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national antipathies revived, together with personal hatreds, it was
felt that it would be perilous to give way to them. Reprisals after
such an outrage would be formidable. It was necessary, therefore, to
anticipate the vengeance of Carthage. Conventions and harangues never
ceased. Every one spoke, no one was listened to; Spendius, usually so
loquacious, shook his head at every proposal.

One evening he asked Matho carelessly whether there were not springs in
the interior of the town.

"Not one!" replied Matho.

The next day Spendius drew him aside to the bank of the lake.

"Master!" said the former slave, "If your heart is dauntless, I will
bring you into Carthage."

"How?" repeated the other, panting.

"Swear to execute all my commands and to follow me like a shadow!"

Then Matho, raising his arm towards the planet of Chabar, exclaimed:

"By Tanith, I swear!"

Spendius resumed:

"To-morrow after sunset you will wait for me at the foot of the aqueduct
between the ninth and tenth arcades. Bring with you an iron pick, a
crestless helmet, and leathern sandals."

The aqueduct of which he spoke crossed the entire isthmus obliquely, - a
considerable work, afterwards enlarged by the Romans. In spite of her
disdain of other nations, Carthage had awkwardly borrowed this novel
invention from them, just as Rome herself had built Punic galleys; and
five rows of superposed arches, of a dumpy kind of architecture, with
buttresses at their foot and lions' heads at the top, reached to the
western part of the Acropolis, where they sank beneath the town to
incline what was nearly a river into the cisterns of Megara.

Spendius met Matho here at the hour agreed upon. He fastened a sort of
harpoon to the end of a cord and whirled it rapidly like a sling; the
iron instrument caught fast, and they began to climb up the wall, the
one after the other.

But when they had ascended to the first story the cramp fell back every
time that they threw it, and in order to discover some fissure they had
to walk along the edge of the cornice. At every row of arches they found
that it became narrower. Then the cord relaxed. Several times it nearly
broke.

At last they reached the upper platform. Spendius stooped down from time
to time to feel the stones with his hand.

"Here it is," he said; "let us begin!" And leaning on the pick which
Matho had brought they succeeded in dislodging one of the flagstones.

In the distance they perceived a troop of horse-men galloping on horses
without bridles. Their golden bracelets leaped in the vague drapings
of their cloaks. A man could be seen in front crowned with ostrich
feathers, and galloping with a lance in each hand.

"Narr' Havas!" exclaimed Matho.

"What matter?" returned Spendius, and he leaped into the hole which they
had just made by removing the flagstone.

Matho at his command tried to thrust out one of the blocks. But he could
not move his elbows for want of room.

"We shall return," said Spendius; "go in front." Then they ventured into
the channel of water.

It reached to their waists. Soon they staggered, and were obliged to
swim. Their limbs knocked against the walls of the narrow duct. The
water flowed almost immediately beneath the stones above, and their
faces were torn by them. Then the current carried them away. Their
breasts were crushed with air heavier than that of a sepulchre, and
stretching themselves out as much as possible with their heads between
their arms and their legs close together, they passed like arrows into
the darkness, choking, gurgling, and almost dead. Suddenly all became
black before them, and the speed of the waters redoubled. They fell.

When they came to the surface again, they remained for a few minutes
extended on their backs, inhaling the air delightfully. Arcades, one
behind another, opened up amid large walls separating the various
basins. All were filled, and the water stretched in a single sheet
throughout the length of the cisterns. Through the air-holes in the
cupolas on the ceiling there fell a pale brightness which spread upon
the waves discs, as it were, of light, while the darkness round about
thickened towards the walls and threw them back to an indefinite
distance. The slightest sound made a great echo.

Spendius and Matho commenced to swim again, and passing through the
opening of the arches, traversed several chambers in succession. Two
other rows of smaller basins extended in a parallel direction on each
side. They lost themselves; they turned, and came back again. At last
something offered a resistance to their heels. It was the pavement of
the gallery that ran along the cisterns.

Then, advancing with great precautions, they felt along the wall to
find an outlet. But their feet slipped, and they fell into the great
centre-basins. They had to climb up again, and there they fell again.
They experienced terrible fatigue, which made them feel as if all their
limbs had been dissolved in the water while swimming. Their eyes closed;
they were in the agonies of death.

