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!”
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.