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The Barbarians constantly expected to see Matho appear, - and from
discouragement, from languor, and from the obstinacy of sick men who
object to change their situation, they would not leave the mountain;
at last the provisions were exhausted and the Zuaeces went away. It was
known that they numbered scarcely more than thirteen hundred men, and
there was no need to employ soldiers to put an end to them.

Wild beasts, especially lions, had multiplied during the three years
that the war had lasted. Narr' Havas had held a great battue, and - after
tying goats at intervals - had run upon them and so driven them towards
the Pass of the Hatchet; - and they were now all living in it when a man
arrived who had been sent by the Ancients to find out what there was
left of the Barbarians.

Lions and corpses were lying over the tract of the plain, and the dead
were mingled with clothes and armour. Nearly all had the face or an arm
wanting; some appeared to be still intact; others were completely dried
up, and their helmets were filled with powdery skulls; feet which had
lost their flesh stood out straight from the knemides; skeletons still
wore their cloaks; and bones, cleaned by the sun, made gleaming spots in
the midst of the sand.

The lions were resting with their breasts against the ground and both
paws stretched out, winking their eyelids in the bright daylight, which
was heightened by the reflection from the white rocks. Others were
seated on their hind-quarters and staring before them, or else were
sleeping, rolled into a ball and half hidden by their great manes; they
all looked well fed, tired, and dull. They were as motionless as the
mountain and the dead. Night was falling; the sky was striped with broad
red bands in the west.

In one of the heaps, which in an irregular fashion embossed the plain,
something rose up vaguer than a spectre. Then one of the lions set
himself in motion, his monstrous form cutting a black shadow on the
background of the purple sky, and when he was quite close to the man, he
knocked him down with a single blow of his paw.

Then, stretching himself flat upon him, he slowly drew out the entrails
with the edge of his teeth.

Afterwards he opened his huge jaws, and for some minutes uttered a
lengthened roar which was repeated by the echoes in the mountain, and
was finally lost in the solitude.

Suddenly some small gravel rolled down from above. The rustling of rapid
steps was heard, and in the direction of the portcullis and of the gorge
there appeared pointed muzzles and straight ears, with gleaming, tawny
eyes. These were the jackals coming to eat what was left.

The Carthaginian, who was leaning over the top of the precipice to look,
went back again.



CHAPTER XV

MATHO

There were rejoicings at Carthage, - rejoicings deep, universal,
extravagant, frantic; the holes of the ruins had been stopped up, the
statues of the gods had been repainted, the streets were strewn with
myrtle branches, incense smoked at the corners of the crossways, and the
throng on the terraces looked, in their variegated garments, like heaps
of flowers blooming in the air.

The shouts of the water-carriers watering the pavement rose above the
continual screaming of voices; slaves belonging to Hamilcar offered
in his name roasted barley and pieces of raw meat; people accosted one
another, and embraced one another with tears; the Tyrian towns were
taken, the nomads dispersed, and all the Barbarians annihilated.
The Acropolis was hidden beneath coloured velaria; the beaks of the
triremes, drawn up in line outside the mole, shone like a dyke of
diamonds; everywhere there was a sense of the restoration of order, the
beginning of a new existence, and the diffusion of vast happiness: it
was the day of Salammbo's marriage with the King of the Numidians.

On the terrace of the temple of Khamon there were three long tables
laden with gigantic plate, at which the priests, Ancients, and the rich
were to sit, and there was a fourth and higher one for Hamilcar, Narr'
Havas, and Salammbo; for as she had saved her country by the restoration
of the zaimph, the people turned her wedding day into a national
rejoicing, and were waiting in the square below till she should appear.

But their impatience was excited by another and more acrid longing:
Matho's death has been promised for the ceremony.

It had been proposed at first to flay him alive, to pour lead into his
entrails, to kill him with hunger; he should be tied to a tree, and
an ape behind him should strike him on the head with a stone; he had
offended Tanith, and the cynocephaluses of Tanith should avenge her.
Others were of opinion that he should be led about on a dromedary after
linen wicks, dipped in oil, had been inserted in his body in several
places; - and they took pleasure in the thought of the large animal
wandering through the streets with this man writhing beneath the fires
like a candelabrum blown about by the wind.

