the door was closed behind him,
he  heard the bolts fastened, and then remained alone in perfect
darkness.

Malchus felt round the walls of his cell and found that it was
about six feet square. In one corner was a  bundle of straw, and,
spreading this out, he threw himself upon it and bitterly meditated
over the position  into which he had fallen. His own situation
was desperate enough. He was helpless in the hands of Hanno.  The
friends and partisans of Hannibal were ignorant of his coming, and
he could hope for no help from  them. He had little doubt as to
what his fate would be; he would be put to death in some cruel way,
and  Hannibal, his relatives, and friends would never know what had
become of him from the moment when he  left the Italian vessel in
the port of Corinth.

But hopeless as was his own situation, Malchus thought more of
Hannibal and his brave companions in  arms than of himself. The
manner in which he had been kidnapped by the agents of Hanno, showed
how  determined was that demagogue to prevent the true state of
things which prevailed in Italy from becoming  known to the people
of Carthage. In order to secure their own triumph, he and his party
were willing to  sacrifice Hannibal and his army, and to involve
Carthage in the most terrible disasters.

At last Malchus slept. When he awoke a faint light was streaming
down into his cell. In the centre of the  room was an opening of
about a foot square, above which a sort of chimney extended twenty
feet up  through the solid rock to the surface, where it was covered
with an iron grating. Malchus knew where he  was. Along each side
of the great temple extended a row of these gratings level with the
floor, and every  citizen knew that it was through these apertures
that light and air reached the prisoners in the cells below.
Sometimes groans and cries were heard to rise, but those who were
near would hurry from the spot, for  they knew that the spies of
the law were ever on the watch, and that to be suspected of entering
into  communication with the prisoners would be sufficient to ensure
condemnation and death.

It was the sight of these gratings, and the thought of the dismal
cells below, which had increased the  aversion which Malchus had
felt as a boy to enter the bloodstained temple, little as he had
dreamed that the  day would come when he himself would be lying a
prisoner in one of them. He knew that it was useless for  him to
attempt by shouting to inform his friends in the city of his presence
there. The narrowness of the air  passage and the closeness of the
grating above deadened and confused the voice, unless to a person
standing immediately above the opening, and as the visitors to the
temple carefully avoided the vicinity of  the gratings, it would
be but a waste of breath to attempt to call their attention.

As to escape it was out of the question. The cell was cut in the
solid rock. The door was of enormous  strength, and even could that
have been overcome, there were many others which would have to be
passed  before he could arrive at the entrance to the dungeon.

In a short time a Nubian entered, bearing some bread and a pitcher
of water. Malchus addressed him; but  the negro opened his mouth,
and Malchus saw that his tongue had been cut out, perhaps in
childhood,  perhaps as a punishment for a crime; but more probably
the man was a slave captured in war, who had been  mutilated to
render him a safe and useful instrument of the officers of the law.

Three hours later the door again opened, and two men appeared. They
ordered Malchus to follow them, and  led him through a number of
meandering passages, until at last, opening a door, they ushered
him into a  large chamber. This was lighted by torches. At a table
in the centre of the room were seated seven figures.  In the one
seated in a chair very slightly above the others Malchus at once
recognized Hanno. His  companions were all leading men of his
faction.

"Malchus, son of Hamilcar," Hanno said, "what have you to say why
you thus secretly come to Carthage?"

"I come not secretly," Malchus replied, "I come hither as the
messenger of Hannibal to the senate. I am  charged by him to lay
before them the exact situation in Italy, to tell them how much he
has already  accomplished, and what yet remains to be done, and to
explain to them the need there is that reinforcements  should be
despatched to him to carry out his great designs for the annihilation
of the power of Rome. I  come not in secret. I passed in a ship
from Italy to Corinth, and there at once hired a vessel to convey
me  hither."

"As we are members of the senate," Hanno said, "you can deliver
your message to us."

"I fear that it will go no further," Malchus replied. "The fact
that I have been thus secretly seized and  carried here, shows how
far it is your wish that the people of Carthage should know my
message. Still, as  even in your breasts all patriotism may not
yet be dead, and as my words may move you yet to do  something to
enable Hannibal to save the republic, I will give you the message
he sent me to deliver to the  senate."

A murmur of angry surprise arose from the seven men at the bold
words and the defiant bearing of their  prisoner.

"How dare you thus address your judges?" Hanno exclaimed.

"Judges!" Malchus repeated scornfully, "executioners, you should
say. Think you that I know not that my  death is resolved on? Even
if you would you dare not free a noble of Carthage, a son of a
general who has  lost his life in her service, a cousin of the great
Hannibal, after you have thus treacherously seized and  thrown him
into a dungeon. Cowed as the people of Carthage are by your tyranny,
corrupted as they are by  your gold, this lawless act of oppression
would rouse them to resistance. No, Hanno, it is because I know
that my doom is sealed I thus fearlessly defy you and your creatures."

Malchus then proceeded to deliver the message of Hannibal to the
senate. He showed the exact situation of  affairs in Italy, urged
that if the reinforcements asked for were sent, the success of the
arms of Carthage and  the final defeat and humiliation of Rome were
assured; while, on the other hand, if Hannibal were left  unaided,
his army must in time dwindle away until too feeble to resist the
assaults of the Romans and their  allies. He warned his hearers that
if this catastrophe should come about, Rome, flushed with victory,
smarting under the defeats and humiliation which Hannibal had
inflicted upon them, would in turn become  the aggressor, and would
inflict upon Carthage a blow similar to that with which Rome had
been menaced  by Hannibal.

Hanno and his companions listened in silence. Malchus for a time
forgot his own position and the character  of the men he addressed,
and pleaded with an earnestness and passion such as he would have
used had he  been addressing the whole senate. When he had finished,
Hanno without a word motioned to the jailers,  and these, placing
themselves one on each side of Malchus, led him back to his cell.



CHAPTER XVII: THE ESCAPE


For the next two days Malchus was visited only by the Nubian who
brought his food. The third night, as he  was lying on his straw,
wondering how long Hanno would be before he decided his fate, he
started to his  feet as he heard, apparently close at hand, his
name whispered. It was repeated, and he now perceived that  it came
from above.

"Yes," he said in a low tone, looking upwards, "I am Malchus. Who
speaks to me?"

"It is I, Nessus," the voice replied. "Thanks to the gods, I have
found my lord."

"How did you get here, Nessus? I feared that you were drowned."

"I swam to shore," the Arab said, "and then watched outside the
gate here. I saw several prisoners brought  in, and doubted not that
you were among them. I was at the port when the ship came in, and
found that she  brought no passenger. Then I came up here again,
soon found friends among the Arab regiment in the  garrison; these
obtained me employment in the stables of the elephants. Each night,
when all has been still,  I have crept here, and have whispered
your name down each of the gratings. Tonight you have heard me.
Now that I know where you are, I will set to work to contrive your
escape. Is the passage from your cell  here wide enough to admit
your being drawn up?"

"Yes," Malchus replied; "it would be a close fit, but with a rope
you could get me up through it."

"I will set to work to loosen these bars at once," Nessus said;
"but the difficulty is not to get you out from  here, but to get
you beyond the gates of the citadel. The watch is extremely strict,
and the gates are not  opened until nine o'clock. Before that
your escape would be discovered, and it will be impossible for you
to  pass out undetected. I must find a hiding place where you can
lie concealed until the search is over, and the  vigilance of the
sentries is relaxed; but it will be no easy matter. And now let
us speak no more; it is  dangerous to breathe, much less to speak
here."

Not another word was spoken for hours. Malchus could hear a low
continuous scraping noise as Nessus  with his dagger worked away
upon the stone into which the grating fitted. At last Nessus spoke
again. "I  have nearly finished, my lord, the greater part of the
grating is loose, and in half an hour I can complete the  work.
Daylight will soon be breaking and I must go. Tomorrow night I will
return with a rope. I hope today  to find some place where you may
be concealed."

Malchus with renewed hope threw himself upon the straw, and lay
there until about noon when he was  again summoned to the presence
of his judges. They were the same whom he had seen previously.

"Malchus, son of Hamilcar," Hanno said, "you are now brought before
us to hear the crime with which you  are charged.  We have here
before us the written list of the names of the members of the
conspiracy, headed  by Giscon, which had for its aim the murder of
many of the senate of Carthage and the overthrow of her  constitution.
We have also here the confession of several of the conspirators
confirming this list, and saying  that you were one of the party."

"I do not deny," Malchus said firmly, "that I did once visit the
place in which those you speak of met, and  that my name was then
entered on the roll; but when I went there I was wholly ignorant
of the purposes of  the association, and as soon as I learned their
aims and objects I withdrew from them, and did not again  visit
their place of meeting."

"You could not well do that," Hanno said, "since it is writ down
that you sailed very shortly afterwards for  Spain."

"I own that I did so," Malchus replied, "but I told Giscon on the
very day that I accompanied him to the  meeting that I would go there
no more. Moreover, your commissioners with Hannibal's army have
already  inquired into the circumstances, and they, in consideration
of the fact that I was then little more than  sixteen years old,
that I was led ignorantly into the plot, and at once separated
myself from it, absolved me  from blame."

"The commissioners had no authority to do so," Hanno replied;
"they were ordered to send you to Carthage,  and failed to carry
out their orders only because Hannibal then, as always, set himself
above the authority  of the republic. As you have confessed that
you were a member of this conspiracy, no further trial is  needed,
and this court awards to you the same punishment which was meted
to all the others concerned in  the conspiracy -- you will tomorrow
be put to death by the usual punishment of the press."

Malchus abstained from all reply, for it struck him at once that
were he to defy and anger his judges they  might order him to be
instantly executed. He therefore without a word turned and accompanied
his jailer to  his cell. He waited impatiently for night, and the
hours seemed long indeed before he heard the whisper of  Nessus
above. Directly the Arab received the reply, assuring him that
Malchus was still there, he again set  to work.

In an hour the grating was removed and the rope lowered.  Malchus
fastened it under his arms, knotting it  in front, and then whispered
to Nessus that he was ready. The Arab drew him slowly and steadily
up until  his head was in the entrance of the narrow passage. Malchus
had grasped the rope as high as possible above  his head and hung
by his hands, thereby drawing the shoulders upwards, and reducing
their width as much  as possible.  He then managed to swing himself
so that his body was diagonally across the opening, and  when thus
placed he found to his joy that the passage was large enough for
him to pass through without  much difficulty.

Slowly and steadily Nessus drew him up until his shoulders were
above the level of the ground, when  Malchus, placing his hands
on the pavement, sprang noiselessly out. The grating was replaced,
and without  a word being spoken they glided from the temple. Not
a word was said until they had gone some little  distance.

"You have saved my life again, Nessus," Malchus said, laying his
hand upon his shoulder. "Another twelve  hours and it would have
been too late. I was to have been put to death in the morning."

Nessus gave a fierce exclamation and placed his hand on his knife.

"Had they slain my lord," he said, "I would have avenged you. I
would have dogged your enemies night  and day till, one by one, my
knife should have found its way to their hearts!"

"Have you found a hiding place, Nessus?"

"There is but one place of safety, my lord, that I can think of.  I
have talked it over with two or three  faithful friends, and they
agree that so rigid will be the search that it will be well nigh
impossible for  anyone within the walls of the citadel to escape
detection. The spies of Hanno are everywhere, and men  fear within
these walls even to whisper what they think. At any rate, no more
secure hiding place could be  found than that which we have decided
upon."

"And where is that, Nessus?"

"It is in the reservoirs. With four water skins and some planks
we have prepared a raft. My two friends are  waiting for us at one
of the entrances. They will have fitted the raft together, and all
will be in readiness.  They are not likely to search for you there."

"The idea is excellent, Nessus."

The reservoirs of Carthage were of enormous extent, and some
of these remain to this day and are the  wonder and admiration of
travellers. They were subterranean, and were cut from the solid
rock, the stone  extracted from them being used for the walls of the
buildings of the city. Pillars were left at intervals to  support
the roof, and it was calculated that these underground lakes --
for they were no less -- contained  sufficient water to supply the
wants of the great city for at least six months. These vast storing
places for  water were an absolute necessity in a climate like
that of Northern Africa, where the rain falls but seldom.   Without
them, indeed, Carthage would have been at the mercy of the first
army which laid siege to it.

The greatest pains were devoted to the maintenance of the water
supply. The rainfall from the roofs of the  temples and houses was
conducted to the reservoirs, and these stores were never drawn upon
on ordinary  occasions, the town being supplied with water brought
by aqueducts from long distances among the hills.  Here and
there openings were cut in the rock which formed the roof of the
reservoirs, for the admission of  air, and at a few points steps
from the surface led down to the water. Iron gates guarded the
entrance to  these.

Nessus and his friends had the evening before unfastened one of
these gates. The lock was old and little  used, as the gate was
placed rather to prevent children and others going down to the
water than for any  other purpose, and the Arabs had found little
difficulty in picking the rough lock.

Malchus followed Nessus down the steps until he reached the edge
of the water, some fifty feet below the  surface. Here stood two
Arabs bearing torches. At the foot of the steps floated the raft,
formed, as Nessus  had said, of four inflated sheepskins connected
by a framework of planks. Across these a bullock's hide had  been
stretched, forming a platform. On this were some rugs, a skin of
wine, and a pile of flat cakes and  fruit, together with half a
dozen torches.

"Thanks, my friends!" Malchus said to the Arabs. "Some day I may
be able to prove that I am grateful to  you."

"The friends of Nessus are our friends," one of the Arabs replied
simply; "his lord is our master."

"Here is a paddle, my lord," Nessus said. "I propose that you should
paddle straight away as far as you can  see a torch burning here;
then that you should fasten the raft to a pillar.  Every other
night I will come with  provisions here and show a light. If you
see the light burn steadily it is safe for you to approach, and I
come  only to bring food or news; if you see the torch wave to and
fro, it is a warning that they intend to search  the reservoirs.
I do not think it likely they will do so; still it is best
to be prepared, and in that case you must  paddle far away in the
recesses. They might search for a long time before they find you.
I trust that your  imprisonment here will not be long, but that we
may hit upon some plan of getting you out of the citadel. I  would
gladly go with you to share your solitude, but I must remain outside
to plan some way of escape."

With a short farewell to his faithful follower Malchus took his
place on the raft, having lit a torch and  fastened it upright upon
it. Then he paddled slowly away, keeping between the lines of heavy
columns. His  rate of progress was slow, and for half an hour he
kept the torch in sight. By this time he felt sure that he  must
be approaching the boundary of the reservoir. He therefore moored
his raft against a pillar and waved  his torch backwards and forwards.
The signal was answered by a similar movement of the distant light,
which then disappeared. Malchus now extinguished his own torch,
placed the means of relighting it with  which Nessus had furnished
him close to his hand, and then, wrapping himself in a rug, lay
down to sleep.

When he awoke it was day. The light was streaming down on to the
water from an opening two or three  hundred yards away, while far
in the distance he could see a faint light which marked the place
of the steps  at which he had embarked. In the neighbourhood of
the opening the columns stood up clear and gray  against the dark
background. A little further off their outlines were dim and misty;
and wherever else he  looked an inky darkness met his eye, save
one or two faint bands of misty light, which marked the position
of distant openings.

The stillness which reigned in this vast cavern was almost oppressive.
Sometimes a faint rustling whisper,  the echo of some sound in the
citadel above, passed among the columns; and the plaintive squeak
of a bat  was heard now and then, for numbers of these creatures
were flitting noiselessly in the darkness, their  forms visible
for an instant as they passed and repassed between Malchus and the
light. He wondered  vaguely what they could find to eat here, and
then remembered that he had heard that at nightfall numbers  of
bats could be seen flying up from the openings to the reservoirs to
seek food without, returning to their  hiding places when morning
approached.

Malchus amused himself by thinking over the fury and astonishment
of Hanno and his colleagues on  hearing that their prisoner had
disappeared, and he pictured to himself the hot search which was
no doubt  going on throughout the citadel. He thought it improbable
in the extreme that any search would be made in  the reservoir.
Nessus would refasten the gate after passing through it again, and
the idea that he could be  floating on the subterranean lake could
hardly occur to them.

Then he turned over in his mind the various devices by which it
might be possible to get beyond the walls  of the citadel.  The
anxiety of Hanno and those acting with him to prevent the manner
in which they had  kidnapped and sentenced to death the messenger
and kinsman of Hannibal from becoming known in the  city, would
be so great that extraordinary vigilance would be used to prevent
any from leaving the citadel.  The guards on the walls would be
greatly increased; none would be allowed to pass the gate without
the  most rigourous examination; while every nook and corner of
the citadel, the temples, the barracks,  storehouses, and stables,
would be searched again and again.  Even should a search be made
in the  reservoir, Malchus had little fear of discovery; for even
should a boat come towards the spot where he was  lying, he would
only have to pass the raft round to the opposite side of the great
pillar, some twelve feet  square, against which he was lying.

When the light faded out he again lay down to sleep. As before, he
slept soundly; for, however great the  heat above, the air in the
subterranean chambers was always fresh and cool, and he could well
bear the rugs  which Nessus had provided. The next day passed more
slowly, for he had less to think about. After the  daylight had
again faded he began to look forward expectantly for the signal,
although he knew that many  hours must still elapse before Nessus
would be able to make his way to the place of meeting.

So slowly did the hours pass, indeed, that he began at last to fear
that something must have happened --  perhaps that Nessus had been
in some way recognized, and was now in the dungeons below the temple
of  Moloch. At last, however, to his joy Malchus saw the distant
light; it burned steadily, and he at once set out  to paddle towards
it. He did not light his torch -- it would have taken time, and he
knew that, quietly as he  paddled, the sound would be borne along
the surface of the water to Nessus. At last he arrived at the steps.
Nessus was there alone; beside him was a basket of fresh provisions.

"Well, Nessus, what news?"

"All is well, my lord; but Hanno is moving heaven and earth to find
you. The gates of the citadel were kept  closed all day yesterday;
and although today they have again been opened, the examination of
those who  pass out is so strict that no disguise would avail to
deceive the scrutiny of the searchers. One or other of the  men
who attended you in the prison is always at the gate. The barracks
have been searched from end to  end, the troops occupying them being
all turned out while the agents of the law searched them from top
to  bottom. The same has been done with the stables; and it is well
that we did not attempt to hide you above  ground, for assuredly
if we had done so they would have found you, however cunningly we
had stowed you  away. Of course the name of the prisoner who has
escaped is known to none, but the report that an  important prisoner
had escaped from the state prisons beneath the temple has created
quite an excitement in  the city, for it is said that such an event
never took place before.  At present I can hit on no plan whatever
for getting you free."

"Then I must be content to wait for a while, Nessus. After a time
their vigilance is sure to relax, as they will  think that I must
have got beyond the walls."

"Are there any to whom you would wish me to bear news that you are
here?"

This was a question which Malchus had debated with himself over
and over again. It appeared to him,  however, that Hanno's power
was so great that it would be dangerous for anyone to come forward
and  accuse him. No doubt every one of the leading men of the
Barcine party was strictly watched; and did  Hanno suspect that any
of them were in communication with the escaped prisoner, he would
take instant  steps against them. He thought it better, therefore,
that none should be acquainted with the secret until he  was free.
He therefore replied in the negative to the question of Nessus.

"I must wait till I am free. Any action now might bring down the
vengeance of Hanno upon others. He  would find no difficulty in
inventing some excuse for dealing a blow at them.  You think here
is no  possibility of escape at present?"

"I can think on no plan, my lord. So strict is the search that when
the elephants went down today to the  fountains for water every
howdah was examined to see that no one was hidden within it."

"It will be necessary also, Nessus, if you do hit upon some plan
for getting me out, to arrange a hiding place  in the city."

"That will be easy enough," Nessus replied. "My friends have many
relations in the Arab quarter, and once  free, you might be concealed
there for any time. And now I will wait no longer, for last night
visits were  made in all the barracks and stables by the agents of
the law, to see that every man was asleep in his place.  Therefore
I will return without delay. In two days I will be here again; but
should anything occur which it is  needful to tell you I will be
here tomorrow night."

Malchus watched for the light on the following evening with but
faint hope of seeing it, but at about the  same hour as before he
saw it suddenly appear again. Wondering what had brought Nessus
before his time,  he paddled to the stairs.

