The Young Carthaginian by G. A. Henty
Chapter X: Beset
During the winter Hannibal made every preparation to ensure the tranquillity of Spain while he was absent. In order to lessen the number of possible enemies there he raised a body of twelve hundred horse and fourteen thousand infantry from among the most turbulent tribes, and sent them across to Africa to serve as garrisons in Carthage and other points, while an equal number of African troops were brought over to garrison Spain, of which Hasdrubal, Hannibal's brother, was to have the government during his absence.
Hanno, an able general, was to command the force which was to be left in southern Gaul to keep open the communications between the Pyrenees and the Alps, while the youngest brother, Mago, a youth of about the same age as Malchus, was to accompany him to Italy. Hannibal's wife and a child which had been born in the preceding spring, were sent by ship to Carthage.
In the early spring the march commenced, the army following the coast line until it reached the mouth of the Ebro. The mountainous and broken country lying between this river and the Pyrenees, and now known as Catalonia, was inhabited by fierce tribes unconquered as yet by Roman or Carthaginian. Its conquest presented enormous difficulties. There was no coherence between its people; but each valley and mountain was a stronghold to be defended desperately until the last. The inhabitants, accustomed to the mountains, were hardy, active, and, vigourous, ready to oppose a desperate resistance so long as resistance was possible, and then to flee across their hills at a speed which defied the fleetest of their pursuers.
Every man was a soldier, and at the first alarm the inhabitants of the villages abandoned their houses, buried their grain, and having driven away their cattle into almost inaccessible recesses among the hills, returned to oppose the invaders. The conquest of such a people was one of the most difficult of undertakings, as the French generals of Napoleon afterwards discovered, to their cost. The cruelty of the mountaineers was equal to their courage, and the lapse of two thousand years changed them but little, for in their long struggle against the French they massacred every detachment whom they could surprise among the hills, murdered the wounded who fell into their hands, and poisoned wells and grain.
The army which Hannibal had brought to the foot of this country through which he had to pass, amounted to 102,000 men, of which 12,000 were cavalry and 90,000 infantry. This force passed the Ebro in three bodies of equal strength. The natives opposed a desperate resistance, but the three columns pressed forward on parallel lines. The towns were besieged and captured, and after two months of desperate fighting Catalonia was subdued, but its conquest cost Hannibal twenty-one thousand men, a fifth of his whole army. Hanno was for the time left here with ten thousand infantry and a thousand cavalry. He was to suppress any fresh rising, to hold the large towns, to form magazines for the army, and to keep open the passes of the Pyrenees. He fixed his headquarters at Burgos. His operations were facilitated by the fact that along the line of the sea coast were a number of Phoenician colonies who were natural allies of the Carthaginians, and aided them in every way in their power. Before advancing through the passes of the Pyrenees Hannibal still further reduced the strength of his force by weeding out all those who had in the conflict among the mountains shown themselves wanting in personal strength or in military qualities. Giving these leave to return home he advanced at the head of fifty thousand picked infantry and nine thousand cavalry.
The company under Malchus had rendered good service during the campaign of Catalonia. It had accompanied the column marching by the seashore; with this were the elephants, the treasure, and the heavy baggage of the army. It had throughout been in advance of the column, feeling the way, protecting it from ambushes, and dispersing any small bodies of tribesmen who might have placed themselves on heights, whence with arrows and slings they could harass the column on its march. The company had lost comparatively few men in the campaign, for it had taken no part in the various sieges. Its duties, however, were severe in the extreme. The men were ever on the watch, scouting the country round, while the army was engaged in siege operations, sometimes ascending mountains whence they could command views over the interior or pursuing bands of tribesmen to their refuges among the hills.
Severely as Malchus had trained himself in every exercise, he found it at first difficult to support the fatigues of such a life; but every day his muscles hardened, and by the end of the campaign he was able to keep on foot as long as the hardest of his men.
One day he had followed a party of the tribesmen far up among the mountains. The enemy had scattered, and the Arabs in their hot pursuit had also broken up into small parties. Malchus kept his eye upon the man who appeared to be the chief of the enemy's party, and pressing hotly upon him brought him to bay on the face of a steep and rugged gorge. Only one of the Numidians was at hand, a man named Nessus, who was greatly attached to his young leader, and always kept close to him in his expeditions. The savage, a bulky and heavy man, finding he could no longer keep ahead of his fleet footed pursuers, took his post at a narrow point in the path where but one could oppose him; and there, with his heavy sword drawn, he awaited the attack. Malchus advanced to meet him, sword in hand, when an arrow from Nessus whizzed past him and struck the chief in the throat, and his body fell heavily down the rocks.
