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Title: Salammbo
Author: Flaubert, Gustave
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Salammbo" ***

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SALAMMBO

By Gustave Flaubert



CHAPTER I

THE FEAST

It was at Megara, a suburb of Carthage, in the gardens of Hamilcar. The
soldiers whom he had commanded in Sicily were having a great feast to
celebrate the anniversary of the battle of Eryx, and as the master was
away, and they were numerous, they ate and drank with perfect freedom.

The captains, who wore bronze cothurni, had placed themselves in the
central path, beneath a gold-fringed purple awning, which reached from
the wall of the stables to the first terrace of the palace; the common
soldiers were scattered beneath the trees, where numerous flat-roofed
buildings might be seen, wine-presses, cellars, storehouses, bakeries,
and arsenals, with a court for elephants, dens for wild beasts, and a
prison for slaves.

Fig-trees surrounded the kitchens; a wood of sycamores stretched away to
meet masses of verdure, where the pomegranate shone amid the white tufts
of the cotton-plant; vines, grape-laden, grew up into the branches of
the pines; a field of roses bloomed beneath the plane-trees; here and
there lilies rocked upon the turf; the paths were strewn with black sand
mingled with powdered coral, and in the centre the avenue of cypress
formed, as it were, a double colonnade of green obelisks from one
extremity to the other.

Far in the background stood the palace, built of yellow mottled Numidian
marble, broad courses supporting its four terraced stories. With its
large, straight, ebony staircase, bearing the prow of a vanquished
galley at the corners of every step, its red doors quartered with black
crosses, its brass gratings protecting it from scorpions below, and its
trellises of gilded rods closing the apertures above, it seemed to the
soldiers in its haughty opulence as solemn and impenetrable as the face
of Hamilcar.

The Council had appointed his house for the holding of this feast; the
convalescents lying in the temple of Eschmoun had set out at daybreak
and dragged themselves thither on their crutches. Every minute others
were arriving. They poured in ceaselessly by every path like torrents
rushing into a lake; through the trees the slaves of the kitchens might
be seen running scared and half-naked; the gazelles fled bleating on the
lawns; the sun was setting, and the perfume of citron trees rendered the
exhalation from the perspiring crowd heavier still.

Men of all nations were there, Ligurians, Lusitanians, Balearians,
Negroes, and fugitives from Rome. Beside the heavy Dorian dialect were
audible the resonant Celtic syllables rattling like chariots of war,
while Ionian terminations conflicted with consonants of the desert as
harsh as the jackal’s cry. The Greek might be recognised by his slender
figure, the Egyptian by his elevated shoulders, the Cantabrian by his
broad calves. There were Carians proudly nodding their helmet plumes,
Cappadocian archers displaying large flowers painted on their bodies
with the juice of herbs, and a few Lydians in women’s robes, dining in
slippers and earrings. Others were ostentatiously daubed with vermilion,
and resembled coral statues.

They stretched themselves on the cushions, they ate squatting round
large trays, or lying face downwards they drew out the pieces of meat
and sated themselves, leaning on their elbows in the peaceful posture
of lions tearing their prey. The last comers stood leaning against the
trees watching the low tables half hidden beneath the scarlet coverings,
and awaiting their turn.

Hamilcar’s kitchens being insufficient, the Council had sent them
slaves, ware, and beds, and in the middle of the garden, as on a
battle-field when they burn the dead, large bright fires might be seen,
at which oxen were roasting. Anise-sprinkled loaves alternated with
great cheeses heavier than discuses, crateras filled with wine,
and cantharuses filled with water, together with baskets of gold
filigree-work containing flowers. Every eye was dilated with the joy of
being able at last to gorge at pleasure, and songs were beginning here
and there.

First they were served with birds and green sauce in plates of red clay
relieved by drawings in black, then with every kind of shell-fish that
is gathered on the Punic coasts, wheaten porridge, beans and barley, and
snails dressed with cumin on dishes of yellow amber.

Afterwards the tables were covered with meats, antelopes with their
horns, peacocks with their feathers, whole sheep cooked in sweet wine,
haunches of she-camels and buffaloes, hedgehogs with garum, fried
grasshoppers, and preserved dormice. Large pieces of fat floated in the
midst of saffron in bowls of Tamrapanni wood. Everything was running
over with wine, truffles, and asafoetida. Pyramids of fruit were
crumbling upon honeycombs, and they had not forgotten a few of those
plump little dogs with pink silky hair and fattened on olive lees,--a
Carthaginian dish held in abhorrence among other nations. Surprise at
the novel fare excited the greed of the stomach. The Gauls with
their long hair drawn up on the crown of the head, snatched at the
water-melons and lemons, and crunched them up with the rind. The
Negroes, who had never seen a lobster, tore their faces with its red
prickles. But the shaven Greeks, whiter than marble, threw the leavings
of their plates behind them, while the herdsmen from Brutium, in their
wolf-skin garments, devoured in silence with their faces in their
portions.

Night fell. The velarium, spread over the cypress avenue, was drawn
back, and torches were brought.

The apes, sacred to the moon, were terrified on the cedar tops by the
wavering lights of the petroleum as it burned in the porphyry vases.
They uttered screams which afforded mirth to the soldiers.

Oblong flames trembled in cuirasses of brass. Every kind of
scintillation flashed from the gem-incrusted dishes. The crateras with
their borders of convex mirrors multiplied and enlarged the images of
things; the soldiers thronged around, looking at their reflections with
amazement, and grimacing to make themselves laugh. They tossed the ivory
stools and golden spatulas to one another across the tables. They gulped
down all the Greek wines in their leathern bottles, the Campanian wine
enclosed in amphoras, the Cantabrian wines brought in casks, with the
wines of the jujube, cinnamomum and lotus. There were pools of these on
the ground that made the foot slip. The smoke of the meats ascended into
the foliage with the vapour of the breath. Simultaneously were heard
the snapping of jaws, the noise of speech, songs, and cups, the crash of
Campanian vases shivering into a thousand pieces, or the limpid sound of
a large silver dish.

In proportion as their intoxication increased they more and more
recalled the injustice of Carthage. The Republic, in fact, exhausted by
the war, had allowed all the returning bands to accumulate in the town.
Gisco, their general, had however been prudent enough to send them back
severally in order to facilitate the liquidation of their pay, and
the Council had believed that they would in the end consent to some
reduction. But at present ill-will was caused by the inability to pay
them. This debt was confused in the minds of the people with the 3200
Euboic talents exacted by Lutatius, and equally with Rome they were
regarded as enemies to Carthage. The Mercenaries understood this, and
their indignation found vent in threats and outbreaks. At last they
demanded permission to assemble to celebrate one of their victories,
and the peace party yielded, at the same time revenging themselves on
Hamilcar who had so strongly upheld the war. It had been terminated
notwithstanding all his efforts, so that, despairing of Carthage, he
had entrusted the government of the Mercenaries to Gisco. To appoint his
palace for their reception was to draw upon him something of the hatred
which was borne to them. Moreover, the expense must be excessive, and he
would incur nearly the whole.

Proud of having brought the Republic to submit, the Mercenaries thought
that they were at last about to return to their homes with the payment
for their blood in the hoods of their cloaks. But as seen through the
mists of intoxication, their fatigues seemed to them prodigious and but
ill-rewarded. They showed one another their wounds, they told of their
combats, their travels and the hunting in their native lands. They
imitated the cries and the leaps of wild beasts. Then came unclean
wagers; they buried their heads in the amphoras and drank on without
interruption, like thirsty dromedaries. A Lusitanian of gigantic stature
ran over the tables, carrying a man in each hand at arm’s length, and
spitting out fire through his nostrils. Some Lacedaemonians, who had not
taken off their cuirasses, were leaping with a heavy step. Some advanced
like women, making obscene gestures; others stripped naked to fight amid
the cups after the fashion of gladiators, and a company of Greeks danced
around a vase whereon nymphs were to be seen, while a Negro tapped with
an ox-bone on a brazen buckler.

Suddenly they heard a plaintive song, a song loud and soft, rising and
falling in the air like the wing-beating of a wounded bird.

It was the voice of the slaves in the ergastulum. Some soldiers rose at
a bound to release them and disappeared.

They returned, driving through the dust amid shouts, twenty men,
distinguished by their greater paleness of face. Small black felt caps
of conical shape covered their shaven heads; they all wore wooden shoes,
and yet made a noise as of old iron like driving chariots.

They reached the avenue of cypress, where they were lost among the crowd
of those questioning them. One of them remained apart, standing. Through
the rents in his tunic his shoulders could be seen striped with long
scars. Drooping his chin, he looked round him with distrust, closing his
eyelids somewhat against the dazzling light of the torches, but when
he saw that none of the armed men were unfriendly to him, a great sigh
escaped from his breast; he stammered, he sneered through the bright
tears that bathed his face. At last he seized a brimming cantharus by
its rings, raised it straight up into the air with his outstretched
arms, from which his chains hung down, and then looking to heaven, and
still holding the cup he said:

“Hail first to thee, Baal-Eschmoun, the deliverer, whom the people of my
country call Aesculapius! and to you, genii of the fountains, light,
and woods! and to you, ye gods hidden beneath the mountains and in the
caverns of the earth! and to you, strong men in shining armour who have
set me free!”

Then he let fall the cup and related his history. He was called
Spendius. The Carthaginians had taken him in the battle of Aeginusae,
and he thanked the Mercenaries once more in Greek, Ligurian and Punic;
he kissed their hands; finally, he congratulated them on the banquet,
while expressing his surprise at not perceiving the cups of the Sacred
Legion. These cups, which bore an emerald vine on each of their
six golden faces, belonged to a corps composed exclusively of young
patricians of the tallest stature. They were a privilege, almost a
sacerdotal distinction, and accordingly nothing among the treasures
of the Republic was more coveted by the Mercenaries. They detested the
Legion on this account, and some of them had been known to risk their
lives for the inconceivable pleasure of drinking out of these cups.

Accordingly they commanded that the cups should be brought. They were
in the keeping of the Syssitia, companies of traders, who had a common
table. The slaves returned. At that hour all the members of the Syssitia
were asleep.

“Let them be awakened!” responded the Mercenaries.

After a second excursion it was explained to them that the cups were
shut up in a temple.

“Let it be opened!” they replied.

And when the slaves confessed with trembling that they were in the
possession of Gisco, the general, they cried out:

“Let him bring them!”

Gisco soon appeared at the far end of the garden with an escort of the
Sacred Legion. His full, black cloak, which was fastened on his head to
a golden mitre starred with precious stones, and which hung all about
him down to his horse’s hoofs, blended in the distance with the colour
of the night. His white beard, the radiancy of his head-dress, and his
triple necklace of broad blue plates beating against his breast, were
alone visible.

When he entered, the soldiers greeted him with loud shouts, all crying:

“The cups! The cups!”

He began by declaring that if reference were had to their courage, they
were worthy of them.

The crowd applauded and howled with joy.

HE knew it, he who had commanded them over yonder, and had returned with
the last cohort in the last galley!

“True! True!” said they.

Nevertheless, Gisco continued, the Republic had respected their national
divisions, their customs, and their modes of worship; in Carthage
they were free! As to the cups of the Sacred Legion, they were private
property. Suddenly a Gaul, who was close to Spendius, sprang over the
tables and ran straight up to Gisco, gesticulating and threatening him
with two naked swords.

Without interrupting his speech, the General struck him on the head with
his heavy ivory staff, and the Barbarian fell. The Gauls howled, and
their frenzy, which was spreading to the others, would soon have swept
away the legionaries. Gisco shrugged his shoulders as he saw them
growing pale. He thought that his courage would be useless against these
exasperated brute beasts. It would be better to revenge himself upon
them by some artifice later; accordingly, he signed to his soldiers and
slowly withdrew. Then, turning in the gateway towards the Mercenaries,
he cried to them that they would repent of it.

The feast recommenced. But Gisco might return, and by surrounding the
suburb, which was beside the last ramparts, might crush them against the
walls. Then they felt themselves alone in spite of their crowd, and the
great town sleeping beneath them in the shade suddenly made them afraid,
with its piles of staircases, its lofty black houses, and its vague gods
fiercer even than its people. In the distance a few ships’-lanterns
were gliding across the harbour, and there were lights in the temple of
Khamon. They thought of Hamilcar. Where was he? Why had he forsaken
them when peace was concluded? His differences with the Council were
doubtless but a pretence in order to destroy them. Their unsatisfied
hate recoiled upon him, and they cursed him, exasperating one another
with their own anger. At this juncture they collected together beneath
the plane-trees to see a slave who, with eyeballs fixed, neck contorted,
and lips covered with foam, was rolling on the ground, and beating the
soil with his limbs. Some one cried out that he was poisoned. All then
believed themselves poisoned. They fell upon the slaves, a terrible
clamour was raised, and a vertigo of destruction came like a whirlwind
upon the drunken army. They struck about them at random, they smashed,
they slew; some hurled torches into the foliage; others, leaning over
the lions’ balustrade, massacred the animals with arrows; the most
daring ran to the elephants, desiring to cut down their trunks and eat
ivory.

Some Balearic slingers, however, who had gone round the corner of the
palace, in order to pillage more conveniently, were checked by a lofty
barrier, made of Indian cane. They cut the lock-straps with their
daggers, and then found themselves beneath the front that faced
Carthage, in another garden full of trimmed vegetation. Lines of white
flowers all following one another in regular succession formed long
parabolas like star-rockets on the azure-coloured earth. The gloomy
bushes exhaled warm and honied odours. There were trunks of trees
smeared with cinnabar, which resembled columns covered with blood. In
the centre were twelve pedestals, each supporting a great glass ball,
and these hollow globes were indistinctly filled with reddish lights,
like enormous and still palpitating eyeballs. The soldiers lighted
themselves with torches as they stumbled on the slope of the deeply
laboured soil.

But they perceived a little lake divided into several basins by walls
of blue stones. So limpid was the wave that the flames of the torches
quivered in it at the very bottom, on a bed of white pebbles and golden
dust. It began to bubble, luminous spangles glided past, and great fish
with gems about their mouths, appeared near the surface.

With much laughter the soldiers slipped their fingers into the gills and
brought them to the tables. They were the fish of the Barca family, and
were all descended from those primordial lotes which had hatched the
mystic egg wherein the goddess was concealed. The idea of committing
a sacrilege revived the greediness of the Mercenaries; they speedily
placed fire beneath some brazen vases, and amused themselves by watching
the beautiful fish struggling in the boiling water.

The surge of soldiers pressed on. They were no longer afraid. They
commenced to drink again. Their ragged tunics were wet with the perfumes
that flowed in large drops from their foreheads, and resting both fists
on the tables, which seemed to them to be rocking like ships, they
rolled their great drunken eyes around to devour by sight what they
could not take. Others walked amid the dishes on the purple table
covers, breaking ivory stools, and phials of Tyrian glass to pieces with
their feet. Songs mingled with the death-rattle of the slaves expiring
amid the broken cups. They demanded wine, meat, gold. They cried out for
women. They raved in a hundred languages. Some thought that they were at
the vapour baths on account of the steam which floated around them,
or else, catching sight of the foliage, imagined that they were at
the chase, and rushed upon their companions as upon wild beasts. The
conflagration spread to all the trees, one after another, and the lofty
mosses of verdure, emitting long white spirals, looked like volcanoes
beginning to smoke. The clamour redoubled; the wounded lions roared in
the shade.

In an instant the highest terrace of the palace was illuminated, the
central door opened, and a woman, Hamilcar’s daughter herself, clothed
in black garments, appeared on the threshold. She descended the first
staircase, which ran obliquely along the first story, then the second,
and the third, and stopped on the last terrace at the head of the galley
staircase. Motionless and with head bent, she gazed upon the soldiers.

Behind her, on each side, were two long shadows of pale men, clad in
white, red-fringed robes, which fell straight to their feet. They had no
beard, no hair, no eyebrows. In their hands, which sparkled with rings,
they carried enormous lyres, and with shrill voice they sang a hymn to
the divinity of Carthage. They were the eunuch priests of the temple of
Tanith, who were often summoned by Salammbo to her house.

At last she descended the galley staircase. The priests followed her.
She advanced into the avenue of cypress, and walked slowly through the
tables of the captains, who drew back somewhat as they watched her pass.

Her hair, which was powdered with violet sand, and combined into the
form of a tower, after the fashion of the Chanaanite maidens, added to
her height. Tresses of pearls were fastened to her temples, and fell to
the corners of her mouth, which was as rosy as a half-open pomegranate.
On her breast was a collection of luminous stones, their variegation
imitating the scales of the murena. Her arms were adorned with diamonds,
and issued naked from her sleeveless tunic, which was starred with
red flowers on a perfectly black ground. Between her ankles she wore a
golden chainlet to regulate her steps, and her large dark purple mantle,
cut of an unknown material, trailed behind her, making, as it were, at
each step, a broad wave which followed her.

The priests played nearly stifled chords on their lyres from time to
time, and in the intervals of the music might be heard the tinkling of
the little golden chain, and the regular patter of her papyrus sandals.

No one as yet was acquainted with her. It was only known that she led a
retired life, engaged in pious practices. Some soldiers had seen her in
the night on the summit of her palace kneeling before the stars amid the
eddyings from kindled perfuming-pans. It was the moon that had made her
so pale, and there was something from the gods that enveloped her like a
subtle vapour. Her eyes seemed to gaze far beyond terrestrial space. She
bent her head as she walked, and in her right hand she carried a little
ebony lyre.

They heard her murmur:

“Dead! All dead! No more will you come obedient to my voice as
when, seated on the edge of the lake, I used to through seeds of the
watermelon into your mouths! The mystery of Tanith ranged in the depths
of your eyes that were more limpid than the globules of rivers.” And she
called them by their names, which were those of the months--“Siv! Sivan!
Tammouz, Eloul, Tischri, Schebar! Ah! have pity on me, goddess!”

The soldiers thronged about her without understanding what she said.
They wondered at her attire, but she turned a long frightened look upon
them all, then sinking her head beneath her shoulders, and waving her
arms, she repeated several times:

“What have you done? what have you done?

“Yet you had bread, and meats and oil, and all the malobathrum of the
granaries for your enjoyment! I had brought oxen from Hecatompylos;
I had sent hunters into the desert!” Her voice swelled; her cheeks
purpled. She added, “Where, pray, are you now? In a conquered town,
or in the palace of a master? And what master? Hamilcar the Suffet, my
father, the servant of the Baals! It was he who withheld from Lutatius
those arms of yours, red now with the blood of his slaves! Know you of
any in your own lands more skilled in the conduct of battles? Look! our
palace steps are encumbered with our victories! Ah! desist not! burn
it! I will carry away with me the genius of my house, my black serpent
slumbering up yonder on lotus leaves! I will whistle and he will follow
me, and if I embark in a galley he will speed in the wake of my ship
over the foam of the waves.”

Her delicate nostrils were quivering. She crushed her nails against the
gems on her bosom. Her eyes drooped, and she resumed:

“Ah! poor Carthage! lamentable city! No longer hast thou for thy
protection the strong men of former days who went beyond the oceans to
build temples on their shores. All the lands laboured about thee, and
the sea-plains, ploughed by thine oars, rocked with thy harvests.” Then
she began to sing the adventures of Melkarth, the god of the Sidonians,
and the father of her family.

She told of the ascent of the mountains of Ersiphonia, the journey to
Tartessus, and the war against Masisabal to avenge the queen of the
serpents:

“He pursued the female monster, whose tail undulated over the dead
leaves like a silver brook, into the forest, and came to a plain where
women with dragon-croups were round a great fire, standing erect on the
points of their tails. The blood-coloured moon was shining within a
pale circle, and their scarlet tongues, cloven like the harpoons of
fishermen, reached curling forth to the very edge of the flame.”

Then Salammbo, without pausing, related how Melkarth, after vanquishing
Masisabal, placed her severed head on the prow of his ship. “At each
throb of the waves it sank beneath the foam, but the sun embalmed it; it
became harder than gold; nevertheless the eyes ceased not to weep, and
the tears fell into the water continually.”

She sang all this in an old Chanaanite idiom, which the Barbarians did
not understand. They asked one another what she could be saying to them
with those frightful gestures which accompanied her speech, and mounted
round about her on the tables, beds, and sycamore boughs, they strove
with open mouths and craned necks to grasp the vague stories hovering
before their imaginations, through the dimness of the theogonies, like
phantoms wrapped in cloud.

Only the beardless priests understood Salammbo; their wrinkled hands,
which hung over the strings of their lyres, quivered, and from time
to time they would draw forth a mournful chord; for, feebler than old
women, they trembled at once with mystic emotion, and with the
fear inspired by men. The Barbarians heeded them not, but listened
continually to the maiden’s song.

None gazed at her like a young Numidian chief, who was placed at
the captains’ tables among soldiers of his own nation. His girdle so
bristled with darts that it formed a swelling in his ample cloak,
which was fastened on his temples with a leather lace. The cloth parted
asunder as it fell upon his shoulders, and enveloped his countenance in
shadow, so that only the fires of his two fixed eyes could be seen. It
was by chance that he was at the feast, his father having domiciled him
with the Barca family, according to the custom by which kings used to
send their children into the households of the great in order to pave
the way for alliances; but Narr’ Havas had lodged there fox six months
without having hitherto seen Salammbo, and now, seated on his heels,
with his head brushing the handles of his javelins, he was watching her
with dilated nostrils, like a leopard crouching among the bamboos.

On the other side of the tables was a Libyan of colossal stature, and
with short black curly hair. He had retained only his military jacket,
the brass plates of which were tearing the purple of the couch. A
necklace of silver moons was tangled in his hairy breast. His face was
stained with splashes of blood; he was leaning on his left elbow with a
smile on his large, open mouth.

Salammbo had abandoned the sacred rhythm. With a woman’s subtlety she
was simultaneously employing all the dialects of the Barbarians in order
to appease their anger. To the Greeks she spoke Greek; then she turned
to the Ligurians, the Campanians, the Negroes, and listening to her each
one found again in her voice the sweetness of his native land. She now,
carried away by the memories of Carthage, sang of the ancient battles
against Rome; they applauded. She kindled at the gleaming of the naked
swords, and cried aloud with outstretched arms. Her lyre fell, she was
silent; and, pressing both hands upon her heart, she remained for some
minutes with closed eyelids enjoying the agitation of all these men.

Matho, the Libyan, leaned over towards her. Involuntarily she approached
him, and impelled by grateful pride, poured him a long stream of wine
into a golden cup in order to conciliate the army.

“Drink!” she said.

He took the cup, and was carrying it to his lips when a Gaul, the same
that had been hurt by Gisco, struck him on the shoulder, while in a
jovial manner he gave utterance to pleasantries in his native tongue.
Spendius was not far off, and he volunteered to interpret them.

“Speak!” said Matho.

“The gods protect you; you are going to become rich. When will the
nuptials be?”

“What nuptials?”

“Yours! for with us,” said the Gaul, “when a woman gives drink to a
soldier, it means that she offers him her couch.”

He had not finished when Narr’ Havas, with a bound, drew a javelin from
his girdle, and, leaning his right foot upon the edge of the table,
hurled it against Matho.

The javelin whistled among the cups, and piercing the Lybian’s arm,
pinned it so firmly to the cloth, that the shaft quivered in the air.

Matho quickly plucked it out; but he was weaponless and naked; at last
he lifted the over-laden table with both arms, and flung it against
Narr’ Havas into the very centre of the crowd that rushed between them.
The soldiers and Numidians pressed together so closely that they were
unable to draw their swords. Matho advanced dealing great blows with his
head. When he raised it, Narr’ Havas had disappeared. He sought for him
with his eyes. Salammbo also was gone.

Then directing his looks to the palace he perceived the red door with
the black cross closing far above, and he darted away.

They saw him run between the prows of the galleys, and then reappear
along the three staircases until he reached the red door against which
he dashed his whole body. Panting, he leaned against the wall to keep
himself from falling.

But a man had followed him, and through the darkness, for the lights
of the feast were hidden by the corner of the palace, he recognised
Spendius.

“Begone!” said he.

The slave without replying began to tear his tunic with his teeth;
then kneeling beside Matho he tenderly took his arm, and felt it in the
shadow to discover the wound.

By a ray of the moon which was then gliding between the clouds, Spendius
perceived a gaping wound in the middle of the arm. He rolled the piece
of stuff about it, but the other said irritably, “Leave me! leave me!”

“Oh no!” replied the slave. “You released me from the ergastulum. I am
yours! you are my master! command me!”

Matho walked round the terrace brushing against the walls. He strained
his ears at every step, glancing down into the silent apartments through
the spaces between the gilded reeds. At last he stopped with a look of
despair.

“Listen!” said the slave to him. “Oh! do not despise me for my
feebleness! I have lived in the palace. I can wind like a viper through
the walls. Come! in the Ancestor’s Chamber there is an ingot of gold
beneath every flagstone; an underground path leads to their tombs.”

“Well! what matters it?” said Matho.

Spendius was silent.

They were on the terrace. A huge mass of shadow stretched before them,
appearing as if it contained vague accumulations, like the gigantic
billows of a black and petrified ocean.

But a luminous bar rose towards the East; far below, on the left, the
canals of Megara were beginning to stripe the verdure of the gardens
with their windings of white. The conical roofs of the heptagonal
temples, the staircases, terraces, and ramparts were being carved by
degrees upon the paleness of the dawn; and a girdle of white foam rocked
around the Carthaginian peninsula, while the emerald sea appeared as if
it were curdled in the freshness of the morning. Then as the rosy sky
grew larger, the lofty houses, bending over the sloping soil, reared
and massed themselves like a herd of black goats coming down from the
mountains. The deserted streets lengthened; the palm-trees that topped
the walls here and there were motionless; the brimming cisterns seemed
like silver bucklers lost in the courts; the beacon on the promontory of
Hermaeum was beginning to grow pale. The horses of Eschmoun, on the very
summit of the Acropolis in the cypress wood, feeling that the light was
coming, placed their hoofs on the marble parapet, and neighed towards
the sun.

It appeared, and Spendius raised his arms with a cry.

Everything stirred in a diffusion of red, for the god, as if he were
rending himself, now poured full-rayed upon Carthage the golden rain
of his veins. The beaks of the galleys sparkled, the roof of Khamon
appeared to be all in flames, while far within the temples, whose
doors were opening, glimmerings of light could be seen. Large chariots,
arriving from the country, rolled their wheels over the flagstones
in the streets. Dromedaries, baggage-laden, came down the ramps.
Money-changers raised the pent-houses of their shops at the cross ways,
storks took to flight, white sails fluttered. In the wood of Tanith
might be heard the tabourines of the sacred courtesans, and the furnaces
for baking the clay coffins were beginning to smoke on the Mappalian
point.

Spendius leaned over the terrace; his teeth chattered and he repeated:

“Ah! yes--yes--master! I understand why you scorned the pillage of the
house just now.”

Matho was as if he had just been awaked by the hissing of his voice, and
did not seem to understand. Spendius resumed:

“Ah! what riches! and the men who possess them have not even the steel
to defend them!”

Then, pointing with his right arm outstretched to some of the populace
who were crawling on the sand outside the mole to look for gold dust:

“See!” he said to him, “the Republic is like these wretches: bending on
the brink of the ocean, she buries her greedy arms in every shore, and
the noise of the billows so fills her ear that she cannot hear behind
her the tread of a master’s heel!”

He drew Matho to quite the other end of the terrace, and showed him the
garden, wherein the soldiers’ swords, hanging on the trees, were like
mirrors in the sun.

“But here there are strong men whose hatred is roused! and nothing binds
them to Carthage, neither families, oaths nor gods!”

Matho remained leaning against the wall; Spendius came close, and
continued in a low voice:

“Do you understand me, soldier? We should walk purple-clad like satraps.
We should bathe in perfumes; and I should in turn have slaves! Are you
not weary of sleeping on hard ground, of drinking the vinegar of the
camps, and of continually hearing the trumpet? But you will rest later,
will you not? When they pull off your cuirass to cast your corpse to
the vultures! or perhaps blind, lame, and weak you will go, leaning on
a stick, from door to door to tell of your youth to pickle-sellers and
little children. Remember all the injustice of your chiefs, the campings
in the snow, the marchings in the sun, the tyrannies of discipline, and
the everlasting menace of the cross! And after all this misery they have
given you a necklace of honour, as they hang a girdle of bells round
the breast of an ass to deafen it on its journey, and prevent it from
feeling fatigue. A man like you, braver than Pyrrhus! If only you had
wished it! Ah! how happy will you be in large cool halls, with the sound
of lyres, lying on flowers, with women and buffoons! Do not tell me that
the enterprise is impossible. Have not the Mercenaries already possessed
Rhegium and other fortified places in Italy? Who is to prevent you?
Hamilcar is away; the people execrate the rich; Gisco can do nothing
with the cowards who surround him. Command them! Carthage is ours; let
us fall upon it!”

“No!” said Matho, “the curse of Moloch weighs upon me. I felt it in her
eyes, and just now I saw a black ram retreating in a temple.” Looking
around him he added: “But where is she?”

Then Spendius understood that a great disquiet possessed him, and did
not venture to speak again.

The trees behind them were still smoking; half-burned carcases of apes
dropped from their blackened boughs from time to time into the midst
of the dishes. Drunken soldiers snored open-mouthed by the side of the
corpses, and those who were not asleep lowered their heads dazzled by
the light of day. The trampled soil was hidden beneath splashes of red.
The elephants poised their bleeding trunks between the stakes of their
pens. In the open granaries might be seen sacks of spilled wheat, below
the gate was a thick line of chariots which had been heaped up by the
Barbarians, and the peacocks perched in the cedars were spreading their
tails and beginning to utter their cry.

Matho’s immobility, however, astonished Spendius; he was even paler than
he had recently been, and he was following something on the horizon with
fixed eyeballs, and with both fists resting on the edge of the terrace.
Spendius crouched down, and so at last discovered at what he was gazing.
In the distance a golden speck was turning in the dust on the road to
Utica; it was the nave of a chariot drawn by two mules; a slave was
running at the end of the pole, and holding them by the bridle. Two
women were seated in the chariot. The manes of the animals were puffed
between the ears after the Persian fashion, beneath a network of blue
pearls. Spendius recognised them, and restrained a cry.

A large veil floated behind in the wind.



CHAPTER II

AT SICCA

Two days afterwards the Mercenaries left Carthage.

They had each received a piece of gold on the condition that they
should go into camp at Sicca, and they had been told with all sorts of
caresses:

“You are the saviours of Carthage! But you would starve it if you
remained there; it would become insolvent. Withdraw! The Republic will
be grateful to you later for all this condescension. We are going to
levy taxes immediately; your pay shall be in full, and galleys shall be
equipped to take you back to your native lands.”

They did not know how to reply to all this talk. These men, accustomed
as they were to war, were wearied by residence in a town; there was
difficulty in convincing them, and the people mounted the walls to see
them go away.

They defiled through the street of Khamon, and the Cirta gate,
pell-mell, archers with hoplites, captains with soldiers, Lusitanians
with Greeks. They marched with a bold step, rattling their heavy
cothurni on the paving stones. Their armour was dented by the catapult,
and their faces blackened by the sunburn of battles. Hoarse cries issued
from their thick bears, their tattered coats of mail flapped upon the
pommels of their swords, and through the holes in the brass might be
seen their naked limbs, as frightful as engines of war. Sarissae, axes,
spears, felt caps and bronze helmets, all swung together with a single
motion. They filled the street thickly enough to have made the walls
crack, and the long mass of armed soldiers overflowed between the lofty
bitumen-smeared houses six storys high. Behind their gratings of iron or
reed the women, with veiled heads, silently watched the Barbarians pass.

The terraces, fortifications, and walls were hidden beneath the crowd
of Carthaginians, who were dressed in garments of black. The sailors’
tunics showed like drops of blood among the dark multitude, and nearly
naked children, whose skin shone beneath their copper bracelets,
gesticulated in the foliage of the columns, or amid the branches of
a palm tree. Some of the Ancients were posted on the platform of the
towers, and people did not know why a personage with a long beard stood
thus in a dreamy attitude here and there. He appeared in the distance
against the background of the sky, vague as a phantom and motionless as
stone.

All, however, were oppressed with the same anxiety; it was feared that
the Barbarians, seeing themselves so strong, might take a fancy to stay.
But they were leaving with so much good faith that the Carthaginians
grew bold and mingled with the soldiers. They overwhelmed them with
protestations and embraces. Some with exaggerated politeness and
audacious hypocrisy even sought to induce them not to leave the city.
They threw perfumes, flowers, and pieces of silver to them. They gave
them amulets to avert sickness; but they had spit upon them three times
to attract death, or had enclosed jackal’s hair within them to put
cowardice into their hearts. Aloud, they invoked Melkarth’s favour, and
in a whisper, his curse.

Then came the mob of baggage, beasts of burden, and stragglers. The sick
groaned on the backs of dromedaries, while others limped along leaning
on broken pikes. The drunkards carried leathern bottles, and the greedy
quarters of meat, cakes, fruits, butter wrapped in fig leaves, and snow
in linen bags. Some were to be seen with parasols in their hands, and
parrots on their shoulders. They had mastiffs, gazelles, and panthers
following behind them. Women of Libyan race, mounted on asses, inveighed
against the Negresses who had forsaken the lupanaria of Malqua for the
soldiers; many of them were suckling children suspended on their bosoms
by leathern thongs. The mules were goaded out at the point of the sword,
their backs bending beneath the load of tents, while there were numbers
of serving-men and water-carriers, emaciated, jaundiced with fever,
and filthy with vermin, the scum of the Carthaginian populace, who had
attached themselves to the Barbarians.

When they had passed, the gates were shut behind them, but the people
did not descend from the walls. The army soon spread over the breadth of
the isthmus.

It parted into unequal masses. Then the lances appeared like tall blades
of grass, and finally all was lost in a train of dust; those of the
soldiers who looked back towards Carthage could now only see its long
walls with their vacant battlements cut out against the edge of the sky.

Then the Barbarians heard a great shout. They thought that some from
among them (for they did not know their own number) had remained in the
town, and were amusing themselves by pillaging a temple. They laughed a
great deal at the idea of this, and then continued their journey.

They were rejoiced to find themselves, as in former days, marching all
together in the open country, and some of the Greeks sang the old song
of the Mamertines:

“With my lance and sword I plough and reap; I am master of the house!
The disarmed man falls at my feet and calls me Lord and Great King.”

They shouted, they leaped, the merriest began to tell stories; the
time of their miseries was past. As they arrived at Tunis, some of
them remarked that a troop of Balearic slingers was missing. They were
doubtless not far off; and no further heed was paid to them.

Some went to lodge in the houses, others camped at the foot of the
walls, and the townspeople came out to chat with the soldiers.

During the whole night fires were seen burning on the horizon in the
direction of Carthage; the light stretched like giant torches across the
motionless lake. No one in the army could tell what festival was being
celebrated.

On the following day the Barbarian’s passed through a region that was
covered with cultivation. The domains of the patricians succeeded one
another along the border of the route; channels of water flowed
through woods of palm; there were long, green lines of olive-trees;
rose-coloured vapours floated in the gorges of the hills, while blue
mountains reared themselves behind. A warm wind was blowing. Chameleons
were crawling on the broad leaves of the cactus.

The Barbarians slackened their speed.

They marched on in isolated detachments, or lagged behind one another at
long intervals. They ate grapes along the margin of the vines. They lay
on the grass and gazed with stupefaction upon the large, artificially
twisted horns of the oxen, the sheep clothed with skins to protect their
wool, the furrows crossing one another so as to form lozenges, and the
ploughshares like ships’ anchors, with the pomegranate trees that were
watered with silphium. Such wealth of the soil and such inventions of
wisdom dazzled them.

In the evening they stretched themselves on the tents without unfolding
them; and thought with regret of Hamilcar’s feast, as they fell asleep
with their faces towards the stars.

In the middle of the following day they halted on the bank of a river,
amid clumps of rose-bays. Then they quickly threw aside lances, bucklers
and belts. They bathed with shouts, and drew water in their helmets,
while others drank lying flat on their stomachs, and all in the midst of
the beasts of burden whose baggage was slipping from them.

Spendius, who was seated on a dromedary stolen in Hamilcar’s parks,
perceived Matho at a distance, with his arm hanging against his breast,
his head bare, and his face bent down, giving his mule drink, and
watching the water flow. Spendius immediately ran through the crowd
calling him, “Master! master!”

Matho gave him but scant thanks for his blessings, but Spendius paid no
heed to this, and began to march behind him, from time to time turning
restless glances in the direction of Carthage.

He was the son of a Greek rhetor and a Campanian prostitute. He had at
first grown rich by dealing in women; then, ruined by a shipwreck, he
had made war against the Romans with the herdsmen of Samnium. He had
been taken and had escaped; he had been retaken, and had worked in the
quarries, panted in the vapour-baths, shrieked under torture, passed
through the hands of many masters, and experienced every frenzy. At
last, one day, in despair, he had flung himself into the sea from the
top of a trireme where he was working at the oar. Some of Hamilcar’s
sailors had picked him up when at the point of death, and had brought
him to the ergastulum of Megara, at Carthage. But, as fugitives were to
be given back to the Romans, he had taken advantage of the confusion to
fly with the soldiers.

During the whole of the march he remained near Matho; he brought him
food, assisted him to dismount, and spread a carpet in the evening
beneath his head. Matho at last was touched by these attentions, and by
degrees unlocked his lips.

He had been born in the gulf of Syrtis. His father had taken him on a
pilgrimage to the temple of Ammon. Then he had hunted elephants in the
forests of the Garamantes. Afterwards he had entered the service of
Carthage. He had been appointed tetrarch at the capture of Drepanum.
The Republic owed him four horses, twenty-three medimni of wheat, and a
winter’s pay. He feared the gods, and wished to die in his native land.

Spendius spoke to him of his travels, and of the peoples and temples
that he had visited. He knew many things: he could make sandals,
boar-spears and nets; he could tame wild beasts and could cook fish.

Sometimes he would interrupt himself, and utter a hoarse cry from the
depths of his throat; Matho’s mule would quicken his pace, and others
would hasten after them, and then Spendius would begin again though
still torn with agony. This subsided at last on the evening of the
fourth day.

They were marching side by side to the right of the army on the side of
a hill; below them stretched the plain lost in the vapours of the night.
The lines of soldiers also were defiling below, making undulations in
the shade. From time to time these passed over eminences lit up by the
moon; then stars would tremble on the points of the pikes, the helmets
would glimmer for an instant, all would disappear, and others would come
on continually. Startled flocks bleated in the distance, and a something
of infinite sweetness seemed to sink upon the earth.

Spendius, with his head thrown back and his eyes half-closed, inhaled
the freshness of the wind with great sighs; he spread out his arms,
moving his fingers that he might the better feel the cares that streamed
over his body. Hopes of vengeance came back to him and transported him.
He pressed his hand upon his mouth to check his sobs, and half-swooning
with intoxication, let go the halter of his dromedary, which was
proceeding with long, regular steps. Matho had relapsed into his former
melancholy; his legs hung down to the ground, and the grass made a
continuous rustling as it beat against his cothurni.

The journey, however, spread itself out without ever coming to an end.
At the extremity of a plain they would always reach a round-shaped
plateau; then they would descend again into a valley, and the mountains
which seemed to block up the horizon would, in proportion as they were
approached, glide as it were from their positions. From time to time a
river would appear amid the verdure of tamarisks to lose itself at the
turning of the hills. Sometimes a huge rock would tower aloft like the
prow of a vessel or the pedestal of some vanished colossus.

At regular intervals they met with little quadrangular temples, which
served as stations for the pilgrims who repaired to Sicca. They were
closed like tombs. The Libyans struck great blows upon the doors to have
them opened. But no one inside responded.

Then the cultivation became more rare. They suddenly entered upon belts
of sand bristling with thorny thickets. Flocks of sheep were browsing
among the stones; a woman with a blue fleece about her waist was
watching them. She fled screaming when she saw the soldiers’ pikes among
the rocks.

They were marching through a kind of large passage bordered by two
chains of reddish coloured hillocks, when their nostrils were greeted
with a nauseous odour, and they thought that they could see something
extraordinary on the top of a carob tree: a lion’s head reared itself
above the leaves.

They ran thither. It was a lion with his four limbs fastened to a cross
like a criminal. His huge muzzle fell upon his breast, and his two
fore-paws, half-hidden beneath the abundance of his mane, were spread
out wide like the wings of a bird. His ribs stood severally out beneath
his distended skin; his hind legs, which were nailed against each other,
were raised somewhat, and the black blood, flowing through his hair,
had collected in stalactites at the end of his tail, which hung down
perfectly straight along the cross. The soldiers made merry around; they
called him consul, and Roman citizen, and threw pebbles into his eyes to
drive away the gnats.

But a hundred paces further on they saw two more, and then there
suddenly appeared a long file of crosses bearing lions. Some had been
so long dead that nothing was left against the wood but the remains
of their skeletons; others which were half eaten away had their jaws
twisted into horrible grimaces; there were some enormous ones; the
shafts of the crosses bent beneath them, and they swayed in the wind,
while bands of crows wheeled ceaselessly in the air above their heads.
It was thus that the Carthaginian peasants avenged themselves when
they captured a wild beast; they hoped to terrify the others by such
an example. The Barbarians ceased their laughter, and were long lost in
amazement. “What people is this,” they thought, “that amuses itself by
crucifying lions!”

They were, besides, especially the men of the North, vaguely uneasy,
troubled, and already sick. They tore their hands with the darts of the
aloes; great mosquitoes buzzed in their ears, and dysentry was breaking
out in the army. They were weary at not yet seeing Sicca. They were
afraid of losing themselves and of reaching the desert, the country of
sands and terrors. Many even were unwilling to advance further. Others
started back to Carthage.

At last on the seventh day, after following the base of a mountain for a
long time, they turned abruptly to the right, and there then appeared
a line of walls resting on white rocks and blending with them. Suddenly
the entire city rose; blue, yellow, and white veils moved on the walls
in the redness of the evening. These were the priestesses of Tanith,
who had hastened hither to receive the men. They stood ranged along the
rampart, striking tabourines, playing lyres, and shaking crotala, while
the rays of the sun, setting behind them in the mountains of Numidia,
shot between the strings of their lyres over which their naked arms were
stretched. At intervals their instruments would become suddenly still,
and a cry would break forth strident, precipitate, frenzied, continuous,
a sort of barking which they made by striking both corners of the mouth
with the tongue. Others, more motionless than the Sphynx, rested on
their elbows with their chins on their hands, and darted their great
black eyes upon the army as it ascended.

Although Sicca was a sacred town it could not hold such a multitude; the
temple alone, with its appurtenances, occupied half of it. Accordingly
the Barbarians established themselves at their ease on the plain;
those who were disciplined in regular troops, and the rest according to
nationality or their own fancy.

The Greeks ranged their tents of skin in parallel lines; the Iberians
placed their canvas pavilions in a circle; the Gauls made themselves
huts of planks; the Libyans cabins of dry stones, while the Negroes with
their nails hollowed out trenches in the sand to sleep in. Many, not
knowing where to go, wandered about among the baggage, and at nightfall
lay down in their ragged mantles on the ground.

The plain, which was wholly bounded by mountains, expanded around them.
Here and there a palm tree leaned over a sand hill, and pines and oaks
flecked the sides of the precipices: sometimes the rain of a storm would
hang from the sky like a long scarf, while the country everywhere was
still covered with azure and serenity; then a warm wind would drive
before it tornadoes of dust, and a stream would descend in cascades from
the heights of Sicca, where, with its roofing of gold on its columns of
brass, rose the temple of the Carthaginian Venus, the mistress of the
land. She seemed to fill it with her soul. In such convulsions of the
soil, such alternations of temperature, and such plays of light would
she manifest the extravagance of her might with the beauty of her
eternal smile. The mountains at their summits were crescent-shaped;
others were like women’s bosoms presenting their swelling breasts, and
the Barbarians felt a heaviness that was full of delight weighing down
their fatigues.

Spendius had bought a slave with the money brought him by his dromedary.
The whole day long he lay asleep stretched before Matho’s tent. Often he
would awake, thinking in his dreams that he heard the whistling of the
thongs; with a smile he would pass his hands over the scars on his legs
at the place where the fetters had long been worn, and then he would
fall asleep again.

Matho accepted his companionship, and when he went out Spendius would
escort him like a lictor with a long sword on his thigh; or perhaps
Matho would rest his arm carelessly on the other’s shoulder, for
Spendius was small.

One evening when they were passing together through the streets in the
camp they perceived some men covered with white cloaks; among them was
Narr’ Havas, the prince of the Numidians. Matho started.

“Your sword!” he cried; “I will kill him!”

“Not yet!” said Spendius, restraining him. Narr’ Havas was already
advancing towards him.

He kissed both thumbs in token of alliance, showing nothing of the anger
which he had experienced at the drunkenness of the feast; then he spoke
at length against Carthage, but did not say what brought him among the
Barbarians.

“Was it to betray them, or else the Republic?” Spendius asked himself;
and as he expected to profit by every disorder, he felt grateful to
Narr’ Havas for the future perfidies of which he suspected him.

The chief of the Numidians remained amongst the Mercenaries. He appeared
desirous of attaching Matho to himself. He sent him fat goats, gold
dust, and ostrich feathers. The Libyan, who was amazed at such caresses,
was in doubt whether to respond to them or to become exasperated at
them. But Spendius pacified him, and Matho allowed himself to be ruled
by the slave, remaining ever irresolute and in an unconquerable torpor,
like those who have once taken a draught of which they are to die.

One morning when all three went out lion-hunting, Narr’ Havas concealed
a dagger in his cloak. Spendius kept continually behind him, and when
they returned the dagger had not been drawn.

Another time Narr’ Havas took them a long way off, as far as the
boundaries of his kingdom. They came to a narrow gorge, and Narr’ Havas
smiled as he declared that he had forgotten the way. Spendius found it
again.

But most frequently Matho would go off at sunrise, as melancholy as
an augur, to wander about the country. He would stretch himself on the
sand, and remain there motionless until the evening.

He consulted all the soothsayers in the army one after the other,--those
who watch the trail of serpents, those who read the stars, and those who
breathe upon the ashes of the dead. He swallowed galbanum, seseli, and
viper’s venom which freezes the heart; Negro women, singing barbarous
words in the moonlight, pricked the skin of his forehead with golden
stylets; he loaded himself with necklaces and charms; he invoked in
turn Baal-Khamon, Moloch, the seven Kabiri, Tanith, and the Venus of
the Greeks. He engraved a name upon a copper plate, and buried it in the
sand at the threshold of his tent. Spendius used to hear him groaning
and talking to himself.

One night he went in.

Matho, as naked as a corpse, was lying on a lion’s skin flat on his
stomach, with his face in both his hands; a hanging lamp lit up his
armour, which was hooked on to the tent-pole above his head.

“You are suffering?” said the slave to him. “What is the matter with
you? Answer me?” And he shook him by the shoulder calling him several
times, “Master! master!”

At last Matho lifted large troubled eyes towards him.

“Listen!” he said in a low voice, and with a finger on his lips. “It is
the wrath of the Gods! Hamilcar’s daughter pursues me! I am afraid of
her, Spendius!” He pressed himself close against his breast like a child
terrified by a phantom. “Speak to me! I am sick! I want to get well! I
have tried everything! But you, you perhaps know some stronger gods, or
some resistless invocation?”

“For what purpose?” asked Spendius.

Striking his head with both his fists, he replied:

“To rid me of her!”

Then speaking to himself with long pauses he said:

“I am no doubt the victim of some holocaust which she has promised to
the gods?--She holds me fast by a chain which people cannot see. If I
walk, it is she that is advancing; when I stop, she is resting! Her eyes
burn me, I hear her voice. She encompasses me, she penetrates me. It
seems to me that she has become my soul!

“And yet between us there are, as it were, the invisible billows of a
boundless ocean! She is far away and quite inaccessible! The splendour
of her beauty forms a cloud of light around her, and at times I think
that I have never seen her--that she does not exist--and that it is all
a dream!”

Matho wept thus in the darkness; the Barbarians were sleeping. Spendius,
as he looked at him, recalled the young men who once used to entreat
him with golden cases in their hands, when he led his herd of courtesans
through the towns; a feeling of pity moved him, and he said--

“Be strong, my master! Summon your will, and beseech the gods no more,
for they turn not aside at the cries of men! Weeping like a coward! And
you are not humiliated that a woman can cause you so much suffering?”

“Am I a child?” said Matho. “Do you think that I am moved by their faces
and songs? We kept them at Drepanum to sweep out our stables. I have
embraced them amid assaults, beneath falling ceilings, and while the
catapult was still vibrating!--But she, Spendius, she!--”

The slave interrupted him:

“If she were not Hanno’s daughter--”

“No!” cried Matho. “She has nothing in common with the daughters of
other men! Have you seen her great eyes beneath her great eyebrows, like
suns beneath triumphal arches? Think: when she appeared all the torches
grew pale. Her naked breast shone here and there through the diamonds of
her necklace; behind her you perceived as it were the odour of a temple,
and her whole being emitted something that was sweeter than wine and
more terrible than death. She walked, however, and then she stopped.”

He remained gaping with his head cast down and his eyeballs fixed.

“But I want her! I need her! I am dying for her! I am transported with
frenzied joy at the thought of clasping her in my arms, and yet I hate
her, Spendius! I should like to beat her! What is to be done? I have a
mind to sell myself and become her slave! YOU have been that! You were
able to get sight of her; speak to me of her! Every night she ascends
to the terrace of her palace, does she not? Ah! the stones must quiver
beneath her sandals, and the stars bend down to see her!”

He fell back in a perfect frenzy, with a rattling in his throat like a
wounded bull.

Then Matho sang: “He pursued into the forest the female monster, whose
tail undulated over the dead leaves like a silver brook.” And with
lingering tones he imitated Salammbo’s voice, while his outspread hands
were held like two light hands on the strings of a lyre.

To all the consolations offered by Spendius, he repeated the same words;
their nights were spent in these wailings and exhortations.

Matho sought to drown his thoughts in wine. After his fits of
drunkenness he was more melancholy still. He tried to divert himself at
huckle-bones, and lost the gold plates of his necklace one by one. He
had himself taken to the servants of the Goddess; but he came down the
hill sobbing, like one returning from a funeral.

Spendius, on the contrary, became more bold and gay. He was to be seen
in the leafy taverns discoursing in the midst of the soldiers. He mended
old cuirasses. He juggled with daggers. He went and gathered herbs in
the fields for the sick. He was facetious, dexterous, full of invention
and talk; the Barbarians grew accustomed to his services, and he came to
be loved by them.

However, they were awaiting an ambassador from Carthage to bring
them mules laden with baskets of gold; and ever beginning the same
calculation over again, they would trace figures with their fingers in
the sand. Every one was arranging his life beforehand; they would have
concubines, slaves, lands; others intended to bury their treasure,
or risk it on a vessel. But their tempers were provoked by want of
employment; there were constant disputes between horse-soldiers and
foot-soldiers, Barbarians and Greeks, while there was a never-ending din
of shrill female voices.

Every day men came flocking in nearly naked, and with grass on their
heads to protect them from the sun; they were the debtors of the rich
Carthaginians and had been forced to till the lands of the latter, but
had escaped. Libyans came pouring in with peasants ruined by the taxes,
outlaws, and malefactors. Then the horde of traders, all the dealers in
wine and oil, who were furious at not being paid, laid the blame upon
the Republic. Spendius declaimed against it. Soon the provisions ran
low; and there was talk of advancing in a body upon Carthage, and
calling in the Romans.

One evening, at supper-time, dull cracked sounds were heard approaching,
and something red appeared in the distance among the undulations of the
soil.

It was a large purple litter, adorned with ostrich feathers at the
corners. Chains of crystal and garlands of pearls beat against the
closed hangings. It was followed by camels sounding the great bells
that hung at their breasts, and having around them horsemen clad from
shoulder to heel in armour of golden scales.

They halted three hundred paces from the camp to take their round
bucklers, broad swords, and Boeotian helmets out of the cases which they
carried behind their saddles. Some remained with the camels, while
the others resumed their march. At last the ensigns of the Republic
appeared, that is to say, staves of blue wood terminated in horses’
heads or fir cones. The Barbarians all rose with applause; the women
rushed towards the guards of the Legion and kissed their feet.

The litter advanced on the shoulders of twelve Negroes who walked in
step with short, rapid strides; they went at random to right or left,
being embarrassed by the tent-ropes, the animals that were straying
about, or the tripods where food was being cooked. Sometimes a fat hand,
laden with rings, would partially open the litter, and a hoarse voice
would utter loud reproaches; then the bearers would stop and take a
different direction through the camp.

But the purple curtains were raised, and a human head, impassible and
bloated, was seen resting on a large pillow; the eyebrows, which were
like arches of ebony, met each other at the points; golden dust sparkled
in the frizzled hair, and the face was so wan that it looked as if
it had been powdered with marble raspings. The rest of the body was
concealed beneath the fleeces which filled the litter.

In the man so reclining the soldiers recognised the Suffet Hanno, he
whose slackness had assisted to lose the battle of the Aegatian islands;
and as to his victory at Hecatompylos over the Libyans, even if he did
behave with clemency, thought the Barbarians, it was owing to cupidity,
for he had sold all the captives on his own account, although he had
reported their deaths to the Republic.

After seeking for some time a convenient place from which to harangue
the soldiers, he made a sign; the litter stopped, and Hanno, supported
by two slaves, put his tottering feet to the ground.

He wore boots of black felt strewn with silver moons. His legs were
swathed in bands like those wrapped about a mummy, and the flesh crept
through the crossings of the linen; his stomach came out beyond the
scarlet jacket which covered his thighs; the folds of his neck fell down
to his breast like the dewlaps of an ox; his tunic, which was painted
with flowers, was bursting at the arm-pits; he wore a scarf, a girdle,
and an ample black cloak with laced double-sleeves. But the abundance of
his garments, his great necklace of blue stones, his golden clasps, and
heavy earrings only rendered his deformity still more hideous. He might
have been taken for some big idol rough-hewn in a block of stone; for
a pale leprosy, which was spread over his whole body, gave him the
appearance of an inert thing. His nose, however, which was hooked like
a vulture’s beak, was violently dilated to breathe in the air, and his
little eyes, with their gummed lashes, shone with a hard and metallic
lustre. He held a spatula of aloe-wood in his hand wherewith to scratch
his skin.

At last two heralds sounded their silver horns; the tumult subsided, and
Hanno commenced to speak.

He began with an eulogy of the gods and the Republic; the Barbarians
ought to congratulate themselves on having served it. But they must show
themselves more reasonable; times were hard, “and if a master has only
three olives, is it not right that he should keep two for himself?”

The old Suffet mingled his speech in this way with proverbs and
apologues, nodding his head the while to solicit some approval.

He spoke in Punic, and those surrounding him (the most alert, who
had hastened thither without their arms), were Campanians, Gauls, and
Greeks, so that no one in the crowd understood him. Hanno, perceiving
this, stopped and reflected, swaying himself heavily from one leg to the
other.

It occurred to him to call the captains together; then his heralds
shouted the order in Greek, the language which, from the time of
Xanthippus, had been used for commands in the Carthaginian armies.

The guards dispersed the mob of soldiers with strokes of the whip; and
the captains of the Spartan phalanxes and the chiefs of the Barbarian
cohorts soon arrived with the insignia of their rank, and in the
armour of their nation. Night had fallen, a great tumult was spreading
throughout the plain; fires were burning here and there; and the
soldiers kept going from one to another asking what the matter was, and
why the Suffet did not distribute the money?

He was setting the infinite burdens of the Republic before the captains.
Her treasury was empty. The tribute to Rome was crushing her. “We are
quite at a loss what to do! She is much to be pitied!”

From time to time he would rub his limbs with his aloe-wood spatula,
or perhaps he would break off to drink a ptisan made of the ashes of a
weasel and asparagus boiled in vinegar from a silver cup handed to
him by a slave; then he would wipe his lips with a scarlet napkin and
resume:

“What used to be worth a shekel of silver is now worth three shekels
of gold, while the cultivated lands which were abandoned during the war
bring in nothing! Our purpura fisheries are nearly gone, and even pearls
are becoming exhorbitant; we have scarcely unguents enough for the
service of the gods! As for the things of the table, I shall say nothing
about them; it is a calamity! For want of galleys we are without spices,
and it is a matter of great difficulty to procure silphium on account
of the rebellions on the Cyrenian frontier. Sicily, where so many slaves
used to be had, is now closed to us! Only yesterday I gave more money
for a bather and four scullions than I used at one time to give for a
pair of elephants!”

He unrolled a long piece of papyrus; and, without omitting a single
figure, read all the expenses that the government had incurred; so much
for repairing the temples, for paving the streets, for the construction
of vessels, for the coral-fisheries, for the enlargement of the
Syssitia, and for engines in the mines in the country of the
Cantabrians.

But the captains understood Punic as little as the soldiers, although
the Mercenaries saluted one another in that language. It was usual to
place a few Carthaginian officers in the Barbarian armies to act as
interpreters; after the war they had concealed themselves through fear
of vengeance, and Hanno had not thought of taking them with him; his
hollow voice, too, was lost in the wind.

The Greeks, girthed in their iron waist-belts, strained their ears as
they strove to guess at his words, while the mountaineers, covered with
furs like bears, looked at him with distrust, or yawned as they leaned
on their brass-nailed clubs. The heedless Gauls sneered as they
shook their lofty heads of hair, and the men of the desert listened
motionless, cowled in their garments of grey wool; others kept coming up
behind; the guards, crushed by the mob, staggered on their horses;
the Negroes held out burning fir branches at arm’s length; and the big
Carthaginian, mounted on a grassy hillock, continued his harangue.

The Barbarians, however, were growing impatient; murmuring arose, and
every one apostrophized him. Hanno gesticulated with his spatula; and
those who wished the others to be quiet shouted still more loudly,
thereby adding to the din.

Suddenly a man of mean appearance bounded to Hanno’s feet, snatched up
a herald’s trumpet, blew it, and Spendius (for it was he) announced that
he was going to say something of importance. At this declaration, which
was rapidly uttered in five different languages, Greek, Latin, Gallic,
Libyan and Balearic, the captains, half laughing and half surprised,
replied: “Speak! Speak!”

Spendius hesitated; he trembled; at last, addressing the Libyans who
were the most numerous, he said to them:

“You have all heard this man’s horrible threats!”

Hanno made no exclamation, therefore he did not understand Libyan; and,
to carry on the experiment, Spendius repeated the same phrase in the
other Barbarian dialects.

They looked at one another in astonishment; then, as by a tacit
agreement, and believing perhaps that they had understood, they bent
their heads in token of assent.

Then Spendius began in vehement tones:

“He said first that all the Gods of the other nations were but dreams
besides the Gods of Carthage! He called you cowards, thieves, liars,
dogs, and the sons of dogs! But for you (he said that!) the Republic
would not be forced to pay excessive tribute to the Romans; and through
your excesses you have drained it of perfumes, aromatics, slaves,
and silphium, for you are in league with the nomads on the Cyrenian
frontier! But the guilty shall be punished! He read the enumeration of
their torments; they shall be made to work at the paving of the streets,
at the equipment of the vessels, at the adornment of the Syssitia, while
the rest shall be sent to scrape the earth in the mines in the country
of the Cantabrians.”

Spendius repeated the same statements to the Gauls, Greeks, Campanians
and Balearians. The Mercenaries, recognising several of the proper
names which had met their ears, were convinced that he was accurately
reporting the Suffet’s speech. A few cried out to him, “You lie!” but
their voices were drowned in the tumult of the rest; Spendius added:

“Have you not seen that he has left a reserve of his horse-soldiers
outside the camp? At a given signal they will hasten hither to slay you
all.”

The Barbarians turned in that direction, and as the crowd was then
scattering, there appeared in the midst of them, and advancing with the
slowness of a phantom, a human being, bent, lean, entirely naked, and
covered down to his flanks with long hair bristling with dried leaves,
dust and thorns. About his loins and his knees he had wisps of straw and
linen rags; his soft and earthy skin hung on his emaciated limbs like
tatters on dried boughs; his hands trembled with a continuous quivering,
and as he walked he leaned on a staff of olive-wood.

He reached the Negroes who were bearing the torches. His pale gums were
displayed in a sort of idiotic titter; his large, scared eyes gazed upon
the crowd of Barbarians around him.

But uttering a cry of terror he threw himself behind them, shielding
himself with their bodies. “There they are! There they are!” he
stammered out, pointing to the Suffet’s guards, who were motionless
in their glittering armour. Their horses, dazzled by the light of the
torches which crackled in the darkness, were pawing the ground; the
human spectre struggled and howled:

“They have killed them!”

At these words, which were screamed in Balearic, some Balearians came up
and recognised him; without answering them he repeated:

“Yes, all killed, all! crushed like grapes! The fine young men! the
slingers! my companions and yours!”

They gave him wine to drink, and he wept; then he launched forth into
speech.

Spendius could scarcely repress his joy, as he explained the horrors
related by Zarxas to the Greeks and Libyans; he could not believe them,
so appropriately did they come in. The Balearians grew pale as they
learned how their companions had perished.

It was a troop of three hundred slingers who had disembarked the evening
before, and had on that day slept too late. When they reached the
square of Khamon the Barbarians were gone, and they found themselves
defenceless, their clay bullets having been put on the camels with the
rest of the baggage. They were allowed to advance into the street of
Satheb as far as the brass sheathed oaken gate; then the people with a
single impulse had sprung upon them.

Indeed, the soldiers remembered a great shout; Spendius, who was flying
at the head of the columns, had not heard it.

Then the corpses were placed in the arms of the Pataec gods that fringed
the temple of Khamon. They were upbraided with all the crimes of the
Mercenaries; their gluttony, their thefts, their impiety, their disdain,
and the murder of the fishes in Salammbo’s garden. Their bodies were
subjected to infamous mutilations; the priests burned their hair
in order to torture their souls; they were hung up in pieces in the
meat-shops; some even buried their teeth in them, and in the evening
funeral-piles were kindled at the cross-ways to finish them.

These were the flames that had gleamed from a distance across the lake.
But some houses having taken fire, any dead or dying that remained were
speedily thrown over the walls; Zarxas had remained among the reeds on
the edge of the lake until the following day; then he had wandered about
through the country, seeking for the army by the footprints in the dust.
In the morning he hid himself in caves; in the evening he resumed his
march with his bleeding wounds, famished, sick, living on roots and
carrion; at last one day he perceived lances on the horizon, and he
had followed them, for his reason was disturbed through his terrors and
miseries.

The indignation of the soldiers, restrained so long as he was speaking,
broke forth like a tempest; they were going to massacre the guards
together with the Suffet. A few interposed, saying that they ought to
hear him and know at least whether they should be paid. Then they all
cried: “Our money!” Hanno replied that he had brought it.

