CHAPTER XIV: THE PASS OF THE HATCHET
The Carthaginians had not re-entered their houses when the clouds accumulated
more thickly; those who raised their heads towards the colossus could feel big
drops on their foreheads, and the rain fell.
It fell the whole night plentifully, in floods; the thunder growled; it was the voice of
Moloch; he had vanquished Tanith; and she, being now fecundated, opened up
her vast bosom in heaven's heights. Sometimes she could be seen in a clear and
luminous spot stretched upon cushions of cloud; and then the darkness would
close in again as though she were still too weary and wished to sleep again; the
Carthaginians, all believing that water is brought forth by the moon, shouted to
make her travail easy.
The rain beat upon the terraces and overflowed them, forming lakes in the
courts, cascades on the staircases, and eddies at the corners of the streets. It
poured in warm heavy masses and urgent streams; big frothy jets leaped from
the corners of all the buildings; and it seemed as though whitish cloths hung
dimly upon the walls, and the washed temple-roofs shone black in the gleam of
the lightning. Torrents descended from the Acropolis by a thousand paths;
houses suddenly gave way, and small beams, plaster, rubbish, and furniture
passed along in streams which ran impetuously over the pavement.
Amphoras, flagons, and canvases had been placed out of doors; but the torches
were extinguished; brands were taken from the funeral-pile of the Baal, and the
Carthaginians bent back their necks and opened their mouths to drink. Others by
the side of the miry pools, plunged their arms into them up to the armpits, and
filled themselves so abundantly with water that they vomited it forth like
buffaloes. The freshness gradually spread; they breathed in the damp air with
play of limb, and in the happiness of their intoxication boundless hope soon
arose. All their miseries were forgotten. Their country was born anew.
They felt the need, as it were, of directing upon others the extravagant fury which
they had been unable to employ against themselves. Such a sacrifice could not
be in vain; although they felt no remorse they found themselves carried away by
the frenzy which results from complicity in irreparable crimes.
The Barbarians had encountered the storm in their ill-closed tents; and they were
still quite chilled on the morrow as they tramped through the mud in search of
their stores and weapons, which were spoiled and lost.
Hamilcar went himself to see Hanno, and, in virtue of his plenary powers,
intrusted the command to him. The old Suffet hesitated for a few minutes
between his animosity and his appetite for authority, but he accepted
Hamilcar next took out a galley armed with a catapult at each end. He placed it in
the gulf in front of the raft; then he embarked his stoutest troops on board such
vessels as were available. He was apparently taking to flight; and running
northward before the wind he disappeared into the mist.
But three days afterwards, when the attack was about to begin again, some
people arrived tumultuously from the Libyan coast. Barca had come among