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too large for its body. A cottony mouldiness extended round its head;
and in the corners of its eyelids might be seen little red specks which
appeared to move. Salammbo would approach its silver-wire basket from
time to time, and would draw aside the purple curtains, the lotus
leaves, and the bird's down; but it was continually rolled up upon
itself, more motionless than a withered bind-weed; and from looking at
it she at last came to feel a kind of spiral within her heart, another
serpent, as it were, mounting up to her throat by degrees and strangling
her.

She was in despair of having seen the zaimph, and yet she felt a sort
of joy, an intimate pride at having done so. A mystery shrank within the
splendour of its folds; it was the cloud that enveloped the gods, and
the secret of the universal existence, and Salammbo, horror-stricken at
herself, regretted that she had not raised it.

She was almost always crouching at the back of her apartment, holding
her bended left leg in her hands, her mouth half open, her chin sunk,
her eye fixed. She recollected her father's face with terror; she wished
to go away into the mountains of Phoenicia, on a pilgrimage to the
temple of Aphaka, where Tanith descended in the form of a star; all
kinds of imaginings attracted her and terrified her; moreover, a
solitude which every day became greater encompassed her. She did not
even know what Hamilcar was about.

Wearied at last with her thoughts she would rise, and trailing along
her little sandals whose soles clacked upon her heels at every step, she
would walk at random through the large silent room. The amethysts and
topazes of the ceiling made luminous spots quiver here and there, and
Salammbo as she walked would turn her head a little to see them. She
would go and take the hanging amphoras by the neck; she would cool
her bosom beneath the broad fans, or perhaps amuse herself by burning
cinnamomum in hollow pearls. At sunset Taanach would draw back the black
felt lozenges that closed the openings in the wall; then her doves,
rubbed with musk like the doves of Tanith, suddenly entered, and their
pink feet glided over the glass pavement, amid the grains of barley
which she threw to them in handfuls like a sower in a field. But on a
sudden she would burst into sobs and lie stretched on the large bed of
ox-leather straps without moving, repeating a word that was ever the
same, with open eyes, pale as one dead, insensible, cold; and yet she
could hear the cries of the apes in the tufts of the palm trees, with
the continuous grinding of the great wheel which brought a flow of pure
water through the stories into the porphyry centre-basin.

Sometimes for several days she would refuse to eat. She could see in
a dream troubled stars wandering beneath her feet. She would call
Schahabarim, and when he came she had nothing to say to him.

She could not live without the relief of his presence. But she rebelled
inwardly against this domination; her feeling towards the priest was one
at once of terror, jealousy, hatred, and a species of love, in gratitude
for the singular voluptuousness which she experienced by his side.

He had recognised the influence of Rabbet, being skilful to discern
the gods who send diseases; and to cure Salammbo he had her apartment
watered with lotions of vervain, and maidenhair; she ate mandrakes every
morning; she slept with her head on a cushion filled with aromatics
blended by the pontiffs; he had even employed baaras, a fiery-coloured
root which drives back fatal geniuses into the North; lastly, turning
towards the polar star, he murmured thrice the mysterious name of
Tanith; but Salammbo still suffered and her anguish deepened.

No one in Carthage was so learned as he. In his youth he had studied at
the College of the Mogbeds, at Borsippa, near Babylon; had then visited
Samothrace, Pessinus, Ephesus, Thessaly, Judaea, and the temples of the
Nabathae, which are lost in the sands; and had travelled on foot along
the banks of the Nile from the cataracts to the sea. Shaking torches
with veil-covered face, he had cast a black cock upon a fire of
sandarach before the breast of the Sphinx, the Father of Terror. He had
descended into the caverns of Proserpine; he had seen the five hundred
pillars of the labyrinth of Lemnos revolve, and the candelabrum of
Tarentum, which bore as many sconces on its shaft as there are days in
the year, shine in its splendour; at times he received Greeks by night
in order to question them. The constitution of the world disquieted him
no less than the nature of the gods; he had observed the equinoxes with
the armils placed in the portico of Alexandria, and accompanied the
bematists of Evergetes, who measure the sky by calculating the number
of their steps, as far as Cyrene; so that there was now growing in his
thoughts a religion of his own, with no distinct formula, and on that
very account full of infatuation and fervour. He no longer believed that
the earth was formed like a fir-cone; he believed it to be round, and
eternally falling through immensity with such prodigious speed that its
fall was not perceived.