They ran to the outposts, and the Suffet’s baggage arrived in the midst
of the tents, pressed forward by the Barbarians. Without waiting for
the slaves, they very quickly unfastened the baskets; in them they
found hyacinth robes, sponges, scrapers, brushes, perfumes, and antimony
pencils for painting the eyes--all belonging to the guards, who were
rich men and accustomed to such refinements. Next they uncovered a large
bronze tub on a camel: it belonged to the Suffet who had it for bathing
in during his journey; for he had taken all manner of precautions, even
going so far as to bring caged weasels from Hecatompylos, which were
burnt alive to make his ptisan. But, as his malady gave him a great
appetite, there were also many comestibles and many wines, pickle, meats
and fishes preserved in honey, with little pots of Commagene, or melted
goose-fat covered with snow and chopped straw. There was a considerable
supply of it; the more they opened the baskets the more they found, and
laughter arose like conflicting waves.

As to the pay of the Mercenaries it nearly filled two esparto-grass
baskets; there were even visible in one of them some of the leathern
discs which the Republic used to economise its specie; and as the
Barbarians appeared greatly surprised, Hanno told them that, their
accounts being very difficult, the Ancients had not had leisure to
examine them. Meanwhile they had sent them this.

Then everything was in disorder and confusion: mules, serving men,
litter, provisions, and baggage. The soldiers took the coin in the bags
to stone Hanno. With great difficulty he was able to mount an ass; and
he fled, clinging to its hair, howling, weeping, shaken, bruised, and
calling down the curse of all the gods upon the army. His broad necklace
of precious stones rebounded up to his ears. His cloak which was too
long, and which trailed behind him, he kept on with his teeth, and from
afar the Barbarians shouted at him, “Begone coward! pig! sink of Moloch!
sweat your gold and your plague! quicker! quicker!” The routed escort
galloped beside him.

But the fury of the Barbarians did not abate. They remembered that
several of them who had set out for Carthage had not returned; no doubt
they had been killed. So much injustice exasperated them, and they began
to pull up the stakes of their tents, to roll up their cloaks, and to
bridle their horses; every one took his helmet and sword, and instantly
all was ready. Those who had no arms rushed into the woods to cut
staves.

Day dawned; the people of Sicca were roused, and stirring in the
streets. “They are going to Carthage,” said they, and the rumour of this
soon spread through the country.

From every path and every ravine men arose. Shepherds were seen running
down from the mountains.

Then, when the Barbarians had set out, Spendius circled the plain,
riding on a Punic stallion, and attended by his slave, who led a third
horse.

A single tent remained. Spendius entered it.

“Up, master! rise! we are departing!”

“And where are you going?” asked Matho.

“To Carthage!” cried Spendius.

Matho bounded upon the horse which the slave held at the door.



CHAPTER III

SALAMMBO

The moon was rising just above the waves, and on the town which
was still wrapped in darkness there glittered white and luminous
specks:--the pole of a chariot, a dangling rag of linen, the corner of a
wall, or a golden necklace on the bosom of a god. The glass balls on
the roofs of the temples beamed like great diamonds here and there.
But ill-defined ruins, piles of black earth, and gardens formed deeper
masses in the gloom, and below Malqua fishermen’s nets stretched from
one house to another like gigantic bats spreading their wings. The
grinding of the hydraulic wheels which conveyed water to the highest
storys of the palaces, was no longer heard; and the camels, lying
ostrich fashion on their stomachs, rested peacefully in the middle of
the terraces. The porters were asleep in the streets on the thresholds
of the houses; the shadows of the colossuses stretched across the
deserted squares; occasionally in the distance the smoke of a still
burning sacrifice would escape through the bronze tiling, and the heavy
breeze would waft the odours of aromatics blended with the scent of the
sea and the exhalation from the sun-heated walls. The motionless waves
shone around Carthage, for the moon was spreading her light at once upon
the mountain-circled gulf and upon the lake of Tunis, where flamingoes
formed long rose-coloured lines amid the banks of sand, while further
on beneath the catacombs the great salt lagoon shimmered like a piece
of silver. The blue vault of heaven sank on the horizon in one direction
into the dustiness of the plains, and in the other into the mists of the
sea, and on the summit of the Acropolis, the pyramidal cypress trees,
fringing the temple of Eschmoun, swayed murmuring like the regular waves
that beat slowly along the mole beneath the ramparts.

Salammbo ascended to the terrace of her palace, supported by a female
slave who carried an iron dish filled with live coals.

In the middle of the terrace there was a small ivory bed covered
with lynx skins, and cushions made with the feathers of the parrot, a
fatidical animal consecrated to the gods; and at the four corners rose
four long perfuming-pans filled with nard, incense, cinnamomum, and
myrrh. The slave lit the perfumes. Salammbo looked at the polar star;
she slowly saluted the four points of heaven, and knelt down on the
ground in the azure dust which was strewn with golden stars in imitation
of the firmament. Then with both elbows against her sides, her fore-arms
straight and her hands open, she threw back her head beneath the rays of
the moon, and said:

“O Rabetna!--Baalet!--Tanith!” and her voice was lengthened in a
plaintive fashion as if calling to some one. “Anaitis! Astarte! Derceto!
Astoreth! Mylitta! Athara! Elissa! Tiratha!--By the hidden symbols, by
the resounding sistra,--by the furrows of the earth,--by the eternal
silence and by the eternal fruitfulness,--mistress of the gloomy sea and
of the azure shores, O Queen of the watery world, all hail!”

She swayed her whole body twice or thrice, and then cast herself face
downwards in the dust with both arms outstretched.

But the slave nimbly raised her, for according to the rites someone must
catch the suppliant at the moment of his prostration; this told him that
the gods accepted him, and Salammbo’s nurse never failed in this pious
duty.

Some merchants from Darytian Gaetulia had brought her to Carthage when
quite young, and after her enfranchisement she would not forsake her old
masters, as was shown by her right ear, which was pierced with a large
hole. A petticoat of many-coloured stripes fitted closely on her hips,
and fell to her ankles, where two tin rings clashed together. Her
somewhat flat face was yellow like her tunic. Silver bodkins of great
length formed a sun behind her head. She wore a coral button on the
nostril, and she stood beside the bed more erect than a Hermes, and with
her eyelids cast down.

Salammbo walked to the edge of the terrace; her eyes swept the horizon
for an instant, and then were lowered upon the sleeping town, while the
sigh that she heaved swelled her bosom, and gave an undulating movement
to the whole length of the long white simar which hung without clasp or
girdle about her. Her curved and painted sandals were hidden beneath
a heap of emeralds, and a net of purple thread was filled with her
disordered hair.

But she raised her head to gaze upon the moon, and murmured, mingling
her speech with fragments of hymns:

“How lightly turnest thou, supported by the impalpable ether! It
brightens about thee, and ‘tis the stir of thine agitation that
distributes the winds and fruitful dews. According as thou dost wax
and wane the eyes of cats and spots of panthers lengthen or grow short.
Wives shriek thy name in the pangs of childbirth! Thou makest the shells
to swell, the wine to bubble, and the corpse to putrefy! Thou formest
the pearls at the bottom of the sea!

“And every germ, O goddess! ferments in the dark depths of thy moisture.

“When thou appearest, quietness is spread abroad upon the earth; the
flowers close, the waves are soothed, wearied man stretches his breast
toward thee, and the world with its oceans and mountains looks at
itself in thy face as in a mirror. Thou art white, gentle, luminous,
immaculate, helping, purifying, serene!”

The crescent of the moon was then over the mountain of the Hot Springs,
in the hollow formed by its two summits, on the other side of the gulf.
Below it there was a little star, and all around it a pale circle.
Salammbo went on:

“But thou art a terrible mistress!--Monsters, terrifying phantoms, and
lying dreams come from thee; thine eyes devour the stones of buildings,
and the apes are ever ill each time thou growest young again.

“Whither goest thou? Why dost thou change thy forms continually? Now,
slender and curved thou glidest through space like a mastless galley;
and then, amid the stars, thou art like a shepherd keeping his flock.
Shining and round, thou dost graze the mountain-tops like the wheel of a
chariot.

“O Tanith! thou dost love me? I have looked so much on thee! But no!
thou sailest through thine azure, and I--I remain on the motionless
earth.

“Taanach, take your nebal and play softly on the silver string, for my
heart is sad!”

The slave lifted a sort of harp of ebony wood, taller than herself,
and triangular in shape like a delta; she fixed the point in a crystal
globe, and with both hands began to play.

The sounds followed one another hurried and deep, like the buzzing of
bees, and with increasing sonorousness floated away into the night with
the complaining of the waves, and the rustling of the great trees on the
summit of the Acropolis.

“Hush!” cried Salammbo.

“What ails you, mistress? The blowing of the breeze, the passing of a
cloud, everything disquiets you just now!”

“I do not know,” she said.

“You are wearied with too long prayers!”

“Oh! Tanaach, I would fain be dissolved in them like a flower in wine!”

“Perhaps it is the smoke of your perfumes?”

“No!” said Salammbo; “the spirit of the gods dwells in fragrant odours.”

Then the slave spoke to her of her father. It was thought that he had
gone towards the amber country, behind the pillars of Melkarth. “But if
he does not return,” she said, “you must nevertheless, since it was his
will, choose a husband among the sons of the Ancients, and then your
grief will pass away in a man’s arms.”

“Why?” asked the young girl. All those that she had seen had horrified
her with their fallow-deer laughter and their coarse limbs.

“Sometimes, Tanaach, from the depths of my being there exhale as it were
hot fumes heavier than the vapours from a volcano. Voices call me, a
globe of fire rolls and mounts within my bosom, it stifles me, I am at
the point of death; and then, something sweet, flowing from my brow to
my feet, passes through my flesh--it is a caress enfolding me, and I
feel myself crushed as if some god were stretched upon me. Oh! would
that I could lose myself in the mists of the night, the waters of the
fountains, the sap of the trees, that I could issue from my body, and be
but a breath, or a ray, and glide, mount up to thee, O Mother!”

She raised her arms to their full length, arching her form, which in
its long garment was as pale and light as the moon. Then she fell back,
panting, on the ivory couch; but Taanach passed an amber necklace with
dolphin’s teeth about her neck to banish terrors, and Salammbo said in
an almost stifled voice: “Go and bring me Schahabarim.”

Her father had not wished her to enter the college of priestesses,
nor even to be made at all acquainted with the popular Tanith. He was
reserving her for some alliance that might serve his political ends;
so that Salammbo lived alone in the midst of the palace. Her mother was
long since dead.

She had grown up with abstinences, fastings and purifications, always
surrounded by grave and exquisite things, her body saturated with
perfumes, and her soul filled with prayers. She had never tasted wine,
nor eaten meat, nor touched an unclean animal, nor set her heels in the
house of death.

She knew nothing of obscene images, for as each god was manifested
in different forms, the same principle often received the witness of
contradictory cults, and Salammbo worshipped the goddess in her sidereal
presentation. An influence had descended upon the maiden from the
moon; when the planet passed diminishing away, Salammbo grew weak. She
languished the whole day long, and revived at evening. During an eclipse
she nearly died.

But Rabetna, in jealousy, revenged herself for the virginity withdrawn
from her sacrifices, and she tormented Salammbo with possessions, all
the stronger for being vague, which were spread through this belief and
excited by it.

Unceasingly was Hamilcar’s daughter disquieted about Tanith. She had
learned her adventures, her travels, and all her names, which she would
repeat without their having any distinct signification for her. In
order to penetrate into the depths of her dogma, she wished to become
acquainted, in the most secret part of the temple, with the old idol in
the magnificent mantle, whereon depended the destinies of Carthage, for
the idea of a god did not stand out clearly from his representation,
and to hold, or even see the image of one, was to take away part of his
virtue, and in a measure to rule him.

But Salammbo turned around. She had recognised the sound of the golden
bells which Schahabarim wore at the hem of his garment.

He ascended the staircases; then at the threshold of the terrace he
stopped and folded his arms.

His sunken eyes shone like the lamps of a sepulchre; his long thin body
floated in its linen robe which was weighted by the bells, the latter
alternating with balls of emeralds at his heels. He had feeble limbs, an
oblique skull and a pointed chin; his skin seemed cold to the touch, and
his yellow face, which was deeply furrowed with wrinkles, was as if it
contracted in a longing, in an everlasting grief.

He was the high priest of Tanith, and it was he who had educated
Salammbo.

“Speak!” he said. “What will you?”

“I hoped--you had almost promised me--” She stammered and was confused;
then suddenly: “Why do you despise me? what have I forgotten in
the rites? You are my master, and you told me that no one was so
accomplished in the things pertaining to the goddess as I; but there are
some of which you will not speak. Is it so, O father?”

Schahabarim remembered Hamilcar’s orders, and replied:

“No, I have nothing more to teach you!”

“A genius,” she resumed, “impels me to this love. I have climbed the
steps of Eschmoun, god of the planets and intelligences; I have slept
beneath the golden olive of Melkarth, patron of the Tyrian colonies;
I have pushed open the doors of Baal-Khamon, the enlightener and
fertiliser; I have sacrificed to the subterranean Kabiri, to the gods
of woods, winds, rivers and mountains; but, can you understand? they
are all too far away, too high, too insensible, while she--I feel
her mingled in my life; she fills my soul, and I quiver with inward
startings, as though she were leaping in order to escape. Methinks I am
about to hear her voice, and see her face, lightnings dazzle me and then
I sink back again into the darkness.”

Schahabarim was silent. She entreated him with suppliant looks. At
last he made a sign for the dismissal of the slave, who was not of
Chanaanitish race. Taanach disappeared, and Schahabarim, raising one arm
in the air, began:

“Before the gods darkness alone was, and a breathing stirred dull
and indistinct as the conscience of a man in a dream. It contracted,
creating Desire and Cloud, and from Desire and Cloud there issued
primitive Matter. This was a water, muddy, black, icy and deep. It
contained senseless monsters, incoherent portions of the forms to be
born, which are painted on the walls of the sanctuaries.

“Then Matter condensed. It became an egg. It burst. One half formed the
earth and the other the firmament. Sun, moon, winds and clouds appeared,
and at the crash of the thunder intelligent creatures awoke. Then
Eschmoun spread himself in the starry sphere; Khamon beamed in the sun;
Melkarth thrust him with his arms behind Gades; the Kabiri descended
beneath the volcanoes, and Rabetna like a nurse bent over the world
pouring out her light like milk, and her night like a mantle.”

“And then?” she said.

He had related the secret of the origins to her, to divert her from
sublimer prospects; but the maiden’s desire kindled again at his last
words, and Schahabarim, half yielding resumed:

“She inspires and governs the loves of men.”

“The loves of men!” repeated Salammbo dreamily.

“She is the soul of Carthage,” continued the priest; “and although she
is everywhere diffused, it is here that she dwells, beneath the sacred
veil.”

“O father!” cried Salammbo, “I shall see her, shall I not? you will
bring me to her! I had long been hesitating; I am devoured with
curiosity to see her form. Pity! help me! let us go?”

He repulsed her with a vehement gesture that was full of pride.

“Never! Do you not know that it means death? The hermaphrodite Baals are
unveiled to us alone who are men in understanding and women in weakness.
Your desire is sacrilege; be satisfied with the knowledge that you
possess!”

She fell upon her knees placing two fingers against her ears in token of
repentance; and crushed by the priest’s words, and filled at once with
anger against him, with terror and humiliation, she burst into sobs.
Schahabarim remained erect, and more insensible than the stones of the
terrace. He looked down upon her quivering at his feet, and felt a kind
of joy on seeing her suffer for his divinity whom he himself could not
wholly embrace. The birds were already singing, a cold wind was blowing,
and little clouds were drifting in the paling sky.

Suddenly he perceived on the horizon, behind Tunis, what looked like
slight mists trailing along the ground; then these became a great
curtain of dust extending perpendicularly, and, amid the whirlwinds of
the thronging mass, dromedaries’ heads, lances and shields appeared. It
was the army of the Barbarians advancing upon Carthage.



CHAPTER IV

BENEATH THE WALLS OF CARTHAGE

Some country people, riding on asses or running on foot, arrived in the
town, pale, breathless, and mad with fear. They were flying before the
army. It had accomplished the journey from Sicca in three days, in order
to reach Carthage and wholly exterminate it.

The gates were shut. The Barbarians appeared almost immediately; but
they stopped in the middle of the isthmus, on the edge of the lake.

At first they made no hostile announcement. Several approached with palm
branches in their hands. They were driven back with arrows, so great was
the terror.

In the morning and at nightfall prowlers would sometimes wander along
the walls. A little man carefully wrapped in a cloak, and with his face
concealed beneath a very low visor, was especially noticed. He would
remain whole hours gazing at the aqueduct, and so persistently that he
doubtless wished to mislead the Carthaginians as to his real designs.
Another man, a sort of giant who walked bareheaded, used to accompany
him.

But Carthage was defended throughout the whole breadth of the isthmus:
first by a trench, then by a grassy rampart, and lastly by a wall thirty
cubits high, built of freestone, and in two storys. It contained stables
for three hundred elephants with stores for their caparisons, shackles,
and food; other stables again for four thousand horses with supplies
of barley and harness, and barracks for twenty thousand soldiers with
armour and all materials of war. Towers rose from the second story, all
provided with battlements, and having bronze bucklers hung on cramps on
the outside.

This first line of wall gave immediate shelter to Malqua, the sailors’
and dyers’ quarter. Masts might be seen whereon purple sails were
drying, and on the highest terraces clay furnaces for heating the pickle
were visible.

Behind, the lofty houses of the city rose in an ampitheatre of cubical
form. They were built of stone, planks, shingle, reeds, shells, and
beaten earth. The woods belonging to the temples were like lakes of
verdure in this mountain of diversely-coloured blocks. It was levelled
at unequal distances by the public squares, and was cut from top to
bottom by countless intersecting lanes. The enclosures of the three old
quarters which are now lost might be distinguished; they rose here
and there like great reefs, or extended in enormous fronts, blackened,
half-covered with flowers, and broadly striped by the casting of filth,
while streets passed through their yawning apertures like rivers beneath
bridges.

The hill of the Acropolis, in the centre of Byrsa, was hidden beneath a
disordered array of monuments. There were temples with wreathed columns
bearing bronze capitals and metal chains, cones of dry stones with bands
of azure, copper cupolas, marble architraves, Babylonian buttresses,
obelisks poised on their points like inverted torches. Peristyles
reached to pediments; volutes were displayed through colonnades; granite
walls supported tile partitions; the whole mounting, half-hidden, the
one above the other in a marvellous and incomprehensible fashion. In it
might be felt the succession of the ages, and, as it were, the memorials
of forgotten fatherlands.

Behind the Acropolis the Mappalian road, which was lined with tombs,
extended through red lands in a straight line from the shore to the
catacombs; then spacious dwellings occurred at intervals in the gardens,
and this third quarter, Megara, which was the new town, reached as far
as the edge of the cliff, where rose a giant pharos that blazed forth
every night.

In this fashion was Carthage displayed before the soldiers quartered in
the plain.

They could recognise the markets and crossways in the distance, and
disputed with one another as to the sites of the temples. Khamon’s,
fronting the Syssitia, had golden tiles; Melkarth, to the left of
Eschmoun, had branches of coral on its roofing; beyond, Tanith’s copper
cupola swelled among the palm trees; the dark Moloch was below
the cisterns, in the direction of the pharos. At the angles of the
pediments, on the tops of the walls, at the corners of the squares,
everywhere, divinities with hideous heads might be seen, colossal or
squat, with enormous bellies, or immoderately flattened, opening their
jaws, extending their arms, and holding forks, chains or javelins in
their hands; while the blue of the sea stretched away behind the streets
which were rendered still steeper by the perspective.

They were filled from morning till evening with a tumultuous people;
young boys shaking little bells, shouted at the doors of the baths; the
shops for hot drinks smoked, the air resounded with the noise of anvils,
the white cocks, sacred to the Sun, crowed on the terraces, the oxen
that were being slaughtered bellowed in the temples, slaves ran about
with baskets on their heads; and in the depths of the porticoes a priest
would sometimes appear, draped in a dark cloak, barefooted, and wearing
a pointed cap.

The spectacle afforded by Carthage irritated the Barbarians; they
admired it and execrated it, and would have liked both to annihilate it
and to dwell in it. But what was there in the Military Harbour defended
by a triple wall? Then behind the town, at the back of Megara, and
higher than the Acropolis, appeared Hamilcar’s palace.

Matho’s eyes were directed thither every moment. He would ascend the
olive trees and lean over with his hand spread out above his eyebrows.
The gardens were empty, and the red door with its black cross remained
constantly shut.

More than twenty times he walked round the ramparts, seeking some breach
by which he might enter. One night he threw himself into the gulf and
swam for three hours at a stretch. He reached the foot of the Mappalian
quarter and tried to climb up the face of the cliff. He covered his
knees with blood, broke his nails, and then fell back into the waves and
returned.

His impotence exasperated him. He was jealous of this Carthage which
contained Salammbo, as if of some one who had possessed her. His
nervelessness left him to be replaced by a mad and continual eagerness
for action. With flaming cheek, angry eyes, and hoarse voice, he would
walk with rapid strides through the camp; or seated on the shore he
would scour his great sword with sand. He shot arrows at the passing
vultures. His heart overflowed into frenzied speech.

“Give free course to your wrath like a runaway chariot,” said Spendius.
“Shout, blaspheme, ravage and slay. Grief is allayed with blood, and
since you cannot sate your love, gorge your hate; it will sustain you!”

Matho resumed the command of his soldiers. He drilled them pitilessly.
He was respected for his courage and especially for his strength.
Moreover he inspired a sort of mystic dread, and it was believed that
he conversed at night with phantoms. The other captains were animated
by his example. The army soon grew disciplined. From their houses the
Carthaginians could hear the bugle-flourishes that regulated their
exercises. At last the Barbarians drew near.

To crush them in the isthmus it would have been necessary for two armies
to take them simultaneously in the rear, one disembarking at the end of
the gulf of Utica, and the second at the mountain of the Hot Springs.
But what could be done with the single sacred Legion, mustering at most
six thousand men? If the enemy bent towards the east they would join the
nomads and intercept the commerce of the desert. If they fell back to
the west, Numidia would rise. Finally, lack of provisions would
sooner or later lead them to devastate the surrounding country like
grasshoppers, and the rich trembled for their fine country-houses, their
vineyards and their cultivated lands.

Hanno proposed atrocious and impracticable measures, such as promising a
heavy sum for every Barbarian’s head, or setting fire to their camp with
ships and machines. His colleague Gisco, on the other hand, wished them
to be paid. But the Ancients detested him owing to his popularity; for
they dreaded the risk of a master, and through terror of monarchy strove
to weaken whatever contributed to it or might re-establish it.

Outside the fortification there were people of another race and of
unknown origin, all hunters of the porcupine, and eaters of shell-fish
and serpents. They used to go into caves to catch hyenas alive, and
amuse themselves by making them run in the evening on the sands of
Megara between the stelae of the tombs. Their huts, which were made of
mud and wrack, hung on the cliff like swallows’ nests. There they lived,
without government and without gods, pell-mell, completely naked, at
once feeble and fierce, and execrated by the people of all time on
account of their unclean food. One morning the sentries perceived that
they were all gone.

At last some members of the Great Council arrived at a decision. They
came to the camp without necklaces or girdles, and in open sandals
like neighbours. They walked at a quiet pace, waving salutations to
the captains, or stopped to speak to the soldiers, saying that all was
finished and that justice was about to be done to their claims.

Many of them saw a camp of Mercenaries for the first time. Instead of
the confusion which they had pictured to themselves, there prevailed
everywhere terrible silence and order. A grassy rampart formed a lofty
wall round the army immovable by the shock of catapults. The ground in
the streets was sprinkled with fresh water; through the holes in the
tents they could perceive tawny eyeballs gleaming in the shade. The
piles of pikes and hanging panoplies dazzled them like mirrors. They
conversed in low tones. They were afraid of upsetting something with
their long robes.

The soldiers requested provisions, undertaking to pay for them out of
the money that was due.

Oxen, sheep, guinea fowl, fruit and lupins were sent to them, with
smoked scombri, that excellent scombri which Carthage dispatched to
every port. But they walked scornfully around the magnificent cattle,
and disparaging what they coveted, offered the worth of a pigeon for
a ram, or the price of a pomegranate for three goats. The Eaters of
Uncleanness came forward as arbitrators, and declared that they were
being duped. Then they drew their swords with threats to slay.

Commissaries of the Great Council wrote down the number of years for
which pay was due to each soldier. But it was no longer possible to know
how many Mercenaries had been engaged, and the Ancients were dismayed at
the enormous sum which they would have to pay. The reserve of silphium
must be sold, and the trading towns taxed; the Mercenaries would grow
impatient; Tunis was already with them; and the rich, stunned by Hanno’s
ragings and his colleague’s reproaches, urged any citizens who might
know a Barbarian to go to see him immediately in order to win back
his friendship, and to speak him fair. Such a show of confidence would
soothe them.

Traders, scribes, workers in the arsenal, and whole families visited the
Barbarians.

The soldiers allowed all the Carthaginians to come in, but by a single
passage so narrow that four men abreast jostled one another in it.
Spendius, standing against the barrier, had them carefully searched;
facing him Matho was examining the multitude, trying to recognise some
one whom he might have seen at Salammbo’s palace.

The camp was like a town, so full of people and of movement was it. The
two distinct crowds mingled without blending, one dressed in linen or
wool, with felt caps like fir-cones, and the other clad in iron and
wearing helmets. Amid serving men and itinerant vendors there moved
women of all nations, as brown as ripe dates, as greenish as olives,
as yellow as oranges, sold by sailors, picked out of dens, stolen from
caravans, taken in the sacking of towns, women that were jaded with love
so long as they were young, and plied with blows when they were old, and
that died in routs on the roadsides among the baggage and the abandoned
beasts of burden. The wives of the nomads had square, tawny robes of
dromedary’s hair swinging at their heels; musicians from Cyrenaica,
wrapped in violet gauze and with painted eyebrows, sang, squatting on
mats; old Negresses with hanging breasts gathered the animals’ dung
that was drying in the sun to light their fires; the Syracusan women had
golden plates in their hair; the Lusitanians had necklaces of shells;
the Gauls wore wolf skins upon their white bosoms; and sturdy children,
vermin-covered, naked and uncircumcised, butted with their heads against
passers-by, or came behind them like young tigers to bite their hands.

The Carthaginians walked through the camp, surprised at the quantities
of things with which it was running over. The most miserable were
melancholy, and the rest dissembled their anxiety.

The soldiers struck them on the shoulder, and exhorted them to be gay.
As soon as they saw any one, they invited him to their amusements. If
they were playing at discus, they would manage to crush his feet, or
if at boxing to fracture his jaw with the very first blow. The slingers
terrified the Carthaginians with their slings, the Psylli with their
vipers, and the horsemen with their horses, while their victims,
addicted as they were to peaceful occupations, bent their heads and
tried to smile at all these outrages. Some, in order to show themselves
brave, made signs that they should like to become soldiers. They were
set to split wood and to curry mules. They were buckled up in armour,
and rolled like casks through the streets of the camp. Then, when
they were about to leave, the Mercenaries plucked out their hair with
grotesque contortions.

But many, from foolishness or prejudice, innocently believed that all
the Carthaginians were very rich, and they walked behind them entreating
them to grant them something. They requested everything that they
thought fine: a ring, a girdle, sandals, the fringe of a robe, and when
the despoiled Carthaginian cried--“But I have nothing left. What do you
want?” they would reply, “Your wife!” Others even said, “Your life!”

The military accounts were handed to the captains, read to the soldiers,
and definitively approved. Then they claimed tents; they received them.
Next the polemarchs of the Greeks demanded some of the handsome suits of
armour that were manufactured at Carthage; the Great Council voted
sums of money for their purchase. But it was only fair, so the horsemen
pretended, that the Republic should indemnify them for their horses;
one had lost three at such a siege, another, five during such a march,
another, fourteen in the precipices. Stallions from Hecatompylos were
offered to them, but they preferred money.

Next they demanded that they should be paid in money (in pieces of
money, and not in leathern coins) for all the corn that was owing to
them, and at the highest price that it had fetched during the war; so
that they exacted four hundred times as much for a measure of meal as
they had given for a sack of wheat. Such injustice was exasperating; but
it was necessary, nevertheless, to submit.

Then the delegates from the soldiers and from the Great Council swore
renewed friendship by the Genius of Carthage and the gods of the
Barbarians. They exchanged excuses and caresses with oriental
demonstrativeness and verbosity. Then the soldiers claimed, as a proof
of friendship, the punishment of those who had estranged them from the
Republic.

Their meaning, it was pretended, was not understood, and they explained
themselves more clearly by saying that they must have Hanno’s head.

Several times a day, they left their camp, and walked along the foot of
the walls, shouting a demand that the Suffet’s head should be thrown to
them, and holding out their robes to receive it.

The Great Council would perhaps have given way but for a last exaction,
more outrageous than the rest; they demanded maidens, chosen from
illustrious families, in marriage for their chiefs. It was an idea
which had emanated from Spendius, and which many thought most simple and
practicable. But the assumption of their desire to mix with Punic blood
made the people indignant; and they were bluntly told that they were to
receive no more. Then they exclaimed that they had been deceived,
and that if their pay did not arrive within three days, they would
themselves go and take it in Carthage.

The bad faith of the Mercenaries was not so complete as their enemies
thought. Hamilcar had made them extravagant promises, vague, it is true,
but at the same time solemn and reiterated. They might have believed
that when they disembarked at Carthage the town would be abandoned to
them, and that they should have treasures divided among them; and
when they saw that scarcely their wages would be paid, the disillusion
touched their pride no less than their greed.

Had not Dionysius, Pyrrhus, Agathocles, and the generals of Alexander
furnished examples of marvellous good fortune? Hercules, whom the
Chanaanites confounded with the sun, was the ideal which shone on the
horizon of armies. They knew that simple soldiers had worn diadems, and
the echoes of crumbling empires would furnish dreams to the Gaul in
his oak forest, to the Ethiopian amid his sands. But there was a nation
always ready to turn courage to account; and the robber driven from
his tribe, the patricide wandering on the roads, the perpetrator of
sacrilege pursued by the gods, all who were starving or in despair
strove to reach the port where the Carthaginian broker was recruiting
soldiers. Usually the Republic kept its promises. This time, however,
the eagerness of its avarice had brought it into perilous disgrace.
Numidians, Libyans, the whole of Africa was about to fall upon Carthage.
Only the sea was open to it, and there it met with the Romans; so that,
like a man assailed by murderers, it felt death all around it.

It was quite necessary to have recourse to Gisco, and the Barbarians
accepted his intervention. One morning they saw the chains of the
harbour lowered, and three flat-bottomed boats passing through the canal
of Taenia entered the lake.

Gisco was visible on the first at the prow. Behind him rose an enormous
chest, higher than a catafalque, and furnished with rings like hanging
crowns. Then appeared the legion of interpreters, with their hair
dressed like sphinxes, and with parrots tattooed on their breasts.
Friends and slaves followed, all without arms, and in such numbers that
they shouldered one another. The three long, dangerously-loaded barges
advanced amid the shouts of the onlooking army.

As soon as Gisco disembarked the soldiers ran to him. He had a sort of
tribune erected with knapsacks, and declared that he should not depart
before he had paid them all in full.

There was an outburst of applause, and it was a long time before he was
able to speak.

Then he censured the wrongs done to the Republic, and to the Barbarians;
the fault lay with a few mutineers who had alarmed Carthage by their
violence. The best proof of good intention on the part of the latter was
that it was he, the eternal adversary of the Suffet Hanno, who was sent
to them. They must not credit the people with the folly of desiring to
provoke brave men, nor with ingratitude enough not to recognise their
services; and Gisco began to pay the soldiers, commencing with the
Libyans. As they had declared that the lists were untruthful, he made no
use of them.

They defiled before him according to nationality, opening their fingers
to show the number of their years of service; they were marked in
succession with green paint on the left arm; the scribes dipped into the
yawning coffer, while others made holes with a style on a sheet of lead.

A man passed walking heavily like an ox.

“Come up beside me,” said the Suffet, suspecting some fraud; “how many
years have you served?”

“Twelve,” replied the Libyan.

Gisco slipped his fingers under his chin, for the chin-piece of the
helmet used in course of time to occasion two callosities there; these
were called carobs, and “to have the carobs” was an expression used to
denote a veteran.

“Thief!” exclaimed the Suffet, “your shoulders ought to have what your
face lacks!” and tearing off his tunic he laid bare is back which was
covered with a bleeding scab; he was a labourer from Hippo-Zarytus.
Hootings were raised, and he was decapitated.

As soon as night fell, Spendius went and roused the Libyans, and said to
them:

“When the Ligurians, Greeks, Balearians, and men of Italy are paid,
they will return. But as for you, you will remain in Africa, scattered
through your tribes, and without any means of defence! It will be then
that the Republic will take its revenge! Mistrust the journey! Are you
going to believe everything that is said? Both the Suffets are agreed,
and this one is imposing on you! Remember the Island of Bones, and
Xanthippus, whom they sent back to Sparta in a rotten galley!”

“How are we to proceed?” they asked.

“Reflect!” said Spendius.

The two following days were spent in paying the men of Magdala, Leptis,
and Hecatompylos; Spendius went about among the Gauls.

“They are paying off the Libyans, and then they will discharge the
Greeks, the Balearians, the Asiatics and all the rest! But you, who are
few in number, will receive nothing! You will see your native lands no
more! You will have no ships, and they will kill you to save your food!”

The Gauls came to the Suffet. Autaritus, he whom he had wounded at
Hamilcar’s palace, put questions to him, but was repelled by the slaves,
and disappeared swearing he would be revenged.

The demands and complaints multiplied. The most obstinate penetrated at
night into the Suffet’s tent; they took his hands and sought to move him
by making him feel their toothless mouths, their wasted arms, and the
scars of their wounds. Those who had not yet been paid were growing
angry, those who had received the money demanded more for their horses;
and vagabonds and outlaws assumed soldiers’ arms and declared that they
were being forgotten. Every minute there arrived whirlwinds of men,
as it were; the tents strained and fell; the multitude, thick pressed
between the ramparts of the camp, swayed with loud shouts from the gates
to the centre. When the tumult grew excessively violent Gisco would rest
one elbow on his ivory sceptre and stand motionless looking at the sea
with his fingers buried in his beard.

Matho frequently went off to speak with Spendius; then he would again
place himself in front of the Suffet, and Gisco could feel his eyes
continually like two flaming phalaricas darted against him. Several
times they hurled reproaches at each other over the heads of the crowd,
but without making themselves heard. The distribution, meanwhile,
continued, and the Suffet found expedients to remove every obstacle.

The Greeks tried to quibble about differences in currency, but he
furnished them with such explanations that they retired without a
murmur. The Negroes demanded white shells such as are used for trading
in the interior of Africa, but when he offered to send to Carthage for
them they accepted money like the rest.

But the Balearians had been promised something better, namely, women.
The Suffet replied that a whole caravan of maidens was expected for
them, but the journey was long and would require six moons more. When
they were fat and well rubbed with benjamin they should be sent in ships
to the ports of the Balearians.

Suddenly Zarxas, now handsome and vigorous, leaped like a mountebank
upon the shoulders of his friends and cried:

“Have you reserved any of them for the corpses?” at the same time
pointing to the gate of Khamon in Carthage.

The brass plates with which it was furnished from top to bottom shone
in the sun’s latest fires, and the Barbarians believed that they could
discern on it a trail of blood. Every time that Gisco wished to speak
their shouts began again. At last he descended with measured steps, and
shut himself up in his tent.

When he left it at sunrise his interpreters, who used to sleep outside,
did not stir; they lay on their backs with their eyes fixed, their
tongues between their teeth, and their faces of a bluish colour. White
mucus flowed from their nostrils, and their limbs were stiff, as if
they had all been frozen by the cold during the night. Each had a little
noose of rushes round his neck.

From that time onward the rebellion was unchecked. The murder of the
Balearians which had been recalled by Zarxas strengthened the distrust
inspired by Spendius. They imagined that the Republic was always trying
to deceive them. An end must be put to it! The interpreters should be
dispensed with! Zarxas sang war songs with a sling around his head;
Autaritus brandished his great sword; Spendius whispered a word to one
or gave a dagger to another. The boldest endeavoured to pay themselves,
while those who were less frenzied wished to have the distribution
continued. No one now relinquished his arms, and the anger of all
combined into a tumultuous hatred of Gisco.

Some got up beside him. So long as they vociferated abuse they were
listened to with patience; but if they tried to utter the least word in
his behalf they were immediately stoned, or their heads were cut off
by a sabre-stroke from behind. The heap of knapsacks was redder than an
altar.

They became terrible after their meal and when they had drunk wine! This
was an enjoyment forbidden in the Punic armies under pain of death, and
they raised their cups in the direction of Carthage in derision of its
discipline. Then they returned to the slaves of the exchequer and again
began to kill. The word “strike,” though different in each language, was
understood by all.

Gisco was well aware that he was being abandoned by his country; but in
spite of its ingratitude he would not dishonour it. When they reminded
him that they had been promised ships, he swore by Moloch to provide
them himself at his own expense, and pulling off his necklace of blue
stones he threw it into the crowd as the pledge of his oath.

Then the Africans claimed the corn in accordance with the engagements
made by the Great Council. Gisco spread out the accounts of the Syssitia
traced in violet pigment on sheep skins; and read out all that had
entered Carthage month by month and day by day.

Suddenly he stopped with gaping eyes, as if he had just discovered his
sentence of death among the figures.

The Ancients had, in fact, fraudulently reduced them, and the corn sold
during the most calamitous period of the war was set down at so low a
rate that, blindness apart, it was impossible to believe it.

“Speak!” they shouted. “Louder! Ah! he is trying to lie, the coward!
Don’t trust him.”

For some time he hesitated. At last he resumed his task.

The soldiers, without suspecting that they were being deceived, accepted
the accounts of the Syssitia as true. But the abundance that had
prevailed at Carthage made them furiously jealous. They broke open the
sycamore chest; it was three parts empty. They had seen such sums coming
out of it, that they thought it inexhaustible; Gisco must have buried
some in his tent. They scaled the knapsacks. Matho led them, and as they
shouted “The money! the money!” Gisco at last replied:

“Let your general give it to you!”

He looked them in the face without speaking, with his great yellow eyes,
and his long face that was paler than his beard. An arrow, held by its
feathers, hung from the large gold ring in his ear, and a stream of
blood was trickling from his tiara upon his shoulder.

At a gesture from Matho all advanced. Gisco held out his arms; Spendius
tied his wrists with a slip knot; another knocked him down, and he
disappeared amid the disorder of the crowd which was stumbling over the
knapsacks.

They sacked his tent. Nothing was found in it except things
indispensable to life; and, on a closer search, three images of Tanith,
and, wrapped up in an ape’s skin, a black stone which had fallen from
the moon. Many Carthaginians had chosen to accompany him; they were
eminent men, and all belonged to the war party.

They were dragged outside the tents and thrown into the pit used for the
reception of filth. They were tied with iron chains around the body to
solid stakes, and were offered food at the point of the javelin.

Autaritus overwhelmed them with invectives as he inspected them, but
being quite ignorant of his language they made no reply; and the Gaul
from time to time threw pebbles at their faces to make them cry out.

The next day a sort of languor took possession of the army. Now that
their anger was over they were seized with anxiety. Matho was suffering
from vague melancholy. It seemed to him that Salammbo had indirectly
been insulted. These rich men were a kind of appendage to her person.
He sat down in the night on the edge of the pit, and recognised in their
groanings something of the voice of which his heart was full.

All, however, upbraided the Libyans, who alone had been paid. But while
national antipathies revived, together with personal hatreds, it was
felt that it would be perilous to give way to them. Reprisals after
such an outrage would be formidable. It was necessary, therefore, to
anticipate the vengeance of Carthage. Conventions and harangues never
ceased. Every one spoke, no one was listened to; Spendius, usually so
loquacious, shook his head at every proposal.

One evening he asked Matho carelessly whether there were not springs in
the interior of the town.

“Not one!” replied Matho.

The next day Spendius drew him aside to the bank of the lake.

“Master!” said the former slave, “If your heart is dauntless, I will
bring you into Carthage.”

“How?” repeated the other, panting.

“Swear to execute all my commands and to follow me like a shadow!”

Then Matho, raising his arm towards the planet of Chabar, exclaimed:

“By Tanith, I swear!”

Spendius resumed:

“To-morrow after sunset you will wait for me at the foot of the aqueduct
between the ninth and tenth arcades. Bring with you an iron pick, a
crestless helmet, and leathern sandals.”

The aqueduct of which he spoke crossed the entire isthmus obliquely,--a
considerable work, afterwards enlarged by the Romans. In spite of her
disdain of other nations, Carthage had awkwardly borrowed this novel
invention from them, just as Rome herself had built Punic galleys; and
five rows of superposed arches, of a dumpy kind of architecture, with
buttresses at their foot and lions’ heads at the top, reached to the
western part of the Acropolis, where they sank beneath the town to
incline what was nearly a river into the cisterns of Megara.

Spendius met Matho here at the hour agreed upon. He fastened a sort of
harpoon to the end of a cord and whirled it rapidly like a sling; the
iron instrument caught fast, and they began to climb up the wall, the
one after the other.

But when they had ascended to the first story the cramp fell back every
time that they threw it, and in order to discover some fissure they had
to walk along the edge of the cornice. At every row of arches they found
that it became narrower. Then the cord relaxed. Several times it nearly
broke.

At last they reached the upper platform. Spendius stooped down from time
to time to feel the stones with his hand.

“Here it is,” he said; “let us begin!” And leaning on the pick which
Matho had brought they succeeded in dislodging one of the flagstones.

In the distance they perceived a troop of horse-men galloping on horses
without bridles. Their golden bracelets leaped in the vague drapings
of their cloaks. A man could be seen in front crowned with ostrich
feathers, and galloping with a lance in each hand.

“Narr’ Havas!” exclaimed Matho.

“What matter?” returned Spendius, and he leaped into the hole which they
had just made by removing the flagstone.

Matho at his command tried to thrust out one of the blocks. But he could
not move his elbows for want of room.

“We shall return,” said Spendius; “go in front.” Then they ventured into
the channel of water.

It reached to their waists. Soon they staggered, and were obliged to
swim. Their limbs knocked against the walls of the narrow duct. The
water flowed almost immediately beneath the stones above, and their
faces were torn by them. Then the current carried them away. Their
breasts were crushed with air heavier than that of a sepulchre, and
stretching themselves out as much as possible with their heads between
their arms and their legs close together, they passed like arrows into
the darkness, choking, gurgling, and almost dead. Suddenly all became
black before them, and the speed of the waters redoubled. They fell.

When they came to the surface again, they remained for a few minutes
extended on their backs, inhaling the air delightfully. Arcades, one
behind another, opened up amid large walls separating the various
basins. All were filled, and the water stretched in a single sheet
throughout the length of the cisterns. Through the air-holes in the
cupolas on the ceiling there fell a pale brightness which spread upon
the waves discs, as it were, of light, while the darkness round about
thickened towards the walls and threw them back to an indefinite
distance. The slightest sound made a great echo.

Spendius and Matho commenced to swim again, and passing through the
opening of the arches, traversed several chambers in succession. Two
other rows of smaller basins extended in a parallel direction on each
side. They lost themselves; they turned, and came back again. At last
something offered a resistance to their heels. It was the pavement of
the gallery that ran along the cisterns.

Then, advancing with great precautions, they felt along the wall to
find an outlet. But their feet slipped, and they fell into the great
centre-basins. They had to climb up again, and there they fell again.
They experienced terrible fatigue, which made them feel as if all their
limbs had been dissolved in the water while swimming. Their eyes closed;
they were in the agonies of death.

Spendius struck his hand against the bars of a grating. They shook it,
it gave way, and they found themselves on the steps of a staircase. A
door of bronze closed it above. With the point of a dagger they moved
the bar, which was opened from without, and suddenly the pure open air
surrounded them.

The night was filled with silence, and the sky seemed at an
extraordinary height. Clusters of trees projected over the long lines of
walls. The whole town was asleep. The fires of the outposts shone like
lost stars.

Spendius, who had spent three years in the ergastulum, was but
imperfectly acquainted with the different quarters. Matho conjectured
that to reach Hamilcar’s palace they ought to strike to the left and
cross the Mappalian district.

“No,” said Spendius, “take me to the temple of Tanith.”

Matho wished to speak.

“Remember!” said the former slave, and raising his arm he showed him the
glittering planet of Chabar.

Then Matho turned in silence towards the Acropolis.

They crept along the nopal hedges which bordered the paths. The water
trickled from their limbs upon the dust. Their damp sandals made no
noise; Spendius, with eyes that flamed more than torches, searched the
bushes at every step;--and he walked behind Matho with his hands resting
on the two daggers which he carried on his arms, and which hung from
below the armpit by a leathern band.



CHAPTER V

TANITH

After leaving the gardens Matho and Spendius found themselves checked
by the rampart of Megara. But they discovered a breach in the great wall
and passed through.

The ground sloped downwards, forming a kind of very broad valley. It was
an exposed place.

“Listen,” said Spendius, “and first of all fear nothing! I shall fulfil
my promise--”

He stopped abruptly, and seemed to reflect as though searching for
words,--“Do you remember that time at sunrise when I showed Carthage to
you on Salammbo’s terrace? We were strong that day, but you would listen
to nothing!” Then in a grave voice: “Master, in the sanctuary of Tanith
there is a mysterious veil, which fell from heaven and which covers the
goddess.”

“I know,” said Matho.

Spendius resumed: “It is itself divine, for it forms part of her. The
gods reside where their images are. It is because Carthage possesses
it that Carthage is powerful.” Then leaning over to his ear: “I have
brought you with me to carry it off!”

Matho recoiled in horror. “Begone! look for some one else! I will not
help you in this execrable crime!”

“But Tanith is your enemy,” retorted Spendius; “she is persecuting you
and you are dying through her wrath. You will be revenged upon her. She
will obey you, and you will become almost immortal and invincible.”

Matho bent his head. Spendius continued:

“We should succumb; the army would be annihilated of itself. We have
neither flight, nor succour, nor pardon to hope for! What chastisement
from the gods can you be afraid of since you will have their power in
your own hands? Would you rather die on the evening of a defeat, in
misery beneath the shelter of a bush, or amid the outrages of the
populace and the flames of funeral piles? Master, one day you will enter
Carthage among the colleges of the pontiffs, who will kiss your sandals;
and if the veil of Tanith weighs upon you still, you will reinstate it
in its temple. Follow me! come and take it.”

Matho was consumed by a terrible longing. He would have liked to possess
the veil while refraining from the sacrilege. He said to himself that
perhaps it would not be necessary to take it in order to monopolise its
virtue. He did not go to the bottom of his thought but stopped at the
boundary, where it terrified him.

“Come on!” he said; and they went off with rapid strides, side by side,
and without speaking.

The ground rose again, and the dwellings were near. They turned again
into the narrow streets amid the darkness. The strips of esparto-grass
with which the doors were closed, beat against the walls. Some camels
were ruminating in a square before heaps of cut grass. Then they passed
beneath a gallery covered with foliage. A pack of dogs were barking. But
suddenly the space grew wider and they recognised the western face of
the Acropolis. At the foot of Byrsa there stretched a long black mass:
it was the temple of Tanith, a whole made up of monuments and galleries,
courts and fore-courts, and bounded by a low wall of dry stones.
Spendius and Matho leaped over it.

This first barrier enclosed a wood of plane-trees as a precaution
against plague and infection in the air. Tents were scattered here
and there, in which, during the daytime, depilatory pastes,
perfumes, garments, moon-shaped cakes, and images of the goddess with
representations of the temple hollowed out in blocks of alabaster, were
on sale.

They had nothing to fear, for on nights when the planet did not appear,
all rites were suspended; nevertheless Matho slackened his speed, and
stopped before the three ebony steps leading to the second enclosure.

“Forward!” said Spendius.

Pomegranate, almond trees, cypresses and myrtles alternated in regular
succession; the path, which was paved with blue pebbles, creaked beneath
their footsteps, and full-blown roses formed a hanging bower over the
whole length of the avenue. They arrived before an oval hole protected
by a grating. Then Matho, who was frightened by the silence, said to
Spendius:

“It is here that they mix the fresh water and the bitter.”

“I have seen all that,” returned the former slave, “in Syria, in
the town of Maphug”; and they ascended into the third enclosure by a
staircase of six silver steps.

A huge cedar occupied the centre. Its lowest branches were hidden
beneath scraps of material and necklaces hung upon them by the faithful.
They walked a few steps further on, and the front of the temple was
displayed before them.

Two long porticoes, with their architraves resting on dumpy pillars,
flanked a quadrangular tower, the platform of which was adorned with
the crescent of a moon. On the angles of the porticoes and at the four
corners of the tower stood vases filled with kindled aromatics. The
capitals were laden with pomegranates and coloquintidas. Twining knots,
lozenges, and rows of pearls alternated on the walls, and a hedge of
silver filigree formed a wide semicircle in front of the brass staircase
which led down from the vestibule.

There was a cone of stone at the entrance between a stela of gold and
one of emerald, and Matho kissed his right hand as he passed beside it.

The first room was very lofty; its vaulted roof was pierced by
numberless apertures, and if the head were raised the stars might be
seen. All round the wall rush baskets were heaped up with the first
fruits of adolescence in the shape of beards and curls of hair; and in
the centre of the circular apartment the body of a woman issued from a
sheath which was covered with breasts. Fat, bearded, and with eyelids
downcast, she looked as though she were smiling, while her hands were
crossed upon the lower part of her big body, which was polished by the
kisses of the crowd.

Then they found themselves again in the open air in a transverse
corridor, wherein there was an altar of small dimensions leaning against
an ivory door. There was no further passage; the priests alone could
open it; for the temple was not a place of meeting for the multitude,
but the private abode of a divinity.

“The enterprise is impossible,” said Matho. “You had not thought of
this! Let us go back!” Spendius was examining the walls.

He wanted the veil, not because he had confidence in its virtue
(Spendius believed only in the Oracle), but because he was persuaded
that the Carthaginians would be greatly dismayed on seeing themselves
deprived of it. They walked all round behind in order to find some
outlet.

Aedicules of different shapes were visible beneath clusters of
turpentine trees. Here and there rose a stone phallus, and large stags
roamed peacefully about, spurning the fallen fir-cones with their cloven
hoofs.

But they retraced their steps between two long galleries which ran
parallel to each other. There were small open cells along their sides,
and tabourines and cymbals hung against their cedar columns from top to
bottom. Women were sleeping stretched on mats outside the cells. Their
bodies were greasy with unguents, and exhaled an odour of spices and
extinguished perfuming-pans; while they were so covered with tattooings,
necklaces, rings, vermilion, and antimony that, but for the motion of
their breasts, they might have been taken for idols as they lay thus on
the ground. There were lotus-trees encircling a fountain in which fish
like Salammbo’s were swimming; and then in the background, against the
wall of the temple, spread a vine, the branches of which were of glass
and the grape-bunches of emerald, the rays from the precious stones
making a play of light through the painted columns upon the sleeping
faces.

Matho felt suffocated in the warm atmosphere pressed down upon him by
the cedar partitions. All these symbols of fecundation, these perfumes,
radiations, and breathings overwhelmed him. Through all the mystic
dazzling he kept thinking of Salammbo. She became confused with the
goddess herself, and his loved unfolded itself all the more, like the
great lotus-plants blooming upon the depths of the waters.

Spendius was calculating how much money he would have made in former
days by the sale of these women; and with a rapid glance he estimated
the weight of the golden necklaces as he passed by.

The temple was impenetrable on this side as on the other, and they
returned behind the first chamber. While Spendius was searching and
ferreting, Matho was prostrate before the door supplicating Tanith. He
besought her not to permit the sacrilege, and strove to soften her with
caressing words, such as are used to an angry person.

Spendius noticed a narrow aperture above the door.

“Rise!” he said to Matho, and he made him stand erect with his back
against the wall. Placing one foot in his hands, and then the other
upon his head, he reached up to the air-hole, made his way into it and
disappeared. Then Matho felt a knotted cord--that one which Spendius
had rolled around his body before entering the cisterns--fall upon his
shoulders, and bearing upon it with both hands he soon found himself by
the side of the other in a large hall filled with shadow.

Such an attempt was something extraordinary. The inadequacy of the
means for preventing it was a sufficient proof that it was considered
impossible. The sanctuaries were protected by terror more than by their
walls. Matho expected to die at every step.

However a light was flickering far back in the darkness, and they went
up to it. It was a lamp burning in a shell on the pedestal of a statue
which wore the cap of the Kabiri. Its long blue robe was strewn with
diamond discs, and its heels were fastened to the ground by chains which
sank beneath the pavement. Matho suppressed a cry. “Ah! there she is!
there she is!” he stammered out. Spendius took up the lamp in order to
light himself.

“What an impious man you are!” murmured Matho, following him
nevertheless.

The apartment which they entered had nothing in it but a black painting
representing another woman. Her legs reached to the top of the wall, and
her body filled the entire ceiling; a huge egg hung by a thread from her
navel, and she fell head downwards upon the other wall, reaching as far
as the level of the pavement, which was touched by her pointed fingers.

They drew a hanging aside, in order to go on further; but the wind blew
and the light went out.

Then they wandered about, lost in the complications of the architecture.
Suddenly they felt something strangely soft beneath their feet. Sparks
crackled and leaped; they were walking in fire. Spendius touched the
ground and perceived that it was carefully carpeted with lynx skins;
then it seemed to them that a big cord, wet, cold, and viscous, was
gliding between their legs. Through some fissures cut in the wall there
fell thin white rays, and they advanced by this uncertain light. At last
they distinguished a large black serpent. It darted quickly away and
disappeared.

“Let us fly!” exclaimed Matho. “It is she! I feel her; she is coming.”

“No, no,” replied Spendius, “the temple is empty.”

Then a dazzling light made them lower their eyes. Next they perceived
all around them an infinite number of beasts, lean, panting, with
bristling claws, and mingled together one above another in a mysterious
and terrifying confusion. There were serpents with feet, and bulls
with wings, fishes with human heads were devouring fruit, flowers were
blooming in the jaws of crocodiles, and elephants with uplifted trunks
were sailing proudly through the azure like eagles. Their incomplete or
multiplied limbs were distended with terrible exertion. As they thrust
out their tongues they looked as though they would fain give forth
their souls; and every shape was to be found among them as if the
germ-receptacle had been suddenly hatched and had burst, emptying itself
upon the walls of the hall.

Round the latter were twelve globes of blue crystal, supported by
monsters resembling tigers. Their eyeballs were starting out of their
heads like those of snails, with their dumpy loins bent they were
turning round towards the background where the supreme Rabbet, the
Omnifecund, the last invented, shone splendid in a chariot of ivory.

She was covered with scales, feathers, flowers, and birds as high as the
waist. For earrings she had silver cymbals, which flapped against her
cheeks. Her large fixed eyes gazed upon you, and a luminous stone,
set in an obscene symbol on her brow, lighted the whole hall by its
reflection in red copper mirrors above the door.

Matho stood a step forward; but a flag stone yielded beneath his heels
and immediately the spheres began to revolve and the monsters to roar;
music rose melodious and pealing, like the harmony of the planets; the
tumultuous soul of Tanith was poured streaming forth. She was about to
arise, as lofty as the hall and with open arms. Suddenly the monsters
closed their jaws and the crystal globes revolved no more.

Then a mournful modulation lingered for a time through the air and at
last died away.

“And the veil?” said Spendius.

Nowhere could it be seen. Where was it to be found? How could it be
discovered? What if the priests had hidden it? Matho experienced anguish
of heart and felt as though he had been deceived in his belief.

“This way!” whispered Spendius. An inspiration guided him. He drew Matho
behind Tanith’s chariot, where a cleft a cubit wide ran down the wall
from top to bottom.

Then they penetrated into a small and completely circular room, so lofty
that it was like the interior of a pillar. In the centre there was a
big black stone, of semispherical shape like a tabourine; flames were
burning upon it; an ebony cone, bearing a head and two arms, rose
behind.

But beyond it seemed as though there were a cloud wherein were twinkling
stars; faces appeared in the depths of its folds--Eschmoun with the
Kabiri, some of the monsters that had already been seen, the sacred
beasts of the Babylonians, and others with which they were not
acquainted. It passed beneath the idol’s face like a mantle, and spread
fully out was drawn up on the wall to which it was fastened by the
corners, appearing at once bluish as the night, yellow as the dawn,
purple as the sun, multitudinous, diaphanous, sparkling light. It was
the mantle of the goddess, the holy zaimph which might not be seen.

Both turned pale.

“Take it!” said Matho at last.

Spendius did not hesitate, and leaning upon the idol he unfastened the
veil, which sank to the ground. Matho laid his hand upon it; then he put
his head through the opening, then he wrapped it about his body, and he
spread out his arms the better to view it.

“Let us go!” said Spendius.

Matho stood panting with his eyes fixed upon the pavement. Suddenly he
exclaimed:

“But what if I went to her? I fear her beauty no longer! What could she
do to me? I am now more than a man. I could pass through flames or walk
upon the sea! I am transported! Salammbo! Salammbo! I am your master!”

His voice was like thunder. He seemed to Spendius to have grown taller
and transformed.

A sound of footsteps drew near, a door opened, and a man appeared, a
priest with lofty cap and staring eyes. Before he could make a gesture
Spendius had rushed upon him, and clasping him in his arms had buried
both his daggers in his sides. His head rang upon the pavement.

Then they stood for a while, as motionless as the corpse, listening.
Nothing could be heard but the murmuring of the wind through the
half-opened door.

The latter led into a narrow passage. Spendius advanced along it, Matho
followed him, and they found themselves almost immediately in the third
enclosure, between the lateral porticoes, in which were the dwellings of
the priests.

Behind the cells there must be a shorter way out. They hastened along.

Spendius squatted down at the edge of the fountain and washed his
bloodstained hands. The women slept. The emerald vine shone. They
resumed their advance.

But something was running behind them under the trees; and Matho, who
bore the veil, several times felt that it was being pulled very gently
from below. It was a large cynocephalus, one of those which dwelt at
liberty within the enclosure of the goddess. It clung to the mantle as
though it had been conscious of the theft. They did not dare to strike
it, however, fearing that it might redouble its cries; suddenly its
anger subsided, and it trotted close beside them swinging its body with
its long hanging arms. Then at the barrier it leaped at a bound into a
palm tree.

When they had left the last enclosure they directed their steps towards
Hamilcar’s palace, Spendius understanding that it would be useless to
try to dissuade Matho.

They went by the street of the Tanners, the square of Muthumbal, the
green market and the crossways of Cynasyn. At the angle of a wall a man
drew back frightened by the sparkling thing which pierced the darkness.

“Hide the zaimph!” said Spendius.

Other people passed them, but without perceiving them.

At last they recognised the houses of Megara.

The pharos, which was built behind them on the summit of the cliff,
lit up the heavens with a great red brightness, and the shadow of the
palace, with its rising terraces, projected a monstrous pyramid, as it
were, upon the gardens. They entered through the hedge of jujube-trees,
beating down the branches with blows of the dagger.

The traces of the feast of the Mercenaries were everywhere still
manifest. The parks were broken up, the trenches drained, the doors
of the ergastulum open. No one was to be seen about the kitchens or
cellars. They wondered at the silence, which was occasionally broken by
the hoarse breathing of the elephants moving in their shackles, and the
crepitation of the pharos, in which a pile of aloes was burning.

Matho, however, kept repeating:

“But where is she? I wish to see her! Lead me!”

“It is a piece of insanity!” Spendius kept saying. “She will call, her
slaves will run up, and in spite of your strength you will die!”

They reached thus the galley staircase. Matho raised his head, and
thought that he could perceive far above a vague brightness, radiant and
soft. Spendius sought to restrain him, but he dashed up the steps.

As he found himself again in places where he had already seen her, the
interval of the days that had passed was obliterated from his memory.
But now had she been singing among the tables; she had disappeared, and
he had since been continually ascending this staircase. The sky above
his head was covered with fires; the sea filled the horizon; at each
step he was surrounded by a still greater immensity, and he continued to
climb upward with that strange facility which we experience in dreams.

The rustling of the veil as it brushed against the stones recalled his
new power to him; but in the excess of his hope he could no longer tell
what he was to do; this uncertainty alarmed him.

From time to time he would press his face against the quadrangular
openings in the closed apartments, and he thought that in several of the
latter he could see persons asleep.

The last story, which was narrower, formed a sort of dado on the summit
of the terraces. Matho walked round it slowly.

A milky light filled the sheets of talc which closed the little
apertures in the wall, and in their symmetrical arrangement they looked
in the darkness like rows of delicate pearls. He recognised the red door
with the black cross. The throbbing of his heart increased. He would
fain have fled. He pushed the door and it opened.

A galley-shaped lamp hung burning in the back part of the room,
and three rays, emitted from its silver keel, trembled on the lofty
wainscots, which were painted red with black bands. The ceiling was an
assemblage of small beams, with amethysts and topazes amid their gilding
in the knots of the wood. On both the great sides of the apartment there
stretched a very low bed made with white leathern straps; while above,
semi-circles like shells, opened in the thickness of the wall, suffered
a garment to come out and hang down to the ground.

There was an oval basin with a step of onyx round it; delicate slippers
of serpent skin were standing on the edge, together with an alabaster
flagon. The trace of a wet footstep might be seen beyond. Exquisite
scents were evaporating.

Matho glided over the pavement, which was encrusted with gold,
mother-of-pearl, and glass; and, in spite of the polished smoothness
of the ground, it seemed to him that his feet sank as though he were
walking on sand.

Behind the silver lamp he had perceived a large square of azure held in
the air by four cords from above, and he advanced with loins bent and
mouth open.

Flamingoes’ wings, fitted on branches of black coral, lay about
among purple cushions, tortoiseshell strigils, cedar boxes, and ivory
spatulas. There were antelopes’ horns with rings and bracelets strung
upon them; and clay vases were cooling in the wind in the cleft of the
wall with a lattice-work of reeds. Several times he struck his foot,
for the ground had various levels of unequal height, which formed a
succession of apartments, as it were, in the room. In the background
there were silver balustrades surrounding a carpet strewn with painted
flowers. At last he came to the hanging bed beside an ebony stool
serving to get into it.

But the light ceased at the edge;--and the shadow, like a great curtain,
revealed only a corner of the red mattress with the extremity of a
little naked foot lying upon its ankle. Then Matho took up the lamp very
gently.

She was sleeping with her cheek in one hand and with the other arm
extended. Her ringlets were spread about her in such abundance that she
appeared to be lying on black feathers, and her ample white tunic wound
in soft draperies to her feet following the curves of her person. Her
eyes were just visible beneath her half-closed eyelids. The curtains,
which stretched perpendicularly, enveloped her in a bluish atmosphere,
and the motion of her breathing, communicating itself to the cords,
seemed to rock her in the air. A long mosquito was buzzing.

Matho stood motionless holding the silver lamp at arm’s length; but on a
sudden the mosquito-net caught fire and disappeared, and Salammbo awoke.

The fire had gone out of itself. She did not speak. The lamp caused
great luminous moires to flicker on the wainscots.

“What is it?” she said.

He replied:

“‘Tis the veil of the goddess!”

“The veil of the goddess!” cried Salammbo, and supporting herself on
both clenched hands she leaned shuddering out. He resumed:

“I have been in the depths of the sanctuary to seek it for you! Look!”
 The Zaimph shone a mass of rays.