Spendius struck his hand against the bars of a grating. They shook it,
it gave way, and they found themselves on the steps of a staircase. A
door of bronze closed it above. With the point of a dagger they moved
the bar, which was opened from without, and suddenly the pure open air
surrounded them.

The night was filled with silence, and the sky seemed at an
extraordinary height. Clusters of trees projected over the long lines of
walls. The whole town was asleep. The fires of the outposts shone like
lost stars.

Spendius, who had spent three years in the ergastulum, was but
imperfectly acquainted with the different quarters. Matho conjectured
that to reach Hamilcar's palace they ought to strike to the left and
cross the Mappalian district.

"No," said Spendius, "take me to the temple of Tanith."

Matho wished to speak.

"Remember!" said the former slave, and raising his arm he showed him the
glittering planet of Chabar.

Then Matho turned in silence towards the Acropolis.

They crept along the nopal hedges which bordered the paths. The water
trickled from their limbs upon the dust. Their damp sandals made no
noise; Spendius, with eyes that flamed more than torches, searched the
bushes at every step; - and he walked behind Matho with his hands resting
on the two daggers which he carried on his arms, and which hung from
below the armpit by a leathern band.



CHAPTER V

TANITH

After leaving the gardens Matho and Spendius found themselves checked
by the rampart of Megara. But they discovered a breach in the great wall
and passed through.

The ground sloped downwards, forming a kind of very broad valley. It was
an exposed place.

"Listen," said Spendius, "and first of all fear nothing! I shall fulfil
my promise - "

He stopped abruptly, and seemed to reflect as though searching for
words, - "Do you remember that time at sunrise when I showed Carthage to
you on Salammbo's terrace? We were strong that day, but you would listen
to nothing!" Then in a grave voice: "Master, in the sanctuary of Tanith
there is a mysterious veil, which fell from heaven and which covers the
goddess."

"I know," said Matho.

Spendius resumed: "It is itself divine, for it forms part of her. The
gods reside where their images are. It is because Carthage possesses
it that Carthage is powerful." Then leaning over to his ear: "I have
brought you with me to carry it off!"

Matho recoiled in horror. "Begone! look for some one else! I will not
help you in this execrable crime!"

"But Tanith is your enemy," retorted Spendius; "she is persecuting you
and you are dying through her wrath. You will be revenged upon her. She
will obey you, and you will become almost immortal and invincible."

Matho bent his head. Spendius continued:

"We should succumb; the army would be annihilated of itself. We have
neither flight, nor succour, nor pardon to hope for! What chastisement
from the gods can you be afraid of since you will have their power in
your own hands? Would you rather die on the evening of a defeat, in
misery beneath the shelter of a bush, or amid the outrages of the
populace and the flames of funeral piles? Master, one day you will enter
Carthage among the colleges of the pontiffs, who will kiss your sandals;
and if the veil of Tanith weighs upon you still, you will reinstate it
in its temple. Follow me! come and take it."

Matho was consumed by a terrible longing. He would have liked to possess
the veil while refraining from the sacrilege. He said to himself that
perhaps it would not be necessary to take it in order to monopolise its
virtue. He did not go to the bottom of his thought but stopped at the
boundary, where it terrified him.

"Come on!" he said; and they went off with rapid strides, side by side,
and without speaking.

The ground rose again, and the dwellings were near. They turned again
into the narrow streets amid the darkness. The strips of esparto-grass
with which the doors were closed, beat against the walls. Some camels
were ruminating in a square before heaps of cut grass. Then they passed
beneath a gallery covered with foliage. A pack of dogs were barking. But
suddenly the space grew wider and they recognised the western face of
the Acropolis. At the foot of Byrsa there stretched a long black mass:
it was the temple of Tanith, a whole made up of monuments and galleries,
courts and fore-courts, and bounded by a low wall of dry stones.
Spendius and Matho leaped over it.

This first barrier enclosed a wood of plane-trees as a precaution
against plague and infection in the air. Tents were scattered here
and there, in which, during the daytime, depilatory pastes,
perfumes, garments, moon-shaped cakes, and images of the goddess with
representations of the temple hollowed out in blocks of alabaster, were
on sale.