"That is not fair," Malchus said angrily. "I would fain have fought him hand to hand."
The Arab bowed his head.
"My lord," he said, "the combat would not have been even; the man had the upper ground, and you would have fought at a grievous disadvantage. Why should you risk your life in a fight with the swords, when my arrow has answered all purposes? What should I have said if I had gone back without you? What satisfaction would it have been to me to avenge your fall? What would they have said to me when I told them that I looked on idly while you engaged in such a struggle? Valour is valour, and we all know that my lord is the bravest among us; but the life of the cousin of our general is too valuable to be risked for nought when we are embarked upon a great enterprise."
"Look, Nessus! what is there?" Malchus exclaimed, his attention attracted by a dark object which was crossing the narrow path some distance ahead and ascending the steep side of the gorge. "It is a bear, let us follow him; his flesh will form a welcome change for the company tonight."
The bear, who had been prowling in the bottom of the ravine, had been disturbed by the fall of the body of the savage near him, and started hastily to return to its abode, which lay high up on the face of the cliff. Malchus and his companion hurried forward to the spot where it had crossed the path. The way was plain enough; there were scratches on the rock, and the bushes growing in the crevices were beaten down. The path had evidently been frequently used by the animal.
"Look out, my lord!" Nessus exclaimed as Malchus hurried along. "These bears of the Pyrenees are savage brutes. See that he does not take you unawares."
The rocks were exceedingly steep; and Malchus, with his bow in his hand and the arrow fitted and ready to draw, climbed on, keeping his eyes on every clump of bush lest the bear should be lurking there. At last he paused. They had reached a spot now but a short distance from the top. The cliff here fell almost perpendicularly down, and along its face was a narrow ledge scarcely a foot wide. Along this it was evident the bear had passed.
"I should think we must be near his den now, Nessus. I trust this ledge widens out before it gets there. It would be an awkward place for a conflict, for a stroke of his paw would send one over the edge."
"I shall be close behind you, my lord," said Nessus, whose blood was now up with the chase. "Should you fall to stop him, drop on one knee that I may shoot over you."
For some fifty yards the ledge continued unbroken. Malchus moved along cautiously, with his arrow in the string and his shield shifted round his shoulder, in readiness for instant action. Suddenly, upon turning a sharp corner of the cliff, he saw it widened ten feet ahead into a sort of platform lying in the angle of the cliff, which beyond it again jutted out. On this platform was a bear, which with an angry growl at once advanced towards him. Malchus discharged his arrow; it struck the bear full on the chest, and penetrated deeply. With a stroke of his paw the animal broke the shaft asunder and rushed forward. Malchus threw forward the point of his spear, and with his shield on his arm awaited the onset He struck the bear fairly on the chest, but, as before, it snapped the shaft with its paw, and rising to its feet advanced.
"Kneel, my lord!" Nessus exclaimed.
Malchus dropped on one knee, bracing himself as firmly as he could against the rock, and, with his shield above his head and his sword in his hand, awaited the attack of the enraged animal. He heard the twang of the bow behind him; then he felt a mighty blow, which beat down his shield and descended with terrible force upon his helmet, throwing him forward on to his face. Then there was a heavy blow on his back; and it was well for him that he had on backpiece as well as breastplate, or the flesh would have been torn from his shoulder to his loins. As the blow fell there was an angry roar. For a moment he felt crushed by a weight which fell upon him. This was suddenly removed, and he heard a crash far below as the bear, pierced to the heart by the Arab's spear, fell over the precipice. Nessus hastened to raise him.
"My lord is not hurt, I hope?"
"In no way, Nessus, thanks to you; but my head swims and my arm is well nigh broken with that blow. Who would have thought a beast like that could have struck so hard? See, he has dented in my helmet and has bent my shield! Now, before we go back and search for the body, let us see what its den is like."
"Do you take my spear, my lord; your own is broken, and your bow has gone over the precipice. It may be that there is another bear here. Where one is, the other is seldom far off."
They advanced on to the platform, and saw in the corner of the angle a cave entering some distance into the hill. As they approached the entrance a deep growl was heard within.
"We had best leave it alone, my lord," Nessus said as they both recoiled a step at the entrance. "This is doubtless the female, and these are larger and fiercer than the males."