“Do you remember it?” said Matho. “You appeared at night in my dreams,
but I did not guess the mute command of your eyes!” She put out one foot
upon the ebony stool. “Had I understood I should have hastened hither, I
should have forsaken the army, I should not have left Carthage. To obey
you I would go down through the caverns of Hadrumetum into the kingdom
of the shades!--Forgive me! it was as though mountains were weighing
upon my days; and yet something drew me on! I tried to come to you!
Should I ever have dared this without the Gods!--Let us go! You must
follow me! or, if you do not wish to do so, I will remain. What matters
it to me!--Drown my soul in your breath! Let my lips be crushed with
kissing your hands!”

“Let me see it!” she said. “Nearer! nearer!”

Day was breaking, and the sheets of talc in the walls were filled with a
vinous colour. Salammbo leaned fainting against the cushions of the bed.

“I love you!” cried Matho.

“Give it!” she stammered out, and they drew closer together.

She kept advancing, clothed in her white trailing simar, and with her
large eyes fastened on the veil. Matho gazed at her, dazzled by the
splendours of her head, and, holding out the zaimph towards her, was
about to enfold her in an embrace. She was stretching out her
arms. Suddenly she stopped, and they stood looking at each other,
open-mouthed.

Then without understanding the meaning of his solicitation a horror
seized upon her. Her delicate eyebrows rose, her lips opened; she
trembled. At last she struck one of the brass pateras which hung at the
corners of the red mattress, crying:

“To the rescue! to the rescue! Back, sacrilegious man! infamous and
accursed! Help, Taanach, Kroum, Ewa, Micipsa, Schaoul!”

And the scared face of Spendius, appearing in the wall between the clay
flagons, cried out these words:

“Fly! they are hastening hither!”

A great tumult came upwards shaking the staircases, and a flood of
people, women, serving-men, and slaves, rushed into the room with
stakes, tomahawks, cutlasses, and daggers. They were nearly paralysed
with indignation on perceiving a man; the female servants uttered
funeral wailings, and the eunuchs grew pale beneath their black skins.

Matho was standing behind the balustrades. With the zaimph which was
wrapped about him, he looked like a sidereal god surrounded by the
firmament. The slaves were going to fall upon him, but she stopped them:

“Touch it not! It is the mantle of the goddess!”

She had drawn back into a corner; but she took a step towards him, and
stretched forth her naked arm:

“A curse upon you, you who have plundered Tanith! Hatred, vengeance,
massacre, and grief! May Gurzil, god of battles, rend you! may Mastiman,
god of the dead, stifle you! and may the Other--he who may not be
named--burn you!”

Matho uttered a cry as though he had received a sword-thrust. She
repeated several times: “Begone! begone!”

The crowd of servants spread out, and Matho, with hanging head, passed
slowly through the midst of them; but at the door he stopped, for the
fringe of the zaimph had caught on one of the golden stars with which
the flagstones were paved. He pulled it off abruptly with a movement of
his shoulder and went down the staircases.

Spendius, bounding from terrace to terrace, and leaping over the hedges
and trenches, had escaped from the gardens. He reached the foot of the
pharos. The wall was discontinued at this spot, so inaccessible was the
cliff. He advanced to the edge, lay down on his back, and let himself
slide, feet foremost, down the whole length of it to the bottom; then
by swimming he reached the Cape of the Tombs, made a wide circuit of the
salt lagoon, and re-entered the camp of the Barbarians in the evening.

The sun had risen; and, like a retreating lion, Matho went down the
paths, casting terrible glances about him.

A vague clamour reached his ears. It had started from the palace, and it
was beginning afresh in the distance, towards the Acropolis. Some said
that the treasure of the Republic had been seized in the temple of
Moloch; others spoke of the assassination of a priest. It was thought,
moreover, that the Barbarians had entered the city.

Matho, who did not know how to get out of the enclosures, walked
straight before him. He was seen, and an outcry was raised. Every one
understood; and there was consternation, then immense wrath.

From the bottom of the Mappalian quarter, from the heights of the
Acropolis, from the catacombs, from the borders of the lake, the
multitude came in haste. The patricians left their palaces, and the
traders left their shops; the women forsook their children; swords,
hatchets, and sticks were seized; but the obstacle which had stayed
Salammbo stayed them. How could the veil be taken back? The mere sight
of it was a crime; it was of the nature of the gods, and contact with it
was death.

The despairing priests wrung their hands on the peristyles of the
temples. The guards of the Legion galloped about at random; the people
climbed upon the houses, the terraces, the shoulders of the colossuses,
and the masts of the ships. He went on, nevertheless, and the rage, and
the terror also, increased at each of his steps; the streets cleared at
his approach, and the torrent of flying men streamed on both sides up
to the tops of the walls. Everywhere he could perceive only eyes opened
widely as if to devour him, chattering teeth and outstretched fists, and
Salammbo’s imprecations resounded many times renewed.

Suddenly a long arrow whizzed past, then another, and stones began to
buzz about him; but the missiles, being badly aimed (for there was the
dread of hitting the zaimph), passed over his head. Moreover, he made a
shield of the veil, holding it to the right, to the left, before him and
behind him; and they could devise no expedient. He quickened his steps
more and more, advancing through the open streets. They were barred
with cords, chariots, and snares; and all his windings brought him back
again. At last he entered the square of Khamon where the Balearians had
perished, and stopped, growing pale as one about to die. This time he
was surely lost, and the multitude clapped their hands.

He ran up to the great gate, which was closed. It was very high, made
throughout of heart of oak, with iron nails and sheathed with brass.
Matho flung himself against it. The people stamped their feet with joy
when they saw the impotence of his fury; then he took his sandal, spit
upon it, and beat the immovable panels with it. The whole city howled.
The veil was forgotten now, and they were about to crush him. Matho
gazed with wide vacant eyes upon the crowd. His temples were throbbing
with violence enough to stun him, and he felt a numbness as of
intoxication creeping over him. Suddenly he caught sight of the long
chain used in working the swinging of the gate. With a bound he grasped
it, stiffening his arms, and making a buttress of his feet, and at last
the huge leaves partly opened.

Then when he was outside he took the great zaimph from his neck, and
raised it as high as possible above his head. The material, upborne by
the sea breeze, shone in the sunlight with its colours, its gems, and
the figures of its gods. Matho bore it thus across the whole plain as
far as the soldiers’ tents, and the people on the walls watched the
fortune of Carthage depart.



CHAPTER VI

HANNO

“I ought to have carried her off!” Matho said in the evening to
Spendius. “I should have seized her, and torn her from her house! No one
would have dared to touch me!”

Spendius was not listening to him. Stretched on his back he was taking
delicious rest beside a large jar filled with honey-coloured water, into
which he would dip his head from time to time in order to drink more
copiously.

Matho resumed:

“What is to be done? How can we re-enter Carthage?”

“I do not know,” said Spendius.

Such impassibility exasperated Matho and he exclaimed:

“Why! the fault is yours! You carry me away, and then you forsake me,
coward that you are! Why, pray, should I obey you? Do you think that you
are my master? Ah! you prostituter, you slave, you son of a slave!” He
ground his teeth and raised his broad hand above Spendius.

The Greek did not reply. An earthen lamp was burning gently against the
tent-pole, where the zaimph shone amid the hanging panoply. Suddenly
Matho put on his cothurni, buckled on his brazen jacket of mail, and
took his helmet.

“Where are you going?” asked Spendius.

“I am returning! Let me alone! I will bring her back! And if they show
themselves I will crush them like vipers! I will put her to death,
Spendius! Yes,” he repeated, “I will kill her! You shall see, I will
kill her!”

But Spendius, who was listening eagerly, snatched up the zaimph abruptly
and threw it into a corner, heaping up fleeces above it. A murmuring of
voices was heard, torches gleamed, and Narr’ Havas entered, followed by
about twenty men.

They wore white woollen cloaks, long daggers, copper necklaces, wooden
earrings, and boots of hyena skin; and standing on the threshold they
leaned upon their lances like herdsmen resting themselves. Narr’ Havas
was the handsomest of all; his slender arms were bound with straps
ornamented with pearls. The golden circlet which fastened his ample
garment about his head held an ostrich feather which hung down behind
his shoulder; his teeth were displayed in a continual smile; his eyes
seemed sharpened like arrows, and there was something observant and airy
about his whole demeanour.

He declared that he had come to join the Mercenaries, for the Republic
had long been threatening his kingdom. Accordingly he was interested in
assisting the Barbarians, and he might also be of service to them.

“I will provide you with elephants (my forests are full of them),
wine, oil, barley, dates, pitch and sulphur for sieges, twenty thousand
foot-soldiers and ten thousand horses. If I address myself to you,
Matho, it is because the possession of the zaimph has made you chief man
in the army. Moreover,” he added, “we are old friends.”

Matho, however, was looking at Spendius, who, seated on the sheep-skins,
was listening, and giving little nods of assent the while. Narr’ Havas
continued speaking. He called the gods to witness he cursed Carthage. In
his imprecations he broke a javelin. All his men uttered simultaneously
a loud howl, and Matho, carried away by so much passion, exclaimed that
he accepted the alliance.

A white bull and a black sheep, the symbols of day and night, were then
brought, and their throats were cut on the edge of a ditch. When the
latter was full of blood they dipped their arms into it. Then Narr’
Havas spread out his hand upon Matho’s breast, and Matho did the same
to Narr’ Havas. They repeated the stain upon the canvas of their tents.
Afterwards they passed the night in eating, and the remaining portions
of the meat were burnt together with the skin, bones, horns, and hoofs.

Matho had been greeted with great shouting when he had come back bearing
the veil of the goddess; even those who were not of the Chanaanitish
religion were made by their vague enthusiasm to feel the arrival of
a genius. As to seizing the zaimph, no one thought of it, for the
mysterious manner in which he had acquired it was sufficient in the
minds of the Barbarians to justify its possession; such were the
thoughts of the soldiers of the African race. The others, whose hatred
was not of such long standing, did not know how to make up their minds.
If they had had ships they would immediately have departed.

Spendius, Narr’ Havas, and Matho despatched men to all the tribes on
Punic soil.

Carthage was sapping the strength of these nations. She wrung exorbitant
taxes from them, and arrears or even murmurings were punished with
fetters, the axe, or the cross. It was necessary to cultivate whatever
suited the Republic, and to furnish what she demanded; no one had the
right of possessing a weapon; when villages rebelled the inhabitants
were sold; governors were esteemed like wine-presses, according to the
quantity which they succeeded in extracting. Then beyond the regions
immediately subject to Carthage extended the allies roamed the Nomads,
who might be let loose upon them. By this system the crops were always
abundant, the studs skilfully managed, and the plantations superb.

The elder Cato, a master in the matters of tillage and slaves, was
amazed at it ninety-two years later, and the death-cry which he repeated
continually at Rome was but the exclamation of jealous greed.

During the last war the exactions had been increased, so that nearly
all the towns of Libya had surrendered to Regulus. To punish them, a
thousand talents, twenty thousand oxen, three hundred bags of gold dust,
and considerable advances of grain had been exacted from them, and the
chiefs of the tribes had been crucified or thrown to the lions.

Tunis especially execrated Carthage! Older than the metropolis, it could
not forgive her her greatness, and it fronted her walls crouching in
the mire on the water’s edge like a venomous beast watching her.
Transportation, massacres, and epidemics did not weaken it. It
had assisted Archagathas, the son of Agathocles, and the Eaters of
Uncleanness found arms there at once.

The couriers had not yet set out when universal rejoicing broke out
in the provinces. Without waiting for anything they strangled the
comptrollers of the houses and the functionaries of the Republic in
the baths; they took the old weapons that had been concealed out of the
caves; they forged swords with the iron of the ploughs; the children
sharpened javelins at the doors, and the women gave their necklaces,
rings, earrings, and everything that could be employed for the
destruction of Carthage. Piles of lances were heaped up in the country
towns like sheaves of maize. Cattle and money were sent off. Matho
speedily paid the Mercenaries their arrears, and owing to this, which
was Spendius’s idea, he was appointed commander-in-chief--the schalishim
of the Barbarians.

Reinforcements of men poured in at the same time. The aborigines
appeared first, and were followed by the slaves from the country;
caravans of Negroes were seized and armed, and merchants on their way
to Carthage, despairing of any more certain profit, mingled with the
Barbarians. Numerous bands were continually arriving. From the heights
of the Acropolis the growing army might be seen.

But the guards of the Legion were posted as sentries on the platform
of the aqueduct, and near them rose at intervals brazen vats, in which
floods of asphalt were boiling. Below in the plain the great crowd
stirred tumultuously. They were in a state of uncertainty, feeling the
embarrassment with which Barbarians are always inspired when they meet
with walls.

Utica and Hippo-Zarytus refused their alliance. Phoenician colonies like
Carthage, they were self-governing, and always had clauses inserted
in the treaties concluded by the Republic to distinguish them from the
latter. Nevertheless they respected this strong sister of theirs who
protected them, and they did not think that she could be vanquished by
a mass of Barbarians; these would on the contrary be themselves
exterminated. They desired to remain neutral and to live at peace.

But their position rendered them indispensable. Utica, at the foot
of the gulf, was convenient for bringing assistance to Carthage from
without. If Utica alone were taken, Hippo-Zarytus, six hours further
distant along the coast, would take its place, and the metropolis, being
revictualled in this way, would be impregnable.

Spendius wished the siege to be undertaken immediately. Narr’ Havas was
opposed to this: an advance should first be made upon the frontier.
This was the opinion of the veterans, and of Matho himself, and it
was decided that Spendius should go to attack Utica, and Matho
Hippo-Zarytus, while in the third place the main body should rest on
Tunis and occupy the plain of Carthage, Autaritus being in command. As
to Narr’ Havas, he was to return to his own kingdom to procure elephants
and to scour the roads with his cavalry.

The women cried out loudly against this decision; they coveted the
jewels of the Punic ladies. The Libyans also protested. They had been
summoned against Carthage, and now they were going away from it! The
soldiers departed almost alone. Matho commanded his own companions,
together with the Iberians, Lusitanians, and the men of the West, and of
the islands; all those who spoke Greek had asked for Spendius on account
of his cleverness.

Great was the stupefaction when the army was seen suddenly in motion;
it stretched along beneath the mountain of Ariana on the road to Utica
beside the sea. A fragment remained before Tunis, the rest disappeared
to re-appear on the other shore of the gulf on the outskirts of the
woods in which they were lost.

They were perhaps eighty thousand men. The two Tyrian cities would offer
no resistance, and they would return against Carthage. Already there was
a considerable army attacking it from the base of the isthmus, and it
would soon perish from famine, for it was impossible to live without the
aid of the provinces, the citizens not paying contributions as they did
at Rome. Carthage was wanting in political genius. Her eternal anxiety
for gain prevented her from having the prudence which results from
loftier ambitions. A galley anchored on the Libyan sands, it was with
toil that she maintained her position. The nations roared like billows
around her, and the slightest storm shook this formidable machine.

The treasury was exhausted by the Roman war and by all that had been
squandered and lost in the bargaining with the Barbarians. Nevertheless
soldiers must be had, and not a government would trust the Republic!
Ptolemaeus had lately refused it two thousand talents. Moreover the rape
of the veil disheartened them. Spendius had clearly foreseen this.

But the nation, feeling that it was hated, clasped its money and
its gods to its heart, and its patriotism was sustained by the very
constitution of its government.

First, the power rested with all, without any one being strong enough
to engross it. Private debts were considered as public debts, men of
Chanaanitish race had a monopoly of commerce, and by multiplying the
profits of piracy with those of usury, by hard dealings in lands and
slaves and with the poor, fortunes were sometimes made. These alone
opened up all the magistracies, and although authority and money were
perpetuated in the same families, people tolerated the oligarchy because
they hoped ultimately to share in it.

The societies of merchants, in which the laws were elaborated, chose the
inspectors of the exchequer, who on leaving office nominated the hundred
members of the Council of the Ancients, themselves dependent on the
Grand Assembly, or general gathering of all the rich. As to the two
Suffets, the relics of the monarchy and the less than consuls, they were
taken from distinct families on the same day. All kinds of enmities were
contrived between them, so that they might mutually weaken each other.
They could not deliberate concerning war, and when they were vanquished
the Great Council crucified them.

The power of Carthage emanated, therefore, from the Syssitia, that is
to say, from a large court in the centre of Malqua, at the place, it was
said, where the first bark of Phoenician sailors had touched, the sea
having retired a long way since then. It was a collection of little
rooms of archaic architecture, built of palm trunks with corners of
stone, and separated from one another so as to accommodate the various
societies separately. The rich crowded there all day to discuss their
own concerns and those of the government, from the procuring of pepper
to the extermination of Rome. Thrice in a moon they would have their
beds brought up to the lofty terrace running along the wall of the
court, and they might be seen from below at table in the air, without
cothurni or cloaks, with their diamond-covered fingers wandering
over the dishes, and their large earrings hanging down among the
flagons,--all fat and lusty, half-naked, smiling and eating beneath the
blue sky, like great sharks sporting in the sea.

But just now they were unable to dissemble their anxiety; they were too
pale for that. The crowd which waited for them at the gates escorted
them to their palaces in order to obtain some news from them. As in
times of pestilence, all the houses were shut; the streets would fill
and suddenly clear again; people ascended the Acropolis or ran to the
harbour, and the Great Council deliberated every night. At last the
people were convened in the square of Khamon, and it was decided to
leave the management of things to Hanno, the conqueror of Hecatompylos.

He was a true Carthaginian, devout, crafty, and pitiless towards the
people of Africa. His revenues equalled those of the Barcas. No one had
such experience in administrative affairs.

He decreed the enrolment of all healthy citizens, he placed catapults on
the towers, he exacted exorbitant supplies of arms, he even ordered the
construction of fourteen galleys which were not required, and he desired
everything to be registered and carefully set down in writing. He had
himself conveyed to the arsenal, the pharos, and the treasuries of the
temples; his great litter was continually to be seen swinging from step
to step as it ascended the staircases of the Acropolis. And then in
his palace at night, being unable to sleep, he would yell out warlike
manoeuvres in terrible tones so as to prepare himself for the fray.

In their extremity of terror all became brave. The rich ranged
themselves in line along the Mappalian district at cockcrow, and tucking
up their robes practised themselves in handling the pike. But for
want of an instructor they had disputes about it. They would sit down
breathless upon the tombs and then begin again. Several even dieted
themselves. Some imagined that it was necessary to eat a great deal in
order to acquire strength, while others who were inconvenienced by their
corpulence weakened themselves with fasts in order to become thin.

Utica had already called several times upon Carthage for assistance; but
Hanno would not set out until the engines of war had been supplied with
the last screws. He lost three moons more in equipping the one hundred
and twelve elephants that were lodged in the ramparts. They were the
conquerors of Regulus; the people loved them; it was impossible to treat
such old friends too well. Hanno had the brass plates which adorned
their breasts recast, their tusks gilt, their towers enlarged, and
caparisons, edged with very heavy fringes, cut out of the handsomest
purple. Finally, as their drivers were called Indians (after the first
ones, no doubt, who came from the Indies) he ordered them all to be
costumed after the Indian fashion; that is to say, with white pads round
their temples, and small drawers of byssus, which with their transverse
folds looked like two valves of a shell applied to the hips.

The army under Autaritus still remained before Tunis. It was hidden
behind a wall made with mud from the lake, and protected on the top by
thorny brushwood. Some Negroes had planted tall sticks here and there
bearing frightful faces,--human masks made with birds’ feathers, and
jackals’ or serpents’ heads,--which gaped towards the enemy for the
purpose of terrifying him; and the Barbarians, reckoning themselves
invincible through these means, danced, wrestled, and juggled, convinced
that Carthage would perish before long. Any one but Hanno would easily
have crushed such a multitude, hampered as it was with herds and women.
Moreover, they knew nothing of drill, and Autaritus was so disheartened
that he had ceased to require it.

They stepped aside when he passed by rolling his big blue eyes. Then
on reaching the edge of the lake he would draw back his sealskin cloak,
unfasten the cord which tied up his long red hair, and soak the latter
in the water. He regretted that he had not deserted to the Romans along
with the two thousand Gauls of the temple of Eryx.

Often the sun would suddenly lose his rays in the middle of the day.
Then the gulf and the open sea would seem as motionless as molten lead.
A cloud of brown dust stretching perpendicularly would speed whirling
along; the palm trees would bend and the sky disappear, while stones
would be heard rebounding on the animals’ cruppers; and the Gaul, his
lips glued against the holes in his tent, would gasp with exhaustion and
melancholy. His thoughts would be of the scent of the pastures on autumn
mornings, of snowflakes, or of the bellowing of the urus lost in the
fog, and closing his eyelids he would in imagination behold the fires in
long, straw-roofed cottages flickering on the marshes in the depths of
the woods.

Others regretted their native lands as well as he, even though they
might not be so far away. Indeed the Carthaginian captives could
distinguish the velaria spread over the courtyards of their houses,
beyond the gulf on the slopes of Byrsa. But sentries marched round them
continually. They were all fastened to a common chain. Each one wore an
iron carcanet, and the crowd was never weary of coming to gaze at them.
The women would show their little children the handsome robes hanging in
tatters on their wasted limbs.

Whenever Autaritus looked at Gisco he was seized with rage at the
recollection of the insult that he had received, and he would have
killed him but for the oath which he had taken to Narr’ Havas. Then
he would go back into his tent and drink a mixture of barley and cumin
until he swooned away from intoxication,--to awake afterwards in broad
daylight consumed with horrible thirst.

Matho, meanwhile, was besieging Hippo-Zarytus. But the town was
protected by a lake, communicating with the sea. It had three lines of
circumvallation, and upon the heights which surrounded it there
extended a wall fortified with towers. He had never commanded in such an
enterprise before. Moreover, he was beset with thoughts of Salammbo, and
he raved in the delight of her beauty as in the sweetness of a vengeance
that transported him with pride. He felt an acrid, frenzied, permanent
want to see her again. He even thought of presenting himself as the
bearer of a flag of truce, in the hope that once within Carthage he
might make his way to her. Often he would cause the assault to be
sounded and waiting for nothing rush upon the mole which it was sought
to construct in the sea. He would snatch up the stones with his hands,
overturn, strike, and deal sword-thrusts everywhere. The Barbarians
would dash on pell-mell; the ladders would break with a loud crash, and
masses of men would tumble into the water, causing it to fly up in
red waves against the walls. Finally the tumult would subside, and the
soldiers would retire to make a fresh beginning.

Matho would go and seat himself outside the tents, wipe his
blood-splashed face with his arm, and gaze at the horizon in the
direction of Carthage.

In front of him, among the olives, palms, myrtles and planes, stretched
two broad ponds which met another lake, the outlines of which could not
be seen. Behind one mountain other mountains reared themselves, and
in the middle of the immense lake rose an island perfectly black and
pyramidal in form. On the left, at the extremity of the gulf, were
sand-heaps like arrested waves, large and pale, while the sea, flat as a
pavement of lapis-lazuli, ascended by insensible degrees to the edge
of the sky. The verdure of the country was lost in places beneath long
sheets of yellow; carobs were shining like knobs of coral; vine branches
drooped from the tops of the sycamores; the murmuring of the water could
be heard; crested larks were hopping about, and the sun’s latest fires
gilded the carapaces of the tortoises as they came forth from the reeds
to inhale the breeze.

Matho would heave deep sighs. He would lie flat on his face, with his
nails buried in the soil, and weep; he felt wretched, paltry, forsaken.
Never would he possess her, and he was unable even to take a town.

At night when alone in his tent he would gaze upon the zaimph. Of what
use to him was this thing which belonged to the gods?--and doubt crept
into the Barbarian’s thoughts. Then, on the contrary, it would seem to
him that the vesture of the goddess was depending from Salammbo, and
that a portion of her soul hovered in it, subtler than a breath; and
he would feel it, breathe it in, bury his face in it, and kiss it with
sobs. He would cover his shoulders with it in order to delude himself
that he was beside her.

Sometimes he would suddenly steal away, stride in the starlight over
the sleeping soldiers as they lay wrapped in their cloaks, spring upon
a horse on reaching the camp gates, and two hours later be at Utica in
Spendius’s tent.

At first he would speak of the siege, but his coming was only to ease
his sorrow by talking about Salammbo. Spendius exhorted him to be
prudent.

“Drive away these trifles from your soul, which is degraded by them!
Formerly you were used to obey; now you command an army, and if Carthage
is not conquered we shall at least be granted provinces. We shall become
kings!”

But how was it that the possession of the zaimph did not give them the
victory? According to Spendius they must wait.

Matho fancied that the veil affected people of Chanaanitish race
exclusively, and, in his Barbarian-like subtlety, he said to himself:
“The zaimph will accordingly do nothing for me, but since they have lost
it, it will do nothing for them.”

Afterwards a scruple troubled him. He was afraid of offending Moloch
by worshipping Aptouknos, the god of the Libyans, and he timidly asked
Spendius to which of the gods it would be advisable to sacrifice a man.

“Keep on sacrificing!” laughed Spendius.

Matho, who could not understand such indifference, suspected the Greek
of having a genius of whom he did not speak.

All modes of worship, as well as all races, were to be met with in these
armies of Barbarians, and consideration was had to the gods of others,
for they too, inspired fear. Many mingled foreign practices with their
native religion. It was to no purpose that they did not adore the stars;
if a constellation were fatal or helpful, sacrifices were offered to
it; an unknown amulet found by chance at a moment of peril became
a divinity; or it might be a name and nothing more, which would be
repeated without any attempt to understand its meaning. But after
pillaging temples, and seeing numbers of nations and slaughters, many
ultimately ceased to believe in anything but destiny and death;--and
every evening these would fall asleep with the placidity of wild beasts.
Spendius had spit upon the images of Jupiter Olympius; nevertheless he
dreaded to speak aloud in the dark, nor did he fail every day to put on
his right boot first.

He reared a long quadrangular terrace in front of Utica, but in
proportion as it ascended the rampart was also heightened, and what was
thrown down by the one side was almost immediately raised again by the
other. Spendius took care of his men; he dreamed of plans and strove to
recall the stratagems which he had heard described in his travels. But
why did Narr’ Havas not return? There was nothing but anxiety.

Hanno had at last concluded his preparations. One night when there was
no moon he transported his elephants and soldiers on rafts across
the Gulf of Carthage. Then they wheeled round the mountain of the Hot
Springs so as to avoid Autaritus, and continued their march so slowly
that instead of surprising the Barbarians in the morning, as the Suffet
had calculated, they did not reach them until it was broad daylight on
the third day.

Utica had on the east a plain which extended to the large lagoon of
Carthage; behind it a valley ran at right angles between two low and
abruptly terminated mountains; the Barbarians were encamped further
to the left in such a way as to blockade the harbour; and they were
sleeping in their tents (for on that day both sides were too weary
to fight and were resting) when the Carthaginian army appeared at the
turning of the hills.

Some camp followers furnished with slings were stationed at intervals
on the wings. The first line was formed of the guards of the Legion in
golden scale-armour, mounted on their big horses, which were without
mane, hair, or ears, and had silver horns in the middle of their
foreheads to make them look like rhinoceroses. Between their squadrons
were youths wearing small helmets and swinging an ashen javelin in each
hand. The long files of the heavy infantry marched behind. All these
traders had piled as many weapons upon their bodies as possible. Some
might be seen carrying an axe, a lance, a club, and two swords all at
once; others bristled with darts like porcupines, and their arms stood
out from their cuirasses in sheets of horn or iron plates. At last the
scaffoldings of the lofty engines appeared: carrobalistas, onagers,
catapults and scorpions, rocking on chariots drawn by mules and
quadrigas of oxen; and in proportion as the army drew out, the captains
ran panting right and left to deliver commands, close up the files, and
preserve the intervals. Such of the Ancients as held commands had come
in purple cassocks, the magnificent fringes of which tangled in the
white straps of their cothurni. Their faces, which were smeared all over
with vermilion, shone beneath enormous helmets surmounted with images
of the gods; and, as they had shields with ivory borders covered with
precious stones, they might have been taken for suns passing over walls
of brass.

But the Carthaginians manoeuvred so clumsily that the soldiers in
derision urged them to sit down. They called out that they were just
going to empty their big stomachs, to dust the gilding of their skin,
and to give them iron to drink.

A strip of green cloth appeared at the top of the pole planted before
Spendius’s tent: it was the signal. The Carthaginian army replied to
it with a great noise of trumpets, cymbals, flutes of asses’ bones, and
tympanums. The Barbarians had already leaped outside the palisades, and
were facing their enemies within a javelin’s throw of them.

A Balearic slinger took a step forward, put one of his clay bullets into
his thong, and swung round his arm. An ivory shield was shivered, and
the two armies mingled together.

The Greeks made the horses rear and fall back upon their masters by
pricking their nostrils with the points of their lances. The slaves
who were to hurl stones had picked such as were too big, and they
accordingly fell close to them. The Punic foot-soldiers exposed the
right side in cutting with their long swords. The Barbarians broke their
lines; they slaughtered them freely; they stumbled over the dying and
dead, quite blinded by the blood that spurted into their faces. The
confused heap of pikes, helmets, cuirasses and swords turned round
about, widening out and closing in with elastic contractions. The gaps
increased more and more in the Carthaginian cohorts, the engines could
not get out of the sand; and finally the Suffet’s litter (his grand
litter with crystal pendants), which from the beginning might have
been seen tossing among the soldiers like a bark on the waves, suddenly
foundered. He was no doubt dead. The Barbarians found themselves alone.

The dust around them fell and they were beginning to sing, when Hanno
himself appeared on the top of an elephant. He sat bare-headed beneath a
parasol of byssus which was carried by a Negro behind him. His necklace
of blue plates flapped against the flowers on his black tunic; his huge
arms were compressed within circles of diamonds, and with open mouth he
brandished a pike of inordinate size, which spread out at the end like a
lotus, and flashed more than a mirror. Immediately the earth shook,--and
the Barbarians saw all the elephants of Carthage, with their gilt tusks
and blue-painted ears, hastening up in single line, clothed with bronze
and shaking the leathern towers which were placed above their scarlet
caparisons, in each of which were three archers bending large bows.

The soldiers were barely in possession of their arms; they had taken
up their positions at random. They were frozen with terror; they stood
undecided.

Javelins, arrows, phalaricas, and masses of lead were already being
showered down upon them from the towers. Some clung to the fringes of
the caparisons in order to climb up, but their hands were struck off
with cutlasses and they fell backwards upon the swords’ points. The
pikes were too weak and broke, and the elephants passed through the
phalanxes like wild boars through tufts of grass; they plucked up the
stakes of the camp with their trunks, and traversed it from one end to
the other, overthrowing the tents with their breasts. All the Barbarians
had fled. They were hiding themselves in the hills bordering the valley
by which the Carthaginians had come.

The victorious Hanno presented himself before the gates of Utica. He had
a trumpet sounded. The three Judges of the town appeared in the opening
of the battlements on the summit of a tower.

But the people of Utica would not receive such well-armed guests. Hanno
was furious. At last they consented to admit him with a feeble escort.

The streets were too narrow for the elephants. They had to be left
outside.

As soon as the Suffet was in the town the principal men came to greet
him. He had himself taken to the vapour baths, and called for his cooks.

Three hours afterwards he was still immersed in the oil of cinnamomum
with which the basin had been filled; and while he bathed he ate
flamingoes’ tongues with honied poppy-seeds on a spread ox-hide.
Beside him was his Greek physician, motionless, in a long yellow robe,
directing the re-heating of the bath from time to time, and two young
boys leaned over the steps of the basin and rubbed his legs. But
attention to his body did not check his love for the commonwealth, for
he was dictating a letter to be sent to the Great Council, and as
some prisoners had just been taken he was asking himself what terrible
punishment could be devised.

“Stop!” said he to a slave who stood writing in the hollow of his hand.
“Let some of them be brought to me! I wish to see them!”

And from the bottom of the hall, full of a whitish vapour on which the
torches cast red spots, three Barbarians were thrust forward: a Samnite,
a Spartan, and a Cappadocian.

“Proceed!” said Hanno.

“Rejoice, light of the Baals! your Suffet has exterminated the ravenous
hounds! Blessings on the Republic! Give orders for prayers!” He
perceived the captives and burst out laughing: “Ah! ha! my fine fellows
of Sicca! You are not shouting so loudly to-day! It is I! Do you
recognise me? And where are your swords? What really terrible fellows!”
 and he pretended to be desirous to hide himself as if he were afraid of
them. “You demanded horses, women, estates, magistracies, no doubt, and
priesthoods! Why not? Well, I will provide you with the estates, and
such as you will never come out of! You shall be married to gibbets that
are perfectly new! Your pay? it shall be melted in your mouths in leaden
ingots! and I will put you into good and very exalted positions among
the clouds, so as to bring you close to the eagles!”

The three long-haired and ragged Barbarians looked at him without
understanding what he said. Wounded in the knees, they had been seized
by having ropes thrown over them, and the ends of the great chains on
their hands trailed upon the pavement. Hanno was indignant at their
impassibility.

“On your knees! on your knees! jackals! dust! vermin! excrements! And
they make no reply! Enough! be silent! Let them be flayed alive! No!
presently!”

He was breathing like a hippopotamus and rolling his eyes. The perfumed
oil overflowed beneath the mass of his body, and clinging to the scales
on his skin, made it look pink in the light of the torches.

He resumed:

“For four days we suffered greatly from the sun. Some mules were lost
in crossing the Macaras. In spite of their position, the extraordinary
courage--Ah! Demonades! how I suffer! Have the bricks reheated, and let
them be red-hot!”

A noise of rakes and furnaces was heard. The incense smoked more
strongly in the large perfuming pans, and the shampooers, who were quite
naked and were sweating like sponges, crushed a paste composed of wheat,
sulphur, black wine, bitch’s milk, myrrh, galbanum and storax upon his
joints. He was consumed with incessant thirst, but the yellow-robed man
did not yield to this inclination, and held out to him a golden cup in
which viper broth was smoking.

“Drink!” said he, “that strength of sun-born serpents may penetrate into
the marrow of your bones, and take courage, O reflection of the gods!
You know, moreover, that a priest of Eschmoun watches those cruel stars
round the Dog from which your malady is derived. They are growing pale
like the spots on your skin, and you are not to die from them.”

“Oh! yes, that is so, is it not?” repeated the Suffet, “I am not to die
from them!” And his violaceous lips gave forth a breath more nauseous
than the exhalation from a corpse. Two coals seemed to burn in the place
of his eyes, which had lost their eyebrows; a mass of wrinkled skin
hung over his forehead; both his ears stood out from his head and were
beginning to increase in size; and the deep lines forming semicircles
round his nostrils gave him a strange and terrifying appearance, the
look of a wild beast. His unnatural voice was like a roar; he said:

“Perhaps you are right, Demonades. In fact there are many ulcers here
which have closed. I feel robust. Here! look how I am eating!”

And less from greediness than from ostentation, and the desire to prove
to himself that he was in good health, he cut into the forcemeats
of cheese and marjoram, the boned fish, gourds, oysters with eggs,
horse-radishes, truffles, and brochettes of small birds. As he looked
at the prisoners he revelled in the imagination of their tortures.
Nevertheless he remembered Sicca, and the rage caused by all his woes
found vent in the abuse of these three men.

“Ah! traitors! ah! wretches! infamous, accursed creatures! And you
outraged me!--me! the Suffet! Their services, the price of their
blood, say they! Ah! yes! their blood! their blood!” Then speaking to
himself:--“All shall perish! not one shall be sold! It would be better
to bring them to Carthage! I should be seen--but doubtless, I have not
brought chains enough? Write: Send me--How many of them are there? go
and ask Muthumbal! Go! no pity! and let all their hands be cut off and
brought to me in baskets!”

But strange cries at once hoarse and shrill penetrated into the hall
above Hanno’s voice and the rattling of the dishes that were being
placed around him. They increased, and suddenly the furious trumpeting
of the elephants burst forth as if the battle were beginning again. A
great tumult was going on around the town.

The Carthaginians had not attempted to pursue the Barbarians. They had
taken up their quarters at the foot of the walls with their baggage,
mules, serving men, and all their train of satraps; and they made
merry in their beautiful pearl-bordered tents, while the camp of the
Mercenaries was now nothing but a heap of ruins in the plain. Spendius
had recovered his courage. He dispatched Zarxas to Matho, scoured the
woods, rallied his men (the losses had been inconsiderable),--and they
were re-forming their lines enraged at having been conquered without a
fight, when they discovered a vat of petroleum which had no doubt been
abandoned by the Carthaginians. Then Spendius had some pigs carried off
from the farms, smeared them with bitumen, set them on fire, and drove
them towards Utica.

The elephants were terrified by the flames and fled. The ground sloped
upwards, javelins were thrown at them, and they turned back;--and
with great blows of ivory and trampling feet they ripped up the
Carthaginians, stifled them, flattened them. The Barbarians descended
the hill behind them; the Punic camp, which was without entrenchments
was sacked at the first rush, and the Carthaginians were crushed against
the gates, which were not opened through fear of the Mercenaries.

Day broke, and Matho’s foot-soldiers were seen coming up from the west.
At the same time horsemen appeared; they were Narr’ Havas with his
Numidians. Leaping ravines and bushes they ran down the fugitives
like greyhounds pursuing hares. This change of fortune interrupted the
Suffet. He called out to be assisted to leave the vapour bath.

The three captives were still before him. Then a Negro (the same who had
carried his parasol in the battle) leaned over to his ear.

“Well?” replied the Suffet slowly. “Ah! kill them!” he added in an
abrupt tone.

The Ethiopian drew a long dagger from his girdle and the three heads
fell. One of them rebounded among the remains of the feast, and leaped
into the basin, where it floated for some time with open mouth and
staring eyes. The morning light entered through the chinks in the wall;
the three bodies streamed with great bubbles like three fountains, and
a sheet of blood flowed over the mosaics with their powdering of blue
dust. The Suffet dipped his hand into this hot mire and rubbed his knees
with it: it was a cure.

When evening had come he stole away from the town with his escort, and
made his way into the mountain to rejoin his army.

He succeeded in finding the remains of it.

Four days afterward he was on the top of a defile at Gorza, when the
troops under Spendius appeared below. Twenty stout lances might easily
have checked them by attacking the head of their column, but the
Carthaginians watched them pass by in a state of stupefaction. Hanno
recognised the king of the Numidians in the rearguard; Narr’ Havas bowed
to him, at the same time making a sign which he did not understand.

The return to Carthage took place amid all kinds of terrors. They
marched only at night, hiding in the olive woods during the day.
There were deaths at every halting-place; several times they believed
themselves lost. At last they reached Cape Hermaeum, where vessels came
to receive them.

Hanno was so fatigued, so desperate--the loss of the elephants in
particular overwhelmed him--that he demanded poison from Demonades in
order to put an end to it all. Moreover he could already feel himself
stretched upon the cross.

Carthage had not strength enough to be indignant with him. Its losses
had amounted to one hundred thousand nine hundred and seventy-two
shekels of silver, fifteen thousand six hundred and twenty-three shekels
of gold, eighteen elephants, fourteen members of the Great Council,
three hundred of the rich, eight thousand citizens, corn enough for
three moons, a considerable quantity of baggage, and all the engines
of war! The defection of Narr’ Havas was certain, and both sieges were
beginning again. The army under Autaritus now extended from Tunis to
Rhades. From the top of the Acropolis long columns of smoke might be
seen in the country ascending to the sky; they were the mansions of the
rich, which were on fire.

One man alone could have saved the Republic. People repented that
they had slighted him, and the peace party itself voted holocausts for
Hamilcar’s return.

The sight of the zaimph had upset Salammbo. At night she thought
that she could hear the footsteps of the goddess, and she would awake
terrified and shrieking. Every day she sent food to the temples. Taanach
was worn out with executing her orders, and Schahabarim never left her.



CHAPTER VII

HAMILCAR BARCA

The Announcer of the Moons, who watched on the summit of the temple of
Eschmoun every night in order to signal the disturbances of the planet
with his trumpet, one morning perceived towards the west something like
a bird skimming the surface of the sea with its long wings.

It was a ship with three tiers of oars and with a horse carved on the
prow. The sun was rising; the Announcer of the Moons put up his hand
before his eyes, and then grasping his clarion with outstretched arms
sounded a loud brazen cry over Carthage.

People came out of every house; they would not believe what was said;
they disputed with one another; the mole was covered with people. At
last they recognised Hamilcar’s trireme.

It advanced in fierce and haughty fashion, cleaving the foam around it,
the lateen-yard quite square and the sail bulging down the whole length
of the mast; its gigantic oars kept time as they beat the water;
every now and then the extremity of the keel, which was shaped like a
plough-share, would appear, and the ivory-headed horse, rearing both
its feet beneath the spur which terminated the prow, would seem to be
speeding over the plains of the sea.

As it rounded the promontory the wind ceased, the sail fell, and a man
was seen standing bareheaded beside the pilot. It was he, Hamilcar, the
Suffet! About his sides he wore gleaming sheets of steel; a red cloak,
fastened to his shoulders, left his arms visible; two pearls of great
length hung from his ears, and his black, bushy beard rested on his
breast.

The galley, however, tossing amid the rocks, was proceeding along
the side of the mole, and the crowd followed it on the flag-stones,
shouting:

“Greeting! blessing! Eye of Khamon! ah! deliver us! ‘Tis the fault of
the rich! they want to put you to death! Take care of yourself, Barca!”

He made no reply, as if the loud clamour of oceans and battles had
completely deafened him. But when he was below the staircase leading
down from the Acropolis, Hamilcar raised his head, and looked with
folded arms upon the temple of Eschmoun. His gaze mounted higher still,
to the great pure sky; he shouted an order in a harsh voice to his
sailors; the trireme leaped forward; it grazed the idol set up at the
corner of the mole to stay the storms; and in the merchant harbour,
which was full of filth, fragments of wood, and rinds of fruit, it
pushed aside and crushed against the other ships moored to stakes and
terminating in crocodiles’ jaws. The people hastened thither, and some
threw themselves into the water to swim to it. It was already at the
very end before the gate which bristled with nails. The gate rose, and
the trireme disappeared beneath the deep arch.

The Military Harbour was completely separated from the town; when
ambassadors arrived, they had to proceed between two walls through
a passage which had its outlet on the left in front of the temple of
Khamon. This great expanse of water was as round as a cup, and was
bordered with quays on which sheds were built for sheltering the ships.
Before each of these rose two pillars bearing the horns of Ammon on
their capitals and forming continuous porticoes all round the basin. On
an island in the centre stood a house for the marine Suffet.

The water was so limpid that the bottom was visible with its paving
of white pebbles. The noise of the streets did not reach so far, and
Hamilcar as he passed recognised the triremes which he had formerly
commanded.

Not more than twenty perhaps remained, under shelter on the land,
leaning over on their sides or standing upright on their keels, with
lofty poops and swelling prows, and covered with gildings and mystic
symbols. The chimaeras had lost their wings, the Pataec Gods their arms,
the bulls their silver horns;--and half-painted, motionless, and rotten
as they were, yet full of associations, and still emitting the scent
of voyages, they all seemed to say to him, like mutilated soldiers
on seeing their master again, “‘Tis we! ‘tis we! and YOU too are
vanquished!”

No one excepting the marine Suffet might enter the admiral’s house. So
long as there was no proof of his death he was considered as still in
existence. In this way the Ancients avoided a master the more, and they
had not failed to comply with the custom in respect to Hamilcar.

The Suffet proceeded into the deserted apartments. At every step he
recognised armour and furniture--familiar objects which nevertheless
astonished him, and in a perfuming-pan in the vestibule there even
remained the ashes of the perfumes that had been kindled at his
departure for the conjuration of Melkarth. It was not thus that he had
hoped to return. Everything that he had done, everything that he had
seen, unfolded itself in his memory: assaults, conflagrations, legions,
tempests, Drepanum, Syracuse, Lilybaeum, Mount Etna, the plateau of
Eryx, five years of battles,--until the fatal day when arms had been
laid down and Sicily had been lost. Then he once more saw the woods of
citron-trees, and herdsmen with their goats on grey mountains; and his
heart leaped at the thought of the establishment of another Carthage
down yonder. His projects and his recollections buzzed through his
head, which was still dizzy from the pitching of the vessel; he was
overwhelmed with anguish, and, becoming suddenly weak, he felt the
necessity of drawing near to the gods.

Then he went up to the highest story of his house, and taking a
nail-studded staple from a golden shell, which hung on his arm, he
opened a small oval chamber.

It was softly lighted by means of delicate black discs let into the
wall and as transparent as glass. Between the rows of these equal discs,
holes, like those for the urns in columbaria, were hollowed out. Each of
them contained a round dark stone, which appeared to be very heavy.
Only people of superior understanding honoured these abaddirs, which had
fallen from the moon. By their fall they denoted the stars, the sky, and
fire; by their colour dark night, and by their density the cohesion of
terrestrial things. A stifling atmosphere filled this mystic place. The
round stones lying in the niches were whitened somewhat with sea-sand
which the wind had no doubt driven through the door. Hamilcar counted
them one after another with the tip of his finger; then he hid his face
in a saffron-coloured veil, and, falling on his knees, stretched himself
on the ground with both arms extended.

The daylight outside was beginning to strike on the folding shutters
of black lattice-work. Arborescences, hillocks, eddies, and ill-defined
animals appeared in their diaphanous thickness; and the light came
terrifying and yet peaceful as it must be behind the sun in the dull
spaces of future creations. He strove to banish from his thoughts all
forms, and all symbols and appellations of the gods, that he might the
better apprehend the immutable spirit which outward appearances took
away. Something of the planetary vitalities penetrated him, and he felt
withal a wiser and more intimate scorn of death and of every accident.
When he rose he was filled with serene fearlessness and was proof
against pity or dread, and as his chest was choking he went to the top
of the tower which overlooked Carthage.

The town sank downwards in a long hollow curve, with its cupolas, its
temples, its golden roofs, its houses, its clusters of palm trees here
and there, and its glass balls with streaming rays, while the ramparts
formed, as it were, the gigantic border of this horn of plenty which
poured itself out before him. Far below he could see the harbours, the
squares, the interiors of the courts, the plan of the streets, and the
people, who seemed very small and but little above the level of the
pavement. Ah! if Hanno had not arrived too late on the morning of
the Aegatian islands! He fastened his eyes on the extreme horizon and
stretched forth his quivering arms in the direction of Rome.

The steps of the Acropolis were occupied by the multitude. In the square
of Khamon the people were pressing forwards to see the Suffet come
out, and the terraces were gradually being loaded with people; a few
recognised him, and he was saluted; but he retired in order the better
to excite the impatience of the people.

Hamilcar found the most important men of his party below in the hall:
Istatten, Subeldia, Hictamon, Yeoubas and others. They related to him
all that had taken place since the conclusion of the peace: the greed
of the Ancients, the departure of the soldiers, their return, their
demands, the capture of Gisco, the theft of the zaimph, the relief and
subsequent abandonment of Utica; but no one ventured to tell him of the
events which concerned himself. At last they separated, to meet again
during the night at the assembly of the Ancients in the temple of
Moloch.

They had just gone out when a tumult arose outside the door. Some one
was trying to enter in spite of the servants; and as the disturbance was
increasing Hamilcar ordered the stranger to be shown in.

An old Negress made her appearance, broken, wrinkled, trembling,
stupid-looking, wrapped to the heels in ample blue veils. She advanced
face to face with the Suffet, and they looked at each other for some
time; suddenly Hamilcar started; at a wave of his hand the slaves
withdrew. Then, signing to her to walk with precaution, he drew her by
the arm into a remote apartment.

The Negress threw herself upon the floor to kiss his feet; he raised her
brutally.

“Where have you left him, Iddibal?”

“Down there, Master;” and extricating herself from her veils, she rubbed
her face with her sleeve; the black colour, the senile trembling, the
bent figure disappeared, and there remained a strong old man whose skin
seemed tanned by sand, wind, and sea. A tuft of white hair rose on his
skull like the crest of a bird; and he indicated his disguise, as it lay
on the ground, with an ironic glance.

“You have done well, Iddibal! ‘Tis well!” Then piercing him, as it were,
with his keen gaze: “No one yet suspects?”

The old man swore to him by the Kabiri that the mystery had been kept.
They never left their cottage, which was three days’ journey from
Hadrumetum, on a shore peopled with turtles, and with palms on the dune.
“And in accordance with your command, O Master! I teach him to hurl the
javelin and to drive a team.”

“He is strong, is he not?”

“Yes, Master, and intrepid as well! He has no fear of serpents, or
thunder, or phantoms. He runs bare-footed like a herdsman along the
brinks of precipices.”

“Speak! speak!”

“He invents snares for wild beasts. Would you believe it, that last moon
he surprised an eagle; he dragged it away, and the bird’s blood and the
child’s were scattered in the air in large drops like driven roses.
The animal in its fury enwrapped him in the beating of its wings; he
strained it against his breast, and as it died his laughter increased,
piercing and proud like the clashing of swords.”

Hamilcar bent his head, dazzled by such presages of greatness.

“But he has been for some time restless and disturbed. He gazes at the
sails passing far out at sea; he is melancholy, he rejects bread,
he inquires about the gods, and he wishes to become acquainted with
Carthage.”

“No, no! not yet!” exclaimed the Suffet.

The old slave seemed to understand the peril which alarmed Hamilcar, and
he resumed:

“How is he to be restrained? Already I am obliged to make him promises,
and I have come to Carthage only to buy him a dagger with a silver
handle and pearls all around it.” Then he told how, having perceived the
Suffet on the terrace, he had passed himself off on the warders of the
harbour as one of Salammbo’s women, so as to make his way in to him.

Hamilcar remained for a long time apparently lost in deliberation; at
last he said:

“To-morrow you will present yourself at sunset behind the purple
factories in Megara, and imitate a jackal’s cry three times. If you do
not see me, you will return to Carthage on the first day of every moon.
Forget nothing! Love him! You may speak to him now about Hamilcar.”

The slave resumed his costume, and they left the house and the harbour
together.

Hamilcar went on his way alone on foot and without an escort, for the
meetings of the Ancients were, under extraordinary circumstances, always
secret, and were resorted to mysteriously.

At first he went along the western front of the Acropolis, and then
passed through the Green Market, the galleries of Kinisdo, and the
Perfumers’ suburb. The scattered lights were being extinguished, the
broader streets grew still, then shadows glided through the darkness.
They followed him, others appeared, and like him they all directed their
course towards the Mappalian district.

The temple of Moloch was built at the foot of a steep defile in a
sinister spot. From below nothing could be seen but lofty walls rising
indefinitely like those of a monstrous tomb. The night was gloomy, a
greyish fog seemed to weigh upon the sea, which beat against the cliff
with a noise as of death-rattles and sobs; and the shadows gradually
vanished as if they had passed through the walls.

But as soon as the doorway was crossed one found oneself in a vast
quadrangular court bordered by arcades. In the centre rose a mass of
architecture with eight equal faces. It was surmounted by cupolas which
thronged around a second story supporting a kind of rotunda, from which
sprang a cone with a re-entrant curve and terminating in a ball on the
summit.

Fires were burning in cylinders of filigree-work fitted upon poles,
which men were carrying to and fro. These lights flickered in the gusts
of wind and reddened the golden combs which fastened their plaited
hair on the nape of the neck. They ran about calling to one another to
receive the Ancients.

Here and there on the flag-stones huge lions were couched like
sphinxes, living symbols of the devouring sun. They were slumbering with
half-closed eyelids. But roused by the footsteps and voices they rose
slowly, came towards the Ancients, whom they recognised by their dress,
and rubbed themselves against their thighs, arching their backs with
sonorous yawns; the vapour of their breath passed across the light of
the torches. The stir increased, doors closed, all the priests fled,
and the Ancients disappeared beneath the columns which formed a deep
vestibule round the temple.

These columns were arranged in such a way that their circular ranks,
which were contained one within another, showed the Saturnian period
with its years, the years with their months, and the months with their
days, and finally reached to the walls of the sanctuary.

Here it was that the Ancients laid aside their sticks of
narwhal’s-horn,--for a law which was always observed inflicted the
punishment of death upon any one entering the meeting with any kind
of weapon. Several wore a rent repaired with a strip of purple at the
bottom of their garment, to show that they had not been economical in
their dress when mourning for their relatives, and this testimony to
their affliction prevented the slit from growing larger. Others had
their beards inclosed in little bags of violet skin, and fastened to
their ears by two cords. They all accosted one another by embracing
breast to breast. They surrounded Hamilcar with congratulations; they
might have been taken for brothers meeting their brother again.

These men were generally thick-set, with curved noses like those of the
Assyrian colossi. In a few, however, the more prominent cheek-bone, the
taller figure, and the narrower foot, betrayed an African origin
and nomad ancestors. Those who lived continually shut up in their
counting-houses had pale faces; others showed in theirs the severity
of the desert, and strange jewels sparkled on all the fingers of
their hands, which were burnt by unknown suns. The navigators might be
distinguished by their rolling gait, while the men of agriculture
smelt of the wine-press, dried herbs, and the sweat of mules. These
old pirates had lands under tillage, these money-grubbers would fit
out ships, these proprietors of cultivated lands supported slaves who
followed trades. All were skilled in religious discipline, expert in
strategy, pitiless and rich. They looked wearied of prolonged cares.
Their flaming eyes expressed distrust, and their habits of travelling
and lying, trafficking and commanding, gave an appearance of cunning
and violence, a sort of discreet and convulsive brutality to their whole
demeanour. Further, the influence of the god cast a gloom upon them.

They first passed through a vaulted hall which was shaped like an egg.
Seven doors, corresponding to the seven planets, displayed seven squares
of different colours against the wall. After traversing a long room they
entered another similar hall.

A candelabrum completely covered with chiselled flowers was burning at
the far end, and each of its eight golden branches bore a wick of byssus
in a diamond chalice. It was placed upon the last of the long steps
leading to a great altar, the corners of which terminated in horns of
brass. Two lateral staircases led to its flattened summit; the stones
of it could not be seen; it was like a mountain of heaped cinders, and
something indistinct was slowly smoking at the top of it. Then further
back, higher than the candelabrum, and much higher than the altar, rose
the Moloch, all of iron, and with gaping apertures in his human breast.
His outspread wings were stretched upon the wall, his tapering hands
reached down to the ground; three black stones bordered by yellow
circles represented three eyeballs on his brow, and his bull’s head was
raised with a terrible effort as if in order to bellow.

Ebony stools were ranged round the apartment. Behind each of them was
a bronze shaft resting on three claws and supporting a torch. All these
lights were reflected in the mother-of-pearl lozenges which formed the
pavement of the hall. So lofty was the latter that the red colour of the
walls grew black as it rose towards the vaulted roof, and the three eyes
of the idol appeared far above like stars half lost in the night.

The Ancients sat down on the ebony stools after putting the trains of
their robes over their heads. They remained motionless with their hands
crossed inside their broad sleeves, and the mother-of-pearl pavement
seemed like a luminous river streaming from the altar to the door and
flowing beneath their naked feet.

The four pontiffs had their places in the centre, sitting back to back
on four ivory seats which formed a cross, the high-priest of Eschmoun
in a hyacinth robe, the high-priest of Tanith in a white linen robe, the
high-priest of Khamon in a tawny woollen robe, and the high-priest of
Moloch in a purple robe.

Hamilcar advanced towards the candelabrum. He walked all round it,
looking at the burning wicks; then he threw a scented powder upon them,
and violet flames appeared at the extremities of the branches.

Then a shrill voice rose; another replied to it, and the hundred
Ancients, the four pontiffs, and Hamilcar, who remained standing,
simultaneously intoned a hymn, and their voices--ever repeating the
same syllables and strengthening the sounds--rose, grew loud, became
terrible, and then suddenly were still.

There was a pause for some time. At last Hamilcar drew from his breast a
little three-headed statuette, as blue as sapphire, and placed it before
him. It was the image of Truth, the very genius of his speech. Then he
replaced it in his bosom, and all, as if seized with sudden wrath, cried
out:

“They are good friends of yours, are the Barbarians! Infamous traitor!
You come back to see us perish, do you not? Let him speak!--No! no!”

They were taking their revenge for the constraint to which political
ceremonial had just obliged them; and even though they had wished for
Hamilcar’s return, they were now indignant that he had not anticipated
their disasters, or rather that he had not endured them as well as they.

When the tumult had subsided, the pontiff of Moloch rose:

“We ask you why you did not return to Carthage?”

“What is that to you?” replied the Suffet disdainfully.

Their shouts were redoubled.

“Of what do you accuse me? I managed the war badly, perhaps! You have
seen how I order my battles, you who conveniently allow Barbarians--”

“Enough! enough!”

He went on in a low voice so as to make himself the better listened to:

“Oh! that is true! I am wrong, lights of the Baals; there are intrepid
men among you! Gisco, rise!” And surveying the step of the altar with
half-closed eyelids, as if he sought for some one, he repeated:

“Rise, Gisco! You can accuse me; they will protect you! But where is
he?” Then, as if he remembered himself: “Ah! in his house, no doubt!
surrounded by his sons, commanding his slaves, happy, and counting on
the wall the necklaces of honour which his country has given to him!”

They moved about raising their shoulders as if they were being scourged
with thongs. “You do not even know whether he is living or dead!” And
without giving any heed to their clamours he said that in deserting the
Suffet they had deserted the Republic. So, too, the peace with Rome,
however advantageous it might appear to them, was more fatal than twenty
battles. A few--those who were the least rich of the Council and
were suspected of perpetual leanings towards the people or towards
tyranny--applauded. Their opponents, chiefs of the Syssitia and
administrators, triumphed over them in point of numbers; and the more
eminent of them had ranged themselves close to Hanno, who was sitting at
the other end of the hall before the lofty door, which was closed by a
hanging of hyacinth colour.

He had covered the ulcers on his face with paint. But the gold dust in
his hair had fallen upon his shoulders, where it formed two brilliant
sheets, so that his hair appeared whitish, fine, and frizzled like wool.
His hands were enveloped in linen soaked in a greasy perfume, which
dripped upon the pavement, and his disease had no doubt considerably
increased, for his eyes were hidden beneath the folds of his eyelids.
He had thrown back his head in order to see. His partisans urged him to
speak. At last in a hoarse and hideous voice he said:

“Less arrogance, Barca! We have all been vanquished! Each one supports
his own misfortune! Be resigned!”

“Tell us rather,” said Hamilcar, smiling, “how it was that you steered
your galleys into the Roman fleet?”

“I was driven by the wind,” replied Hanno.

“You are like a rhinoceros trampling on his dung: you are displaying
your own folly! be silent!” And they began to indulge in recriminations
respecting the battle of the Aegatian islands.

Hanno accused him of not having come to meet him.

“But that would have left Eryx undefended. You ought to have stood out
from the coast; what prevented you? Ah! I forgot! all elephants are
afraid of the sea!”

Hamilcar’s followers thought this jest so good that they burst out into
loud laughter. The vault rang with it like the beating of tympanums.

Hanno denounced the unworthiness of such an insult; the disease had
come upon him from a cold taken at the siege of Hecatompylos, and tears
flowed down his face like winter rain on a ruined wall.

Hamilcar resumed:

“If you had loved me as much as him there would be great joy in Carthage
now! How many times did I not call upon you! and you always refused me
money!”

“We had need of it,” said the chiefs of the Syssitia.

“And when things were desperate with me--we drank mules’ urine and ate
the straps of our sandals; when I would fain have had the blades of
grass soldiers and made battalions with the rottenness of our dead, you
recalled the vessels that I had left!”

“We could not risk everything,” replied Baat-Baal, who possessed gold
mines in Darytian Gaetulia.

“But what did you do here, at Carthage, in your houses, behind your
walls? There are Gauls on the Eridanus, who ought to have been roused,
Chanaanites at Cyrene who would have come, and while the Romans send
ambassadors to Ptolemaeus--”

“Now he is extolling the Romans to us!” Some one shouted out to him:
“How much have they paid you to defend them?”

“Ask that of the plains of Brutium, of the ruins of Locri, of
Metapontum, and of Heraclea! I have burnt all their trees, I
have pillaged all their temples, and even to the death of their
grandchildren’s grandchildren--”

“Why, you disclaim like a rhetor!” said Kapouras, a very illustrious
merchant. “What is it that you want?”

“I say that we must be more ingenious or more terrible! If the whole of
Africa rejects your yoke the reason is, my feeble masters, that you do
not know how to fasten it to her shoulders! Agathocles, Regulus, Coepio,
any bold man has only to land and capture her; and when the Libyans in
the east concert with the Numidians in the west, and the Nomads
come from the south, and the Romans from the north”--a cry of horror
rose--“Oh! you will beat your breasts, and roll in the dust, and tear
your cloaks! No matter! you will have to go and turn the mill-stone in
the Suburra, and gather grapes on the hills of Latium.”

They smote their right thighs to mark their sense of the scandal, and
the sleeves of their robes rose like large wings of startled birds.
Hamilcar, carried away by a spirit, continued his speech, standing on
the highest step of the altar, quivering and terrible; he raised his
arms, and the rays from the candelabrum which burned behind him passed
between his fingers like javelins of gold.

“You will lose your ships, your country seats, your chariots, your
hanging beds, and the slaves who rub your feet! The jackal will crouch
in your palaces, and the ploughshare will upturn your tombs. Nothing
will be left but the eagles’ scream and a heap of ruins. Carthage, thou
wilt fall!”

The four pontiffs spread out their hands to avert the anathema. All had
risen. But the marine Suffet, being a sacerdotal magistrate under the
protection of the Sun, was inviolate so long as the assembly of the
rich had not judged him. Terror was associated with the altar. They drew
back.

Hamilcar had ceased speaking, and was panting with eye fixed, his face
as pale as the pearls of his tiara, almost frightened at himself, and
his spirit lost in funereal visions. From the height on which he stood,
all the torches on the bronze shafts seemed to him like a vast crown of
fire laid level with the pavement; black smoke issuing from them mounted
up into the darkness of the vault; and for some minutes the silence was
so profound that they could hear in the distance the sound of the sea.

Then the Ancients began to question one another. Their interests, their
existence, were attacked by the Barbarians. But it was impossible to
conquer them without the assistance of the Suffet, and in spite of their
pride this consideration made them forget every other. His friends were
taken aside. There were interested reconciliations, understandings, and
promises. Hamilcar would not take any further part in any government.
All conjured him. They besought him; and as the word treason occurred
in their speech, he fell into a passion. The sole traitor was the Great
Council, for as the enlistment of the soldiers expired with the war,
they became free as soon as the war was finished; he even exalted their
bravery and all the advantages which might be derived from interesting
them in the Republic by donations and privileges.

Then Magdassin, a former provincial governor, said, as he rolled his
yellow eyes:

“Truly Barca, with your travelling you have become a Greek, or a Latin,
or something! Why speak you of rewards for these men? Rather let ten
thousand Barbarians perish than a single one of us!”

The Ancients nodded approval, murmuring:--“Yes, is there need for so
much trouble? They can always be had?”