They had nothing to fear, for on nights when the planet did not appear,
all rites were suspended; nevertheless Matho slackened his speed, and
stopped before the three ebony steps leading to the second enclosure.

"Forward!" said Spendius.

Pomegranate, almond trees, cypresses and myrtles alternated in regular
succession; the path, which was paved with blue pebbles, creaked beneath
their footsteps, and full-blown roses formed a hanging bower over the
whole length of the avenue. They arrived before an oval hole protected
by a grating. Then Matho, who was frightened by the silence, said to
Spendius:

"It is here that they mix the fresh water and the bitter."

"I have seen all that," returned the former slave, "in Syria, in
the town of Maphug"; and they ascended into the third enclosure by a
staircase of six silver steps.

A huge cedar occupied the centre. Its lowest branches were hidden
beneath scraps of material and necklaces hung upon them by the faithful.
They walked a few steps further on, and the front of the temple was
displayed before them.

Two long porticoes, with their architraves resting on dumpy pillars,
flanked a quadrangular tower, the platform of which was adorned with
the crescent of a moon. On the angles of the porticoes and at the four
corners of the tower stood vases filled with kindled aromatics. The
capitals were laden with pomegranates and coloquintidas. Twining knots,
lozenges, and rows of pearls alternated on the walls, and a hedge of
silver filigree formed a wide semicircle in front of the brass staircase
which led down from the vestibule.

There was a cone of stone at the entrance between a stela of gold and
one of emerald, and Matho kissed his right hand as he passed beside it.

The first room was very lofty; its vaulted roof was pierced by
numberless apertures, and if the head were raised the stars might be
seen. All round the wall rush baskets were heaped up with the first
fruits of adolescence in the shape of beards and curls of hair; and in
the centre of the circular apartment the body of a woman issued from a
sheath which was covered with breasts. Fat, bearded, and with eyelids
downcast, she looked as though she were smiling, while her hands were
crossed upon the lower part of her big body, which was polished by the
kisses of the crowd.

Then they found themselves again in the open air in a transverse
corridor, wherein there was an altar of small dimensions leaning against
an ivory door. There was no further passage; the priests alone could
open it; for the temple was not a place of meeting for the multitude,
but the private abode of a divinity.

"The enterprise is impossible," said Matho. "You had not thought of
this! Let us go back!" Spendius was examining the walls.

He wanted the veil, not because he had confidence in its virtue
(Spendius believed only in the Oracle), but because he was persuaded
that the Carthaginians would be greatly dismayed on seeing themselves
deprived of it. They walked all round behind in order to find some
outlet.

Aedicules of different shapes were visible beneath clusters of
turpentine trees. Here and there rose a stone phallus, and large stags
roamed peacefully about, spurning the fallen fir-cones with their cloven
hoofs.

But they retraced their steps between two long galleries which ran
parallel to each other. There were small open cells along their sides,
and tabourines and cymbals hung against their cedar columns from top to
bottom. Women were sleeping stretched on mats outside the cells. Their
bodies were greasy with unguents, and exhaled an odour of spices and
extinguished perfuming-pans; while they were so covered with tattooings,
necklaces, rings, vermilion, and antimony that, but for the motion of
their breasts, they might have been taken for idols as they lay thus on
the ground. There were lotus-trees encircling a fountain in which fish
like Salammbo's were swimming; and then in the background, against the
wall of the temple, spread a vine, the branches of which were of glass
and the grape-bunches of emerald, the rays from the precious stones
making a play of light through the painted columns upon the sleeping
faces.

Matho felt suffocated in the warm atmosphere pressed down upon him by
the cedar partitions. All these symbols of fecundation, these perfumes,
radiations, and breathings overwhelmed him. Through all the mystic
dazzling he kept thinking of Salammbo. She became confused with the
goddess herself, and his loved unfolded itself all the more, like the
great lotus-plants blooming upon the depths of the waters.

Spendius was calculating how much money he would have made in former
days by the sale of these women; and with a rapid glance he estimated
the weight of the golden necklaces as he passed by.

The temple was impenetrable on this side as on the other, and they
returned behind the first chamber. While Spendius was searching and
ferreting, Matho was prostrate before the door supplicating Tanith. He
besought her not to permit the sacrilege, and strove to soften her with
caressing words, such as are used to an angry person.

