Salammbo eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 313 pages of information about Salammbo.

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.

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Salammbo from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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