When, however, they were thrown together, their relations were unchanged. Malchus was as affectionate, as respectful, and as eager to listen to his father’s advice, as he had been as a boy, while Hamilcar was glad in the society of his son to forget the cares and toils of the expedition in which they had embarked and to talk of the dear ones at home.
It was only three days before the battle that they had rejoiced together over the news which had reached them by a messenger from Gaul that Thyra had married Adherbal, and had immediately set out with him for Carthagena, where Adherbal had been offered a command by Hannibal’s brother Hasdrubal, the governor of Spain, in his absence.
Father and son had rejoiced at this for several reasons. Hanno’s faction had now gained the upper hand, and the friends of Hannibal were subjected to persecution of all kinds. The very life of Adherbal as a prominent member of the Barcine party had been menaced. And it was only by embarking secretly for Spain that he had succeeded in avoiding arrest. The property of many of Hannibal’s friends had been confiscated. Several had been put to death under one pretext or another, and although Hamilcar did not think that Hanno’s faction would venture to bring forward any accusation against him while he was fighting the battles of his country, he experienced a sense of relief at the knowledge that, should the worst happen, his wife and Anna would find a refuge and asylum with Adherbal in Spain. Hamilcar and Malchus had discussed the matter long and seriously, and had talked, Hamilcar with sorrow, Malchus with indignation and rage, of the state of Carthage.
“It makes one hate one’s country,” Malchus exclaimed passionately, “when one hears of these things. You taught me to love Carthage, father, and to be proud of her. How can one be proud of a country so misgoverned, so corrupt, so base as this? Of what use are sacrifices and efforts here, when at home they think of nothing but luxury and ease and the making of money, when the best and bravest of the Carthaginians are disgraced and dishonoured, and the people bow before these men whose wealth has been gained solely by corruption and robbery? It makes one wish one had been born a Roman.”
“Did not one hope that a better time would come, Malchus, when Carthage will emancipate herself from the rule of men like Hanno and his corrupt friends, I should, indeed, despair of her, for even the genius of Hannibal and the valour of his troops cannot avail alone to carry to a successful conclusion a struggle between such a state as Carthage now is and a vigourous, patriotic, and self-reliant people like those of Rome.
“We may win battles, but, however great the victories may be, we can never succeed in the long run against the power of Rome unless Carthage proves true to herself. Our army is not a large one. Rome and her Latin allies can, if need be, put ten such in the field. If Carthage at this crisis of her fate proves worthy of the occasion, if she by a great effort again wins the sovereignty of the sea, and sends over armies to support us in our struggle, we may in the end triumph. If not, glorious as may be our success for a time, we are in the end doomed to failure, and our failure will assuredly involve the final destruction of Carthage.