"I agree with you, Nessus," Malchus said. "Were we on other ground I should say let us attack it, but I have had enough of fighting bears on the edge of a precipice. There is as much meat as we can carry ready for us below. Besides, the hour is late and the men will be getting uneasy. Moreover, we are but half armed; and we cannot get at her without crawling through that hole, which is scarce three feet high. Altogether, we had best leave her alone."
While they were speaking the bear began to roar angrily, the deeper notes being mingled with a chorus of snarls and whinings which showed that there was a young family with her.
"Do you go first, Nessus," Malchus said. "The rear is the post of honour here, though I fancy the beast does not mean to come out."
Nessus without a word took the lead, and advanced across the platform towards the corner.
As he was in the act of turning it he sprang suddenly back, while an arrow flew past, grazing the corner of the rock.
"There are a score of natives on the path!" he exclaimed. "We are in a trap."
Malchus looked round in dismay. It was evident that some of the natives must have seen the fall of their leader and watched them pursue the bear, and had now closed in behind them to cut off their retreat. The situation was a most unpleasant one. The ledge extended no further than the platform; below, the precipice fell away sheer down a hundred feet; above, it rose as high. The narrow path was occupied with numerous foes. In the den behind them was the angry bear.
For a moment the two men looked at each other in consternation.
"We are fairly caught, Nessus," Malchus said. "There is one thing, they can no more attack us than we can attack them. Only one can come round this corner at a time, and we can shoot or spear them as they do so. We are tolerably safe from attack, but they can starve us out."
"They can shoot over from the other side of the ravine," Nessus said; "their arrows will carry from the opposite brow easily enough."
"Then," Malchus said firmly, "we must dispose of the bear; we must have the cave. We shall be safe there from their arrows, while, lying at the entrance, we could shoot any that should venture past the corner. First, though, I will blow my horn. Some of our men may be within hearing."
Malchus pulled forth the horn which he carried. It was useless, being completely flattened with the blow that the bear had struck him.
"That hope is gone, Nessus," he said. "Now let us get the bear to come out as soon as possible, and finish with her. Do you stand at the corner with your arrow ready, in case the natives should try to surprise us, and be ready to aid me when she rushes out."
Malchus went to the mouth of the den, struck his spear against the side, and threw in some pieces of stone; but, although the growling was deep and continuous, the bear showed no signs of an intention of coming out.
The Arab was an old hunter, and he now asked Malchus to take his place with the bow while he drove the bear out. He first took off his bernous, cut off several strips from the bottom, knotted them together, and then twisted the strip into a rope. Growing out from a crevice in the rock, some three feet above the top of the cave, was a young tree; and round this, close to the root, Nessus fastened one end of his rope, the other he formed into a slip-knot and let the noose fall in front of the cave, keeping it open with two twigs placed across it. Then he gathered some brushwood and placed it at the entrance, put a bunch of dried twigs and dead leaves among it, and, striking a light with his flint and steel on some dried fungus, placed this in the middle of the sticks and blew upon it. In a minute a flame leaped up. "Now, my lord," he said, "be ready with your sword and spear. The beast will be out in a minute; she cannot stand the smoke."
Malchus ran to the corner and looked round. The natives were at a distance along the ledge, evidently with no intention of attacking a foe of whom they felt sure. A taunting shout was raised and an arrow flew towards him, but he instantly withdrew his head and ran back to the platform.
A minute later there was a fierce growl and the bear rushed out. The brushwood was scattered as, checked suddenly in its rush by the noose, the animal rose on its hind legs. In an instant the spear of Nessus was plunged deeply into it on one side, while Malchus buried his sword to the hilt in its body under the fore shoulder of the other. Stabbed to the heart, the beast fell prostrate. Nessus repeated his blow, but the animal was dead. Five young bears rushed out after their mother, growling and snapping; but as these were only about a quarter grown they were easily despatched.
"There is a supply of food for a long time," Malchus said cheerfully; "and as there is a drip of water coming down in this angle we shall be able to quench our thirst. Ah! we are just in time."
As he spoke an arrow struck the rock close to them and dropped at their feet. Others came in rapid succession; and, looking at the brow of the opposite side of the ravine, they saw a number of natives.
"Pull the bear's body across the mouth of the cave," Malchus said, "it will prevent the arrows which strike the rock in front from glancing in. The little bears will do for food at present."
