Hannibal committed his young kinsman to the care of one of the chiefs of the Insubres. The latter caused a litter to be constructed by his followers, and carried the young Carthaginian away to his village, which was situated at the foot of the hills on the banks of the river Orcus.
Here he was handed over to the care of the women. The wounds and bruises caused by falls on the rocks and ice were bathed and bandaged, then he was placed in a small chamber and water was poured on to heated stones until it was filled with hot steam, and Malchus began to think that he was going to be boiled alive. After being kept for an hour in this vapour bath, he was annointed with oil, and was rubbed until every limb was supple, he was then placed on a couch and covered with soft skins, and in a few more minutes was sound asleep.
It was late next day before he woke, and on rising he found himself a new man. A breakfast of meat, fresh cheese formed from goats’ milk, and flat cakes was set before him, and, had it not been that his feet were still completely disabled from the effects of the frostbites, he felt that he was fit again to take his place in the ranks. The chief’s wife and daughters waited upon him. The former was a tall, majestic looking woman. She did not belong to the Insubres, but was the daughter of a chief who had, with a portion of his tribe, wandered down from their native home far north of the Alps and settled in Italy.
Two of the daughters were young women of over twenty, tall and robust in figure like their mother, the third was a girl of some fifteen years of age. The girls took after their German mother, and Malchus wondered at the fairness of their skins, the clearness of their complexion, and the soft light brown of their hair, for they were as much fairer than the Gauls as these were fairer than the Carthaginians. Malchus was able to hold little converse with his hosts, whose language differed much from that of the Transalpine Gauls.
His stay here was destined to be much longer than he had anticipated, for his feet had been seriously frostbitten, and for some time it was doubtful whether he would not lose them. Gradually, however, the inflammation decreased, but it was six weeks after his arrival before he was able to walk. From time to time messengers had arrived from Hannibal and his father to inquire after him, and from them he learned that the Carthaginians had captured the towns of Vercella, Valentinum, and Asta, and the less important towns of Ivrea, Chivasso, Bodenkmag, and Carbantia.
By the time he was cured he was able to talk freely with his hosts, for he soon mastered the points of difference between their language and that of the Gauls, with which he was already acquainted. The chief, with the greater part of his followers, now started and joined the army of Hannibal, which laid siege to the town of Turin, whose inhabitants were in alliance with Rome. It was strongly fortified. Hannibal erected an intrenchment at a distance of sixty yards from the wall, and under cover of this sank a well, and thence drove a wide gallery, the roof above being supported by props.