"Well, Nessus, what is your news?"

"We have hit upon a plan of escape, my lord. As I told you my friend
and I are in the stable with the  elephants, our duties being to
carry in the forage for the great beasts, and to keep the stables
in order. We  have taken one of the Indian mahouts into our
confidence, and he has promised his aid; the elephant of  which he
is in charge is a docile beast, and his driver has taught him many
tricks. At his signal he will put  up his trunk and scream and rush
here and there as if in the state which is called must, when they
are  dangerous of approach. The mahout, who is a crafty fellow,
taught him to act thus, because when in such a  state of temper
the elephants cannot be worked with the others, but remain in the
stables, and their drivers  have an easy time of it.

"On the promise of a handsome reward the mahout has agreed that
tomorrow morning, before the elephants  are taken out, you shall
be concealed in the bottom of the howdah. He will manage that the
elephant is the  first in the procession. When we get out into the
courtyard he will slyly prick the beast, and give him the  signal
to simulate rage; he will then so direct him that, after charging
several times about the court, he shall  make a rush at the gate.
You may be sure that the guards there will step aside quickly
enough, for a furious  elephant is not a creature to be hindered.

"When he is once down to the foot of the hill the driver will direct
him to some quiet spot. That he will find  easily enough, for at
his approach there will be a general stampede.  When he reaches
some place where no  one is in sight he will halt the elephant and
you will at once drop off him. I shall be near at hand and will
join you. The elephant will continue his course for some little
distance, and the mahout, feigning to have at  last recovered
control over him, will direct him back to the citadel."

"The idea is a capital one," Malchus said, "and if carried out will
surely succeed. You and I have often seen  during our campaigns
elephants in this state, and know how every one flies as they come
along screaming  loudly, with their trunks high, and their great ears
out on each side of their heads. At any rate it is worth  trying,
Nessus, and if by any chance we should fail in getting through the
gate, the mahout would, of  course, take his elephant back to the
stable, and I might slip out there and conceal myself till night,
and then  make my way back here again."

"That's what we have arranged," Nessus said. "And now, my lord,
I will leave you and go back to the  stables, in case they should
search them again tonight. If you will push off and lie a short
distance away  from the steps I will be here again half an hour
before daybreak. I will bring you a garb like my own, and  will
take you direct to the stable where the animal is kept. There will
be no one there save the mahout and  my two friends, so that it
will be easy for us to cover you in the howdah before the elephants
go out. There  is little chance of anyone coming into the stables
before that, for they have been searched so frequently  during the
last two days that Hanno's agents must by this time be convinced
that wherever you are hidden  you are not there.  Indeed, today
the search has greatly relaxed, although the vigilance at the gate
and on the  walls is as great as ever; so I think that they despair
of finding you, and believe that you must either have  made your
escape already, or that if not you will sooner or later issue from
your hiding place and fall into  their hands."

Malchus slept little that night, and rejoiced when he again saw
Nessus descending the steps. A few strokes  of his paddle sent the
raft alongside. Nessus fastened a cord to it to prevent it from
drifting away.

"We may need it again," he said briefly. Malchus placed his own
clothes upon it and threw over his  shoulders the bernous which
Nessus had brought. He then mounted the steps with him, the gate
was closed  and the bolt shot, and they then made their way across
to the stables. It was still perfectly dark, though a  very faint
light, low in the eastern sky, showed that ere long the day would
break.

Five minutes' walking and they arrived at the stables of the
elephants. These, like those of the horses and  the oxen which
drew the cumbrous war machines, were formed in the vast thickness
of the walls, and were  what are known in modern times as casemates.
As Nessus had said, the Indian mahout and the other two  Arabs were
the only human occupants of the casemate. The elephant at once
showed that he perceived the  newcomer to be a stranger by an uneasy
movement, but the mahout quieted him.

While they were waiting for morning, Nessus described, more fully
than he had hitherto had an opportunity  of doing, the attack made
upon him on board the ship.

"I was," he said, "as my lord knows, uneasy when I found that they
had recognized you, and when we were  within a day's sail of Carthage
I resolved to keep a lookout -- therefore, although I wrapped myself
in my  cloak and lay down, I did not go to sleep. After a while I
thought I heard the sound of oars, and, standing  up, went to the
bulwark to listen. Suddenly some of the sailors, who must have been
watching me, sprang  upon me from behind, a cloak was thrown over
my head, a rope was twisted round my arms, and in a  moment I was
lifted and flung overboard.

"I did not cry out, because I had already made up my mind that it
was better not to arouse you from sleep  whatever happened, as, had
you run out, you might have been killed, and I thought it likely
that their object  would be, if you offered no resistance, to take
you a prisoner, in which case I trusted that I might later on  hope
to free you. As my lord knows, I am a good swimmer. I let myself
sink, and when well below the  surface soon got rid of the rope
which bound me, and which was, indeed, but hastily twisted round
my  arms. I came up to the surface as noiselessly as possible, and
after taking a long breath dived and swam  under water as far as
I could. When I came up the ship was so far away that there was
little fear of their  seeing me; however, I dived again and again
until in perfect safety.

"I heard a boat rowed by many oars approach the vessel.  I listened
for a time and found that all was quiet,  and then laid myself out
for the long swim to shore, which I reached without difficulty. All
day I kept my  eye on the vessel, which remained at anchor. As I
could not tell to which landing place you might be  brought I went
up in the evening and took my post on the road leading up here,
and when towards morning  a party entered, carrying one with them
on a stretcher, I had little doubt that it was you.

"I was sure to find friends among the Arabs either belonging to the
regiment stationed in Byrsa or those  employed in the storehouses
or stables; so the next morning I entered the citadel and soon met
these men,  who belonged to my tribe and village.  After that my
way was plain; my only fear was that they might kill  you before I
could discover the place in which you were confined, and my heart
sank the first night when I  found that, though I whispered down
every one of the gratings, I could obtain no reply.

"I had many answers, indeed, but not from you. There might be many
cells besides those with openings  into the temple, and were you
placed in one of these I might never hear of you again. I had resolved
that if  the next night passed without my being able to find you,
I would inform some of those known to be friends  of Hannibal that
you were a prisoner, and leave it in their hands to act as they
liked, while I still continued  my efforts to communicate with you.
You may imagine with what joy I heard your reply on the following
night."

"I must have been asleep the first night," Malchus said, "and did
not hear your voice."

"I feared to speak above a whisper, my lord; there are priests all
night in the sanctuary behind the great  image."

Day had by this time broken, and a stir and bustle commenced in
front of the long line of casemates; the  elephants were brought out
from their stables and stood rocking themselves from side to side
while their  keepers rubbed their hides with pumice stone. Nessus
was one of those who was appointed to make the  great flat cakes
of coarse flour which formed the principal food of the elephants.
The other Arabs busied  themselves in bringing in fresh straw,
which Malchus scattered evenly over the stall; heaps of freshly
cut  forage were placed before each elephant.

In a short time one of the Arabs took the place of Nessus in preparing
the cakes, while Nessus moved away  and presently went down into
the town to await the coming of Malchus. By this arrangement if the
superintendent of the stables came round he would find the proper
number of men at work, and was not  likely to notice the substitution
of Malchus for Nessus, with whose face he could not yet have become
familiar. By this time numbers of the townsmen were as usual coming
up to the citadel to worship in the  temple or to visit friends
dwelling there. Malchus learned that since his escape had been known
each person  on entrance received a slip of brass with a stamp on
it which he had to give up on leaving.

All employed in the citadel received a similar voucher, without
which none could pass the gate. The time  was now come when the
elephants were accustomed to be taken down to the fountains in the
town below,  and the critical moment was at hand.  The mahout had
already begun to prepare his elephant for the part he  was to play.
It had been trumpeting loudly and showing signs of impatience and
anger. The animal was  now made to kneel by the door of its stable,
where Malchus had already lain down at the bottom of the  howdah,
a piece of sacking being thrown over him by the Arabs. The two Arabs
and the mahout carried the  howdah out, placed it on the elephant,
and securely fastened it in its position.

These howdahs were of rough construction, being in fact little more
than large open crates, for the  elephants after being watered went
to the forage yard, where the crates were filled with freshly cut
grass or  young boughs of trees, which they carried up for their
own use to the citadel.

The mahout took his position on its neck, and the elephant then
rose to its feet. The symptoms of bad  temper which it had already
given were now redoubled. It gave vent to a series of short vicious
squeals, it  trumpeted loudly and angrily, and, although the mahout
appeared to be doing his best to pacify it, it became  more and
more demonstrative. The superintendent of the elephants rode up.

"You had better dismount and take that brute back to the stable," he
said; "he is not safe to take out this  morning." As he approached
the elephant threw up his trunk, opened his mouth, and rushed
suddenly at  him. The officer fled hastily, shouting loudly to
the other mahouts to bring their animals in a circle round  the
elephant, but the mahout gave him a sudden prod with his pricker
and the elephant set off with great  strides, his ears out, his
trunk in the air, and with every sign of an access of fury, at the
top of his speed. He  rushed across the great courtyard, the people
flying in all directions with shouts of terror; he made two or
three turns up and down, each time getting somewhat nearer to the
gate.

As he approached it for the third time the mahout guided him towards
it, and, accustomed at this hour to  sally out, the elephant made
a sudden rush in that direction. The officer on guard shouted to
his men to  close the gate, but before they could attempt to carry
out the order the elephant charged through, and at the  top of his
speed went down the road.



CHAPTER XVIII: CANNAE


As the elephant tore down the road to the town many were the narrow
escapes that, as they thought, those  coming up had of being crushed
or thrown into the air by the angry beast. Some threw themselves on
their  faces, others got over the parapet and hung by their hands
until he had passed, while some squeezed  themselves against the
wall; but the elephant passed on without doing harm to any.

On reaching the foot of the descent the mahout guided the animal
to the left, and, avoiding the busy streets  of the town, directed
its course towards the more quiet roads of the opulent quarter of
Megara.  The cries of  the people at the approach of the elephant
preceded its course, and all took refuge in gardens or houses. The
latter became less and less frequent, until, at a distance of two
miles from the foot of the citadel, the  mahout, on looking round,
perceived no one in sight.  He brought the elephant suddenly to a
standstill.

"Quick, my lord," he exclaimed, "now is the time."

Malchus threw off the sack, climbed out of the howdah, and slipped
down by the elephant's tail, the usual  plan for dismounting when
an elephant is on its feet. Then he sprang across the road, leaped
into a garden,  and hid himself among some bushes. The mahout now
turned the elephant, and, as if he had succeeded at  last in subduing
it, slowly retraced his steps towards the citadel.

A minute or two later Malchus issued out and quietly followed it.
He had gone some distance when he saw  an Arab approaching him, and
soon recognized Nessus. They turned off together from the main road
and  made their way by bystreets until they reached the lower city.
At a spot near the port they found one of the  Arabs from above
awaiting them, and he at once led the way to the house inhabited
by his family. The  scheme had been entirely successful. Malchus
had escaped from the citadel without the possibility of a  suspicion
arising that he had issued from its gates, and in his Arab garb he
could now traverse the streets  unsuspected.

Nessus was overjoyed at the success of the stratagem, and Malchus
himself could hardly believe that he  had escaped from the terrible
danger which threatened him. Nessus and the Arab at once returned
to the  citadel. It was agreed that the former had better continue
his work as usual until the evening, and then ask  for his discharge
on the plea that he had received a message requiring his presence
in his native village, for  it was thought that suspicion might
be excited were he to leave suddenly without drawing his pay, and
possibly a search might be instituted in the city to discover his
whereabouts.

At nightfall he returned, and then went to the house of one of the
leaders of the Barcine party with a  message from Malchus to tell
him where he was, and the events which had occurred since his
landing at  Carthage, and asking him to receive him privately in
two hours' time, in order that he might consult him as  to the best
plan to be followed.

Nessus returned saying that Manon was at home and was awaiting
him, and the two at once set out for his  house. Manon, who was a
distant relation of Malchus, received him most warmly, and listened
in  astonishment to his story of what had befallen him. Malchus
then explained the mission with which  Hannibal had charged him,
and asked his advice as to the best course to be adopted. Manon
was silent for a  time.

"Hanno's faction is all powerful at present," he said, "and were
Hannibal himself here I doubt whether his  voice could stir the
senate into taking action such as is needed. The times have been
hard, and Hanno and  his party have lavished money so freely among
the lower classes that there is no hope of stirring the  populace
up to declare against him. I think it would be in the highest degree
dangerous were we, as you  propose, to introduce you suddenly to
the senate as Hannibal's ambassador to them, and leave you to plead
his cause. You would obtain no hearing.  Hanno would rise in his
place and denounce you as one already  condemned by the tribunals
as an enemy to the republic, and would demand your instant execution,
and, as  he has a great majority of votes in the senate, his demand
would be complied with. You would, I am  convinced, throw away your
life for no good purpose, while your presence and your mysterious
escape  from prison would be made the pretense for a fresh series
of persecutions of our partisans. I understand as  well as you do
the urgency for reinforcements being sent to Italy; but in order to
do this the navy, now  rotting in our harbours, must be repaired,
the command of the sea must be regained, and fresh levies of  troops
made.

"To ask Carthage to make these sacrifices in her present mood
is hopeless; we must await an opportunity. l  and my friends will
prepare the way, will set our agents to work among the people, and
when the news of  another victory arrives and the people's hopes
are aroused and excited, we will strike while the iron is hot,
and call upon them to make one great effort to bring the struggle
to a conclusion and to finish with Rome  forever.

"Such is, in my opinion, the only possible mode of proceeding. To
move now would be to ensure a  rejection of our demands, to bring
fresh persecutions upon us, and so to weaken us that we should be
powerless to turn to good account the opportunity which the news
of another great victory would afford.  I  will write at once to
Hannibal and explain all the circumstances of the situation, and
will tell him why I  have counselled you to avoid carrying out his
instructions, seeing that to do so now would be to ensure  your
own destruction and greatly damage our cause.

"In the meantime you must, for a short time, remain in concealment,
while I arrange for a ship to carry you  back to Italy."

"The sooner the better," Malchus said bitterly, "for Carthage with
its hideous tyranny, its foul corruption,  its forgetfulness of
its glory, its honour, and even its safety, is utterly hateful to
me.  I trust that never again  shall I set foot within its walls.
Better a thousand times to die in a battlefield than to live in
this accursed  city."

"It is natural that you should be indignant," Manon said, "for
the young blood runs hotly in your veins, and  your rage at seeing
the fate which is too certainly impending over Carthage, and which
you are powerless  to prevent, is in no way to be blamed. We old
men bow more resignedly to the decrees of the gods. You  know the
saying, `Those whom the gods would destroy they first strike with
madness.' Carthage is such.  She sees unmoved the heroic efforts
which Hannibal and his army are making to save her, and she will
not  stretch out a hand to aid him. She lives contentedly under
the constant tyranny of Hanno's rule, satisfied to  be wealthy,
luxurious, and slothful, to carry on her trade, to keep her riches,
caring nothing for the manly  virtues, indifferent to valour,
preparing herself slowly and surely to fall an easy prey to Rome.

"The end probably will not come in my time, it may come in yours,
but come it certainly and surely will. A  nation which can place a
mere handful of its own citizens in the line of battle voluntarily
dooms herself to  destruction."

"Whether it comes in my time or not," Malchus said, "I will be no
sharer in the fate of Carthage. I have  done with her; and if I
do not fall in the battlefield I will, when the war is over, seek
a refuge among the  Gauls, where, if the life is rough, it is at
least free and independent, where courage and manliness and  honour
count for much, and where the enervating influence of wealth is as
yet unknown. Such is my firm  resolution."

"I say nothing to dissuade you, Malchus," the old man replied,
"such are the natural sentiments of your age;  and methinks, were
my own time to come over again, I too would choose such a life in
preference to an  existence in the polluted atmosphere of ungrateful
Carthage. And now, will you stop here with me, or will  you return
to the place where you are staying? I need not say how gladly
I would have you here, but I  cannot answer certainly for your
safety. Every movement of those belonging to our party is watched
by  Hanno, and I doubt not that he has his spies among my slaves
and servants.

"Therefore deem me not inhospitable if I say that it were better
for you to remain in hiding where you are.  Let your follower come
nightly to me for instructions; let him enter the gate and remain
in the garden near  it. I will come down and see him; his visits,
were they known, would excite suspicion.  Bid him on his  return
watch closely to see that he is not followed, and tell him to go
by devious windings and to mix in the  thickest crowds in order to
throw any one who may be following off his track before he rejoins
you. I trust  to be able to arrange for a ship in the course of
three or four days. Come again and see me before you leave.  Here
is a bag of gold; you will need it to reward those who have assisted
in your escape."

Malchus at once agreed that it would be better for him to return
to his abode among the Arabs, and  thanking Manon for his kindness
he returned with Nessus, who had been waiting without.

As they walked along Malchus briefly related to his follower the
substance of his interview with Manon.  Suddenly Nessus stopped
and listened, and then resumed his walk.

"I think we are followed, my lord," he said, "one of Hanno's spies
in Manon's household is no doubt  seeking to discover who are the
Arabs who have paid his master a visit. I have thought once before
that I  heard a footfall, now l am sure of it. When we get to the
next turning do you walk on and I will turn down  the road. If the
man behind us be honest he will go straight on; if he be a spy,
he will hesitate and stop at  the corner to decide which of us he
shall follow; then I shall know what to do."

Accordingly at the next crossroad they came to Nessus turned down
and concealed himself a few paces  away, while Malchus, without
pausing, walked straight on. A minute later Nessus saw a dark
figure come  stealthily along. He stopped at the junction of the
roads and stood for a few seconds in hesitation, then he  followed
Malchus.

Nessus issued from his hiding place, and, with steps as silent and
stealthy as those of a tiger tracking his  prey, followed the man.
When within a few paces of him he gave a sudden spring and flung
himself upon  him, burying his knife between his shoulders. Without
a sound the man fell forward on his face.  Nessus  coolly wiped his
knife upon the garments of the spy, and then proceeded at a rapid
pace until he overtook  Malchus.

"It was a spy," he said, "but he will carry no more tales to Hanno."

Two days later, Nessus, on his return from his visit to Manon,
brought news that the latter had arranged  with the captain of a
ship owned by a friend to carry them across to Corinth, whence they
would have no  difficulty in taking a passage to Italy. They were
to go on board late the following night, and the ship would  set
sail at daybreak.

The next evening Malchus accompanied by Nessus paid a farewell visit
to Manon, and repeated to him all  the instructions of Hannibal,
and Manon handed him his letter for the general, and again assured
him that  he would, with his friends, at once set to work to pave
the way for an appeal to the populace at the first  favourable
opportunity.

After bidding farewell to the old noble, Malchus returned to the
house of the Arab and prepared for his  departure. He had already
handsomely rewarded the two men and the mahout for the services
they had  rendered him. In the course of the day he had provided
himself with the garments of a trader, the character  which he was
now about to assume.

At midnight, when all was quiet, he and Nessus set out and made
their way down to the port, where, at a  little frequented landing
stage, a boat was awaiting them, and they were at once rowed to
the ship, which  was lying at anchor half a mile from the shore in
readiness for an early start in the morning.

Although it seemed next to impossible that they could have been
traced, Malchus walked the deck  restlessly until the morning,
listening to every sound, and it was not until the anchor was
weighed, the sails  hoisted, and the vessel began to draw away
from Carthage that he went into his cabin. On the sixth day  after
leaving Carthage the ship entered the port of Corinth.

There were several vessels there from Italian ports, but before
proceeding to arrange for a passage Malchus  went to a shop and
bought, for himself and Nessus, such clothing and arms as would
enable them to pass  without difficulty as fighting men belonging
to one of the Latin tribes. Then he made inquiries on the quay,
and, finding that a small Italian craft was to start that afternoon
for Brundusium, he went on board and  accosted the captain.

"We want to cross to Italy," he said, "but we have our reasons for
not wishing to land at Brundusium, and  would fain be put ashore
at some distance from the town. We are ready, of course, to pay
extra for the  trouble."