From the position of the sun above the moon he inferred the predominance
of Baal, of whom the planet itself is but the reflection and figure;
moreover, all that he saw in terrestrial things compelled him to
recognise the male exterminating principle as supreme. And then he
secretly charged Rabbet with the misfortune of his life. Was it not for
her that the grand-pontiff had once advanced amid the tumult of cymbals,
and with a patera of boiling water taken from him his future virility?
And he followed with a melancholy gaze the men who were disappearing
with the priestesses in the depths of the turpentine trees.

His days were spent in inspecting the censers, the gold vases, the
tongs, the rakes for the ashes of the altar, and all the robes of the
statues down to the bronze bodkin that served to curl the hair of an old
Tanith in the third aedicule near the emerald vine. At the same hours he
would raise the great hangings of the same swinging doors; would remain
with his arms outspread in the same attitude; or prayed prostrate on the
same flag-stones, while around him a people of priests moved barefooted
through the passages filled with an eternal twilight.

But Salammbo was in the barrenness of his life like a flower in the
cleft of a sepulchre. Nevertheless he was hard upon her, and spared
her neither penances nor bitter words. His condition established, as it
were, the equality of a common sex between them, and he was less angry
with the girl for his inability to possess her than for finding her so
beautiful, and above all so pure. Often he saw that she grew weary of
following his thought. Then he would turn away sadder than before; he
would feel himself more forsaken, more empty, more alone.

Strange words escaped him sometimes, which passed before Salammbo like
broad lightnings illuminating the abysses. This would be at night on the
terrace when, both alone, they gazed upon the stars, and Carthage spread
below under their feet, with the gulf and the open sea dimly lost in the
colour of the darkness.

He would set forth to her the theory of the souls that descend upon
the earth, following the same route as the sun through the signs of the
zodiac. With outstretched arm he showed the gate of human generation in
the Ram, and that of the return to the gods in Capricorn; and Salammbo
strove to see them, for she took these conceptions for realities;
she accepted pure symbols and even manners of speech as being true in
themselves, a distinction not always very clear even to the priest.

"The souls of the dead," said he, "resolve themselves into the moon, as
their bodies do into the earth. Their tears compose its humidity; 'tis a
dark abode full of mire, and wreck, and tempest."

She asked what would become of her then.

"At first you will languish as light as a vapour hovering upon the
waves; and after more lengthened ordeals and agonies, you will pass into
the forces of the sun, the very source of Intelligence!"

He did not speak, however, of Rabbet. Salammbo imagined that it was
through some shame for his vanquished goddess, and calling her by a
common name which designated the moon, she launched into blessings upon
the soft and fertile planet. At last he exclaimed:

"No! no! she draws all her fecundity from the other! Do you not see
her hovering about him like an amorous woman running after a man in a
field?" And he exalted the virtue of light unceasingly.

Far from depressing her mystic desires, he sought, on the contrary,
to excite them, and he even seemed to take joy in grieving her by the
revelation of a pitiless doctrine. In spite of the pains of her love
Salammbo threw herself upon it with transport.

But the more that Schahabarim felt himself in doubt about Tanith, the
more he wished to believe in her. At the bottom of his soul he was
arrested by remorse. He needed some proof, some manifestation from the
gods, and in the hope of obtaining it the priest devised an enterprise
which might save at once his country and his belief.

Thenceforward he set himself to deplore before Salammbo the sacrilege
and the misfortunes which resulted from it even in the regions of
the sky. Then he suddenly announced the peril of the Suffet, who was
assailed by three armies under the command of Matho - for on account of
the veil Matho was, in the eyes of the Carthaginians, the king, as it
were, of the Barbarians, - and he added that the safety of the Republic
and of her father depended upon her alone.

"Upon me!" she exclaimed. "How can I - ?"

But the priest, with a smile of disdain said:

"You will never consent!"

She entreated him. At last Schahabarim said to her:

"You must go to the Barbarians and recover the zaimph!"