“And they can be got rid of conveniently, can they not? They are
deserted as they were by you in Sardinia. The enemy is apprised of the
road which they are to take, as in the case of those Gauls in Sicily,
or perhaps they are disembarked in the middle of the sea. As I was
returning I saw the rock quite white with their bones!”

“What a misfortune!” said Kapouras impudently.

“Have they not gone over to the enemy a hundred times?” cried the
others.

“Why, then,” exclaimed Hamilcar, “did you recall them to Carthage,
notwithstanding your laws? And when they are in your town, poor and
numerous amid all your riches, it does not occur to you to weaken them
by the slightest division! Afterwards you dismiss the whole of them
with their women and children, without keeping a single hostage! Did
you expect that they would murder themselves to spare you the pain of
keeping your oaths? You hate them because they are strong! You hate me
still more, who am their master! Oh! I felt it just now when you were
kissing my hands and were all putting a constraint upon yourselves not
to bite them!”

If the lions that were sleeping in the court had come howling in, the
uproar could not have been more frightful. But the pontiff of Eschmoun
rose, and, standing perfectly upright, with his knees close together,
his elbows pressed to his body, and his hands half open, he said:

“Barca, Carthage has need that you should take the general command of
the Punic forces against the Mercenaries!”

“I refuse,” replied Hamilcar.

“We will give you full authority,” cried the chiefs of the Syssitia.

“No!”

“With no control, no partition, all the money that you want, all
the captives, all the booty, fifty zereths of land for every enemy’s
corpse.”

“No! no! because it is impossible to conquer with you!”

“He is afraid!”

“Because you are cowardly, greedy, ungrateful, pusillanimous and mad!”

“He is careful of them!”

“In order to put himself at their head,” said some one.

“And return against us,” said another; and from the bottom of the hall
Hanno howled:

“He wants to make himself king!”

Then they bounded up, overturning the seats and the torches: the crowd
of them rushed towards the altar; they brandished daggers. But Hamilcar
dived into his sleeves and drew from them two broad cutlasses; and
half stooping, his left foot advanced, his eyes flaming and his
teeth clenched, he defied them as he stood there beneath the golden
candelabrum.

Thus they had brought weapons with them as a precaution; it was a crime;
they looked with terror at one another. As all were guilty, every one
became quickly reassured; and by degrees they turned their backs on the
Suffet and came down again maddened with humiliation. For the second
time they recoiled before him. They remained standing for some time.
Several who had wounded their fingers put them to their mouths or rolled
them gently in the hem of their mantles, and they were about to depart
when Hamilcar heard these words:

“Why! it is a piece of delicacy to avoid distressing his daughter!”

A louder voice was raised:

“No doubt, since she takes her lovers from among the Mercenaries!”

At first he tottered, then his eye rapidly sought for Schahabarim. But
the priest of Tanith had alone remained in his place; and Hamilcar could
see only his lofty cap in the distance. All were sneering in his face.
In proportion as his anguish increased their joy redoubled, and those
who were behind shouted amid the hootings:

“He was seen coming out of her room!”

“One morning in the month of Tammouz!”

“It was the thief who stole the zaimph!”

“A very handsome man!”

“Taller than you!”

He snatched off the tiara, the ensign of his rank--his tiara with its
eight mystic rows, and with an emerald shell in the centre--and with
both hands and with all his strength dashed it to the ground; the golden
circles rebounded as they broke, and the pearls rang upon the pavement.
Then they saw a long scar upon the whiteness of his brow; it moved like
a serpent between his eyebrows; all his limbs trembled. He ascended one
of the lateral staircases which led on to the altar, and walked upon
the latter! This was to devote himself to the god, to offer himself as
a holocaust. The motion of his mantle agitated the lights of the
candelabrum, which was lower than his sandals, and the fine dust raised
by his footsteps surrounded him like a cloud as high as the waist. He
stopped between the legs of the brass colossus. He took up two handfuls
of the dust, the mere sight of which made every Carthaginian shudder
with horror, and said:

“By the hundred torches of your Intelligences! by the eight fires of the
Kabiri! by the stars, the meteors, and the volcanoes! by everything that
burns! by the thirst of the desert and the saltness of the ocean! by
the cave of Hadrumetum and the empire of Souls! by extermination! by the
ashes of your sons and the ashes of the brothers of your ancestors with
which I now mingle my own!--you, the Hundred of the Council of Carthage,
have lied in your accusation of my daughter! And I, Hamilcar Barca,
marine Suffet, chief of the rich and ruler of the people, in the
presence of bull-headed Moloch, I swear”--they expected something
frightful, but he resumed in a loftier and calmer tone--“that I will not
even speak to her about it!”

The sacred servants entered wearing their golden combs, some with purple
sponges and others with branches of palm. They raised the hyacinth
curtain which was stretched before the door; and through the opening of
this angle there was visible behind the other halls the great pink
sky which seemed to be a continuation of the vault and to rest at
the horizon upon the blue sea. The sun was issuing from the waves and
mounting upwards. It suddenly struck upon the breast of the brazen
colossus, which was divided into seven compartments closed by gratings.
His red-toothed jaws opened in a horrible yawn; his enormous nostrils
were dilated, the broad daylight animated him, and gave him a terrible
and impatient aspect, as if he would fain have leaped without to mingle
with the star, the god, and together traverse the immensities.

The torches, however, which were scattered on the ground, were still
burning, while here and there on the mother-of-pearl pavement was
stretched from them what looked like spots of blood. The Ancients were
reeling from exhaustion; they filled their lungs inhaling the freshness
of the air; the sweat flowed down their livid faces; they had shouted
so much that they could now scarcely make their voices heard. But their
wrath against the Suffet was not at all abated; they hurled menaces at
him by way of farewells, and Hamilcar answered them again.

“Until the next night, Barca, in the temple of Eschmoun!”

“I shall be there!”

“We will have you condemned by the rich!”

“And I you by the people!”

“Take care that you do not end on the cross!”

“And you that you are not torn to pieces in the streets!”

As soon as they were on the threshold of the court they again assumed a
calm demeanour.

Their runners and coachmen were waiting for them at the door. Most of
them departed on white mules. The Suffet leaped into his chariot and
took the reins; the two animals, curving their necks, and rhythmically
beating the resounding pebbles, went up the whole of the Mappalian Way
at full gallop, and the silver vulture at the extremity of the pole
seemed to fly, so quickly did the chariot pass along.

The road crossed a field planted with slabs of stone, which were painted
on the top like pyramids, and had open hands carved out in the centre as
if all the dead men lying beneath had stretched them out towards heaven
to demand something. Next there came scattered cabins built of earth,
branches, and bulrush-hurdles, and all of a conical shape. These
dwellings, which became constantly denser as the road ascended towards
the Suffet’s gardens, were irregularly separated from one another by
little pebble walls, trenches of spring water, ropes of esparto-grass,
and nopal hedges. But Hamilcar’s eyes were fastened on a great tower,
the three storys of which formed three monster cylinders--the first
being built of stone, the second of brick, and the third all of
cedar--supporting a copper cupola upon twenty-four pillars of juniper,
from which slender interlacing chains of brass hung down after the
manner of garlands. This lofty edifice overlooked the buildings--the
emporiums and mercantile houses--which stretched to the right, while the
women’s palace rose at the end of the cypress trees, which were ranged
in line like two walls of bronze.

When the echoing chariot had entered through the narrow gateway it
stopped beneath a broad shed in which there were shackled horses eating
from heaps of chopped grass.

All the servants hastened up. They formed quite a multitude, those who
worked on the country estates having been brought to Carthage through
fear of the soldiers. The labourers, who were clad in animals’ skins,
had chains riveted to their ankles and trailing after them; the workers
in the purple factories had arms as red as those of executioners; the
sailors wore green caps; the fishermen coral necklaces; the huntsmen
carried nets on their shoulders; and the people belonging to Megara
wore black or white tunics, leathern drawers, and caps of straw, felt or
linen, according to their service or their different occupations.

Behind pressed a tattered populace. They lived without employment remote
from the apartments, slept at night in the gardens, ate the refuse
from the kitchens,--a human mouldiness vegetating in the shadow of
the palace. Hamilcar tolerated them from foresight even more than from
scorn. They had all put a flower in the ear in token of their joy, and
many of them had never seen him.

But men with head-dresses like the Sphinx’s, and furnished with great
sticks, dashed into the crowd, striking right and left. This was to
drive back the slaves, who were curious to see their master, so that he
might not be assailed by their numbers or inconvenienced by their smell.

Then they all threw themselves flat on the ground, crying:

“Eye of Baal, may your house flourish!” And through these people as they
lay thus on the ground in the avenue of cypress trees, Abdalonim, the
Steward of the stewards, waving a white miter, advanced towards Hamilcar
with a censer in his hand.

Salammbo was then coming down the galley staircases. All her slave women
followed her; and, at each of her steps, they also descended. The heads
of the Negresses formed big black spots on the line of the bands of
the golden plates clasping the foreheads of the Roman women. Others had
silver arrows, emerald butterflies, or long bodkins set like suns in
their hair. Rings, clasps, necklaces, fringes, and bracelets shone amid
the confusion of white, yellow, and blue garments; a rustling of
light material became audible; the pattering of sandals might be heard
together with the dull sound of naked feet as they were set down on the
wood;--and here and there a tall eunuch, head and shoulders above them,
smiled with his face in air. When the shouting of the men had subsided
they hid their faces in their sleeves, and together uttered a strange
cry like the howling of a she-wolf, and so frenzied and strident was
it that it seemed to make the great ebony staircase, with its thronging
women, vibrate from top to bottom like a lyre.

The wind lifted their veils, and the slender stems of the papyrus plant
rocked gently. It was the month of Schebaz and the depth of winter. The
flowering pomegranates swelled against the azure of the sky, and the
sea disappeared through the branches with an island in the distance half
lost in the mist.

Hamilcar stopped on perceiving Salammbo. She had come to him after the
death of several male children. Moreover, the birth of daughters
was considered a calamity in the religions of the Sun. The gods had
afterwards sent him a son; but he still felt something of the betrayal
of his hope, and the shock, as it were, of the curse which he had
uttered against her. Salammbo, however, continued to advance.

Long bunches of various-coloured pearls fell from her ears to her
shoulders, and as far as her elbows. Her hair was crisped so as to
simulate a cloud. Round her neck she wore little quadrangular plates of
gold, representing a woman between two rampant lions; and her costume
was a complete reproduction of the equipment of the goddess. Her
broad-sleeved hyacinth robe fitted close to her figure, widening out
below. The vermilion on her lips gave additional whiteness to her teeth,
and the antimony on her eyelids greater length to her eyes. Her sandals,
which were cut out in bird’s plumage, had very high heels, and she was
extraordinarily pale, doubtless on account of the cold.

At last she came close to Hamilcar, and without looking at him, without
raising her head to him:

“Greeting, eye of Baalim, eternal glory! triumph! leisure! satisfaction!
riches! Long has my heart been sad and the house drooping. But the
returning master is like reviving Tammouz; and beneath your gaze, O
father, joyfulness and a new existence will everywhere prevail!”

And taking from Taanach’s hands a little oblong vase wherein smoked a
mixture of meal, butter, cardamom, and wine: “Drink freely,” said she,
“of the returning cup, which your servant has prepared!”

He replied: “A blessing upon you!” and he mechanically grasped the
golden vase which she held out to him.

He scanned her, however, with such harsh attention, that Salammbo was
troubled and stammered out:

“They have told you, O Master!”

“Yes! I know!” said Hamilcar in a low voice.

Was this a confession, or was she speaking of the Barbarians? And he
added a few vague words upon the public embarrassments which he hoped by
his sole efforts to clear away.

“O father!” exclaimed Salammbo, “you will not obliterate what is
irreparable!”

Then he drew back and Salammbo was astonished at his amazement; for she
was not thinking of Carthage but of the sacrilege in which she found
herself implicated. This man, who made legions tremble and whom she
hardly knew, terrified her like a god; he had guessed, he knew all,
something awful was about to happen. “Pardon!” she cried.

Hamilcar slowly bowed his head.

Although she wished to accuse herself she dared not open her lips; and
yet she felt stifled with the need of complaining and being comforted.
Hamilcar was struggling against a longing to break his oath. He kept it
out of pride or from the dread of putting an end to his uncertainty; and
he looked into her face with all his might so as to lay hold on what she
kept concealed at the bottom of her heart.

By degrees the panting Salammbo, crushed by such heavy looks, let her
head sink below her shoulders. He was now sure that she had erred in
the embrace of a Barbarian; he shuddered and raised both his fists. She
uttered a shriek and fell down among her women, who crowded around her.

Hamilcar turned on his heel. All the stewards followed him.

The door of the emporiums was opened, and he entered a vast round hall
form which long passages leading to other halls branched off like the
spokes from the nave of a wheel. A stone disc stood in the centre with
balustrades to support the cushions that were heaped up upon carpets.

The Suffet walked at first with rapid strides; he breathed noisily, he
struck the ground with his heel, and drew his hand across his forehead
like a man annoyed by flies. But he shook his head, and as he perceived
the accumulation of his riches he became calm; his thoughts, which were
attracted by the vistas in the passages, wandered to the other halls
that were full of still rarer treasures. Bronze plates, silver ingots,
and iron bars alternated with pigs of tin brought from the Cassiterides
over the Dark Sea; gums from the country of the Blacks were running over
their bags of palm bark; and gold dust heaped up in leathern bottles was
insensibly creeping out through the worn-out seams. Delicate filaments
drawn from marine plants hung amid flax from Egypt, Greece, Taprobane
and Judaea; mandrepores bristled like large bushes at the foot of the
walls; and an indefinable odour--the exhalation from perfumes, leather,
spices, and ostrich feathers, the latter tied in great bunches at the
very top of the vault--floated through the air. An arch was formed above
the door before each passage with elephants’ teeth placed upright and
meeting together at the points.

At last he ascended the stone disc. All the stewards stood with arms
folded and heads bent while Abdalonim reared his pointed mitre with a
haughty air.

Hamilcar questioned the Chief of the Ships. He was an old pilot with
eyelids chafed by the wind, and white locks fell to his hips as if
dashing foam of the tempests had remained on his beard.

He replied that he had sent a fleet by Gades and Thymiamata to try to
reach Eziongaber by doubling the Southern Horn and the promontory of
Aromata.

Others had advanced continuously towards the west for four moons without
meeting with any shore; but the ships prows became entangled in
weeds, the horizon echoed continually with the noise of cataracts,
blood-coloured mists darkened the sun, a perfume-laden breeze lulled the
crews to sleep; and their memories were so disturbed that they were now
unable to tell anything. However, expeditions had ascended the rivers of
the Scythians, had made their way into Colchis, and into the countries
of the Jugrians and of the Estians, had carried off fifteen hundred
maidens in the Archipelago, and sunk all the strange vessels sailing
beyond Cape Oestrymon, so that the secret of the routes should not
be known. King Ptolemaeus was detaining the incense from Schesbar;
Syracuse, Elathia, Corsica, and the islands had furnished nothing, and
the old pilot lowered his voice to announce that a trireme was taken at
Rusicada by the Numidians,--“for they are with them, Master.”

Hamilcar knit his brows; then he signed to the Chief of the Journeys to
speak. This functionary was enveloped in a brown, ungirdled robe, and
had his head covered with a long scarf of white stuff which passed along
the edge of his lips and fell upon his shoulder behind.

The caravans had set out regularly at the winter equinox. But of fifteen
hundred men directing their course towards the extreme boundaries of
Ethiopia with excellent camels, new leathern bottles, and supplies of
painted cloth, but one had reappeared at Carthage--the rest having died
of fatigue or become mad through the terror of the desert;--and he said
that far beyond the Black Harousch, after passing the Atarantes and the
country of the great apes, he had seen immense kingdoms, wherein the
pettiest utensils were all of gold, a river of the colour of milk and
as broad as the sea, forests of blue trees, hills of aromatics, monsters
with human faces vegetating on the rocks with eyeballs which expanded
like flowers to look at you; and then crystal mountains supporting the
sun behind lakes all covered with dragons. Others had returned from
India with peacocks, pepper, and new textures. As to those who go by way
of the Syrtes and the temple of Ammon to purchase chalcedony, they had
no doubt perished in the sands. The caravans from Gaetulia and Phazzana
had furnished their usual supplies; but he, the Chief of the Journeys,
did not venture to fit one out just now.

Hamilcar understood; the Mercenaries were in occupation of the country.
He leaned upon his other elbow with a hollow groan; and the Chief of
Farms was so afraid to speak that he trembled horribly in spite of
his thick shoulders and his big red eyeballs. His face, which was as
snub-nosed as a mastiff’s, was surmounted by a net woven of threads of
bark. He wore a waist-belt of hairy leopard’s skin, wherein gleamed two
formidable cutlasses.

As soon as Hamilcar turned away he began to cry aloud and invoke all the
Baals. It was not his fault! he could not help it! He had watched the
temperature, the soil, the stars, had planted at the winter solstice and
pruned at the waning of the moon, had inspected the slaves and had been
careful of their clothes.

But Hamilcar grew angry at this loquacity. He clacked his tongue, and
the man with the cutlasses went on in rapid tones:

“Ah, Master! they have pillaged everything! sacked everything! destroyed
everything! Three thousand trees have been cut down at Maschala, and
at Ubada the granaries have been looted and the cisterns filled up! At
Tedes they have carried off fifteen hundred gomors of meal; at Marrazana
they have killed the shepherds, eaten the flocks, burnt your house--your
beautiful house with its cedar beams, which you used to visit in the
summer! The slaves at Tuburbo who were reaping barley fled to the
mountains; and the asses, the mules both great and small, the oxen from
Taormina, and the antelopes,--not a single one left! all carried away!
It is a curse! I shall not survive it!” He went on again in tears: “Ah!
if you knew how full the cellars were, and how the ploughshares shone!
Ah! the fine rams! ah! the fine bulls!--”

Hamilcar’s wrath was choking him. It burst forth:

“Be silent! Am I a pauper then? No lies! speak the truth! I wish to know
all that I have lost to the last shekel, to the last cab! Abdalonim,
bring me the accounts of the ships, of the caravans, of the farms, of
the house! And if your consciences are not clear, woe be on your heads!
Go out!”

All the stewards went out walking backwards, with their fists touching
the ground.

Abdalonim went up to a set of pigeon-holes in the wall, and from the
midst of them took out knotted cords, strips of linen or papyrus, and
sheeps’ shoulder-blades inscribed with delicate writing. He laid them
at Hamilcar’s feet, placed in his hands a wooden frame furnished on the
inside with three threads on which balls of gold, silver, and horn were
strung, and began:

“One hundred and ninety-two houses in the Mappalian district let to the
New Carthaginians at the rate of one bekah a moon.”

“No! it is too much! be lenient towards the poor people! and you will
try to learn whether they are attached to the Republic, and write down
the names of those who appear to you to be the most daring! What next?”

Abdalonim hesitated in surprise at such generosity.

Hamilcar snatched the strips of linen from his hands.

“What is this? three palaces around Khamon at twelve kesitahs a month!
Make it twenty! I do not want to be eaten up by the rich.”

The Steward of the stewards, after a long salutation, resumed:

“Lent to Tigillas until the end of the season two kikars at three per
cent., maritime interest; to Bar-Malkarth fifteen hundred shekels on the
security of thirty slaves. But twelve have died in the salt-marshes.”

“That is because they were not hardy,” said the Suffet, laughing. “No
matter! if he is in want of money, satisfy him! We should always lend,
and at different rates of interest, according to the wealth of the
individual.”

Then the servant hastened to read all that had been brought in by the
iron-mines of Annaba, the coral fisheries, the purple factories, the
farming of the tax on the resident Greeks, the export of silver to
Arabia, where it had ten times the value of gold, and the captures of
vessels, deduction of a tenth being made for the temple of the goddess.
“Each time I declared a quarter less, Master!” Hamilcar was reckoning
with the balls; they rang beneath his fingers.

“Enough! What have you paid?”

“To Stratonicles of Corinth, and to three Alexandrian merchants, on
these letters here (they have been realised), ten thousand Athenian
drachmas, and twelve Syrian talents of gold. The food for the crews,
amounting to twenty minae a month for each trireme--”

“I know! How many lost?”

“Here is the account on these sheets of lead,” said the Steward. “As to
the ships chartered in common, it has often been necessary to throw the
cargo into the seas, and so the unequal losses have been divided among
the partners. For the ropes which were borrowed from the arsenals, and
which it was impossible to restore, the Syssitia exacted eight hundred
kesitahs before the expedition to Utica.”

“They again!” said Hamilcar, hanging his head; and he remained for a
time as if quite crushed by the weight of all the hatreds that he could
feel upon him. “But I do not see the Megara expenses?”

Abdalonim, turning pale, went to another set of pigeon-holes, and
took from them some planchettes of sycamore wood strung in packets on
leathern strings.

Hamilcar, curious about these domestic details, listened to him and
grew calm with the monotony of the tones in which the figures were
enumerated. Abdalonim became slower. Suddenly he let the wooden sheets
fall to the ground and threw himself flat on his face with his arms
stretched out in the position of a condemned criminal. Hamilcar picked
up the tablets without any emotion; and his lips parted and his eyes
grew larger when he perceived an exorbitant consumption of meat, fish,
birds, wines, and aromatics, with broken vases, dead slaves, and spoiled
carpets set down as the expense of a single day.

Abdalonim, still prostrate, told him of the feast of the Barbarians.
He had not been able to avoid the command of the Ancients. Moreover,
Salammbo desired money to be lavished for the better reception of the
soldiers.

At his daughter’s name Hamilcar leaped to his feet. Then with compressed
lips he crouched down upon the cushions, tearing the fringes with his
nails, and panting with staring eyes.

“Rise!” said he; and he descended.

Abdalonim followed him; his knees trembled. But seizing an iron bar he
began like one distraught to loosen the paving stones. A wooden disc
sprang up and soon there appeared throughout the length of the passage
several of the large covers employed for stopping up the trenches in
which grain was kept.

“You see, Eye of Baal,” said the servant, trembling, “they have not
taken everything yet! and these are each fifty cubits deep and filled up
to the brim! During your voyage I had them dug out in the arsenals, in
the gardens, everywhere! your house is full of corn as your heart is
full of wisdom.”

A smile passed over Hamilcar’s face. “It is well, Abdalonim!” Then
bending over to his ear: “You will have it brought from Etruria,
Brutium, whence you will, and no matter at what price! Heap it and keep
it! I alone must possess all the corn in Carthage.”

Then when they were alone at the extremity of the passage, Abdalonim,
with one of the keys hanging at his girdle, opened a large quadrangular
chamber divided in the centre by pillars of cedar. Gold, silver, and
brass coins were arranged on tables or packed into niches, and rose
as high as the joists of the roof along the four walls. In the corners
there were huge baskets of hippopotamus skin supporting whole rows of
smaller bags; there were hillocks formed of heaps of bullion on the
pavement; and here and there a pile that was too high had given way and
looked like a ruined column. The large Carthaginian pieces, representing
Tanith with a horse beneath a palm-tree, mingled with those from the
colonies, which were marked with a bull, star, globe, or crescent. Then
there might be seen pieces of all values, dimensions, and ages arrayed
in unequal amounts--from the ancient coins of Assyria, slender as the
nail, to the ancient ones of Latium, thicker than the hand, with the
buttons of Egina, the tablets of Bactriana, and the short bars of
Lacedaemon; many were covered with rust, or had grown greasy, or, having
been taken in nets or from among the ruins of captured cities, were
green with the water or blackened by fire. The Suffet had speedily
calculated whether the sums present corresponded with the gains and
losses which had just been read to him; and he was going away when he
perceived three brass jars completely empty. Abdalonim turned away his
head to mark his horror, and Hamilcar, resigning himself to it, said
nothing.

They crossed other passages and other halls, and at last reached a door
where, to ensure its better protection and in accordance with a Roman
custom lately introduced into Carthage, a man was fastened by the waist
to a long chain let into the wall. His beard and nails had grown to an
immoderate length, and he swayed himself from right to left with that
continual oscillation which is characteristic of captive animals. As
soon as he recognised Hamilcar he darted towards him, crying:

“Pardon, Eye of Baal! pity! kill me! For ten years I have not seen the
sun! In your father’s name, pardon!”

Hamilcar, without answering him, clapped his hands and three men
appeared; and all four simultaneously stiffening their arms, drew back
from its rings the enormous bar which closed the door. Hamilcar took a
torch and disappeared into the darkness.

This was believed to be the family burying-place; but nothing would have
been found in it except a broad well. It was dug out merely to baffle
robbers, and it concealed nothing. Hamilcar passed along beside it; then
stooping down he made a very heavy millstone turn upon its rollers, and
through this aperture entered an apartment which was built in the shape
of a cone.

The walls were covered with scales of brass; and in the centre, on a
granite pedestal, stood the statue of one of the Kabiri called Aletes,
the discoverer of the mines in Celtiberia. On the ground, at its base,
and arranged in the form of a cross, were large gold shields and monster
close-necked silver vases, of extravagant shape and unfitted for use;
it was customary to cast quantities of metal in this way, so that
dilapidation and even removal should be almost impossible.

With his torch he lit a miner’s lamp which was fastened to the idol’s
cap, and green, yellow, blue, violet, wine-coloured, and blood-coloured
fires suddenly illuminated the hall. It was filled with gems which were
either in gold calabashes fastened like sconces upon sheets of brass,
or were ranged in native masses at the foot of the wall. There were
callaides shot away from the mountains with slings, carbuncles formed
by the urine of the lynx, glossopetrae which had fallen from the moon,
tyanos, diamonds, sandastra, beryls, with the three kinds of rubies, the
four kinds of sapphires, and the twelve kinds of emeralds. They gleamed
like splashes of milk, blue icicles, and silver dust, and shed their
light in sheets, rays, and stars. Ceraunia, engendered by the thunder,
sparkled by the side of chalcedonies, which are a cure for poison. There
were topazes from Mount Zabarca to avert terrors, opals from Bactriana
to prevent abortions, and horns of Ammon, which are placed under the bed
to induce dreams.

The fires from the stones and the flames from the lamp were mirrored in
the great golden shields. Hamilcar stood smiling with folded arms, and
was less delighted by the sight of his riches than by the consciousness
of their possession. They were inaccessible, exhaustless, infinite.
His ancestors sleeping beneath his feet transmitted something of their
eternity to his heart. He felt very near to the subterranean deities.
It was as the joy of one of the Kabiri; and the great luminous rays
striking upon his face looked like the extremity of an invisible net
linking him across the abysses with the centre of the world.

A thought came which made him shudder, and placing himself behind the
idol he walked straight up to the wall. Then among the tattooings on his
arm he scrutinised a horizontal line with two other perpendicular ones
which in Chanaanitish figures expressed the number thirteen. Then he
counted as far as the thirteenth of the brass plates and again raised
his ample sleeve; and with his right hand stretched out he read other
more complicated lines on his arm, at the same time moving his fingers
daintily about like one playing on a lyre. At last he struck seven blows
with his thumb, and an entire section of the wall turned about in a
single block.

It served to conceal a sort of cellar containing mysterious things which
had no name and were of incalculable value. Hamilcar went down the three
steps, took up a llama’s skin which was floating on a black liquid in a
silver vat, and then re-ascended.

Abdalonim again began to walk before him. He struck the pavement with
his tall cane, the pommel of which was adorned with bells, and before
every apartment cried aloud the name of Hamilcar amid eulogies and
benedictions.

Along the walls of the circular gallery, from which the passages
branched off, were piled little beams of algummim, bags of Lawsonia,
cakes of Lemnos-earth, and tortoise carapaces filled with pearls. The
Suffet brushed them with his robe as he passed without even looking at
some gigantic pieces of amber, an almost divine material formed by the
rays of the sun.

A cloud of odorous vapour burst forth.

“Push open the door!”

They went in.

Naked men were kneading pastes, crushing herbs, stirring coals, pouring
oil into jars, and opening and shutting the little ovoid cells which
were hollowed out all round in the wall, and were so numerous that
the apartment was like the interior of a hive. They were brimful of
myrobalan, bdellium, saffron, and violets. Gums, powders, roots, glass
phials, branches of filipendula, and rose-petals were scattered about
everywhere, and the scents were stifling in spite of the cloud-wreaths
from the styrax shrivelling on a brazen tripod in the centre.

The Chief of the Sweet Odours, pale and long as a waxen torch, came up
to Hamilcar to crush a roll of metopion in his hands, while two others
rubbed his heels with leaves of baccharis. He repelled them; they were
Cyreneans of infamous morals, but valued on account of the secrets which
they possessed.

To show his vigilance the Chief of the Odours offered the Suffet a
little malobathrum to taste in an electrum spoon; then he pierced three
Indian bezoars with an awl. The master, who knew the artifices employed,
took a horn full of balm, and after holding it near the coals inclined
it over his robe. A brown spot appeared; it was a fraud. Then he gazed
fixedly at the Chief of the Odours, and without saying anything flung
the gazelle’s horn full in his face.

However indignant he might be at adulterations made to his own
prejudice, when he perceived some parcels of nard which were being
packed up for countries beyond the sea, he ordered antimony to be mixed
with it so as to make it heavier.

Then he asked where three boxes of psagdas designed for his own use were
to be found.

The Chief of the Odours confessed that he did not know; some soldiers
had come howling in with knives and he had opened the boxes for them.

“So you are more afraid of them then of me!” cried the Suffet; and his
eyeballs flashed like torches through the smoke upon the tall, pale man
who was beginning to understand. “Abdalonim! you will make him run the
gauntlet before sunset: tear him!”

This loss, which was less than the others, had exasperated him; for in
spite of his efforts to banish them from his thoughts he was continually
coming again across the Barbarians. Their excesses were blended with his
daughter’s shame, and he was angry with the whole household for knowing
of the latter and for not speaking of it to him. But something impelled
him to bury himself in his misfortune; and in an inquisitorial fit he
visited the sheds behind the mercantile house to see the supplies of
bitumen, wood, anchors and cordage, honey and wax, the cloth warehouse,
the stores of food, the marble yard and the silphium barn.

He went to the other side of the gardens to make an inspection in their
cottages, of the domestic artisans whose productions were sold. There
were tailors embroidering cloaks, others making nets, others painting
cushions or cutting out sandals, and Egyptian workmen polished papyrus
with a shell, while the weavers’ shuttles rattled and the armourers’
anvils rang.

Hamilcar said to them:

“Beat away at the swords! I shall want them.” And he drew the antelope’s
skin that had been steeped in poisons from his bosom to have it cut
into a cuirass more solid than one of brass and unassailable by steel or
flame.

As soon as he approached the workmen, Abdalonim, to give his wrath
another direction, tried to anger him against them by murmured
disparagement of their work. “What a performance! It is a shame! The
Master is indeed too good.” Hamilcar moved away without listening to
him.

He slackened his pace, for the paths were barred by great trees calcined
from one end to the other, such as may be met with in woods where
shepherds have encamped; and the palings were broken, the water in the
trenches was disappearing, while fragments of glass and the bones of
apes were to be seen amid the miry puddles. A scrap of cloth hung
here and there from the bushes, and the rotten flowers formed a yellow
muck-heap beneath the citron trees. In fact, the servants had neglected
everything, thinking that the master would never return.

At every step he discovered some new disaster, some further proof of the
thing which he had forbidden himself to learn. Here he was soiling his
purple boots as he crushed the filth under-foot; and he had not all
these men before him at the end of a catapult to make them fly into
fragments! He felt humiliated at having defended them; it was a delusion
and a piece of treachery; and as he could not revenge himself upon
the soldiers, or the Ancients, or Salammbo, or anybody, and his wrath
required some victim, he condemned all the slaves of the gardens to the
mines at a single stroke.

Abdalonim shuddered each time that he saw him approaching the parks. But
Hamilcar took the path towards the mill, from which there might be heard
issuing a mournful melopoeia.

The heavy mill-stones were turning amid the dust. They consisted of two
cones of porphyry laid the one upon the other--the upper one of the two,
which carried a funnel, being made to revolve upon the second by means
of strong bars. Some men were pushing these with their breasts and arms,
while others were yoked to them and were pulling them. The friction of
the straps had formed purulent scabs round about their armpits such as
are seen on asses’ withers, and the end of the limp black rag, which
scarcely covered their loins, hung down and flapped against their hams
like a long tail. Their eyes were red, the irons on their feet clanked,
and all their breasts panted rhythmically. On their mouths they had
muzzles fastened by two little bronze chains to render it impossible
for them to eat the flour, and their hands were enclosed in gauntlets
without fingers, so as to prevent them from taking any.

At the master’s entrance the wooden bars creaked still more loudly. The
grain grated as it was being crushed. Several fell upon their knees; the
others, continuing their work, stepped across them.

He asked for Giddenem, the governor of the slaved, and that personage
appeared, his rank being displayed in the richness of his dress. His
tunic, which was slit up the sides, was of fine purple; his ears were
weighted with heavy rings; and the strips of cloth enfolding his legs
were joined together with a lacing of gold which extended from his
ankles to his hips, like a serpent winding about a tree. In his fingers,
which were laden with rings, he held a necklace of jet beads, so as to
recognise the men who were subject to the sacred disease.

Hamilcar signed to him to unfasten the muzzles. Then with the cries of
famished animals they all rushed upon the flour, burying their faces in
the heaps of it and devouring it.

“You are weakening them!” said the Suffet.

Giddenem replied that such treatment was necessary in order to subdue
them.

“It was scarcely worth while sending you to the slaves’ school at
Syracuse. Fetch the others!”

And the cooks, butlers, grooms, runners, and litter-carriers, the men
belonging to the vapour-baths, and the women with their children, all
ranged themselves in a single line in the garden from the mercantile
house to the deer park. They held their breath. An immense silence
prevailed in Megara. The sun was lengthening across the lagoon at the
foot of the catacombs. The peacocks were screeching. Hamilcar walked
along step by step.

“What am I to do with these old creatures?” he said. “Sell them! There
are too many Gauls: they are drunkards! and too many Cretans: they are
liars! Buy me some Cappadocians, Asiatics, and Negroes.”

He was astonished that the children were so few. “The house ought to
have births every year, Giddenem. You will leave the huts open every
night to let them mingle freely.”

He then had the thieves, the lazy, and the mutinous shown to him. He
distributed punishments, with reproaches to Giddenem; and Giddenem,
ox-like, bent his low forehead, with its two broad intersecting
eyebrows.

“See, Eye of Baal,” he said, pointing out a sturdy Libyan, “here is one
who was caught with the rope round his neck.”

“Ah! you wish to die?” said the Suffet scornfully.

“Yes!” replied the slave in an intrepid tone.

Then, without heeding the precedent or the pecuniary loss, Hamilcar said
to the serving-men:

“Away with him!”

Perhaps in his thoughts he intended a sacrifice. It was a misfortune
which he inflicted upon himself in order to avert more terrible ones.

Giddenem had hidden those who were mutilated behind the others. Hamilcar
perceived them.

“Who cut off your arm?”

“The soldiers, Eye of Baal.”

Then to a Samnite who was staggering like a wounded heron:

“And you, who did that to you?”

It was the governor, who had broken his leg with an iron bar.

This silly atrocity made the Suffet indignant; he snatched the jet
necklace out of Giddenem’s hands.

“Cursed be the dog that injures the flock! Gracious Tanith, to cripple
slaves! Ah! you ruin your master! Let him be smothered in the dunghill.
And those that are missing? Where are they? Have you helped the soldiers
to murder them?”

His face was so terrible that all the women fled. The slaves drew back
and formed a large circle around them; Giddenem was frantically kissing
his sandals; Hamilcar stood upright with his arms raised above him.

But with his understanding as clear as in the sternest of his battles,
he recalled a thousand odious things, ignominies from which he had
turned aside; and in the gleaming of his wrath he could once more see
all his disasters simultaneously as in the lightnings of a storm.
The governors of the country estates had fled through terror of the
soldiers, perhaps through collusion with them; they were all deceiving
him; he had restrained himself too long.

“Bring them here!” he cried; “and brand them on the forehead with
red-hot irons as cowards!”

Then they brought and spread out in the middle of the garden, fetters,
carcanets, knives, chains for those condemned to the mines, cippi for
fastening the legs, numellae for confining the shoulders, and scorpions
or whips with triple thongs terminating in brass claws.

All were placed facing the sun, in the direction of Moloch the Devourer,
and were stretched on the ground on their stomachs or on their backs,
those, however, who were sentenced to be flogged standing upright
against the trees with two men beside them, one counting the blows and
the other striking.

In striking he used both his arms, and the whistling thongs made the
bark of the plane-trees fly. The blood was scattered like rain upon the
foliage, and red masses writhed with howls at the foot of the trees.
Those who were under the iron tore their faces with their nails.
The wooden screws could be heard creaking; dull knockings resounded;
sometimes a sharp cry would suddenly pierce the air. In the direction of
the kitchens, men were brisking up burning coals with fans amid
tattered garments and scattered hair, and a smell of burning flesh was
perceptible. Those who were under the scourge, swooning, but kept in
their positions by the bonds on their arms, rolled their heads upon
their shoulders and closed their eyes. The others who were watching
them began to shriek with terror, and the lions, remembering the feast
perhaps, stretched themselves out yawning against the edge of the dens.

Then Salammbo was seen on the platform of her terrace. She ran wildly
about it from left to right. Hamilcar perceived her. It seemed to him
that she was holding up her arms towards him to ask for pardon; with a
gesture of horror he plunged into the elephants’ park.

These animals were the pride of the great Punic houses. They had carried
their ancestors, had triumphed in the wars, and they were reverenced as
being the favourites of the Sun.

Those of Megara were the strongest in Carthage. Before he went away
Hamilcar had required Abdalonim to swear that he would watch over them.
But they had died from their mutilations; and only three remained, lying
in the middle of the court in the dust before the ruins of their manger.

They recognised him and came up to him. One had its ears horribly slit,
another had a large wound in its knee, while the trunk of the third was
cut off.

They looked sadly at him, like reasonable creatures; and the one that
had lost its trunk tried by stooping its huge head and bending its hams
to stroke him softly with the hideous extremity of its stump.

At this caress from the animal two tears started into his eyes. He
rushed at Abdalonim.

“Ah! wretch! the cross! the cross!”

Abdalonim fell back swooning upon the ground.

The bark of a jackal rang from behind the purple factories, the blue
smoke of which was ascending slowly into the sky; Hamilcar paused.

The thought of his son had suddenly calmed him like the touch of a
god. He caught a glimpse of a prolongation of his might, an indefinite
continuation of his personality, and the slaves could not understand
whence this appeasement had come upon him.

As he bent his steps towards the purple factories he passed before the
ergastulum, which was a long house of black stone built in a square pit
with a small pathway all round it and four staircases at the corners.

Iddibal was doubtless waiting until the night to finish his signal.
“There is no hurry yet,” thought Hamilcar; and he went down into the
prison. Some cried out to him: “Return”; the boldest followed him.

The open door was flapping in the wind. The twilight entered through
the narrow loopholes, and in the interior broken chains could be
distinguished hanging from the walls.

This was all that remained of the captives of war!

Then Hamilcar grew extraordinarily pale, and those who were leaning
over the pit outside saw him resting one hand against the wall to keep
himself from falling.

But the jackal uttered its cry three times in succession. Hamilcar
raised his head; he did not speak a word nor make a gesture. Then when
the sun had completely set he disappeared behind the nopal hedge, and in
the evening he said as he entered the assembly of the rich in the temple
of Eschmoun:

“Luminaries of the Baalim, I accept the command of the Punic forces
against the army of the Barbarians!”



CHAPTER VIII

THE BATTLE OF THE MACARAS

In the following day he drew two hundred and twenty-three thousand
kikars of gold from the Syssitia, and decreed a tax of fourteen shekels
upon the rich. Even the women contributed; payment was made in behalf
of the children, and he compelled the colleges of priests to furnish
money--a monstrous thing, according to Carthaginian customs.

He demanded all the horses, mules, and arms. A few tried to conceal
their wealth, and their property was sold; and, to intimidate the
avarice of the rest, he himself gave sixty suits of armour, and fifteen
hundred gomers of meal, which was as much as was given by the Ivory
Company.

He sent into Liguria to buy soldiers, three thousand mountaineers
accustomed to fight with bears; they were paid for six moons in advance
at the rate of four minae a day.

Nevertheless an army was wanted. But he did not, like Hanno, accept all
the citizens. First he rejected those engaged in sedentary occupations,
and then those who were big-bellied or had a pusillanimous look; and he
admitted those of ill-repute, the scum of Malqua, sons of Barbarians,
freed men. For reward he promised some of the New Carthaginians complete
rights of citizenship.

His first care was to reform the Legion. These handsome young fellows,
who regarded themselves as the military majesty of the Republic,
governed themselves. He reduced their officers to the ranks; he treated
them harshly, made them run, leap, ascend the declivity of Byrsa at a
single burst, hurl javelins, wrestle together, and sleep in the squares
at night. Their families used to come to see them and pity them.

He ordered shorter swords and stronger buskins. He fixed the number of
serving-men, and reduced the amount of baggage; and as there were three
hundred Roman pila kept in the temple of Moloch, he took them in spite
of the pontiff’s protests.

He organised a phalanx of seventy-two elephants with those which
had returned from Utica, and others which were private property, and
rendered them formidable. He armed their drivers with mallet and chisel
to enable them to split their skulls in the fight if they ran away.

He would not allow his generals to be nominated by the Grand Council.
The Ancients tried to urge the laws in objection, but he set them aside;
no one ventured to murmur again, and everything yielded to the violence
of his genius.

He assumed sole charge of the war, the government, and the finances;
and as a precaution against accusations he demanded the Suffet Hanno as
examiner of his accounts.

He set to work upon the ramparts, and had the old and now useless inner
walls demolished in order to furnish stones. But difference of fortune,
replacing the hierarchy of race, still kept the sons of the vanquished
and those of the conquerors apart; thus the patricians viewed the
destruction of these ruins with an angry eye, while the plebeians,
scarcely knowing why, rejoiced.

The troops defiled under arms through the streets from morning till
night; every moment the sound of trumpets was heard; chariots passed
bearing shields, tents, and pikes; the courts were full of women engaged
in tearing up linen; the enthusiasm spread from one to another, and
Hamilcar’s soul filled the Republic.

He had divided his soldiers into even numbers, being careful to place
a strong man and a weak one alternately throughout the length of his
files, so that he who was less vigorous or more cowardly might be at
once led and pushed forward by two others. But with his three thousand
Ligurians, and the best in Carthage, he could form only a simple phalanx
of four thousand and ninety-six hoplites, protected by bronze helmets,
and handling ashen sarissae fourteen cubits long.

There were two thousand young men, each equipped with a sling, a dagger,
and sandals. He reinforced them with eight hundred others armed with
round shields and Roman swords.

The heavy cavalry was composed of the nineteen hundred remaining
guardsmen of the Legion, covered with plates of vermilion bronze, like
the Assyrian Clinabarians. He had further four hundred mounted archers,
of those that were called Tarentines, with caps of weasel’s skin,
two-edged axes, and leathern tunics. Finally there were twelve hundred
Negroes from the quarter of the caravans, who were mingled with the
Clinabarians, and were to run beside the stallions with one hand resting
on the manes. All was ready, and yet Hamilcar did not start.

Often at night he would go out of Carthage alone and make his way beyond
the lagoon towards the mouths of the Macaras. Did he intend to join the
Mercenaries? The Ligurians encamped in the Mappalian district surrounded
his house.

The apprehensions of the rich appeared justified when, one day, three
hundred Barbarians were seen approaching the walls. The Suffet opened
the gates to them; they were deserters; drawn by fear or by fidelity,
they were hastening to their master.

Hamilcar’s return had not surprised the Mercenaries; according to their
ideas the man could not die. He was returning to fulfil his promise;--a
hope by no means absurd, so deep was the abyss between Country and
Army. Moreover they did not believe themselves culpable; the feast was
forgotten.

The spies whom they surprised undeceived them. It was a triumph for the
bitter; even the lukewarm grew furious. Then the two sieges overwhelmed
then with weariness; no progress was being made; a battle would be
better! Thus many men had left the ranks and were scouring the country.
But at news of the arming they returned; Matho leaped for joy. “At last!
at last!” he cried.

Then the resentment which he cherished against Salammbo was turned
against Hamilcar. His hate could now perceive a definite prey; and as
his vengeance grew easier of conception he almost believed that he
had realised it and he revelled in it already. At the same time he was
seized with a loftier tenderness, and consumed by more acrid desire.
He saw himself alternately in the midst of the soldiers brandishing
the Suffet’s head on a pike, and then in the room with the purple bed,
clasping the maiden in his arms, covering her face with kisses, passing
his hands over her long, black hair; and the imagination of this, which
he knew could never be realised, tortured him. He swore to himself that,
since his companions had appointed him schalishim, he would conduct the
war; the certainty that he would not return from it urged him to render
it a pitiless one.

He came to Spendius and said to him:

“You will go and get your men! I will bring mine! Warn Autaritus! We are
lost if Hamilcar attacks us! Do you understand me? Rise!”

Spendius was stupefied before such an air of authority. Matho usually
allowed himself to be led, and his previous transports had quickly
passed away. But just now he appeared at once calmer and more terrible;
a superb will gleamed in his eyes like the flame of sacrifice.

The Greek did not listen to his reasons. He was living in one of the
Carthaginian pearl-bordered tents, drinking cool beverages from silver
cups, playing at the cottabos, letting his hair grow, and conducting the
siege with slackness. Moreover, he had entered into communications with
some in the town and would not leave, being sure that it would open its
gates before many days were over.

Narr’ Havas, who wandered about among the three armies, was at that
time with him. He supported his opinion, and even blamed the Libyan for
wishing in his excess of courage to abandon their enterprise.

“Go, if you are afraid!” exclaimed Matho; “you promised us pitch,
sulphur, elephants, foot-soldiers, horses! where are they?”

Narr’ Havas reminded him that he had exterminated Hanno’s last
cohorts;--as to the elephants, they were being hunted in the woods,
he was arming the foot-soldiers, the horses were on their way; and the
Numidian rolled his eyes like a woman and smiled in an irritating manner
as he stroked the ostrich feather which fell upon his shoulder. In his
presence Matho was at a loss for a reply.

But a man who was a stranger entered, wet with perspiration, scared,
and with bleeding feet and loosened girdle; his breathing shook his
lean sides enough to have burst them, and speaking in an unintelligible
dialect he opened his eyes wide as if he were telling of some battle.
The king sprang outside and called his horsemen.

They ranged themselves in the plain before him in the form of a circle.
Narr’ Havas, who was mounted, bent his head and bit his lips. At last he
separated his men into two equal divisions, and told the first to wait;
then with an imperious gesture he carried off the others at a gallop and
disappeared on the horizon in the direction of the mountains.

“Master!” murmured Spendius, “I do not like these extraordinary
chances--the Suffet returning, Narr’ Havas going away--”

“Why! what does it matter?” said Matho disdainfully.

It was a reason the more for anticipating Hamilcar by uniting with
Autaritus. But if the siege of the towns were raised, the inhabitants
would come out and attack them in the rear, while they would have the
Carthaginians in front. After much talking the following measures were
resolved upon and immediately executed.

Spendius proceeded with fifteen thousand men as far as the bridge built
across the Macaras, three miles from Utica; the corners of it were
fortified with four huge towers provided with catapults; all the paths
and gorges in the mountains were stopped up with trunks of trees, pieces
of rock, interlacings of thorn, and stone walls; on the summits heaps
of grass were made which might be lighted as signals, and shepherds who
were able to see at a distance were posted at intervals.

No doubt Hamilcar would not, like Hanno, advance by the mountain of
the Hot Springs. He would think that Autaritus, being master of the
interior, would close the route against him. Moreover, a check at the
opening of the campaign would ruin him, while if he gained a victory he
would soon have to make a fresh beginning, the Mercenaries being further
off. Again, he could disembark at Cape Grapes and march thence upon one
of the towns. But he would then find himself between the two armies,
an indiscretion which he could not commit with his scanty forces.
Accordingly he must proceed along the base of Mount Ariana, then turn
to the left to avoid the mouths of the Macaras, and come straight to the
bridge. It was there that Matho expected him.

At night he used to inspect the pioneers by torch-light. He would hasten
to Hippo-Zarytus or to the works on the mountains, would come back
again, would never rest. Spendius envied his energy; but in the
management of spies, the choice of sentries, the working of the engines
and all means of defence, Matho listened docilely to his companion. They
spoke no more of Salammbo,--one not thinking about her, and the other
being prevented by a feeling of shame.

Often he would go towards Carthage, striving to catch sight of
Hamilcar’s troops. His eyes would dart along the horizon; he would
lie flat on the ground, and believe that he could hear an army in the
throbbing of his arteries.

He told Spendius that if Hamilcar did not arrive in three days he would
go with all his men to meet him and offer him battle. Two further days
elapsed. Spendius restrained him; but on the morning of the sixth day he
departed.

The Carthaginians were no less impatient for war than the Barbarians.
In tents and in houses there was the same longing and the same distress;
all were asking one another what was delaying Hamilcar.

From time to time he would mount to the cupola of the temple of Eschmoun
beside the Announcer of the Moons and take note of the wind.

One day--it was the third of the month of Tibby--they saw him descending
from the Acropolis with hurried steps. A great clamour arose in the
Mappalian district. Soon the streets were astir, and the soldiers were
everywhere beginning to arm themselves upon their breasts; then they ran
quickly to the square of Khamon to take their places in the ranks. No
one was allowed to follow them or even to speak to them, or to approach
the ramparts; for some minutes the whole town was silent as a great
tomb. The soldiers as they leaned on their lances were thinking, and the
others in the houses were sighing.

At sunset the army went out by the western gate; but instead of taking
the road to Tunis or making for the mountains in the direction of Utica,
they continued their march along the edge of the sea; and they soon
reached the Lagoon, where round spaces quite whitened with salt
glittered like gigantic silver dishes forgotten on the shore.

Then the pools of water multiplied. The ground gradually became softer,
and the feet sank in it. Hamilcar did not turn back. He went on still
at their head; and his horse, which was yellow-spotted like a dragon,
advanced into the mire flinging froth around him, and with great
straining of the loins. Night--a moonless light--fell. A few cried out
that they were about to perish; he snatched their arms from them, and
gave them to the serving-men. Nevertheless the mud became deeper and
deeper. Some had to mount the beasts of burden; others clung to the
horses’ tails; the sturdy pulled the weak, and the Ligurian corps drove
on the infantry with the points of their pikes. The darkness increased.
They had lost their way. All stopped.

Then some of the Suffet’s slaves went on ahead to look for the buoys
which had been placed at intervals by his order. They shouted through
the darkness, and the army followed them at a distance.

At last they felt the resistance of the ground. Then a whitish curve
became dimly visible, and they found themselves on the bank of the
Macaras. In spite of the cold no fires were lighted.

In the middle of the night squalls of wind arose. Hamilcar had the
soldiers roused, but not a trumpet was sounded: their captain tapped
them softly on the shoulder.

A man of lofty stature went down into the water. It did not come up to
his girdle; it was possible to cross.

The Suffet ordered thirty-two of the elephants to be posted in the river
a hundred paces further on, while the others, lower down, would check
the lines of men that were carried away by the current; and holding
their weapons above their heads they all crossed the Macaras as though
between two walls. He had noticed that the western wind had driven the
sand so as to obstruct the river and form a natural causeway across it.

He was now on the left bank in front of Utica, and in a vast plain, the
latter being advantageous for his elephants, which formed the strength
of his army.

This feat of genius filled the soldiers with enthusiasm. They recovered
extraordinary confidence. They wished to hasten immediately against the
Barbarians; but the Suffet bade them rest for two hours. As soon as the
sun appeared they moved into the plain in three lines--first came the
elephants, and then the light infantry with the cavalry behind it, the
phalanx marching next.

The Barbarians encamped at Utica, and the fifteen thousand about the
bridge were surprised to see the ground undulating in the distance. The
wind, which was blowing very hard, was driving tornadoes of sand before
it; they rose as though snatched from the soil, ascended in great
light-coloured strips, then parted asunder and began again, hiding the
Punic army the while from the Mercenaries. Owing to the horns, which
stood up on the edge of the helmets, some thought that they could
perceive a herd of oxen; others, deceived by the motion of the cloaks,
pretended that they could distinguish wings, and those who had travelled
a good deal shrugged their shoulders and explained everything by
the illusions of the mirage. Nevertheless something of enormous size
continued to advance. Little vapours, as subtle as the breath, ran
across the surface of the desert; the sun, which was higher now, shone
more strongly: a harsh light, which seemed to vibrate, threw back
the depths of the sky, and permeating objects, rendered distance
incalculable. The immense plain expanded in every direction beyond the
limits of vision; and the almost insensible undulations of the soil
extended to the extreme horizon, which was closed by a great blue line
which they knew to be the sea. The two armies, having left their tents,
stood gazing; the people of Utica were massing on the ramparts to have a
better view.

At last they distinguished several transverse bars bristling with level
points. They became thicker, larger; black hillocks swayed to and fro;
square thickets suddenly appeared; they were elephants and lances. A
single shout went up: “The Carthaginians!” and without signal or command
the soldiers at Utica and those at the bridge ran pell-mell to fall in a
body upon Hamilcar.

Spendius shuddered at the name. “Hamilcar! Hamilcar!” he repeated,
panting, and Matho was not there! What was to be done? No means of
flight! The suddenness of the event, his terror of the Suffet, and above
all, the urgent need of forming an immediate resolution, distracted him;
he could see himself pierced by a thousand swords, decapitated, dead.
Meanwhile he was being called for; thirty thousand men would follow him;
he was seized with fury against himself; he fell back upon the hope of
victory; it was full of bliss, and he believed himself more intrepid
than Epaminondas. He smeared his cheeks with vermilion in order to
conceal his paleness, then he buckled on his knemids and his cuirass,
swallowed a patera of pure wine, and ran after his troops, who were
hastening towards those from Utica.

They united so rapidly that the Suffet had not time to draw up his
men in battle array. By degrees he slackened his speed. The elephants
stopped; they rocked their heavy heads with their chargings of ostrich
feathers, striking their shoulders the while with their trunks.

Behind the intervals between them might be seen the cohorts of the
velites, and further on the great helmets of the Clinabarians,
with steel heads glancing in the sun, cuirasses, plumes, and waving
standards. But the Carthaginian army, which amounted to eleven thousand
three hundred and ninety-six men, seemed scarcely to contain them, for
it formed an oblong, narrow at the sides and pressed back upon itself.

Seeing them so weak, the Barbarians, who were thrice as numerous, were
seized with extravagant joy. Hamilcar was not to be seen. Perhaps he
had remained down yonder? Moreover what did it matter? The disdain
which they felt for these traders strengthened their courage; and before
Spendius could command a manoeuvre they had all understood it, and
already executed it.

They were deployed in a long, straight line, overlapping the wings of
the Punic army in order to completely encompass it. But when there
was an interval of only three hundred paces between the armies, the
elephants turned round instead of advancing; then the Clinabarians were
seen to face about and follow them; and the surprise of the Mercenaries
increased when they saw the archers running to join them. So the
Carthaginians were afraid, they were fleeing! A tremendous hooting broke
out from among the Barbarian troops, and Spendius exclaimed from the top
of his dromedary: “Ah! I knew it! Forward! forward!”

Then javelins, darts, and sling-bullets burst forth simultaneously. The
elephants feeling their croups stung by the arrows began to gallop more
quickly; a great dust enveloped them, and they vanished like shadows in
a cloud.

But from the distance there came a loud noise of footsteps dominated by
the shrill sound of the trumpets, which were being blown furiously.
The space which the Barbarians had in front of them, which was full
of eddies and tumult, attracted like a whirlpool; some dashed into it.
Cohorts of infantry appeared; they closed up; and at the same time
all the rest saw the foot-soldiers hastening up with the horseman at a
gallop.

Hamilcar had, in fact, ordered the phalanx to break its sections, and
the elephants, light troops, and cavalry to pass through the intervals
so as to bring themselves speedily upon the wings, and so well had he
calculated the distance from the Barbarians, that at the moment when
they reached him, the entire Carthaginian army formed one long straight
line.

In the centre bristled the phalanx, formed of syntagmata or full squares
having sixteen men on each side. All the leaders of all the files
appeared amid long, sharp lanceheads, which jutted out unevenly around
them, for the first six ranks crossed their sarissae, holding them in
the middle, and the ten lower ranks rested them upon the shoulders of
their companions in succession before them. Their faces were all half
hidden beneath the visors of their helmets; their right legs were all
covered with bronze knemids; broad cylindrical shields reached down to
their knees; and the horrible quadrangular mass moved in a single body,
and seemed to live like an animal and work like a machine. Two cohorts
of elephants flanked it in regular array; quivering, they shook off the
splinters of the arrows that clung to their black skins. The Indians,
squatting on their withers among the tufts of white feathers, restrained
them with their spoon-headed harpoons, while the men in the towers, who
were hidden up to their shoulders, moved about iron distaffs furnished
with lighted tow on the edges of their large bended bows. Right and
left of the elephants hovered the slingers, each with a sling around his
loins, a second on his head, and a third in his right hand. Then came
the Clinabarians, each flanked by a Negro, and pointing their lances
between the ears of their horses, which, like themselves, were
completely covered with gold. Afterwards, at intervals, came the light
armed soldiers with shields of lynx skin, beyond which projected the
points of the javelins which they held in their left hands; while
the Tarentines, each having two coupled horses, relieved this wall of
soldiers at its two extremities.

The army of the Barbarians, on the contrary, had not been able to
preserve its line. Undulations and blanks were to be found through
its extravagant length; all were panting and out of breath with their
running.

The phalanx moved heavily along with thrusts from all its sarissae;
and the too slender line of the Mercenaries soon yielded in the centre
beneath the enormous weight.

Then the Carthaginian wings expanded in order to fall upon them, the
elephants following. The phalanx, with obliquely pointed lances, cut
through the Barbarians; there were two enormous, struggling bodies; and
the wings with slings and arrows beat them back upon the phalangites.
There was no cavalry to get rid of them, except two hundred Numidians
operating against the right squadron of the Clinabarians. All the rest
were hemmed in, and unable to extricate themselves from the lines. The
peril was imminent, and the need of coming to some resolution urgent.

Spendius ordered attacks to be made simultaneously on both flanks of the
phalanx so as to pass clean through it. But the narrower ranks glided
below the longer ones and recovered their position, and the phalanx
turned upon the Barbarians as terrible in flank as it had just been in
front.

They struck at the staves of the sarissae, but the cavalry in the rear
embarrassed their attack; and the phalanx, supported by the elephants,
lengthened and contracted, presenting itself in the form of a square,
a cone, a rhombus, a trapezium, a pyramid. A twofold internal movement
went on continually from its head to its rear; for those who were at
the lowest part of the files hastened up to the first ranks, while the
latter, from fatigue, or on account of the wounded, fell further back.
The Barbarians found themselves thronged upon the phalanx. It was
impossible for it to advance; there was, as it were, an ocean wherein
leaped red crests and scales of brass, while the bright shields rolled
like silver foam. Sometimes broad currents would descend from one
extremity to the other, and then go up again, while a heavy mass
remained motionless in the centre. The lances dipped and rose
alternately. Elsewhere there was so quick a play of naked swords that
only the points were visible, while turmae of cavalry formed wide
circles which closed again like whirlwinds behind them.

Above the voices of the captains, the ringing of clarions and the
grating of tyres, bullets of lead and almonds of clay whistled through
the air, dashing the sword from the hand or the brain out of the skull.
The wounded, sheltering themselves with one arm beneath their shields,
pointed their swords by resting the pommels on the ground, while others,
lying in pools of blood, would turn and bite the heels of those above
them. The multitude was so compact, the dust so thick, and the tumult
so great that it was impossible to distinguish anything; the cowards who
offered to surrender were not even heard. Those whose hands were empty
clasped one another close; breasts cracked against cuirasses, and
corpses hung with head thrown back between a pair of contracted arms.
There was a company of sixty Umbrians who, firm on their hams, their
pikes before their eyes, immovable and grinding their teeth, forced two
syntagmata to recoil simultaneously. Some Epirote shepherds ran upon the
left squadron of the Clinabarians, and whirling their staves, seized the
horses by the man; the animals threw their riders and fled across the
plain. The Punic slingers scattered here and there stood gaping. The
phalanx began to waver, the captains ran to and fro in distraction,
the rearmost in the files were pressing upon the soldiers, and the
Barbarians had re-formed; they were recovering; the victory was theirs.

But a cry, a terrible cry broke forth, a roar of pain and wrath: it came
from the seventy-two elephants which were rushing on in double line,
Hamilcar having waited until the Mercenaries were massed together in
one spot to let them loose against them; the Indians had goaded them so
vigorously that blood was trickling down their broad ears. Their trunks,
which were smeared with mimium, were stretched straight out in the air
like red serpents; their breasts were furnished with spears and their
backs with cuirasses; their tusks were lengthened with steel blades
curved like sabres,--and to make them more ferocious they had been
intoxicated with a mixture of pepper, wine, and incense. They shook
their necklaces of bells, and shrieked; and the elephantarchs bent their
heads beneath the stream of phalaricas which was beginning to fly from
the tops of the towers.

In order to resist them the better the Barbarians rushed forward in
a compact crowd; the elephants flung themselves impetuously upon the
centre of it. The spurs on their breasts, like ships’ prows, clove
through the cohorts, which flowed surging back. They stifled the men
with their trunks, or else snatching them up from the ground delivered
them over their heads to the soldiers in the towers; with their tusks
they disembowelled them, and hurled them into the air, and long entrails
hung from their ivory fangs like bundles of rope from a mast. The
Barbarians strove to blind them, to hamstring them; others would slip
beneath their bodies, bury a sword in them up to the hilt, and perish
crushed to death; the most intrepid clung to their straps; they would go
on sawing the leather amid flames, bullets, and arrows, and the wicker
tower would fall like a tower of stone. Fourteen of the animals on the
extreme right, irritated by their wounds, turned upon the second rank;
the Indians seized mallet and chisel, applied the latter to a joint in
the head, and with all their might struck a great blow.

Down fell the huge beasts, falling one above another. It was like
a mountain; and upon the heap of dead bodies and armour a monstrous
elephant, called “The Fury of Baal,” which had been caught by the leg in
some chains, stood howling until the evening with an arrow in its eye.

The others, however, like conquerors, delighting in extermination,
overthrew, crushed, stamped, and raged against the corpses and the
debris. To repel the maniples in serried circles around them, they
turned about on their hind feet as they advanced, with a continual
rotatory motion. The Carthaginians felt their energy increase, and the
battle begin again.

The Barbarians were growing weak; some Greek hoplites threw away all
their arms, and terror seized upon the rest. Spendius was seen stooping
upon his dromedary, and spurring it on the shoulders with two javelins.
Then they all rushed away from the wings and ran towards Utica.

The Clinabarians, whose horses were exhausted, did not try to overtake
them. The Ligurians, who were weakened by thirst, cried out for an
advance towards the river. But the Carthaginians, who were posted in the
centre of the syntagmata, and had suffered less, stamped their feet
with longing for the vengeance which was flying from them; and they
were already darting forward in pursuit of the Mercenaries when Hamilcar
appeared.