The request did not seem strange to the captain. Malchus had
spoken in Greek, the language with which all  who traded on the
Mediterranean were familiar. He supposed that they had in some way
embroiled  themselves with the authorities at Brundusium, and had
fled for awhile until the matter blew over, and that  they were now
anxious to return to their homes without passing through the town.
He asked rather a high  price for putting them ashore in a boat as
they wished, and Malchus haggled over the sum for a  considerable
time, as a readiness to pay an exorbitant price might have given
rise to doubts in the captain's  mind as to the quality of his
passengers. Once or twice he made as if he would go ashore, and
the captain at  last abated his demands to a reasonable sum.

When this was settled Malchus went no more ashore, but remained on
board until the vessel sailed, as he  feared that he might again
be recognized by some of the sailors of the Carthaginian vessels in
port. The  weather was fair and the wind light, and on the second
day after sailing the vessel lay to in a bay a few  miles from
Brundusium. The boat was lowered, and Malchus and his companions
set on shore.

They had before embarking laid in a store of provisions not only
for a voyage, but for their journey across  the country, as the
slight knowledge which Malchus had of the Latin tongue would have
betrayed him at  once were he obliged to enter a town or village
to purchase food. Carrying the provisions in bundles they  made
for the mountains, and after three days' journey reached without
interruption or adventure the camp of  Hannibal. He was still lying
in his intrenched camp near Geronium. The Roman army was as before
watching him at a short distance off.

Malchus at once sought the tent of the general, whose surprise at
seeing him enter was great, for he had not  expected that he would
return until the spring. Malchus gave him an account of all that
had taken place  since he left him. Hannibal was indignant in
the extreme at Hanno having ventured to arrest and condemn  his
ambassador. When he learned the result of the interview with Manon,
and heard how completely the  hostile faction were the masters
of Carthage, he agreed that the counsels of the old nobleman were
wise,  and that Malchus could have done no good, whereas he would
have exposed himself to almost certain  death, by endeavouring
further to carry out the mission with which he had been charged.

"Manon knows what is best, and, no doubt, a premature attempt to
excite the populace to force Hanno into  sending the reinforcements
we so much need would have not only failed, but would have injured our
cause.  He and his friends will doubtless work quietly to prepare
the public mind, and I trust that ere very long  some decisive victory
will give them the opportunity for exciting a great demonstration
on our behalf."

The remainder of the winter passed quietly. Malchus resumed his
post as the commander of Hannibal's  bodyguard, but his duties were
very light. The greater part of his time was spent in accompanying
Hannibal  in his visits to the camps of the soldiers, where nothing
was left undone which could add to the comfort and  contentment
of the troops. There is no stronger evidence of the popularity of
Hannibal and of the influence  which he exercised over his troops
than the fact that the army under him, composed, as it was, of men
of so  many nationalities, for the most part originally compelled
against their will to enter the service of Carthage,  maintained
their discipline unshaken, not only by the hardships and sacrifices
of the campaigns, but  through the long periods of enforced idleness
in their winter quarters.

From first to last, through the long war, there was neither
grumbling, nor discontent, nor insubordination  among the troops.
They served willingly and cheerfully. They had absolute confidence
in their general, and  were willing to undertake the most tremendous
labours and to engage in the most arduous conflicts to  please
him, knowing that he, on his part, was unwearied in promoting their
comfort and well being at all  other times.

As the spring advanced the great magazines which Hannibal had
brought with him became nearly  exhausted, and no provisions could
be obtained from the surrounding country, which had been completely
ruined by the long presence of the two armies. It became, therefore,
necessary to move from the position  which he had occupied during
the winter.  The Romans possessed the great advantage over him of
having  magazines in their rear constantly replenished by their
allies, and move where they might, they were sure of  obtaining
subsistence without difficulty. Thus, upon the march, they were
unembarrassed by the necessity  of taking a great baggage train
with them, and, when halted, their general could keep his army
together in  readiness to strike a blow whenever an opportunity
offered; while Hannibal, on the other hand, was forced  to scatter
a considerable portion of the army in search of provisions.

The annual elections at Rome had just taken place, and Terentius
Varro and Emilius Paulus had been  chosen consuls.  Emilius belonged
to the aristocratic party, and had given proof of military ability
three  years before when he had commanded as consul in the Illyrian
war. Varro belonged to the popular party,  and is described by
the historians of the period as a coarse and brutal demagogue, the
son of a butcher, and  having himself been a butcher. But he was
unquestionably an able man, and possessed some great qualities.
The praetor Marcellus, who had slain a Gaulish king with his own
hand in the last Gaulish war, was at  Ostia with a legion. He was
destined to command the fleet and to guard the southern coasts of
Italy, while  another praetor, Lucius Postumius, with one legion,
was in Cisalpine Gaul keeping down the tribes friendly  to Carthage.

But before the new consuls arrived to take the command of the army
Hannibal had moved from Geronium.

The great Roman magazine of Apulia was at Cannae, a town near the
river Aulidus. This important place  was but fifty miles by the
shortest route across the plain from Geronium; but the Romans were
unable to  follow directly across the plain, for at this time the
Carthaginians greatly outnumbered them in cavalry, and  they would,
therefore, have to take the road round the foot of the mountains,
which was nearly seventy  miles long; and yet, by some unaccountable
blunder, they neglected to place a sufficient guard over their  great
magazines at Cannae to defend them for even a few days against a
sudden attack.

Hannibal saw the opportunity, and when spring was passing into summer
broke up his camp and marched  straight to Cannae, where the vast
magazines of the Romans at once fell into his hands. He thus not
only  obtained possession of his enemy's supplies, but interposed
between the Romans and the low lying district  of Southern Apulia,
where alone, at, this early season of the year, the corn was fully
ripe.

The Romans had now no choice but to advance and fight a battle
for the recovery of their magazines, for,  had they retired, the
Apulians, who had already suffered terribly from the war, would,
in sheer despair,  have been forced to declare for Carthage, while
it would have been extremely difficult to continue any  longer the
waiting tactics of Fabius, as they would now have been obliged to
draw their provisions from a  distance, while Hannibal could victual
his army from the country behind him. The senate therefore, having
largely reinforced the army, ordered the consuls to advance and
give battle.

They had under them eight full legions, or eighty thousand infantry
and seven thousand two hundred  cavalry. To oppose these Hannibal
had forty thousand infantry and ten thousand excellent cavalry, of
whom  two thousand were Numidians. On the second day after leaving
the neighbourhood of Geronium the  Romans encamped at a distance
of six miles from the Carthaginians. Here the usual difference of
opinion at  once arose between the Roman consuls, who commanded the
army on alternate days. Varro wished to  march against the enemy
without delay, while Emilius was adverse to risking an engagement
in a country  which, being level and open, was favourable to the
action of Hannibal's superior cavalry.

On the following day Varro, whose turn it was to command, marched
towards the hostile camp. Hannibal  attacked the Roman advanced
guard with his cavalry and light infantry, but Varro had supported
his cavalry  not only by his light troops, but by a strong body of
his heavy armed infantry, and after an engagement,  which lasted
for several hours, he repulsed the Carthaginians with considerable
loss.

That evening the Roman army encamped about three miles from Cannae,
on the right bank of the Aufidus.  The next morning Emilius, who
was in command, detached a third of his force across the river,
and  encamped them there for the purpose of supporting the Roman
foraging parties on that side and of  interrupting those of the
Carthaginians.

The next day passed quietly, but on the following morning Hannibal
quitted his camp and formed his army  in order of battle to tempt
the Romans to attack; but Emilius, sensible that the ground was
against him,  would not move, but contented himself with further
strengthening his camps. Hannibal, seeing that the  Romans would
not fight, detached his Numidian cavalry across the river to cut
off the Roman foraging  parties and to surround and harass their
smaller camp on that side of the river. On the following morning
Hannibal, knowing that Varro would be in command, and feeling sure
that, with his impetuous disposition,  the consul would be burning
to avenge the insult offered by the surrounding of his camp by
the Numidians,  moved his army across the river, and formed it in
order of battle, leaving eight thousand of his men to  guard his
camp.

By thus doing he obtained a position which he could the better
hold with his inferior forces, while the  Romans, deeming that he
intended to attack their camp on that side of the river, would be
likely to move  their whole army across and to give battle. This
in fact Varro proceeded to do. Leaving ten thousand men in  his own
camp with orders to march out and attack that of Hannibal during
the engagement, he led the rest  of his troops over the river, and
having united his force with that in the camp on the right bank,
marched  down the river until he faced the position which Hannibal
had taken up.

This had been skillfully chosen. The river, whose general course
was east and west, made a loop, and  across this Hannibal had drawn
up his army with both wings resting upon the river.  Thus the Romans
could not outflank him, and the effect of their vastly superior
numbers in infantry would to some extent be  neutralized. The
following was the disposition of his troops.

The Spaniards and Gauls occupied the centre of the line of infantry.
The Africans formed the two wings.  On his left flank between the
Africans and the river he placed his heavy African and Gaulish
horse, eight  thousand strong, while the two thousand Numidians were
posted between the infantry and the river on the  right flank.
Hannibal commanded the centre of the army in person, Hanno the
right wing, Hasdrubal the left  wing; Maharbal commanded the cavalry.

Varro placed his infantry in close and heavy order, so as to reduce
their front to that of the Carthaginians.  The Roman cavalry,
numbering two thousand four hundred men, was on his right wing,
and was thus  opposed to Hannibal's heavy cavalry, eight thousand
strong. The cavalry of the Italian allies, four thousand  eight
hundred strong, was on the left wing facing the Numidians.

Emilius commanded the Roman right, Varro the left. The Carthaginians
faced north, so that the wind,  which was blowing strongly from the
south, swept clouds of dust over their heads full into the faces
of the  enemy. The battle was commenced by the light troops on both
sides, who fought for some time obstinately  and courageously, but
without any advantage to either. While this contest was going on,
Hannibal advanced  his centre so as to form a salient angle projecting
in front of his line. The whole of the Gauls and Spaniards  took
part in this movement, while the Africans remained stationary;
at the same time he launched his heavy  cavalry against the Roman
horse.

The latter were instantly overthrown, and were driven from the field
with great slaughter. Emilius himself  was wounded, but managed
to join the infantry. While the Carthaginian heavy horse were thus
defeating  the Roman cavalry, the Numidians maneuvered near the
greatly superior cavalry of the Italian allies, and  kept them
occupied until the heavy horse, after destroying the Roman cavalry,
swept round behind their  infantry and fell upon the rear of the
Italian horse, while the Numidians charged them fiercely in front.

Thus caught in a trap the Italian horse were completely annihilated,
and so, before the heavy infantry of the  two armies met each
other, not a Roman cavalry soldier remained alive and unwounded on
the field.

The Roman infantry now advanced to the charge, and from the nature
of Hannibal's formation their centre  first came in contact with
the head of the salient angle formed by the Gauls and Spaniards.
These resisted  with great obstinacy. The principes, who formed
the second line of the Roman infantry, came forward and  joined
the spearmen, and even the triarii pressed forward and joined in
the fight. Fighting with extreme  obstinacy the Carthaginian centre
was forced gradually back until they were again in a line with the
Africans on their flanks.

The Romans had insensibly pressed in from both flanks upon the
point where they had met with resistance,  and now occupied a face
scarcely more than half that with which they had begun the battle.
Still further the  Gauls and Spaniards were driven back until they
now formed an angle in rear of the original line, and in  this
angle the whole of the Roman infantry in a confused mass pressed
upon them. This was the moment  for which Hannibal had waited. He
wheeled round both his flanks, and the Africans, who had hitherto
not  struck a blow, now fell in perfect order upon the flanks of
the Roman mass, while Hasdrubal with his  victorious cavalry charged
down like a torrent upon their rear. Then followed a slaughter
unequalled in the  records of history. Unable to open out, to fight,
or to fly, with no quarter asked or given, the Romans and  their
Latin allies fell before the swords of their enemies, till, of the
seventy thousand infantry which had  advanced to the fight, forty
thousand had fallen on the field. Three thousand were taken prisoners,
seven  thousand escaped to the small camp, and ten thousand made
their way across the river to the large camp,  where they joined
the force which had been left there, and which had, in obedience
to Varro's orders,  attacked the Carthaginian camp, but had been
repulsed with a loss of two thousand men. All the troops in  both
camps were forced to surrender on the following morning, and thus
only fifteen thousand scattered  fugitives escaped of the eighty-seven
thousand two hundred infantry and cavalry under the command of the
Roman consuls.

Hannibal's loss in the battle of Cannae amounted to about six
thousand men.



CHAPTER XIX: IN THE MINES


The exultation of the Carthaginians at the total destruction
of their enemies was immense, and Maharbal  and some of the other
leaders urged Hannibal at once to march upon Rome; but Hannibal
knew the spirit of  the Roman people, and felt that the capture of
Rome, even after the annihilation of its army, would be a  greater
task than he could undertake. History has shown how desperate
a defence may be made by a  population willing to die rather than
surrender, and the Romans, an essentially martial people, would
defend their city until the last gasp.  They had an abundance of
arms, and there were the two city legions,  which formed the regular
garrison of the capital.

The instant the news of the defeat reached Rome, a levy of all
males over seventeen years of age was  ordered, and this produced
another ten thousand men and a thousand cavalry. Eight thousand
slaves who  were willing to serve were enlisted and armed, and
four thousand criminals and debtors were released from  prison and
pardoned, on the condition of their taking up arms. The praetor
Marcellus was at Ostia with the  ten thousand men with which he
was about to embark for Sicily.

Thus Rome would be defended by forty-three thousand men, while
Hannibal had but thirty-three thousand  infantry, and his cavalry,
the strongest arm of his force, would be useless. From Cannae to
Rome was  twelve days' march with an army encumbered with booty.
He could not, therefore, hope for a surprise. The  walls of Rome
were exceedingly strong, and he had with him none of the great
machines which would have  been necessary for a siege. He must have
carried with him the supplies he had accumulated for the  subsistence
of his force, and when these were consumed he would be destitute.
Fresh Roman levies would  gather on his rear, and before long his
whole army would be besieged.

In such an undertaking he would have wasted time, and lost the
prestige which he had acquired by his  astonishing victory.  Varro,
who had escaped from the battle, had rallied ten thousand of the
fugitives at the  strong place of Canusium, and these would be a
nucleus round which the rest of those who had escaped  would rally,
and would be joined by fresh levies of the Italian allies of Rome.

The Romans showed their confidence in their power to resist a
siege by at once despatching Marcellus with  his ten thousand men
to Canusium. Thus, with a strongly defended city in front, an army
of twenty  thousand Roman soldiers, which would speedily increase
to double that number, in his rear, Hannibal  perceived that were
he to undertake the siege of Rome he would risk all the advantages
he had gained. He  determined, therefore, to continue the policy
which he had laid down for himself, namely, to move his army  to
and fro among the provinces of Italy until the allies of Rome one
by one fell away from her, and joined  him, or until such reinforcements
arrived from Carthage as would justify him in undertaking the siege
of  Rome.

Rome herself was never grander than in this hour of defeat; not for
a moment was the courage and  confidence of her citizens shaken.
The promptness with which she prepared for defence, and still more
the  confidence which she showed by despatching Marcellus with his
legion to Canusium instead of retaining  him for the defence of the
city, show a national spirit and manliness worthy of the highest
admiration.  Varro was ordered to hand over his command to Marcellus,
and to return to Rome to answer before the  senate for his conduct.

Varro doubted not that his sentence would be death, for the Romans,
like the Carthaginians, had but little  mercy for a defeated general.
His colleague and his army had undoubtedly been sacrificed by his
rashness.  Moreover, the senate was composed of his bitter political
enemies, and he could not hope that a lenient  view would be taken
of his conduct. Nevertheless Varro returned to Rome and appeared
before the senate.  That body nobly responded to the confidence
manifested in it; party feeling was suspended, the political
adversary, the defeated general, were alike forgotten, it was only
remembered how Varro had rallied his  troops, how he had allayed
the panic which prevailed among them, and had at once restored
order and  discipline. His courage, too, in thus appearing, after
so great a disaster, to submit himself to the judgment of  the
country, counted in his favour. His faults were condoned, and the
senate publicly thanked him, because  he had not despaired of the
commonwealth.

Hannibal, in pursuance of his policy to detach the allies of Italy
from Rome, dismissed all the Italian  prisoners without ransom.
The Roman prisoners he offered to admit to ransom, and a deputation
of them  accompanied an ambassador to offer terms of peace. The
senate, however, not only refused to discuss any  terms of peace,
but absolutely forbade the families and friends of the prisoners to
ransom them, thinking it  politic neither to enrich their adversary
nor to show indulgence to soldiers who had surrendered to the
enemy.

The victory of Cannae and Hannibal's clemency began to bear the
effects which he hoped for. Apulia  declared for him at once, and
the towns of Arpi and Celapia opened their gates to him; Bruttium,
Lucania,  and Samnium were ready to follow.  Mago with one division
of the army was sent into Bruttium to take  possession of such
towns as might submit. Hanno was sent with another division to do
the same in Lucania.  Hannibal himself marched into Samnium, and
making an alliance with the tribes, there stored his plunder,  and
proceeded into Campania, and entered Capua, the second city of
Italy, which concluded an alliance  with him. Mago embarked at one
of the ports of Bruttium to carry the news of Hannibal's success
to  Carthage, and to demand reinforcements.

Neither Rome nor Carthage had the complete mastery of the sea,
and as the disaster which had befallen  Rome by land would greatly
lessen her power to maintain a large fleet, Carthage could now
have poured  reinforcements in by the ports of Bruttium without
difficulty. But unfortunately Hannibal's bitterest  enemies were
to be found not in Italy but in the senate of Carthage, where,
in spite of the appeals of Mago  and the efforts of the patriotic
party, the intrigues of Hanno and his faction and the demands
made by the  war in Spain, prevented the reinforcements from being
forwarded which would have enabled him to  terminate the struggle
by the conquest of Rome.

Hannibal, after receiving the submission of several other towns and
capturing Casilinum, went into winter  quarters at Capua.  During
the winter Rome made gigantic efforts to place her army upon a war
footing,  and with such success that, excluding the army of Scipio
in Spain, she had, when the spring began, twelve  legions or a hundred
and twenty thousand men again under arms; and as no reinforcements,
save some  elephants and a small body of cavalry, ever reached
Hannibal from Carthage, he was, during the remaining  thirteen years
of the war, reduced to stand wholly on the defensive, protecting
his allies, harassing his  enemy, and feeding his own army at
their expense; and yet so great was the dread which his genius had
excited that, in spite of their superior numbers, the Romans after
Cannae never ventured again to engage  him in a pitched battle.

Soon after the winter set in Hannibal ordered Malchus to take
a number of officers and a hundred picked  men, and to cross from
Capua to Sardinia, where the inhabitants had revolted against Rome,
and were  harassing the praetor, Quintus Mucius, who commanded the
legion which formed the garrison of the island.  Malchus and the
officers under him were charged with the duty of organizing the wild
peasantry of the  island, and of drilling them in regular tactics;
for unless acting as bodies of regular troops, however much  they
might harass the Roman legion, they could not hope to expel them
from their country. Nessus of  course accompanied Malchus.

The party embarked in two of the Capuan galleys. They had not been
many hours at sea when the weather,  which had when they started
been fine, changed suddenly, and ere long one of the fierce gales
which are so  frequent in the Mediterranean burst upon them. The
wind was behind them, and there was nothing to do but  to let the
galleys run before it. The sea got up with great rapidity, and
nothing but the high poops at their  stern prevented the two galleys
being sunk by the great waves which followed them. The oars were
laid in,  for it was impossible to use them in such a sea.

As night came on the gale increased rather than diminished. The
Carthaginian officers and soldiers  remained calm and quiet in
the storm, but the Capuan sailors gave themselves .up to despair,
and the men at  the helm were only kept at their post by Malchus
threatening to have them thrown overboard instantly if  they abandoned
it. After nightfall he assembled the officers in the cabin in the
poop.