She sank down upon the ebony stool, and remained with her arms stretched
out between her knees and shivering in all her limbs, like a victim
at the altar's foot awaiting the blow of the club. Her temples were
ringing, she could see fiery circles revolving, and in her stupor
she had lost the understanding of all things save one, that she was
certainly going to die soon.

But if Rabbetna triumphed, if the zaimph were restored and Carthage
delivered, what mattered a woman's life? thought Schahabarim. Moreover,
she would perhaps obtain the veil and not perish.

He stayed away for three days; on the evening of the fourth she sent for
him.

The better to inflame her heart he reported to her all the invectives
howled against Hamilcar in open council; he told her that she had erred,
that she owed reparation for her crime, and that Rabbetna commanded the
sacrifice.

A great uproar came frequently across the Mappalian district to Megara.
Schahabarim and Salammbo went out quickly, and gazed from the top of the
galley staircase.

There were people in the square of Khamon shouting for arms. The
Ancients would not provide them, esteeming such an effort useless;
others who had set out without a general had been massacred. At last
they were permitted to depart, and as a sort of homage to Moloch, or
from a vague need of destruction, they tore up tall cypress trees in
the woods of the temples, and having kindled them at the torches of the
Kabiri, were carrying them through the streets singing. These monstrous
flames advanced swaying gently; they transmitted fires to the glass
balls on the crests of the temples, to the ornaments of the colossuses
and the beaks of the ships, passed beyond the terraces and formed suns
as it were, which rolled through the town. They descended the Acropolis.
The gate of Malqua opened.

"Are you ready?" exclaimed Schahabarim, "or have you asked them to tell
your father that you abandoned him?" She hid her face in her veils, and
the great lights retired, sinking gradually the while to the edge of the
waves.

An indeterminate dread restrained her; she was afraid of Moloch and of
Matho. This man, with his giant stature, who was master of the zaimph,
ruled Rabbetna as much as did Baal, and seemed to her to be surrounded
by the same fulgurations; and then the souls of the gods sometimes
visited the bodies of men. Did not Schahabarim in speaking of him say
that she was to vanquish Moloch? They were mingled with each other; she
confused them together; both of them were pursuing her.

She wished to learn the future, and approached the serpent, for auguries
were drawn from the attitudes of serpents. But the basket was empty;
Salammbo was disturbed.

She found him with his tail rolled round one of the silver balustrades
beside the hanging bed, which he was rubbing in order to free himself
from his old yellowish skin, while his body stretched forth gleaming and
clear like a sword half out of the sheath.

Then on the days following, in proportion as she allowed herself to be
convinced, and was more disposed to succour Tanith, the python recovered
and grew; he seemed to be reviving.

The certainty that Salammbo was giving expression to the will of the
gods then became established in her conscience. One morning she awoke
resolved, and she asked what was necessary to make Matho restore the
veil.

"To claim it," said Schahabarim.

"But if he refuses?" she rejoined.

The priest scanned her fixedly with a smile such as she had never seen.

"Yes, what is to be done?" repeated Salammbo.

He rolled between his fingers the extremities of the bands which fell
from his tiara upon his shoulders, standing motionless with eyes cast
down. At last seeing that she did not understand:

"You will be alone with him."

"Well?" she said.

"Alone in his tent."

"What then?"

Schahabarim bit his lips. He sought for some phrase, some
circumlocution.

"If you are to die, that will be later," he said; "later! fear nothing!
and whatever he may undertake to do, do not call out! do not be
frightened! You will be humble, you understand, and submissive to his
desire, which is ordained of heaven!"

"But the veil?"

"The gods will take thought for it," replied Schahabarim.

"Suppose you were to accompany me, O father?" she added.

"No!"

He made her kneel down, and keeping his left hand raised and his right
extended, he swore in her behalf to bring back the mantle of Tanith into
Carthage. With terrible imprecations she devoted herself to the gods,
and each time that Schahabarim pronounced a word she falteringly
repeated it.

He indicated to her all the purifications and fastings that she was to
observe, and how she was to reach Matho. Moreover, a man acquainted with
the routes would accompany her.

She felt as if she had been set free. She thought only of the happiness
of seeing the zaimph again, and she now blessed Schahabarim for his
exhortations.

