"I am eaten with envy." "Remember, I am counting on a handful of your spoils." "Bring me a nice young cannibal." "May the gods favor you, Hanno."
These, and other exclamations, shouted more than two thousand years ago, came from a group of boys on a pretty little Mediterranean Sea pleasure-boat, whose gay sails of fine embroidered Egyptian linen showed that it belonged to persons of wealth. They were evidently directed to a good-sized, rounded-beaked Carthaginian merchant vessel, with three banks of oars. This merchant vessel would have been conspicuous to-day not only because of its construction but also because of the huge, staring eyes painted on the high prow. Not satisfied with these for protection, there were also tiny images of war gods called Cabiri, placed at either end. At the stern of the boat stood a curly-haired youth of about twelve years who was not at all backward in answering the shouts as long as the smaller boats remained within hearing, and who afterward continued for some time to wave his arm so energetically in farewell that there seemed danger of its being hurled as a parting token to those whom he was leaving behind.
It was not until the little boat and all in it looked like a big black speck in the distance that he gave a last quick glance to where Carthage could just be outlined. Then, dropping his arm wearily to his side, he turned with a faint show of interest to studying the scenes through which they were passing.
It was high noon. The sun's rays beat strongly down on the boat from a cloudless, greenish-blue sky, so characteristic of that part of the world; the smooth waves seemed merely the calm rhythmic breathing of the great Mediterranean Sea, so gently did they rise and fall. Now and then a fishing-boat slowly passed, or a vessel laden with those odd shell-fish that furnished for the ancient world the famous Tyrian dye. Once the merchant vessel halted to salute gravely the sacred vessel which yearly carried tribute from Carthage to the patron god of the mother city, Tyre.
The pretty villas surrounded by their orange and olive groves, which glimmered and sparkled near Carthage and Utica under the brilliant rays of the African sun, grew more and more infrequent, until the thinly inhabited coast attracted mainly through an occasional aspiring date-tree and the distant misty spurs and peaks of the Atlas Mountains.
There was something about the warm sea air, and perhaps in the gentle motion of the vessel and the measured strokes of the oars by which it was propelled, that produced a feeling of sleepiness, which, after the afternoon meal Hanno found incontrollable. A passing sailor laughed at him as he sat nodding beside a basket of fruit that some one had given him as a parting gift. Hanno threw an orange at him, but the sailor escaped, still laughing, while the fruit rolled down on the deck. Hanno jumped up to get it, and, as he did so, he saw that there was a mass of canvas folded under the bench.
"That'd make a good bed," he thought. "Guess I'll try it," and, crawling under, he stretched himself down on it and closed his eyes. His uncle, a tall, broad-shouldered man, with long, compactly waved hair, a face not unlike the Jewish cast, and a beard arranged in three rows of tight curls, found his resting-place later, and having smilingly directed a sailor to throw a light blanket over him, left him to pass the night there.
Hanno did not awake until early next morning when, sitting up suddenly, he hit his head so hard against the top of the bench that the fruit still on it was scattered in all directions. It was not until then that he remembered where he was. Crawling out and rubbing the sore spots on his head he bade a passing slave pick up the oranges, figs and grapes with which the basket had been filled, and turned away for his morning wash and breakfast.
"I slept out-of-doors all night," he gleefully told his uncle, whom he found carefully finishing his toilet.
"Yes," his uncle answered, fastening the three collars which he wore over a loose tunic, and arranging a necklace of artistically worked gold over the collars, "it was a good beginning. This voyage is going to make a man of you."
"Make a man of him!" Hanno's face showed some surprise at the expression. He had felt as if he were already one ever since ten days ago when it had been definitely decided that he should accompany his rich adventurous uncle on one of his commercial trips to the distant and little visited Cassiterides or Tin Islands, away near Britannia. And, as if this were not enough, he could not forget that his uncle had whispered to him: "We may go still further this time,—yea, even into the glorious amber fields in unknown Northern waters," which was a secret so wonderful, and made him so important in his own eyes, that it was only through fear of his uncle's anger, that he kept himself from openly boasting of it.
Hanno now found that the ship had been anchored for the remainder of the day and night at one of the fortified posts of the Island of Sardinia, and he had an opportunity to take a little trip inland to some copper and lead mines in which his uncle had an interest.
There was not time to go into any of these, but as they reached the mines he saw a gang of wretched beings come up ready for their day's work underground. These were slaves and war prisoners who paid this all too heavy a price for the privilege of living. But the sight of such misery was so familiar that it did not occur to the boy to pity them. He did not even shrink when the driver hit a little limping, toothless old man with a leathery skin that hung in folds, a heavy blow between the shoulders, for not keeping abreast with the others. Yet it was to his credit that he did not laugh, as some of his companions would have done. Instead, a puzzled expression crept over his face as the man's sad, hollow eyes happened to meet his own for an instant, but, before he had time to consider anything about it, one of the Carthaginian engineers who directed the work in the mines, came up. He proved to be an old acquaintance, a distant relative of his mother, and Hanno, who had been trained to learn as much as possible wherever he might be, asked many questions about life on the Island and the natives. In answer the engineer took him to a cave which he said had long been abandoned but was typical of the homes of the natives.
"And doesn't anybody use it now?" asked Hanno. When he was told that no one did, he continued eagerly, "Oh, I'd just love to stay here and play—"
"Why not? Just miss the boat. You can take the big sea trip some other time. It's dangerous anyway." At this the boy shook his head vigorously and ran to join his uncle, who was waving for him to return to the vessel.