"The prospects are bad," he said. "The pilot tells me that unless
the gale abates or the wind changes we  shall, before morning, be
thrown upon the coast of Sardinia, and that will be total destruction;
for upon the  side facing Italy the cliffs, for the most part,
rise straight up from the water, the only port on that side being
that at which the Romans have their chief castle and garrison. He
tells me there is nothing to be done, and I  see nought myself.
Were we to try to bring the galley round to the wind she would be
swamped in a  moment, while even if we could carry out the operation,
it would be impossible to row in the teeth of this  sea. Therefore,
my friends, there is nothing for us to do save to keep up the
courage of the men, and to bid  them hold themselves in readiness
to seize upon any chance of getting to shore should the vessel
strike."

All night the galley swept on before the storm. The light on the
other boat had disappeared soon after  darkness had set in.  Half
the soldiers and crew by turns were kept at work baling out the
water which  found its way over the sides, and several times so
heavily did the seas break into her that all thought that  she was
lost. However, when morning broke she was still afloat.  The wind
had hardly shifted a point since  it had begun to blow, and the
pilot told Malchus that they must be very near to the coast of
Sardinia. As the  light brightened every eye was fixed ahead over
the waste of angry foaming water. Presently the pilot, who  was
standing next to Malchus, grasped his arm.

"There is the land," he cried, "dead before us."

Not until a few minutes later could Malchus make out the faint
outline through the driving mist. It was a  lofty pile of rock
standing by itself.

"It is an island!" he exclaimed.

"It is Caralis," the pilot replied; "I know its outline well; we
are already in the bay. Look to the right, you  can make out the
outline of the cliffs at its mouth, we have passed it already.
You do not see the shore  ahead because the rock on which Caralis
stands rises from a level plain, and to the left a lagoon extends
for  a long way in; it is there that the Roman galleys ride. The
gods have brought us to the only spot along the  coast where we
could approach it with a hope of safety."

"There is not much to rejoice at," Malchus said; "we may escape
the sea, but only to be made prisoners by  the Romans."

"Nay, Malchus, the alternative is not so bad," a young officer who
was standing next to him said. "Hannibal  has thousands of Roman
prisoners in his hands, and we may well hope to be exchanged. After
the last  twelve hours any place on shore, even a Roman prison, is
an elysium compared to the sea."

The outline of the coast was now clearly visible. The great rock
of Caralis, now known as Cagliari, rose  dark and threatening,
the low shores of the bay on either side were marked by a band of
white foam, while  to the left of the rock was the broad lagoon,
dotted with the black hulls of a number of ships and galleys  rolling
and tossing heavily, for as the wind blew straight into the bay
the lagoon was covered with short,  angry waves.

The pilot now ordered the oars to be got out. The entrance to the
lagoon was wide, but it was only in the  middle that the channel
was deep, and on either side of this long breakwaters of stone
were run out from the  shore, to afford a shelter to the shipping
within. The sea was so rough that it was found impossible to use
the oars, and they were again laid in and a small sail was hoisted.
This enabled the head to be laid towards  the entrance of the
lagoon.  For a time it was doubtful whether the galley could make
it, but she succeeded  in doing so, and then ran straight on towards
the upper end of the harbour.

"That is far enough," the pilot said presently; "the water shoals
fast beyond. We must anchor here."

The sail was lowered, the oars got out on one side, and the head
of the galley brought to the wind. The  anchor was then dropped.
As the storm beaten galley ran right up the lagoon she had been
viewed with  curiosity and interest by those who were on board the
ships at anchor. That she was an Italian galley was  clear, and
also that she was crowded with men, but no suspicion was entertained
that these were  Carthaginians.

The anchor once cast Malchus held a council with the other officers.
They were in the midst of foes, and  escape seemed altogether
impossible. Long before the gale abated sufficiently to permit
them to put to sea  again, they would be visited by boats from the
other vessels to ask who they were and whence they came.  As to
fighting their way out it was out of the question, for there were
a score of triremes in the bay, any one  of which could crush the
Capuan galley, and whose far greater speed rendered the idea of
flight as hopeless  as that of resistance. The council therefore
agreed unanimously that the only thing to be done was to  surrender
without resistance.

The storm continued for another twenty-four hours, then the wind
died out almost as suddenly as it began.

As soon as the sea began to abate two galleys were seen putting
out from the town, and these rowed  directly towards the ship. The
fact that she had shown no flag had no doubt excited suspicion in
the minds  of the garrison. Each galley contained fifty soldiers.
As they rowed alongside a Roman officer on the poop  of one of the
galleys hailed the ship, and demanded whence it came.

"We are from Capua," the pilot answered. "The gale has blown us
across thence. I have on board fifty  Carthaginian officers and
soldiers, who now surrender to you."

As in those days, when vessels could with difficulty keep the sea
in a storm, and in the event of a gale  springing up were forced to
run before it, it was by no means unusual for galleys to be blown
into hostile  ports, the announcement excited no great surprise.

"Who commands the party?" the Roman officer asked.

"I do," Malchus replied. "I am Malchus, the son of Hamilcar, who
was killed at the Trebia, a cousin of  Hannibal and captain of his
guard. I surrender with my followers, seeing that resistance is
hopeless."

"It is hopeless," the Roman replied, "and you are right not to
throw away the lives of your men when there  is no possibility of
resistance."

As he spoke he stepped on board, ordered the anchor to be weighed,
and the galley, accompanied by the  two Roman boats, was rowed to
the landing place. A messenger was at once sent up to Mucius to
tell him  what had happened, and the praetor himself soon appeared
upon the spot. The officer acquainted him with  the name and rank
of the leader of the Carthaginian party, and said that there were
with him two officers of  noble families of the Carthaginians.

"That is well," the praetor said, "it is a piece of good fortune.
The Carthaginians have so many of our  officers in their hands,
that it is well to have some whom we may exchange for them.  Let
them be landed."

As they left the ship the Carthaginians laid down their arms and
armour. By this time a large number of the  Roman garrison, among
whom the news had rapidly spread, were assembled at the port. Many
of the young  soldiers had never yet seen a Carthaginian, and they
looked with curiosity and interest at the men who had  inflicted
such terrible defeats upon the armies of the Romans. They were
fine specimens of Hannibal's  force, for the general had allowed
Malchus to choose his own officers and men, and, knowing that
strength,  agility, and endurance would be needed for a campaign in
so mountainous a country as Sardinia, he had  picked both officers
and men with great care.

His second in command was his friend Trebon, who had long since
obtained a separate command, but who,  on hearing from Malchus of
the expedition on which he was bound, had volunteered to accompany
him.  The men were all Africans accustomed to desert fighting and
trained in warfare in Spain.  The Romans,  good judges of physical
strength, could not repress a murmur of admiration at the sight of
these sinewy  figures. Less heavy than themselves, there was about
them a spring and an elasticity resembling that of the  tiger.
Long use had hardened their muscles until they stood up like cords
through their tawny skin, most of  them bore numerous scars of
wounds received in battle, and the Romans, as they viewed them,
acknowledged to themselves what formidable opponents these men
would be.

A strong guard formed up on either side of the captives, and they
were marched through the town to the  citadel on the upper part of
the rock. Here a large chamber, opening on to the courtyard, was
assigned to the  officers, while the men, who were viewed in the
light of slaves, were at once set to work to carry stores up  to
the citadel from a ship which had arrived just as the storm broke.

A fortnight later a vessel arrived from Rome with a message from
the senate that they would not exchange  prisoners, and that the
Carthaginians were at once to be employed as slaves in the mines.
The governor  acquainted Malchus with the decision.

"I am sorry," he said, "indeed, that it is so; but the senate are
determined that they will exchange no  prisoners. Of course their
view of the matter is, that when a Roman lays down his arms he
disgraces  himself, and the refusal to ransom him or allow him to
be exchanged is intended to act as a deterrent to  others.  This may
be fair enough in cases where large numbers surrender to a few, or
where they lay down  their arms when with courage and determination
they might have cut their way through the enemy; but in  cases where
further resistance would be hopeless, in my mind men are justified
in surrendering. However, I  can only obey the orders I have
received, and tomorrow must send you and your men to the mines."

As Malchus had seen the Iberian captives sent to labour as slaves
in the mines in Spain, the fate thus  announced to him did not appear
surprising or barbarous. In those days captives taken in war were
always  made slaves when they were not put to death in cold blood,
and although Hannibal had treated with marked  humanity and leniency
the Roman and Italian captives who had fallen into his hands, this
had been the  result of policy, and was by no means in accordance
with the spirit in which war was then conducted.   Accordingly,
the next day the Carthaginians were, under a strong guard, marched
away to the mines, which  lay on the other side of the island, some
forty miles due west of the port, and three miles from the western
sea coast of the island. The road lay for some distance across
a dead flat. The country was well cultivated  and thickly studded
with villages, for Rome drew a heavy tribute in corn annually from
the island.

After twenty miles' march they halted for the night, pursuing
their way on the following morning. They had  now entered a wide
and fertile valley with lofty hills on either side.  In some places
there were stagnant  marshes, and the officer in charge of the
guard informed Malchus that in the autumn a pestilential miasma
rose from these, rendering a sojourn in the valley fatal to
the inhabitants of the mainland. The native people  were wild and
primitive in appearance, being clad chiefly in sheepskins. They
lived in beehive shaped huts.  The hills narrowed in towards the
end of the day's march, and the valley terminated when the party
arrived  within half a mile of their destination. Here stood a small
town named Metalla, with a strong Roman  garrison, which supplied
guards over the slaves employed in working the mines. This town is
now called  Iglesias.

The principal mine was situated in a narrow valley running west
from the town down to the sea coast. The  officer in command of
the escort handed over Malchus and his companions to the charge of
the officer at  the head mining establishment.

Malchus was surprised at the large number of people gathered at
the spot. They lived for the most part in  low huts constructed
of boughs or sods, and ranged in lines at the bottom of the valley
or along the lower  slopes of the hill. A cordon of Roman sentries
was placed along the crest of the hill at either side, and a  strong
guard was posted in a little camp in the centre of the valley, in
readiness to put down any tumult  which might arise.

The great majority of the slaves gathered there were Sards, men
belonging to tribes which had risen in  insurrection against the
Romans. There were with them others of their countrymen who were
not like them  slaves, though their condition was but little better
except that they received a nominal rate of payment.   These were
called free labourers, but their labour was as much forced as was
that of the slaves -- each  district in the island being compelled
to furnish a certain amount of labourers for this or the mines
further to  the north. The men so conscripted were changed once in
six months. With the Sards were mingled people  of many nations.
Here were Sicilians and members of many Italian tribes conquered
by the Romans,  together with Gauls from the northern plains and
from Marseilles.

There were many mines worked in different parts of the island, but
Metalla was the principal. The labour,  in days when gunpowder had
not become the servant of man, was extremely hard. The rocks had
to be  pierced with hand labour, the passages and galleries were
of the smallest possible dimensions, the  atmosphere was stifling;
consequently the mortality was great, and it was necessary to keep
up a constant  importation of labour.

"If these people did but possess a particle of courage," Trebon said,
"they would rise, overpower the guard,  and make for the forests.
The whole island is, as the officer who brought us here told us,
covered with  mountains with the exception of the two broad plains
running through it; as we could see the hills are  covered with
woods, and the whole Roman army could not find them if they once
escaped."

"That is true enough," Malchus said, "but there must be at least
five or six thousand slaves here. How could  these find food among
the mountains? They might exist for a time upon berries and grain,
but they would  in the end be forced to go into the valleys for
food, and would then be slaughtered by the Romans.   Nevertheless
a small body of men could no doubt subsist among the hills, and the
strength of the guard you  see on the heights shows that attempts
to escape are not rare. Should we find our existence intolerable
here,  we will at any rate try to escape.  There are fifty of us,
and if we agreed in common action we could  certainly break through
the guards and take to the hills. As you may see by their faces,
the spirit of these  slaves is broken. See how bent most of them
are by their labour, and how their shoulders are wealed by the
lashes of their taskmasters!"

The officer in charge of the mines told Malchus that he should not
put him and the other two officers to  labour, but would appoint
them as overseers over gangs of the men, informing them that he had
a brother  who was at present a captive in the hands of Hannibal;
and he trusted that Malchus, should he have an  opportunity, would
use his kind offices on his behalf.

One of the lines of huts near the Roman camp was assigned to the
Carthaginians, and that evening they  received rations of almost
black bread similar to those served out to the others. The following
morning they  were set to work. Malchus and his two friends found
their tasks by no means labourious, as they were  appointed to
look after a number of Sards employed in breaking up and sorting
the lead ore as it was  brought up from the mine. The men, however,
returned in the evening worn out with toil. All had been at  work
in the mines. Some had had to crawl long distances through passages
little more than three feet high  and one foot wide, until they
reached the broad lode of lead ore.

Here some of the party had been set to work, others had been employed
in pushing on the little galleries,  and there had sat for hours
working in a cramped position, with pick, hammer, and wedge. Others
had been  lowered by ropes down shafts so narrow that when they got
to the bottom it was only with extreme  difficulty that they were
able to stoop to work at the rock beneath their feet. Many, indeed,
of these old  shafts have been found in the mines of Montepone,
so extremely narrow that it is supposed that they must  have been
bored by slaves lowered by ropes, head foremost, it appearing
absolutely impossible for a man to  stoop to work if lowered in
the ordinary way.

The Carthaginians, altogether unaccustomed to work of this nature,
returned to their huts at night utterly  exhausted, cramped, and
aching in every limb. Many had been cruelly beaten for not performing
the tasks  assigned to them. All were filled with a dull despairing
rage. In the evening a ration of boiled beans, with a  little
native wine, was served out to each, the quantity of the food being
ample, it being necessary to feed  the slaves well to enable them
to support their fatigues.

After three days of this work five or six of the captives were so
exhausted that they were unable to take  their places with the gang
when ordered for work in the morning. They were, however, compelled
by blows  to rise and take their places with the rest. Two of
them died during the course of the day in their stifling  working
places; another succumbed during the night; several, too, were
attacked by the fever of the  country.  Malchus and his friends
were full of grief and rage at the sufferings of their men.

"Anything were better than this," Malchus said. "A thousand times
better to fall beneath the swords of the  Romans than to die like
dogs in the holes beneath that hill!"

"I quite agree with you, Malchus," Halco, the other officer with
the party, said, "and am ready to join you in  any plan of escape,
however desperate."

"The difficulty is about arms," Trebon observed. "We are so closely
watched that it is out of the question to  hope that we should
succeed in getting possession of any. The tools are all left in
the mines; and as the men  work naked, there is no possibility of
their secreting any. The stores here are always guarded by a sentry;
and although we might overpower him, the guard would arrive long
before we could break through the  solid doors. Of course if we
could get the other slaves to join us, we might crush the guard
even with  stones."

"That is out of the question," Malchus said. "In the first place,
they speak a strange language, quite different  to the Italians.
Then, were we seen trying to converse with any of them, suspicions
might be roused; and  even could we get the majority to join us,
there would be many who would be only too glad to purchase  their
own freedom by betraying the plot to the Romans.  No, whatever
we do must be done by ourselves  alone; and for arms we must rely
upon stones, and upon the stoutest stakes we can draw out from our
huts.  The only time that we have free to ourselves is the hour
after work is over, when we are allowed to go  down to the stream
to wash and to stroll about as we will until the trumpet sounds to
order us to retire to  our huts for the night.

"It is true that at that time the guards are particularly vigilant,
and that we are not allowed to gather into  knots; and an Italian
slave I spoke to yesterday told me that he dared not speak to me,
for the place swarms  with spies, and that any conversation between
us would be sure to be reported, and those engaged in it put  to
the hardest and cruelest work. I propose, therefore, that tomorrow
-- for if it is to be done, the sooner the  better, before the men
lose all their strength -- the men shall on their return from work
at once eat their  rations; then each man, hiding a short stick
under his garment and wrapping a few heavy stones in the  corner of
his robe, shall make his way up towards the top of the hill above
the mine.

"No two men must go together -- all must wander as if aimlessly
among the huts. When they reach the  upper line on that side and
see me, let all rapidly close up, and we will make a sudden rush at
the sentries  above. They cannot get more than five or six together
in time to oppose us, and we shall be able to beat  them down
with our stones. Once through them, the heavy armed men will never
be able to overtake us till  we reach the forest, which begins, I
believe, about half a mile beyond the top."

The other two officers at once agreed to the plan; and when the
camp was still Malchus crept cautiously  from hut to hut, telling
his men of the plan that had been formed and giving orders for the
carrying of it out.

All assented cheerfully; for although the stronger were now becoming
accustomed to their work, and felt  less exhausted than they had
done the first two days, there was not one but felt that he would
rather suffer  death than endure this terrible fate. Malchus
impressed upon them strongly that it was of the utmost  consequence
to possess themselves of the arms of any Roman soldiers they might
overthrow, as they would  to a great extent be compelled to rely
upon these to obtain food among the mountains.

Even the men who were most exhausted, and those stricken with fever,
seemed to gain strength at once at  the prospect of a struggle for
liberty, and when the gang turned out in the morning for work none
lagged  behind.



CHAPTER XX: THE SARDINIAN FORESTS


The Carthaginians returned in the evening in groups from the various
scenes of their labour and without  delay consumed the provisions
provided for them.  Then one by one they sauntered away down towards
the  stream. Malchus was the last to leave, and having seen that
all his followers had preceded him, he, too,  crossed the stream,
paused a moment at a heap of debris from the mine, and picking up
three or four pieces  of rock about the size of his fist, rolled
them in the corner of his garment, and holding this in one hand
moved up the hill.

Here and there he paused a moment as if interested in watching
the groups of slaves eating their evening  meal, until at last he
reached the upper line of little huts. Between these and the hill
top upon which the  sentries stood was a distance of about fifty
yards, which was kept scrupulously clear to enable them to  watch
the movements of any man going beyond the huts. The sentries were
some thirty paces apart, so that,  as Malchus calculated, not more
than four or five of them could assemble before he reached them, if
they  did not previously perceive anything suspicious which might
put them on the alert.

Looking round him Malchus saw his followers scattered about among
the slaves at a short distance.  Standing behind the shelter of
the hut he raised his hand, and all began to move towards him. As
there was  nothing in their attire, which consisted of one long
cloth wound round them, to distinguish them from the  other slaves,
the movement attracted no attention from the sentries, who were,
from their position, able to  overlook the low huts.

When he saw that all were close, Malchus gave a shout and dashed
up the hill, followed by his comrades.

The nearest sentry, seeing a body of fifty men suddenly rushing
towards him, raised a shout, and his  comrades from either side
ran towards him; but so quickly was the movement performed that but
five had  gathered when the Carthaginians reached them, although
many others were running towards the spot. The  Carthaginians, when
they came close to their levelled spears, poured upon them a shower
of heavy stones,  which knocked two of them down and so bruised
and battered the others that they went down at once when  the
Carthaginians burst upon them.

The nearest Romans halted to await the arrival of their comrades
coming up behind them, and the  Carthaginians, seizing the swords,
spears, and shields of their fallen foes, dashed on at full speed.
The  Romans soon followed, but with the weight of their weapons,
armour, and helmets they were speedily  distanced, and the
fugitives reached the edge of the forest in safety and dashed into
its recesses.

After running for some distance they halted, knowing that the
Romans would not think of pursuing except  with a large force.  The
forests which covered the mountains of Sardinia were for the most
part composed  of evergreen oak, with, in some places, a thick
undergrowth of shrubs and young trees. Through this the  Carthaginians
made their way with some difficulty, until, just as it became dark,
they reached the bottom of  a valley comparatively free of trees
and through which ran a clear stream.

"Here we will halt for the night," Malchus said; "there is no fear
of the Romans pursuing at once, if indeed  they do so at all, for
their chance of finding us in these mountains, covered with hundreds
of square miles  of forests, is slight indeed; however, we will at
once provide ourselves with weapons."

The five Roman swords were put into requisition, and some straight
young saplings were felled, and their  points being sharpened they
were converted into efficient spears, each some fourteen feet long.

"It is well we have supped," Malchus said; "our breakfast will
depend on ourselves. Tomorrow we must  keep a sharp lookout for
smoke rising through the trees; there are sure to be numbers of
charcoal burners in  the forest, for upon them the Romans depend
for their fuel. One of the first things to do is to obtain a  couple
of lighted brands. A fire is essential for warmth among these hills,
even putting aside its uses for  cooking."

