Malchus did not hesitate. That there would be danger in joining such a body as Giscon spoke of he knew, but the young officer’s talk during their expedition had aroused in him a deep sense of the tyranny and corruption which were sapping the power or his country, and this blow which had struck him personally rendered him in a mood to adopt any dangerous move.
“I will join you, Giscon,” he said, “if you will accept me. I am young, but I am ready to go all lengths, and to give my life if needs be to free Carthage.”
Giscon led his companion along the narrow lanes until he reached the back entrance of the house where the meetings were held. Knocking in a particular way it was opened at once and closed behind them. As they entered a slave took Malchus’ horse without a word and fastened it to a ring in the wall, where four or five other horses were standing.
“I rather wonder you are not afraid of drawing attention by riding on horseback to a house in such a quarter,” Malchus said.
“We dare not meet secretly, you know. The city is full of spies, and doubtless the movements of all known to be hostile to Hanno and his party are watched, therefore we thought it best to meet here. We have caused it to be whispered as a secret in the neighbourhood, that the house has been taken as a place where we can gamble free from the presence of our elders. Therefore the only comments we excite is, `There go those young fools who are ruining themselves.’ It is only because you are on horseback that I have come round to this gate; had you come on foot we should have entered by the front. Fortunately there are among us many who are deemed to be mere pleasure seekers — men who wager fortunes on their horses, who are given to banquets, or whose lives seem to be passed in luxury and indolence, but who at heart are as earnest in the cause of Carthage as I am. The presence of such men among us gives a probability to the tale that this is a gambling house. Were we all of my stamp, men known to be utterly hostile to Hanno and his party, suspicion would fall upon our meetings at once. But here we are.”
As he spoke he drew aside some heavy curtains and entered a large room. Some ten or twelve young men were assembled there. They looked up in surprise as Giscon entered followed by his companion.
“I have brought a recruit,” Giscon said, “one whom all of you know by repute if not personally; it is Malchus, the son of General Hamilcar. He is young to be engaged in a business like ours, but I have been with him in a campaign and can answer for him. He is brave, ready, thoughtful and trustworthy. He loves his country and hates her tyrants. I can guarantee that he will do nothing imprudent, but can be trusted as one or ourselves. Being young he will have the advantage of being less likely to be watched, and may be doubly useful. He is ready to take the oath of our society.”