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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