Then one morning Hanno awoke to find that they had reached The Pillars of Hercules, the Pillars, he remembered, that once it had been thought Hercules had torn asunder, and which were supposed by many to mark the end of the Western world, beyond which it was fatal to venture. This belief did not seem strange to him as he gazed at the two gigantic cliffs which stand guard over the narrow channel between Europe and Africa where they separate the calm tideless Mediterranean from the stormy, and then still practically unknown, Atlantic. Alert boy that he was, Hanno nevertheless had his periods of dreaming, and as he stood on the deck, now looking at the three summits of the promontory on one side and then at the stern forbidding mountains on the other, he imagined himself on that first boat that had ever passed that gateway. His whole body grew tense as he felt the fear of what might really be beyond, even while his eyes glowed with the pleasure of risking. As he stood thus deep in his dreams some one laid a hand on his shoulder. So real had his game been to him, Hanno gave a frightened jump aside, only to meet the laughing face of his big uncle.
"You haven't anything to fear yet," his uncle remarked. "Why, we haven't even come to our own settlement of Gadeira where we are to spend the night. After that, well, even after that, he who has his wits about him need fear nothing. Come, why did I frighten you?"
"Oh," said Hanno, now ready to laugh at his alarm, "I was only imagining that I was the first to taste of the apple of knowledge, and I thought you were one of the devouring demons who intended punishing me for wanting to know too much!" Both laughed. Then his uncle said: "If all goes well at the Tin Islands (Cassiterides) we may try just that sort of thing. The man who gets to a place first is the one that makes the money. Commerce these days is everything, my boy!"
Before noon they reached Gadeira, the remotest colony of the Phœnicians, the last outpost of civilization that they were to see for a long time to come. It lay at the northwest end of an island, which a narrow channel separates from the continent. At one end the channel becomes a large bay, two islands effectually keeping out the heavy rolling waves of the Atlantic. There were many vessels from all parts of the known world anchored here; Egyptian ships, manned by Phœnicians and commanded by a Phœnician captain in gaudy apparel; Greek triremes, and two graceful Samian ships with prows like swans' necks. When the Carthaginian appeared, a large part of the population gathered at the wharf to bid those on board welcome.
As Phœnician, the language of the Carthaginians, was spoken here, Hanno felt perfectly at home in the small fortified town, and particularly when he accompanied his uncle to the Carthaginian Temples of the great god El, of the god Melkarth, and of the goddess Ashtoreth to pray and make offerings that their voyage might meet with every success.
After Gadeira they were on the unknown sea. How exciting it all was! and how brave and big Hanno felt to be with these daring men. He began to experience a new patriotic pride that he belonged to the one civilized nation who did not fear to risk all for the sake of greater gain. Yet queer little thrills ran through him when the tides rolled and tossed the boat and he found how mighty they were.
At first the vessel did not venture far from land, but felt its way all along what is now the coast of Spain and France. Despite the excitement in seeing strange sea-creatures, and in never knowing what might next be in store for him, as the days passed there was something exceedingly lonely in being in the midst of the boundless waste of waters on the one side and the sparsely inhabited wilderness on the other. Sometimes, for lack of anything better to do, Hanno would count the measured beat of the oars or the strange birds on the shore. Time would have passed even more slowly had it not been for the captain's assistant, a very important personage, called the "Look-out Man." He was an exceedingly active fellow, muscular, although small of stature, with a very sallow face, long hooked nose, and small keen eyes that always seemed to Hanno able to penetrate through everything. He wore his hair and beard very much like Himlicat, Hanno's uncle, but bore no other resemblance whatever, in words, deeds or appearance to that kindly but decidedly pompous individual.
Hanno often accompanied the "Look-out Man" in his tour of inspection through the vessel and thus received some very valuable lessons in order and neatness. Nothing ever seemed out of place. It was really wonderful how much there was in the boat and how little space it seemed to fill. A large amount of naval tackling was separately disposed. There was merchandise, weapons, cooking-vessels, great jars in which wine and oil were kept, so arranged that each could be handled without disturbing anything else and all convenient in case of need, yet filling a space no larger than a small room. "It must be so on a boat of Carthage," the "Look-out Man" would say proudly, when Hanno expressed his admiration.
The "Look-out Man" was a famous story-teller, too, and sometimes he and Hanno would get into some corner, and, having given Hanno something to do and keeping his own hands busy, he would spin story after story. Sometimes they would be of the monsters of the deep, but more often of a famous hunter and traveler, who wore the skins of wild beasts, invented navigation, and set up landmarks on distant shores. "Are these still there? Will we see some of them where we are going?" Hanno would eagerly ask. "Perhaps," the "Look-out Man" would answer briefly.
During the first part of the voyage the weather continued fine and clear, but one morning Hanno came on deck to find everything soaked in a thick gray fog. The boat was rocking and tossing so violently that the boy felt sure it must soon be upset. In great anxiety he resolved to seek his uncle, to ascertain why the boat had gone, as he believed, into deeper water during the night. He found Himlicat in close conference with the captain of the boat. Some sort of paper with lines and marks like a chart was spread before them, over which they were so intent that they did not notice the boy's approach. But, scarcely had he spoken, when his uncle looked up angrily and while the captain hastily folded the paper, exclaimed excitedly: "You are not to come up here without permission!"
Then he paused, and as Hanno's face flushed with the reproof, added more mildly, "Have patience, my boy. You are old enough to understand that to keep our naval supremacy over other lands we have to guard many secrets. When you are older you shall inherit all I know from me, but now—go."
Hanno needed no second bidding. His uncle's reproof, and the violent rocking of the boat, caused him to feel so sick that he threw himself dejectedly down on his bunk. Nausea, pictures of crude maps and charts, visions of the glittering stars by which he knew the boat was generally guided, began to intermingle dizzily through his mind. But ten or fifteen minutes of this was all that he could endure, and again he made his way on deck, where the day which started so badly dragged wearily through.