“That is just what I want,” Malchus said. “I want you and your sons to go about among the fishermen and tell them what is proposed to be done, and how ruinous it will be for them. You know how fond of fishermen I am, and how sorry I should be to see them injured. You stir them up for the next three or four days, and get them to boiling point. I will let you know when the time comes. There are other trades who will be injured by this business, and when the time comes you fishermen with your oars in your hands must join the others and go through the streets shouting ’Hannibal for general! Down with Hanno and the tax gatherers!’”
“Down with the tax gatherers is a good cry,” the old fisherman said. “They take one fish of every four I bring in, and always choose the finest. Don’t you be afraid, sir; we will be there, oars and all, when you give the word.”
“And now I want you to tell me the names of a few men who have influence among the sailors of the mercantile ships, and among those who load and discharge the cargoes; their interest is threatened as well as yours. I am commissioned to pay handsomely all who do their best for the cause, and I promise you that you and your sons shall earn as much in four days’ work as in a month’s toiling on the sea. The Barcine Club is known to be the true friend of Carthage, the opponent of those who grind down the people, and it will spare no money to see that this matter is well carried out.”
The fisherman at once went round with Malchus to the abodes of several men regarded as authorities by the sailors and stevedores. With these, partly by argument, but much more by the promises of handsome pay for their exertions, Malchus established an understanding, and paved the way for a popular agitation among the working classes of the waterside in favour of Hannibal.
Day after day Malchus went down to the port. His father was well pleased with his report of what he had done and provided him with ample funds for paying earnest money to his various agents, as a proof that their exertions would be well rewarded. He soon had the satisfaction of seeing that the agitation was growing.
Work was neglected, the sailors and labourers collected on the quays and talked among themselves, or listened to orators of their own class, who told them of the dangers which threatened their trade from the hatred of Hanno and his friends the tax collectors for Hannibal, whose father and brother-in-law had done such great things for Carthage by conquering Spain and adding to her commerce by the establishment of Carthagena and other ports. Were they going to stand tamely by and see trade ruined, and their families starving, that the tyrants who wrung from them the taxes should fatten at ease?