In a short time a Nubian entered, bearing some bread and a pitcher of water. Malchus addressed him; but the negro opened his mouth, and Malchus saw that his tongue had been cut out, perhaps in childhood, perhaps as a punishment for a crime; but more probably the man was a slave captured in war, who had been mutilated to render him a safe and useful instrument of the officers of the law.
Three hours later the door again opened, and two men appeared. They ordered Malchus to follow them, and led him through a number of meandering passages, until at last, opening a door, they ushered him into a large chamber. This was lighted by torches. At a table in the centre of the room were seated seven figures. In the one seated in a chair very slightly above the others Malchus at once recognized Hanno. His companions were all leading men of his faction.
“Malchus, son of Hamilcar,” Hanno said, “what have you to say why you thus secretly come to Carthage?”
“I come not secretly,” Malchus replied, “I come hither as the messenger of Hannibal to the senate. I am charged by him to lay before them the exact situation in Italy, to tell them how much he has already accomplished, and what yet remains to be done, and to explain to them the need there is that reinforcements should be despatched to him to carry out his great designs for the annihilation of the power of Rome. I come not in secret. I passed in a ship from Italy to Corinth, and there at once hired a vessel to convey me hither.”
“As we are members of the senate,” Hanno said, “you can deliver your message to us.”
“I fear that it will go no further,” Malchus replied. “The fact that I have been thus secretly seized and carried here, shows how far it is your wish that the people of Carthage should know my message. Still, as even in your breasts all patriotism may not yet be dead, and as my words may move you yet to do something to enable Hannibal to save the republic, I will give you the message he sent me to deliver to the senate.”
A murmur of angry surprise arose from the seven men at the bold words and the defiant bearing of their prisoner.
“How dare you thus address your judges?” Hanno exclaimed.
“Judges!” Malchus repeated scornfully, “executioners, you should say. Think you that I know not that my death is resolved on? Even if you would you dare not free a noble of Carthage, a son of a general who has lost his life in her service, a cousin of the great Hannibal, after you have thus treacherously seized and thrown him into a dungeon. Cowed as the people of Carthage are by your tyranny, corrupted as they are by your gold, this lawless act of oppression would rouse them to resistance. No, Hanno, it is because I know that my doom is sealed I thus fearlessly defy you and your creatures.”