They were soon in the cave, which opened beyond the entrance and extended some distance into the mountain; it was seven or eight feet wide and lofty enough to stand upright in. Nessus lay down behind the bear, with his bow and arrow so as to command the angle of the rock. Malchus seated himself further in the cave, sheltered by the entrance from the arrows which from time to time glanced in at the mouth. Only once did Nessus have to shoot. The natives on the ledge, informed by their comrades on the opposite side of the gorge that their foes had sought refuge in the cave, ventured to advance; but the moment the first turned the corner he fell over the precipice, transfixed by an arrow from the bow of Nessus, and the rest hastily retreated.
"Hand me your flint and steel, Nessus, and a piece of fungus. I may as well have a look round the cave."
A light was soon procured, and Malchus found that the cave extended some fifty feet back, narrowing gradually to the end. It had evidently been used for a long time by wild animals. The floor was completely covered with dry bones of various sizes.
As soon as he saw that this was the case Malchus tore off a strip of his linen shirt, and rolling it into a ball set it on fire. On this he piled up small bones, which caught readily, and he soon had a bright and almost smokeless fire. He now took the place of Nessus. The latter skinned and cut up one of the small bears, and soon had some steaks broiling over the fire. By this time it was getting dusk without.
When the meat was cooked Nessus satisfied his hunger and then sallied out from the cave and took his post as sentry with his spear close to the angle of the rock, as by this time the natives on the opposite side, being no longer able to see in the gathering darkness, had ceased to shoot. Malchus ate his food at his leisure, and then joined his companion.
"We must get out of here somehow, Nessus. Our company will search for us tomorrow; but they might search for a week without finding us here; and, as the army is advancing, they could not spare more than a day; so, if we are to get away, it must be by our own exertions."
"I am ready to fight my way along this ledge, my lord, if such is your wish. They cannot see us to fire at, and as only one man can stand abreast, their numbers would be of no avail to them."
"Not on the ledge, Nessus; but they would hardly defend that. No doubt they are grouped at the further end, and we should have to fight against overwhelming numbers. No, that is not to be thought of. The only way of escape I can think of would be to let ourselves down the precipice; but our bernouses would not make a rope long enough."
"They would not reach a third of the distance," Nessus replied, shaking his head. "They have been worn some time, and the cloth is no longer strong. It would need a broad strip to support us."
"That is so, Nessus, but we have materials for making the rope long enough, nevertheless."
"I do not understand you, my lord. Our other garments would be of but little use."
"Of no use at all, Nessus, and I was not thinking of them; but we have the skins of the bears -- the hide of the old bear at least is thick and tough -- and a narrow strip would bear our weight."
"Of course," Nessus said. "How stupid of me not to think of it, for in the desert we make all our rope of twisted slips of hide. If you will stand sentry here, my lord, I will set about it at once."
Malchus took the spear, and Nessus at once set to work to skin the bear, and when that was done he cut long strips from the hide, and having fastened them together, twisted them into a rope.
The bernouses -- which when on the march were rolled up and worn over one shoulder like a scarf, as the German and Italian soldiers carry their blankets in modern times -- were also cut up and twisted, and in three hours Nessus had a rope which he assured Malchus was long enough to reach to the bottom of the precipice and sufficiently strong to bear their weight.
One end was fastened to the trunk of the young tree, and the rope was then thrown over the edge of the platform. One of the young bear's skins was fastened round and round it at the point where it crossed the edge of the rocky platform, to prevent it from being cut when the weight was put upon it, and they then prepared for their descent.
"Do you go first," Malchus said. "As soon as I feel that the rope is loose, I will follow you."
The Arab swung himself off the edge, and in a very short time Malchus felt the rope slacken. He followed at once. The first twenty feet the descent was absolutely perpendicular, but after that the rock inclined outward in a steep but pretty regular slope. Malchus was no longer hanging by the rope; but throwing the principal portion of his weight still upon it, and placing his feet on the inequalities of the rock, he made his way down without difficulty. Presently he stood by Nessus at the foot of the slope.
"We had better make up the ravine. There will be numbers of them at its mouth. We can see the glow of their fires from here."
"But we may not be able to find a way up," Nessus said; "the sides seem to get steeper and steeper, and we may find ourselves caught in a trap at the end of this gorge." `At any rate we will try that way first. I wish the moon was up; it is as black as a wolf's mouth here, and the bottom of the gorge is all covered with boulders. If we stumble, and our arms strike a stone, it will be heard by the natives on the opposite heights."