"That is when we have anything to cook," Halco said laughingly.

"That is certainly essential," Malchus agreed; "but there is sure
to be plenty of wild boar and deer among  these forests. We have
only to find a valley with a narrow entrance, and post ourselves
there and send all  the men to form a circle on the hills around
it and drive them down to us; besides, most likely we shall  come
across herds of goats and pigs, which the villagers in the lower
valleys will send up to feed on the  acorns. I have no fear but we
shall be able to obtain plenty of flesh; as to corn, we have only
to make a raid  down into the plain, and when we have found out
something about the general lay of the country, the hills  and the
extent of the forest, we will choose some spot near its centre and
erect huts there. If it were not for  the peasants we might live
here for years, for all the Roman forces in Sardinia would be
insufficient to rout  us out of these mountains; but unfortunately,
as we shall have to rob the peasants, they will act as guides to
the Romans, and we shall be obliged to keep a sharp lookout against
surprise. If it gets too hot for us we  must make a night march
across the plain to the mountains on the eastern side.  I heard
at Caralis that the  wild part there is very much larger than it
is on this side of the island, and it extends without a break from
the port right up to the north of the island."

Safe as he felt from pursuit Malchus posted four men as sentries,
and the rest of the band lay down to sleep,  rejoicing in the thought
that on the morrow they should not be wakened to take their share
in the labours in  the mine.

At daybreak all were on the move, and a deep spot having been found
in the stream, they indulged in the  luxury of a bath.  That done
they started on the march further into the heart of the forest.
The hills were of  great height, with bare crags often beetling
up among the trees hundreds of feet, with deep valleys and  rugged
precipices. In crossing one of these valleys Nessus suddenly lifted
his hand.

"What is it?" Malchus asked.

"I heard a pig grunt," Nessus replied, "on our right there."

Malchus at once divided the band in two and told them to proceed
as quietly as possible along the lower  slopes of the hill, leaving
a man at every fifteen paces.

When all had been posted, the ends of the line were to descend
until they met in the middle of the valley,  thus forming a circle.
A shout was to tell the rest that this was done, and then all were
to move down until  they met in the centre. One officer went with
each party, Malchus remained at the spot where he was  standing.
In ten minutes the signal was heard, and then all moved forward,
shouting as they went, and  keeping a sharp lookout between the
trees to see that nothing passed them. As the narrowing circle
issued  into the open ground at the bottom of the valley there was
a general shout of delight, for, huddled down by  a stream, grunting
and screaming with fright, was a herd of forty or fifty pigs, with
a peasant, who appeared  stupefied with alarm at the sudden uproar.

On seeing the men burst out with their levelled spears from the
wood, the Sard gave a scream of terror and  threw himself upon his
face. When the Carthaginians came up to him Malchus stirred him
with his foot, but  he refused to move; he then pricked him with
the Roman spear he held, and the man leaped to his feet with  a
shout. Malchus told him in Italian that he was free to go, but that
the swine must be confiscated for the  use of his followers.  The
man did not understand his words, but, seeing by his gestures
that he was free to  go, set off at the top of his speed, hardly
believing that he could have escaped with his life, and in no way
concerned at the loss of the herd. This was, indeed, the property
of various individuals in one of the villages  at the foot of the
hills -- it being then, as now, the custom for several men owning
swine to send them  together under the charge of a herdsman into
the mountains, where for months together they live in a half  wild
state on acorns and roots, a villager going up occasionally with
supplies of food for the swineherd.

No sooner had the peasant disappeared than a shout from one of the
men some fifty yards away called the  attention of Malchus.

"Here is the man's fire, my lord."

A joyous exclamation rose from the soldiers, for, the thought of
all this meat and no means of cooking it  was tantalizing every
one. Malchus hurried to the spot, where, indeed, was a heap of still
glowing embers.  Some of the men at once set to work to collect
dried sticks, and in a few minutes a great fire was blazing.  One
of the pigs was slaughtered and cut up into rations, and in a short
time each man was cooking his  portion stuck on a stick over the
fire.

A smaller fire was lit for the use of the officers a short distance
away, and here Nessus prepared their share  of the food for Malchus
and his two companions. After the meal the spears were improved by
the points  being hardened in the fire. When they were in readiness
to march two of the men were told off as fire  keepers, and each
of these took two blazing brands from the fire, which, as they
walked, they kept crossed  before them, the burning points keeping
each other alight.  Even with one man there would be little chance
of losing the fire, but with two such a misfortune could scarcely
befall them.

A party of ten men took charge of the herd of swine, and the whole
then started for the point they intended  to make to in the heart
of the mountains. Before the end of the day a suitable camping
place was selected in  a watered valley. The men then set to work to
cut down boughs and erect arbours. Fires were lighted and  another
pig being killed those who preferred it roasted his flesh over the
fire, while others boiled their  portions, the Roman shields being
utilized as pans.

"What do you think of doing, Malchus?" Halco asked as they stretched
themselves out on a grassy bank by  the stream when they had finished
their meal. "We are safe here, and in these forests could defy the
Romans to find us for months. Food we can get from the villages at
the foot of the hills, and there must be  many swine in the forest
beside this herd which we have captured. The life will not be an
unpleasant one,  but -- " and he stopped.

"But you don't wish to end your days here," Malchus put in for him,
"nor do I. It is pleasant enough, but  every day we spend here is
a waste of our lives, and with Hannibal and our comrades combating
the might  of Rome we cannot be content to live like members of
the savage tribes here. I have no doubt that we shall  excite such
annoyance and alarm by our raids among the villages in the plains
that the Romans will ere  long make a great effort to capture us,
and doubtless they will enlist the natives in their search. Still,
we  may hope to escape them, and there are abundant points among
these mountains where we may make a  stand and inflict such heavy
loss upon them that they will be glad to come to terms. All I would
ask is that  they shall swear by their gods to treat us well and
to convey us as prisoners of war to Rome, there to remain  until
exchanged.  In Rome we could await the course of events patiently.
Hannibal may capture the city.  The senate, urged by the relatives
of the many prisoners we have taken, may agree to make an exchange,
and we may see chances of our making our escape. At any rate we
shall be in the world and shall know  what is going on."

"But could we not hold out and make them agree to give us our
freedom?"

"I do not think so," Malchus said. "It would be too much for Roman
pride to allow a handful of escaped  prisoners to defy them in
that way, and even if the prefect of this island were to agree to
the terms, I do not  believe that the senate would ratify them. We
had better not ask too much. For myself I own to a longing to  see
Rome. As Carthage holds back and will send no aid to Hannibal,
I have very little hope of ever entering  it as a conqueror, and
rather than not see it at all I would not mind entering it as a
prisoner. There are no  mines to work there, and the Romans, with
so vast a number of their own people in the hands of Hannibal,
would not dare to treat us with any cruelty or severity.

"Here it is different. No rumour of our fate will ever reach
Hannibal, and had every one of us died in those  stifling mines he
would never have been the wiser."

The two officers both agreed with Malchus; as for the soldiers,
they were all too well pleased with their  present liberty and
their escape from the bondage to give a thought to the morrow.

The next day Malchus and his companions explored the hills of the
neighbourhood, and chose several  points commanding the valleys
by which their camp could be approached, as lookout places. Trees
were  cleared away, vistas cut, and wood piled in readiness for
making bonfires, and two sentries were placed at  each of these
posts, their orders being to keep a vigilant lookout all over the
country, to light a fire instantly  the approach of any enemy was
perceived, and then to descend to the camp to give particulars as
to his  number and the direction of his march.

A few days later, leaving ten men at the camp with full instructions
as to what to do in case of an alarm by  the enemy, Malchus set
out with the rest of the party across the mountains.  The sun was
their only guide as  to the direction of their course, and it was
late in the afternoon before they reached the crest of the  easternmost
hills and looked down over the wide plain which divides the island
into two portions. Here  they rested until the next morning, and
then, starting before daybreak, descended the slopes. They made
their way to a village of some size at the mouth of a valley, and
were unnoticed until they entered it. Most  of the men were away
in the fields; a few resisted, but were speedily beaten down by the
short heavy sticks  which the Carthaginians carried in addition to
their spears.

Malchus had given strict orders that the latter weapons were not
to be used, that no life was to be taken, and  that no one was to
be hurt or ill used unless in the act of offering resistance.  For
a few minutes the  confusion was great, women and children running
about screaming in wild alarm. They were, however,  pacified when
they found that no harm was intended.

On searching the village large stores of grain were discovered and
abundance of sacks were also found, and  each soldier filled one of
these with as much grain as he could conveniently carry. A number
of other  articles which would be useful to them were also taken
-- cooking pots, wooden platters, knives, and such  arms as could
be found. Laden with these the Carthaginians set out on their return
to camp. Loaded as they  were it was a long and toilsome journey,
and they would have had great difficulty in finding their way back
had not Malchus taken the precaution of leaving four or five men
at different points with instructions to  keep fires of damp wood
burning so that the smoke should act as a guide. It was, however,
late on the  second day after their leaving the village before
they arrived in camp. Here the men set to work to crush the  grain
between flat stones, and soon a supply of rough cakes were baking
in the embers.

A month passed away. Similar raids to the first were made when the
supplies became exhausted, and as at  the second village they visited
they captured six donkeys, which helped to carry up the burdens,
the  journeys were less fatiguing than on the first occasion. One
morning as the troop were taking their  breakfast a column of bright
smoke rose from one of the hill tops. The men simultaneously leaped
to their  feet.

"Finish your breakfast," Malchus said, "there will be plenty of
time. Slay two more hogs and cut them up.  Let each man take three
or four pounds of flesh and a supply of meal."

Just as the preparations were concluded the two men from the lookout
arrived and reported that a large  force was winding along one of
the valleys. There were now but six of the herd of swine left --
these were  driven into the forest. The grain and other stores were
also carried away and carefully hidden, and the band,  who were
now all well armed with weapons taken in the different raids on
the villages, marched away from  their camp.

Malchus had already with his two comrades explored all the valleys
in the neighbourhood of the camp, and  had fixed upon various points
for defence. One of these was on the line by which the enemy were
approaching. The valley narrowed in until it was almost closed by
perpendicular rocks on either side. On  the summit of these the
Carthaginians took their post. They could now clearly make out the
enemy; there  were upwards of a thousand Roman troops, and they
were accompanied by fully five hundred natives.

When the head of the column approached the narrow path of the valley
the soldiers halted and the natives  went on ahead to reconnoitre.
They reported that all seemed clear, and the column then moved
forward.  When it reached the gorge a shout was heard above and a
shower of rocks fell from the crags, crushing  many of the Romans.
Their commander at once recalled the soldiers, and these then began
to climb the  hillside, wherever the ground permitted their doing
so. After much labour they reached the crag from which  they had
been assailed, but found it deserted.

All day the Romans searched the woods, but without success.
The natives were sent forward in strong  parties. Most of these
returned unsuccessful, but two of them were suddenly attacked by
the Carthaginians,  and many were slaughtered.

For four days the Romans pursued their search in the forest, but
never once did they obtain a glimpse of the  Carthaginians save
when, on several occasions, the latter appeared suddenly in places
inaccessible from  below and hurled down rocks and stones upon them.
The Sards had been attacked several times, and were  so disheartened
by the losses inflicted upon them that they now refused to stir
into the woods unless  accompanied by the Romans.

At the end of the fourth day, feeling it hopeless any longer to
pursue the fugitive band over these forest  covered mountains, the
Roman commander ordered the column to move back towards its starting
place. He  had lost between forty and fifty of his men and upwards
of a hundred of the Sards had been killed.  Just as  he reached
the edge of the forest he was overtaken by one of the natives.

"I have been a prisoner in the hands of the Carthaginians," the
man said, "and their leader released me upon  my taking an oath
to deliver a message to the general." The man was at once brought
before the officer.

"The leader of the escaped slaves bids me tell you," he said, "that
had you ten times as many men with you  it would be vain for you
to attempt to capture them. You searched, in these four days, but
a few square  miles of the forest, and, although he was never half
a mile away from you, you did not succeed in capturing  him. There
are hundreds of square miles, and, did he choose to elude you,
twenty thousand men might  search in vain. He bids me say that he
could hold out for years and harry all the villages of the plains;
but  he and his men do not care for living the life of a mountain
tribe, and he is ready to discuss terms of  surrender with you, and
will meet you outside the forest here with two men with him if you
on your part  will be here with the same number at noon tomorrow.
He took before me a solemn oath that he will keep  the truce
inviolate, and requires you to do the same. I have promised to take
back your answer."

The Roman commander was greatly vexed at his non-success, and at the
long continued trouble which he  saw would arise from the presence
of this determined band in the mountains.  They would probably
be  joined by some of the recently subdued tribes, and would be a
thorn in the side of the Roman force holding  the island. He was,
therefore, much relieved by this unexpected proposal.

"Return to him who sent you," he said, "and tell him that I, Publius
Manlius, commander of that portion of  the 10th Legion here, do
hereby swear before the gods that I will hold the truce inviolate,
and that I will  meet him here with two officers, as he proposes,
at noon tomorrow."

At the appointed hour Malchus, with the two officers, standing just
inside the edge of the forest, saw the  Roman general advancing
with two companions; they at once went forward to meet them.

"I am come," Malchus said, "to offer to surrender to you on certain
terms. I gave you my reasons in the  message I yesterday sent you.
With my band here I could defy your attempts to capture me for
years, but I  do not care to lead the life of a mountain robber.
Hannibal treats his captives mercifully, and the treatment  which
was bestowed upon me and my companions, who were not even taken
in fair fight, but were blown  by a tempest into your port, was a
disgrace to Rome. My demand is this, that we shall be treated with
the  respect due to brave men, that we be allowed to march without
guard or escort down to the port, where we  will go straight on
board a vessel there prepared for us. We will then lay down our
arms and surrender as  prisoners of war, under the solemn agreement
taken and signed by you and the governor of the island, and  approved
and ratified by the senate of Rome, that, in the first place, the
garments and armour of which we  were deprived when captured, shall
be restored to us, and that we shall then be conveyed in the ship
to  Rome, there to remain as prisoners of war until exchanged, being
sent nowhere else, and suffering no pains  or penalties whatever
for what has taken place on this island."

The Roman general was surprised and pleased with the moderation of
the demand. He had feared that  Malchus would have insisted upon
being restored with his companions to the Carthaginian army in
Italy.  Such a proposition he would have been unwilling to forward
to Rome, for it would have been a confession  that all the Roman
force in the island was incapable of overcoming this handful of
desperate men, and he  did not think that the demand if made would
have been agreed to by the senate. The present proposition  was
vastly more acceptable.  He could report without humiliation that the
Carthaginian slaves had broken  loose and taken to the mountains,
where there would be great difficulty in pursuing them, and they would
serve as a nucleus round which would assemble all the disaffected
in the island; and could recommend that,  as they only demanded to
be sent to Rome as prisoners of war, instead of being kept in the
island, the terms  should be agreed to.  After a moment's delay,
therefore, he replied:

"I agree to your terms, sir, as far as I am concerned, and own
they appear to me as moderate and  reasonable. I will draw out a
document, setting them forth and my acceptance of them, and will send
it at  once to the prefect, praying him to sign it, and to forward
it to Rome for the approval of the senate. Pending  an answer I trust
that you will abstain from any further attacks upon the villages."

"It may be a fortnight before the answer returns," Malchus replied;
"but if you will send up to this point a  supply of cattle and flour
sufficient for our wants till the answer comes, I will promise to
abstain from all  further action."

To this the Roman readily agreed, and for a fortnight Malchus and
his friends amused themselves by  hunting deer and wild boar among
the mountains. After a week had passed a man had been sent each
day to  the spot agreed upon to see if any answer had been received
from Rome. It was nearly three weeks before  he brought a message
to Malchus that the terms had been accepted, and that the Roman
commander would  meet him there on the following day with the
document. The interview took place as arranged, and the  Roman
handed to Malchus the document agreeing to the terms proposed,
signed by himself and the prefect,  and ratified by the senate. He
said that if Malchus with his party would descend into the road on
the  following morning three miles below Metalla they would find
an escort of Roman soldiers awaiting them,  and that a vessel would
be ready at the port for them to embark upon their arrival.

Next day, accordingly, Malchus with his companions left the forest,
and marched down to the valley in  military order.  At the appointed
spot they found twenty Roman soldiers under an officer. The latter
saluted  Malchus, and informed him that his orders were to escort
them to the port, and to see that they suffered no  molestation or
interference at the hands of the natives on their march. Two days'
journey took them to  Caralis, and in good order and with proud
bearing they marched through the Roman soldiers, who  assembled
in the streets to view so strange a spectacle. Arrived at the port
they embarked on board the ship  prepared for them, and there piled
their arms on deck. A Roman officer received them, and handed over,
in  accordance with the terms of the agreement, the whole of the
clothing and armour of which they had been  deprived. A guard of
soldiers then marched on board, and an hour later the sails were
hoisted and the vessel  started for her destination.

Anxiously Malchus and his companions gazed round the horizon in
hopes that some galleys of Capua or  Carthage might appear in sight,
although indeed they had but small hopes of seeing them, for no
Carthaginian ship would be likely to be found so near the coast
of Italy, except indeed if bound with arms  for the use of the
insurgents in the northern mountains of Sardinia.  However, no sail
appeared in sight until  the ship entered the mouth of the Tiber.
As they ascended the river, and the walls and towers of Rome were
seen in the distance, the prisoners forgot their own position in the
interest excited by the appearance of the  great rival of Carthage.

At that time Rome possessed but little of the magnificence which
distinguished her buildings in the days of  the emperors. Everything
was massive and plain, with but slight attempt at architectural
adornment. The  temples of the gods rose in stately majesty above
the mass of buildings, but even these were far inferior in  size
and beauty to those of Carthage, while the size of the city was
small indeed in comparison to the wide  spreading extent of its
African rival.

The vessel anchored in the stream until the officer in command
landed to report his arrival with the  prisoners and to receive
instructions. An hour later he returned, the prisoners were landed
and received by a  strong guard of spearmen at the water gate.
The news had spread rapidly through the city. A crowd of  people
thronged the streets, while at the windows and on the roofs were
gathered numbers of ladies of the  upper classes. A party of soldiers
led the way, pushing back the crowd as they advanced. A line of
spearmen marched on either side of the captives, and a strong guard
brought up the rear to prevent the  crowd from pressing in there.
Malchus walked at the head of the prisoners, followed by his
officers, after  whom came the soldiers walking two and two.

There was no air of dejection in the bearing of the captives, and
they faced the regards of the hostile crowd  with the air rather
of conquerors than of prisoners. They remembered that it was but by
accident that they  had fallen into the hands of the Romans, that
in the battlefield they had proved themselves over and over  again
more than a match for the soldiers of Rome, and that it was the
walls of the city alone which had  prevented their marching through
her streets as triumphant conquerors.

It was no novel sight in Rome for Carthaginian prisoners to march
through the streets, for in the previous  campaigns large numbers
of Carthaginians had been captured; but since Hannibal crossed
the Alps and  carried his victorious army through Italy, scarce
a prisoner had been brought to Rome, while tens of  thousands of
Romans had fallen into the hands of Hannibal.  The lower class of
the population of Rome  were at all times rough and brutal, and
the captives were assailed with shouts of exultation, with groans
and  menaces, and with bitter curses by those whose friends and
relatives had fallen in the wars.

The better classes at the windows and from the housetops abstained
from any demonstration, but watched  the captives as they passed
with a critical eye, and with expressions of admiration at their
fearless bearing  and haughty mien.

"Truly, that youth who marches at their head might pose for a
Carthaginian Apollo, Sempronius," a Roman  matron said as she sat
at the balcony of a large mansion at the entrance to the Forum. "I
have seldom seen a  finer face. See what strength his limbs show,
although he walks as lightly as a girl. I have a fancy to have
him as a slave; he would look well to walk behind me and carry my
mantle when I go abroad. See to it,  Sempronius; as your father is
the military praetor, you can manage this for me without trouble."

"I will do my best, Lady Flavia," the young Roman said; "but there
may be difficulties."