It was the period at which the doves of Carthage migrated to Sicily to
the mountain of Eryx and the temple of Venus. For several days before
their departure they sought out and called to one another so as to
collect together; at last one evening they flew away; the wind blew them
along, and the big white cloud glided across the sky high above the sea.

The horizon was filled with the colour of blood. They seemed to descend
gradually to the waves; then they disappeared as though swallowed
up, and falling of themselves into the jaws of the sun. Salammbo, who
watched them retiring, bent her head, and then Taanach, believing that
she guessed her sorrow, said gently to her:

"But they will come back, Mistress."

"Yes! I know."

"And you will see them again."

"Perhaps!" she said, sighing.

She had not confided her resolve to any one; in order to carry it out
with the greater discretion she sent Taanach to the suburb of Kinisdo to
buy all the things that she required instead of requesting them from the
stewards: vermilion, aromatics, a linen girdle, and new garments. The
old slave was amazed at these preparations, without daring, however,
to ask any questions; and the day, which had been fixed by Schahabarim,
arrived when Salammbo was to set out.

About the twelfth hour she perceived, in the depths of the sycamore
trees, a blind old man with one hand resting on the shoulder of a child
who walked before him, while with the other he carried a kind of cithara
of black wood against his hip. The eunuchs, slaves, and women had
been scrupulously sent away; no one might know the mystery that was
preparing.

Taanach kindled four tripods filled with strobus and cadamomum in the
corners of the apartment; then she unfolded large Babylonian hangings,
and stretched them on cords all around the room, for Salammbo did not
wish to be seen even by the walls. The kinnor-player squatted behind
the door and the young boy standing upright applied a reed flute to
his lips. In the distance the roar of the streets was growing feebler,
violet shadows were lengthening before the peristyles of the temples,
and on the other side of the gulf the mountain bases, the fields of
olive-trees, and the vague yellow lands undulated indefinitely, and were
blended together in a bluish haze; not a sound was to be heard, and an
unspeakable depression weighed in the air.

Salammbo crouched down upon the onyx step on the edge of the basin; she
raised her ample sleeves, fastening them behind her shoulders, and began
her ablutions in methodical fashion, according to the sacred rites.

Next Taanach brought her something liquid and coagulated in an alabaster
phial; it was the blood of a black dog slaughtered by barren women on a
winter's night amid the rubbish of a sepulchre. She rubbed it upon her
ears, her heels, and the thumb of her right hand, and even her nail
remained somewhat red, as if she had crushed a fruit.

The moon rose; then the cithara and the flute began to play together.

Salammbo unfastened her earrings, her necklace, her bracelets, and her
long white simar; she unknotted the band in her hair, shaking the latter
for a few minutes softly over her shoulders to cool herself by thus
scattering it. The music went on outside; it consisted of three notes
ever the same, hurried and frenzied; the strings grated, the flute blew;
Taanach kept time by striking her hands; Salammbo, with a swaying of
her whole body, chanted prayers, and her garments fell one after another
around her.

The heavy tapestry trembled, and the python's head appeared above the
cord that supported it. The serpent descended slowly like a drop of
water flowing along a wall, crawled among the scattered stuffs, and
then, gluing its tail to the ground, rose perfectly erect; and his eyes,
more brilliant than carbuncles, darted upon Salammbo.

A horror of cold, or perhaps a feeling of shame, at first made her
hesitate. But she recalled Schahabarim's orders and advanced; the python
turned downwards, and resting the centre of its body upon the nape of
her neck, allowed its head and tail to hang like a broken necklace with
both ends trailing to the ground. Salammbo rolled it around her sides,
under her arms and between her knees; then taking it by the jaw she
brought the little triangular mouth to the edge of her teeth, and half
shutting her eyes, threw herself back beneath the rays of the moon. The
white light seemed to envelop her in a silver mist, the prints of her
humid steps shone upon the flag-stones, stars quivered in the depth of
the water; it tightened upon her its black rings that were spotted with
scales of gold. Salammbo panted beneath the excessive weight, her
loins yielded, she felt herself dying, and with the tip of its tail the
serpent gently beat her thigh; then the music becoming still it fell off
again.

Taanach came back to her; and after arranging two candelabra, the lights
of which burned in crystal balls filled with water, she tinged the
inside of her hands with Lawsonia, spread vermilion upon her cheeks, and
antimony along the edge of her eyelids, and lengthened her eyebrows with
a mixture of gum, musk, ebony, and crushed legs of flies.