But what citizens should be charged with his torture, and why disappoint
the rest? They would have liked a kind of death in which the whole
town might take part, in which every hand, every weapon, everything
Carthaginian, to the very paving-stones in the streets and the waves in
the gulf, could rend him, and crush him, and annihilate him. Accordingly
the Ancients decided that he should go from his prison to the square of
Khamon without any escort, and with his arms fastened to his back; it
was forbidden to strike him to the heart, in order that he might live
the longer; to put out his eyes, so that he might see the torture
through; to hurl anything against his person, or to lay more than three
fingers upon him at a time.

Although he was not to appear until the end of the day, the people
sometimes fancied that he could be seen, and the crowd would rush
towards the Acropolis, and empty the streets, to return with lengthened
murmurings. Some people had remained standing in the same place since
the day before, and they would call on one another from a distance and
show their nails which they had allowed to grow, the better to bury them
into his flesh. Others walked restlessly up and down; some were as pale
as though they were awaiting their own execution.

Suddenly lofty feather fans rose above the heads, behind the Mappalian
district. It was Salammbo leaving her palace; a sigh of relief found
vent.

But the procession was long in coming; it marched with deliberation.

First there filed past the priests of the Pataec Gods, then those of
Eschmoun, of Melkarth, and all the other colleges in succession, with
the same insignia, and in the same order as had been observed at the
time of the sacrifice. The pontiffs of Moloch passed with heads bent,
and the multitude stood aside from them in a kind of remorse. But the
priests of Rabbetna advanced with a proud step, and with lyres in their
hands; the priestesses followed them in transparent robes of yellow
or black, uttering cries like birds and writhing like vipers, or else
whirling round to the sound of flutes to imitate the dance of the stars,
while their light garments wafted puffs of delicate scents through the
streets.

The Kedeschim, with painted eyelids, who symbolised the hermaphrodism of
the Divinity, received applause among these women, and, being perfumed
and dressed like them, they resembled them in spite of their flat
breasts and narrower hips. Moreover, on this day the female principle
dominated and confused all things; a mystic voluptuousness moved in the
heavy air; the torches were already lighted in the depths of the sacred
woods; there was to be a great celebration there during the night; three
vessels had brought courtesans from Sicily, and others had come from the
desert.

As the colleges arrived they ranged themselves in the courts of the
temples, on the outer galleries, and along double staircases which rose
against the walls, and drew together at the top. Files of white robes
appeared between the colonnades, and the architecture was peopled with
human statues, motionless as statues of stone.

Then came the masters of the exchequer, the governors of the provinces,
and all the rich. A great tumult prevailed below. Adjacent streets were
discharging the crowd, hierodules were driving it back with blows of
sticks; and then Salammbo appeared in a litter surmounted by a purple
canopy, and surrounded by the Ancients crowned with their golden tiaras.

Thereupon an immense shout arose; the cymbals and crotala sounded more
loudly, the tabourines thundered, and the great purple canopy sank
between the two pylons.

It appeared again on the first landing. Salammbo was walking slowly
beneath it; then she crossed the terrace to take her seat behind on a
kind of throne cut out of the carapace of a tortoise. An ivory stool
with three steps was pushed beneath her feet; two Negro children knelt
on the edge of the first step, and sometimes she would rest both arms,
which were laden with rings of excessive weight, upon their heads.

From ankle to hip she was covered with a network of narrow meshes which
were in imitation of fish scales, and shone like mother-of-pearl; her
waist was clasped by a blue zone, which allowed her breasts to be
seen through two crescent-shaped slashings; the nipples were hidden
by carbuncle pendants. She had a headdress made of peacock's feathers
studded with gems; an ample cloak, as white as snow, fell behind
her, - and with her elbows at her sides, her knees pressed together,
and circles of diamonds on the upper part of her arms, she remained
perfectly upright in a hieratic attitude.

Her father and her husband were on two lower seats, Narr' Havas dressed
in a light simar and wearing his crown of rock-salt, from which there
strayed two tresses of hair as twisted as the horns of Ammon; and
Hamilcar in a violet tunic figured with gold vine branches, and with a
battle-sword at his side.

The python of the temple of Eschmoun lay on the ground amid pools of
pink oil in the space enclosed by the tables, and, biting its tail,
described a large black circle. In the middle of the circle there was a
copper pillar bearing a crystal egg; and, as the sun shone upon it, rays
were emitted on every side.