"What difficulties?" Flavia demanded imperiously. "I suppose the
Carthaginians will as usual be handed  over as slaves; and who
should have a better right to choose one among them than I, whose
husband,  Tiberius Gracchus, is Consul of Rome?"

"None assuredly," Sempronius replied. "It was only because, as I
hear, that youth is a cousin of Hannibal  himself, and, young as
he is, the captain of his bodyguard, and I thought that my father
might intend to  confine him in the prison for better security."

Flavia waved her hand imperiously.

"When did you ever hear of a slave escaping from Rome, Sempronius?
Are not the walls high and strong,  and the sentries numerous? And
even did they pass these, would not the badge of slavery betray
them at  once to the first who met them without, and they would
be captured and brought back? No, I have set my  mind upon having
him as a slave. He will go well with that Gaulish maiden whom
Postumius sent me from  the banks of the Po last autumn. I like
my slaves to be as handsome as my other surroundings, and I see no
reason why I should be baulked of my fancy."

"I will do my best to carry out your wishes, Lady Flavia," Sempronius
replied deferentially, for the wife of  the consul was an important
personage in Rome. Her family was one of the most noble and powerful
in the  city, and she herself -- wealthy, luxurious, and strong
willed -- was regarded as a leader of society at Rome.

Sempronius deemed it essential for his future advancement to keep
on good terms with her. At the same  time he was ill pleased at
this last fancy of hers. In the first place, he was a suitor for
the hand of her  daughter Julia. In the second, he greatly admired
the northern beauty of the Gaulish slave girl whom she  had spoken
of, and had fully intended that when Flavia became tired of her --
and her fancies seldom lasted  long -- he would get his mother to
offer to exchange a horse, or a hawk, or something else upon which
Flavia might set her mind, for the slave girl, in which case she
would, of course, be in his power. He did  not, therefore, approve
of Flavia's intention of introducing this handsome young Carthaginian
as a slave  into her household. It was true that he was but a slave
at present, but he was a Carthaginian noble of rank as  high as
that of Flavia.

That he was brave was certain, or he would not be the captain of
Hannibal's bodyguard. Julia was fully as  capricious as her mother,
and might take as warm a fancy for Malchus as Flavia had done, while,
now the  idea of setting this Gaulish girl and the Carthaginian
together had seized Flavia, it would render more  distant the time
when the Roman lady might be reasonably expected to tire of the
girl. However, he felt that  Flavia's wishes must be carried out;
whatever the danger might be, it was less serious than the certainty
of  losing that lady's favour unless he humoured her whims.

His family was far less distinguished than hers, and her approval
of his suit with Julia was an unexpected  piece of good fortune
which he owed, as he knew, principally to the fact that Gracchus
wished to marry his  daughter to Julius Marcius, who had deeply
offended Flavia by an outspoken expression of opinion, that  the
Roman ladies mingled too much in public affairs, and that they ought
to be content to stay at home and  rule their households and slaves.

He knew that he would have no difficulty with his father.  The
praetor was most anxious that his son should  make an alliance with
the house of Gracchus, and it was the custom that such prisoners
taken in war, as  were not sacrificed to the gods, should be given
as slaves to the nobles. As yet the great contests in the  arena,
which cost the lives of such vast numbers of prisoners taken in
war, were not instituted. Occasional  combats, indeed, took place,
but these were on a small scale, and were regarded rather as a
sacrifice to  Mars than as an amusement for the people.

Sempronius accordingly took his way moodily home. The praetor had
just returned, having seen Malchus  and the officers lodged in prison,
while the men were set to work on the fortifications. Sempronius
stated  Flavia's request. The praetor looked doubtful.

"I had intended," he said, "to have kept the officers in prison
until the senate decided what should be done  with them; but, of
course, if Flavia has set her mind on it I must strain a point.
After all there is no special  reason why the prisoners should be
treated differently to others. Of course I cannot send the leader
of the  party to Flavia and let the others remain in prison. As
there are two of them I will send them as presents to  two of the
principal families in Rome, so that if any question arises upon the
subject I shall at once have  powerful defenders; at any rate, it
will not do to offend Flavia."

Malchus, as he was led through the streets of Rome, had been making
comparisons by no means to the  favour of Carthage.  The greater
simplicity of dress, the absence of the luxury which was so unbridled
at  Carthage, the plainness of the architecture of the houses, the
free and manly bearing of the citizens, all  impressed him. Rough
as was the crowd who jeered and hooted him and his companions, there
was a  power and a vigour among them which was altogether lacking
at home. Under the influence of excitement  the populace there
was capable of rising and asserting themselves, but their general
demeanour was that of  subservience to the wealthy and powerful.

The tyranny of the senate weighed on the people, the numerous secret
denunciations and arrests inspired  each man with a mistrust of his
neighbour, for none could say that he was safe from the action of
secret  enemies. The Romans, on the other hand, were no respecters
of persons. Every free citizen deemed himself  the equal of the
best; the plebeians held their own against the patricians, and could
always return one of the  consuls, generally selecting the man who
had most distinguished himself by his hostility to the patricians.

The tribunes, whose power in Rome was nearly equal to that of the
consuls, were almost always the  representatives and champions of
the plebeians, and their power balanced that of the senate, which
was  entirely in the interests of the aristocracy.  Malchus was
reflecting over these things in the prison, when the  door of his
cell opened and Sempronius, accompanied by two soldiers, entered.
The former addressed him  in Greek.

"Follow me," he said. "You have been appointed by my father, the
praetor Caius, to be the domestic slave  of the lady Flavia Gracchus,
until such time as the senate may determine upon your fate."

As Carthage also enslaved prisoners taken in war Malchus showed
no surprise, although he would have  preferred labouring upon the
fortifications with his men to domestic slavery, however light the
latter might  be. Without a comment, then, he rose and accompanied
Sempronius from his prison.

Domestic slavery in Rome was not as a whole a severe fate.  The
masters, indeed, had the power of life and  death over their slaves,
they could flog and ill use them as they chose; but as a rule they
treated them well  and kindly.

The Romans were essentially a domestic people, kind to their wives,
and affectionate, although sometimes  strict, with their children.
The slaves were treated as the other servants; and, indeed, with
scarce an  exception, all servants were slaves. The rule was easy
and the labour by no means hard. Favourite slaves  were raised
to positions of trust and confidence, they frequently amassed
considerable sums of money, and  were often granted their freedom
after faithful services.



CHAPTER XXI: THE GAULISH SLAVE


On arriving at the mansion of Gracchus, Sempronius led Malchus to
the apartment occupied by Flavia. Her  face lighted with satisfaction.

"You have done well, my Sempronius," she said; "I shall not
forget your ready gratification of my wish. So  this is the young
Carthaginian? My friends will all envy me at having so handsome
a youth to attend upon  me. Do you speak our tongue?" she asked
graciously.

"A few words only," Malchus answered. "I speak Greek."

"It is tiresome," Flavia said, addressing Sempronius, "that I do
not know that language; but Julia has been  taught it. Tell him,
Sempronius, that his duties will be easy. He will accompany me when
I walk abroad,  and will stand behind me at table, and will have
charge of my pets. The young lion cub that Tiberius  procured for
me is getting troublesome and needs a firm hand over him; he nearly
killed one of the slaves  yesterday."

Sempronius translated Flavia's speech to Malchus.

"I shall dress him," Flavia said, "in white and gold; he will look
charming in it."

"It is hardly the dress for a slave," Sempronius ventured to object.

"I suppose I can dress him as I please. Lesbia, the wife of Emilius,
dresses her household slaves in blue and  silver, and I suppose I
have as much right as she has to indulge my fancies."

"Certainly, Lady Flavia," Sempronius said reverentially. "I only
thought that such favours shown to the  Carthaginian might make
the other slaves jealous."

Flavia made no answer, but waved her fan to Sempronius in token
of dismissal. The young Roman,  inwardly cursing her haughty airs,
took his leave at once, and Flavia handed Malchus over to the charge
of  the chief of the household, with strict directions as to the
dress which was to be obtained for him, and with  orders to give
the animals into his charge.

Malchus followed the man, congratulating himself that if he must
serve as a slave, at least he could hardly  have found an easier
situation. The pets consisted of some bright birds from the East,
a Persian greyhound,  several cats, a young bear, and a half grown
lion. Of these the lion alone was fastened up, in consequence  of
his attack upon the slave on the previous day.

Malchus was fond of animals, and at once advanced boldly to the
lion. The animal crouched as if for a  spring, but the steady gaze
of Malchus speedily changed its intention, and, advancing to the
full length of  its chain, it rubbed itself against him like a
great cat. Malchus stroked its side, and then, going to a fountain,
filled a flat vessel with water and placed it before it. The lion
lapped the water eagerly. Since its assault  upon the slave who
usually attended to it, none of the others had ventured to approach
it. They had, indeed,  thrown it food, but had neglected to supply
it with water.

"We shall get on well together, old fellow," Malchus said.  "We
are both African captives, and ought to be  friends."

Finding from the other slaves that until the previous day the animal
had been accustomed to run about the  house freely and to lie in
Flavia's room, Malchus at once unfastened the chain and for some
time played  with the lion, which appeared gentle and good tempered.
As the master of the household soon informed the  others of the
orders he had received respecting Malchus, the slaves saw that the
newcomer was likely, for a  time at least, to stand very high in
the favour of their capricious mistress, and therefore strove in
every way  to gain his goodwill.

Presently Malchus was sent for again, and found Julia sitting on
the couch by the side of her mother, and he  at once acknowledged
to himself that he had seldom seen a fairer woman.  She was tall,
and her figure was  full and well proportioned. Her glossy hair was
wound in a coil at the back of her head, her neck and arms  were
bare, and she wore a garment of light green silk, and embroidered
with gold stripes along the bottom,  reaching down to her knees,
while beneath it a petticoat of Tyrian purple reached nearly to
the ground.

"Is he not good looking, Julia?" Flavia asked. "There is not a
slave in Rome like him. Lesbia and Fulvia  will be green with envy."

Julia made no reply, but sat examining the face of Malchus with
as much composure as if he had been a  statue. He had bowed on
entering, as he would have done in the presence of Carthaginian
ladies, and now  stood composedly awaiting Flavia's orders.

"Ask him, Julia, if it is true that he is a cousin of Hannibal
and the captain of his guard. Such a youth as he  is, I can hardly
believe it; and yet how strong and sinewy are his limbs, and he
has an air of command in his  face. He interests me, this slave."

Julia asked in Greek the questions that her mother had dictated.

"Ask him now, Julia," Flavia said, when her daughter had translated
the answer, "how he came to be  captured."

Malchus recounted the story of his being blown by a gale into the
Roman ports; then, on her own account,  Julia inquired whether he
had been present at the various battles of the campaign.  After
an hour's  conversation Malchus was dismissed. In passing through
the hall beyond he came suddenly upon a female  who issued from one
of the female apartments. They gave a simultaneous cry of astonishment.

"Clotilde!" Malchus exclaimed, "you here, and a captive?"

"Alas! yes," the girl replied. "I was brought here three months
since."

"I have heard nothing of you all," Malchus said, "since your father
returned with his contingent after the  battle of Trasimene.  We
knew that Postumius with his legion was harrying Cisalpine Gaul,
but no  particular has reached us."

"My father is slain," the girl said. "He and the tribe were defeated.
The next day the Romans attacked the  village. We, the women and
the old men, defended it till the last. My two sisters were killed.
I was taken  prisoner and sent hither as a present to Flavia
by Postumius. I have been wishing to die, but now, since you  are
here, I shall be content to live even as a Roman slave."

While they were speaking they had been standing with their hands
clasped. Malchus, looking down into her  face, over which the tears
were now streaming as she recalled the sad events at home, wondered
at the  change which eighteen months had wrought in it. Then she
was a girl, now she was a beautiful woman --  the fairest he had
ever seen, Malchus thought, with her light brown hair with a gleam
of gold, her deep gray  eyes, and tender, sensitive mouth.

"And your mother?" he asked.

"She was with my father in the battle, and was left for dead on
the field; but I heard from a captive, taken a  month after I was,
that she had survived, and was with the remnant of the tribe in
the well nigh inaccessible  fastnesses at the head of the Orcus."

"We had best meet as strangers," Malchus said. "It were well that
none suspect we have met before. I shall  not stay here long -- if
I am not exchanged. I shall try to escape whatever be the risks,
and if you will  accompany me I will not go alone."

"You know I will, Malchus," Clotilde answered frankly.  "Whenever
you give the word I am ready,  whatever the risk is.  It should
break my heart were I left here alone again."

A footstep was heard approaching, and Clotilde, dropping Malchus'
hands, fled away into the inner  apartments, while Malchus walked
quietly on to the part of the house appropriated to the slaves.
The next  day, having assumed his new garments, and having had a
light gold ring, as a badge of servitude, fastened  round his neck,
Malchus accompanied Flavia and her daughter on a series of visits
to their friends.

The meeting with Clotilde had delighted as much as it had surprised
Malchus. The figure of the Gaulish  maiden had been often before
his eyes during his long night watches. When he was with her last
he had  resolved that when he next journeyed north he would ask her
hand of the chief, and since his journey to  Carthage his thoughts
had still more often reverted to her. The loathing which he now
felt for Carthage had  converted what was, when he was staying with
Allobrigius, little more than an idea, into a fixed  determination
that he would cut himself loose altogether from corrupt and degenerate
Carthage, and settle  among the Gauls. That he should find Clotilde
captive in Rome had never entered his wildest imagination,  and he
now blessed, as a piece of the greatest good fortune, the chance,
which had thrown him into the  hands of the Romans, and brought him
into the very house where Clotilde was a slave.  Had it not been
for  that he would never again have heard of her. When he returned
to her ruined home he would have found  that she had been carried
away by the Roman conquerors, but of her after fate no word could
ever have  reached him.

Some weeks passed, but no mode of escape presented itself to his
mind. Occasionally for a few moments  he saw Clotilde alone, and
they were often together in Flavia's apartment, for the Roman lady
was proud of  showing off to her friends her two slaves, both models
of their respective races.

Julia had at first been cold and hard to Malchus, but gradually her
manner had changed, and she now spoke  kindly and condescendingly
to him, and would sometimes sit looking at him from under her
dark eyebrows  with an expression which Malchus altogether failed
to interpret. Clotilde was more clear sighted.  One day  meeting
Malchus alone in the atrium she said to him:  "Malchus, do you know
that I fear Julia is learning to  love you. I see it in her face,
in the glance of her eye, in the softening of that full mouth of
hers."

"You are dreaming, little Clotilde," Malchus said laughing.

"I am not," she said firmly; "I tell you she loves you."

"Impossible!" Malchus said incredulously. "The haughty Julia, the
fairest of the Roman maidens, fall in  love with a slave!  You are
dreaming, Clotilde."

"But you are not a common slave, Malchus, you are a Carthaginian
noble and the cousin of Hannibal. You  are her equal in all respects."

"Save for this gold collar," Malchus said, touching the badge of
slavery lightly.

"Are you sure you do not love her in return, Malchus? She is very
beautiful."

"Is she?" Malchus said carelessly. "Were she fifty times more
beautiful it would make no difference to me,  for, as you know as
well as I do, I love some one else."

Clotilde flushed to the brow. "You have never said so," she said
softly.

"What occasion to say so when you know it? You have always known
it, ever since the day when we went  over the bridge together."

"But I am no fit mate for you," she said. "Even when my father
was alive and the tribe unbroken, what were  we that I should wed
a great Carthaginian noble? Now the tribe is broken, I am only a
Roman slave."

"Have you anything else to observe?" Malchus said quietly.

"Yes, a great deal more," she went on urgently. "How could you
present your wife, an ignorant Gaulish  girl, to your relatives,
the haughty dames of Carthage? They would look down upon me and
despise me."

"Clotilde, you are betraying yourself," Malchus said smiling, "for
you have evidently thought the matter  over in every light.  No,"
he said, detaining her, as, with an exclamation of shame, she would
have fled  away, "you must not go. You knew that I loved you, and
for every time you have thought of me, be it ever  so often, I
have thought of you a score. You knew that I loved you and intended
to ask your hand from your  father. As for the dames of Carthage,
I think not of carrying you there; but if you will wed me I will
settle  down for life among your people."

A footstep was heard approaching. Malchus pressed Clotilde for a
moment against his breast, and then he  was alone. The newcomer was
Sempronius. He was still a frequent visitor, but he was conscious
that he had  lately lost rather than gained ground in the good graces
of Julia. Averse as he had been from the first to the  introduction
of Malchus into the household, he was not long in discovering the
reason for the change in  Julia, and the dislike he had from the
first felt of Malchus had deepened to a feeling of bitter hatred.

"Slave," he said haughtily, "tell your mistress that l am here."

"I am not your slave," Malchus said calmly, "and shall not obey
your orders when addressed in such a  tone."

"Insolent hound," the young Roman exclaimed, "I will chastise you,"
and he struck Malchus with his stick.  In an instant the latter
sprang upon him, struck him to the ground, and wrenching the staff
from his hand  laid it heavily across him.  At that moment Flavia,
followed by her daughter, hurried in at the sound of the  struggle.
"Malchus," she exclaimed, "what means this?"

"It means," Sempronius said rising livid with passion, "that your
slave has struck me -- me, a Roman  patrician. I will lodge a
complaint against him, and the penalty, you know, is death."

"He struck me first, Lady Flavia," Malchus said quietly, "because
I would not do his behests when he spoke  to me as a dog."

"If you struck my slave, Sempronius," Flavia said coldly, "I blame
him not that he returned the blow.  Although a prisoner of war, he
is, as you well know, of a rank in Carthage superior to your own,
and I  wonder not that, if you struck him, he struck you in return.
You know that you had no right to touch my  slave, and if you now
take any steps against him I warn you that you will never enter
this house again."

"Nor will I ever speak a word to you," Julia added.

"But he has struck me," Sempronius said furiously; "he has knocked
me down and beaten me."

"Apparently you brought it upon yourself," Flavia said.  "None but
ourselves know what has happened;  therefore, neither shame nor
disgrace can arise from it. My advice to you is, go home now and
remain there  until those marks of the stick have died out; it will
be easy for you to assign an excuse. If you follow the  matter up,
I will proclaim among my friends how I found you here grovelling on
the ground while you  were beaten. What will then be said of your
manliness? Already the repeated excuses which have served  you from
abstaining to join the armies in the field have been a matter for
much comment. You best know  whether it would improve your position
were it known that you had been beaten by a slave. Why, you  would
be a jest among young Romans."

Sempronius stood irresolute. His last hopes of winning Julia were
annihilated by what had happened. The  tone of contempt in which
both mother and daughter had spoken sufficiently indicated their
feelings, and  for a moment he hesitated whether he would not take
what revenge he could by denouncing Malchus. But  the thought was
speedily put aside. He had been wrong in striking the domestic slave
of another; but the  fact that Malchus had been first attacked,
and the whole influence of the house of Gracchus, its relations,
friends, and clients exerted in his behalf, would hardly suffice to
save him.  Still the revenge would be  bought dearly in the future
hostility of Flavia and her friends, and in the exposure of his own
humiliating  attitude. He, therefore, with a great effort subdued
all signs of anger and said:

"Lady Flavia, your wish has always been law to me, and I would
rather that anything should happen than  that I should lose your
favour and patronage, therefore, I am willing to forget what has
happened, the more  so as I own that I acted wrongly in striking
your slave. I trust that after this apology you will continue to
be  the kindly friend I have always found you."

"Certainly, Sempronius," Flavia said graciously, "and I shall not
forget your ready acquiescence in my  wishes."

It was the more easy for Sempronius to yield, inasmuch as Malchus
had, after stating that he had been first  struck, quietly left the
apartment. For some little time things went on as before.  Malchus
was now at home  in Rome. As a slave of one of the most powerful
families, as was indicated by the badge he wore on his  dress, he
was able, when his services were not required, to wander at will
in the city. He made the circuit of  the walls, marked the spots
which were least frequented and where an escape would be most
easily made;  and, having selected a spot most remote from the
busy quarter of the town, he purchased a long rope, and  carrying
it there concealed it under some stones close to one of the flights
of steps by which access was  obtained to the summit of the wall.