He held in his spotted and sweat-covered horse with silver reins. The
bands fastened to the horns on his helmet flapped in the wind behind
him, and he had placed his oval shield beneath his left thigh. With a
motion of his triple-pointed pike he checked the army.

The Tarentines leaped quickly upon their spare horses, and set off right
and left towards the river and towards the town.

The phalanx exterminated all the remaining Barbarians at leisure. When
the swords appeared they would stretch out their throats and close their
eyelids. Others defended themselves to the last, and were knocked down
from a distance with flints like mad dogs. Hamilcar had desired the
taking of prisoners, but the Carthaginians obeyed him grudgingly, so
much pleasure did they derive from plunging their swords into the bodies
of the Barbarians. As they were too hot they set about their work with
bare arms like mowers; and when they desisted to take breath they would
follow with their eyes a horseman galloping across the country after a
fleeing soldier. He would succeed in seizing him by the hair, hold him
thus for a while, and then fell him with a blow of his axe.

Night fell. Carthaginians and Barbarians had disappeared. The elephants
which had taken to flight roamed in the horizon with their fired towers.
These burned here and there in the darkness like beacons nearly half
lost in the mist; and no movement could be discerned in the plain save
the undulation of the river, which was heaped with corpses, and was
drifting them away to the sea.

Two hours afterwards Matho arrived. He caught sight in the starlight of
long, uneven heaps lying upon the ground.

They were files of Barbarians. He stooped down; all were dead. He called
into the distance, but no voice replied.

That very morning he had left Hippo-Zarytus with his soldiers to march
upon Carthage. At Utica the army under Spendius had just set out, and
the inhabitants were beginning to fire the engines. All had fought
desperately. But, the tumult which was going on in the direction of
the bridge increasing in an incomprehensible fashion, Matho had struck
across the mountain by the shortest road, and as the Barbarians were
fleeing over the plain he had encountered nobody.

Facing him were little pyramidal masses rearing themselves in the shade,
and on this side of the river and closer to him were motionless lights
on the surface of the ground. In fact the Carthaginians had fallen
back behind the bridge, and to deceive the Barbarians the Suffet had
stationed numerous posts upon the other bank.

Matho, still advancing, thought that he could distinguish Punic engines,
for horses’ heads which did not stir appeared in the air fixed upon
the tops of piles of staves which could not be seen; and further off he
could hear a great clamour, a noise of songs, and clashing of cups.

Then, not knowing where he was nor how to find Spendius, assailed with
anguish, scared, and lost in the darkness, he returned more impetuously
by the same road. The dawn as growing grey when from the top of
the mountain he perceived the town with the carcases of the engines
blackened by the flames and looking like giant skeletons leaning against
the walls.

All was peaceful amid extraordinary silence and heaviness. Among his
soldiers on the verge of the tents men were sleeping nearly naked, each
upon his back, or with his forehead against his arm which was supported
by his cuirass. Some were unwinding bloodstained bandages from their
legs. Those who were doomed to die rolled their heads about gently;
others dragged themselves along and brought them drink. The sentries
walked up and down along the narrow paths in order to warm themselves,
or stood in a fierce attitude with their faces turned towards the
horizon, and their pikes on their shoulders. Matho found Spendius
sheltered beneath a rag of canvas, supported by two sticks set in the
ground, his knee in his hands and his head cast down.

They remained for a long time without speaking.

At last Matho murmured: “Conquered!”

Spendius rejoined in a gloomy voice: “Yes, conquered!”

And to all questions he replied by gestures of despair.

Meanwhile sighs and death-rattles reached them. Matho partially opened
the canvas. Then the sight of the soldiers reminded him of another
disaster on the same spot, and he ground his teeth: “Wretch! once
already--”

Spendius interrupted him: “You were not there either.”

“It is a curse!” exclaimed Matho. “Nevertheless, in the end I will get
at him! I will conquer him! I will slay him! Ah! if I had been there!--”
 The thought of having missed the battle rendered him even more desperate
than the defeat. He snatched up his sword and threw it upon the ground.
“But how did the Carthaginians beat you?”

The former slave began to describe the manoeuvres. Matho seemed to
see them, and he grew angry. The army from Utica ought to have taken
Hamilcar in the rear instead of hastening to the bridge.

“Ah! I know!” said Spendius.

“You ought to have made your ranks twice as deep, avoided exposing the
velites against the phalanx, and given free passage to the elephants.
Everything might have been recovered at the last moment; there was no
necessity to fly.”

Spendius replied:

“I saw him pass along in his large red cloak, with uplifted arms
and higher than the dust, like an eagle flying upon the flank of the
cohorts; and at every nod they closed up or darted forward; the throng
carried us towards each other; he looked at me, and I felt the cold
steel as it were in my heart.”

“He selected the day, perhaps?” whispered Matho to himself.

They questioned each other, trying to discover what it was that had
brought the Suffet just when circumstances were most unfavourable.
They went on to talk over the situation, and Spendius, to extenuate his
fault, or to revive his courage, asserted that some hope still remained.

“And if there be none, it matters not!” said Matho; “alone, I will carry
on the war!”

“And I too!” exclaimed the Greek, leaping up; he strode to and fro, his
eyes sparkling, and a strange smile wrinkled his jackal face.

“We will make a fresh start; do not leave me again! I am not made for
battles in the sunlight--the flashing of swords troubles my sight; it
is a disease, I lived too long in the ergastulum. But give me walls to
scale at night, and I will enter the citadels, and the corpses shall be
cold before cock-crow! Show me any one, anything, an enemy, a treasure,
a woman,--a woman,” he repeated, “were she a king’s daughter, and I will
quickly bring your desire to your feet. You reproach me for having lost
the battle against Hanno, nevertheless I won it back again. Confess
it! my herd of swine did more for us than a phalanx of Spartans.” And
yielding to the need that he felt of exalting himself and taking
his revenge, he enumerated all that he had done for the cause of the
Mercenaries. “It was I who urged on the Gaul in the Suffet’s gardens!
And later, at Sicca, I maddened them all with fear of the Republic!
Gisco was sending them back, but I prevented the interpreters speaking.
Ah! how their tongues hung out of their mouths! do you remember? I
brought you into Carthage; I stole the zaimph. I led you to her. I will
do more yet: you shall see!” He burst out laughing like a madman.

Matho regarded him with gaping eyes. He felt in a measure uncomfortable
in the presence of this man, who was at once so cowardly and so
terrible.

The Greek resumed in jovial tones and cracking his fingers:

“Evoe! Sun after run! I have worked in the quarries, and I have drunk
Massic wine beneath a golden awning in a vessel of my own like a
Ptolemaeus. Calamity should help to make us cleverer. By dint of work we
may make fortune bend. She loves politicians. She will yield!”

He returned to Matho and took him by the arm.

“Master, at present the Carthaginians are sure of their victory. You
have quite an army which has not fought, and your men obey YOU. Place
them in the front: mine will follow to avenge themselves. I have still
three thousand Carians, twelve hundred slingers and archers, whole
cohorts! A phalanx even might be formed; let us return!”

Matho, who had been stunned by the disaster, had hitherto thought of
no means of repairing it. He listened with open mouth, and the bronze
plates which circled his sides rose with the leapings of his heart. He
picked up his sword, crying:

“Follow me; forward!”

But when the scouts returned, they announced that the Carthaginian dead
had been carried off, that the bridge was in ruins, and that Hamilcar
had disappeared.



CHAPTER IX

IN THE FIELD

Hamilcar had thought that the Mercenaries would await him at Utica, or
that they would return against him; and finding his forces insufficient
to make or to sustain an attack, he had struck southwards along the
right bank of the river, thus protecting himself immediately from a
surprise.

He intended first to wink at the revolt of the tribes and to detach them
all from the cause of the Barbarians; then when they were quite isolated
in the midst of the provinces he would fall upon them and exterminate
them.

In fourteen days he pacified the region comprised between Thouccaber
and Utica, with the towns of Tignicabah, Tessourah, Vacca, and others
further to the west. Zounghar built in the mountains, Assoura celebrated
for its temple, Djeraado fertile in junipers, Thapitis, and Hagour
sent embassies to him. The country people came with their hands full of
provisions, implored his protection, kissed his feet and those of the
soldiers, and complained of the Barbarians. Some came to offer him bags
containing heads of Mercenaries killed, so they said, by themselves, but
which they had cut off corpses; for many had lost themselves in their
flight, and were found dead here and there beneath the olive trees and
among the vines.

On the morrow of his victory, Hamilcar, to dazzle the people, had sent
to Carthage the two thousand captives taken on the battlefield. They
arrived in long companies of one hundred men each, all with their arms
fastened behind their backs with a bar of bronze which caught them at
the nape of the neck, and the wounded, bleeding as they still were,
running also along; horsemen followed them, driving them on with blows
of the whip.

Then there was a delirium of joy! People repeated that there were six
thousand Barbarians killed; the others would not hold out, and the war
was finished; they embraced one another in the streets, and rubbed
the faces of the Pataec Gods with butter and cinnamomum to thank them.
These, with their big eyes, their big bodies, and their arms raised as
high as the shoulder, seemed to live beneath their freshened paint, and
to participate in the cheerfulness of the people. The rich left their
doors open; the city resounded with the noise of the timbrels; the
temples were illuminated every night, and the servants of the goddess
went down to Malqua and set up stages of sycamore-wood at the corners
of the cross-ways, and prostituted themselves there. Lands were voted to
the conquerors, holocausts to Melkarth, three hundred gold crowns to the
Suffet, and his partisans proposed to decree to him new prerogatives and
honours.

He had begged the Ancients to make overtures to Autaritus for exchanging
all the Barbarians, if necessary, for the aged Gisco, and the other
Carthaginians detained like him. The Libyans and Nomads composing the
army under Autaritus knew scarcely anything of these Mercenaries, who
were men of Italiote or Greek race; and the offer by the Republic of so
many Barbarians for so few Carthaginians, showed that the value of the
former was nothing and that of the latter considerable. They dreaded a
snare. Autaritus refused.

Then the Ancients decreed the execution of the captives, although the
Suffet had written to them not to put them to death. He reckoned
upon incorporating the best of them with his own troops and of thus
instigating defections. But hatred swept away all circumspection.

The two thousand Barbarians were tied to the stelae of the tombs in
the Mappalian quarter; and traders, scullions, embroiderers, and even
women,--the widows of the dead with their children--all who would,
came to kill them with arrows. They aimed slowly at them, the better to
prolong their torture, lowering the weapon and then raising it in turn;
and the multitude pressed forward howling. Paralytics had themselves
brought thither in hand-barrows; many took the precaution of bringing
their food, and remained on the spot until the evening; others passed
the night there. Tents had been set up in which drinking went on. Many
gained large sums by hiring out bows.

Then all these crucified corpses were left upright, looking like so many
red statues on the tombs, and the excitement even spread to the people
of Malqua, who were the descendants of the aboriginal families, and were
usually indifferent to the affairs of their country. Out of gratitude
for the pleasure it had been giving them they now interested themselves
in its fortunes, and felt that they were Carthaginians, and the Ancients
thought it a clever thing to have thus blended the entire people in a
single act of vengeance.

The sanction of the gods was not wanting; for crows alighted from all
quarters of the sky. They wheeled in the air as they flew with loud
hoarse cries, and formed a huge cloud rolling continually upon itself.
It was seen from Clypea, Rhades, and the promontory of Hermaeum.
Sometimes it would suddenly burst asunder, its black spirals extending
far away, as an eagle clove the centre of it, and then departed again;
here and there on the terraces the domes, the peaks of the obelisks,
and the pediments of the temples there were big birds holding human
fragments in their reddened beaks.

Owing to the smell the Carthaginians resigned themselves to unbind the
corpses. A few of them were burnt; the rest were thrown into the sea,
and the waves, driven by the north wind, deposited them on the shore at
the end of the gulf before the camp of Autaritus.

This punishment had no doubt terrified the Barbarians, for from the top
of Eschmoun they could be seen striking their tents, collecting their
flocks, and hoisting their baggage upon asses, and on the evening of the
same day the entire army withdrew.

It was to march to and fro between the mountain of the Hot Springs
and Hippo-Zarytus, and so debar the Suffet from approaching the Tyrian
towns, and from the possibility of a return to Carthage.

Meanwhile the two other armies were to try to overtake him in the south,
Spendius in the east, and Matho in the west, in such a way that all
three should unite to surprise and entangle him. Then they received a
reinforcement which they had not looked for: Narr’ Havas appeared with
three hundred camels laden with bitumen, twenty-five elephants, and six
thousand horsemen.

To weaken the Mercenaries the Suffet had judged it prudent to occupy his
attention at a distance in his own kingdom. From the heart of Carthage
he had come to an understanding with Masgaba, a Gaetulian brigand
who was seeking to found an empire. Strengthened by Punic money, the
adventurer had raised the Numidian States with promises of freedom. But
Narr’ Havas, warned by his nurse’s son, had dropped into Cirta, poisoned
the conquerors with the water of the cisterns, struck off a few heads,
set all right again, and had just arrived against the Suffet more
furious than the Barbarians.

The chiefs of the four armies concerted the arrangements for the war. It
would be a long one, and everything must be foreseen.

It was agreed first to entreat the assistance of the Romans, and
this mission was offered to Spendius, but as a fugitive he dared not
undertake it. Twelve men from the Greek colonies embarked at Annaba in
a sloop belonging to the Numidians. Then the chiefs exacted an oath
of complete obedience from all the Barbarians. Every day the captains
inspected clothes and boots; the sentries were even forbidden to use a
shield, for they would often lean it against their lance and fall
asleep as they stood; those who had any baggage trailing after them
were obliged to get rid of it; everything was to be carried, in Roman
fashion, on the back. As a precaution against the elephants Matho
instituted a corps of cataphract cavalry, men and horses being hidden
beneath cuirasses of hippopotamus skin bristling with nails; and to
protect the horses’ hoofs boots of plaited esparto-grass were made for
them.

It was forbidden to pillage the villages, or to tyrannise over the
inhabitants who were not of Punic race. But as the country was becoming
exhausted, Matho ordered the provisions to be served out to the soldiers
individually, without troubling about the women. At first the men shared
with them. Many grew weak for lack of food. It was the occasion of many
quarrels and invectives, many drawing away the companions of the rest
by the bait or even by the promise of their own portion. Matho commanded
them all to be driven away pitilessly. They took refuge in the camp
of Autaritus; but the Gaulish and Libyan women forced them by their
outrageous treatment to depart.

At last they came beneath the walls of Carthage to implore the
protection of Ceres and Proserpine, for in Byrsa there was a temple
with priests consecrated to these goddesses in expiation of the horrors
formerly committed at the siege of Syracuse. The Syssitia, alleging
their right to waifs and strays, claimed the youngest in order to sell
them; and some fair Lacedaemonian women were taken by New Carthaginians
in marriage.

A few persisted in following the armies. They ran on the flank of the
syntagmata by the side of the captains. They called to their husbands,
pulled them by the cloak, cursed them as they beat their breasts, and
held out their little naked and weeping children at arm’s length. The
sight of them was unmanning the Barbarians; they were an embarrassment
and a peril. Several times they were repulsed, but they came back again;
Matho made the horsemen belonging to Narr’ Havas charge them with the
point of the lance; and on some Balearians shouting out to him that they
must have women, he replied: “I have none!”

Just now he was invaded by the genius of Moloch. In spite of the
rebellion of his conscience, he performed terrible deeds, imagining that
he was thus obeying the voice of a god. When he could not ravage the
fields, Matho would cast stones into them to render them sterile.

He urged Autaritus and Spendius with repeated messages to make haste.
But the Suffet’s operations were incomprehensible. He encamped at
Eidous, Monchar, and Tehent successively; some scouts believed that they
saw him in the neighbourhood of Ischiil, near the frontiers of Narr’
Havas, and it was reported that he had crossed the river above Tebourba
as though to return to Carthage. Scarcely was he in one place when he
removed to another. The routes that he followed always remained unknown.
The Suffet preserved his advantages without offering battle, and while
pursued by the Barbarians seemed to be leading them.

These marches and counter marches were still more fatiguing to the
Carthaginians, and Hamilcar’s forces, receiving no reinforcements,
diminished from day to day. The country people were now more backward
in bringing him provisions. In every direction he encountered taciturn
hesitation and hatred; and in spite of his entreaties to the Great
Council no succour came from Carthage.

It was said, perhaps it was believed, that he had need of none. It was
a trick, or his complaints were unnecessary; and Hanno’s partisans, in
order to do him an ill turn, exaggerated the importance of his victory.
The troops which he commanded he was welcome to; but they were not
going to supply his demands continually in that way. The war was quite
burdensome enough! it had cost too much, and from pride the patricians
belonging to his faction supported him but slackly.

Then Hamilcar, despairing of the Republic, took by force from the tribes
all that he wanted for the war--grain, oil, wood, cattle, and men. But
the inhabitants were not long in taking flight. The villages passed
through were empty, and the cabins were ransacked without anything being
discerned in them. The Punic army was soon encompassed by a terrible
solitude.

The Carthaginians, who were furious, began to sack the provinces; they
filled up the cisterns and fired the houses. The sparks, being carried
by the wind, were scattered far off, and whole forests were on fire on
the mountains; they bordered the valleys with a crown of flames, and
it was often necessary to wait in order to pass beyond them. Then the
soldiers resumed their march over the warm ashes in the full glare of
the sun.

Sometimes they would see what looked like the eyes of a tiger cat
gleaming in a bush by the side of the road. This was a Barbarian
crouching upon his heels, and smeared with dust, that he might not be
distinguished from the colour of the foliage; or perhaps when passing
along a ravine those on the wings would suddenly hear the rolling of
stones, and raising their eyes would perceive a bare-footed man bounding
along through the openings of the gorge.

Meanwhile Utica and Hippo-Zarytus were free since the Mercenaries
were no longer besieging them. Hamilcar commanded them to come to his
assistance. But not caring to compromise themselves, they answered him
with vague words, with compliments and excuses.

He went up again abruptly into the North, determined to open up one of
the Tyrian towns, though he were obliged to lay siege to it. He required
a station on the coast, so as to be able to draw supplies and men from
the islands or from Cyrene, and he coveted the harbour of Utica as being
the nearest to Carthage.

The Suffet therefore left Zouitin and turned the lake of Hippo-Zarytus
with circumspection. But he was soon obliged to lengthen out his
regiments into column in order to climb the mountain which separates
the two valleys. They were descending at sunset into its hollow,
funnel-shaped summit, when they perceived on the level of the ground
before them bronze she-wolves which seemed to be running across the
grass.

Suddenly large plumes arose and a terrible song burst forth, accompanied
by the rhythm of flutes. It was the army under Spendius; for some
Campanians and Greeks, in their execration of Carthage, had assumed the
ensigns of Rome. At the same time long pikes, shields of leopard’s skin,
linen cuirasses, and naked shoulders were seen on the left. These were
the Iberians under Matho, the Lusitanians, Balearians, and Gaetulians;
the horses of Narr’ Havas were heard to neigh; they spread around the
hill; then came the loose rabble commanded by Autaritus--Gauls, Libyans,
and Nomads; while the Eaters of Uncleanness might be recognised among
them by the fish bones which they wore in their hair.

Thus the Barbarians, having contrived their marches with exactness, had
come together again. But themselves surprised, they remained motionless
for some minutes in consultation.

The Suffet had collected his men into an orbicular mass, in such a way
as to offer an equal resistance in every direction. The infantry were
surrounded by their tall, pointed shields fixed close to one another in
the turf. The Clinabarians were outside and the elephants at intervals
further off. The Mercenaries were worn out with fatigue; it was better
to wait till next day; and the Barbarians feeling sure of their victory
occupied themselves the whole night in eating.

They lighted large bright fires, which, while dazzling themselves, left
the Punic army below them in the shade. Hamilcar caused a trench fifteen
feet broad and ten cubits deep to be dug in Roman fashion round his
camp, and the earth thrown out to be raised on the inside into a
parapet, on which sharp interlacing stakes were planted; and at sunrise
the Mercenaries were amazed to perceive all the Carthaginians thus
entrenched as if in a fortress.

They could recognise Hamilcar in the midst of the tents walking about
and giving orders. His person was clad in a brown cuirass cut in little
scales; he was followed by his horse, and stopped from time to time to
point out something with his right arm outstretched.

Then more than one recalled similar mornings when, amid the din of
clarions, he passed slowly before them, and his looks strengthened
them like cups of wine. A kind of emotion overcame them. Those, on the
contrary, who were not acquainted with Hamilcar, were mad with joy at
having caught him.

Nevertheless if all attacked at once they would do one another mutual
injury in the insufficiency of space. The Numidians might dash through;
but the Clinabarians, who were protected by cuirasses, would crush them.
And then how were the palisades to be crossed? As to the elephants, they
were not sufficiently well trained.

“You are all cowards!” exclaimed Matho.

And with the best among them he rushed against the entrenchment. They
were repulsed by a volley of stones; for the Suffet had taken their
abandoned catapults on the bridge.

This want of success produced an abrupt change in the fickle minds
of the Barbarians. Their extreme bravery disappeared; they wished to
conquer, but with the smallest possible risk. According to Spendius they
ought to maintain carefully the position that they held, and starve out
the Punic army. But the Carthaginians began to dig wells, and as there
were mountains surrounding the hill, they discovered water.

From the summit of their palisade they launched arrows, earth, dung,
and pebbles which they gathered from the ground, while the six catapults
rolled incessantly throughout the length of the terrace.

But the springs would dry up of themselves; the provisions would be
exhausted, and the catapults worn out; the Mercenaries, who were
ten times as numerous, would triumph in the end. The Suffet devised
negotiations so as to gain time, and one morning the Barbarians found
a sheep’s skin covered with writing within their lines. He justified
himself for his victory: the Ancients had forced him into the war, and
to show them that he was keeping his word, he offered them the pillaging
of Utica or Hippo-Zarytus at their choice; in conclusion, Hamilcar
declared that he did not fear them because he had won over some
traitors, and thanks to them would easily manage the rest.

The Barbarians were disturbed: this proposal of immediate booty made
them consider; they were apprehensive of treachery, not suspecting a
snare in the Suffet’s boasting, and they began to look upon one another
with mistrust. Words and steps were watched; terrors awaked them in
the night. Many forsook their companions and chose their army as fancy
dictated, and the Gauls with Autaritus went and joined themselves with
the men of Cisalpine Gaul, whose language they understood.

The four chiefs met together every evening in Matho’s tent, and
squatting round a shield, attentively moved backwards and forwards the
little wooden figures invented by Pyrrhus for the representation of
manoeuvres. Spendius would demonstrate Hamilcar’s resources, and with
oaths by all the gods entreat that the opportunity should not be wasted.
Matho would walk about angry and gesticulating. The war against Carthage
was his own personal affair; he was indignant that the others should
interfere in it without being willing to obey him. Autaritus would
divine his speech from his countenance and applaud. Narr’ Havas would
elevate his chin to mark his disdain; there was not a measure he did not
consider fatal; and he had ceased to smile. Sighs would escape him as
though he were thrusting back sorrow for an impossible dream, despair
for an abortive enterprise.

While the Barbarians deliberated in uncertainty, the Suffet increased
his defences: he had a second trench dug within the palisades, a second
wall raised, and wooden towers constructed at the corners; and his
slaves went as far as the middle of the outposts to drive caltrops into
the ground. But the elephants, whose allowances were lessened, struggled
in their shackles. To economise the grass he ordered the Clinabarians to
kill the least strong among the stallions. A few refused to do so, and
he had them decapitated. The horses were eaten. The recollection of
this fresh meat was a source of great sadness to them in the days that
followed.

From the bottom of the ampitheatre in which they were confined they
could see the four bustling camps of the Barbarians all around them on
the heights. Women moved about with leathern bottles on their heads,
goats strayed bleating beneath the piles of pikes; sentries were being
relieved, and eating was going on around tripods. In fact, the tribes
furnished them abundantly with provisions, and they did not themselves
suspect how much their inaction alarmed the Punic army.

On the second day the Carthaginians had remarked a troop of three
hundred men apart from the rest in the camp of the nomads. These were
the rich who had been kept prisoners since the beginning of the war.
Some Libyans ranged them along the edge of the trench, took their
station behind them, and hurled javelins, making themselves a rampart
of their bodies. The wretched creatures could scarcely be recognised,
so completely were their faces covered with vermin and filth. Their hair
had been plucked out in places, leaving bare the ulcers on their
heads, and they were so lean and hideous that they were like mummies in
tattered shrouds. A few trembled and sobbed with a stupid look; the rest
cried out to their friends to fire upon the Barbarians. There was one
who remained quite motionless with face cast down, and without
speaking; his long white beard fell to his chain-covered hands; and the
Carthaginians, feeling as it were the downfall of the Republic in the
bottom of their hearts, recognised Gisco. Although the place was a
dangerous one they pressed forward to see him. On his head had been
placed a grotesque tiara of hippopotamus leather incrusted with pebbles.
It was Autaritus’s idea; but it was displeasing to Matho.

Hamilcar in exasperation, and resolved to cut his way through in one way
or another, had the palisades opened; and the Carthaginians went at a
furious rate half way up the hill or three hundred paces. Such a flood
of Barbarians descended upon them that they were driven back to their
lines. One of the guards of the Legion who had remained outside was
stumbling among the stones. Zarxas ran up to him, knocked him down, and
plunged a dagger into his throat; he drew it out, threw himself upon the
wound--and gluing his lips to it with mutterings of joy, and startings
which shook him to the heels, pumped up the blood by breastfuls; then he
quietly sat down upon the corpse, raised his face with his neck thrown
back the better to breathe in the air, like a hind that has just drunk
at a mountain stream, and in a shrill voice began to sing a Balearic
song, a vague melody full of prolonged modulations, with interruptions
and alternations like echoes answering one another in the mountains; he
called upon his dead brothers and invited them to a feast;--then he let
his hands fall between his legs, slowly bent his head, and wept. This
atrocious occurrence horrified the Barbarians, especially the Greeks.

From that time forth the Carthaginians did not attempt to make any
sally; and they had no thought of surrender, certain as they were that
they would perish in tortures.

Nevertheless the provisions, in spite of Hamilcar’s carefulness,
diminished frightfully. There was not left per man more than ten
k’hommers of wheat, three hins of millet, and twelve betzas of dried
fruit. No more meat, no more oil, no more salt food, and not a grain of
barley for the horses, which might be seen stretching down their wasted
necks seeking in the dust for blades of trampled straw. Often the
sentries on vedette upon the terrace would see in the moonlight a dog
belonging to the Barbarians coming to prowl beneath the entrenchment
among the heaps of filth; it would be knocked down with a stone, and
then, after a descent had been effected along the palisades by means
of the straps of a shield, it would be eaten without a word. Sometimes
horrible barkings would be heard and the man would not come up again.
Three phalangites, in the fourth dilochia of the twelfth syntagmata,
killed one another with knives in a dispute about a rat.

All regretted their families, and their houses; the poor their
hive-shaped huts, with the shells on the threshold and the hanging net,
and the patricians their large halls filled with bluish shadows, where
at the most indolent hour of the day they used to rest listening to the
vague noise of the streets mingled with the rustling of the leaves as
they stirred in their gardens;--to go deeper into the thought of this,
and to enjoy it more, they would half close their eyelids, only to be
roused by the shock of a wound. Every minute there was some engagement,
some fresh alarm; the towers were burning, the Eaters of Uncleanness
were leaping across the palisades; their hands would be struck off with
axes; others would hasten up; an iron hail would fall upon the tents.
Galleries of rushen hurdles were raised as a protection against the
projectiles. The Carthaginians shut themselves up within them and
stirred out no more.

Every day the sun coming over the hill used, after the early hours, to
forsake the bottom of the gorge and leave them in the shade. The grey
slopes of the ground, covered with flints spotted with scanty lichen,
ascended in front and in the rear, and above their summits stretched the
sky in its perpetual purity, smoother and colder to the eye than a metal
cupola. Hamilcar was so indignant with Carthage that he felt inclined to
throw himself among the Barbarians and lead them against her. Moreover,
the porters, sutlers, and slaves were beginning to murmur, while neither
people, nor Great Council, nor any one sent as much as a hope. The
situation was intolerable, especially owing to the thought that it would
become worse.

At the news of the disaster Carthage had leaped, as it were, with anger
and hate; the Suffet would have been less execrated if he had allowed
himself to be conquered from the first.

But time and money were lacking for the hire of other Mercenaries. As to
a levy of soldiers in the town, how were they to be equipped? Hamilcar
had taken all the arms! and then who was to command them? The best
captains were down yonder with him! Meanwhile, some men despatched by
the Suffet arrived in the streets with shouts. The Great Council were
roused by them, and contrived to make them disappear.

It was an unnecessary precaution; every one accused Barca of having
behaved with slackness. He ought to have annihilated the Mercenaries
after his victory. Why had he ravaged the tribes? The sacrifices
already imposed had been heavy enough! and the patricians deplored their
contributions of fourteen shekels, and the Syssitia their two hundred
and twenty-three thousand gold kikars; those who had given nothing
lamented like the rest. The populace was jealous of the New
Carthaginians, to whom he had promised full rights of citizenship;
and even the Ligurians, who had fought with such intrepidity, were
confounded with the Barbarians and cursed like them; their race became
a crime, the proof of complicity. The traders on the threshold of their
shops, the workmen passing plumb-line in hand, the vendors of pickle
rinsing their baskets, the attendants in the vapour baths and the
retailers of hot drinks all discussed the operations of the campaign.
They would trace battle-plans with their fingers in the dust, and
there was not a sorry rascal to be found who could not have corrected
Hamilcar’s mistakes.

It was a punishment, said the priests, for his long-continued impiety.
He had offered no holocausts; he had not purified his troops; he had
even refused to take augurs with him; and the scandal of sacrilege
strengthened the violence of restrained hate, and the rage of betrayed
hopes. People recalled the Sicilian disasters, and all the burden of
his pride that they had borne for so long! The colleges of the pontiffs
could not forgive him for having seized their treasure, and they
demanded a pledge from the Great Council to crucify him should he ever
return.

The heats of the month of Eloul, which were excessive in that year, were
another calamity. Sickening smells rose from the borders of the Lake,
and were wafted through the air together with the fumes of the aromatics
that eddied at the corners of the streets. The sounds of hymns were
constantly heard. Crowds of people occupied the staircases of the
temples; all the walls were covered with black veils; tapers burnt
on the brows of the Pataec Gods, and the blood of camels slain for
sacrifice ran along the flights of stairs forming red cascades upon the
steps. Carthage was agitated with funereal delirium. From the depths of
the narrowest lanes, and the blackest dens, there issued pale faces,
men with viper-like profiles and grinding their teeth. The houses were
filled with the women’s piercing shrieks, which, escaping through the
gratings, caused those who stood talking in the squares to turn round.
Sometimes it was thought that the Barbarians were arriving; they had
been seen behind the mountain of the Hot Springs; they were encamped at
Tunis; and the voices would multiply and swell, and be blended into one
single clamour. Then universal silence would reign, some remaining where
they had climbed upon the frontals of the buildings, screening their
eyes with their open hand, while the rest lay flat on their faces at the
foot of the ramparts straining their ears. When their terror had passed
off their anger would begin again. But the conviction of their own
impotence would soon sink them into the same sadness as before.

It increased every evening when all ascended the terraces, and bowing
down nine times uttered a loud cry in salutation of the sun, as it
sank slowly behind the lagoon, and then suddenly disappeared among the
mountains in the direction of the Barbarians.

They were waiting for the thrice holy festival when, from the summit
of a funeral pile, an eagle flew heavenwards as a symbol of the
resurrection of the year, and a message from the people to their Baal;
they regarded it as a sort of union, a method of connecting themselves
with the might of the Sun. Moreover, filled as they now were with
hatred, they turned frankly towards homicidal Moloch, and all forsook
Tanith. In fact, Rabetna, having lost her veil, was as if she had been
despoiled of part of her virtue. She denied the beneficence of her
waters, she had abandoned Carthage; she was a deserter, an enemy.
Some threw stones at her to insult her. But many pitied her while they
inveighed against her; she was still beloved, and perhaps more deeply
than she had been.

All their misfortunes came, therefore, from the loss of the zaimph.
Salammbo had indirectly participated in it; she was included in the same
ill will; she must be punished. A vague idea of immolation spread among
the people. To appease the Baalim it was without doubt necessary to
offer them something of incalculable worth, a being handsome, young,
virgin, of old family, a descendant of the gods, a human star. Every day
the gardens of Megara were invaded by strange men; the slaves, trembling
on their own account, dared not resist them. Nevertheless, they did not
pass beyond the galley staircase. They remained below with their eyes
raised to the highest terrace; they were waiting for Salammbo, and they
would cry out for hours against her like dogs baying at the moon.



CHAPTER X

THE SERPENT

These clamourings of the populace did not alarm Hamilcar’s daughter. She
was disturbed by loftier anxieties: her great serpent, the black python,
was drooping; and in the eyes of the Carthaginians, the serpent was
at once a national and a private fetish. It was believed to be the
offspring of the dust of the earth, since it emerges from its depths and
has no need of feet to traverse it; its mode of progression called to
mind the undulations of rivers, its temperature the ancient, viscous,
and fecund darkness, and the orbit which it describes when biting its
tail the harmony of the planets, and the intelligence of Eschmoun.

Salammbo’s serpent had several times already refused the four live
sparrows which were offered to it at the full moon and at every new
moon. Its handsome skin, covered like the firmament with golden spots
upon a perfectly black ground, was now yellow, relaxed, wrinkled, and
too large for its body. A cottony mouldiness extended round its head;
and in the corners of its eyelids might be seen little red specks which
appeared to move. Salammbo would approach its silver-wire basket from
time to time, and would draw aside the purple curtains, the lotus
leaves, and the bird’s down; but it was continually rolled up upon
itself, more motionless than a withered bind-weed; and from looking at
it she at last came to feel a kind of spiral within her heart, another
serpent, as it were, mounting up to her throat by degrees and strangling
her.

She was in despair of having seen the zaimph, and yet she felt a sort
of joy, an intimate pride at having done so. A mystery shrank within the
splendour of its folds; it was the cloud that enveloped the gods, and
the secret of the universal existence, and Salammbo, horror-stricken at
herself, regretted that she had not raised it.

She was almost always crouching at the back of her apartment, holding
her bended left leg in her hands, her mouth half open, her chin sunk,
her eye fixed. She recollected her father’s face with terror; she wished
to go away into the mountains of Phoenicia, on a pilgrimage to the
temple of Aphaka, where Tanith descended in the form of a star; all
kinds of imaginings attracted her and terrified her; moreover, a
solitude which every day became greater encompassed her. She did not
even know what Hamilcar was about.

Wearied at last with her thoughts she would rise, and trailing along
her little sandals whose soles clacked upon her heels at every step, she
would walk at random through the large silent room. The amethysts and
topazes of the ceiling made luminous spots quiver here and there, and
Salammbo as she walked would turn her head a little to see them. She
would go and take the hanging amphoras by the neck; she would cool
her bosom beneath the broad fans, or perhaps amuse herself by burning
cinnamomum in hollow pearls. At sunset Taanach would draw back the black
felt lozenges that closed the openings in the wall; then her doves,
rubbed with musk like the doves of Tanith, suddenly entered, and their
pink feet glided over the glass pavement, amid the grains of barley
which she threw to them in handfuls like a sower in a field. But on a
sudden she would burst into sobs and lie stretched on the large bed of
ox-leather straps without moving, repeating a word that was ever the
same, with open eyes, pale as one dead, insensible, cold; and yet she
could hear the cries of the apes in the tufts of the palm trees, with
the continuous grinding of the great wheel which brought a flow of pure
water through the stories into the porphyry centre-basin.

Sometimes for several days she would refuse to eat. She could see in
a dream troubled stars wandering beneath her feet. She would call
Schahabarim, and when he came she had nothing to say to him.

She could not live without the relief of his presence. But she rebelled
inwardly against this domination; her feeling towards the priest was one
at once of terror, jealousy, hatred, and a species of love, in gratitude
for the singular voluptuousness which she experienced by his side.

He had recognised the influence of Rabbet, being skilful to discern
the gods who send diseases; and to cure Salammbo he had her apartment
watered with lotions of vervain, and maidenhair; she ate mandrakes every
morning; she slept with her head on a cushion filled with aromatics
blended by the pontiffs; he had even employed baaras, a fiery-coloured
root which drives back fatal geniuses into the North; lastly, turning
towards the polar star, he murmured thrice the mysterious name of
Tanith; but Salammbo still suffered and her anguish deepened.

No one in Carthage was so learned as he. In his youth he had studied at
the College of the Mogbeds, at Borsippa, near Babylon; had then visited
Samothrace, Pessinus, Ephesus, Thessaly, Judaea, and the temples of the
Nabathae, which are lost in the sands; and had travelled on foot along
the banks of the Nile from the cataracts to the sea. Shaking torches
with veil-covered face, he had cast a black cock upon a fire of
sandarach before the breast of the Sphinx, the Father of Terror. He had
descended into the caverns of Proserpine; he had seen the five hundred
pillars of the labyrinth of Lemnos revolve, and the candelabrum of
Tarentum, which bore as many sconces on its shaft as there are days in
the year, shine in its splendour; at times he received Greeks by night
in order to question them. The constitution of the world disquieted him
no less than the nature of the gods; he had observed the equinoxes with
the armils placed in the portico of Alexandria, and accompanied the
bematists of Evergetes, who measure the sky by calculating the number
of their steps, as far as Cyrene; so that there was now growing in his
thoughts a religion of his own, with no distinct formula, and on that
very account full of infatuation and fervour. He no longer believed that
the earth was formed like a fir-cone; he believed it to be round, and
eternally falling through immensity with such prodigious speed that its
fall was not perceived.

From the position of the sun above the moon he inferred the predominance
of Baal, of whom the planet itself is but the reflection and figure;
moreover, all that he saw in terrestrial things compelled him to
recognise the male exterminating principle as supreme. And then he
secretly charged Rabbet with the misfortune of his life. Was it not for
her that the grand-pontiff had once advanced amid the tumult of cymbals,
and with a patera of boiling water taken from him his future virility?
And he followed with a melancholy gaze the men who were disappearing
with the priestesses in the depths of the turpentine trees.

His days were spent in inspecting the censers, the gold vases, the
tongs, the rakes for the ashes of the altar, and all the robes of the
statues down to the bronze bodkin that served to curl the hair of an old
Tanith in the third aedicule near the emerald vine. At the same hours he
would raise the great hangings of the same swinging doors; would remain
with his arms outspread in the same attitude; or prayed prostrate on the
same flag-stones, while around him a people of priests moved barefooted
through the passages filled with an eternal twilight.

But Salammbo was in the barrenness of his life like a flower in the
cleft of a sepulchre. Nevertheless he was hard upon her, and spared
her neither penances nor bitter words. His condition established, as it
were, the equality of a common sex between them, and he was less angry
with the girl for his inability to possess her than for finding her so
beautiful, and above all so pure. Often he saw that she grew weary of
following his thought. Then he would turn away sadder than before; he
would feel himself more forsaken, more empty, more alone.

Strange words escaped him sometimes, which passed before Salammbo like
broad lightnings illuminating the abysses. This would be at night on the
terrace when, both alone, they gazed upon the stars, and Carthage spread
below under their feet, with the gulf and the open sea dimly lost in the
colour of the darkness.

He would set forth to her the theory of the souls that descend upon
the earth, following the same route as the sun through the signs of the
zodiac. With outstretched arm he showed the gate of human generation in
the Ram, and that of the return to the gods in Capricorn; and Salammbo
strove to see them, for she took these conceptions for realities;
she accepted pure symbols and even manners of speech as being true in
themselves, a distinction not always very clear even to the priest.

“The souls of the dead,” said he, “resolve themselves into the moon, as
their bodies do into the earth. Their tears compose its humidity; ‘tis a
dark abode full of mire, and wreck, and tempest.”

She asked what would become of her then.

“At first you will languish as light as a vapour hovering upon the
waves; and after more lengthened ordeals and agonies, you will pass into
the forces of the sun, the very source of Intelligence!”

He did not speak, however, of Rabbet. Salammbo imagined that it was
through some shame for his vanquished goddess, and calling her by a
common name which designated the moon, she launched into blessings upon
the soft and fertile planet. At last he exclaimed:

“No! no! she draws all her fecundity from the other! Do you not see
her hovering about him like an amorous woman running after a man in a
field?” And he exalted the virtue of light unceasingly.

Far from depressing her mystic desires, he sought, on the contrary,
to excite them, and he even seemed to take joy in grieving her by the
revelation of a pitiless doctrine. In spite of the pains of her love
Salammbo threw herself upon it with transport.

But the more that Schahabarim felt himself in doubt about Tanith, the
more he wished to believe in her. At the bottom of his soul he was
arrested by remorse. He needed some proof, some manifestation from the
gods, and in the hope of obtaining it the priest devised an enterprise
which might save at once his country and his belief.

Thenceforward he set himself to deplore before Salammbo the sacrilege
and the misfortunes which resulted from it even in the regions of
the sky. Then he suddenly announced the peril of the Suffet, who was
assailed by three armies under the command of Matho--for on account of
the veil Matho was, in the eyes of the Carthaginians, the king, as it
were, of the Barbarians,--and he added that the safety of the Republic
and of her father depended upon her alone.

“Upon me!” she exclaimed. “How can I--?”

But the priest, with a smile of disdain said:

“You will never consent!”

She entreated him. At last Schahabarim said to her:

“You must go to the Barbarians and recover the zaimph!”

She sank down upon the ebony stool, and remained with her arms stretched
out between her knees and shivering in all her limbs, like a victim
at the altar’s foot awaiting the blow of the club. Her temples were
ringing, she could see fiery circles revolving, and in her stupor
she had lost the understanding of all things save one, that she was
certainly going to die soon.

But if Rabbetna triumphed, if the zaimph were restored and Carthage
delivered, what mattered a woman’s life? thought Schahabarim. Moreover,
she would perhaps obtain the veil and not perish.

He stayed away for three days; on the evening of the fourth she sent for
him.

The better to inflame her heart he reported to her all the invectives
howled against Hamilcar in open council; he told her that she had erred,
that she owed reparation for her crime, and that Rabbetna commanded the
sacrifice.

A great uproar came frequently across the Mappalian district to Megara.
Schahabarim and Salammbo went out quickly, and gazed from the top of the
galley staircase.

There were people in the square of Khamon shouting for arms. The
Ancients would not provide them, esteeming such an effort useless;
others who had set out without a general had been massacred. At last
they were permitted to depart, and as a sort of homage to Moloch, or
from a vague need of destruction, they tore up tall cypress trees in
the woods of the temples, and having kindled them at the torches of the
Kabiri, were carrying them through the streets singing. These monstrous
flames advanced swaying gently; they transmitted fires to the glass
balls on the crests of the temples, to the ornaments of the colossuses
and the beaks of the ships, passed beyond the terraces and formed suns
as it were, which rolled through the town. They descended the Acropolis.
The gate of Malqua opened.

“Are you ready?” exclaimed Schahabarim, “or have you asked them to tell
your father that you abandoned him?” She hid her face in her veils, and
the great lights retired, sinking gradually the while to the edge of the
waves.

An indeterminate dread restrained her; she was afraid of Moloch and of
Matho. This man, with his giant stature, who was master of the zaimph,
ruled Rabbetna as much as did Baal, and seemed to her to be surrounded
by the same fulgurations; and then the souls of the gods sometimes
visited the bodies of men. Did not Schahabarim in speaking of him say
that she was to vanquish Moloch? They were mingled with each other; she
confused them together; both of them were pursuing her.

She wished to learn the future, and approached the serpent, for auguries
were drawn from the attitudes of serpents. But the basket was empty;
Salammbo was disturbed.

She found him with his tail rolled round one of the silver balustrades
beside the hanging bed, which he was rubbing in order to free himself
from his old yellowish skin, while his body stretched forth gleaming and
clear like a sword half out of the sheath.

Then on the days following, in proportion as she allowed herself to be
convinced, and was more disposed to succour Tanith, the python recovered
and grew; he seemed to be reviving.

The certainty that Salammbo was giving expression to the will of the
gods then became established in her conscience. One morning she awoke
resolved, and she asked what was necessary to make Matho restore the
veil.

“To claim it,” said Schahabarim.

“But if he refuses?” she rejoined.

The priest scanned her fixedly with a smile such as she had never seen.

“Yes, what is to be done?” repeated Salammbo.

He rolled between his fingers the extremities of the bands which fell
from his tiara upon his shoulders, standing motionless with eyes cast
down. At last seeing that she did not understand:

“You will be alone with him.”

“Well?” she said.

“Alone in his tent.”

“What then?”

Schahabarim bit his lips. He sought for some phrase, some
circumlocution.

“If you are to die, that will be later,” he said; “later! fear nothing!
and whatever he may undertake to do, do not call out! do not be
frightened! You will be humble, you understand, and submissive to his
desire, which is ordained of heaven!”

“But the veil?”

“The gods will take thought for it,” replied Schahabarim.

“Suppose you were to accompany me, O father?” she added.

“No!”

He made her kneel down, and keeping his left hand raised and his right
extended, he swore in her behalf to bring back the mantle of Tanith into
Carthage. With terrible imprecations she devoted herself to the gods,
and each time that Schahabarim pronounced a word she falteringly
repeated it.

He indicated to her all the purifications and fastings that she was to
observe, and how she was to reach Matho. Moreover, a man acquainted with
the routes would accompany her.

She felt as if she had been set free. She thought only of the happiness
of seeing the zaimph again, and she now blessed Schahabarim for his
exhortations.

It was the period at which the doves of Carthage migrated to Sicily to
the mountain of Eryx and the temple of Venus. For several days before
their departure they sought out and called to one another so as to
collect together; at last one evening they flew away; the wind blew them
along, and the big white cloud glided across the sky high above the sea.

The horizon was filled with the colour of blood. They seemed to descend
gradually to the waves; then they disappeared as though swallowed
up, and falling of themselves into the jaws of the sun. Salammbo, who
watched them retiring, bent her head, and then Taanach, believing that
she guessed her sorrow, said gently to her:

“But they will come back, Mistress.”

“Yes! I know.”

“And you will see them again.”

“Perhaps!” she said, sighing.

She had not confided her resolve to any one; in order to carry it out
with the greater discretion she sent Taanach to the suburb of Kinisdo to
buy all the things that she required instead of requesting them from the
stewards: vermilion, aromatics, a linen girdle, and new garments. The
old slave was amazed at these preparations, without daring, however,
to ask any questions; and the day, which had been fixed by Schahabarim,
arrived when Salammbo was to set out.

About the twelfth hour she perceived, in the depths of the sycamore
trees, a blind old man with one hand resting on the shoulder of a child
who walked before him, while with the other he carried a kind of cithara
of black wood against his hip. The eunuchs, slaves, and women had
been scrupulously sent away; no one might know the mystery that was
preparing.

Taanach kindled four tripods filled with strobus and cadamomum in the
corners of the apartment; then she unfolded large Babylonian hangings,
and stretched them on cords all around the room, for Salammbo did not
wish to be seen even by the walls. The kinnor-player squatted behind
the door and the young boy standing upright applied a reed flute to
his lips. In the distance the roar of the streets was growing feebler,
violet shadows were lengthening before the peristyles of the temples,
and on the other side of the gulf the mountain bases, the fields of
olive-trees, and the vague yellow lands undulated indefinitely, and were
blended together in a bluish haze; not a sound was to be heard, and an
unspeakable depression weighed in the air.

Salammbo crouched down upon the onyx step on the edge of the basin; she
raised her ample sleeves, fastening them behind her shoulders, and began
her ablutions in methodical fashion, according to the sacred rites.

Next Taanach brought her something liquid and coagulated in an alabaster
phial; it was the blood of a black dog slaughtered by barren women on a
winter’s night amid the rubbish of a sepulchre. She rubbed it upon her
ears, her heels, and the thumb of her right hand, and even her nail
remained somewhat red, as if she had crushed a fruit.

The moon rose; then the cithara and the flute began to play together.

Salammbo unfastened her earrings, her necklace, her bracelets, and her
long white simar; she unknotted the band in her hair, shaking the latter
for a few minutes softly over her shoulders to cool herself by thus
scattering it. The music went on outside; it consisted of three notes
ever the same, hurried and frenzied; the strings grated, the flute blew;
Taanach kept time by striking her hands; Salammbo, with a swaying of
her whole body, chanted prayers, and her garments fell one after another
around her.

The heavy tapestry trembled, and the python’s head appeared above the
cord that supported it. The serpent descended slowly like a drop of
water flowing along a wall, crawled among the scattered stuffs, and
then, gluing its tail to the ground, rose perfectly erect; and his eyes,
more brilliant than carbuncles, darted upon Salammbo.

A horror of cold, or perhaps a feeling of shame, at first made her
hesitate. But she recalled Schahabarim’s orders and advanced; the python
turned downwards, and resting the centre of its body upon the nape of
her neck, allowed its head and tail to hang like a broken necklace with
both ends trailing to the ground. Salammbo rolled it around her sides,
under her arms and between her knees; then taking it by the jaw she
brought the little triangular mouth to the edge of her teeth, and half
shutting her eyes, threw herself back beneath the rays of the moon. The
white light seemed to envelop her in a silver mist, the prints of her
humid steps shone upon the flag-stones, stars quivered in the depth of
the water; it tightened upon her its black rings that were spotted with
scales of gold. Salammbo panted beneath the excessive weight, her
loins yielded, she felt herself dying, and with the tip of its tail the
serpent gently beat her thigh; then the music becoming still it fell off
again.

Taanach came back to her; and after arranging two candelabra, the lights
of which burned in crystal balls filled with water, she tinged the
inside of her hands with Lawsonia, spread vermilion upon her cheeks, and
antimony along the edge of her eyelids, and lengthened her eyebrows with
a mixture of gum, musk, ebony, and crushed legs of flies.

Salammbo seated on a chair with ivory uprights, gave herself up to the
attentions of the slave. But the touchings, the odour of the aromatics,
and the fasts that she had undergone, were enervating her. She became so
pale that Taanach stopped.

“Go on!” said Salammbo, and bearing up against herself, she suddenly
revived. Then she was seized with impatience; she urged Taanach to make
haste, and the old slave grumbled:

“Well! well! Mistress!--Besides, you have no one waiting for you!”

“Yes!” said Salammbo, “some one is waiting for me.”

Taanach drew back in surprise, and in order to learn more about it,
said:

“What orders to you give me, Mistress? for if you are to remain away--”

But Salammbo was sobbing; the slave exclaimed:

“You are suffering! what is the matter? Do not go away! take me! When
you were quite little and used to cry, I took you to my heart and
made you laugh with the points of my breasts; you have drained them,
Mistress!” She struck herself upon her dried-up bosom. “Now I am old! I
can do nothing for you! you no longer love me! you hide your griefs from
me, you despise the nurse!” And tears of tenderness and vexation flowed
down her cheeks in the gashes of her tattooing.

“No!” said Salammbo, “no, I love you! be comforted!”

With a smile like the grimace of an old ape, Taanach resumed her task.
In accordance with Schahabarim’s recommendations, Salammbo had ordered
the slave to make her magnificent; and she was obeying her mistress with
barbaric taste full at once of refinement and ingenuity.

Over a first delicate and vinous-coloured tunic she passed a second
embroidered with birds’ feathers. Golden scales clung to her hips,
and from this broad girdle descended her blue flowing silver-starred
trousers. Next Taanach put upon her a long robe made of the cloth of the
country of Seres, white and streaked with green lines. On the edge of
her shoulder she fastened a square of purple weighted at the hem with
grains of sandastrum; and above all these garments she placed a black
mantle with a flowing train; then she gazed at her, and proud of her
work could not help saying:

“You will not be more beautiful on the day of your bridal!”

“My bridal!” repeated Salammbo; she was musing with her elbow resting
upon the ivory chair.

But Taanach set up before her a copper mirror, which was so broad and
high that she could see herself completely in it. Then she rose, and
with a light touch of her finger raised a lock of her hair which was
falling too low.

Her hair was covered with gold dust, was crisped in front, and hung down
behind over her back in long twists ending in pearls. The brightness
of the candelabra heightened the paint on her cheeks, the gold on her
garments, and the whiteness of her skin; around her waist, and on her
arms, hands and toes, she had such a wealth of gems that the mirror sent
back rays upon her like a sun;--and Salammbo, standing by the side of
Taanach, who leaned over to see her, smiled amid this dazzling display.

Then she walked to and fro embarrassed by the time that was still left.

Suddenly the crow of a cock resounded. She quickly pinned a long yellow
veil upon her hair, passed a scarf around her neck, thrust her feet into
blue leather boots, and said to Taanach:

“Go and see whether there is not a man with two horses beneath the
myrtles.”

Taanach had scarcely re-entered when she was descending the galley
staircase.

“Mistress!” cried the nurse.

Salammbo turned round with one finger on her mouth as a sign for
discretion and immobility.

Taanach stole softly along the prows to the foot of the terrace,
and from a distance she could distinguish by the light of the moon a
gigantic shadow walking obliquely in the cypress avenue to the left of
Salammbo, a sign which presaged death.

Taanach went up again into the chamber. She threw herself upon the
ground tearing her face with her nails; she plucked out her hair, and
uttered piercing shrieks with all her might.

It occurred to her that they might be heard; then she became silent,
sobbing quite softly with her head in the hands and her face on the
pavement.



CHAPTER XI

IN THE TENT

The man who guided Salammbo made her ascend again beyond the pharos
in the direction of the Catacombs, and then go down the long suburb of
Molouya, which was full of steep lanes. The sky was beginning to grow
grey. Sometimes palm-wood beams jutting out from the walls obliged them
to bend their heads. The two horses which were at the walk would often
slip; and thus they reached the Teveste gate.

Its heavy leaves were half open; they passed through, and it closed
behind them.

At first they followed the foot of the ramparts for a time, and at the
height of the cisterns they took their way along the Taenia, a narrow
strip of yellow earth separating the gulf from the lake and extending as
far as Rhades.

No one was to be seen around Carthage, whether on the sea or in the
country. The slate-coloured waves chopped softly, and the light wind
blowing their foam hither and thither spotted them with white rents.
In spite of all her veils, Salammbo shivered in the freshness of the
morning; the motion and the open air dazed her. Then the sun rose; it
preyed on the back of her head, and she involuntarily dozed a little.
The two animals rambled along side by side, their feet sinking into the
silent sand.

When they had passed the mountain of the Hot Springs, they went on at a
more rapid rate, the ground being firmer.

But although it was the season for sowing and ploughing, the fields were
as empty as the desert as far as the eye could reach. Here and there
were scattered heaps of corn; at other places the barley was shedding
its reddened ears. The villages showed black upon the clear horizon,
with shapes incoherently carved.

From time to time a half-calcined piece of wall would be found standing
on the edge of the road. The roofs of the cottages were falling in, and
in the interiors might be distinguished fragments of pottery, rags of
clothing, and all kinds of unrecognisable utensils and broken things.
Often a creature clothed in tatters, with earthy face and flaming eyes
would emerge from these ruins. But he would very quickly begin to run or
would disappear into a hole. Salammbo and her guide did not stop.

Deserted plains succeeded one another. Charcoal dust which was raised by
their feet behind them, stretched in unequal trails over large spaces
of perfectly white soil. Sometimes they came upon little peaceful spots,
where a brook flowed amid the long grass; and as they ascended the other
bank Salammbo would pluck damp leaves to cool her hands. At the corner
of a wood of rose-bays her horse shied violently at the corpse of a man
which lay extended on the ground.

The slave immediately settled her again on the cushions. He was one of
the servants of the Temple, a man whom Schahabarim used to employ on
perilous missions.

With extreme precaution he now went on foot beside her and between the
horses; he would whip the animals with the end of a leathern lace wound
round his arm, or would perhaps take balls made of wheat, dates, and
yolks of eggs wrapped in lotus leaves from a scrip hanging against his
breast, and offer them to Salammbo without speaking, and running all the
time.

In the middle of the day three Barbarians clad in animals’ skins crossed
their path. By degrees others appeared wandering in troops of ten,
twelve, or twenty-five men; many were driving goats or a limping cow.
Their heavy sticks bristled with brass points; cutlasses gleamed in
their clothes, which were savagely dirty, and they opened their eyes
with a look of menace and amazement. As they passed some sent them a
vulgar benediction; others obscene jests, and Schahabarim’s man replied
to each in his own idiom. He told them that this was a sick youth going
to be cured at a distant temple.

However, the day was closing in. Barkings were heard, and they
approached them.

Then in the twilight they perceived an enclosure of dry stones shutting
in a rambling edifice. A dog was running along the top of the wall. The
slave threw some pebbles at him and they entered a lofty vaulted hall.

A woman was crouching in the centre warming herself at a fire of
brushwood, the smoke of which escaped through the holes in the ceiling.
She was half hidden by her white hair which fell to her knees; and
unwilling to answer, she muttered with idiotic look words of vengeance
against the Barbarians and the Carthaginians.

The runner ferreted right and left. Then he returned to her and demanded
something to eat. The old woman shook her head, and murmured with her
eyes fixed upon the charcoal:

“I was the hand. The ten fingers are cut off. The mouth eats no more.”

The slave showed her a handful of gold pieces. She rushed upon them, but
soon resumed her immobility.

At last he placed a dagger which he had in his girdle beneath her
throat. Then, trembling, she went and raised a large stone, and brought
back an amphora of wine with fish from Hippo-Zarytus preserved in honey.

Salammbo turned away from this unclean food, and fell asleep on the
horses’ caparisons which were spread in a corner of the hall.

He awoke her before daylight.

The dog was howling. The slave went up to it quietly, and struck off
its head with a single blow of his dagger. Then he rubbed the horses’
nostrils with blood to revive them. The old woman cast a malediction at
him from behind. Salammbo perceived this, and pressed the amulet which
she wore above her heart.

They resumed their journey.

From time to time she asked whether they would not arrive soon. The road
undulated over little hills. Nothing was to be heard but the grating of
the grasshoppers. The sun heated the yellowed grass; the ground was all
chinked with crevices which in dividing formed, as it were, monstrous
paving-stones. Sometimes a viper passed, or eagles flew by; the slave
still continued running. Salammbo mused beneath her veils, and in spite
of the heat did not lay them aside through fear of soiling her beautiful
garments.

At regular distances stood towers built by the Carthaginians for the
purpose of keeping watch upon the tribes. They entered these for the
sake of the shade, and then set out again.

For prudence sake they had made a wide detour the day before. But they
met with no one just now; the region being a sterile one, the Barbarians
had not passed that way.

Gradually the devastation began again. Sometimes a piece of mosaic would
be displayed in the centre of a field, the sole remnant of a vanished
mansion; and the leafless olive trees looked at a distance like large
bushes of thorns. They passed through a town in which houses were burnt
to the ground. Human skeletons might be seen along the walls. There were
some, too, of dromedaries and mules. Half-gnawed carrion blocked the
streets.

Night fell. The sky was lowering and cloudy.

They ascended again for two hours in a westerly direction, when suddenly
they perceived a quantity of little flames before them.

These were shining at the bottom of an ampitheatre. Gold plates, as they
displaced one another, glanced here and there. These were the cuirasses
of the Clinabarians in the Punic camp; then in the neighbourhood they
distinguished other and more numerous lights, for the armies of the
Mercenaries, now blended together, extended over a great space.

Salammbo made a movement as though to advance. But Schahabarim’s man
took her further away, and they passed along by the terrace which
enclosed the camp of the Barbarians. A breach became visible in it, and
the slave disappeared.

A sentry was walking upon the top of the entrenchment with a bow in his
hand and a pike on his shoulder.

Salammbo drew still nearer; the Barbarian knelt and a long arrow pierced
the hem of her cloak. Then as she stood motionless and shrieking, he
asked her what she wanted.

“To speak to Matho,” she replied. “I am a fugitive from Carthage.”

He gave a whistle, which was repeated at intervals further away.

Salammbo waited; her frightened horse moved round and round, sniffing.

When Matho arrived the moon was rising behind her. But she had a yellow
veil with black flowers over her face, and so many draperies about her
person, that it was impossible to make any guess about her. From the top
of the terrace he gazed upon this vague form standing up like a phantom
in the penumbrae of the evening.

At last she said to him:

“Lead me to your tent! I wish it!”

A recollection which he could not define passed through his memory. He
felt his heart beating. The air of command intimidated him.

“Follow me!” he said.

The barrier was lowered, and immediately she was in the camp of the
Barbarians.

It was filled with a great tumult and a great throng. Bright fires were
burning beneath hanging pots; and their purpled reflections illuminating
some places left others completely in the dark. There was shouting and
calling; shackled horses formed long straight lines amid the tents; the
latter were round and square, of leather or of canvas; there were huts
of reeds, and holes in the sand such as are made by dogs. Soldiers were
carting faggots, resting on their elbows on the ground, or wrapping
themselves up in mats and preparing to sleep; and Salammbo’s horse
sometimes stretched out a leg and jumped in order to pass over them.

She remembered that she had seen them before; but their beards were
longer now, their faces still blacker, and their voices hoarser. Matho,
who walked before her, waved them off with a gesture of his arm which
raised his red mantle. Some kissed his hands; others bending their
spines approached him to ask for orders, for he was now veritable and
sole chief of the Barbarians; Spendius, Autaritus, and Narr’ Havas had
become disheartened, and he had displayed so much audacity and obstinacy
that all obeyed him.

Salammbo followed him through the entire camp. His tent was at the end,
three hundred feet from Hamilcar’s entrenchments.

She noticed a wide pit on the right, and it seemed to her that faces
were resting against the edge of it on a level with the ground, as
decapitated heads might have done. However, their eyes moved, and from
these half-opened mouths groanings escaped in the Punic tongue.

Two Negroes holding resin lights stood on both sides of the door. Matho
drew the canvas abruptly aside. She followed him. It was a deep tent
with a pole standing up in the centre. It was lighted by a large
lamp-holder shaped like a lotus and full of a yellow oil wherein floated
handfuls of burning tow, and military things might be distinguished
gleaming in the shade. A naked sword leaned against a stool by the
side of a shield; whips of hippopotamus leather, cymbals, bells, and
necklaces were displayed pell-mell on baskets of esparto-grass; a
felt rug lay soiled with crumbs of black bread; some copper money was
carelessly heaped upon a round stone in a corner, and through the rents
in the canvas the wind brought the dust from without, together with the
smell of the elephants, which might be heard eating and shaking their
chains.

“Who are you?” said Matho.

She looked slowly around her without replying; then her eyes were
arrested in the background, where something bluish and sparkling fell
upon a bed of palm-branches.

She advanced quickly. A cry escaped her. Matho stamped his foot behind
her.

“Who brings you here? why do you come?”

“To take it!” she replied, pointing to the zaimph, and with the other
hand she tore the veils from her head. He drew back with his elbows
behind him, gaping, almost terrified.

She felt as if she were leaning on the might of the gods; and looking at
him face to face she asked him for the zaimph; she demanded it in words
abundant and superb.