Behind Salammbo stretched the priests of Tanith in linen robes; on her
right the Ancients, in their tiaras, formed a great gold line, and
on the other side the rich with their emerald sceptres a great green
line, - while quite in the background, where the priests of Moloch were
ranged, the cloaks looked like a wall of purple. The other colleges
occupied the lower terraces. The multitude obstructed the streets. It
reached to the house-tops, and extended in long files to the summit of
the Acropolis. Having thus the people at her feet, the firmament
above her head, and around her the immensity of the sea, the gulf, the
mountains, and the distant provinces, Salammbo in her splendour was
blended with Tanith, and seemed the very genius of Carthage, and its
embodied soul.

The feast was to last all night, and lamps with several branches were
planted like trees on the painted woollen cloths which covered the low
tables. Large electrum flagons, blue glass amphoras, tortoise-shell
spoons, and small round loaves were crowded between the double row of
pearl-bordered plates; bunches of grapes with their leaves had been
rolled round ivory vine-stocks after the fashion of the thyrsus; blocks
of snow were melting on ebony trays, and lemons, pomegranates, gourds,
and watermelons formed hillocks beneath the lofty silver plate; boars
with open jaws were wallowing in the dust of spices; hares, covered with
their fur, appeared to be bounding amid the flowers; there were shells
filled with forcemeat; the pastry had symbolic shapes; when the covers
of the dishes were removed doves flew out.

The slaves, meanwhile, with tunics tucked up, were going about on
tiptoe; from time to time a hymn sounded on the lyres, or a choir of
voices rose. The clamour of the people, continuous as the noise of
the sea, floated vaguely around the feast, and seemed to lull it in a
broader harmony; some recalled the banquet of the Mercenaries; they gave
themselves up to dreams of happiness; the sun was beginning to go down,
and the crescent of the moon was already rising in another part of the
sky.

But Salammbo turned her head as though some one had called her; the
people, who were watching her, followed the direction of her eyes.

The door of the dungeon, hewn in the rock at the foot of the temple, on
the summit of the Acropolis, had just opened; and a man was standing on
the threshold of this black hole.

He came forth bent double, with the scared look of fallow deer when
suddenly enlarged.

The light dazzled him; he stood motionless awhile. All had recognised
him, and they held their breath.

In their eyes the body of this victim was something peculiarly theirs,
and was adorned with almost religious splendour. They bent forward to
see him, especially the women. They burned to gaze upon him who had
caused the deaths of their children and husbands; and from the bottom
of their souls there sprang up in spite of themselves an infamous
curiosity, a desire to know him completely, a wish mingled with remorse
which turned to increased execration.

At last he advanced; then the stupefaction of surprise disappeared.
Numbers of arms were raised, and he was lost to sight.

The staircase of the Acropolis had sixty steps. He descended them as
though he were rolled down in a torrent from the top of a mountain;
three times he was seen to leap, and then he alighted below on his feet.

His shoulders were bleeding, his breast was panting with great shocks;
and he made such efforts to burst his bonds that his arms, which were
crossed on his naked loins, swelled like pieces of a serpent.

Several streets began in front of him, leading from the spot at which he
found himself. In each of them a triple row of bronze chains fastened to
the navels of the Pataec gods extended in parallel lines from one end
to the other; the crowd was massed against the houses, and servants,
belonging to the Ancients, walked in the middle brandishing thongs.

One of them drove him forward with a great blow; Matho began to move.

They thrust their arms over the chains shouting out that the road had
been left too wide for him; and he passed along, felt, pricked, and
slashed by all those fingers; when he reached the end of one street
another appeared; several times he flung himself to one side to bite
them; they speedily dispersed, the chains held him back, and the crowd
burst out laughing.

A child rent his ear; a young girl, hiding the point of a spindle in her
sleeve, split his cheek; they tore handfuls of hair from him and strips
of flesh; others smeared his face with sponges steeped in filth and
fastened upon sticks. A stream of blood started from the right side of
his neck, frenzy immediately set in. This last Barbarian was to them a
representative of all the Barbarians, and all the army; they were taking
vengeance on him for their disasters, their terrors, and their shame.
The rage of the mob developed with its gratification; the curving chains
were over-strained, and were on the point of breaking; the people did
not feel the blows of the slaves who struck at them to drive them back;
some clung to the projections of the houses; all the openings in the
walls were stopped up with heads; and they howled at him the mischief
that they could not inflict upon him.

It was atrocious, filthy abuse mingled with ironical encouragements and
imprecations; and, his present tortures not being enough for them, they
foretold to him others that should be still more terrible in eternity.