The difficulty was not how to escape from Rome, for that, now that
he had so much freedom of movement,  was easy, but how to proceed
when he had once gained the open country. For himself he had
little doubt  that he should be able to make his way through the
territories of the allies of Rome, but the difficulty of  travelling
with Clotilde would be much greater.

"Clotilde," he said one day, "set your wits to work and try and
think of some disguise in which you might  pass with me. I have
already prepared for getting beyond the walls; but the pursuit
after us will be hot, and  until we reach the Carthaginian lines
every man's hand will be against us."

"I have thought of it, Malchus; the only thing that I can see is
for me to stain my skin and dye my hair and  go as a peasant boy."

"That is what I, too, have thought of, Clotilde. The disguise would
be a poor one, for the roundness of your  arms and the colour of
your eyes would betray you at once to any one who looked closely at
you. However,  as I can see no better way, I will get the garments
and some for myself to match, and some stuff for staining  the skin
and hair."

The next day Malchus bought the clothes and dye and managed
to bring them into the house unobserved,  and to give to Clotilde
those intended for her.

The lion, under the influence of the mingled firmness and kindness
of Malchus, had now recovered his  docility, and followed him about
the house like a great dog, sleeping stretched out on a mat by the
side of  his couch.

Sempronius continued his visits. Malchus was seldom present when
he was with Flavia, but Clotilde was  generally in the room. It
was now the height of summer, and her duty was to stand behind her
mistress with  a large fan, with which she kept up a gentle current
of air over Flavia's head and drove off the troublesome  flies.
Sometimes she had to continue doing so for hours, while Flavia
chatted with her friends.

Sempronius was biding his time. The two slaves were still high in
Flavia's favour, but he was in hopes that  something might occur
which would render her willing to part with them. He watched Julia
narrowly  whenever Malchus entered the room, and became more and more
convinced that she had taken a strong  fancy for the Carthaginian
slave, and the idea occurred to him that by exciting her jealousy
he might  succeed in obtaining his object. So careful were Malchus
and Clotilde that he had no idea whatever that any  understanding
existed between them. This, however, mattered but little; nothing
was more likely than that  these two handsome slaves should fall
in love with each other, and he determined to suggest the idea to
Julia.

Accordingly one day when he was sitting beside her, while Flavia
was talking with some other visitors, he  remarked carelessly, "Your
mother's two slaves, the Carthaginian and the Gaul, would make a
handsome  couple."

He saw a flush of anger in Julia's face. For a moment she did not
reply, and then said in a tone of  indifference:

"Yes, they are each well favoured in their way."

"Methinks the idea has occurred to them," Sempronius said.  "I have
seen them glance at each other, and  doubt not that when beyond
your presence they do not confine themselves to looks."

Julia was silent, but Sempronius saw, in the tightly compressed
lips and the lowering brow with which she  looked from one to the
other, that the shaft had told.

"I have wondered sometimes," he said, "in an idle moment, whether
they ever met before. The  Carthaginians were for some time among
the Cisalpine Gauls, and the girl was, you have told me, the
daughter of a chief there; they may well have met."

Julia made no reply, and Sempronius, feeling that he had said
enough, began to talk on other subjects. Julia  scarcely answered
him, and at last impatiently waved him away. She sat silent and
abstracted until the last  of the visitors had left, then she rose
from her seat and walked quietly up to her mother and said abruptly
to  Clotilde, who was standing behind her mistress: "Did you know
the slave Malchus before you met here?"

The suddenness of the question sent the blood up into the cheeks
of the Gaulish maiden, and Julia felt at  once that the hints of
Sempronius were fully justified.

"Yes," Clotilde answered quietly, "I met him when, with Hannibal,
he came down from the Alps into our  country."

"Why did you not say so before?" Julia asked passionately.  "Mother,
the slaves have been deceiving us."

"Julia," Flavia said in surprise, "why this heat? What matters it
to us whether they have met before?"

Julia did not pay any attention, but stood with angry eyes waiting
for Clotilde's answer.

"I did not know, Lady Julia," the girl said quietly, "that the
affairs of your slaves were of any interest to  you. We recognized
each other when we first met. Long ago now, when we were
both in a different  position -- "

"And when you loved each other?" Julia said in a tone of concentrated
passion.

"And when we loved each other," Clotilde repeated, her head thrown
back now, and her bearing as proud  and haughty as that of Julia.

"You hear that, mother? you hear this comedy that these slaves have
been playing under your nose? Send  them both to the whipping post."

"My dear Julia," Flavia exclaimed, more and more surprised at her
anger, "what harm has been done? You  astonish me.  Clotilde, you
can retire. What means all this, Julia?" she went on more severely
when they  were alone; "why all this strange passion because two
slaves, who by some chance have met each other  before, are lovers?
What is this Gaulish girl, what is this Carthaginian slave, to
you?"

"I love him, mother!" Julia said passionately.

"You!" Flavia exclaimed in angry surprise; "you, Julia, of the
house of Gracchus, love a slave! You are  mad, girl, and shameless."

"I say so without shame," Julia replied, "and why should I not?
He is a noble of Carthage, though now a  prisoner of war.  What if
my father is a consul? Malchus is the cousin of Hannibal, who is
a greater man  than Rome has ever yet seen. Why should I not wed
him?"

"In the first place, it seems, Julia," Flavia said gravely, "because
he loves someone else. In the second  place, because, as I hear, he
is likely to be exchanged very shortly for a praetor taken prisoner
at Cannae,  and will soon be fighting against us. In the third
place, because all Rome would be scandalized were a  Roman maiden
of the patrician order, and of the house of Gracchus, to marry one
of the invaders of her  country. Go to, Julia, I blush for you!
So this is the reason why of late you have behaved so coldly to
Sempronius. Shame on you, daughter!  What would your father say,
did he, on his return from the field,  hear of your doings? Go to
your chamber, and do not let me see you again till you can tell me
that you have  purged this madness from your veins."

Without a word Julia turned and left the room. Parental discipline
was strong in Rome, and none dare  disobey a parent's command, and
although Julia had far more liberty and license than most unmarried
Roman girls, she did not dare to answer her mother when she spoke
in such a tone.

Flavia sat for some time in thought, then she sent for Malchus. He
had already exchanged a few words with  Clotilde, and was therefore
prepared for her questions.

"Malchus, is it true that you love my Gaulish slave girl?"

"It is true," Malchus replied quietly. "When we met in Gaul, two
years since, she was the daughter of a  chief, I a noble of Carthage.
I loved her; but we were both young, and with so great a war in
hand it was not  a time to speak of marriage."

"Would you marry her now?"

"Not as a slave," Malchus replied; "when I marry her it shall be
before the face of all men -- I as a noble of  Carthage, she as a
noble Gaulish maiden."

"Hannibal is treating for your exchange now," Flavia said.  "There
are difficulties in the way, for, as you  know, the senate have
refused to allow its citizens who surrender to be ransomed or
exchanged; but the  friends of the praetor Publius are powerful and
are bringing all their influence to bear to obtain the  exchange
of their kinsman, whom Hannibal has offered for you. I will gladly
use what influence I and my  family possess to aid them. I knew
when you came to me that, as a prisoner of war, it was likely that
you  might be exchanged."

"You have been very kind, my Lady Flavia," Malchus said, "and
I esteem myself most fortunate in having  fallen into such hands.
Since you know now how it is with me and Clotilde, I can ask you
at once to let me  ransom her of you. Any sum that you like to name
I will bind myself, on my return to the Carthaginian  camp, to pay
for her."

"I will think it over," Flavia said graciously. "Clotilde is useful
to me, but I can dispense with her services,  and will ask you no
exorbitant amount for her. If the negotiations for your exchange
come to aught, you  may rely upon it that she shall go hence with
you."

With an expression of deep gratitude Malchus retired. Flavia, in
thus acceding to the wishes of Malchus,  was influenced by several
motives. She was sincerely shocked at Julia's conduct, and was most
desirous of  getting both Malchus and Clotilde away, for she knew
that her daughter was headstrong as she was  passionate, and the
presence of Clotilde in the house would, even were Malchus absent, be
a source of strife  and bitterness between herself and her daughter.

In the second place, it would be a pretty story to tell her
friends, and she should be able to take credit to  herself for her
magnanimity in parting with her favourite attendant. Lastly, in the
present state of affairs it  might possibly happen that it would
be of no slight advantage to have a friend possessed of great
power and  influence in the Carthaginian camp. Her husband might be
captured in fight -- it was not beyond the bounds  of possibility
that Rome itself might fall into the hands of the Carthaginians.
It was, therefore, well worth  while making a friend of a man who
was a near relation of Hannibal.

For some days Julia kept her own apartment. All the household
knew that something had gone wrong,  though none were aware of the
cause. A general feeling of uneasiness existed, for Julia had from
a child in  her fits of temper been harsh with her slaves, venting
her temper by cruelly beating and pinching them.   Many a slave had
been flogged by her orders at such a time, for her mother, although
herself an easy  mistress, seldom interfered with her caprices,
and all that she did was good in the eyes of her father.

At the end of the week Flavia told Malchus that the negotiations
for his release had been broken off, the  Roman senate remaining
inflexible in the resolve that Romans who surrendered to the enemy
should not be  exchanged. Malchus was much disappointed, as it
had seemed that the time of his release was near;  however, he had
still his former plan of escape to fall back upon.

A day or two later Julia sent a slave with a message to Sempronius,
and in the afternoon sallied out with a  confidential attendant,
who always accompanied her when she went abroad.  In the Forum she
met  Sempronius, who saluted her.

"Sempronius," she said coming at once to the purpose, "will you do
me a favour?"

"I would do anything to oblige you, Lady Julia, as you know."

"That is the language of courtesy," Julia said shortly; "I mean
would you be ready to run some risk?"

"Certainly," Sempronius answered readily.

"You will do it the more readily, perhaps," Julia said, "inasmuch
as it will gratify your revenge. You have  reason to hate Malchus,
the Carthaginian slave."

Sempronius nodded.

"Your suspicion was true, he loves the Gaulish slave; they have
been questioned and have confessed it. I  want them separated."

"But how?" Sempronius asked, rejoicing inwardly at finding that
Julia's wishes agreed so nearly with his  own.

"I want her carried off," Julia said shortly. "When once you have
got her you can do with her as you will;  make her your slave, kill
her, do as you like with her, that is nothing to me -- all I want
is that she shall go.  I suppose you have some place where you
could take her?"

"Yes," Sempronius said, "I have a small estate among the Alban
Hills where she would be safe enough  from searchers; but how to
get her there? She never goes out except with Lady Flavia."

"She must be taken from the house," Julia said shortly; "pretty
slaves have been carried off before now, and  no suspicion need
light upon you. You might find some place in the city to hide her
for a few days, and  then boldly carry her through the gates in a
litter. None will think of questioning you."

"The wrath of Lady Flavia would be terrible," Sempronius said
doubtfully.

"My mother would be furious at first," Julia said coldly; "but get
her a new plaything, a monkey or a  Nubian slave boy, and she will
soon forget all about the matter."

"But how do you propose it should be done?" Sempronius asked.

"My slave shall withdraw all the bolts of the back entrance to the
house," Julia said; "do you be there at two  in the morning, when
all will be sound asleep; bring with you a couple of barefooted
slaves. My woman  will be at the door and will guide you to the
chamber where the girl sleeps; you have only to gag her and  carry
her quietly off."

Sempronius stood for a moment in doubt. The enterprise was certainly
feasible. Wild adventures of this  kind were not uncommon among
the dissolute young Romans, and Sempronius saw at once that were
he  detected Julia's influence would prevent her mother taking the
matter up hotly. Julia guessed his thoughts.

"If you are found out," she said, "I will take the blame upon myself,
and tell my mother that you were  acting solely at my request."

"I will do it, Julia," he agreed; "tonight at two o'clock I will
be at the back door with two slaves whom I can  trust. I will have
a place prepared to which I can take the girl till it is safe to
carry her from the city."



CHAPTER XXII: THE LION


Malchus was sleeping soundly that night when he was awakened by a
low angry sound from the lion.

He looked up, and saw by the faint light of a lamp which burned in
the hall, from which the niche like bed  chambers of the principal
slaves opened, that the animal had risen to its feet. Knowing
that, docile as it was  with those it knew, the lion objected to
strangers, the thought occurred to him that some midnight thief
had  entered the house for the purpose of robbery. Malchus took
his staff and sallied out, the lion walking beside  him.

He traversed the hall and went from room to room until he entered
the portion of the house inhabited by  Flavia and the female
slaves. Here he would have hesitated, but the lion continued its
way, crouching as it  walked, with its tail beating its sides with
short quick strokes.

There was no one in the principal apartment. He entered the corridor,
from which as he knew issued the bed  chambers of the slaves. Here
he stopped in sudden surprise at seeing a woman holding a light,
while two  men were issuing from one of the apartments bearing
between them a body wrapped up in a cloak.   Sempronius stood by
the men directing their movements. The face of the person carried
was invisible, but  the light of the lamp fell upon a mass of golden
brown hair, and Malchus knew at once that it was Clotilde  who was
being carried off.

Malchus sprang forward and with a blow of his staff levelled one
of the slaves to the ground; Sempronius  with a furious exclamation
drew his sword and rushed at him, while the other slave, dropping
his burden,  closed with Malchus and threw his arms around him.
For a moment Malchus felt powerless, but before  Sempronius could
strike there was a deep roar, a dark body sprang forward and hurled
itself upon him,  levelling him to the ground with a crushing blow
of its paw, and then seized him by the shoulder and shook  him
violently. The slave who held Malchus loosed his hold and fled with
a cry of affright, the female slave  dropped the light and fled
also.  Clotilde had by this time gained her feet.

"Quick, love!" Malchus said; "seize your disguise and join me at
the back gate. Sempronius is killed; I will  join you as quickly
as I can."

By this time the household was alarmed, the shout of Malchus and
the roar of the lion had aroused  everyone, and the slaves soon
came hurrying with lights to the spot. Malchus checked them as they
came  running out.

"Fetch the net," he said. The net in question had been procured
after the lion had before made an attack  upon the slave, but had
not since been required.

Malchus dared not approach the creature now, for though he was not
afraid for himself, it was now furious,  and might, if disturbed,
rush among the others and do terrible destruction before it could
be secured. The  net was quickly brought, and Malchus, with three
of the most resolute of the slaves, advanced and threw it  over
the lion, which was lying upon the prostrate body of Sempronius. It
sprang to its feet, but the net was  round it, and in its struggle
to escape it fell on its side. Another twist of the net and it
was helplessly  inclosed; the four men lifted the ends and carried
it away. Cutting a portion of the net Malchus placed the  massive
iron collar attached to the chain round its neck and then left it,
saying to the others:

"We can cut the rest of the net off it afterwards."

He then hurried back to the scene of the struggle. Flavia was
already there.

"What is all this, Malchus," she asked. "Here I find Sempronius dead
and one of his slaves senseless beside  him; they tell me when he
first arrived you were here."

"I know nothing of it, lady," Malchus replied, "save that the
lion aroused me by growling, and thinking that  robbers might have
entered the house, I arose and searched it and came upon three men.
One I levelled to  the ground with my staff; doubtless he is only
stunned and will be able to tell you more when he recovers. I
grappled with another, and while engaged in a struggle with him
the third attacked me with a sword, and  would have slain me had
not the lion sprang upon him and felled him. The other man then
fled -- this is all  I know about it."

"What can it all mean?" Flavia said. "What could Sempronius with
two slaves be doing in my house after  midnight?  It is a grave
outrage, and there will be a terrible scandal in Rome tomorrow --
the son of a  praetor and a friend of the house!"

She then ordered the slaves to raise the body of Sempronius and
carry it to a couch, and to send at once for  a leech. She also
bade them throw water on the slave and bring him to consciousness,
and then to bring him  before her to be questioned.

"Where is my daughter?" she said suddenly; "has she not been roused
by all this stir?" One of the female  slaves stole into Julia's
apartment, and returned saying that her mistress was sound asleep
on her couch.

An expression of doubt crossed Flavia's face, but she only said,
"Do not disturb her," and then thoughtfully  returned to her room.
It was not until an hour later that the prisoner was sufficiently
recovered to be  brought before Flavia.  He had already heard that
his master was killed, and, knowing that concealment  would be
useless, he threw himself on the ground before Flavia, and owned
that he and another slave had  been brought by Sempronius to carry
off a slave girl.

Acting on his instructions they had thrust a kerchief into her mouth,
and wrapped a cloak round her, and  were carrying her off when a
man rushed at him, and he supposed struck him, for he remembered
nothing  more. He then with many tears implored mercy, on the ground
that he was acting but on his master's orders.   At this moment
the praetor himself arrived, Flavia having sent for him immediately
she had ascertained that  Sempronius was dead. He was confused and
bewildered at the suddenness of his loss.

"I thought at first," Flavia said, "that he must have been engaged
in some wild scheme to carry off Julia,  though why he should do so
I could not imagine, seeing that he had my approval of his wooing;
but Julia is  asleep, not having been a wakened by the noise of
the scuffle. It must have been one of the slave girls."

"Ah!" she exclaimed suddenly. "I did not see Clotilde." She struck
a bell, and her attendant entered.

"Go," she said, "and summon Clotilde here."

In a few minutes the slave returned, saying that Clotilde was not
to be found.

"She may have been carried off by the other slave," Flavia said,
"but Malchus was there, and would have  pursued. Fetch him here."

But Malchus too was found to be missing.

"They must have fled together," Flavia said. "There was an
understanding between them. Doubtless  Malchus feared that this
affair with your son might cause him to be taken away from here.
Perhaps it is best  so, and I trust that they may get away, though
I fear there is little chance, since no slaves are allowed to  leave
the city without a pass, and even did they succeed in gaining the
open country they would be arrested  and brought back by the first
person who met them. But that is not the question for the present."

"What think you, my friend, what are we to do in this terrible
business?"

"I know not," the praetor said with a groan.

"The honour of both our families is concerned," Flavia said calmly.
"Your son has been found in my house  at night and slain by my
lion. All the world knows that he was a suitor for Julia's hand.
There's but one  thing to be done; the matter must be kept secret.
It would not do to try and remove Sempronius tonight, for  the
litter might be stopped by the watch; it must be taken boldly away
in daylight. Send four slaves whom  you can trust, and order them
to be silent on pain of death. I will tell my household that if
a word is  breathed of what has taken place tonight, I will hand
whoever disobeys me over to the executioners.  When  you have got
your son's body home you can spread a rumour that he is sick of the
fever. There will be no  difficulty in bribing the leech. Then in
a few days you will give out that he is dead, and none will be any
the  wiser."

The praetor agreed that this was the best plan that could be adopted,
and it was carried out in due course,  and so well was the secret
kept that no one in Rome ever doubted that Sempronius had fallen
a victim to  fever.

Julia's anger in the morning, when she heard that the Gaulish
slave girl and the Carthaginian were missing,  was great, and she
hurried to her mother's room to demand that a hue and cry should be
at once made for  them, and a reward offered for their apprehension.
She had, when informed of the scenes which had taken  place in the
night, and of the death of Sempronius, expressed great astonishment
and horror, and indeed the  news that her accomplice had been
killed had really shocked her. The sentiment, however, had faded to
insignificance in the anger which she felt when, as the narrative
continued, she heard of the escape of the  two slaves.

A stormy scene took place between her and her mother, Julia boldly
avowing that she was the author of the  scheme which had had so
fatal a termination. Flavia, in her indignation at her daughter's
conduct, sent her  away at once to a small summer retreat belonging
to her in the hills, and there she was kept for some  months in
strict seclusion under the watchful guardianship of some old and
trusted slaves.

Malchus, having seen the lion fastened up, had seized the bundle
containing his disguise, and hurried away  to the gate where Clotilde
was awaiting him.

"How long you have been!" she said with a gasp of relief.

"I could not get away until the lion was secured," he said, "for
I should have been instantly missed. Now we  will be off at once."
Both had thrown large dark cloaks over their garments, and they now
hurried along  through the deserted streets, occasionally drawing
aside into bylanes as they heard the tramp of the city  watch.

