A Young Artist
Hanno felt quite a hero that evening when he had finished relating the main incidents of the long voyage which he had made. But he felt much more so after he had told, and enlarged on it, to a circle of boy friends. There was only one among all of these who did not seem to share the great enthusiasm which his story generally excited. This was Hodo, the young goldsmith, who, though barely seventeen, was already producing work that was exciting attention. At first this indifference had rather antagonized Hanno, but it ended, strangely enough, by fascinating him, so that for awhile he almost lived in Hodo's little workshop.
This was in the crowded commercial part of the city, where all was commotion and noise, and where buildings of many stories cast a welcome shade over the very narrow streets. It was here, in a softened darkness, that perfume bazaars gave out a languishing scent, in which all the spices and odors of all the world seemed combined. There were shops near by with glass vessels, both transparent and translucent, to hold these essences if one wished, shops which displayed small flasks, jugs and vases, three to six inches long, colored blue, yellow, green and purple, in bands of zigzags, or curves, blended in a way that pleased, but did not, like Grecian work, appeal to the mind. There was perhaps too great a striving after the bizarre, seen in vases in the shape of helmets, barrels and even human heads. Many men were employed here, working with blow pipe, lathe or graver near a powerful furnace. The most dexterous were employed on the decoration, certain kinds of which had to be done with exceeding rapidity. In this quarter too, were the market-places, filled with dates, figs, almonds, plums, garlic, lentils and cucumbers, as well as honey and cheese. There were butchers plying their trade. In their shops might be seen the flesh of dogs for sale, so horrifying to the Greeks and Romans. Here were the tables also of the money-changers who seemed to do an enormous business, in which something wrapped in leather was one of the first bank notes ever used in the world.
There was great simplicity of attire on the part of the busy men seen on the streets. Few wore sandals. The neck, chest, arms and legs of the majority were bare.
Hodo owned his little shop. He was an odd-looking individual, taller and less muscular than the majority of Carthaginians. His face was exceedingly pale, and the small eyes, which seemed meant to be shrewd, had, instead, a far-away look. He had a slow way of talking in broken sentences and phrases, with frequent repetition of unimportant words.
"So you don't envy me my trip?" Hanno once remarked to him.
"Oh, yes—yes—" Hodo exclaimed quickly. "But, you see, I'd rather have made it—a—a—a—pilgrimage."
"A pilgrimage?" Hanno repeated interrogatively, trying to understand his strange friend.
"Why—yes—one to Greece—to study—the—the works of art there—and—and—learn from them."
A neighboring workman looked in, and, seeing Hanno, entered. He was an exceedingly alert, restless-looking fellow, his small, sharp black eyes roving ceaselessly from one end of the shop to the other, as if desirous of ferreting out every secret there.
"Have you been listening to that fellow?" he asked, nodding toward Hodo. "Ha! Ha! Isn't he great? To hear him one would think that this life were eternal, and we could devote years to the construction of one little gold ring. Ha! Ha! Oh, I tell you, you ought to see Marcat's new way of cutting gems. He can do twenty in the time it takes your friend here to do one." And the stranger launched forth into an enthusiastic description of the process and its great commercial value. He laughed again as he finished; a harsh, unpleasant laugh, which sounded all the more so because there seemed no occasion for it. "And have you heard," he asked, "of the marvelous drapery that Hiemphal, the magistrate, has had made for himself? Then you should, for it is dyed with the rarest of Tyrian dyes, and adorned with marvelous embroideries. But what do you think he paid for it? I might as well tell you, for you could never guess. Just enough to buy a marble palace!" With another harsh laugh, and with a patronizing thump on Hodo's shoulders, he left the workshop.
Hanno looked inquiringly at Hodo. "Isn't Marcat's scheme a good one?" he asked.
Hodo, who had been engaged in work that showed that the Carthaginians understood the art of soldering gold to gold, and also to other metals, slowly shook his head. "We are going backward, not forward," he said, "when we devote our—our—talents as a—a—a—people to—to—to—mere money-getting. It—it—makes me sad. Let's—not—talk of it," he concluded. And, opening a small box, he began to show his friend some of his own work. Ignorant though Hanno was of such things, he nevertheless was conscious that what he saw had something in it of grace and fineness of execution, something Greeklike, not often met in his commercial and pleasure-loving city. He wondered if the pains taken were worth while, as he looked curiously first at some cameos, and then at a necklace. It was of solid gold in the form of a cord, and gave an impression that the easy curves were made of something soft and elastic. Towards the ends were cylinders with lion heads to one of which a rein was attached, and to the other a cap with an elaborate hook, consisting of a knot in the center of a blue enamel rosette.
"They are beautiful," Hanno said without enthusiasm.
Hodo looked up quickly, his sallow face flushing. He hastily opened a little drawer, and took out what was probably his masterpiece. It was a silver dish, such as were used in temples for pouring out libations. "A priestess of—of—the Greek Temple to Aphrodite gave me—me—a commission for this herself—to—to—me—a—a—Carthaginian! That made me proud! Do—do—you like it?"
"The Greeks, you say," and Hanno gazed with curiosity at the embossed vessel. In the middle of the bottom was a rosette with twenty-two petals, springing from a central disk. This was surrounded by a ring in which were two wavy lines of intertwined ribbon. Four deers stood on the outer edge of the ring in a walking attitude, while between and behind them was a continuous row of tall, stiff papyrus reeds, terminating in blossoms. Hanno tried his best to appear interested, when Hodo, laughing, took the vessel away. He carefully secured the drawer.