Spendius noticed a narrow aperture above the door.

"Rise!" he said to Matho, and he made him stand erect with his back
against the wall. Placing one foot in his hands, and then the other
upon his head, he reached up to the air-hole, made his way into it and
disappeared. Then Matho felt a knotted cord - that one which Spendius
had rolled around his body before entering the cisterns - fall upon his
shoulders, and bearing upon it with both hands he soon found himself by
the side of the other in a large hall filled with shadow.

Such an attempt was something extraordinary. The inadequacy of the
means for preventing it was a sufficient proof that it was considered
impossible. The sanctuaries were protected by terror more than by their
walls. Matho expected to die at every step.

However a light was flickering far back in the darkness, and they went
up to it. It was a lamp burning in a shell on the pedestal of a statue
which wore the cap of the Kabiri. Its long blue robe was strewn with
diamond discs, and its heels were fastened to the ground by chains which
sank beneath the pavement. Matho suppressed a cry. "Ah! there she is!
there she is!" he stammered out. Spendius took up the lamp in order to
light himself.

"What an impious man you are!" murmured Matho, following him
nevertheless.

The apartment which they entered had nothing in it but a black painting
representing another woman. Her legs reached to the top of the wall, and
her body filled the entire ceiling; a huge egg hung by a thread from her
navel, and she fell head downwards upon the other wall, reaching as far
as the level of the pavement, which was touched by her pointed fingers.

They drew a hanging aside, in order to go on further; but the wind blew
and the light went out.

Then they wandered about, lost in the complications of the architecture.
Suddenly they felt something strangely soft beneath their feet. Sparks
crackled and leaped; they were walking in fire. Spendius touched the
ground and perceived that it was carefully carpeted with lynx skins;
then it seemed to them that a big cord, wet, cold, and viscous, was
gliding between their legs. Through some fissures cut in the wall there
fell thin white rays, and they advanced by this uncertain light. At last
they distinguished a large black serpent. It darted quickly away and
disappeared.

"Let us fly!" exclaimed Matho. "It is she! I feel her; she is coming."

"No, no," replied Spendius, "the temple is empty."

Then a dazzling light made them lower their eyes. Next they perceived
all around them an infinite number of beasts, lean, panting, with
bristling claws, and mingled together one above another in a mysterious
and terrifying confusion. There were serpents with feet, and bulls
with wings, fishes with human heads were devouring fruit, flowers were
blooming in the jaws of crocodiles, and elephants with uplifted trunks
were sailing proudly through the azure like eagles. Their incomplete or
multiplied limbs were distended with terrible exertion. As they thrust
out their tongues they looked as though they would fain give forth
their souls; and every shape was to be found among them as if the
germ-receptacle had been suddenly hatched and had burst, emptying itself
upon the walls of the hall.

Round the latter were twelve globes of blue crystal, supported by
monsters resembling tigers. Their eyeballs were starting out of their
heads like those of snails, with their dumpy loins bent they were
turning round towards the background where the supreme Rabbet, the
Omnifecund, the last invented, shone splendid in a chariot of ivory.

She was covered with scales, feathers, flowers, and birds as high as the
waist. For earrings she had silver cymbals, which flapped against her
cheeks. Her large fixed eyes gazed upon you, and a luminous stone,
set in an obscene symbol on her brow, lighted the whole hall by its
reflection in red copper mirrors above the door.

Matho stood a step forward; but a flag stone yielded beneath his heels
and immediately the spheres began to revolve and the monsters to roar;
music rose melodious and pealing, like the harmony of the planets; the
tumultuous soul of Tanith was poured streaming forth. She was about to
arise, as lofty as the hall and with open arms. Suddenly the monsters
closed their jaws and the crystal globes revolved no more.

Then a mournful modulation lingered for a time through the air and at
last died away.

"And the veil?" said Spendius.

Nowhere could it be seen. Where was it to be found? How could it be
discovered? What if the priests had hidden it? Matho experienced anguish
of heart and felt as though he had been deceived in his belief.

"This way!" whispered Spendius. An inspiration guided him. He drew Matho
behind Tanith's chariot, where a cleft a cubit wide ran down the wall
from top to bottom.