This vast baying filled Carthage with stupid continuity. Frequently
a single syllable - a hoarse, deep, and frantic intonation - would be
repeated for several minutes by the entire people. The walls would
vibrate with it from top to bottom, and both sides of the street would
seem to Matho to be coming against him, and carrying him off the ground,
like two immense arms stifling him in the air.

Nevertheless he remembered that he had experienced something like it
before. The same crowd was on the terraces, there were the same looks
and the same wrath; but then he had walked free, all had then dispersed,
for a god covered him; - and the recollection of this, gaining precision
by degrees, brought a crushing sadness upon him. Shadows passed before
his eyes; the town whirled round in his head, his blood streamed from a
wound in his hip, he felt that he was dying; his hams bent, and he sank
quite gently upon the pavement.

Some one went to the peristyle of the temple of Melkarth, took thence
the bar of a tripod, heated red hot in the coals, and, slipping it
beneath the first chain, pressed it against his wound. The flesh was
seen to smoke; the hootings of the people drowned his voice; he was
standing again.

Six paces further on, and he fell a third and again a fourth time; but
some new torture always made him rise. They discharged little drops of
boiling oil through tubes at him; they strewed pieces of broken glass
beneath his feet; still he walked on. At the corner of the street of
Satheb he leaned his back against the wall beneath the pent-house of a
shop, and advanced no further.

The slaves of the Council struck him with their whips of hippopotamus
leather, so furiously and long that the fringes of their tunics were
drenched with sweat. Matho appeared insensible; suddenly he started
off and began to run at random, making a noise with his lips like one
shivering with severe cold. He threaded the street of Boudes, and the
street of Soepo, crossed the Green Market, and reached the square of
Khamon.

He now belonged to the priests; the slaves had just dispersed the crowd,
and there was more room. Matho gazed round him and his eyes encountered
Salammbo.

At the first step that he had taken she had risen; then, as he
approached, she had involuntarily advanced by degrees to the edge of the
terrace; and soon all external things were blotted out, and she saw only
Matho. Silence fell in her soul, - one of those abysses wherein the whole
world disappears beneath the pressure of a single thought, a memory, a
look. This man who was walking towards her attracted her.

Excepting his eyes he had no appearance of humanity left; he was a long,
perfectly red shape; his broken bonds hung down his thighs, but they
could not be distinguished from the tendons of his wrists, which were
laid quite bare; his mouth remained wide open; from his eye-sockets
there darted flames which seemed to rise up to his hair; - and the wretch
still walked on!

He reached the foot of the terrace. Salammbo was leaning over the
balustrade; those frightful eyeballs were scanning her, and there rose
within her a consciousness of all that he had suffered for her. Although
he was in his death agony she could see him once more kneeling in his
tent, encircling her waist with his arms, and stammering out gentle
words; she thirsted to feel them and hear them again; she did not want
him to die! At this moment Matho gave a great start; she was on the
point of shrieking aloud. He fell backwards and did not stir again.

Salammbo was borne back, nearly swooning, to her throne by the priests
who flocked about her. They congratulated her; it was her work. All
clapped their hands and stamped their feet, howling her name.

A man darted upon the corpse. Although he had no beard he had the cloak
of a priest of Moloch on his shoulder, and in his belt that species
of knife which they employed for cutting up the sacred meat, and which
terminated, at the end of the handle, in a golden spatula. He cleft
Matho's breast with a single blow, then snatched out the heart and laid
it upon the spoon; and Schahabarim, uplifting his arm, offered it to the
sun.

The sun sank behind the waves; his rays fell like long arrows upon the
red heart. As the beatings diminished the planet sank into the sea; and
at the last palpitation it disappeared.

Then from the gulf to the lagoon, and from the isthmus to the pharos, in
all the streets, on all the houses, and on all the temples, there was
a single shout; sometimes it paused, to be again renewed; the buildings
shook with it; Carthage was convulsed, as it were, in the spasm of
Titanic joy and boundless hope.

Narr' Havas, drunk with pride, passed his left arm beneath Salammbo's
waist in token of possession; and taking a gold patera in his right
hand, he drank to the Genius of Carthage.

Salammbo rose like her husband, with a cup in her hand, to drink
also. She fell down again with her head lying over the back of the
throne, - pale, stiff, with parted lips, - and her loosened hair hung to
the ground.

Thus died Hamilcar's daughter for having touched the mantle of Tanith.







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