Alexander determined to begin the homeward journey by sailing down the Hydaspes to the Indus in order to reach the ocean.
The king himself with part of the army embarked in the ships which awaited them on the Hydaspes. The rest of the army was divided into two companies, and marched on either bank of the river, one being under Hephæstion, the king's friend.
On the way the fleet and the army joined their forces in order to subdue some of the warlike tribes that refused to submit to them.
One of these tribes, the Malli, Alexander pursued to their chief city, which stood where the town of Multan has since been built.
The city was easily taken, but not so the citadel in which the Malli had taken refuge.
Before the walls surrounding it could be scaled, ladders were needed, and two were hurriedly brought to the spot. But it was difficult to place them in position, for the Malli hurled upon the soldiers every missile on which they could lay their hands.
Alexander growing impatient, seized one of the ladders, and covering himself with his shield he placed it in position and began to mount.
Peucestas, carrying the sacred shield of Troy, and Leonnatus, two of the companions, followed closely after their king, while Abreas began to climb the second ladder which was now also ready for use.
The king was soon standing alone on the top of the wall, having flung down those of the Malli who were keeping guard at that point.
In despair the Macedonians saw the danger to which their king had exposed himself. He was a mark for every weapon hurled from the citadel.
They rushed in a body to the ladders, and began to mount in such numbers that the ladders both gave way, Peucestas, Leonnatus and Abreas alone having first reached the top of the wall.
His friends called aloud to Alexander, entreating him to come back. But he leaped down on the other side among his foes. Fortunately he landed on his feet, and at once placing his back against the wall, he strove to keep back the enemy as they rushed upon him.
The foremost fell before the swift stroke of the king's sword, as did also those who followed him. At two more the king hurled stones which felled them to the ground. After that the Malli were afraid to approach close to the great king, but they began to throw at him stones and great pieces of rock.
A moment later his three companions had leaped down and were by the side of their king, ready to defend him with their lives.
Abreas fell at his feet almost at once, pierced by a dart. Alexander himself was wounded, but fought on until at length, faint through loss of blood, he fell fainting on his shield.
Peucestas covered him with the sacred shield, while Leonnatus fought on desperately until help came.
A few of the Macedonians, maddened by the thought of their king's danger, scrambled up on each other's shoulders, and leaped down on the other side to rescue him and his three companions if they still lived.
Some ran to the gates, and opened them, and the anxious soldiers poured in and took the citadel. They believed that their king was dead, and they wreaked their fury on the miserable inhabitants, leaving neither men, women nor children alive.
Alexander was not dead, and although his wound was severe, he recovered. But the rumour of his death had reached the camp near the river where the main body of the army had been left. No letters, no messages could make the grief-stricken soldiers believe that their king still lived.
Alexander was brought down the river in a ship. He was lying on a couch in the stern of the vessel as he drew near to the camp, and he ordered the canopy which screened him to be raised that his soldiers might see him.
At first they thought it was but his lifeless body which they beheld, but as he drew nearer still, the king waved his hand. Then a great shout of joy rent the air.