Then they penetrated into a small and completely circular room, so lofty
that it was like the interior of a pillar. In the centre there was a
big black stone, of semispherical shape like a tabourine; flames were
burning upon it; an ebony cone, bearing a head and two arms, rose
behind.

But beyond it seemed as though there were a cloud wherein were twinkling
stars; faces appeared in the depths of its folds - Eschmoun with the
Kabiri, some of the monsters that had already been seen, the sacred
beasts of the Babylonians, and others with which they were not
acquainted. It passed beneath the idol's face like a mantle, and spread
fully out was drawn up on the wall to which it was fastened by the
corners, appearing at once bluish as the night, yellow as the dawn,
purple as the sun, multitudinous, diaphanous, sparkling light. It was
the mantle of the goddess, the holy zaimph which might not be seen.

Both turned pale.

"Take it!" said Matho at last.

Spendius did not hesitate, and leaning upon the idol he unfastened the
veil, which sank to the ground. Matho laid his hand upon it; then he put
his head through the opening, then he wrapped it about his body, and he
spread out his arms the better to view it.

"Let us go!" said Spendius.

Matho stood panting with his eyes fixed upon the pavement. Suddenly he
exclaimed:

"But what if I went to her? I fear her beauty no longer! What could she
do to me? I am now more than a man. I could pass through flames or walk
upon the sea! I am transported! Salammbo! Salammbo! I am your master!"

His voice was like thunder. He seemed to Spendius to have grown taller
and transformed.

A sound of footsteps drew near, a door opened, and a man appeared, a
priest with lofty cap and staring eyes. Before he could make a gesture
Spendius had rushed upon him, and clasping him in his arms had buried
both his daggers in his sides. His head rang upon the pavement.

Then they stood for a while, as motionless as the corpse, listening.
Nothing could be heard but the murmuring of the wind through the
half-opened door.

The latter led into a narrow passage. Spendius advanced along it, Matho
followed him, and they found themselves almost immediately in the third
enclosure, between the lateral porticoes, in which were the dwellings of
the priests.

Behind the cells there must be a shorter way out. They hastened along.

Spendius squatted down at the edge of the fountain and washed his
bloodstained hands. The women slept. The emerald vine shone. They
resumed their advance.

But something was running behind them under the trees; and Matho, who
bore the veil, several times felt that it was being pulled very gently
from below. It was a large cynocephalus, one of those which dwelt at
liberty within the enclosure of the goddess. It clung to the mantle as
though it had been conscious of the theft. They did not dare to strike
it, however, fearing that it might redouble its cries; suddenly its
anger subsided, and it trotted close beside them swinging its body with
its long hanging arms. Then at the barrier it leaped at a bound into a
palm tree.

When they had left the last enclosure they directed their steps towards
Hamilcar's palace, Spendius understanding that it would be useless to
try to dissuade Matho.

They went by the street of the Tanners, the square of Muthumbal, the
green market and the crossways of Cynasyn. At the angle of a wall a man
drew back frightened by the sparkling thing which pierced the darkness.

"Hide the zaimph!" said Spendius.

Other people passed them, but without perceiving them.

At last they recognised the houses of Megara.

The pharos, which was built behind them on the summit of the cliff,
lit up the heavens with a great red brightness, and the shadow of the
palace, with its rising terraces, projected a monstrous pyramid, as it
were, upon the gardens. They entered through the hedge of jujube-trees,
beating down the branches with blows of the dagger.

The traces of the feast of the Mercenaries were everywhere still
manifest. The parks were broken up, the trenches drained, the doors
of the ergastulum open. No one was to be seen about the kitchens or
cellars. They wondered at the silence, which was occasionally broken by
the hoarse breathing of the elephants moving in their shackles, and the
crepitation of the pharos, in which a pile of aloes was burning.

Matho, however, kept repeating:

"But where is she? I wish to see her! Lead me!"

"It is a piece of insanity!" Spendius kept saying. "She will call, her
slaves will run up, and in spite of your strength you will die!"

They reached thus the galley staircase. Matho raised his head, and
thought that he could perceive far above a vague brightness, radiant and
soft. Spendius sought to restrain him, but he dashed up the steps.



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