Matho did not hear; he was gazing at her, and in his eyes her garments
were blended with her body. The clouding of the stuffs, like the
splendour of her skin, was something special and belonging to her alone.
Her eyes and her diamonds sparkled; the polish of her nails continued
the delicacy of the stones which loaded her fingers; the two clasps of
her tunic raised her breasts somewhat and brought them closer together,
and he in thought lost himself in the narrow interval between them
whence there fell a thread holding a plate of emeralds which could be
seen lower down beneath the violet gauze. She had as earrings two little
sapphire scales, each supporting a hollow pearl filled with liquid
scent. A little drop would fall every moment through the holes in the
pearl and moisten her naked shoulder. Matho watched it fall.

He was carried away by ungovernable curiosity; and, like a child laying
his hand upon a strange fruit, he tremblingly and lightly touched
the top of her chest with the tip of his finger: the flesh, which was
somewhat cold, yielded with an elastic resistance.

This contact, though scarcely a sensible one, shook Matho to the very
depths of his nature. An uprising of his whole being urged him towards
her. He would fain have enveloped her, absorbed her, drunk her. His
bosom was panting, his teeth were chattering.

Taking her by the wrists he drew her gently to him, and then sat down
upon a cuirass beside the palm-tree bed which was covered with a lion’s
skin. She was standing. He looked up at her, holding her thus between
his knees, and repeating:

“How beautiful you are! how beautiful you are!”

His eyes, which were continually fixed upon hers, pained her; and the
uncomfortableness, the repugnance increased in so acute a fashion that
Salammbo put a constraint upon herself not to cry out. The thought of
Schahabarim came back to her, and she resigned herself.

Matho still kept her little hands in his own; and from time to time,
in spite of the priest’s command, she turned away her face and tried to
thrust him off by jerking her arms. He opened his nostrils the better
to breathe in the perfume which exhaled from her person. It was a fresh,
indefinable emanation, which nevertheless made him dizzy, like the smoke
from a perfuming-pan. She smelt of honey, pepper, incense, roses, with
another odour still.

But how was she thus with him in his tent, and at his disposal? Some one
no doubt had urged her. She had not come for the zaimph. His arms fell,
and he bent his head whelmed in sudden reverie.

To soften him Salammbo said to him in a plaintive voice:

“What have I done to you that you should desire my death?”

“Your death!”

She resumed:

“I saw you one evening by the light of my burning gardens amid fuming
cups and my slaughtered slaves, and your anger was so strong that you
bounded towards me and I was obliged to fly! Then terror entered into
Carthage. There were cries of the devastation of the towns, the burning
of the country-seats, the massacre of the soldiery; it was you who had
ruined them, it was you who had murdered them! I hate you! Your very
name gnaws me like remorse! You are execrated more than the plague, and
the Roman war! The provinces shudder at your fury, the furrows are full
of corpses! I have followed the traces of your fires as though I were
travelling behind Moloch!”

Matho leaped up; his heart was swelling with colossal pride; he was
raised to the stature of a god.

With quivering nostrils and clenched teeth she went on:

“As if your sacrilege were not enough, you came to me in my sleep
covered with the zaimph! Your words I did not understand; but I could
see that you wished to drag me to some terrible thing at the bottom of
an abyss.”

Matho, writhing his arms, exclaimed:

“No! no! it was to give it to you! to restore it to you! It seemed to me
that the goddess had left her garment for you, and that it belonged to
you! In her temple or in your house, what does it matter? are you not
all-powerful, immaculate, radiant and beautiful even as Tanith?” And
with a look of boundless adoration he added:

“Unless perhaps you are Tanith?”

“I, Tanith!” said Salammbo to herself.

They left off speaking. The thunder rolled in the distance. Some sheep
bleated, frightened by the storm.

“Oh! come near!” he went on, “come near! fear nothing!

“Formerly I was only a soldier mingled with the common herd of the
Mercenaries, ay, and so meek that I used to carry wood on my back for
the others. Do I trouble myself about Carthage! The crowd of its people
move as though lost in the dust of your sandals, and all its treasures,
with the provinces, fleets, and islands, do not raise my envy like the
freshness of your lips and the turn of your shoulders. But I wanted to
throw down its walls that I might reach you to possess you! Moreover,
I was revenging myself in the meantime! At present I crush men like
shells, and I throw myself upon phalanxes; I put aside the sarissae with
my hands, I check the stallions by the nostrils; a catapult would
not kill me! Oh! if you knew how I think of you in the midst of war!
Sometimes the memory of a gesture or of a fold of your garment suddenly
seizes me and entwines me like a net! I perceive your eyes in the flames
of the phalaricas and on the gilding of the shields! I hear your voice
in the sounding of the cymbals. I turn aside, but you are not there! and
I plunge again into the battle!”

He raised his arms whereon his veins crossed one another like ivy on
the branches of a tree. Sweat flowed down his breast between his square
muscles; and his breathing shook his sides with his bronze girdle all
garnished with thongs hanging down to his knees, which were firmer than
marble. Salammbo, who was accustomed to eunuchs, yielded to amazement at
the strength of this man. It was the chastisement of the goddess or the
influence of Moloch in motion around her in the five armies. She was
overwhelmed with lassitude; and she listened in a state of stupor to the
intermittent shouts of the sentinels as they answered one another.

The flames of the lamp kindled in the squalls of hot air. There came
at times broad lightning flashes; then the darkness increased; and she
could only see Matho’s eyeballs like two coals in the night. However,
she felt that a fatality was surrounding her, that she had reached a
supreme and irrevocable moment, and making an effort she went up again
towards the zaimph and raised her hands to seize it.

“What are you doing?” exclaimed Matho.

“I am going back to Carthage,” she placidly replied.

He advanced folding his arms and with so terrible a look that her heels
were immediately nailed, as it were, to the spot.

“Going back to Carthage!” He stammered, and, grinding his teeth,
repeated:

“Going back to Carthage! Ah! you came to take the zaimph, to conquer me,
and then disappear! No, no! you belong to me! and no one now shall tear
you from here! Oh! I have not forgotten the insolence of your large
tranquil eyes, and how you crushed me with the haughtiness of your
beauty! ‘Tis my turn now! You are my captive, my slave, my servant!
Call, if you like, on your father and his army, the Ancients, the
rich, and your whole accursed people! I am the master of three hundred
thousand soldiers! I will go and seek them in Lusitania, in the Gauls,
and in the depths of the desert, and I will overthrow your town and burn
all its temples; the triremes shall float on the waves of blood! I will
not have a house, a stone, or a palm tree remaining! And if men fail me
I will draw the bears from the mountains and urge on the lions! Seek not
to fly or I kill you!”

Pale and with clenched fists he quivered like a harp whose strings are
about to burst. Suddenly sobs stifled him, and he sank down upon his
hams.

“Ah! forgive me! I am a scoundrel, and viler than scorpions, than mire
and dust! Just now while you were speaking your breath passed across my
face, and I rejoiced like a dying man who drinks lying flat on the edge
of a stream. Crush me, if only I feel your feet! curse me, if only I
hear your voice! Do not go! have pity! I love you! I love you!”

He was on his knees on the ground before her; and he encircled her form
with both his arms, his head thrown back, and his hands wandering; the
gold discs hanging from his ears gleamed upon his bronzed neck; big
tears rolled in his eyes like silver globes; he sighed caressingly, and
murmured vague words lighter than a breeze and sweet as a kiss.

Salammbo was invaded by a weakness in which she lost all consciousness
of herself. Something at once inward and lofty, a command from the gods,
obliged her to yield herself; clouds uplifted her, and she fell back
swooning upon the bed amid the lion’s hair. The zaimph fell, and
enveloped her; she could see Matho’s face bending down above her breast.

“Moloch, thou burnest me!” and the soldier’s kisses, more devouring than
flames, covered her; she was as though swept away in a hurricane, taken
in the might of the sun.

He kissed all her fingers, her arms, her feet, and the long tresses of
her hair from one end to the other.

“Carry it off,” he said, “what do I care? take me away with it! I
abandon the army! I renounce everything! Beyond Gades, twenty days’
journey into the sea, you come to an island covered with gold dust,
verdure, and birds. On the mountains large flowers filled with smoking
perfumes rock like eternal censers; in the citron trees, which are
higher than cedars, milk-coloured serpents cause the fruit to fall upon
the turf with the diamonds in their jaws; the air is so mild that it
keeps you from dying. Oh! I shall find it, you will see. We shall live
in crystal grottoes cut out at the foot of the hills. No one dwells in
it yet, or I shall become the king of the country.”

He brushed the dust off her cothurni; he wanted her to put a quarter of
a pomegranate between her lips; he heaped up garments behind her head to
make a cushion for her. He sought for means to serve her, and to humble
himself, and he even spread the zaimph over her feet as if it were a
mere rug.

“Have you still,” he said, “those little gazelle’s horns on which your
necklaces hang? You will give them to me! I love them!” For he spoke
as if the war were finished, and joyful laughs broke from him. The
Mercenaries, Hamilcar, every obstacle had now disappeared. The moon was
gliding between two clouds. They could see it through an opening in the
tent. “Ah, what nights have I spent gazing at her! she seemed to me like
a veil that hid your face; you would look at me through her; the memory
of you was mingled with her beams; then I could no longer distinguish
you!” And with his head between her breasts he wept copiously.

“And this,” she thought, “is the formidable man who makes Carthage
tremble!”

He fell asleep. Then disengaging herself from his arm she put one foot
to the ground, and she perceived that her chainlet was broken.

The maidens of the great families were accustomed to respect these
shackles as something that was almost religious, and Salammbo, blushing,
rolled the two pieces of the golden chain around her ankles.

Carthage, Megara, her house, her room, and the country that she had
passed through, whirled in tumultuous yet distinct images through her
memory. But an abyss had yawned and thrown them far back to an infinite
distance from her.

The storm was departing; drops of water splashing rarely, one by one,
made the tent-roof shake.

Matho slept like a drunken man, stretched on his side, and with one arm
over the edge of the couch. His band of pearls was raised somewhat, and
uncovered his brow; his teeth were parted in a smile; they shone through
his black beard, and there was a silent and almost outrageous gaiety in
his half-closed eyelids.

Salammbo looked at him motionless, her head bent and her hands crossed.

A dagger was displayed on the table of cypress-wood at the head of the
bed; the sight of the gleaming blade fired her with a sanguinary desire.
Mournful voices lingered at a distance in the shade, and like a chorus
of geniuses urged her on. She approached it; she seized the steel by the
handle. At the rustling of her dress Matho half opened his eyes, putting
forth his mouth upon her hands, and the dagger fell.

Shouts arose; a terrible light flashed behind the canvas. Matho raised
the latter; they perceived the camp of the Libyans enveloped in great
flames.

Their reed huts were burning, and the twisting stems burst in the smoke
and flew off like arrows; black shadows ran about distractedly on the
red horizon. They could hear the shrieks of those who were in the
huts; the elephants, oxen, and horses plunged in the midst of the crowd
crushing it together with the stores and baggage that were being rescued
from the fire. Trumpets sounded. There were calls of “Matho! Matho!”
 Some people at the door tried to get in.

“Come along! Hamilcar is burning the camp of Autaritus!”

He made a spring. She found herself quite alone.

Then she examined the zaimph; and when she had viewed it well she was
surprised that she had not the happiness which she had once imagined to
herself. She stood with melancholy before her accomplished dream.

But the lower part of the tent was raised, and a monstrous form
appeared. Salammbo could at first distinguish only the two eyes and
a long white beard which hung down to the ground; for the rest of the
body, which was cumbered with the rags of a tawny garment, trailed along
the earth; and with every forward movement the hands passed into the
beard and then fell again. Crawling in this way it reached her feet, and
Salammbo recognised the aged Gisco.

In fact, the Mercenaries had broken the legs of the captive Ancients
with a brass bar to prevent them from taking to flight; and they were
all rotting pell-mell in a pit in the midst of filth. But the sturdiest
of them raised themselves and shouted when they heard the noise of
platters, and it was in this way that Gisco had seen Salammbo. He
had guessed that she was a Carthaginian woman by the little balls of
sandastrum flapping against her cothurni; and having a presentiment
of an important mystery he had succeeded, with the assistance of his
companions, in getting out of the pit; then with elbows and hands he
had dragged himself twenty paces further on as far as Matho’s tent. Two
voices were speaking within it. He had listened outside and had heard
everything.

“It is you!” she said at last, almost terrified.

“Yes, it is I!” he replied, raising himself on his wrists. “They think
me dead, do they not?”

She bent her head. He resumed:

“Ah! why have the Baals not granted me this mercy!” He approached
so close he was touching her. “They would have spared me the pain of
cursing you!”

Salammbo sprang quickly back, so much afraid was she of this unclean
being, who was as hideous as a larva and nearly as terrible as a
phantom.

“I am nearly one hundred years old,” he said. “I have seen Agathocles; I
have seen Regulus and the eagles of the Romans passing over the harvests
of the Punic fields! I have seen all the terrors of battles and the
sea encumbered with the wrecks of our fleets! Barbarians whom I used
to command have chained my four limbs like a slave that has committed
murder. My companions are dying around me, one after the other; the
odour of their corpses awakes me in the night; I drive away the birds
that come to peck out their eyes; and yet not for a single day have I
despaired of Carthage! Though I had seen all the armies of the earth
against her, and the flames of the siege overtop the height of the
temples, I should have still believed in her eternity! But now all is
over! all is lost! The gods execrate her! A curse upon you who have
quickened her ruin by your disgrace!”

She opened her lips.

“Ah! I was there!” he cried. “I heard you gurgling with love like a
prostitute; then he told you of his desire, and you allowed him to kiss
your hands! But if the frenzy of your unchastity urged you to it, you
should at least have done as do the fallow deer, which hide themselves
in their copulations, and not have displayed your shame beneath your
father’s very eyes!”

“What?” she said.

“Ah! you did not know that the two entrenchments are sixty cubits from
each other and that your Matho, in the excess of his pride, has posted
himself just in front of Hamilcar. Your father is there behind you; and
could I climb the path which leads to the platform, I should cry to him:
‘Come and see your daughter in the Barbarian’s arms! She has put on the
garment of the goddess to please him; and in yielding her body to him
she surrenders with the glory of your name the majesty of the gods, the
vengeance of her country, even the safety of Carthage!’” The motion of
his toothless mouth moved his beard throughout its length; his eyes were
riveted upon her and devoured her; panting in the dust he repeated:

“Ah! sacrilegious one! May you be accursed! accursed! accursed!”

Salammbo had drawn back the canvas; she held it raised at arm’s length,
and without answering him she looked in the direction of Hamilcar.

“It is this way, is it not?” she said.

“What matters it to you? Turn away! Begone! Rather crush your face
against the earth! It is a holy spot which would be polluted by your
gaze!”

She threw the zaimph about her waist, and quickly picked up her veils,
mantle, and scarf. “I hasten thither!” she cried; and making her escape
Salammbo disappeared.

At first she walked through the darkness without meeting any one, for
all were betaking themselves to the fire; the uproar was increasing and
great flames purpled the sky behind; a long terrace stopped her.

She turned round to right and left at random, seeking for a ladder,
a rope, a stone, something in short to assist her. She was afraid of
Gisco, and it seemed to her that shouts and footsteps were pursuing her.
Day was beginning to break. She perceived a path in the thickness of the
entrenchment. She took the hem of her robe, which impeded her, in her
teeth, and in three bounds she was on the platform.

A sonorous shout burst forth beneath her in the shade, the same which
she had heard at the foot of the galley staircase, and leaning over she
recognised Schahabarim’s man with his coupled horses.

He had wandered all night between the two entrenchments; then disquieted
by the fire, he had gone back again trying to see what was passing in
Matho’s camp; and, knowing that this spot was nearest to his tent, he
had not stirred from it, in obedience to the priest’s command.

He stood up on one of the horses. Salammbo let herself slide down to
him; and they fled at full gallop, circling the Punic camp in search of
a gate.

Matho had re-entered his tent. The smoky lamp gave but little light, and
he also believed that Salammbo was asleep. Then he delicately touched
the lion’s skin on the palm-tree bed. He called but she did not answer;
he quickly tore away a strip of the canvas to let in some light; the
zaimph was gone.

The earth trembled beneath thronging feet. Shouts, neighings, and
clashing of armour rose in the air, and clarion flourishes sounded
the charge. It was as though a hurricane were whirling around him.
Immoderate frenzy made him leap upon his arms, and he dashed outside.

The long files of the Barbarians were descending the mountain at a
run, and the Punic squares were advancing against them with a heavy
and regular oscillation. The mist, rent by the rays of the sun, formed
little rocking clouds which as they rose gradually discovered standards,
helmets, and points of pikes. Beneath the rapid evolutions portions of
the earth which were still in the shadow seemed to be displaced bodily;
in other places it looked as if huge torrents were crossing one
another, while thorny masses stood motionless between them. Matho could
distinguish the captains, soldiers, heralds, and even the serving-men,
who were mounted on asses in the rear. But instead of maintaining
his position in order to cover the foot-soldiers, Narr’ Havas turned
abruptly to the right, as though he wished himself to be crushed by
Hamilcar.

His horsemen outstripped the elephants, which were slackening their
speed; and all the horses, stretching out their unbridled heads,
galloped at so furious a rate that their bellies seemed to graze the
earth. Then suddenly Narr’ Havas went resolutely up to a sentry. He
threw away his sword, lance, and javelins, and disappeared among the
Carthaginians.

The king of the Numidians reached Hamilcar’s tent, and pointing to his
men, who were standing still at a distance, he said:

“Barca! I bring them to you. They are yours.”

Then he prostrated himself in token of bondage, and to prove his
fidelity recalled all his conduct from the beginning of the war.

First, he had prevented the siege of Carthage and the massacre of the
captives; then he had taken no advantage of the victory over Hanno after
the defeat at Utica. As to the Tyrian towns, they were on the frontiers
of his kingdom. Finally he had not taken part in the battle of the
Macaras; and he had even expressly absented himself in order to evade
the obligation of fighting against the Suffet.

Narr’ Havas had in fact wished to aggrandise himself by encroachments
upon the Punic provinces, and had alternately assisted and forsaken
the Mercenaries according to the chances of victory. But seeing that
Hamilcar would ultimately prove the stronger, he had gone over to him;
and in his desertion there was perhaps something of a grudge against
Matho, whether on account of the command or of his former love.

The Suffet listened without interrupting him. The man who thus presented
himself with an army where vengeance was his due was not an auxiliary to
be despised; Hamilcar at once divined the utility of such an alliance in
his great projects. With the Numidians he would get rid of the Libyans.
Then he would draw off the West to the conquest of Iberia; and, without
asking Narr’ Havas why he had not come sooner, or noticing any of his
lies, he kissed him, striking his breast thrice against his own.

It was to bring matters to an end and in despair that he had fired the
camp of the Libyans. This army came to him like a relief from the gods;
dissembling his joy he replied:

“May the Baals favour you! I do not know what the Republic will do for
you, but Hamilcar is not ungrateful.”

The tumult increased; some captains entered. He was arming himself as he
spoke.

“Come, return! You will use your horsemen to beat down their infantry
between your elephants and mine. Courage! exterminate them!”

And Narr’ Havas was rushing away when Salammbo appeared.

She leaped down quickly from her horse. She opened her ample cloak and
spreading out her arms displayed the zaimph.

The leathern tent, which was raised at the corners, left visible the
entire circuit of the mountain with its thronging soldiers, and as
it was in the centre Salammbo could be seen on all sides. An immense
shouting burst forth, a long cry of triumph and hope. Those who were
marching stopped; the dying leaned on their elbows and turned round
to bless her. All the Barbarians knew now that she had recovered the
zaimph; they saw her or believed that they saw her from a distance; and
other cries, but those of rage and vengeance, resounded in spite of the
plaudits of the Carthaginians. Thus did the five armies in tiers upon
the mountain stamp and shriek around Salammbo.

Hamilcar, who was unable to speak, nodded her his thanks. His eyes were
directed alternately upon the zaimph and upon her, and he noticed that
her chainlet was broken. Then he shivered, being seized with a terrible
suspicion. But soon recovering his impassibility he looked sideways at
Narr’ Havas without turning his face.

The king of the Numidians held himself apart in a discreet attitude;
on his forehead he bore a little of the dust which he had touched when
prostrating himself. At last the Suffet advanced towards him with a look
full of gravity.

“As a reward for the services which you have rendered me, Narr’ Havas, I
give you my daughter. Be my son,” he added, “and defend your father!”

Narr’ Havas gave a great gesture of surprise; then he threw himself upon
Hamilcar’s hands and covered them with kisses.

Salammbo, calm as a statue, did not seem to understand. She blushed a
little as she cast down her eyelids, and her long curved lashes made
shadows upon her cheeks.

Hamilcar wished to unite them immediately in indissoluble betrothal. A
lance was placed in Salammbo’s hands and by her offered to Narr’ Havas;
their thumbs were tied together with a thong of ox-leather; then corn
was poured upon their heads, and the grains that fell around them rang
like rebounding hail.



CHAPTER XII

THE AQUEDUCT

Twelve hours afterwards all that remained of the Mercenaries was a heap
of wounded, dead, and dying.

Hamilcar had suddenly emerged from the bottom of the gorge, and again
descended the western slope that looked towards Hippo-Zarytus, and
the space being broader at this spot he had taken care to draw the
Barbarians into it. Narr’ Havas had encompassed them with his horse; the
Suffet meanwhile drove them back and crushed them. Then, too, they were
conquered beforehand by the loss of the zaimph; even those who
cared nothing about it had experienced anguish and something akin to
enfeeblement. Hamilcar, not indulging his pride by holding the field of
battle, had retired a little further off on the left to some heights,
from which he commanded them.

The shape of the camps could be recognised by their sloping palisades.
A long heap of black cinders was smoking on the side of the Libyans;
the devastated soil showed undulations like the sea, and the tents with
their tattered canvas looked like dim ships half lost in the breakers.
Cuirasses, forks, clarions, pieces of wood, iron and brass, corn, straw,
and garments were scattered about among the corpses; here and there a
phalarica on the point of extinction burned against a heap of baggage;
in some places the earth was hidden with shields; horses’ carcasses
succeeded one another like a series of hillocks; legs, sandals, arms,
and coats of mail were to be seen, with heads held in their helmets by
the chin-pieces and rolling about like balls; heads of hair were hanging
on the thorns; elephants were lying with their towers in pools of blood,
with entrails exposed, and gasping. The foot trod on slimy things, and
there were swamps of mud although no rain had fallen.

This confusion of dead bodies covered the whole mountain from top to
bottom.

Those who survived stirred as little as the dead. Squatting in unequal
groups they looked at one another scared and without speaking.

The lake of Hippo-Zarytus shone at the end of a long meadow beneath
the setting sun. To the right an agglomeration of white houses extended
beyond a girdle of walls; then the sea spread out indefinitely; and the
Barbarians, with their chins in their hands, sighed as they thought of
their native lands. A cloud of grey dust was falling.

The evening wind blew; then every breast dilated, and as the freshness
increased, the vermin might be seen to forsake the dead, who were colder
now, and to run over the hot sand. Crows, looking towards the dying,
rested motionless on the tops of the big stones.

When night had fallen yellow-haired dogs, those unclean beasts which
followed the armies, came quite softly into the midst of the Barbarians.
At first they licked the clots of blood on the still tepid stumps; and
soon they began to devour the corpses, biting into the stomachs first of
all.

The fugitives reappeared one by one like shadows; the women also
ventured to return, for there were still some of them left, especially
among the Libyans, in spite of the dreadful massacre of them by the
Numidians.

Some took ropes’ ends and lighted them to use as torches. Others held
crossed pikes. The corpses were placed upon these and were conveyed
apart.

They were found lying stretched in long lines, on their backs, with
their mouths open, and their lances beside them; or else they were piled
up pell-mell so that it was often necessary to dig out a whole heap
in order to discover those they were wanting. Then the torch would be
passed slowly over their faces. They had received complicated wounds
from hideous weapons. Greenish strips hung from their foreheads; they
were cut in pieces, crushed to the marrow, blue from strangulation, or
broadly cleft by the elephants’ ivory. Although they had died at almost
the same time there existed differences between their various states of
corruption. The men of the North were puffed up with livid swellings,
while the more nervous Africans looked as though they had been smoked,
and were already drying up. The Mercenaries might be recognised by the
tattooing on their hands: the old soldiers of Antiochus displayed
a sparrow-hawk; those who had served in Egypt, the head of the
cynosephalus; those who had served with the princes of Asia, a hatchet,
a pomegranate, or a hammer; those who had served in the Greek republics,
the side-view of a citadel or the name of an archon; and some were to
be seen whose arms were entirely covered with these multiplied symbols,
which mingled with their scars and their recent wounds.

Four great funeral piles were erected for the men of Latin race, the
Samnites, Etruscans, Campanians, and Bruttians.

The Greeks dug pits with the points of their swords. The Spartans
removed their red cloaks and wrapped them round the dead; the Athenians
laid them out with their faces towards the rising sun; the Cantabrians
buried them beneath a heap of pebbles; the Nasamonians bent them double
with ox-leather thongs, and the Garamantians went and interred them on
the shore so that they might be perpetually washed by the waves. But the
Latins were grieved that they could not collect the ashes in urns; the
Nomads regretted the heat of the sands in which bodies were mummified,
and the Celts, the three rude stones beneath a rainy sky at the end of
an islet-covered gulf.

Vociferations arose, followed by the lengthened silence. This was to
oblige the souls to return. Then the shouting was resumed persistently
at regular intervals.

They made excuses to the dead for their inability to honour them as the
rites prescribed: for, owing to this deprivation, they would pass for
infinite periods through all kinds of chances and metamorphoses; they
questioned them and asked them what they desired; others loaded them
with abuse for having allowed themselves to be conquered.

The bloodless faces lying back here and there on wrecks of armour showed
pale in the light of the great funeral-pile; tears provoked tears, the
sobs became shriller, the recognitions and embracings more frantic.
Women stretched themselves on the corpses, mouth to mouth and brow to
brow; it was necessary to beat them in order to make them withdraw when
the earth was being thrown in. They blackened their cheeks; they cut off
their hair; they drew their own blood and poured it into the pits; they
gashed themselves in imitation of the wounds that disfigured the dead.
Roarings burst forth through the crashings of the cymbals. Some snatched
off their amulets and spat upon them. The dying rolled in the bloody
mire biting their mutilated fists in their rage; and forty-three
Samnites, quite a “sacred spring,” cut one another’s throats like
gladiators. Soon wood for the funeral-piles failed, the flames were
extinguished, every spot was occupied; and weary from shouting,
weakened, tottering, they fell asleep close to their dead brethren,
those who still clung to life full of anxieties, and the others desiring
never to wake again.

In the greyness of the dawn some soldiers appeared on the outskirts of
the Barbarians, and filed past with their helmets raised on the points
of their pikes; they saluted the Mercenaries and asked them whether they
had no messages to send to their native lands.

Others approached, and the Barbarians recognised some of their former
companions.

The Suffet had proposed to all the captives that they should serve in
his troops. Several had fearlessly refused; and quite resolved neither
to support them nor to abandon them to the Great Council, he had sent
them away with injunctions to fight no more against Carthage. As to
those who had been rendered docile by the fear of tortures, they had
been furnished with the weapons taken from the enemy; and they were now
presenting themselves to the vanquished, not so much in order to seduce
them as out of an impulse of pride and curiosity.

At first they told of the good treatment which they had received from
the Suffet; the Barbarians listened to them with jealousy although they
despised them. Then at the first words of reproach the cowards fell
into a passion; they showed them from a distance their own swords
and cuirasses and invited them with abuse to come and take them. The
Barbarians picked up flints; all took to flight; and nothing more could
be seen on the summit of the mountain except the lance-points projecting
above the edge of the palisades.

Then the Barbarians were overwhelmed with a grief that was heavier than
the humiliation of the defeat. They thought of the emptiness of their
courage, and they stood with their eyes fixed and grinding their teeth.

The same thought came to them all. They rushed tumultuously upon the
Carthaginian prisoners. It chanced that the Suffet’s soldiers had been
unable to discover them, and as he had withdrawn from the field of
battle they were still in the deep pit.

They were ranged on the ground on a flattened spot. Sentries formed a
circle round them, and the women were allowed to enter thirty or forty
at a time. Wishing to profit by the short time that was allowed to them,
they ran from one to the other, uncertain and panting; then bending over
the poor bodies they struck them with all their might like washerwomen
beating linen; shrieking their husband’s names they tore them with their
nails and put out their eyes with the bodkins of their hair. The men
came next and tortured them from their feet, which they cut off at the
ankles, to their foreheads, from which they took crowns of skin to put
upon their own heads. The Eaters of Uncleanness were atrocious in their
devices. They envenomed the wounds by pouring into them dust, vinegar,
and fragments of pottery; others waited behind; blood flowed, and they
rejoiced like vintagers round fuming vats.

Matho, however, was seated on the ground, at the very place where he had
happened to be when the battle ended, his elbows on his knees, and his
temples in his hands; he saw nothing, heard nothing, and had ceased to
think.

At the shrieks of joy uttered by the crowd he raised his head. Before
him a strip of canvas caught on a flagpole, and trailing on the ground,
sheltered in confused fashion blankets, carpets, and a lion’s skin. He
recognised his tent; and he riveted his eyes upon the ground as though
Hamilcar’s daughter, when she disappeared, had sunk into the earth.

The torn canvas flapped in the wind; the long rags of it sometimes
passed across his mouth, and he perceived a red mark like the print of a
hand. It was the hand of Narr’ Havas, the token of their alliance. Then
Matho rose. He took a firebrand which was still smoking, and threw
it disdainfully upon the wrecks of his tent. Then with the toe of his
cothurn he pushed the things which fell out back towards the flame so
that nothing might be left.

Suddenly, without any one being able to guess from what point he had
sprung up, Spendius reappeared.

The former slave had fastened two fragments of a lance against his
thigh; he limped with a piteous look, breathing forth complaints the
while.

“Remove that,” said Matho to him. “I know that you are a brave fellow!”
 For he was so crushed by the injustice of the gods that he had not
strength enough to be indignant with men.

Spendius beckoned to him and led him to a hollow of the mountain, where
Zarxas and Autaritus were lying concealed.

They had fled like the slave, the one although he was cruel, and the
other in spite of his bravery. But who, said they, could have expected
the treachery of Narr’ Havas, the burning of the camp of the Libyans,
the loss of the zaimph, the sudden attack by Hamilcar, and, above all,
his manoeuvres which forced them to return to the bottom of the mountain
beneath the instant blows of the Carthaginians? Spendius made no
acknowledgement of his terror, and persisted in maintaining that his leg
was broken.

At last the three chiefs and the schalischim asked one another what
decision should now be adopted.

Hamilcar closed the road to Carthage against them; they were caught
between his soldiers and the provinces belonging to Narr’ Havas; the
Tyrian towns would join the conquerors; the Barbarians would find
themselves driven to the edge of the sea, and all those united forces
would crush them. This would infallibly happen.

Thus no means presented themselves of avoiding the war. Accordingly
they must prosecute it to the bitter end. But how were they to make the
necessity of an interminable battle understood by all these disheartened
people, who were still bleeding from their wounds.

“I will undertake that!” said Spendius.

Two hours afterwards a man who came from the direction of Hippo-Zarytus
climbed the mountain at a run. He waved some tablets at arm’s length,
and as he shouted very loudly the Barbarians surrounded him.

The tablets had been despatched by the Greek soldiers in Sardinia. They
recommended their African comrades to watch over Gisco and the other
captives. A Samian trader, one Hipponax, coming from Carthage, had
informed them that a plot was being organised to promote their escape,
and the Barbarians were urged to take every precaution; the Republic was
powerful.

Spendius’s stratagem did not succeed at first as he had hoped. This
assurance of the new peril, so far from exciting frenzy, raised fears;
and remembering Hamilcar’s warning, lately thrown into their midst, they
expected something unlooked for and terrible. The night was spent in
great distress; several even got rid of their weapons, so as to soften
the Suffet when he presented himself.

But on the following day, at the third watch, a second runner appeared,
still more breathless, and blackened with dust. The Greek snatched
from his hand a roll of papyrus covered with Phoenician writing. The
Mercenaries were entreated not to be disheartened; the brave men of
Tunis were coming with large reinforcements.

Spendius first read the letter three times in succession; and held up by
two Cappadocians, who bore him seated on their shoulders, he had
himself conveyed from place to place and re-read it. For seven hours he
harangued.

He reminded the Mercenaries of the promises of the Great Council; the
Africans of the cruelties of the stewards, and all the Barbarians of the
injustice of Carthage. The Suffet’s mildness was only a bait to capture
them; those who surrendered would be sold as slaves, and the vanquished
would perish under torture. As to flight, what routes could they follow?
Not a nation would receive them. Whereas by continuing their efforts
they would obtain at once freedom, vengeance, and money! And they would
not have long to wait, since the people of Tunis, the whole of Libya,
was rushing to relieve them. He showed the unrolled papyrus: “Look at
it! read! see their promises! I do not lie.”

Dogs were straying about with their black muzzles all plastered with
red. The men’s uncovered heads were growing hot in the burning sun.
A nauseous smell exhaled from the badly buried corpses. Some even
projected from the earth as far as the waist. Spendius called them to
witness what he was saying; then he raised his fists in the direction of
Hamilcar.

Matho, moreover, was watching him, and to cover his cowardice he
displayed an anger by which he gradually found himself carried away.
Devoting himself to the gods he heaped curses upon the Carthaginians.
The torture of the captives was child’s play. Why spare them, and be
ever dragging this useless cattle after one? “No! we must put an end to
it! their designs are known! a single one might ruin us! no pity! Those
who are worthy will be known by the speed of their legs and the force of
their blows.”

Then they turned again upon the captives. Several were still in the last
throes; they were finished by the thrust of a heel in the mouth or a
stab with the point of a javelin.

Then they thought of Gisco. Nowhere could he be seen; they were
disturbed with anxiety. They wished at once to convince themselves of
his death and to participate in it. At last three Samnite shepherds
discovered him at a distance of fifteen paces from the spot where
Matho’s tent lately stood. They recognised him by his long beard and
they called the rest.

Stretched on his back, his arms against his hips, and his knees close
together, he looked like a dead man laid out for the tomb. Nevertheless
his wasted sides rose and fell, and his eyes, wide-opened in his pallid
face, gazed in a continuous and intolerable fashion.

The Barbarians looked at him at first with great astonishment. Since he
had been living in the pit he had been almost forgotten; rendered uneasy
by old memories they stood at a distance and did not venture to raise
their hands against him.

But those who were behind were murmuring and pressed forward when a
Garamantian passed through the crowd; he was brandishing a sickle; all
understood his thought; their faces purpled, and smitten with shame they
shrieked:

“Yes! yes!”

The man with the curved steel approached Gisco. He took his head, and,
resting it upon his knee, sawed it off with rapid strokes; it fell; to
great jets of blood made a hole in the dust. Zarxas leaped upon it, and
lighter than a leopard ran towards the Carthaginians.

Then when he had covered two thirds of the mountain he drew Gisco’s
head from his breast by the beard, whirled his arm rapidly several
times,--and the mass, when thrown at last, described a long parabola and
disappeared behind the Punic entrenchments.

Soon at the edge of the palisades there rose two crossed standards, the
customary sign for claiming a corpse.

Then four heralds, chosen for their width of chest, went out with great
clarions, and speaking through the brass tubes declared that henceforth
there would be between Carthaginians and Barbarians neither faith, pity,
nor gods, that they refused all overtures beforehand, and that envoys
would be sent back with their hands cut off.

Immediately afterwards, Spendius was sent to Hippo-Zarytus to procure
provisions; the Tyrian city sent them some the same evening. They ate
greedily. Then when they were strengthened they speedily collected
the remains of their baggage and their broken arms; the women massed
themselves in the centre, and heedless of the wounded left weeping
behind them, they set out along the edge of the shore like a herd of
wolves taking its departure.

They were marching upon Hippo-Zarytus, resolved to take it, for they had
need of a town.

Hamilcar, as he perceived them at a distance, had a feeling of despair
in spite of the pride which he experienced in seeing them fly before
him. He ought to have attacked them immediately with fresh troops.
Another similar day and the war was over! If matters were protracted
they would return with greater strength; the Tyrian towns would join
them; his clemency towards the vanquished had been of no avail. He
resolved to be pitiless.

The same evening he sent the Great Council a dromedary laden with
bracelets collected from the dead, and with horrible threats ordered
another army to be despatched.

All had for a long time believed him lost; so that on learning his
victory they felt a stupefaction which was almost terror. The vaguely
announced return of the zaimph completed the wonder. Thus the gods and
the might of Carthage seemed now to belong to him.

None of his enemies ventured upon complaint or recrimination. Owing to
the enthusiasm of some and the pusillanimity of the rest, an army of
five thousand men was ready before the interval prescribed had elapsed.

This army promptly made its way to Utica in order to support the
Suffet’s rear, while three thousand of the most notable citizens
embarked in vessels which were to land them at Hippo-Zarytus, whence
they were to drive back the Barbarians.

Hanno had accepted the command; but he intrusted the army to his
lieutenant, Magdassin, so as to lead the troops which were to be
disembarked himself, for he could no longer endure the shaking of
the litter. His disease had eaten away his lips and nostrils, and had
hollowed out a large hole in his face; the back of his throat could be
seen at a distance of ten paces, and he knew himself to be so hideous
that he wore a veil over his head like a woman.

Hippo-Zarytus paid no attention to his summonings nor yet to those of
the Barbarians; but every morning the inhabitants lowered provisions to
the latter in baskets, and shouting from the tops of the towers pleaded
the exigencies of the Republic and conjured them to withdraw. By means
of signs they addressed the same protestations to the Carthaginians, who
were stationed on the sea.

Hanno contented himself with blockading the harbour without risking an
attack. However, he permitted the judges of Hippo-Zarytus to admit three
hundred soldiers. Then he departed to the Cape Grapes, and made a
long circuit so as to hem in the Barbarians, an inopportune and even
dangerous operation. His jealousy prevented him from relieving the
Suffet; he arrested his spies, impeded him in all his plans, and
compromised the success of the enterprise. At last Hamilcar wrote to
the Great Council to rid himself of Hanno, and the latter returned to
Carthage furious at the baseness of the Ancients and the madness of his
colleague. Hence, after so many hopes, the situation was now still more
deplorable; but there was an effort not to reflect upon it and even not
to talk about it.

As if all this were not sufficient misfortune at one time, news came
that the Sardinian Mercenaries had crucified their general, seized the
strongholds, and everywhere slaughtered those of Chanaanitish race. The
Roman people threatened the Republic with immediate hostilities
unless she gave twelve hundred talents with the whole of the island of
Sardinia. They had accepted the alliance of the Barbarians, and they
despatched to them flat-bottomed boats laden with meal and dried meat.
The Carthaginians pursued these, and captured five hundred men; but
three days afterwards a fleet coming from Byzacena, and conveying
provisions to Carthage, foundered in a storm. The gods were evidently
declaring against her.

Upon this the citizens of Hippo-Zarytus, under pretence of an alarm,
made Hanno’s three hundred men ascend their walls; then coming behind
them they took them by the legs, and suddenly threw them over the
ramparts. Some who were not killed were pursued, and went and drowned
themselves in the sea.

Utica was enduring the presence of soldiers, for Magdassin had acted
like Hanno, and in accordance with his orders and deaf to Hamilcar’s
prayers, was surrounding the town. As for these, they were given wine
mixed with mandrake, and were then slaughtered in their sleep. At the
same time the Barbarians arrived; Magdassin fled; the gates were opened,
and thenceforward the two Tyrian towns displayed an obstinate devotion
to their new friends and an inconceivable hatred to their former allies.

This abandonment of the Punic cause was a counsel and a precedent. Hopes
of deliverance revived. Populations hitherto uncertain hesitated no
longer. Everywhere there was a stir. The Suffet learnt this, and he had
no assistance to look for! He was now irrevocably lost.

He immediately dismissed Narr’ Havas, who was to guard the borders of
his kingdom. As for himself, he resolved to re-enter Carthage in order
to obtain soldiers and begin the war again.

The Barbarians posted at Hippo-Zarytus perceived his army as it
descended the mountain.

Where could the Carthaginians be going? Hunger, no doubt, was urging
them on; and, distracted by their sufferings, they were coming in spite
of their weakness to give battle. But they turned to the right: they
were fleeing. They might be overtaken and all be crushed. The Barbarians
dashed in pursuit of them.

The Carthaginians were checked by the river. It was wide this time and
the west wind had not been blowing. Some crossed by swimming, and the
rest on their shields. They resumed their march. Night fell. They were
out of sight.

The Barbarians did not stop; they went higher to find a narrower place.
The people of Tunis hastened thither, bringing those of Utica along with
them. Their numbers increased at every bush; and the Carthaginians, as
they lay on the ground, could hear the tramping of their feet in the
darkness. From time to time Barca had a volley of arrows discharged
behind him to check them, and several were killed. When day broke they
were in the Ariana Mountains, at the spot where the road makes a bend.

Then Matho, who was marching at the head, thought that he could
distinguish something green on the horizon on the summit of an eminence.
Then the ground sank, and obelisks, domes, and houses appeared! It was
Carthage. He leaned against a tree to keep himself from falling, so
rapidly did his heart beat.

He thought of all that had come to pass in his existence since the
last time that he had passed that way! It was an infinite surprise, it
stunned him. Then he was transported with joy at the thought of seeing
Salammbo again. The reasons which he had for execrating her returned to
his recollection, but he very quickly rejected them. Quivering and with
straining eyeballs he gazed at the lofty terrace of a palace above the
palm trees beyond Eschmoun; a smile of ecstasy lighted his face as if
some great light had reached him; he opened his arms, and sent kisses on
the breeze, and murmured: “Come! come!” A sigh swelled his breast, and
two long tears like pearls fell upon his beard.

“What stays you?” cried Spendius. “Make haste! Forward! The Suffet is
going to escape us! But your knees are tottering, and you are looking at
me like a drunken man!”

He stamped with impatience and urged Matho, his eyes twinkling as at the
approach of an object long aimed at.

“Ah! we have reached it! We are there! I have them!”

He had so convinced and triumphant an air that Matho was surprised from
his torpor, and felt himself carried away by it. These words, coming
when his distress was at its height, drove his despair to vengeance, and
pointed to food for his wrath. He bounded upon one of the camels that
were among the baggage, snatched up its halter, and with the long
rope, struck the stragglers with all his might, running right and left
alternately, in the rear of the army, like a dog driving a flock.

At this thundering voice the lines of men closed up; even the lame
hurried their steps; the intervening space lessened in the middle of the
isthmus. The foremost of the Barbarians were marching in the dust raised
by the Carthaginians. The two armies were coming close, and were on the
point of touching. But the Malqua gate, the Tagaste gate, and the great
gate of Khamon threw wide their leaves. The Punic square divided; three
columns were swallowed up, and eddied beneath the porches. Soon the
mass, being too tightly packed, could advance no further; pikes clashed
in the air, and the arrows of the Barbarians were shivering against the
walls.

Hamilcar was to be seen on the threshold of Khamon. He turned round
and shouted to his men to move aside. He dismounted from his horse; and
pricking it on the croup with the sword which he held, sent it against
the Barbarians.

It was a black stallion, which was fed on balls of meal, and would bend
its knees to allow its master to mount. Why was he sending it away? Was
this a sacrifice?

The noble horse galloped into the midst of the lances, knocked down men,
and, entangling its feet in its entrails, fell down, then rose again
with furious leaps; and while they were moving aside, trying to stop it,
or looking at it in surprise, the Carthaginians had united again; they
entered, and the enormous gate shut echoing behind them.

It would not yield. The Barbarians came crushing against it;--and for
some minutes there was an oscillation throughout the army, which became
weaker and weaker, and at last ceased.

The Carthaginians had placed soldiers on the aqueduct, they began to
hurl stones, balls, and beams. Spendius represented that it would be
best not to persist. The Barbarians went and posted themselves further
off, all being quite resolved to lay siege to Carthage.

The rumour of the war, however, had passed beyond the confines of
the Punic empire; and from the pillars of Hercules to beyond Cyrene
shepherds mused on it as they kept their flocks, and caravans talked
about it in the light of the stars. This great Carthage, mistress of the
seas, splendid as the sun, and terrible as a god, actually found men
who were daring enough to attack her! Her fall even had been asserted
several times; and all had believed it for all wished it: the subject
populations, the tributary villages, the allied provinces, the
independent hordes, those who execrated her for her tyranny or were
jealous of her power, or coveted her wealth. The bravest had very
speedily joined the Mercenaries. The defeat at the Macaras had checked
all the rest. At last they had recovered confidence, had gradually
advanced and approached; and now the men of the eastern regions were
lying on the sandhills of Clypea on the other side of the gulf. As soon
as they perceived the Barbarians they showed themselves.

They were not Libyans from the neighbourhood of Carthage, who had long
composed the third army, but nomads from the tableland of Barca, bandits
from Cape Phiscus and the promontory of Dernah, from Phazzana and
Marmarica. They had crossed the desert, drinking at the brackish wells
walled in with camels’ bones; the Zuaeces, with their covering of
ostrich feathers, had come on quadrigae; the Garamantians, masked with
black veils, rode behind on their painted mares; others were mounted on
asses, onagers, zebras, and buffaloes; while some dragged after them the
roofs of their sloop-shaped huts together with their families and
idols. There were Ammonians with limbs wrinkled by the hot water of the
springs; Atarantians, who curse the sun; Troglodytes, who bury their
dead with laughter beneath branches of trees; and the hideous Auseans,
who eat grass-hoppers; the Achyrmachidae, who eat lice; and the
vermilion-painted Gysantians, who eat apes.

All were ranged along the edge of the sea in a great straight line.
Afterwards they advanced like tornadoes of sand raised by the wind. In
the centre of the isthmus the throng stopped, the Mercenaries who were
posted in front of them, close to the walls, being unwilling to move.

Then from the direction of Ariana appeared the men of the West,
the people of the Numidians. In fact, Narr’ Havas governed only the
Massylians; and, moreover, as they were permitted by custom to abandon
their king when reverses were sustained, they had assembled on the
Zainus, and then had crossed it at Hamilcar’s first movement. First were
seen running up all the hunters from Malethut-Baal and Garaphos, clad
in lions’ skins, and with the staves of their pikes driving small lean
horses with long manes; then marched the Gaetulians in cuirasses of
serpents’ skin; then the Pharusians, wearing lofty crowns made of wax
and resin; and the Caunians, Macarians, and Tillabarians, each holding
two javelins and a round shield of hippopotamus leather. They stopped at
the foot of the Catacombs among the first pools of the Lagoon.

But when the Libyans had moved away, the multitude of the Negroes
appeared like a cloud on a level with the ground, in the place which the
others had occupied. They were there from the White Harousch, the Black
Harousch, the desert of Augila, and even from the great country of
Agazymba, which is four months’ journey south of the Garamantians, and
from regions further still! In spite of their red wooden jewels, the
filth of their black skin made them look like mulberries that had been
long rolling in the dust. They had bark-thread drawers, dried-grass
tunics, fallow-deer muzzles on their heads; they shook rods furnished
with rings, and brandished cows’ tails at the end of sticks, after the
fashion of standards, howling the while like wolves.

Then behind the Numidians, Marusians, and Gaetulians pressed the
yellowish men, who are spread through the cedar forests beyond Taggir.
They had cat-skin quivers flapping against their shoulders, and they led
in leashes enormous dogs, which were as high as asses, and did not bark.

Finally, as though Africa had not been sufficiently emptied, and it had
been necessary to seek further fury in the very dregs of the races, men
might be seen behind the rest, with beast-like profiles and grinning
with idiotic laughter--wretches ravaged by hideous diseases, deformed
pigmies, mulattoes of doubtful sex, albinos whose red eyes blinked in
the sun; stammering out unintelligible sounds, they put a finger into
their mouths to show that they were hungry.

The confusion of weapons was as great as that of garments and peoples.
There was not a deadly invention that was not present--from wooden
daggers, stone hatchets and ivory tridents, to long sabres toothed
like saws, slender, and formed of a yielding copper blade. They handled
cutlasses which were forked into several branches like antelopes’ horns,
bills fastened to the ends of ropes, iron triangles, clubs and bodkins.
The Ethiopians from the Bambotus had little poisoned darts hidden in
their hair. Many had brought pebbles in bags. Others, empty handed,
chattered with their teeth.

This multitude was stirred with a ceaseless swell. Dromedaries, smeared
all over with tar-like streaks, knocked down the women, who carried
their children on their hips. The provisions in the baskets were pouring
out; in walking, pieces of salt, parcels of gum, rotten dates, and
gourou nuts were crushed underfoot; and sometimes on vermin-covered
bosoms there would hang a slender cord supporting a diamond that the
Satraps had sought, an almost fabulous stone, sufficient to purchase
an empire. Most of them did not even know what they desired. They were
impelled by fascination or curiosity; and nomads who had never seen a
town were frightened by the shadows of the walls.

The isthmus was now hidden by men; and this long surface, whereon the
tents were like huts amid an inundation, stretched as far as the first
lines of the other Barbarians, which were streaming with steel and were
posted symmetrically upon both sides of the aqueduct.

The Carthaginians had not recovered from the terror caused by their
arrival when they perceived the siege-engines sent by the Tyrian towns
coming straight towards them like monsters and like buildings--with
their masts, arms, ropes, articulations, capitals and carapaces, sixty
carroballistas, eighty onagers, thirty scorpions, fifty tollenos, twelve
rams, and three gigantic catapults which hurled pieces of rock of the
weight of fifteen talents. Masses of men clinging to their bases pushed
them on; at every step a quivering shook them, and in this way they
arrived in front of the walls.

But several days were still needed to finish the preparations for
the siege. The Mercenaries, taught by their defeats, would not risk
themselves in useless engagements; and on both sides there was no haste,
for it was well known that a terrible action was about to open, and that
the result of it would be complete victory or complete extermination.

Carthage might hold out for a long time; her broad walls presented a
series of re-entrant and projecting angles, an advantageous arrangement
for repelling assaults.

Nevertheless a portion had fallen down in the direction of the
Catacombs, and on dark nights lights could be seen in the dens of Malqua
through the disjointed blocks. These in some places overlooked the top
of the ramparts. It was here that the Mercenaries’ wives, who had been
driven away by Matho, were living with their new husbands. On seeing the
men again their hearts could stand it no longer. They waved their scarfs
at a distance; then they came and chatted in the darkness with the
soldiers through the cleft in the wall, and one morning the Great
Council learned that they had all fled. Some had passed through between
the stones; others with greater intrepidity had let themselves down with
ropes.

At last Spendius resolved to accomplish his design.

The war, by keeping him at a distance, had hitherto prevented him;
and since the return to before Carthage, it seemed to him that the
inhabitants suspected his enterprise. But soon they diminished the
sentries on the aqueduct. There were not too many people for the defence
of the walls.

The former slave practised himself for some days in shooting arrows at
the flamingoes on the lake. Then one moonlight evening he begged Matho
to light a great fire of straw in the middle of the night, while all his
men were to shout at the same time; and taking Zarxas with him, he went
away along the edge of the gulf in the direction of Tunis.

When on a level with the last arches they returned straight towards the
aqueduct; the place was unprotected: they crawled to the base of the
pillars.

The sentries on the platform were walking quietly up and down.

Towering flames appeared; clarions rang; and the soldiers on vedette,
believing that there was an assault, rushed away in the direction of
Carthage.

One man had remained. He showed black against the background of the
sky. The moon was shining behind him, and his shadow, which was of
extravagant size, looked in the distance like an obelisk proceeding
across the plain.

They waited until he was in position just before them. Zarxas seized his
sling, but whether from prudence or from ferocity Spendius stopped him.
“No, the whiz of the bullet would make a noise! Let me!”

Then he bent his bow with all his strength, resting the lower end of it
against the great toe of his left foot; he took aim, and the arrow went
off.

The man did not fall. He disappeared.

“If he were wounded we should hear him!” said Spendius; and he mounted
quickly from story to story as he had done the first time, with the
assistance of a rope and a harpoon. Then when he had reached the top and
was beside the corpse, he let it fall again. The Balearian fastened a
pick and a mallet to it and turned back.

The trumpets sounded no longer. All was now quiet. Spendius had raised
one of the flag-stones and, entering the water, had closed it behind
him.

Calculating the distance by the number of his steps, he arrived at the
exact spot where he had noticed an oblique fissure; and for three hours
until morning he worked in continuous and furious fashion, breathing
with difficulty through the interstices in the upper flag-tones,
assailed with anguish, and twenty times believing that he was going
to die. At last a crack was heard, and a huge stone ricocheting on the
lower arches rolled to the ground,--and suddenly a cataract, an entire
river, fell from the skies onto the plain. The aqueduct, being cut
through in the centre, was emptying itself. It was death to Carthage and
victory for the Barbarians.

In an instant the awakened Carthaginians appeared on the walls, the
houses, and the temples. The Barbarians pressed forward with shouts.
They danced in delirium around the great waterfall, and came up and wet
their heads in it in the extravagance of their joy.

A man in a torn, brown tunic was perceived on the summit of the
aqueduct. He stood leaning over the very edge with both hands on his
hips, and was looking down below him as though astonished at his work.

Then he drew himself up. He surveyed the horizon with a haughty air
which seemed to say: “All that is now mine!” The applause of the
Barbarians burst forth, while the Carthaginians, comprehending their
disaster at last, shrieked with despair. Then he began to run about
the platform from one end to the other,--and like a chariot-driver
triumphant at the Olympic Games, Spendius, distraught with pride, raised
his arms aloft.



CHAPTER XIII

MOLOCH

The Barbarians had no need of a circumvallation on the side of Africa,
for it was theirs. But to facilitate the approach to the walls, the
entrenchments bordering the ditch were thrown down. Matho next divided
the army into great semicircles so as to encompass Carthage the better.
The hoplites of the Mercenaries were placed in the first rank, and
behind them the slingers and horsemen; quite at the back were the
baggage, chariots, and horses; and the engines bristled in front of this
throng at a distance of three hundred paces from the towers.

Amid the infinite variety of their nomenclature (which changed several
times in the course of the centuries) these machines might be reduced to
two systems: some acted like slings, and the rest like bows.

The first, which were the catapults, was composed of a square frame with
two vertical uprights and a horizontal bar. In its anterior portion was
a cylinder, furnished with cables, which held back a great beam bearing
a spoon for the reception of projectiles; its base was caught in a
skein of twisted thread, and when the ropes were let go it sprang up and
struck against the bar, which, checking it with a shock, multiplied its
power.

The second presented a more complicated mechanism. A cross-bar had its
centre fixed on a little pillar, and from this point of junction there
branched off at right angles a short of channel; two caps containing
twists of horse-hair stood at the extremities of the cross-bar; two
small beams were fastened to them to hold the extremities of a rope
which was brought to the bottom of the channel upon a tablet of bronze.
This metal plate was released by a spring, and sliding in grooves
impelled the arrows.

The catapults were likewise called onagers, after the wild asses which
fling up stones with their feet, and the ballistas scorpions, on account
of a hook which stood upon the tablet, and being lowered by a blow of
the fist, released the spring.

Their construction required learned calculations; the wood selected had
to be of the hardest substance, and their gearing all of brass; they
were stretched with levers, tackle-blocks, capstans or tympanums; the
direction of the shooting was changed by means of strong pivots; they
were moved forward on cylinders, and the most considerable of them,
which were brought piece by piece, were set up in front of the enemy.

Spendius arranged three great catapults opposite the three principle
angles; he placed a ram before every gate, a ballista before every
tower, while carroballistas were to move about in the rear. But it was
necessary to protect them against the fire thrown by the besieged, and
first of all to fill up the trench which separated them from the walls.

They pushed forward galleries formed of hurdles of green reeds, and
oaken semicircles like enormous shields gliding on three wheels; the
workers were sheltered in little huts covered with raw hides and stuffed
with wrack; the catapults and ballistas were protected by rope curtains
which had been steeped in vinegar to render them incombustible. The
women and children went to procure stones on the strand, and gathered
earth with their hands and brought it to the soldiers.

The Carthaginians also made preparations.

Hamilcar had speedily reassured them by declaring that there was enough
water left in the cisterns for one hundred and twenty-three days. This
assertion, together with his presence, and above all that of the zaimph
among them, gave them good hopes. Carthage recovered from its dejection;
those who were not of Chanaanitish origin were carried away by the
passion of the rest.

The slaves were armed, the arsenals were emptied, and every citizen had
his own post and his own employment. Twelve hundred of the fugitives
had survived, and the Suffet made them all captains; and carpenters,
armourers, blacksmiths, and goldsmiths were intrusted with the engines.
The Carthaginians had kept a few in spite of the conditions of the peace
with Rome. These were repaired. They understood such work.

The two northern and eastern sides, being protected by the sea and the
gulf, remained inaccessible. On the wall fronting the Barbarians they
collected tree-trunks, mill-stones, vases filled with sulphur, and
vats filled with oil, and built furnaces. Stones were heaped up on the
platforms of the towers, and the houses bordering immediately on the
rampart were crammed with sand in order to strengthen it and increase
its thickness.

The Barbarians grew angry at the sight of these preparations. They
wished to fight at once. The weights which they put into the catapults
were so extravagantly heavy that the beams broke, and the attack was
delayed.

At last on the thirteenth day of the month of Schabar,--at sunrise,--a
great blow was heard at the gate of Khamon.

Seventy-five soldiers were pulling at ropes arranged at the base of a
gigantic beam which was suspended horizontally by chains hanging from
a framework, and which terminated in a ram’s head of pure brass. It had
been swathed in ox-hides; it was bound at intervals with iron bracelets;
it was thrice as thick as a man’s body, one hundred and twenty cubits
long, and under the crowd of naked arms pushing it forward and drawing
it back, it moved to and fro with a regular oscillation.

The other rams before the other gates began to be in motion. Men
might be seen mounting from step to step in the hollow wheels of the
tympanums. The pulleys and caps grated, the rope curtains were lowered,
and showers of stones and showers of arrows poured forth simultaneously;
all the scattered slingers ran up. Some approached the rampart hiding
pots of resin under their shields; then they would hurl these with all
their might. This hail of bullets, darts, and flames passed above the
first ranks in the form of a curve which fell behind the walls. But
long cranes, used for masting vessels, were reared on the summit of the
ramparts; and from them there descended some of those enormous pincers
which terminated in two semicircles toothed on the inside. They bit the
rams. The soldiers clung to the beam and drew it back. The Carthaginians
hauled in order to pull it up; and the action was prolonged until the
evening.

When the Mercenaries resumed their task on the following day, the tops
of the walls were completely carpeted with bales of cotton, sails, and
cushions; the battlements were stopped up with mats; and a line of forks
and blades, fixed upon sticks, might be distinguished among the cranes
on the rampart. A furious resistance immediately began.

Trunks of trees fastened to cables fell and rose alternately and
battered the rams; cramps hurled by the ballistas tore away the roofs of
the huts; and streams of flints and pebbles poured from the platforms of
the towers.

At last the rams broke the gates of Khamon and Tagaste. But the
Carthaginians had piled up such an abundance of materials on the inside
that the leaves did not open. They remained standing.

Then they drove augers against the walls; these were applied to the
joints of the blocks, so as to detach the latter. The engines were
better managed, the men serving them were divided into squads, and they
were worked from morning till evening without interruption and with the
monotonous precision of a weaver’s loom.

Spendius returned to them untiringly. It was he who stretched the skeins
of the ballistas. In order that the twin tensions might completely
correspond, the ropes as they were tightened were struck on the right
and left alternately until both sides gave out an equal sound. Spendius
would mount upon the timbers. He would strike the ropes softly with
the extremity of his foot, and strain his ears like a musician tuning
a lyre. Then when the beam of the catapult rose, when the pillar of the
ballista trembled with the shock of the spring, when the stones were
shooting in rays, and the darts pouring in streams, he would incline his
whole body and fling his arms into the air as though to follow them.

The soldiers admired his skill and executed his commands. In the gaiety
of their work they gave utterance to jests on the names of the machines.
Thus the plyers for seizing the rams were called “wolves,” and the
galleries were covered with “vines”; they were lambs, or they were going
to gather the grapes; and as they loaded their pieces they would say to
the onagers: “Come, pick well!” and to the scorpions: “Pierce them
to the heart!” These jokes, which were ever the same, kept up their
courage.

Nevertheless the machines did not demolish the rampart. It was formed of
two walls and was completely filled with earth. The upper portions were
beaten down, but each time the besieged raised them again. Matho ordered
the construction of wooden towers which should be as high as the towers
of stone. They cast turf, stakes, pebbles and chariots with their wheels
into the trench so as to fill it up the more quickly; but before this
was accomplished the immense throng of the Barbarians undulated over the
plain with a single movement and came beating against the foot of the
walls like an overflowing sea.

They moved forward the rope ladders, straight ladders, and sambucas,
the latter consisting of two poles from which a series of bamboos
terminating in a moveable bridge were lowered by means of tackling.
They formed numerous straight lines resting against the wall, and the
Mercenaries mounted them in files, holding their weapons in their hands.
Not a Carthaginian showed himself; already two thirds of the rampart
had been covered. Then the battlements opened, vomiting flames and smoke
like dragon jaws; the sand scattered and entered the joints of their
armour; the petroleum fastened on their garments; the liquid lead
hopped on their helmets and made holes in their flesh; a rain of sparks
splashed against their faces, and eyeless orbits seemed to weep tears as
big as almonds. There were men all yellow with oil, with their hair
in flames. They began to run and set fire to the rest. They were
extinguished in mantles steeped in blood, which were thrown from a
distance over their faces. Some who had no wounds remained motionless,
stiffer than stakes, their mouths open and their arms outspread.

The assault was renewed for several days in succession, the Mercenaries
hoping to triumph by extraordinary energy and audacity.

Sometimes a man raised on the shoulders of another would drive a
pin between the stones, and then making use of it as a step to reach
further, would place a second and a third; and, protected by the edge
of the battlements, which stood out from the wall, they would gradually
raise themselves in this way; but on reaching a certain height they
always fell back again. The great trench was full to overflowing;
the wounded were massed pell-mell with the dead and dying beneath the
footsteps of the living. Calcined trunks formed black spots amid opened
entrails, scattered brains, and pools of blood; and arms and legs
projecting half way out of a heap, would stand straight up like props in
a burning vineyard.

The ladders proving insufficient the tollenos were brought into
requisition,--instruments consisting of a long beam set transversely
upon another, and bearing at its extremity a quadrangular basket which
would hold thirty foot-soldiers with their weapons.

Matho wished to ascend in the first that was ready. Spendius stopped
him.

Some men bent over a capstan; the great beam rose, became horizontal,
reared itself almost vertically, and being overweighted at the end, bent
like a huge reed. The soldiers, who were crowded together, were hidden
up to their chins; only their helmet-plumes could be seen. At last when
it was twenty cubits high in the air it turned several times to the
right and to the left, and then was depressed; and like a giant arm
holding a cohort of pigmies in its hand, it laid the basketful of
men upon the edge of the wall. They leaped into the crowd and never
returned.