They now set forward, feeling their way with the greatest care; but in the dense darkness the task of making their way among the boulders was difficult in the extreme. They had proceeded but a short distance when a loud yell rose from the height above them. It was repeated again and again, and was answered by shouts from the opposite side and from the mouth of the ravine.
"By Astarte!" Malchus exclaimed, "they have found out that we have escaped already."
It was so. One of the natives had crept forward along the path, hoping to find the sentry asleep, or to steal up noiselessly and stab him. When he got to the angle of the rock he could see no form before him, nor hear the slightest sound. Creeping forward he found the platform deserted. He listened attentively at the entrance to the cave, and the keen ear of the savage would have detected had any been slumbering there; but all was still.
He rose to his feet with the intention of creeping into the cave, when his head struck against something. He put up his hand and felt the rope, and saw how the fugitives had escaped. He at once gave the alarm to his comrades. In a minute or two a score of men with blazing brands came running along the path. On seeing the rope, they entered the cave, and found that their prey had really escaped.
Malchus and his companion had not moved after the alarm was given.
"We had better be going, my lord," the Arab said as he saw the men with torches retracing their steps along the brow. "They will soon be after us."
"I think not, Nessus. Their chance of finding us among these boulders in the dark would be small, and they would offer such good marks to our arrows that they would hardly enter upon it. No, I think they will wait till daybreak, planting a strong force at the mouth of the ravine, and along both sides of the end, wherever an ascent could be made. Hark, the men on the heights there are calling to others along the brow."
"Very well, my lord," Nessus said, seating himself on a rock, "then we will sell our lives as dearly as possible."
"I hope it has not come to that, Nessus. There is a chance of safety for us yet. The only place they are not likely to look for us is the cave, and as we have climbed down from above with the rope, there will be no difficulty in ascending."
Nessus gave an exclamation, which expressed at once admiration of his leader's idea and gratification at the thought of escape. They began without delay to retrace their steps, and after some trouble again found the rope.
Nessus mounted first; his bare feet enabled him to grip any inequality of the surface of the rock. Whenever he came to a ledge which afforded him standing room he shook the rope, and waited until Malchus joined him.
At last they stood together at the foot of the perpendicular rock at the top. The lightly armed Arab found no difficulty whatever in climbing the rope; but it was harder work for Malchus, encumbered with the weight of his armour. The numerous knots, however, helped him, and when he was within a few feet of the top, Nessus seized the rope and hauled it up by sheer strength until Malchus was level with the top. Then he gave him his hand, and assisted him to gain his feet. They entered the cave and made their way to the further end, and there threw themselves down. They had not long been there when they saw a flash of light at the mouth of the cave and heard voices.
Malchus seized his spear and would have leaped to his feet, but Nessus pressed his hand on his shoulder.
"They are come for the she bear," he said. "It is not likely they will enter."
Lying hidden in the darkness the fugitives watched the natives roll the bear over, tie its legs together, and put a stout pole through them. Then four men lifted the pole on their shoulders and started.
Another holding a brand entered the cave. The two fugitives held their breath, and Nessus sat with an arrow in the string ready to shoot. The brand, however, gave but a feeble light, and the native, picking up the bodies of three of the young bears, which lay close to the entrance, threw them over his shoulder, and crawled back out of the cave again. As they heard his departing footsteps the fugitives drew a long breath of relief.
Nessus rose and made his way cautiously out of the cave. He returned in a minute.
"They have taken the rope with them," he said, "and it is well, for when they have searched the valley tomorrow, were it hanging there, it might occur to them that we have made our way up. Now that it is gone they can never suspect that we have returned here."
"There is no chance of our being disturbed again tonight, Nessus. We can sleep as securely as if were in our camp."
So saying, Malchus chose a comfortable place, and was soon asleep.
Nessus, however, did not lie down, but sat watching with unwearied eyes the entrance to the cave. As soon as day had fairly broken, a chorus of loud shouts and yells far down the ravine told that the search had begun. For hours it continued. Every bush and boulder in the bottom was searched by the natives.
Again and again they went up and down the gorge, convinced that the fugitives must be hidden somewhere; for, as Nessus had anticipated, the cliffs at the upper end were so precipitous that an escape there was impossible, and the natives had kept so close a watch all night along the slopes at the lower end, and at the mouth, that they felt sure that their prey could not have escaped them unseen. And yet at last they were forced to come to the confusion that in some inexplicable way this must have been the case, for how else could they have escaped? The thought that they had reascended by the rope before it was removed, and that they were hidden in the cave at the time the bodies of the bear and its cubs were carried away, never occurred to them.