"You are thinking of our promised walk," he said good naturedly, "and—and—chafing at—at—the delay. You shall not wait longer," and he opened the outer door. Right here the beautiful little girl, who had been one of those to meet Hanno when he returned to Carthage, almost ran into him. It was Mishath, Hodo's sister. She was a shy child, her beautiful face eclipsed by her hair, a curly, reddish-brown mass that hung almost to her knees. Hodo greeted her with affection mingled with surprise.
"How is this, Mishath?" he asked with some anxiety, looking at her flushed face, and the broken necklace of cheap but harmoniously arranged glass beads which she clutched in her hand. Mishath looked back with a frightened glance, was about to speak, and then catching Hanno's eye, choked, and threw herself into Hodo's arms.
"You must wait here," Hodo hastily exclaimed to his friend. "I will take my—my—sister home, but I will return immediately."
It was almost a half hour, however, before he was back. His face had a puzzled, anxious expression. For awhile the two boys walked silently side by side. At last Hodo spoke.
"I can't understand it. Let me—me—tell it to you. You see, for some time Mishath and one or—or—two other children have had the—the—privilege of playing in the grounds adjoining those of—of the temple of Baal-Hammon. No one has ever disturbed them there before to-day. It seems that this afternoon the children were hiding from one another, when Mishath strayed through an opening into the temple grounds themselves. From here on we—we—couldn't hardly understand her story. She seems to insist that some one seized her and was carrying her away, when three of her companions, who had also discovered the opening, rushed up shouting. She was hastily put down, and—and all were chased out. I—I feel strangely worried about it, although it—it was probably the act of some servant of the temple—to—frighten the children for intruding."
By this time they had reached the outer walls of the city, and stopped to watch twenty or more men engaged in repairing a breach in the wall. These mighty walls, which aroused the astonishment of the ancient world, both on account of their workmanship as well as their mass, were seventy-seven feet high, thirty-four feet thick, and extended six to seven leagues in circumference. The towers by which they were flanked here and there were higher and stronger. On the west and south of the city were three walls separated by regular distances. These contained chambers, some for elephants, of which several hundred were kept in Carthage, for the Carthaginians knew the art, few other nations have ever learned, that of thoroughly taming these great creatures. Over these chambers were stables for four thousand horses, as well as lodgings for twenty-four thousand men, some huge magazines, and fodder for both elephants and horses. Square towers, four stories high, arose at regular intervals. In the foundations were cisterns for water.
To Hanno's surprise, Hodo showed interest in watching these men at work. "I am glad to see these men labor faithfully, for we have need to keep up our fortifications well," he remarked. "Who knows when we—we—may again be in conflict with Rome. And the next time they attack, their object will not—not—not be the Island of Sicily as in the First Punic War, but—but the destruction of Carthage itself." He looked very grave. The boys had seated themselves on one of the large boulders near the wall, and while Hanno amused himself throwing stones at some birds near by, Hodo continued to talk, with a far-away expression on his strange dreamy face. "I was only a—a—little younger than you are—are now," he said, "when the Romans won the victory over us on—on—the sea. And why? Because, Hanno, we have only one—one ideal,—the accursed accumulation of—of—gain, the gathering of means to—to live in luxury, in other words, a commercial ideal! Oh, yes, I know I am—am stating it extravagantly, and that there are exceptions. But listen. Who do we have do our fighting for—for us? Hired soldiers! And these whom we—we train, have already risen more than once against us, and—and—will rise again, unless our whole policy changes."
"But," broke in Hanno, aroused by the fire of Hodo's voice, "did we lose so much then in the First Punic War?"
"Lose?" repeated Hodo excitedly, and then more calmly, "It was not only that we—we lost Sicily and so—so brought Rome nearer to us. We also lost our—our dominion over the sea, a dominion that we ought to—to have held. Oh, I wish you could have—have heard Hannibal talk of these things. I tell you, young as—as he was, he knew more than some of our generals! I am glad, however, that he is gone, for I am—am afraid that if he weren't"—here Hodo laughed pleasantly, and straightened up his slight, somewhat bent frame—"I'd be changing my—my trade to that of soldier."
"Of course you mean the son of Hamilcar Barca!" said Hanno. "Why, he's my second or third cousin! I was at Tyre the year that he left for Spain. I don't even know how he came to go, though I have often heard people criticise his father for having taken his sons to such a half-civilized country."
"Hamilcar Barca knew what he—he was about," Hodo said, with an unusual decision. "He understood better than, than—any one else that Rome would never forgive us as—as long as we could claim superiority to—to her in any line. Carthage would not have to despair if there were more who loved their country as Hamilcar is teaching his son to—to—love it.
"I shall never forget Hannibal's joy when,—when his father decided that his sons were to go with him. I was in the—the temple when Hamilcar brought Hannibal to the altar on—on which he was about to make sacrifice, and bade him lay his hand on—on the victim. 'We stand in the way of Rome and she designs our destruction,' he said, 'so swear,' his voice hoarse with passion, 'hatred to Rome as long as there is breath in your body.' Hannibal was only nine years old then, a mere—mere child, but those of us who heard him, and saw him afterward, felt that he had consecrated himself—heart—heart and soul—to avenge his country."
The boys sat deep in thought until they saw that the men were quitting work. Then they arose and also started for home. In the rich section of marble palaces, Hodo turned away, but, before he left, Hanno placed his hand affectionately on his shoulders, saying shyly, "You are not like my other friends, Hodo, and you are teaching me to look at many things differently than I have ever done before."