Nessus was overjoyed at the success of the stratagem, and Malchus himself could hardly believe that he had escaped from the terrible danger which threatened him. Nessus and the Arab at once returned to the citadel. It was agreed that the former had better continue his work as usual until the evening, and then ask for his discharge on the plea that he had received a message requiring his presence in his native village, for it was thought that suspicion might be excited were he to leave suddenly without drawing his pay, and possibly a search might be instituted in the city to discover his whereabouts.
At nightfall he returned, and then went to the house of one of the leaders of the Barcine party with a message from Malchus to tell him where he was, and the events which had occurred since his landing at Carthage, and asking him to receive him privately in two hours’ time, in order that he might consult him as to the best plan to be followed.
Nessus returned saying that Manon was at home and was awaiting him, and the two at once set out for his house. Manon, who was a distant relation of Malchus, received him most warmly, and listened in astonishment to his story of what had befallen him. Malchus then explained the mission with which Hannibal had charged him, and asked his advice as to the best course to be adopted. Manon was silent for a time.
“Hanno’s faction is all powerful at present,” he said, “and were Hannibal himself here I doubt whether his voice could stir the senate into taking action such as is needed. The times have been hard, and Hanno and his party have lavished money so freely among the lower classes that there is no hope of stirring the populace up to declare against him. I think it would be in the highest degree dangerous were we, as you propose, to introduce you suddenly to the senate as Hannibal’s ambassador to them, and leave you to plead his cause. You would obtain no hearing. Hanno would rise in his place and denounce you as one already condemned by the tribunals as an enemy to the republic, and would demand your instant execution, and, as he has a great majority of votes in the senate, his demand would be complied with. You would, I am convinced, throw away your life for no good purpose, while your presence and your mysterious escape from prison would be made the pretense for a fresh series of persecutions of our partisans. I understand as well as you do the urgency for reinforcements being sent to Italy; but in order to do this the navy, now rotting in our harbours, must be repaired, the command of the sea must be regained, and fresh levies of troops made.
“To ask Carthage to make these sacrifices in her present mood is hopeless; we must await an opportunity. l and my friends will prepare the way, will set our agents to work among the people, and when the news of another victory arrives and the people’s hopes are aroused and excited, we will strike while the iron is hot, and call upon them to make one great effort to bring the struggle to a conclusion and to finish with Rome forever.