All the other tollenos were speedily made ready. But a hundred times
as many would have been needed for the capture of the town. They were
utilised in a murderous fashion: Ethiopian archers were placed in the
baskets; then, the cables having been fastened, they remained suspended
and shot poisoned arrows. The fifty tollenos commanding the battlements
thus surrounded Carthage like monstrous vultures; and the Negroes
laughed to see the guards on the rampart dying in grievous convulsions.

Hamilcar sent hoplites to these posts, and every morning made them drink
the juice of certain herbs which protected them against the poison.

One evening when it was dark he embarked the best of his soldiers
on lighters and planks, and turning to the right of the harbour,
disembarked on the Taenia. Then he advanced to the first lines of
the Barbarians, and taking them in flank, made a great slaughter. Men
hanging to ropes would descend at night from the top of the wall with
torches in their hands, burn the works of the Mercenaries, and then
mount up again.

Matho was exasperated; every obstacle strengthened his wrath, which led
him into terrible extravagances. He mentally summoned Salammbo to an
interview; then he waited. She did not come; this seemed to him like a
fresh piece of treachery,--and henceforth he execrated her. If he
had seen her corpse he would perhaps have gone away. He doubled the
outposts, he planted forks at the foot of the rampart, he drove caltrops
into the ground, and he commanded the Libyans to bring him a whole
forest that he might set it on fire and burn Carthage like a den of
foxes.

Spendius went on obstinately with the siege. He sought to invent
terrible machines such as had never before been constructed.

The other Barbarians, encamped at a distance on the isthmus, were amazed
at these delays; they murmured, and they were let loose.

Then they rushed with their cutlasses and javelins, and beat against
the gates with them. But the nakedness of their bodies facilitating the
infliction of wounds, the Carthaginians massacred them freely; and the
Mercenaries rejoiced at it, no doubt through jealousy about the plunder.
Hence there resulted quarrels and combats between them. Then, the
country having been ravaged, provisions were soon scarce. They grew
disheartened. Numerous hordes went away, but the crowd was so great that
the loss was not apparent.

The best of them tried to dig mines, but the earth, being badly
supported, fell in. They began again in other places, but Hamilcar
always guessed the direction that they were taking by holding his ear
against a bronze shield. He bored counter-mines beneath the path along
which the wooden towers were to move, and when they were pushed forward
they sank into the holes.

At last all recognised that the town was impregnable, unless a long
terrace was raised to the same height as the walls, so as to enable them
to fight on the same level. The top of it should be paved so that
the machines might be rolled along. Then Carthage would find it quite
impossible to resist.

The town was beginning to suffer from thirst. The water which was worth
two kesitahs the bath at the opening of the siege was now sold for
a shekel of silver; the stores of meat and corn were also becoming
exhausted; there was a dread of famine, and some even began to speak of
useless mouths, which terrified every one.

From the square of Khamon to the temple of Melkarth the streets were
cumbered with corpses; and, as it was the end of the summer, the
combatants were annoyed by great black flies. Old men carried off the
wounded, and the devout continued the fictitious funerals for their
relatives and friends who had died far away during the war. Waxen
statues with clothes and hair were displayed across the gates. They
melted in the heat of the tapers burning beside them; the paint flowed
down upon their shoulders, and tears streamed over the faces of the
living, as they chanted mournful songs beside them. The crowd meanwhile
ran to and fro; armed bands passed; captains shouted orders, while the
shock of the rams beating against the rampart was constantly heard.

The temperature became so heavy that the bodies swelled and would no
longer fit into the coffins. They were burned in the centre of the
courts. But the fires, being too much confined, kindled the neighbouring
walls, and long flames suddenly burst from the houses like blood
spurting from an artery. Thus Moloch was in possession of Carthage; he
clasped the ramparts, he rolled through the streets, he devoured the
very corpses.

Men wearing cloaks made of collected rags in token of despair, stationed
themselves at the corners of the cross-ways. They declaimed against the
Ancients and against Hamilcar, predicted complete ruin to the people,
and invited them to universal destruction and license. The most
dangerous were the henbane-drinkers; in their crisis they believed
themselves wild beasts, and leaped upon the passers-by to rend them.
Mobs formed around them, and the defence of Carthage was forgotten. The
Suffet devised the payment of others to support his policy.

In order to retain the genius of the gods within the town their images
had been covered with chains. Black veils were placed upon the Pataec
gods, and hair-cloths around the altars; and attempts were made to
excite the pride and jealousy of the Baals by singing in their ears:
“Thou art about to suffer thyself to be vanquished! Are the others
perchance more strong? Show thyself! aid us! that the peoples may not
say: ‘Where are now their gods?’”

The colleges of the pontiffs were agitated by unceasing anxiety. Those
of Rabbetna were especially afraid--the restoration of the zaimph having
been of no avail. They kept themselves shut up in the third enclosure
which was as impregnable as a fortress. Only one among them, the high
priest Schahabarim, ventured to go out.

He used to visit Salammbo. But he would either remain perfectly silent,
gazing at her with fixed eyeballs, or else would be lavish of words, and
the reproaches that he uttered were harder than ever.

With inconceivable inconsistency he could not forgive the young girl
for carrying out his commands; Schahabarim had guessed all, and this
haunting thought revived the jealousies of his impotence. He accused her
of being the cause of the war. Matho, according to him, was besieging
Carthage to recover the zaimph; and he poured out imprecations and
sarcasms upon this Barbarian who pretended to the possession of holy
things. Yet it was not this that the priest wished to say.

But just now Salammbo felt no terror of him. The anguish which she used
formerly to suffer had left her. A strange peacefulness possessed her.
Her gaze was less wandering, and shone with limpid fire.

Meanwhile the python had become ill again; and as Salammbo, on the
contrary, appeared to be recovering, old Taanach rejoiced in the
conviction that by its decline it was taking away the languor of her
mistress.

One morning she found it coiled up behind the bed of ox-hides, colder
than marble, and with its head hidden by a heap of worms. Her cries
brought Salammbo to the spot. She turned it over for a while with the
tip of her sandal, and the slave was amazed at her insensibility.

Hamilcar’s daughter no longer prolonged her fasts with so much fervour.
She passed whole days on the top of her terrace, leaning her elbows
against the balustrade, and amusing herself by looking out before her.
The summits of the walls at the end of the town cut uneven zigzags upon
the sky, and the lances of the sentries formed what was like a border
of corn-ears throughout their length. Further away she could see the
manoeuvres of the Barbarians between the towers; on days when the siege
was interrupted she could even distinguish their occupations. They
mended their weapons, greased their hair, and washed their bloodstained
arms in the sea; the tents were closed; the beasts of burden were
feeding; and in the distance the scythes of the chariots, which were all
ranged in a semicircle, looked like a silver scimitar lying at the base
of the mountains. Schahabarim’s talk recurred to her memory. She was
waiting for Narr’ Havas, her betrothed. In spite of her hatred she would
have liked to see Matho again. Of all the Carthaginians she was perhaps
the only one who would have spoken to him without fear.

Her father often came into her room. He would sit down panting on the
cushions, and gaze at her with an almost tender look, as if he found
some rest from her fatigues in the sight of her. He sometimes questioned
her about her journey to the camp of the Mercenaries. He even asked her
whether any one had urged her to it; and with a shake of the head she
answered, No,--so proud was Salammbo of having saved the zaimph.

But the Suffet always came back to Matho under pretence of making
military inquiries. He could not understand how the hours which she had
spent in the tent had been employed. Salammbo, in fact, said nothing
about Gisco; for as words had an effective power in themselves, curses,
if reported to any one, might be turned against him; and she was silent
about her wish to assassinate, lest she should be blamed for not having
yielded to it. She said that the schalischim appeared furious, that he
had shouted a great deal, and that he had then fallen asleep. Salammbo
told no more, through shame perhaps, or else because she was led by her
extreme ingenuousness to attach but little importance to the soldier’s
kisses. Moreover, it all floated through her head in a melancholy and
misty fashion, like the recollection of a depressing dream; and she
would not have known in what way or in what words to express it.

One evening when they were thus face to face with each other, Taanach
came in looking quite scared. An old man with a child was yonder in the
courts, and wished to see the Suffet.

Hamilcar turned pale, and then quickly replied:

“Let him come up!”

Iddibal entered without prostrating himself. He held a young boy,
covered with a goat’s-hair cloak, by the hand, and at once raised the
hood which screened his face.

“Here he is, Master! Take him!”

The Suffet and the slave went into a corner of the room.

The child remained in the centre standing upright, and with a gaze
of attention rather than of astonishment he surveyed the ceiling, the
furniture, the pearl necklaces trailing on the purple draperies, and the
majestic maiden who was bending over towards him.

He was perhaps ten years old, and was not taller than a Roman sword. His
curly hair shaded his swelling forehead. His eyeballs looked as if they
were seeking for space. The nostrils of his delicate nose were broad
and palpitating, and upon his whole person was displayed the indefinable
splendour of those who are destined to great enterprises. When he had
cast aside his extremely heavy cloak, he remained clad in a lynx skin,
which was fastened about his waist, and he rested his little naked feet,
which were all white with dust, resolutely upon the pavement. But he no
doubt divined that important matters were under discussion, for he
stood motionless, with one hand behind his back, his chin lowered, and a
finger in his mouth.

At last Hamilcar attracted Salammbo with a sign and said to her in a low
voice:

“You will keep him with you, you understand! No one, even though
belonging to the house, must know of his existence!”

Then, behind the door, he again asked Iddibal whether he was quite sure
that they had not been noticed.

“No!” said the slave, “the streets were empty.”

As the war filled all the provinces he had feared for his master’s son.
Then, not knowing where to hide him, he had come along the coasts in a
sloop, and for three days Iddibal had been tacking about in the gulf and
watching the ramparts. At last, that evening, as the environs of Khamon
seemed to be deserted, he had passed briskly through the channel and
landed near the arsenal, the entrance to the harbour being free.

But soon the Barbarians posted an immense raft in front of it in order
to prevent the Carthaginians from coming out. They were again rearing
the wooden towers, and the terrace was rising at the same time.

Outside communications were cut off and an intolerable famine set in.

The besieged killed all the dogs, all the mules, all the asses, and then
the fifteen elephants which the Suffet had brought back. The lions of
the temple of Moloch had become ferocious, and the hierodules no longer
durst approach them. They were fed at first with the wounded Barbarians;
then they were thrown corpses that were still warm; they refused
them, and they all died. People wandered in the twilight along the old
enclosures, and gathered grass and flowers among the stones to boil
them in wine, wine being cheaper than water. Others crept as far as the
enemy’s outposts, and entered the tents to steal food, and the stupefied
Barbarians sometimes allowed them to return. At last a day arrived when
the Ancients resolved to slaughter the horses of Eschmoun privately.
They were holy animals whose manes were plaited by the pontiffs with
gold ribbons, and whose existence denoted the motion of the sun--the
idea of fire in its most exalted form. Their flesh was cut into equal
portions and buried behind the altar. Then every evening the Ancients,
alleging some act of devotion, would go up to the temple and regale
themselves in secret, and each would take away a piece beneath his tunic
for his children. In the deserted quarters remote from the walls, the
inhabitants, whose misery was not so great, had barricaded themselves
through fear of the rest.

The stones from the catapults, and the demolitions commanded for
purposes of defence, had accumulated heaps of ruins in the middle of
the streets. At the quietest times masses of people would suddenly rush
along with shouts; and from the top of the Acropolis the conflagrations
were like purple rags scattered upon the terraces and twisted by the
wind.

The three great catapults did not stop in spite of all these works.
Their ravages were extraordinary: thus a man’s head rebounded from the
pediment of the Syssitia; a woman who was being confined in the street
of Kinisdo was crushed by a block of marble, and her child was carried
with the bed as far as the crossways of Cinasyn, where the coverlet was
found.

The most annoying were the bullets of the slingers. They fell upon the
roofs, and in the gardens, and in the middle of the courts, while people
were at table before a slender meal with their hearts big with sighs.
These cruel projectiles bore engraved letters which stamped themselves
upon the flesh;--and insults might be read on corpses such as “pig,”
 “jackal,” “vermin,” and sometimes jests: “Catch it!” or “I have well
deserved it!”

The portion of the rampart which extended from the corner of the
harbours to the height of the cisterns was broken down. Then the people
of Malqua found themselves caught between the old enclosure of Byrsa
behind, and the Barbarians in front. But there was enough to be done in
thickening the wall and making it as high as possible without troubling
about them; they were abandoned; all perished; and although they were
generally hated, Hamilcar came to be greatly abhorred.

On the morrow he opened the pits in which he kept stores of corn,
and his stewards gave it to the people. For three days they gorged
themselves.

Their thirst, however, only became the more intolerable, and they could
constantly see before them the long cascade formed by the clear falling
water of the aqueduct. A thin vapour, with a rainbow beside it, went up
from its base, beneath the rays of the sun, and a little stream curving
through the plain fell into the gulf.

Hamilcar did not give way. He was reckoning upon an event, upon
something decisive and extraordinary.

His own slaves tore off the silver plates from the temple of Melkarth;
four long boats were drawn out of the harbour, they were brought by
means of capstans to the foot of the Mappalian quarter, the wall facing
the shore was bored, and they set out for the Gauls to buy Mercenaries
there at no matter what price. Nevertheless, Hamilcar was distressed at
his inability to communicate with the king of the Numidians, for he
knew that he was behind the Barbarians, and ready to fall upon them. But
Narr’ Havas, being too weak, was not going to make any venture alone;
and the Suffet had the rampart raised twelve palms higher, all the
material in the arsenals piled up in the Acropolis, and the machines
repaired once more.

Sinews taken from bulls’ necks, or else stags’ hamstrings, were commonly
employed for the twists of the catapults. However, neither stags nor
bulls were in existence in Carthage. Hamilcar asked the Ancients for
the hair of their wives; all sacrificed it, but the quantity was not
sufficient. In the buildings of the Syssitia there were twelve hundred
marriageable slaves destined for prostitution in Greece and Italy, and
their hair, having been rendered elastic by the use of unguents, was
wonderfully well adapted for engines of war. But the subsequent loss
would be too great. Accordingly it was decided that a choice should
be made of the finest heads of hair among the wives of the plebeians.
Careless of their country’s needs, they shrieked in despair when the
servants of the Hundred came with scissors to lay hands upon them.

The Barbarians were animated with increased fury. They could be seen in
the distance taking fat from the dead to grease their machines, while
others pulled out the nails and stitched them end to end to make
cuirasses. They devised a plan of putting into the catapults vessels
filled with serpents which had been brought by the Negroes; the clay
pots broke on the flag-stones, the serpents ran about, seemed to
multiply, and, so numerous were they, to issue naturally from the walls.
Then the Barbarians, not satisfied with their invention, improved upon
it; they hurled all kinds of filth, human excrements, pieces of carrion,
corpses. The plague reappeared. The teeth of the Carthaginians fell out
of their mouths, and their gums were discoloured like those of camels
after too long a journey.

The machines were set up on the terrace, although the latter did not
as yet reach everywhere to the height of the rampart. Before the
twenty-three towers on the fortification stood twenty-three others of
wood. All the tollenos were mounted again, and in the centre, a
little further back, appeared the formidable helepolis of Demetrius
Poliorcetes, which Spendius had at last reconstructed. Of pyramidical
shape, like the pharos of Alexandria, it was one hundred and thirty
cubits high and twenty-three wide, with nine stories, diminishing as
they approached the summit, and protected by scales of brass; they were
pierced with numerous doors and were filled with soldiers, and on the
upper platform there stood a catapult flanked by two ballistas.

Then Hamilcar planted crosses for those who should speak of surrender,
and even the women were brigaded. The people lay in the streets and
waited full of distress.

Then one morning before sunrise (it was the seventh day of the month
of Nyssan) they heard a great shout uttered by all the Barbarians
simultaneously; the leaden-tubed trumpets pealed, and the great
Paphlagonian horns bellowed like bulls. All rose and ran to the rampart.

A forest of lances, pikes, and swords bristled at its base. It leaped
against the wall, the ladders grappled them; and Barbarians’ heads
appeared in the intervals of the battlements.

Beams supported by long files of men were battering at the gates; and,
in order to demolish the wall at places where the terrace was wanting,
the Mercenaries came up in serried cohorts, the first line crawling, the
second bending their hams, and the others rising in succession to the
last who stood upright; while elsewhere, in order to climb up, the
tallest advanced in front and the lowest in the rear, and all rested
their shields upon their helmets with their left arms, joining them
together at the edges so tightly that they might have been taken for an
assemblage of large tortoises. The projectiles slid over these oblique
masses.

The Carthaginians threw down mill-stones, pestles, vats, casks, beds,
everything that could serve as a weight and could knock down. Some
watched at the embrasures with fisherman’s nets, and when the Barbarian
arrived he found himself caught in the meshes, and struggled like a
fish. They demolished their own battlements; portions of wall fell down
raising a great dust; and as the catapults on the terrace were shooting
over against one another, the stones would strike together and shiver
into a thousand pieces, making a copious shower upon the combatants.

Soon the two crowds formed but one great chain of human bodies; it
overflowed into the intervals in the terrace, and, somewhat looser at
the two extremities, swayed perpetually without advancing. They clasped
one another, lying flat on the ground like wrestlers. They crushed one
another. The women leaned over the battlements and shrieked. They
were dragged away by their veils, and the whiteness of their suddenly
uncovered sides shone in the arms of the Negroes as the latter buried
their daggers in them. Some corpses did not fall, being too much pressed
by the crowd, and, supported by the shoulders of their companions,
advanced for some minutes quite upright and with staring eyes. Some
who had both temples pierced by a javelin swayed their heads about like
bears. Mouths, opened to shout, remained gaping; severed hands flew
through the air. Mighty blows were dealt, which were long talked of by
the survivors.

Meanwhile arrows darted from the towers of wood and stone. The tollenos
moved their long yards rapidly; and as the Barbarians had sacked the
old cemetery of the aborigines beneath the Catacombs, they hurled the
tombstones against the Carthaginians. Sometimes the cables broke under
the weight of too heavy baskets, and masses of men, all with uplifted
arms, would fall from the sky.

Up to the middle of the day the veterans had attacked the Taenia
fiercely in order to penetrate into the harbour and destroy the fleet.
Hamilcar had a fire of damp straw lit upon the roofing of Khamon, and
as the smoke blinded them they fell back to left, and came to swell
the horrible rout which was pressing forward in Malqua. Some syntagmata
composed of sturdy men, chosen expressly for the purpose, had broken in
three gates. They were checked by lofty barriers made of planks studded
with nails, but a fourth yielded easily; they dashed over it at a
run and rolled into a pit in which there were hidden snares. At the
south-west gate Autaritus and his men broke down the rampart, the
fissure in which had been stopped up with bricks. The ground behind
rose, and they climbed it nimbly. But on the top they found a second
wall composed of stones and long beams lying quite flat and alternating
like the squares on a chess-board. It was a Gaulish fashion, and had
been adapted by the Suffet to the requirements of the situation; the
Gauls imagined themselves before a town in their own country. Their
attack was weak, and they were repulsed.

All the roundway, from the street of Khamon as far as the Green Market,
now belonged to the Barbarians, and the Samnites were finishing off
the dying with blows of stakes; or else with one foot on the wall were
gazing down at the smoking ruins beneath them, and the battle which was
beginning again in the distance.

The slingers, who were distributed through the rear, were still
shooting. But the springs of the Acarnanian slings had broken from use,
and many were throwing stones with the hand like shepherds; the rest
hurled leaden bullets with the handle of a whip. Zarxas, his shoulders
covered with his long black hair, went about everywhere, and led on the
Barbarians. Two pouches hung at his hips; he thrust his left hand
into them continually, while his right arm whirled round like a
chariot-wheel.

Matho had at first refrained from fighting, the better to command
the Barbarians all at once. He had been seen along the gulf with the
Mercenaries, near the lagoon with the Numidians, and on the shores of
the lake among the Negroes, and from the back part of the plain he urged
forward masses of soldiers who came ceaselessly against the ramparts. By
degrees he had drawn near; the smell of blood, the sight of carnage, and
the tumult of clarions had at last made his heart leap. Then he had gone
back into his tent, and throwing off his cuirass had taken his lion’s
skin as being more convenient for battle. The snout fitted upon his
head, bordering his face with a circle of fangs; the two fore-paws were
crossed upon his breast, and the claws of the hinder ones fell beneath
his knees.

He had kept on his strong waist-belt, wherein gleamed a two-edged axe,
and with his great sword in both hands he had dashed impetuously through
the breach. Like a pruner cutting willow-branches and trying to strike
off as much as possible so as to make the more money, he marched along
mowing down the Carthaginians around him. Those who tried to seize him
in flank he knocked down with blows of the pommel; when they attacked
him in front he ran them through; if they fled he clove them. Two men
leaped together upon his back; he bounded backwards against a gate and
crushed them. His sword fell and rose. It shivered on the angle of a
wall. Then he took his heavy axe, and front and rear he ripped up the
Carthaginians like a flock of sheep. They scattered more and more, and
he was quite alone when he reached the second enclosure at the foot
of the Acropolis. The materials which had been flung from the summit
cumbered the steps and were heaped up higher than the wall. Matho turned
back amid the ruins to summons his companions.

He perceived their crests scattered over the multitude; they were
sinking and their wearers were about to perish; he dashed towards them;
then the vast wreath of red plumes closed in, and they soon rejoined him
and surrounded him. But an enormous crowd was discharging from the side
streets. He was caught by the hips, lifted up and carried away outside
the ramparts to a spot where the terrace was high.

Matho shouted a command and all the shields sank upon the helmets; he
leaped upon them in order to catch hold somewhere so as to re-enter
Carthage; and, flourishing his terrible axe, ran over the shields, which
resembled waves of bronze, like a marine god, with brandished trident,
over his billows.

However, a man in a white robe was walking along the edge of the
rampart, impassible, and indifferent to the death which surrounded him.
Sometimes he would spread out his right hand above his eyes in order
to find out some one. Matho happened to pass beneath him. Suddenly his
eyeballs flamed, his livid face contracted; and raising both his lean
arms he shouted out abuse at him.

Matho did not hear it; but he felt so furious and cruel a look entering
his heart that he uttered a roar. He hurled his long axe at him; some
people threw themselves upon Schahabarim; and Matho seeing him no more
fell back exhausted.

A terrible creaking drew near, mingled with the rhythm of hoarse voices
singing together.

It was the great helepolis surrounded by a crowd of soldiers. They were
dragging it with both hands, hauling it with ropes, and pushing it with
their shoulders,--for the slope rising from the plain to the terrace,
although extremely gentle, was found impracticable for machines of such
prodigious weight. However, it had eight wheels banded with iron, and it
had been advancing slowly in this way since the morning, like a mountain
raised upon another. Then there appeared an immense ram issuing from its
base. The doors along the three fronts which faced the town fell down,
and cuirassed soldiers appeared in the interior like pillars of iron.
Some might be seen climbing and descending the two staircases which
crossed the stories. Some were waiting to dart out as soon as the cramps
of the doors touched the walls; in the middle of the upper platform the
skeins of the ballistas were turning, and the great beam of the catapult
was being lowered.

Hamilcar was at that moment standing upright on the roof of Melkarth. He
had calculated that it would come directly towards him, against what was
the most invulnerable place in the wall, which was for that very reason
denuded of sentries. His slaves had for a long time been bringing
leathern bottles along the roundway, where they had raised with clay
two transverse partitions forming a sort of basin. The water was flowing
insensibly along the terrace, and strange to say, it seemed to cause
Hamilcar no anxiety.

But when the helepolis was thirty paces off, he commanded planks to
be placed over the streets between the houses from the cisterns to
the rampart; and a file of people passed from hand to hand helmets and
amphoras, which were emptied continually. The Carthaginians, however,
grew indignant at this waste of water. The ram was demolishing the wall,
when suddenly a fountain sprang forth from the disjointed stones. Then
the lofty brazen mass, nine stories high, which contained and engaged
more than three thousand soldiers, began to rock gently like a ship.
In fact, the water, which had penetrated the terrace, had broken up the
path before it; its wheels stuck in the mire; the head of Spendius,
with distended cheeks blowing an ivory cornet, appeared between leathern
curtains on the first story. The great machine, as though convulsively
upheaved, advanced perhaps ten paces; but the ground softened more and
more, the mire reached to the axles, and the helepolis stopped, leaning
over frightfully to one side. The catapult rolled to the edge of the
platform, and carried away by the weight of its beam, fell, shattering
the lower stories beneath it. The soldiers who were standing on the
doors slipped into the abyss, or else held on to the extremities of
the long beams, and by their weight increased the inclination of the
helepolis, which was going to pieces with creakings in all its joints.

The other Barbarians rushed up to help them, massing themselves into
a compact crowd. The Carthaginians descended from the rampart, and,
assailing them in the rear, killed them at leisure. But the chariots
furnished with sickles hastened up, and galloped round the outskirts of
the multitude. The latter ascended the wall again; night came on; and
the Barbarians gradually retired.

Nothing could now be seen on the plain but a sort of perfectly black,
swarming mass, which extended from the bluish gulf to the purely white
lagoon; and the lake, which had received streams of blood, stretched
further away like a great purple pool.

The terrace was now so laden with corpses that it looked as though it
had been constructed of human bodies. In the centre stood the helepolis
covered with armour; and from time to time huge fragments broke off
from it, like stones from a crumbling pyramid. Broad tracks made by
the streams of lead might be distinguished on the walls. A broken-down
wooden tower burned here and there, and the houses showed dimly like the
stages of a ruined ampitheatre. Heavy fumes of smoke were rising, and
rolling with them sparks which were lost in the dark sky.

The Carthaginians, however, who were consumed by thirst, had rushed to
the cisterns. They broke open the doors. A miry swamp stretched at the
bottom.

What was to be done now? Moreover, the Barbarians were countless, and
when their fatigue was over they would begin again.

The people deliberated all night in groups at the corners of the
streets. Some said that they ought to send away the women, the sick, and
the old men; others proposed to abandon the town, and found a colony far
away. But vessels were lacking, and when the sun appeared no decision
had been made.

There was no fighting that day, all being too much exhausted. The
sleepers looked like corpses.

Then the Carthaginians, reflecting upon the cause of their disasters,
remembered that they had not dispatched to Phoenicia the annual offering
due to Tyrian Melkarth, and a great terror came upon them. The gods
were indignant with the Republic, and were, no doubt, about to prosecute
their vengeance.

They were considered as cruel masters, who were appeased with
supplications and allowed themselves to be bribed with presents. All
were feeble in comparison with Moloch the Devourer. The existence, the
very flesh of men, belonged to him; and hence in order to preserve it,
the Carthaginians used to offer up a portion of it to him, which calmed
his fury. Children were burned on the forehead, or on the nape of the
neck, with woollen wicks; and as this mode of satisfying Baal brought
in much money to the priests, they failed not to recommend it as being
easier and more pleasant.

This time, however, the Republic itself was at stake. But as every
profit must be purchased by some loss, and as every transaction was
regulated according to the needs of the weaker and the demands of the
stronger, there was no pain great enough for the god, since he delighted
in such as was of the most horrible description, and all were now at his
mercy. He must accordingly be fully gratified. Precedents showed that
in this way the scourge would be made to disappear. Moreover, it was
believed that an immolation by fire would purify Carthage. The ferocity
of the people was predisposed towards it. The choice, too, must fall
exclusively upon the families of the great.

The Ancients assembled. The sitting was a long one. Hanno had come to
it. As he was now unable to sit he remained lying down near the door,
half hidden among the fringes of the lofty tapestry; and when the
pontiff of Moloch asked them whether they would consent to surrender
their children, his voice suddenly broke forth from the shadow like the
roaring of a genius in the depths of a cavern. He regretted, he said,
that he had none of his own blood to give; and he gazed at Hamilcar,
who faced him at the other end of the hall. The Suffet was so much
disconcerted by this look that it made him lower his eyes. All
successively bent their heads in approval; and in accordance with the
rites he had to reply to the high priest: “Yes; be it so.” Then the
Ancients decreed the sacrifice in traditional circumlocution,--because
there are things more troublesome to say than to perform.

The decision was almost immediately known in Carthage, and lamentations
resounded. The cries of women might everywhere be heard; their husbands
consoled them, or railed at them with remonstrances.

But three hours afterwards extraordinary tidings were spread abroad: the
Suffet had discovered springs at the foot of the cliff. There was a rush
to the place. Water might be seen in holes dug in the sand, and some
were already lying flat on the ground and drinking.

Hamilcar did not himself know whether it was by the determination of the
gods or through the vague recollection of a revelation which his father
had once made to him; but on leaving the Ancients he had gone down to
the shore and had begun to dig the gravel with his slaves.

He gave clothing, boots, and wine. He gave all the rest of the corn that
he was keeping by him. He even let the crowd enter his palace, and he
opened kitchens, stores, and all the rooms,--Salammbo’s alone excepted.
He announced that six thousand Gaulish Mercenaries were coming, and that
the king of Macedonia was sending soldiers.

But on the second day the springs diminished, and on the evening of the
third they were completely dried up. Then the decree of the Ancients
passed everywhere from lip to lip, and the priests of Moloch began their
task.

Men in black robes presented themselves in the houses. In many instances
the owners had deserted them under pretence of some business, or of some
dainty that they were going to buy; and the servants of Moloch came and
took the children away. Others themselves surrendered them stupidly.
Then they were brought to the temple of Tanith, where the priestesses
were charged with their amusement and support until the solemn day.

They visited Hamilcar suddenly and found him in his gardens.

“Barca! we come for that that you know of--your son!” They added that
some people had met him one evening during the previous moon in the
centre of the Mappalian district being led by an old man.

He was as though suffocated at first. But speedily understanding that
any denial would be in vain, Hamilcar bowed; and he brought them into
the commercial house. Some slaves who had run up at a sign kept watch
all round about it.

He entered Salammbo’s room in a state of distraction. He seized Hannibal
with one hand, snatched up the cord of a trailing garment with the
other, tied his feet and hands with it, thrust the end into his mouth
to form a gag, and hid him under the bed of the ox-hides by letting an
ample drapery fall to the ground.

Afterwards he walked about from right to left, raised his arms, wheeled
round, bit his lips. Then he stood still with staring eyelids, and
panted as though he were about to die.

But he clapped his hands three times. Giddenem appeared.

“Listen!” he said, “go and take from among the slaves a male child from
eight to nine years of age, with black hair and swelling forehead! Bring
him here! make haste!”

Giddenem soon entered again, bringing forward a young boy.

He was a miserable child, at once lean and bloated; his skin looked
greyish, like the infected rag hanging to his sides; his head was sunk
between his shoulders, and with the back of his hand he was rubbing his
eyes, which were filled with flies.

How could he ever be confounded with Hannibal! and there was no time
to choose another. Hamilcar looked at Giddenem; he felt inclined to
strangle him.

“Begone!” he cried; and the master of the slaves fled.

The misfortune which he had so long dreaded was therefore come, and with
extravagant efforts he strove to discover whether there was not some
mode, some means to escape it.

Abdalonim suddenly spoke from behind the door. The Suffet was being
asked for. The servants of Moloch were growing impatient.

Hamilcar repressed a cry as though a red hot iron had burnt him; and
he began anew to pace the room like one distraught. Then he sank down
beside the balustrade, and, with his elbows on his knees, pressed his
forehead into his shut fists.

The porphyry basin still contained a little clear water for Salammbo’s
ablutions. In spite of his repugnance and all his pride, the Suffet
dipped the child into it, and, like a slave merchant, began to wash him
and rub him with strigils and red earth. Then he took two purple squares
from the receptacles round the wall, placed one on his breast and the
other on his back, and joined them together on the collar bones with
two diamond clasps. He poured perfume upon his head, passed an
electrum necklace around his neck, and put on him sandals with heels of
pearl,--sandals belonging to his own daughter! But he stamped with shame
and vexation; Salammbo, who busied herself in helping him, was as pale
as he. The child, dazzled by such splendour, smiled and, growing bold
even, was beginning to clap his hands and jump, when Hamilcar took him
away.

He held him firmly by the arm as though he were afraid of losing him,
and the child, who was hurt, wept a little as he ran beside him.

When on a level with the ergastulum, under a palm tree, a voice was
raised, a mournful and supplicant voice. It murmured: “Master! oh!
master!”

Hamilcar turned and beside him perceived a man of abject appearance, one
of the wretches who led a haphazard existence in the household.

“What do you want?” said the Suffet.

The slave, who trembled horribly, stammered:

“I am his father!”

Hamilcar walked on; the other followed him with stooping loins, bent
hams, and head thrust forward. His face was convulsed with unspeakable
anguish, and he was choking with suppressed sobs, so eager was he at
once to question him, and to cry: “Mercy!”

At last he ventured to touch him lightly with one finger on the elbow.

“Are you going to--?” He had not the strength to finish, and Hamilcar
stopped quite amazed at such grief.

He had never thought--so immense was the abyss separating them from
each other--that there could be anything in common between them. It
even appeared to him a sort of outrage, an encroachment upon his
own privileges. He replied with a look colder and heavier than an
executioner’s axe; the slave swooned and fell in the dust at his feet.
Hamilcar strode across him.

The three black-robed men were waiting in the great hall, and standing
against the stone disc. Immediately he tore his garments, and rolled
upon the pavement uttering piercing cries.

“Ah! poor little Hannibal! Oh! my son! my consolation! my hope! my life!
Kill me also! take me away! Woe! Woe!” He ploughed his face with his
nails, tore out his hair, and shrieked like the women who lament at
funerals. “Take him away then! my suffering is too great! begone! kill
me like him!” The servants of Moloch were astonished that the great
Hamilcar was so weak-spirited. They were almost moved by it.

A noise of naked feet became audible, with a broken throat-rattling like
the breathing of a wild beast speeding along, and a man, pale, terrible,
and with outspread arms appeared on the threshold of the third gallery,
between the ivory pots; he exclaimed:

“My child!”

Hamilcar threw himself with a bound upon the slave, and covering the
man’s mouth with his hand exclaimed still more loudly:

“It is the old man who reared him! he calls him ‘my child!’ it will make
him mad! enough! enough!” And hustling away the three priests and their
victim he went out with them and with a great kick shut the door behind
him.

Hamilcar strained his ears for some minutes in constant fear of seeing
them return. He then thought of getting rid of the slave in order to
be quite sure that he would see nothing; but the peril had not wholly
disappeared, and, if the gods were provoked at the man’s death, it might
be turned against his son. Then, changing his intention, he sent him
by Taanach the best from his kitchens--a quarter of a goat, beans, and
preserved pomegranates. The slave, who had eaten nothing for a long
time, rushed upon them; his tears fell into the dishes.

Hamilcar at last returned to Salammbo, and unfastened Hannibal’s cords.
The child in exasperation bit his hand until the blood came. He repelled
him with a caress.

To make him remain quiet Salammbo tried to frighten him with Lamia, a
Cyrenian ogress.

“But where is she?” he asked.

He was told that brigands were coming to put him into prison. “Let them
come,” he rejoined, “and I will kill them!”

Then Hamilcar told him the frightful truth. But he fell into a passion
with his father, contending that he was quite able to annihilate the
whole people, since he was the master of Carthage.

At last, exhausted by his exertions and anger, he fell into a wild
sleep. He spoke in his dreams, his back leaning against a scarlet
cushion; his head was thrown back somewhat, and his little arm,
outstretched from his body, lay quite straight in an attitude of
command.

When the night had grown dark Hamilcar lifted him up gently, and,
without a torch, went down the galley staircase. As he passed through
the mercantile house he took up a basket of grapes and a flagon of pure
water; the child awoke before the statue of Aletes in the vault of gems,
and he smiled--like the other--on his father’s arm at the brilliant
lights which surrounded him.

Hamilcar felt quite sure that his son could not be taken from him. It
was an impenetrable spot communicating with the beach by a subterranean
passage which he alone knew, and casting his eyes around he inhaled
a great draught of air. Then he set him down upon a stool beside some
golden shields. No one at present could see him; he had no further need
for watching; and he relieved his feelings. Like a mother finding her
first-born that was lost, he threw himself upon his son; he clasped him
to his breast, he laughed and wept at the same time, he called him
by the fondest names and covered him with kisses; little Hannibal was
frightened by this terrible tenderness and was silent now.

Hamilcar returned with silent steps, feeling the walls around him, and
came into the great hall where the moonlight entered through one of the
apertures in the dome; in the centre the slave lay sleeping after his
repast, stretched at full length upon the marble pavement. He looked at
him and was moved with a sort of pity. With the tip of his cothurn he
pushed forward a carpet beneath his head. Then he raised his eyes and
gazed at Tanith, whose slender crescent was shining in the sky, and felt
himself stronger than the Baals and full of contempt for them.

The arrangements for the sacrifice were already begun.

Part of a wall in the temple of Moloch was thrown down in order to draw
out the brazen god without touching the ashes of the altar. Then as
soon as the sun appeared the hierodules pushed it towards the square of
Khamon.

It moved backwards sliding upon cylinders; its shoulders overlapped the
walls. No sooner did the Carthaginians perceive it in the distance than
they speedily took to flight, for the Baal could be looked upon with
impunity only when exercising his wrath.

A smell of aromatics spread through the streets. All the temples
had just been opened simultaneously, and from them there came forth
tabernacles borne upon chariots, or upon litters carried by the
pontiffs. Great plumes swayed at the corners of them, and rays were
emitted from their slender pinnacles which terminated in balls of
crystal, gold, silver or copper.

These were the Chanaanitish Baalim, offshoots of the supreme Baal, who
were returning to their first cause to humble themselves before his
might and annihilate themselves in his splendour.

Melkarth’s pavilion, which was of fine purple, sheltered a petroleum
flare; on Khamon’s, which was of hyacinth colour, there rose an ivory
phallus bordered with a circle of gems; between Eschmoun’s curtains,
which were as blue as the ether, a sleeping python formed a circle with
his tail, and the Pataec gods, held in the arms of their priests, looked
like great infants in swaddling clothes with their heels touching the
ground.

Then came all the inferior forms of the Divinity: Baal-Samin, god of
celestial space; Baal-Peor, god of the sacred mountains; Baal-Zeboub,
god of corruption, with those of the neighbouring countries and
congenerous races: the Iarbal of Libya, the Adramelech of Chaldaea,
the Kijun of the Syrians; Derceto, with her virgin’s face, crept on
her fins, and the corpse of Tammouz was drawn along in the midst of a
catafalque among torches and heads of hair. In order to subdue the kings
of the firmament to the Sun, and prevent their particular influences
from disturbing his, diversely coloured metal stars were brandished
at the end of long poles; and all were there, from the dark Neblo, the
genius of Mercury, to the hideous Rahab, which is the constellation of
the Crocodile. The Abbadirs, stones which had fallen from the moon, were
whirling in slings of silver thread; little loaves, representing the
female form, were born on baskets by the priests of Ceres; others
brought their fetishes and amulets; forgotten idols reappeared, while
the mystic symbols had been taken from the very ships as though Carthage
wished to concentrate herself wholly upon a single thought of death and
desolation.

Before each tabernacle a man balanced a large vase of smoking incense on
his head. Clouds hovered here and there, and the hangings, pendants,
and embroideries of the sacred pavilions might be distinguished amid
the thick vapours. These advanced slowly owing to their enormous weight.
Sometimes the axles became fast in the streets; then the pious took
advantage of the opportunity to touch the Baalim with their garments,
which they preserved afterwards as holy things.

The brazen statue continued to advance towards the square of Khamon. The
rich, carrying sceptres with emerald balls, set out from the bottom
of Megara; the Ancients, with diadems on their heads, had assembled in
Kinisdo, and masters of the finances, governors of provinces, sailors,
and the numerous horde employed at funerals, all with the insignia of
their magistracies or the instruments of their calling, were making
their way towards the tabernacles which were descending from the
Acropolis between the colleges of the pontiffs.

Out of deference to Moloch they had adorned themselves with the most
splendid jewels. Diamonds sparkled on their black garments; but their
rings were too large and fell from their wasted hands,--nor could there
have been anything so mournful as this silent crowd where earrings
tapped against pale faces, and gold tiaras clasped brows contracted with
stern despair.

At last the Baal arrived exactly in the centre of the square. His
pontiffs arranged an enclosure with trellis-work to keep off the
multitude, and remained around him at his feet.

The priests of Khamon, in tawny woollen robes, formed a line before
their temple beneath the columns of the portico; those of Eschmoun, in
linen mantles with necklaces of koukouphas’ heads and pointed tiaras,
posted themselves on the steps of the Acropolis; the priests of
Melkarth, in violet tunics, took the western side; the priests of the
Abbadirs, clasped with bands of Phrygian stuffs, placed themselves on
the east, while towards the south, with the necromancers all covered
with tattooings, and the shriekers in patched cloaks, were ranged the
curates of the Pataec gods, and the Yidonim, who put the bone of a dead
man into their mouths to learn the future. The priests of Ceres, who
were dressed in blue robes, had prudently stopped in the street of
Satheb, and in low tones were chanting a thesmophorion in the Megarian
dialect.

From time to time files of men arrived, completely naked, their arms
outstretched, and all holding one another by the shoulders. From
the depths of their breasts they drew forth a hoarse and cavernous
intonation; their eyes, which were fastened upon the colossus, shone
through the dust, and they swayed their bodies simultaneously, and at
equal distances, as though they were all affected by a single movement.
They were so frenzied that to restore order the hierodules compelled
them, with blows of the stick, to lie flat upon the ground, with their
faces resting against the brass trellis-work.

Then it was that a man in a white robe advanced from the back of the
square. He penetrated the crowd slowly, and people recognised a priest
of Tanith--the high-priest Schahabarim. Hootings were raised, for the
tyranny of the male principle prevailed that day in all consciences, and
the goddess was actually so completely forgotten that the absence of her
pontiffs had not been noticed. But the amazement was increased when he
was seen to open one of the doors of the trellis-work intended for
those who intended to offer up victims. It was an outrage to their god,
thought the priests of Moloch, that he had just committed, and they
sought with eager gestures to repel him. Fed on the meat of the
holocausts, clad in purple like kings, and wearing triple-storied
crowns, they despised the pale eunuch, weakened with his macerations,
and angry laughter shook their black beards, which were displayed on
their breasts in the sun.

Schahabarim walked on, giving no reply, and, traversing the whole
enclosure with deliberation, reached the legs of the colossus; then,
spreading out both arms, he touched it on both sides, which was a solemn
form of adoration. For a long time Rabbet had been torturing him, and
in despair, or perhaps for lack of a god that completely satisfied his
ideas, he had at last decided for this one.

The crowd, terrified by this act of apostasy, uttered a lengthened
murmur. It was felt that the last tie which bound their souls to a
merciful divinity was breaking.

But owing to his mutilation, Schahabarim could take no part in the cult
of the Baal. The men in the red cloaks shut him out from the enclosure;
then, when he was outside, he went round all the colleges in succession,
and the priest, henceforth without a god, disappeared into the crowd. It
scattered at his approach.

Meanwhile a fire of aloes, cedar, and laurel was burning between the
legs of the colossus. The tips of its long wings dipped into the flame;
the unguents with which it had been rubbed flowed like sweat over its
brazen limbs. Around the circular flagstone on which its feet rested,
the children, wrapped in black veils, formed a motionless circle; and
its extravagantly long arms reached down their palms to them as though
to seize the crown that they formed and carry it to the sky.

The rich, the Ancients, the women, the whole multitude, thronged behind
the priests and on the terraces of the houses. The large painted stars
revolved no longer; the tabernacles were set upon the ground; and the
fumes from the censers ascended perpendicularly, spreading their bluish
branches through the azure like gigantic trees.

Many fainted; others became inert and petrified in their ecstasy.
Infinite anguish weighed upon the breasts of the beholders. The
last shouts died out one by one,--and the people of Carthage stood
breathless, and absorbed in the longing of their terror.

At last the high priest of Moloch passed his left hand beneath the
children’s veils, plucked a lock of hair from their foreheads, and threw
it upon the flames. Then the men in the red cloaks chanted the sacred
hymn:

“Homage to thee, Sun! king of the two zones, self-generating Creator,
Father and Mother, Father and Son, God and Goddess, Goddess and God!”
 And their voices were lost in the outburst of instruments sounding
simultaneously to drown the cries of the victims. The eight-stringed
scheminiths, the kinnors which had ten strings, and the nebals which
had twelve, grated, whistled, and thundered. Enormous leathern bags,
bristling with pipes, made a shrill clashing noise; the tabourines,
beaten with all the players’ might, resounded with heavy, rapid blows;
and, in spite of the fury of the clarions, the salsalim snapped like
grasshoppers’ wings.

The hierodules, with a long hook, opened the seven-storied compartments
on the body of the Baal. They put meal into the highest, two
turtle-doves into the second, an ape into the third, a ram into the
fourth, a sheep into the fifth, and as no ox was to be had for the
sixth, a tawny hide taken from the sanctuary was thrown into it. The
seventh compartment yawned empty still.

Before undertaking anything it was well to make trial of the arms of the
god. Slender chainlets stretched from his fingers up to his shoulders
and fell behind, where men by pulling them made the two hands rise to a
level with the elbows, and come close together against the belly; they
were moved several times in succession with little abrupt jerks. Then
the instruments were still. The fire roared.

The pontiffs of Moloch walked about on the great flagstone scanning the
multitude.

An individual sacrifice was necessary, a perfectly voluntary oblation,
which was considered as carrying the others along with it. But no one
had appeared up to the present, and the seven passages leading from the
barriers to the colossus were completely empty. Then the priests, to
encourage the people, drew bodkins from their girdles and gashed their
faces. The Devotees, who were stretched on the ground outside, were
brought within the enclosure. A bundle of horrible irons was thrown to
them, and each chose his own torture. They drove in spits between their
breasts; they split their cheeks; they put crowns of thorns upon their
heads; then they twined their arms together, and surrounded the children
in another large circle which widened and contracted in turns. They
reached to the balustrade, they threw themselves back again, and then
began once more, attracting the crowd to them by the dizziness of their
motion with its accompanying blood and shrieks.

By degrees people came into the end of the passages; they flung into
the flames pearls, gold vases, cups, torches, all their wealth; the
offerings became constantly more numerous and more splendid. At last a
man who tottered, a man pale and hideous with terror, thrust forward
a child; then a little black mass was seen between the hands of the
colossus, and sank into the dark opening. The priests bent over the edge
of the great flagstone,--and a new song burst forth celebrating the joys
of death and of new birth into eternity.

The children ascended slowly, and as the smoke formed lofty eddies as
it escaped, they seemed at a distance to disappear in a cloud. Not
one stirred. Their wrists and ankles were tied, and the dark drapery
prevented them from seeing anything and from being recognised.

Hamilcar, in a red cloak, like the priests of Moloch, was beside the
Baal, standing upright in front of the great toe of its right foot. When
the fourteenth child was brought every one could see him make a great
gesture of horror. But he soon resumed his former attitude, folded his
arms, and looked upon the ground. The high pontiff stood on the other
side of the statue as motionless as he. His head, laden with an Assyrian
mitre, was bent, and he was watching the gold plate on his breast; it
was covered with fatidical stones, and the flame mirrored in it formed
irisated lights. He grew pale and dismayed. Hamilcar bent his brow; and
they were both so near the funeral-pile that the hems of their cloaks
brushed it as they rose from time to time.

The brazen arms were working more quickly. They paused no longer. Every
time that a child was placed in them the priests of Moloch spread
out their hands upon him to burden him with the crimes of the people,
vociferating: “They are not men but oxen!” and the multitude round
about repeated: “Oxen! oxen!” The devout exclaimed: “Lord! eat!” and
the priests of Proserpine, complying through terror with the needs of
Carthage, muttered the Eleusinian formula: “Pour out rain! bring forth!”

The victims, when scarcely at the edge of the opening, disappeared like
a drop of water on a red-hot plate, and white smoke rose amid the great
scarlet colour.

Nevertheless, the appetite of the god was not appeased. He ever wished
for more. In order to furnish him with a larger supply, the victims were
piled up on his hands with a big chain above them which kept them in
their place. Some devout persons had at the beginning wished to count
them, to see whether their number corresponded with the days of
the solar year; but others were brought, and it was impossible to
distinguish them in the giddy motion of the horrible arms. This lasted
for a long, indefinite time until the evening. Then the partitions
inside assumed a darker glow, and burning flesh could be seen. Some even
believed that they could descry hair, limbs, and whole bodies.

Night fell; clouds accumulated above the Baal. The funeral-pile, which
was flameless now, formed a pyramid of coals up to his knees; completely
red like a giant covered with blood, he looked, with his head
thrown back, as though he were staggering beneath the weight of his
intoxication.

In proportion as the priests made haste, the frenzy of the people
increased; as the number of the victims was diminishing, some cried
out to spare them, others that still more were needful. The walls, with
their burden of people, seemed to be giving way beneath the howlings
of terror and mystic voluptuousness. Then the faithful came into the
passages, dragging their children, who clung to them; and they beat them
in order to make them let go, and handed them over to the men in red.
The instrument-players sometimes stopped through exhaustion; then the
cries of the mothers might be heard, and the frizzling of the fat as it
fell upon the coals. The henbane-drinkers crawled on all fours around
the colossus, roaring like tigers; the Yidonim vaticinated, the Devotees
sang with their cloven lips; the trellis-work had been broken through,
all wished for a share in the sacrifice;--and fathers, whose children
had died previously, cast their effigies, their playthings, their
preserved bones into the fire. Some who had knives rushed upon the rest.
They slaughtered one another. The hierodules took the fallen ashes at
the edge of the flagstone in bronze fans, and cast them into the air
that the sacrifice might be scattered over the town and even to the
region of the stars.

The loud noise and great light had attracted the Barbarians to the foot
of the walls; they clung to the wreck of the helepolis to have a better
view, and gazed open-mouthed in horror.



CHAPTER XIV

THE PASS OF THE HATCHET

The Carthaginians had not re-entered their houses when the clouds
accumulated more thickly; those who raised their heads towards the
colossus could feel big drops on their foreheads, and the rain fell.

It fell the whole night plentifully, in floods; the thunder growled; it
was the voice of Moloch; he had vanquished Tanith; and she, being now
fecundated, opened up her vast bosom in heaven’s heights. Sometimes she
could be seen in a clear and luminous spot stretched upon cushions of
cloud; and then the darkness would close in again as though she were
still too weary and wished to sleep again; the Carthaginians, all
believing that water is brought forth by the moon, shouted to make her
travail easy.

The rain beat upon the terraces and overflowed them, forming lakes in
the courts, cascades on the staircases, and eddies at the corners of the
streets. It poured in warm heavy masses and urgent streams; big frothy
jets leaped from the corners of all the buildings; and it seemed
as though whitish cloths hung dimly upon the walls, and the washed
temple-roofs shone black in the gleam of the lightning. Torrents
descended from the Acropolis by a thousand paths; houses suddenly gave
way, and small beams, plaster, rubbish, and furniture passed along in
streams which ran impetuously over the pavement.

Amphoras, flagons, and canvases had been placed out of doors; but the
torches were extinguished; brands were taken from the funeral-pile of
the Baal, and the Carthaginians bent back their necks and opened their
mouths to drink. Others by the side of the miry pools, plunged their
arms into them up to the armpits, and filled themselves so abundantly
with water that they vomited it forth like buffaloes. The freshness
gradually spread; they breathed in the damp air with play of limb, and
in the happiness of their intoxication boundless hope soon arose. All
their miseries were forgotten. Their country was born anew.

They felt the need, as it were, of directing upon others the extravagant
fury which they had been unable to employ against themselves. Such a
sacrifice could not be in vain; although they felt no remorse they found
themselves carried away by the frenzy which results from complicity in
irreparable crimes.

The Barbarians had encountered the storm in their ill-closed tents; and
they were still quite chilled on the morrow as they tramped through the
mud in search of their stores and weapons, which were spoiled and lost.

Hamilcar went himself to see Hanno, and, in virtue of his plenary
powers, intrusted the command to him. The old Suffet hesitated for a
few minutes between his animosity and his appetite for authority, but he
accepted nevertheless.

Hamilcar next took out a galley armed with a catapult at each end.
He placed it in the gulf in front of the raft; then he embarked
his stoutest troops on board such vessels as were available. He was
apparently taking to flight; and running northward before the wind he
disappeared into the mist.

But three days afterwards, when the attack was about to begin again,
some people arrived tumultuously from the Libyan coast. Barca had
come among them. He had carried off provisions everywhere, and he was
spreading through the country.

Then the Barbarians were indignant as though he were betraying them.
Those who were most weary of the siege, and especially the Gauls, did
not hesitate to leave the walls in order to try and rejoin him. Spendius
wanted to reconstruct the helepolis; Matho had traced an imaginary line
from his tent to Megara, and inwardly swore to follow it, and none of
their men stirred. But the rest, under the command of Autaritus, went
off, abandoning the western part of the rampart, and so profound was the
carelessness exhibited that no one even thought of replacing them.

Narr’ Havas spied them from afar in the mountains. During the night he
led all his men along the sea-shore on the outer side of the Lagoon, and
entered Carthage.

He presented himself as a saviour with six thousand men all carrying
meal under their cloaks, and forty elephants laden with forage and dried
meat. The people flocked quickly around them; they gave them names. The
sight of these strong animals, sacred to Baal, gave the Carthaginians
even more joy than the arrival of such relief; it was a token of the
tenderness of the god, a proof that he was at last about to interfere in
the war to defend them.

Narr’ Havas received the compliments of the Ancients. Then he ascended
to Salammbo’s palace.

He had not seen her again since the time when in Hamilcar’s tent amid
the five armies he had felt her little, cold, soft hand fastened to his
own; she had left for Carthage after the betrothal. His love, which
had been diverted by other ambitions, had come back to him; and now he
expected to enjoy his rights, to marry her, and take her.

Salammbo did not understand how the young man could ever become her
master! Although she asked Tanith every day for Matho’s death, her
horror of the Libyan was growing less. She vaguely felt that the hate
with which he had persecuted her was something almost religious,--and
she would fain have seen in Narr’ Havas’s person a reflection, as it
were, of that malice which still dazzled her. She desired to know him
better, and yet his presence would have embarrassed her. She sent him
word that she could not receive him.

Moreover, Hamilcar had forbidden his people to admit the King of the
Numidians to see her; by putting off his reward to the end of the war he
hoped to retain his devotion;--and, through dread of the Suffet, Narr’
Havas withdrew.

But he bore himself haughtily towards the Hundred. He changed their
arrangements. He demanded privileges for his men, and placed them
on important posts; thus the Barbarians stared when they perceived
Numidians on the towers.

The surprise of the Carthaginians was greater still when three hundred
of their own people, who had been made prisoners during the Sicilian
war, arrived on board an old Punic trireme. Hamilcar, in fact, had
secretly sent back to the Quirites the crews of the Latin vessels,
taken before the defection of the Tyrian towns; and, to reciprocate the
courtesy, Rome was now sending him back her captives. She scorned the
overtures of the Mercenaries in Sardinian, and would not even recognise
the inhabitants of Utica as subjects.

Hiero, who was ruling at Syracuse, was carried away by this example. For
the preservation of his own States it was necessary that an equilibrium
should exist between the two peoples; he was interested, therefore, in
the safety of the Chanaanites, and he declared himself their friend, and
sent them twelve hundred oxen, with fifty-three thousand nebels of pure
wheat.

A deeper reason prompted aid to Carthage. It was felt that if the
Mercenaries triumphed, every one, from soldier to plate-washer, would
rise, and that no government and no house could resist them.

Meanwhile Hamilcar was scouring the eastern districts. He drove back
the Gauls, and all the Barbarians found that they were themselves in
something like a state of siege.

Then he set himself to harass them. He would arrive and then retire, and
by constantly renewing this manoeuvre, he gradually detached them from
their encampments. Spendius was obliged to follow them, and in the end
Matho yielded in like manner.

He did not pass beyond Tunis. He shut himself up within its walls. This
persistence was full of wisdom, for soon Narr’ Havas was to be seen
issuing from the gate of Khamon with his elephants and soldiers.
Hamilcar was recalling him, but the other Barbarians were already
wandering about in the provinces in pursuit of the Suffet.

The latter had received three thousand Gauls from Clypea. He had horses
brought to him from Cyrenaica, and armour from Brutium, and began the
war again.

Never had his genius been so impetuous and fertile. For five moons he
dragged his enemies after him. He had an end to which he wished to guide
them.

The Barbarians had at first tried to encompass him with small
detachments, but he always escaped them. They ceased to separate then.
Their army amounted to about forty thousand men, and several times they
enjoyed the sight of seeing the Carthaginians fall back.

The horsemen of Narr’ Havas were what they found most tormenting. Often,
at times of the greatest weariness, when they were advancing over the
plains, and dozing beneath the weight of their arms, a great line of
dust would suddenly rise on the horizon; there would be a galloping up
to them, and a rain of darts would pour from the bosom of a cloud filled
with flaming eyes. The Numidians in their white cloaks would utter
loud shouts, raise their arms, press their rearing stallions with their
knees, and, wheeling them round abruptly, would then disappear. They had
always supplies of javelins and dromedaries some distance off, and they
would return more terrible than before, howl like wolves, and take to
flight like vultures. The Barbarians posted at the extremities of the
files fell one by one; and this would continue until evening, when an
attempt would be made to enter the mountains.

Although they were perilous for elephants, Hamilcar made his way in
among them. He followed the long chain which extends from the promontory
of Hermaeum to the top of Zagouan. This, they believed, was a device for
hiding the insufficiency of his troops. But the continual uncertainty in
which he kept them exasperated them at last more than any defeat. They
did not lose heart, and marched after him.

At last one evening they surprised a body of velites amid some big
rocks at the entrance of a pass between the Silver Mountain and the Lead
Mountain; the entire army was certainly in front of them, for a noise
of footsteps and clarions could be heard; the Carthaginians immediately
fled through the gorge. It descended into a plain, and was shaped like
an iron hatchet with a surrounding of lofty cliffs. The Barbarians
dashed into it in order to overtake the velites; quite at the bottom
other Carthaginians were running tumultuously amid galloping oxen. A man
in a red cloak was to be seen; it was the Suffet; they shouted this to
one another; and they were carried away with increased fury and joy.
Several, from laziness or prudence, had remained on the threshold of the
pass. But some cavalry, debouching from a wood, beat them down upon
the rest with blows of pike and sabre; and soon all the Barbarians were
below in the plain.

Then this great human mass, after swaying to and fro for some time,
stood still; they could discover no outlet.

Those who were nearest to the pass went back again, but the passage had
entirely disappeared. They hailed those in front to make them go on;
they were being crushed against the mountain, and from a distance they
inveighed against their companions, who were unable to find the route
again.

In fact the Barbarians had scarcely descended when men who had been
crouching behind the rocks raised the latter with beams and overthrew
them, and as the slope was steep the huge blocks had rolled down
pell-mell and completely stopped up the narrow opening.

At the other extremity of the plain stretched a long passage, split in
gaps here and there, and leading to a ravine which ascended to the upper
plateau, where the Punic army was stationed. Ladders had been placed
beforehand in this passage against the wall of cliff; and, protected by
the windings of the gaps, the velites were able to seize and mount them
before being overtaken. Several even made their way to the bottom of the
ravine; they were drawn up with cables, for the ground at this spot was
of moving sand, and so much inclined that it was impossible to climb
it even on the knees. The Barbarians arrived almost immediately. But
a portcullis, forty cubits high, and made to fit the intervening space
exactly, suddenly sank before them like a rampart fallen from the skies.

The Suffet’s combinations had therefore succeeded. None of the
Mercenaries knew the mountain, and, marching as they did at the head
of their columns, they had drawn on the rest. The rocks, which were
somewhat narrow at the base, had been easily cast down; and, while
all were running, his army had raised shouts, as of distress, on the
horizon. Hamilcar, it is true, might have lost his velites, only half of
whom remained, but he would have sacrificed twenty times as many for the
success of such an enterprise.

The Barbarians pressed forward until morning, in compact files, from one
end of the plain to the other. They felt the mountain with their hands,
seeking to discover a passage.

At last day broke; and they perceived all about them a great white wall
hewn with the pick. And no means of safety, no hope! The two natural
outcomes from this blind alley were closed by the portcullis and the
heaps of rocks.

Then they all looked at one another without speaking. They sank down in
collapse, feeling an icy coldness in their loins, and an overwhelming
weight upon their eyelids.

They rose, and bounded against the rocks. But the lowest were weighted
by the pressure of the others, and were immovable. They tried to cling
to them so as to reach the top, but the bellying shape of the great
masses rendered all hold impossible. They sought to cleave the ground on
both sides of the gorge, but their instruments broke. They made a large
fire with the tent poles, but the fire could not burn the mountain.

They returned to the portcullis; it was garnished with long nails as
thick as stakes, as sharp as the spines of a porcupine, and closer than
the hairs of a brush. But they were animated by such rage that they
dashed themselves against it. The first were pierced to the backbone,
those coming next surged over them, and all fell back, leaving human
fragments and bloodstained hair on those horrible branches.

When their discouragement was somewhat abated, they made an examination
of the provisions. The Mercenaries, whose baggage was lost, possessed
scarcely enough for two days; and all the rest found themselves
destitute,--for they had been awaiting a convoy promised by the villages
of the South.

However, some bulls were roaming about, those which the Carthaginians
had loosed in the gorge to attract the Barbarians. They killed them with
lance thrusts and ate them, and when their stomachs were filled their
thoughts were less mournful.

The next day they slaughtered all the mules to the number of about
forty; then they scraped the skins, boiled the entrails, pounded the
bones, and did not yet despair; the army from Tunis had no doubt been
warned, and was coming.

But on the evening of the fifth day their hunger increased; they gnawed
their sword-belts, and the little sponges which bordered the bottom of
their helmets.

These forty thousand men were massed into the species of hippodrome
formed by the mountain about them. Some remained in front of the
portcullis, or at the foot of the rocks; the rest covered the plain
confusedly. The strong shunned one another, and the timid sought out the
brave, who, nevertheless, were unable to save them.

To avoid infection, the corpses of the velites had been speedily buried;
and the position of the graves was no longer visible.

All the Barbarians lay drooping on the ground. A veteran would pass
between their lines here and there; and they would howl curses against
the Carthaginians, against Hamilcar, and against Matho, although he was
innocent of their disaster; but it seemed to them that their pains would
have been less if he had shared them. Then they groaned, and some wept
softly like little children.

They came to the captains and besought them to grant them something that
would alleviate their sufferings. The others made no reply; or, seized
with fury, would pick up a stone and fling it in their faces.

Several, in fact, carefully kept a reserve of food in a hole in the
ground--a few handfuls of dates, or a little meal; and they ate this
during the night, with their heads bent beneath their cloaks. Those
who had swords kept them naked in their hands, and the most suspicious
remained standing with their backs against the mountain.

They accused their chiefs and threatened them. Autaritus was not afraid
of showing himself. With the Barbaric obstinacy which nothing could
discourage, he would advance twenty times a day to the rocks at the
bottom, hoping every time to find them perchance displaced; and swaying
his heavy fur-covered shoulders, he reminded his companions of a bear
coming forth from its cave in springtime to see whether the snows are
melted.

Spendius, surrounded by the Greeks, hid himself in one of the gaps; as
he was afraid, he caused a rumour of his death to be spread.