Salammbo seated on a chair with ivory uprights, gave herself up to the
attentions of the slave. But the touchings, the odour of the aromatics,
and the fasts that she had undergone, were enervating her. She became so
pale that Taanach stopped.

"Go on!" said Salammbo, and bearing up against herself, she suddenly
revived. Then she was seized with impatience; she urged Taanach to make
haste, and the old slave grumbled:

"Well! well! Mistress! - Besides, you have no one waiting for you!"

"Yes!" said Salammbo, "some one is waiting for me."

Taanach drew back in surprise, and in order to learn more about it,
said:

"What orders to you give me, Mistress? for if you are to remain away - "

But Salammbo was sobbing; the slave exclaimed:

"You are suffering! what is the matter? Do not go away! take me! When
you were quite little and used to cry, I took you to my heart and
made you laugh with the points of my breasts; you have drained them,
Mistress!" She struck herself upon her dried-up bosom. "Now I am old! I
can do nothing for you! you no longer love me! you hide your griefs from
me, you despise the nurse!" And tears of tenderness and vexation flowed
down her cheeks in the gashes of her tattooing.

"No!" said Salammbo, "no, I love you! be comforted!"

With a smile like the grimace of an old ape, Taanach resumed her task.
In accordance with Schahabarim's recommendations, Salammbo had ordered
the slave to make her magnificent; and she was obeying her mistress with
barbaric taste full at once of refinement and ingenuity.

Over a first delicate and vinous-coloured tunic she passed a second
embroidered with birds' feathers. Golden scales clung to her hips,
and from this broad girdle descended her blue flowing silver-starred
trousers. Next Taanach put upon her a long robe made of the cloth of the
country of Seres, white and streaked with green lines. On the edge of
her shoulder she fastened a square of purple weighted at the hem with
grains of sandastrum; and above all these garments she placed a black
mantle with a flowing train; then she gazed at her, and proud of her
work could not help saying:

"You will not be more beautiful on the day of your bridal!"

"My bridal!" repeated Salammbo; she was musing with her elbow resting
upon the ivory chair.

But Taanach set up before her a copper mirror, which was so broad and
high that she could see herself completely in it. Then she rose, and
with a light touch of her finger raised a lock of her hair which was
falling too low.

Her hair was covered with gold dust, was crisped in front, and hung down
behind over her back in long twists ending in pearls. The brightness
of the candelabra heightened the paint on her cheeks, the gold on her
garments, and the whiteness of her skin; around her waist, and on her
arms, hands and toes, she had such a wealth of gems that the mirror sent
back rays upon her like a sun; - and Salammbo, standing by the side of
Taanach, who leaned over to see her, smiled amid this dazzling display.

Then she walked to and fro embarrassed by the time that was still left.

Suddenly the crow of a cock resounded. She quickly pinned a long yellow
veil upon her hair, passed a scarf around her neck, thrust her feet into
blue leather boots, and said to Taanach:

"Go and see whether there is not a man with two horses beneath the
myrtles."

Taanach had scarcely re-entered when she was descending the galley
staircase.

"Mistress!" cried the nurse.

Salammbo turned round with one finger on her mouth as a sign for
discretion and immobility.

Taanach stole softly along the prows to the foot of the terrace,
and from a distance she could distinguish by the light of the moon a
gigantic shadow walking obliquely in the cypress avenue to the left of
Salammbo, a sign which presaged death.

Taanach went up again into the chamber. She threw herself upon the
ground tearing her face with her nails; she plucked out her hair, and
uttered piercing shrieks with all her might.

It occurred to her that they might be heard; then she became silent,
sobbing quite softly with her head in the hands and her face on the
pavement.



CHAPTER XI

IN THE TENT

The man who guided Salammbo made her ascend again beyond the pharos
in the direction of the Catacombs, and then go down the long suburb of
Molouya, which was full of steep lanes. The sky was beginning to grow
grey. Sometimes palm-wood beams jutting out from the walls obliged them
to bend their heads. The two horses which were at the walk would often
slip; and thus they reached the Teveste gate.

Its heavy leaves were half open; they passed through, and it closed


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