At last, after half an hour's walking, they reached the wall.
Malchus knew the exact spot where he had  hidden the rope, and had
no difficulty in finding it. They mounted the steps and stood on
the battlements.  The sentries were far apart, for no enemy was
in the neighbourhood of Rome. Malchus fastened the rope  round
Clotilde, and lowered her down over the battlements. When he found
that she had reached the ground  he made fast the end of the rope
and slid down till he stood beside her. They proceeded with the
utmost  caution until at some distance from the walls; and then
shaped their course until, after a long walk, they  came down upon
the Tiber below the city.

Day had by this time broken, and Malchus bade Clotilde enter a little
wood to change her garments and dye  her skin. He then proceeded to
do the same, and rolling up the clothes he had taken off, hid them
under a  bush. Clotilde soon joined him again.  She wore the dress
of a peasant boy, consisting of a tunic of rough  cloth reaching
to her knees. Her limbs, face, and neck were dyed a sunny brown,
and her hair, which was  cut quite short, was blackened. Dyes were
largely in use by Roman ladies, and Malchus had had no  difficulty
in procuring those necessary for their disguises.

"I don't think anyone would suspect you, Clotilde," he said; "even
I should pass you without notice. What a  pity you have had to part
with all your sunny hair!"

"It will soon grow again," she said; "and now, Malchus, do not let
us waste a moment. I am in terror while  those dark walls are in
sight."

"We shall soon leave them behind," Malchus said encouragingly.
"There are plenty of fishermen's boats  moored along the bank here.
We shall soon leave Rome behind us."

They stepped into a boat, loosened the moorings, and pushed off,
and Malchus, getting out the oars, rowed  steadily down the river
until they neared its mouth. Then they landed, pushed the boat into
the stream  again, lest, if it were found fastened up, it might
give a clue to any who were in pursuit of them, and then  struck
off into the country. After travelling some miles they turned into
a wood, where they lay down for  several hours, and did not resume
their course until nightfall.

Malchus had, before starting, entered the kitchen, and had filled
a bag with cold meat, oatmeal cakes, and  other food, and this,
when examined, proved ample for four days' supply, and he had,
therefore, no  occasion to enter the villages to buy provisions.
They kept by the seashore until they neared Terracina, and  then
took to the hills, and skirted these until they had left the state
of Latium. They kept along at the foot of  the great range which
forms the backbone of Italy, and so passing along Samnium, came
down upon the  Volturnus, having thus avoided the Roman army, which
lay between Capua and Rome.

Their journey had been a rough one, for, by the winding road they
had followed along the mountains, the  distance they traversed was
over one hundred miles. The fatigue had been great, and it was well
that  Clotilde had had a Gaulish training.  After their provisions
were exhausted they had subsisted upon corn  which they gathered
in the patches of cultivated ground near the mountain villages,
and upon fruits which  they picked in the woods.

Twice, too, they had come upon herds of half wild goats in the
mountains, and Malchus had succeeded in  knocking down a kid with
a stone. They had not made very long journeys, resting always for a
few hours in  the heat of the day, and it was ten days after they
had left Rome before, from an eminence, they saw the  walls of
Capua.

"How can I go in like this?" Clotilde exclaimed in a sudden fit of
shyness.

"We will wait until it is dusk," Malchus said; "the dye is fast
wearing off, and your arms are strangely white  for a peasant girl's.
I will take you straight to Hannibal's palace, and you will soon
be fitted out gorgeously.  There are spoils enough stored up to
clothe all the women of Rome."

They sat down in the shade of a clump of trees, and waited till
the heat of the day was past; then they rose  and walked on until,
after darkness had fallen, they entered the town of Capua.  They
had no difficulty in  discovering the palace where Hannibal was
lodged. They were stopped at the entrance by the guards, who  gave
a cry of surprise and pleasure when Malchus revealed himself. At
first they could hardly credit that, in  the dark skinned peasant,
their own commander stood before them, and as the news spread rapidly
the  officers of the corps ran down and saluted him with a joyous
greeting. While this was going on Clotilde  shrank back out of the
crowd.

As soon as he could extricate himself from his comrades, Malchus
joined her, and led her to Hannibal,  who, hearing the unusual
stir, was issuing from his apartment to see what had occasioned it.
The shouts of  "Long live Malchus!" which rose from the soldiers
informed him of what had happened, and he at once  recognized his
kinsman in the figure advancing to meet him.

"My dear Malchus," he exclaimed, "this is a joyous surprise.  I
have been in vain endeavouring to get you  out of the hands of
the Romans, but they were obstinate in refusing an exchange; but
knowing your  adroitness, I have never given up hopes of seeing
you appear some day among us. But whom have you  here?" he asked
as he re-entered his room accompanied by Malchus and his companion.

"This is Clotilde, daughter of Allobrigius, the chief of the Orcan
tribe," Malchus replied, "and my affianced  wife. Her father has
been defeated and killed by Postumius, and she was carried as a
slave to Rome. There  good fortune and the gods threw us together,
and I have managed to bring her with me."

"I remember you, of course," Hannibal said to the girl, "and that
I joked my young kinsman about you. This  is well, indeed; but we
must see at once about providing you with proper garments. There
are no females in  my palace, but I will send at once for Chalcus,
who is now captain of my guard, and who has married here  in Capua,
and beg him to bring hither his wife; she will l am sure take charge
of you, and furnish you with  garments."

Clotilde was soon handed over to the care of the Italian lady, and
Malchus then proceeded to relate to  Hannibal the various incidents
which had occurred since he had sailed from Capua for Sardinia. He
learned  in return that the mission of Mago to Carthage had been
unsuccessful. He had brought over a small  reinforcement of cavalry
and elephants, which had landed in Bruttium and had safely joined
the army; but  this only repaired a few of the many gaps made by
the war, and was useless to enable Hannibal to carry out  his great
purpose.

"Hanno's influence was too strong," Hannibal said, "and I foresee
that sooner or later the end must come. I  may hold out for years
here in Southern Italy, but unless Carthage rises from her lethargy,
I must finally be  overpowered."

"It seems to me," Malchus said, "that the only hope is in rousing
the Gauls to invade Italy from the north."

"I know nothing of what is passing there," Hannibal said; "but
it is clear from the disaster which has  befallen our friends the
Orcans that the Romans are more than holding their own north of
the Apennines.  Still, if a diversion could be made it would be
useful. I suppose you are desirous of taking your bride back  to
her tribe."

"Such is my wish, certainly," Malchus said. "As I have told you,
Hannibal, I have made up my mind never  to return to Carthage. It
is hateful to me. Her tame submission to the intolerable tyranny
of Hanno and his  faction, her sufferance of the corruption which
reigns in every department, her base ingratitude to you and  the
army which have done and suffered so much, the lethargy which she
betrays when dangers are  thickening and her fall and destruction
are becoming more and more sure, have sickened me of her. I have
resolved, as I have told you, to cast her off, and to live and die
among the Gauls -- a life rough and simple,  but at least free."

"But it seems that the Gauls have again been subjected to Rome,"
Hannibal said.

"On this side of the Alps," Malchus replied, "but beyond are great
tribes who have never as yet heard of  Rome. It is to them that
Clotilde's mother belongs, and we have settled that we will first
try and find her  mother and persuade her to go with us, and that
if she is dead we will journey alone until we join her tribe  in
Germany. But before I go I will, if it be possible, try and rouse
the Gauls to make another effort for  freedom by acting in concert,
by driving out the Romans and invading Italy. You will, I trust,
Hannibal, not  oppose my plans."

"Assuredly not, Malchus; I sympathize with you, and were I younger
and without ties and responsibilities  would fain do the same. It
is a sacrifice, no doubt, to give up civilization and to begin life
anew, but it is  what our colonists are always doing. At any rate
it is freedom -- freedom from the corruption, the intrigue,  the
sloth, and the littleness of a decaying power like that of Carthage.
You will be happy at least in having  your wife with you, while
the gods only know when I shall see the face of my beloved Imilce.

"Yes, Malchus, follow your own devices. Carthage, when she flung
you in prison and would have put you  to a disgraceful death,
forfeited all further claim upon you. You have rendered her great
services, you have  risked your life over and over again in her
cause, you have repaid tenfold the debt which you incurred when
she gave you birth. You are free now to carry your sword where you
will. I shall deeply regret your loss,  but your father has gone
and many another true friend of mine, and it is but one more in the
list of those I  have lost.  Follow your own wishes, and live in
that freedom which you will never attain in the service of  Carthage."

The next day the marriage of Malchus and Clotilde took place.
Hannibal himself joined their hands and  prayed the gods to bless
their union. Three weeks later Hannibal arranged that a body of a
hundred  Carthaginian horse should accompany Malchus to the north,
where he would endeavour to raise the Gaulish  tribes. They were
to cross into Apulia, to travel up the east coast until past the
ranges of the Apennines, and  then make their way across the plains
to the Alps. A dozen officers accompanied him; these were to aid
him in his negotiations with the chiefs, and in organizing the new
forces, should his efforts be successful.

To the great joy of Malchus, on the very evening before he started
Nessus arrived in the camp. He had,  when Malchus was at Rome, been
employed with the other Carthaginian soldiers on the fortifications.
Malchus had once or twice seen him as, with the others, he was marched
from the prison to the walls, and  had exchanged a few words with
him. He had told him that he intended to escape, but could not say
when  he should find an opportunity to do so; but that if at any
time a month passed without his seeing him,  Nessus would know that
he had gone.

The extra rigour with which the prisoners were guarded had led
Nessus to suspect that a prisoner had  escaped, and a month having
passed without his seeing Malchus, he determined on making an
attempt at  flight. So rigourous was the watch that there was no
possibility of this being done secretly, and, therefore,  one day
when they were employed in repairing the foundations of the wall
outside the city Nessus seized  the opportunity, when the attention
of the guards was for a moment directed in another quarter, to start
at  the top of his speed. He had chosen the hottest hour of the
day for the attempt, when few people were  about, and the peasants
had left the fields for an hour's sleep under the shade of trees.

The Roman guard had started in pursuit, but Nessus had not overrated
his powers. Gradually he left them  behind him, and, making straight
for the Tiber, plunged in and swam the river. He had followed the
right  bank up to the hills, and on the second evening after starting
made his appearance at Capua. When he heard  the plans of Malchus
he announced, as a matter of course, that he should accompany
him. Malchus pointed  out that, with the rewards and spoils he had
obtained, he had now sufficient money to become a man of  importance
among his own people. Nessus quietly waved the remark aside as if
it were wholly unworthy of  consideration.

The cavalry who were to accompany Malchus were light armed Numidians,
whose speed would enable  them to distance any bodies of the enemy
they might meet on their way. With them were thirty lead horses,
some of them carrying a large sum of money, which Hannibal had
directed should be paid to Malchus from  the treasury, as his share,
as an officer of high rank, of the captured booty. The rest of the
horses were laden  with costly arms, robes of honour, and money as
presents for the Gaulish chiefs. These also were furnished  from the
abundant spoils which had fallen into the hands of the Carthaginians.

Hannibal directed Malchus that, in the event of his failing in his
mission, he was not to trouble to send  these things back, but was
to retain them to win the friendship and goodwill of the chiefs
of the country to  which he proposed to journey. The next morning
Malchus took an affectionate farewell of the general and  his old
comrades, and then, with Clotilde riding by his side -- for the
women of the Gauls were as well  skilled as the men in the management
of horses -- he started at the head of his party. He followed the
route  marked out for him without any adventure of importance. He
had one or two skirmishes with parties of  tribesmen allied with
Rome, but his movements were too rapid for any force sufficient to
oppose his  passage being collected.

After ascending the sea coast the troop skirted the northern slopes
of the Apennines, passing close to the  battlefield of Trebia, and
crossing the Po by a ford, ascended the banks of the Orcus, and
reached Clotilde's  native village. A few ruins alone marked where
it had stood. Malchus halted there and despatched scouts  far up
the valley. These succeeded in finding a native, who informed them
that Brunilda with the remains  of the tribe were living in the
forests far up on the slopes. The scouts delivered to them the
message with  which they were charged: that Clotilde and Malchus,
with a Carthaginian force, were at Orca. The  following evening
Brunilda and her followers came into camp.

Deep was the joy of the mother and daughter. The former had long
since given up all hope of ever hearing  of Clotilde again, and had
devoted her life to vengeance on the Romans. From her fastness in
the mountain  she had from time to time led her followers down,
and carried fire and sword over the fields and plantations  of the
Roman colonists, retiring rapidly before the garrisons could sally
from the towns and fall upon her.  She was rejoiced to find that her
child had found a husband and protector in the young Carthaginian,
still  more rejoiced when she found that the latter had determined
upon throwing in his lot with the Gauls.

All that night mother and daughter sat talking over the events
which had happened since they parted.  Brunilda could give Malchus
but little encouragement for the mission on which he had come. The
legion of  Postumius had indeed been defeated and nearly destroyed
in a rising which had taken place early in the  spring; but fresh
troops had arrived, dissensions had, as usual, broken out among the
chiefs, many of them  had again submitted to the Romans, and the
rest had been defeated and crushed.  Brunilda thought that  there
was little hope at present of their again taking up arms.

For some weeks Malchus attempted to carry out Hannibal's instructions;
he and his lieutenants,  accompanied by small parties of horse,
rode through the country and visited all the chiefs of Cisalpine
Gaul, but the spirit of the people was broken. The successes they
had gained had never been more than  partial, the Roman garrison
towns had always defied all their efforts, and sooner or later
the Roman legions  swept down across the Apennines and carried all
before them.

In vain Malchus told them of the victories that Hannibal had won,
that Southern Italy was in his hands, and  the Roman dominion
tottering. In reply they pointed to the garrisons and the legion,
and said that, were  Rome in a sore strait, she would recall her
legion for her own defence, and no arguments that Malchus  could
use could move them to lay aside their own differences and to unite
in another effort for freedom.   Winter was now at hand. Malchus
remained in the mountains with the Orcans until spring came, and
then  renewed his efforts with no greater success than before. Then
he dismissed the Carthaginians, with a letter  giving Hannibal an
account of all he had done, and bade them find their way back to
Capua by the road by  which they had come.

Brunilda had joyfully agreed to his proposal that they should cross
the Alps and join her kinsmen in  Germany, and the remnant of the
tribe willingly consented to accompany them. Accordingly in the
month  of May they set out, and journeying north made their way
along the shore of the lake now called the Lago  di Guarda, and,
crossing by the pass of the Trentino, came down on the northern
side of the Alps, and, after  journeying for some weeks among the
great forests which covered the country, reached the part inhabited
by the tribe of the Cherusei, to which Brunilda belonged.

Here they were hospitably received. Brunilda's family were among
the noblest of the tribe, and the rich  presents which the ample
resources of Malchus enabled him to distribute among all the chiefs,
at once  raised him to a position of high rank and consideration
among them. Although accepting the life of  barbarism Malchus was
not prepared to give up all the usages of civilization. He built a
house, which,  although it would have been but a small structure in
Carthage, was regarded with admiration and wonder  by the Gauls.
Here he introduced the usages and customs of civilization. The
walls, indeed, instead of being  hung with silk and tapestry, were
covered with the skins of stags, bears, and other animals slain in
the  chase; but these were warmer and better suited for the rigour
of the climate in winter than silks would have  been. The wealth,
knowledge, and tact of Malchus gained him an immense influence in
the tribe, and in  time he was elected the chief of that portion of
it dwelling near him. He did not succeed in getting his  followers
to abandon their own modes of life, but he introduced among them
many of the customs of  civilization, and persuaded them to adopt
the military formation in use among the Carthaginians. It was  with
some reluctance that they submitted to this; but so complete was
the victory which they obtained over  a rival tribe, upon their
first encounter when led by Malchus and his able lieutenant Nessus,
that he had no  difficulty in future on this score.

The advantages, indeed, of fighting in solid formation, instead of
the irregular order in which each man  fought for himself, were
so overwhelming that the tribe rapidly increased in power and
importance, and  became one of the leading peoples in that part
of Germany. Above all, Malchus inculcated them with a  deep hatred
of Rome, and warned them that when the time came, as it assuredly
would do, that the Romans  would cross the Alps and attempt the
conquest of the country, it behooved the German tribes to lay aside
all  their disputes and to join in a common resistance against the
enemy.

From time to time rumours, brought by parties of Cisalpine Gauls,
who, like the Orcans, fled across the  Alps to escape the tyranny
of Rome, reached Malchus. For years the news came that no great
battle had  been fought, that Hannibal was still in the south of
Italy defeating all the efforts of the Romans to dislodge  him.

It was not until the thirteenth year after Hannibal had crossed
the Alps that any considerable reinforcement  was sent to aid the
Carthaginian general. Then his brother Hasdrubal, having raised
an army in Spain and  Southern Gaul, crossed the Alps to join him.
But he was met, as he marched south, by the consuls Livius  and
Nero with an army greatly superior to his own; and was crushed by
them on the river Metaurus, the  Spanish and Ligurian troops being
annihilated and Hasdrubal himself killed.

For four years longer Hannibal maintained his position in the south
of Italy. No assistance whatever  reached him from Carthage, but
alone and unaided he carried on the unequal war with Rome until,
in 204  B.C., Scipio landed with a Roman force within a few miles
of Carthage, captured Utica, defeated two  Carthaginian armies with
great slaughter, and blockaded Carthage. Then the city recalled
the general and  the army whom they had so grossly neglected and
betrayed.

Hannibal succeeded in safely embarking his army and in sailing to
Carthage; but so small was the remnant  of the force which remained
to him, that when he attempted to give battle to Scipio he was
defeated, and  Carthage was forced to make peace on terms which
left her for the future at the mercy of Rome. She was to  give up
all her ships of war except ten, and all her elephants, to restore
all Roman prisoners, to engage in no  war out of Africa -- and none
in Africa except with the consent of Rome, to restore to Massinissa,
a prince  of Numidia who had joined Rome, his kingdom, to pay a
contribution of two hundred talents a year for fifty  years, and
to give a hundred hostages between the ages of fourteen and thirty,
to be selected by the Roman  general.

These terms left Carthage at the mercy of Rome, when the latter,
confident in her power, entered upon the  third Punic war, the
overthrow and the destruction of her rival were a comparatively
easy task for her.  Hannibal lived nineteen years after his return
to Carthage. For eight years he strove to rectify the  administration,
to reform abuses, and to raise and improve the state; but his
exposure of the gross abuses of  the public service united against
him the faction which had so long profited by them, and, in B. C.
196, the  great patriot and general was driven into exile.

He then repaired to the court of Antiochus, King of Syria, who
was at that time engaged in a war against  Rome; but that monarch
would not follow the advice he gave him, and was in consequence
defeated at  Magnesia, and was forced to sue for peace and to accept
the terms the Romans imposed, one of which was  that Hannibal should
be delivered into their hands.

Hannibal, being warned in time, left Syria and went to Bithynia.
But Rome could not be easy so long as her  great enemy lived, and
made a demand upon Prusias, King of Bithynia, for his surrender.
He was about to  comply with the request when Hannibal put an end
to his life, dying at the age of sixty-four.

No rumour of this event ever reached Malchus, but he heard, fifteen
years after he had passed into  Germany, that Hannibal had at last
retired from Italy, and had been defeated at Zama, and that Carthage
had been obliged to submit to conditions which placed her at the
mercy of Rome. Malchus rejoiced more  than ever at the choice he
had made. His sons were now growing up, and he spared no efforts
to instill in  them a hatred and distrust of Rome, to teach them
the tactics of war, and to fill their minds with noble and  lofty
thoughts.

Nessus had followed the example of his lord and had married
a Gaulish maiden, and he was now a subchief  in the tribe. Malchus
and Clotilde lived to a great age, and the former never once
regretted the choice he  had made. From afar he heard of the ever
growing power of Rome, and warned his grandsons, as he had  warned
his sons, against her, and begged them to impress upon their
descendants in turn the counsels he  had given them. The injunction
was observed, and the time came when Arminius, a direct descendant
of  Malchus, then the leader of the Cherusei, assembled the German
tribes and fell upon the legions of Varus,  inflicting upon them
a defeat as crushing and terrible as the Romans had ever suffered
at the hands of  Hannibal himself, and checking for once and all
the efforts of the Romans to subdue the free people of  Germany.



THE END




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