They were now hideously lean; their skin was overlaid with bluish
marblings. On the evening of the ninth day three Iberians died.

Their frightened companions left the spot. They were stripped, and the
white, naked bodies lay in the sunshine on the sand.

Then the Garamantians began to prowl slowly round about them. They were
men accustomed to existence in solitude, and they reverenced no god. At
last the oldest of the band made a sign, and bending over the corpses
they cut strips from them with their knives, then squatted upon their
heels and ate. The rest looked on from a distance; they uttered cries
of horror;--many, nevertheless, being, at the bottom of their souls,
jealous of such courage.

In the middle of the night some of these approached, and, dissembling
their eagerness, asked for a small mouthful, merely to try, they said.
Bolder ones came up; their number increased; there was soon a crowd. But
almost all of them let their hands fall on feeling the cold flesh on the
edge of their lips; others, on the contrary, devoured it with delight.

That they might be led away by example, they urged one another on
mutually. Such as had at first refused went to see the Garamantians, and
returned no more. They cooked the pieces on coals at the point of the
sword; they salted them with dust, and contended for the best morsels.
When nothing was left of the three corpses, their eyes ranged over the
whole plain to find others.

But were they not in possession of Carthaginians--twenty captives taken
in the last encounter, whom no one had noticed up to the present? These
disappeared; moreover, it was an act of vengeance. Then, as they must
live, as the taste for this food had become developed, and as they were
dying, they cut the throats of the water-carriers, grooms, and all the
serving-men belonging to the Mercenaries. They killed some of them every
day. Some ate much, recovered strength, and were sad no more.

Soon this resource failed. Then the longing was directed to the wounded
and sick. Since they could not recover, it was as well to release
them from their tortures; and, as soon as a man began to stagger, all
exclaimed that he was now lost, and ought to be made use of for the
rest. Artifices were employed to accelerate their death; the last
remnant of their foul portion was stolen from them; they were trodden
on as though by inadvertence; those in the last throes wishing to make
believe that they were strong, strove to stretch out their arms, to
rise, to laugh. Men who had swooned came to themselves at the touch of
a notched blade sawing off a limb;--and they still slew, ferociously and
needlessly, to sate their fury.

A mist heavy and warm, such as comes in those regions at the end
of winter, sank on the fourteenth day upon the army. This change
of temperature brought numerous deaths with it, and corruption was
developed with frightful rapidity in the warm dampness which was kept
in by the sides of the mountain. The drizzle that fell upon the corpses
softened them, and soon made the plain one broad tract of rottenness.
Whitish vapours floated overhead; they pricked the nostrils, penetrated
the skin, and troubled the sight; and the Barbarians thought that
through the exhalations of the breath they could see the souls of their
companions. They were overwhelmed with immense disgust. They wished for
nothing more; they preferred to die.

Two days afterwards the weather became fine again, and hunger seized
them once more. It seemed to them that their stomachs were being
wrenched from them with tongs. Then they rolled about in convulsions,
flung handfuls of dust into their mouths, bit their arms, and burst into
frantic laughter.

They were still more tormented by thirst, for they had not a drop of
water, the leathern bottles having been completely dried up since the
ninth day. To cheat their need they applied their tongues to the metal
plates on their waist-belts, their ivory pommels, and the steel of their
swords. Some former caravan-leaders tightened their waists with ropes.
Others sucked a pebble. They drank urine cooled in their brazen helmets.

And they still expected the army from Tunis! The length of time which it
took in coming was, according to their conjectures, an assurance of its
early arrival. Besides, Matho, who was a brave fellow, would not desert
them. “‘Twill be to-morrow!” they would say to one another; and then
to-morrow would pass.

At the beginning they had offered up prayers and vows, and practised all
kinds of incantations. Just now their only feeling to their divinities
was one of hatred, and they strove to revenge themselves by believing in
them no more.

Men of violent disposition perished first; the Africans held out
better than the Gauls. Zarxas lay stretched at full length among the
Balearians, his hair over his arm, inert. Spendius found a plant with
broad leaves filled abundantly with juice, and after declaring that it
was poisonous, so as to keep off the rest, he fed himself upon it.

They were too weak to knock down the flying crows with stones. Sometimes
when a gypaetus was perched on a corpse, and had been mangling it for
a long time, a man would set himself to crawl towards it with a javelin
between his teeth. He would support himself with one hand, and after
taking a good aim, throw his weapon. The white-feathered creature,
disturbed by the noise, would desist and look about in tranquil fashion
like a cormorant on a rock, and would then again thrust in its hideous,
yellow beak, while the man, in despair, would fall flat on his face in
the dust. Some succeeded in discovering chameleons and serpents. But it
was the love of life that kept them alive. They directed their souls to
this idea exclusively, and clung to existence by an effort of the will
that prolonged it.

The most stoical kept close to one another, seated in a circle here and
there, among the dead in the middle of the plain; and wrapped in their
cloaks they gave themselves up silently to their sadness.

Those who had been born in towns recalled the resounding streets, the
taverns, theatres, baths, and the barbers’ shops where there are tales
to be heard. Others could once more see country districts at sunset,
when the yellow corn waves, and the great oxen ascend the hills again
with the ploughshares on their necks. Travellers dreamed of cisterns,
hunters of their forests, veterans of battles; and in the somnolence
that benumbed them their thoughts jostled one another with the
precipitancy and clearness of dreams. Hallucinations came suddenly upon
them; they sought for a door in the mountain in order to flee, and tried
to pass through it. Others thought that they were sailing in a storm
and gave orders for the handling of a ship, or else fell back in terror,
perceiving Punic battalions in the clouds. There were some who imagined
themselves at a feast, and sang.

Many through a strange mania would repeat the same word or continually
make the same gesture. Then when they happened to raise their heads
and look at one another they were choked with sobs on discovering the
horrible ravages made in their faces. Some had ceased to suffer, and to
while away the hours told of the perils which they had escaped.

Death was certain and imminent to all. How many times had they not tried
to open up a passage! As to implore terms from the conqueror, by what
means could they do so? They did not even know where Hamilcar was.

The wind was blowing from the direction of the ravine. It made the sand
flow perpetually in cascades over the portcullis; and the cloaks and
hair of the Barbarians were being covered with it as though the earth
were rising upon them and desirous of burying them. Nothing stirred; the
eternal mountain seemed still higher to them every morning.

Sometimes flights of birds darted past beneath the blue sky in the
freedom of the air. The men closed their eyes that they might not see
them.

At first they felt a buzzing in their ears, their nails grew black, the
cold reached to their breasts; they lay upon their sides and expired
without a cry.

On the nineteenth day two thousand Asiatics were dead, with fifteen
hundred from the Archipelago, eight thousand from Libya, the youngest
of the Mercenaries and whole tribes--in all twenty thousand soldiers, or
half of the army.

Autaritus, who had only fifty Gauls left, was going to kill himself in
order to put an end to this state of things, when he thought he saw a
man on the top of the mountain in front of him.

Owing to his elevation this man did not appear taller than a dwarf.
However, Autaritus recognised a shield shaped like a trefoil on his
left arm. “A Carthaginian!” he exclaimed, and immediately throughout
the plain, before the portcullis and beneath the rocks, all rose. The
soldier was walking along the edge of the precipice; the Barbarians
gazed at him from below.

Spendius picked up the head of an ox; then having formed a diadem with
two belts, he fixed it on the horns at the end of a pole in token of
pacific intentions. The Carthaginian disappeared. They waited.

At last in the evening a sword-belt suddenly fell from above like a
stone loosened from the cliff. It was made of red leather covered with
embroidery, with three diamond stars, and stamped in the centre, it bore
the mark of the Great Council: a horse beneath a palm-tree. This was
Hamilcar’s reply, the safe-conduct that he sent them.

They had nothing to fear; any change of fortune brought with it the end
of their woes. They were moved with extravagant joy, they embraced one
another, they wept. Spendius, Autaritus, and Zarxas, four Italiotes,
a Negro and two Spartans offered themselves as envoys. They were
immediately accepted. They did not know, however, by what means they
should get away.

But a cracking sounded in the direction of the rocks; and the most
elevated of them, after rocking to and fro, rebounded to the bottom. In
fact, if they were immovable on the side of the Barbarians--for it would
have been necessary to urge them up an incline plane, and they were,
moreover, heaped together owing to the narrowness of the gorge--on the
others, on the contrary, it was sufficient to drive against them with
violence to make them descend. The Carthaginians pushed them, and at
daybreak they projected into the plain like the steps of an immense
ruined staircase.

The Barbarians were still unable to climb them. Ladders were held out
for their assistance; all rushed upon them. The discharge of a catapult
drove the crowd back; only the Ten were taken away.

They walked amid the Clinabarians, leaning their hands on the horses’
croups for support.

Now that their first joy was over they began to harbour anxieties.
Hamilcar’s demands would be cruel. But Spendius reassured them.

“I will speak!” And he boasted that he knew excellent things to say for
the safety of the army.

Behind all the bushes they met with ambushed sentries, who prostrated
themselves before the sword-belt which Spendius had placed over his
shoulder.

When they reached the Punic camp the crowd flocked around them, and they
thought that they could hear whisperings and laughter. The door of a
tent opened.

Hamilcar was at the very back of it seated on a stool beside a table on
which there shone a naked sword. He was surrounded by captains, who were
standing.

He started back on perceiving these men, and then bent over to examine
them.

Their pupils were strangely dilated, and there was a great black circle
round their eyes, which extended to the lower parts of their ears; their
bluish noses stood out between their hollow cheeks, which were chinked
with deep wrinkles; the skin of their bodies was too large for their
muscles, and was hidden beneath a slate-coloured dust; their lips were
glued to their yellow teeth; they exhaled an infectious odour; they
might have been taken for half-opened tombs, for living sepulchres.

In the centre of the tent, on a mat on which the captains were about to
sit down, there was a dish of smoking gourds. The Barbarians fastened
their eyes upon it with a shivering in all their limbs, and tears came
to their eyelids; nevertheless they restrained themselves.

Hamilcar turned away to speak to some one. Then they all flung
themselves upon it, flat on the ground. Their faces were soaked in the
fat, and the noise of their deglutition was mingled with the sobs of joy
which they uttered. Through astonishment, doubtless, rather than pity,
they were allowed to finish the mess. Then when they had risen Hamilcar
with a sign commanded the man who bore the sword-belt to speak. Spendius
was afraid; he stammered.

Hamilcar, while listening to him, kept turning round on his finger a
big gold ring, the same which had stamped the seal of Carthage upon the
sword-belt. He let it fall to the ground; Spendius immediately picked it
up; his servile habits came back to him in the presence of his master.
The others quivered with indignation at such baseness.

But the Greek raised his voice and spoke for a long time in rapid,
insidious, and even violent fashion, setting forth the crimes of Hanno,
whom he knew to be Barca’s enemy, and striving to move Hamilcar’s pity
by the details of their miseries and the recollection of their devotion;
in the end he became forgetful of himself, being carried away by the
warmth of his temper.

Hamilcar replied that he accepted their excuses. Peace, then, was about
to be concluded, and now it would be a definitive one! But he required
that ten Mercenaries, chosen by himself, should be delivered up to him
without weapons or tunics.

They had not expected such clemency; Spendius exclaimed: “Ah! twenty if
you wish, master!”

“No! ten will suffice,” replied Hamilcar quietly.

They were sent out of the tent to deliberate. As soon as they were
alone, Autaritus protested against the sacrifice of their companions,
and Zarxas said to Spendius:

“Why did you not kill him? his sword was there beside you!”

“Him!” said Spendius. “Him! him!” he repeated several times, as though
the thing had been impossible, and Hamilcar were an immortal.

They were so overwhelmed with weariness that they stretched themselves
on their backs on the ground, not knowing at what resolution to arrive.

Spendius urged them to yield. At last they consented, and went in again.

Then the Suffet put his hand into the hands of the ten Barbarians in
turn, and pressed their thumbs; then he rubbed it on his garment, for
their viscous skin gave a rude, soft impression to the touch, a greasy
tingling which induced horripilation. Afterwards he said to them:

“You are really all the chiefs of the Barbarians, and you have sworn for
them?”

“Yes!” they replied.

“Without constraint, from the bottom of your souls, with the intention
of fulfilling your promises?”

They assured him that they were returning to the rest in order to fulfil
them.

“Well!” rejoined the Suffet, “in accordance with the convention
concluded between myself, Barca, and the ambassadors of the Mercenaries,
it is you whom I choose and shall keep!”

Spendius fell swooning upon the mat. The Barbarians, as though
abandoning him, pressed close together; and there was not a word, not a
complaint.

Their companions, who were waiting for them, not seeing them return,
believed themselves betrayed. The envoys had no doubt given themselves
up to the Suffet.

They waited for two days longer; then on the morning of the third, their
resolution was taken. With ropes, picks, and arrows, arranged like
rungs between strips of canvas, they succeeded in scaling the rocks; and
leaving the weakest, about three thousand in number, behind them, they
began their march to rejoin the army at Tunis.

Above the gorge there stretched a meadow thinly sown with shrubs; the
Barbarians devoured the buds. Afterwards they found a field of beans;
and everything disappeared as though a cloud of grasshoppers had passed
that way. Three hours later they reached a second plateau bordered by a
belt of green hills.

Among the undulations of these hillocks, silvery sheaves shone at
intervals from one another; the Barbarians, who were dazzled by the
sun, could perceive confusedly below great black masses supporting them;
these rose, as though they were expanding. They were lances in towers on
elephants terribly armed.

Besides the spears on their breasts, the bodkin tusks, the brass plates
which covered their sides, and the daggers fastened to their knee-caps,
they had at the extremity of their tusks a leathern bracelet, in
which the handle of a broad cutlass was inserted; they had set out
simultaneously from the back part of the plain, and were advancing on
both sides in parallel lines.

The Barbarians were frozen with a nameless terror. They did not even try
to flee. They already found themselves surrounded.

The elephants entered into this mass of men; and the spurs on their
breasts divided it, the lances on their tusks upturned it like
ploughshares; they cut, hewed, and hacked with the scythes on their
trunks; the towers, which were full of phalaricas, looked like volcanoes
on the march; nothing could be distinguished but a large heap, whereon
human flesh, pieces of brass and blood made white spots, grey sheets
and red fuses. The horrible animals dug out black furrows as they passed
through the midst of it all.

The fiercest was driven by a Numidian who was crowned with a diadem of
plumes. He hurled javelins with frightful quickness, giving at intervals
a long shrill whistle. The great beasts, docile as dogs, kept an eye on
him during the carnage.

The circle of them narrowed by degrees; the weakened Barbarians offered
no resistance; the elephants were soon in the centre of the plain.
They lacked space; they thronged half-rearing together, and their tusks
clashed against one another. Suddenly Narr’ Havas quieted them, and
wheeling round they trotted back to the hills.

Two syntagmata, however, had taken refuge on the right in a bend of
ground, had thrown away their arms, and were all kneeling with their
faces towards the Punic tents imploring mercy with uplifted arms.

Their legs and hands were tied; then when they were stretched on the
ground beside one another the elephants were brought back.

Their breasts cracked like boxes being forced; two were crushed at every
step; the big feet sank into the bodies with a motion of the haunches
which made the elephants appear lame. They went on to the very end.

The level surface of the plain again became motionless. Night fell.
Hamilcar was delighting himself with the spectacle of his vengeance, but
suddenly he started.

He saw, and all saw, some more Barbarians six hundred paces to the
left on the summit of a peak! In fact four hundred of the stoutest
Mercenaries, Etruscans, Libyans, and Spartans had gained the heights at
the beginning, and had remained there in uncertainty until now. After
the massacre of their companions they resolved to make their way through
the Carthaginians; they were already descending in serried columns, in a
marvellous and formidable fashion.

A herald was immediately despatched to them. The Suffet needed soldiers;
he received them unconditionally, so greatly did he admire their
bravery. They could even, said the man of Carthage, come a little
nearer, to a place, which he pointed out to them, where they would find
provisions.

The Barbarians ran thither and spent the night in eating. Then the
Carthaginians broke into clamours against the Suffet’s partiality for
the Mercenaries.

Did he yield to these outbursts of insatiable hatred or was it a
refinement of treachery? The next day he came himself, without a sword
and bare-headed, with an escort of Clinabarians, and announced to
them that having too many to feed he did not intend to keep them.
Nevertheless, as he wanted men and he knew of no means of selecting the
good ones, they were to fight together to the death; he would then admit
the conquerors into his own body-guard. This death was quite as good as
another;--and then moving his soldiers aside (for the Punic standards
hid the horizon from the Mercenaries) he showed them the one hundred and
ninety-two elephants under Narr’ Havas, forming a single straight line,
their trunks brandishing broad steel blades like giant arms holding axes
above their heads.

The Barbarians looked at one another silently. It was not death that
made them turn pale, but the horrible compulsion to which they found
themselves reduced.

The community of their lives had brought about profound friendship among
these men. The camp, with most, took the place of their country; living
without a family they transferred the needful tenderness to a companion,
and they would fall asleep in the starlight side by side under the
same cloak. And then in their perpetual wanderings through all sorts of
countries, murders, and adventures, they had contracted affections, one
for the other, in which the stronger protected the younger in the midst
of battles, helped him to cross precipices, sponged the sweat of fevers
from his brow, and stole food for him, and the weaker, a child perhaps,
who had been picked up on the roadside, and had then become a Mercenary,
repaid this devotion by a thousand kindnesses.

They exchanged their necklaces and earrings, presents which they had
made to one another in former days, after great peril, or in hours of
intoxication. All asked to die, and none would strike. A young fellow
might be seen here and there, saying to another whose beard was grey:
“No! no! you are more robust! you will avenge us, kill me!” and the man
would reply: “I have fewer years to live! Strike to the heart, and think
no more about it!” Brothers gazed on one another with clasped hands,
and friend bade friend eternal farewells, standing and weeping upon his
shoulder.

They threw off their cuirasses that the sword-points might be thrust in
the more quickly. Then there appeared the marks of the great blows which
they had received for Carthage, and which looked like inscriptions on
columns.

They placed themselves in four equal ranks, after the fashion of
gladiators, and began with timid engagements. Some had even bandaged
their eyes, and their swords waved gently through the air like blind
men’s sticks. The Carthaginians hooted, and shouted to them that they
were cowards. The Barbarians became animated, and soon the combat as
general, headlong, and terrible.

Sometimes two men all covered with blood would stop, fall into each
other’s arms, and die with mutual kisses. None drew back. They rushed
upon the extended blades. Their delirium was so frenzied that the
Carthaginians in the distance were afraid.

At last they stopped. Their breasts made a great hoarse noise, and
their eyeballs could be seen through their long hair, which hung down
as though it had come out of a purple bath. Several were turning round
rapidly, like panthers wounded in the forehead. Others stood motionless
looking at a corpse at their feet; then they would suddenly tear their
faces with their nails, take their swords with both hands, and plunge
them into their own bodies.

There were still sixty left. They asked for drink. They were told by
shouts to throw away their swords, and when they had done so water was
brought to them.

While they were drinking, with their faces buried in the vases, sixty
Carthaginians leaped upon them and killed them with stiletos in the
back.

Hamilcar had done this to gratify the instincts of his army, and, by
means of this treachery, to attach it to his own person.

The war, then, was ended; at least he believed that it was; Matho
would not resist; in his impatience the Suffet commanded an immediate
departure.

His scouts came to tell him that a convoy had been descried, departing
towards the Lead Mountain. Hamilcar did not trouble himself about it.
The Mercenaries once annihilated, the Nomads would give him no further
trouble. The important matter was to take Tunis. He advanced by forced
marches upon it.

He had sent Narr’ Havas to Carthage with the news of his victory; and
the King of the Numidians, proud of his success, visited Salammbo.

She received him in her gardens under a large sycamore tree, amid
pillows of yellow leather, and with Taanach beside her. Her face was
covered with a white scarf, which, passing over her mouth and forehead,
allowed only her eyes to be seen; but her lips shone in the transparency
of the tissue like the gems on her fingers, for Salammbo had both
her hands wrapped up, and did not make a gesture during the whole
conversation.

Narr’ Havas announced the defeat of the Barbarians to her. She thanked
him with a blessing for the services which he had rendered to her
father. Then he began to tell her about the whole campaign.

The doves on the palm trees around them cooed softly, and other birds
fluttered amid the grass: ring-necked glareolas, Tartessus quails and
Punic guinea-fowl. The garden, long uncultivated, had multiplied
its verdure; coloquintidas mounted into the branches of cassias, the
asclepias was scattered over fields of roses, all kinds of vegetation
formed entwinings and bowers; and here and there, as in the woods,
sun-rays, descending obliquely, marked the shadow of a leaf upon the
ground. Domestic animals, grown wild again, fled at the slightest noise.
Sometimes a gazelle might be seen trailing scattered peacocks’ feathers
after its little black hoofs. The clamours of the distant town were lost
in the murmuring of the waves. The sky was quite blue, and not a sail
was visible on the sea.

Narr’ Havas had ceased speaking; Salammbo was looking at him without
replying. He wore a linen robe with flowers painted on it, and with gold
fringes at the hem; two silver arrows fastened his plaited hair at the
tips of his ears; his right hand rested on a pike-staff adorned with
circles of electrum and tufts of hair.

As she watched him a crowd of dim thoughts absorbed her. This young man,
with his gentle voice and feminine figure, captivated her eyes by the
grace of his person, and seemed to her like an elder sister sent by the
Baals to protect her. The recollection of Matho came upon her, nor did
she resist the desire to learn what had become of him.

Narr’ Havas replied that the Carthaginians were advancing towards Tunis
to take it. In proportion as he set forth their chances of success and
Matho’s weaknesses, she seemed to rejoice in extraordinary hope. Her
lips trembled, her breast panted. When he finally promised to kill him
himself, she exclaimed: “Yes! kill him! It must be so!”

The Numidian replied that he desired this death ardently, since he would
be her husband when the war was over.

Salammbo started, and bent her head.

But Narr’ Havas, pursuing the subject, compared his longings to flowers
languishing for rain, or to lost travellers waiting for the day. He told
her, further, that she was more beautiful than the moon, better than the
wind of morning or than the face of a guest. He would bring for her from
the country of the Blacks things such as there were none in Carthage,
and the apartments in their house should be sanded with gold dust.

Evening fell, and odours of balsam were exhaled. For a long time they
looked at each other in silence, and Salammbo’s eyes, in the depths of
her long draperies, resembled two stars in the rift of a cloud. Before
the sun set he withdrew.

The Ancients felt themselves relieved of a great anxiety, when he
left Carthage. The people had received him with even more enthusiastic
acclamations than on the first occasion. If Hamilcar and the King of the
Numidians triumphed alone over the Mercenaries it would be impossible
to resist them. To weaken Barca they therefore resolved to make the aged
Hanno, him whom they loved, a sharer in the deliverance of Carthage.

He proceeded immediately towards the western provinces, to take his
vengeance in the very places which had witnessed his shame. But the
inhabitants and the Barbarians were dead, hidden, or fled. Then his
anger was vented upon the country. He burnt the ruins of the ruins, he
did not leave a single tree nor a blade of grass; the children and the
infirm, that were met with, were tortured; he gave the women to his
soldiers to be violated before they were slaughtered.

Often, on the crests of the hills, black tents were struck as though
overturned by the wind, and broad, brilliantly bordered discs, which
were recognised as being chariot-wheels, revolved with a plaintive sound
as they gradually disappeared in the valleys. The tribes, which had
abandoned the siege of Carthage, were wandering in this way through the
provinces, waiting for an opportunity, or for some victory to be gained
by the Mercenaries, in order to return. But, whether from terror or
famine, they all took the roads to their native lands, and disappeared.

Hamilcar was not jealous of Hanno’s successes. Nevertheless he was in
a hurry to end matters; he commanded him to fall back upon Tunis; and
Hanno, who loved his country, was under the walls of the town on the
appointed day.

For its protection it had its aboriginal population, twelve thousand
Mercenaries, and, in addition, all the Eaters of Uncleanness, for
like Matho they were riveted to the horizon of Carthage, and plebs and
schalischim gazed at its lofty walls from afar, looking back in thought
to boundless enjoyments. With this harmony of hatred, resistance was
briskly organised. Leathern bottles were taken to make helmets; all the
palm-trees in the gardens were cut down for lances; cisterns were dug;
while for provisions they caught on the shores of the lake big white
fish, fed on corpses and filth. Their ramparts, kept in ruins now by the
jealousy of Carthage, were so weak that they could be thrown down with a
push of the shoulder. Matho stopped up the holes in them with the stones
of the houses. It was the last struggle; he hoped for nothing, and yet
he told himself that fortune was fickle.

As the Carthaginians approached they noticed a man on the rampart who
towered over the battlements from his belt upwards. The arrows that
flew about him seemed to frighten him no more than a swarm of swallows.
Extraordinary to say, none of them touched him.

Hamilcar pitched his camp on the south side; Narr’ Havas, to his right,
occupied the plain of Rhades, and Hanno the shore of the lake; and the
three generals were to maintain their respective positions, so as all to
attack the walls simultaneously.

But Hamilcar wished first to show the Mercenaries that he would punish
them like slaves. He had the ten ambassadors crucified beside one
another on a hillock in front of the town.

At the sight of this the besieged forsook the rampart.

Matho had said to himself that if he could pass between the walls and
Narr’ Havas’s tents with such rapidity that the Numidians had not time
to come out, he could fall upon the rear of the Carthaginian infantry,
who would be caught between his division and those inside. He dashed out
with his veterans.

Narr’ Havas perceived him; he crossed the shore of the lake, and came
to warn Hanno to dispatch men to Hamilcar’s assistance. Did he believe
Barca too weak to resist the Mercenaries? Was it a piece of treachery or
folly? No one could ever learn.

Hanno, desiring to humiliate his rival, did not hesitate. He shouted
orders to sound the trumpets, and his whole army rushed upon the
Barbarians. The latter returned, and ran straight against the
Carthaginians; they knocked them down, crushed them under their feet,
and, driving them back in this way, reached the tent of Hanno, who was
then surrounded by thirty Carthaginians, the most illustrious of the
Ancients.

He appeared stupefied by their audacity; he called for his captains.
Every one thrust his fist under his throat, vociferating abuse. The
crowd pressed on; and those who had their hands on him could scarce
retain their hold. However, he tried to whisper to them: “I will gave
you whatever you want! I am rich! Save me!” They dragged him along;
heavy as he was his feet did not touch the ground. The Ancients had
been carried off. His terror increased. “You have beaten me! I am your
captive! I will ransom myself! Listen to me, my friends!” and borne
along by all those shoulders which were pressed against his sides, he
repeated: “What are you going to do? What do you want? You can see that
I am not obstanite! I have always been good-natured!”

A gigantic cross stood at the gate. The Barbarians howled: “Here! here!”
 But he raised his voice still higher; and in the names of their gods he
called upon them to lead him to the schalischim, because he wished to
confide to him something on which their safety depended.

They paused, some asserting that it was right to summon Matho. He was
sent for.

Hanno fell upon the grass; and he saw around him other crosses also, as
though the torture by which he was about to perish had been multiplied
beforehand; he made efforts to convince himself that he was mistaken,
that there was only one, and even to believe that there were none at
all. At last he was lifted up.

“Speak!” said Matho.

He offered to give up Hamilcar; then they would enter Carthage and both
be kings.

Matho withdrew, signing to the others to make haste. It was a stratagem,
he thought, to gain time.

The Barbarian was mistaken; Hanno was in an extremity when consideration
is had to nothing, and, moreover, he so execrated Hamilcar that he
would have sacrificed him and all his soldiers on the slightest hope of
safety.

The Ancients were languishing on the ground at the foot of the crosses;
ropes had already been passed beneath their armpits. Then the old
Suffet, understanding that he must die, wept.

They tore off the clothes that were still left on him--and the horror
of his person appeared. Ulcers covered the nameless mass; the fat on his
legs hid the nails on his feet; from his fingers there hung what looked
like greenish strips; and the tears streaming through the tubercles on
his cheeks gave to his face an expression of frightful sadness, for
they seemed to take up more room than on another human face. His royal
fillet, which was half unfastened, trailed with his white hair in the
dust.

They thought that they had no ropes strong enough to haul him up to the
top of the cross, and they nailed him upon it, after the Punic fashion,
before it was erected. But his pride awoke in his pain. He began to
overwhelm them with abuse. He foamed and twisted like a marine monster
being slaughtered on the shore, and predicted that they would all end
more horribly still, and that he would be avenged.

He was. On the other side of the town, whence there now escaped jets of
flame with columns of smoke, the ambassadors from the Mercenaries were
in their last throes.

Some who had swooned at first had just revived in the freshness of the
wind; but their chins still rested upon their breasts, and their bodies
had fallen somewhat, in spite of the nails in their arms, which were
fastened higher than their heads; from their heels and hands blood
fell in big, slow drops, as ripe fruit falls from the branches of a
tree,--and Carthage, gulf, mountains, and plains all appeared to them
to be revolving like an immense wheel; sometimes a cloud of dust, rising
from the ground, enveloped them in its eddies; they burned with horrible
thirst, their tongues curled in their mouths, and they felt an icy sweat
flowing over them with their departing souls.

Nevertheless they had glimpses, at an infinite depth, of streets,
marching soldiers, and the swinging of swords; and the tumult of battle
reached them dimly like the noise of the sea to shipwrecked men dying
on the masts of a ship. The Italiotes, who were sturdier than the rest,
were still shrieking. The Lacedaemonians were silent, with eyelids
closed; Zarxas, once so vigorous, was bending like a broken reed; the
Ethiopian beside him had his head thrown back over the arms of the
cross; Autaritus was motionless, rolling his eyes; his great head of
hair, caught in a cleft in the wood, fell straight upon his forehead,
and his death-rattle seemed rather to be a roar of anger. As to
Spendius, a strange courage had come to him; he despised life now in
the certainty which he possessed of an almost immediate and an eternal
emancipation, and he awaited death with impassibility.

Amid their swooning, they sometimes started at the brushing of feathers
passing across their lips. Large wings swung shadows around them,
croakings sounded in the air; and as Spendius’s cross was the highest,
it was upon his that the first vulture alighted. Then he turned his face
towards Autaritus, and said slowly to him with an unaccountable smile:

“Do you remember the lions on the road to Sicca?”

“They were our brothers!” replied the Gaul, as he expired.

The Suffet, meanwhile, had bored through the walls and reached
the citadel. The smoke suddenly disappeared before a gust of wind,
discovering the horizon as far as the walls of Carthage; he even thought
that he could distinguish people watching on the platform of Eschmoun;
then, bringing back his eyes, he perceived thirty crosses of extravagant
size on the shore of the Lake, to the left.

In fact, to render them still more frightful, they had been constructed
with tent-poles fastened end to end, and the thirty corpses of the
Ancients appeared high up in the sky. They had what looked like white
butterflies on their breasts; these were the feathers of the arrows
which had been shot at them from below.

A broad gold ribbon shone on the summit of the highest; it hung down
to the shoulder, there being no arm on that side, and Hamilcar had some
difficulty in recognising Hanno. His spongy bones had given way under
the iron pins, portions of his limbs had come off, and nothing was left
on the cross but shapeless remains, like the fragments of animals that
are hung up on huntsmen’s doors.

The Suffet could not have known anything about it; the town in front of
him masked everything that was beyond and behind; and the captains who
had been successively sent to the two generals had not re-appeared. Then
fugitives arrived with the tale of the rout, and the Punic army halted.
This catastrophe, falling upon them as it did in the midst of their
victory, stupefied them. Hamilcar’s orders were no longer listened to.

Matho took advantage of this to continue his ravages among the
Numidians.

Hanno’s camp having been overthrown, he had returned against them.
The elephants came out; but the Mercenaries advanced through the plain
shaking about flaming firebrands, which they had plucked from the walls,
and the great beasts, in fright, ran headlong into the gulf, where
they killed one another in their struggles, or were drowned beneath the
weight of their cuirasses. Narr’ Havas had already launched his cavalry;
all threw themselves face downwards upon the ground; then, when the
horses were within three paces of them, they sprang beneath their
bellies, ripped them open with dagger-strokes, and half the Numidians
had perished when Barca came up.

The exhausted Mercenaries could not withstand his troops. They retired
in good order to the mountain of the Hot Springs. The Suffet was prudent
enough not to pursue them. He directed his course to the mouths of the
Macaras.

Tunis was his; but it was now nothing but a heap of smoking rubbish. The
ruins fell through the breaches in the walls to the centre of the plain;
quite in the background, between the shores of the gulf, the corpses of
the elephants drifting before the wind conflicted, like an archipelago
of black rocks floating on the water.

Narr’ Havas had drained his forests of these animals, taking young and
old, male and female, to keep up the war, and the military force of
his kingdom could not repair the loss. The people who had seen them
perishing at a distance were grieved at it; men lamented in the streets,
calling them by their names like deceased friends: “Ah! the Invincible!
the Victory! the Thunderer! the Swallow!” On the first day, too, there
was no talk except of the dead citizens. But on the morrow the tents of
the Mercenaries were seen on the mountain of the Hot Springs. Then
so deep was the despair that many people, especially women, flung
themselves headlong from the top of the Acropolis.

Hamilcar’s designs were not known. He lived alone in his tent with
none near him but a young boy, and no one ever ate with them, not even
excepting Narr’ Havas. Nevertheless he showed great deference to the
latter after Hanno’s defeat; but the king of the Numidians had too great
an interest in becoming his son not to distrust him.

This inertness veiled skilful manoeuvres. Hamilcar seduced the heads of
the villages by all sorts of artifices; and the Mercenaries were hunted,
repulsed, and enclosed like wild beasts. As soon as they entered a wood,
the trees caught fire around them; when they drank of a spring it was
poisoned; the caves in which they hid in order to sleep were walled up.
Their old accomplices, the populations who had hitherto defended them,
now pursued them; and they continually recognised Carthaginian armour in
these bands.

Many had their faces consumed with red tetters; this, they thought, had
come to them through touching Hanno. Others imagined that it was because
they had eaten Salammbo’s fishes, and far from repenting of it, they
dreamed of even more abominable sacrileges, so that the abasement of
the Punic Gods might be still greater. They would fain have exterminated
them.

In this way they lingered for three months along the eastern coast, and
then behind the mountain of Selloum, and as far as the first sands of
the desert. They sought for a place of refuge, no matter where.
Utica and Hippo-Zarytus alone had not betrayed them; but Hamilcar was
encompassing these two towns. Then they went northwards at haphazard
without even knowing the various routes. Their many miseries had
confused their understandings.

The only feeling left them was one of exasperation, which went on
developing; and one day they found themselves again in the gorges of
Cobus and once more before Carthage!

Then the actions multiplied. Fortune remained equal; but both sides were
so wearied that they would willingly have exchanged these skirmishes for
a great battle, provided that it were really the last.

Matho was inclined to carry this proposal himself to the Suffet. One of
his Libyans devoted himself for the purpose. All were convinced as they
saw him depart that he would not return.

He returned the same evening.

Hamilcar accepted the challenge. The encounter should take place the
following day at sunrise, in the plain of Rhades.

The Mercenaries wished to know whether he had said anything more, and
the Libyan added:

“As I remained in his presence, he asked me what I was waiting for.
‘To be killed!’ I replied. Then he rejoined: ‘No! begone! that will be
to-morrow with the rest.’”

This generosity astonished the Barbarians; some were terrified by it,
and Matho regretted that the emissary had not been killed.

He had still remaining three thousand Africans, twelve hundred
Greeks, fifteen hundred Campanians, two hundred Iberians, four hundred
Etruscans, five hundred Samnites, forty Gauls, and a troop of Naffurs,
nomad bandits met with in the date region--in all seven thousand two
hundred and nineteen soldiers, but not one complete syntagmata. They
had stopped up the holes in their cuirasses with the shoulder-blades of
quadrupeds, and replaced their brass cothurni with worn sandals. Their
garments were weighted with copper or steel plates; their coats of
mail hung in tatters about them, and scars appeared like purple threads
through the hair on their arms and faces.

The wraiths of their dead companions came back to their souls and
increased their energy; they felt, in a confused way, that they were the
ministers of a god diffused in the hearts of the oppressed, and were the
pontiffs, so to speak, of universal vengeance! Then they were enraged
with grief at what was extravagant injustice, and above all by the sight
of Carthage on the horizon. They swore an oath to fight for one another
until death.

The beasts of burden were killed, and as much as possible was eaten so
as to gain strength; afterwards they slept. Some prayed, turning towards
different constellations.

The Carthaginians arrived first in the plain. They rubbed the edges of
their shields with oil to make the arrows glide off them easily; the
foot-soldiers who wore long hair took the precaution of cutting it on
the forehead; and Hamilcar ordered all bowls to be inverted from the
fifth hour, knowing that it is disadvantageous to fight with the stomach
too full. His army amounted to fourteen thousand men, or about double
the number of the Barbarians. Nevertheless, he had never felt such
anxiety; if he succumbed it would mean the annihilation of the Republic,
and he would perish on the cross; if, on the contrary, he triumphed, he
would reach Italy by way of the Pyrenees, the Gauls, and the Alps, and
the empire of the Barcas would become eternal. Twenty times during the
night he rose to inspect everything himself, down to the most trifling
details. As to the Carthaginians, they were exasperated by their
lengthened terror. Narr’ Havas suspected the fidelity of his Numidians.
Moreover, the Barbarians might vanquish them. A strange weakness had
come upon him; every moment he drank large cups of water.

But a man whom he did not know opened his tent and laid on the ground a
crown of rock-salt, adorned with hieratic designs formed with sulphur,
and lozenges of mother-of-pearl; a marriage crown was sometimes sent to
a betrothed husband; it was a proof of love, a sort of invitation.

Nevertheless Hamilcar’s daughter had no tenderness for Narr’ Havas.

The recollection of Matho disturbed her in an intolerable manner; it
seemed to her that the death of this man would unburden her thoughts,
just as people to cure themselves of the bite of a viper crush it upon
the wound. The king of the Numidians was depending upon her; he awaited
the wedding with impatience, and, as it was to follow the victory,
Salammbo made him this present to stimulate his courage. Then his
distress vanished, and he thought only of the happiness of possessing so
beautiful a woman.

The same vision had assailed Matho; but he cast it from him immediately,
and his love, that he thus thrust back, was poured out upon his
companions in arms. He cherished them like portions of his own person,
of his hatred,--and he felt his spirit higher, and his arms stronger;
everything that he was to accomplish appeared clearly before him. If
sighs sometimes escaped him, it was because he was thinking of Spendius.

He drew up the Barbarians in six equal ranks. He posted the Etruscans
in the centre, all being fastened to a bronze chain; the archers were
behind, and on the wings he distributed the Naffurs, who were mounted on
short-haired camels, covered with ostrich feathers.

The Suffet arranged the Carthaginians in similar order. He placed the
Clinabarians outside the infantry next to the velites, and the Numidians
beyond; when day appeared, both sides were thus in line face to face.
All gazed at each other from a distance, with round fierce eyes. There
was at first some hesitation; at last both armies moved.

The Barbarians advanced slowly so as not to become out of breath,
beating the ground with their feet; the centre of the Punic army formed
a convex curve. Then came the burst of a terrible shock, like the crash
of two fleets in collision. The first rank of the Barbarians had quickly
opened up, and the marksmen, hidden behind the others, discharged their
bullets, arrows, and javelins. The curve of the Carthaginians, however,
flattened by degrees, became quite straight, and then bent inwards; upon
this, the two sections of the velites drew together in parallel lines,
like the legs of a compass that is being closed. The Barbarians, who
were attacking the phalanx with fury, entered the gap; they were being
lost; Matho checked them,--and while the Carthaginian wings continued
to advance, he drew out the three inner ranks of his line; they soon
covered his flanks, and his army appeared in triple array.

But the Barbarians placed at the extremities were the weakest,
especially those on the left, who had exhausted their quivers, and the
troop of velites, which had at last come up against them, was cutting
them up greatly.

Matho made them fall back. His right comprised Campanians, who were
armed with axes; he hurled them against the Carthaginian left; the
centre attacked the enemy, and those at the other extremity, who were
out of peril, kept the velites at a distance.

Then Hamilcar divided his horsemen into squadrons, placed hoplites
between them, and sent them against the Mercenaries.

Those cone-shaped masses presented a front of horses, and their broader
sides were filled and bristling with lances. The Barbarians found it
impossible to resist; the Greek foot-soldiers alone had brazen armour,
all the rest had cutlasses on the end of poles, scythes taken from the
farms, or swords manufactured out of the fellies of wheels; the
soft blades were twisted by a blow, and while they were engaged in
straightening them under their heels, the Carthaginians massacred them
right and left at their ease.

But the Etruscans, riveted to their chain, did not stir; those who were
dead, being prevented from falling, formed an obstruction with their
corpses; and the great bronze line widened and contracted in turn, as
supple as a serpent, and as impregnable as a wall. The Barbarians would
come to re-form behind it, pant for a minute, and then set off again
with the fragments of their weapons in their hands.

Many already had none left, and they leaped upon the Carthaginians,
biting their faces like dogs. The Gauls in their pride stripped
themselves of the sagum; they showed their great white bodies from a
distance, and they enlarged their wounds to terrify the enemy. The voice
of the crier announcing the orders could no longer be heard in the
midst of the Punic syntagmata; their signals were being repeated by the
standards, which were raised above the dust, and every one was swept
away in the swaying of the great mass that surrounded him.

Hamilcar commanded the Numidians to advance. But the Naffurs rushed to
meet them.

Clad in vast black robes, with a tuft of hair on the top of the skull,
and a shield of rhinoceros leather, they wielded a steel which had no
handle, and which they held by a rope; and their camels, which bristled
all over with feathers, uttered long, hoarse cluckings. Each blade fell
on a precise spot, then rose again with a smart stroke carrying off a
limb with it. The fierce beasts galloped through the syntagmata. Some,
whose legs were broken, went hopping along like wounded ostriches.

The Punic infantry turned in a body upon the Barbarians, and cut them
off. Their maniples wheeled about at intervals from one another. The
more brilliant Carthaginian weapons encircled them like golden crowns;
there was a swarming movement in the centre, and the sun, striking down
upon the points of the swords, made them glitter with white flickering
gleams. However, files of Clinabarians lay stretched upon the plain;
some Mercenaries snatched away their armour, clothed themselves in it,
and then returned to the fray. The deluded Carthaginians were several
times entangled in their midst. They would stand stupidly motionless,
or else would back, surge again, and triumphant shouts rising in the
distance seemed to drive them along like derelicts in a storm. Hamilcar
was growing desperate; all was about to perish beneath the genius of
Matho and the invincible courage of the Mercenaries.

But a great noise of tabourines burst forth on the horizon. It was a
crowd of old men, sick persons, children of fifteen years of age, and
even women, who, being unable to withstand their distress any longer,
had set out from Carthage, and, for the purpose of placing themselves
under the protection of something formidable, had taken from Hamilcar’s
palace the only elephant that the Republic now possessed,--that one,
namely, whose trunk had been cut off.

Then it seemed to the Carthaginians that their country, forsaking its
walls, was coming to command them to die for her. They were seized with
increased fury, and the Numidians carried away all the rest.

The Barbarians had set themselves with their backs to a hillock in
the centre of the plain. They had no chance of conquering, or even of
surviving; but they were the best, the most intrepid, and the strongest.

The people from Carthage began to throw spits, larding-pins and hammers,
over the heads of the Numidians; those whom consuls had feared died
beneath sticks hurled by women; the Punic populace was exterminating the
Mercenaries.

The latter had taken refuge on the top of the hill. Their circle closed
up after every fresh breach; twice it descended to be immediately
repulsed with a shock; and the Carthaginians stretched forth their arms
pell-mell, thrusting their pikes between the legs of their companions,
and raking at random before them. They slipped in the blood; the steep
slope of the ground made the corpses roll to the bottom. The elephant,
which was trying to climb the hillock, was up to its belly; it seemed to
be crawling over them with delight; and its shortened trunk, which was
broad at the extremity, rose from time to time like an enormous leech.

Then all paused. The Carthaginians ground their teeth as they gazed at
the hill, where the Barbarians were standing.

At last they dashed at them abruptly, and the fight began again. The
Mercenaries would often let them approach, shouting to them that they
wished to surrender; then, with frightful sneers, they would kill
themselves at a blow, and as the dead fell, the rest would mount upon
them to defend themselves. It was a kind of pyramid, which grew larger
by degrees.

Soon there were only fifty, then only twenty, only three, and lastly
only two--a Samnite armed with an axe, and Matho who still had his
sword.

The Samnite with bent hams swept his axe alternately to the right and
left, at the same time warning Matho of the blows that were being aimed
at him. “Master, this way! that way! stoop down!”

Matho had lost his shoulder-pieces, his helmet, his cuirass; he was
completely naked, and more livid than the dead, with his hair quite
erect, and two patches of foam at the corners of his lips,--and his
sword whirled so rapidly that it formed an aureola around him. A
stone broke it near the guard; the Samnite was killed and the flood of
Carthaginians closed in, they touched Matho. Then he raised both his
empty hands towards heaven, closed his eyes, and, opening out his arms
like a man throwing himself from the summit of a promontory into the
sea, hurled himself among the pikes.

They moved away before him. Several times he ran against the
Carthaginians. But they always drew back and turned their weapons aside.

His foot struck against a sword. Matho tried to seize it. He felt
himself tied by the wrists and knees, and fell.

Narr’ Havas had been following him for some time, step by step, with one
of the large nets used for capturing wild beasts, and, taking advantage
of the moment when he stooped down, had involved him in it.

Then he was fastened on the elephants with his four limbs forming a
cross; and all those who were not wounded escorted him, and rushed with
great tumult towards Carthage.

The news of the victory had arrived in some inexplicable way at the
third hour of the night; the clepsydra of Khamon had just completed the
fifth as they reached Malqua; then Matho opened his eyes. There were so
many lights in the houses that the town appeared to be all in flames.

An immense clamour reached him dimly; and lying on his back he looked at
the stars.

Then a door closed and he was wrapped in darkness.

On the morrow, at the same hour, the last of the men left in the Pass of
the Hatchet expired.

On the day that their companions had set out, some Zuaeces who were
returning had tumbled the rocks down, and had fed them for some time.

The Barbarians constantly expected to see Matho appear,--and from
discouragement, from languor, and from the obstinacy of sick men who
object to change their situation, they would not leave the mountain;
at last the provisions were exhausted and the Zuaeces went away. It was
known that they numbered scarcely more than thirteen hundred men, and
there was no need to employ soldiers to put an end to them.

Wild beasts, especially lions, had multiplied during the three years
that the war had lasted. Narr’ Havas had held a great battue, and--after
tying goats at intervals--had run upon them and so driven them towards
the Pass of the Hatchet;--and they were now all living in it when a man
arrived who had been sent by the Ancients to find out what there was
left of the Barbarians.

Lions and corpses were lying over the tract of the plain, and the dead
were mingled with clothes and armour. Nearly all had the face or an arm
wanting; some appeared to be still intact; others were completely dried
up, and their helmets were filled with powdery skulls; feet which had
lost their flesh stood out straight from the knemides; skeletons still
wore their cloaks; and bones, cleaned by the sun, made gleaming spots in
the midst of the sand.

The lions were resting with their breasts against the ground and both
paws stretched out, winking their eyelids in the bright daylight, which
was heightened by the reflection from the white rocks. Others were
seated on their hind-quarters and staring before them, or else were
sleeping, rolled into a ball and half hidden by their great manes; they
all looked well fed, tired, and dull. They were as motionless as the
mountain and the dead. Night was falling; the sky was striped with broad
red bands in the west.

In one of the heaps, which in an irregular fashion embossed the plain,
something rose up vaguer than a spectre. Then one of the lions set
himself in motion, his monstrous form cutting a black shadow on the
background of the purple sky, and when he was quite close to the man, he
knocked him down with a single blow of his paw.

Then, stretching himself flat upon him, he slowly drew out the entrails
with the edge of his teeth.

Afterwards he opened his huge jaws, and for some minutes uttered a
lengthened roar which was repeated by the echoes in the mountain, and
was finally lost in the solitude.

Suddenly some small gravel rolled down from above. The rustling of rapid
steps was heard, and in the direction of the portcullis and of the gorge
there appeared pointed muzzles and straight ears, with gleaming, tawny
eyes. These were the jackals coming to eat what was left.

The Carthaginian, who was leaning over the top of the precipice to look,
went back again.



CHAPTER XV

MATHO

There were rejoicings at Carthage,--rejoicings deep, universal,
extravagant, frantic; the holes of the ruins had been stopped up, the
statues of the gods had been repainted, the streets were strewn with
myrtle branches, incense smoked at the corners of the crossways, and the
throng on the terraces looked, in their variegated garments, like heaps
of flowers blooming in the air.

The shouts of the water-carriers watering the pavement rose above the
continual screaming of voices; slaves belonging to Hamilcar offered
in his name roasted barley and pieces of raw meat; people accosted one
another, and embraced one another with tears; the Tyrian towns were
taken, the nomads dispersed, and all the Barbarians annihilated.
The Acropolis was hidden beneath coloured velaria; the beaks of the
triremes, drawn up in line outside the mole, shone like a dyke of
diamonds; everywhere there was a sense of the restoration of order, the
beginning of a new existence, and the diffusion of vast happiness: it
was the day of Salammbo’s marriage with the King of the Numidians.

On the terrace of the temple of Khamon there were three long tables
laden with gigantic plate, at which the priests, Ancients, and the rich
were to sit, and there was a fourth and higher one for Hamilcar, Narr’
Havas, and Salammbo; for as she had saved her country by the restoration
of the zaimph, the people turned her wedding day into a national
rejoicing, and were waiting in the square below till she should appear.

But their impatience was excited by another and more acrid longing:
Matho’s death has been promised for the ceremony.

It had been proposed at first to flay him alive, to pour lead into his
entrails, to kill him with hunger; he should be tied to a tree, and
an ape behind him should strike him on the head with a stone; he had
offended Tanith, and the cynocephaluses of Tanith should avenge her.
Others were of opinion that he should be led about on a dromedary after
linen wicks, dipped in oil, had been inserted in his body in several
places;--and they took pleasure in the thought of the large animal
wandering through the streets with this man writhing beneath the fires
like a candelabrum blown about by the wind.

But what citizens should be charged with his torture, and why disappoint
the rest? They would have liked a kind of death in which the whole
town might take part, in which every hand, every weapon, everything
Carthaginian, to the very paving-stones in the streets and the waves in
the gulf, could rend him, and crush him, and annihilate him. Accordingly
the Ancients decided that he should go from his prison to the square of
Khamon without any escort, and with his arms fastened to his back; it
was forbidden to strike him to the heart, in order that he might live
the longer; to put out his eyes, so that he might see the torture
through; to hurl anything against his person, or to lay more than three
fingers upon him at a time.

Although he was not to appear until the end of the day, the people
sometimes fancied that he could be seen, and the crowd would rush
towards the Acropolis, and empty the streets, to return with lengthened
murmurings. Some people had remained standing in the same place since
the day before, and they would call on one another from a distance and
show their nails which they had allowed to grow, the better to bury them
into his flesh. Others walked restlessly up and down; some were as pale
as though they were awaiting their own execution.

Suddenly lofty feather fans rose above the heads, behind the Mappalian
district. It was Salammbo leaving her palace; a sigh of relief found
vent.

But the procession was long in coming; it marched with deliberation.

First there filed past the priests of the Pataec Gods, then those of
Eschmoun, of Melkarth, and all the other colleges in succession, with
the same insignia, and in the same order as had been observed at the
time of the sacrifice. The pontiffs of Moloch passed with heads bent,
and the multitude stood aside from them in a kind of remorse. But the
priests of Rabbetna advanced with a proud step, and with lyres in their
hands; the priestesses followed them in transparent robes of yellow
or black, uttering cries like birds and writhing like vipers, or else
whirling round to the sound of flutes to imitate the dance of the stars,
while their light garments wafted puffs of delicate scents through the
streets.

The Kedeschim, with painted eyelids, who symbolised the hermaphrodism of
the Divinity, received applause among these women, and, being perfumed
and dressed like them, they resembled them in spite of their flat
breasts and narrower hips. Moreover, on this day the female principle
dominated and confused all things; a mystic voluptuousness moved in the
heavy air; the torches were already lighted in the depths of the sacred
woods; there was to be a great celebration there during the night; three
vessels had brought courtesans from Sicily, and others had come from the
desert.

As the colleges arrived they ranged themselves in the courts of the
temples, on the outer galleries, and along double staircases which rose
against the walls, and drew together at the top. Files of white robes
appeared between the colonnades, and the architecture was peopled with
human statues, motionless as statues of stone.

Then came the masters of the exchequer, the governors of the provinces,
and all the rich. A great tumult prevailed below. Adjacent streets were
discharging the crowd, hierodules were driving it back with blows of
sticks; and then Salammbo appeared in a litter surmounted by a purple
canopy, and surrounded by the Ancients crowned with their golden tiaras.

Thereupon an immense shout arose; the cymbals and crotala sounded more
loudly, the tabourines thundered, and the great purple canopy sank
between the two pylons.

It appeared again on the first landing. Salammbo was walking slowly
beneath it; then she crossed the terrace to take her seat behind on a
kind of throne cut out of the carapace of a tortoise. An ivory stool
with three steps was pushed beneath her feet; two Negro children knelt
on the edge of the first step, and sometimes she would rest both arms,
which were laden with rings of excessive weight, upon their heads.

From ankle to hip she was covered with a network of narrow meshes which
were in imitation of fish scales, and shone like mother-of-pearl; her
waist was clasped by a blue zone, which allowed her breasts to be
seen through two crescent-shaped slashings; the nipples were hidden
by carbuncle pendants. She had a headdress made of peacock’s feathers
studded with gems; an ample cloak, as white as snow, fell behind
her,--and with her elbows at her sides, her knees pressed together,
and circles of diamonds on the upper part of her arms, she remained
perfectly upright in a hieratic attitude.

Her father and her husband were on two lower seats, Narr’ Havas dressed
in a light simar and wearing his crown of rock-salt, from which there
strayed two tresses of hair as twisted as the horns of Ammon; and
Hamilcar in a violet tunic figured with gold vine branches, and with a
battle-sword at his side.

The python of the temple of Eschmoun lay on the ground amid pools of
pink oil in the space enclosed by the tables, and, biting its tail,
described a large black circle. In the middle of the circle there was a
copper pillar bearing a crystal egg; and, as the sun shone upon it, rays
were emitted on every side.

Behind Salammbo stretched the priests of Tanith in linen robes; on her
right the Ancients, in their tiaras, formed a great gold line, and
on the other side the rich with their emerald sceptres a great green
line,--while quite in the background, where the priests of Moloch were
ranged, the cloaks looked like a wall of purple. The other colleges
occupied the lower terraces. The multitude obstructed the streets. It
reached to the house-tops, and extended in long files to the summit of
the Acropolis. Having thus the people at her feet, the firmament
above her head, and around her the immensity of the sea, the gulf, the
mountains, and the distant provinces, Salammbo in her splendour was
blended with Tanith, and seemed the very genius of Carthage, and its
embodied soul.

The feast was to last all night, and lamps with several branches were
planted like trees on the painted woollen cloths which covered the low
tables. Large electrum flagons, blue glass amphoras, tortoise-shell
spoons, and small round loaves were crowded between the double row of
pearl-bordered plates; bunches of grapes with their leaves had been
rolled round ivory vine-stocks after the fashion of the thyrsus; blocks
of snow were melting on ebony trays, and lemons, pomegranates, gourds,
and watermelons formed hillocks beneath the lofty silver plate; boars
with open jaws were wallowing in the dust of spices; hares, covered with
their fur, appeared to be bounding amid the flowers; there were shells
filled with forcemeat; the pastry had symbolic shapes; when the covers
of the dishes were removed doves flew out.

The slaves, meanwhile, with tunics tucked up, were going about on
tiptoe; from time to time a hymn sounded on the lyres, or a choir of
voices rose. The clamour of the people, continuous as the noise of
the sea, floated vaguely around the feast, and seemed to lull it in a
broader harmony; some recalled the banquet of the Mercenaries; they gave
themselves up to dreams of happiness; the sun was beginning to go down,
and the crescent of the moon was already rising in another part of the
sky.

But Salammbo turned her head as though some one had called her; the
people, who were watching her, followed the direction of her eyes.

The door of the dungeon, hewn in the rock at the foot of the temple, on
the summit of the Acropolis, had just opened; and a man was standing on
the threshold of this black hole.

He came forth bent double, with the scared look of fallow deer when
suddenly enlarged.

The light dazzled him; he stood motionless awhile. All had recognised
him, and they held their breath.

In their eyes the body of this victim was something peculiarly theirs,
and was adorned with almost religious splendour. They bent forward to
see him, especially the women. They burned to gaze upon him who had
caused the deaths of their children and husbands; and from the bottom
of their souls there sprang up in spite of themselves an infamous
curiosity, a desire to know him completely, a wish mingled with remorse
which turned to increased execration.

At last he advanced; then the stupefaction of surprise disappeared.
Numbers of arms were raised, and he was lost to sight.

The staircase of the Acropolis had sixty steps. He descended them as
though he were rolled down in a torrent from the top of a mountain;
three times he was seen to leap, and then he alighted below on his feet.

His shoulders were bleeding, his breast was panting with great shocks;
and he made such efforts to burst his bonds that his arms, which were
crossed on his naked loins, swelled like pieces of a serpent.

Several streets began in front of him, leading from the spot at which he
found himself. In each of them a triple row of bronze chains fastened to
the navels of the Pataec gods extended in parallel lines from one end
to the other; the crowd was massed against the houses, and servants,
belonging to the Ancients, walked in the middle brandishing thongs.

One of them drove him forward with a great blow; Matho began to move.

They thrust their arms over the chains shouting out that the road had
been left too wide for him; and he passed along, felt, pricked, and
slashed by all those fingers; when he reached the end of one street
another appeared; several times he flung himself to one side to bite
them; they speedily dispersed, the chains held him back, and the crowd
burst out laughing.

A child rent his ear; a young girl, hiding the point of a spindle in her
sleeve, split his cheek; they tore handfuls of hair from him and strips
of flesh; others smeared his face with sponges steeped in filth and
fastened upon sticks. A stream of blood started from the right side of
his neck, frenzy immediately set in. This last Barbarian was to them a
representative of all the Barbarians, and all the army; they were taking
vengeance on him for their disasters, their terrors, and their shame.
The rage of the mob developed with its gratification; the curving chains
were over-strained, and were on the point of breaking; the people did
not feel the blows of the slaves who struck at them to drive them back;
some clung to the projections of the houses; all the openings in the
walls were stopped up with heads; and they howled at him the mischief
that they could not inflict upon him.

It was atrocious, filthy abuse mingled with ironical encouragements and
imprecations; and, his present tortures not being enough for them, they
foretold to him others that should be still more terrible in eternity.

This vast baying filled Carthage with stupid continuity. Frequently
a single syllable--a hoarse, deep, and frantic intonation--would be
repeated for several minutes by the entire people. The walls would
vibrate with it from top to bottom, and both sides of the street would
seem to Matho to be coming against him, and carrying him off the ground,
like two immense arms stifling him in the air.

Nevertheless he remembered that he had experienced something like it
before. The same crowd was on the terraces, there were the same looks
and the same wrath; but then he had walked free, all had then dispersed,
for a god covered him;--and the recollection of this, gaining precision
by degrees, brought a crushing sadness upon him. Shadows passed before
his eyes; the town whirled round in his head, his blood streamed from a
wound in his hip, he felt that he was dying; his hams bent, and he sank
quite gently upon the pavement.

Some one went to the peristyle of the temple of Melkarth, took thence
the bar of a tripod, heated red hot in the coals, and, slipping it
beneath the first chain, pressed it against his wound. The flesh was
seen to smoke; the hootings of the people drowned his voice; he was
standing again.

Six paces further on, and he fell a third and again a fourth time; but
some new torture always made him rise. They discharged little drops of
boiling oil through tubes at him; they strewed pieces of broken glass
beneath his feet; still he walked on. At the corner of the street of
Satheb he leaned his back against the wall beneath the pent-house of a
shop, and advanced no further.

The slaves of the Council struck him with their whips of hippopotamus
leather, so furiously and long that the fringes of their tunics were
drenched with sweat. Matho appeared insensible; suddenly he started
off and began to run at random, making a noise with his lips like one
shivering with severe cold. He threaded the street of Boudes, and the
street of Soepo, crossed the Green Market, and reached the square of
Khamon.

He now belonged to the priests; the slaves had just dispersed the crowd,
and there was more room. Matho gazed round him and his eyes encountered
Salammbo.

At the first step that he had taken she had risen; then, as he
approached, she had involuntarily advanced by degrees to the edge of the
terrace; and soon all external things were blotted out, and she saw only
Matho. Silence fell in her soul,--one of those abysses wherein the whole
world disappears beneath the pressure of a single thought, a memory, a
look. This man who was walking towards her attracted her.

Excepting his eyes he had no appearance of humanity left; he was a long,
perfectly red shape; his broken bonds hung down his thighs, but they
could not be distinguished from the tendons of his wrists, which were
laid quite bare; his mouth remained wide open; from his eye-sockets
there darted flames which seemed to rise up to his hair;--and the wretch
still walked on!

He reached the foot of the terrace. Salammbo was leaning over the
balustrade; those frightful eyeballs were scanning her, and there rose
within her a consciousness of all that he had suffered for her. Although
he was in his death agony she could see him once more kneeling in his
tent, encircling her waist with his arms, and stammering out gentle
words; she thirsted to feel them and hear them again; she did not want
him to die! At this moment Matho gave a great start; she was on the
point of shrieking aloud. He fell backwards and did not stir again.

Salammbo was borne back, nearly swooning, to her throne by the priests
who flocked about her. They congratulated her; it was her work. All
clapped their hands and stamped their feet, howling her name.

A man darted upon the corpse. Although he had no beard he had the cloak
of a priest of Moloch on his shoulder, and in his belt that species
of knife which they employed for cutting up the sacred meat, and which
terminated, at the end of the handle, in a golden spatula. He cleft
Matho’s breast with a single blow, then snatched out the heart and laid
it upon the spoon; and Schahabarim, uplifting his arm, offered it to the
sun.

The sun sank behind the waves; his rays fell like long arrows upon the
red heart. As the beatings diminished the planet sank into the sea; and
at the last palpitation it disappeared.

Then from the gulf to the lagoon, and from the isthmus to the pharos, in
all the streets, on all the houses, and on all the temples, there was
a single shout; sometimes it paused, to be again renewed; the buildings
shook with it; Carthage was convulsed, as it were, in the spasm of
Titanic joy and boundless hope.

Narr’ Havas, drunk with pride, passed his left arm beneath Salammbo’s
waist in token of possession; and taking a gold patera in his right
hand, he drank to the Genius of Carthage.

Salammbo rose like her husband, with a cup in her hand, to drink
also. She fell down again with her head lying over the back of the
throne,--pale, stiff, with parted lips,--and her loosened hair hung to
the ground.

Thus died Hamilcar’s daughter for having touched the mantle of Tanith.





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