All day they wandered about in the bottom of the ravine, searching every possible place, and sometimes removing boulders with great labour, where these were piled together in such a manner that any one could be hidden beneath them.
At nightfall they feasted upon the body of the bear first killed, which had been found where it had fallen in the ravine. The body of one of the young bears which lay far up the cave, had escaped their search, and a portion of this furnished a meal to the two prisoners, who were, however, obliged to eat it raw, being afraid to light a fire, lest the smoke, however slight, should be observed coming out at the entrance.
The next morning, so far as they could see, the place was deserted by the natives. Lying far back in the cave they could see that the men on the opposite side of the ravine had retired; but as it was quite possible that the natives, feeling still convinced that the fugitives must be hidden somewhere, had set a watch at some spot commanding a view of the whole ravine, they did not venture to show themselves at the entrance.
After making another meal of the bear, they sallied out, when it again became dark, and made their way along the path. When they neared the end they saw a party of the enemy sitting round a great fire at the mouth of the ravine below them. They retired a short distance, and sat down patiently until at last the fire burned low, and the natives, leaving two of the party on watch, lay down to sleep. Then Malchus and his companion rose to their feet, and made their way along the path. When they were nearly abreast of the fire, Malchus happened to tread upon a loose stone, which went bouncing down the side of the hill.
The scouts gave a shout, which called their companions to their feet, and started up the hillside towards the spot where the stone had fallen.
Nessus discharged an arrow, which struck full on the chest of the leader of the party, and then followed Malchus along the hillside.
A shout of rage broke from the natives as their comrade fell; but without pausing they pushed on. Malchus did not hurry. Silence now was of more importance than speed. He strode along, then, with a rapid but careful step, Nessus following closely behind him. The shouts of the savages soon showed that they were at fault. Malchus listened attentively as he went. Whenever the babel of tongues ceased for a moment he stopped perfectly still, and only ventured on when they were renewed.
At last they had placed a long gap between them and their pursuers, and came out on a level shoulder of the hill. They continued their way until they found themselves at the edge of the forest. It was so dark under the trees that they could no longer advance, and Malchus therefore determined to wait till the dawn should enable them to continue their journey. Whether they were in a clump of trees or in the forest, which covered a large portion of the mountain side, they were unable to tell; nor, as not a single star could be seen, had they any indication of the direction which they should take. Retiring then for some little distance among the trees, they lay down and were soon asleep.
When the first dawn of day appeared they were on their way again, and soon found that the trees under which they had slept formed part of the forest. Through occasional openings, formed by trees which had fallen from age or tempest, they obtained a view of the surrounding country, and were enabled to form an idea where lay the camp which they had left two days before.
They had not proceeded far when they heard in the distance behind them the shouting of men and the barking of dogs, and knew that the enemy were upon their track. They ran now at the top of their speed, convinced, however, that the natives, who would have to follow the track, could not travel as fast as they did. Suddenly Malchus stopped.
"Listen!" he said. They paused, and far down the hillside heard the distant sound of a horn. "Those must be our men," Malchus exclaimed, "they are searching for us still; Hannibal must have allowed them to stay behind when the army proceeded on its way."
In another half hour the horn sounded close at hand and they were speedily among a body of Malchus' own followers, who received them with shouts of delight. The men were utterly worn out, for they had searched continuously day and night from the time they had missed their leader, sometimes high up among the hills, sometimes among the lower valleys. The party which he met comprised but a fourth of the band, for they had divided into four parties, the better to range the country.
They were now ascending the hills again at a distance of two miles apart, and messengers were at once sent off to the other bodies to inform them that Malchus had returned. Malchus quickly recounted to his men the story of what had befallen them, and then bade them lie down to rest while he and Nessus kept watch.
The natives who had been in pursuit did not make their appearance, having doubtless heard the horn which told of the approach of a body of the Carthaginians. In two hours the whole of the band were collected, and after a few hours' halt, to enable the men to recover from their long fatigue and sleeplessness, Malchus put himself at their head and they marched away to join the main body of their army, which they overtook two days later.
Malchus was received with great delight by his father and Hannibal, who had given him up for lost. Nessus had over and over again recounted all the details of their adventure to his comrades, and the quickness of Malchus at hitting upon the stratagem of returning to the cave, and so escaping from a position where escape seemed well nigh impossible, won for him an even higher place than before in the admiration of his followers.