Our Little Carthaginian Cousin of Long Ago - C. V. Winlow


In the entrance-hall Hanno found his grandmother, who greeted him with much show of emotion. She was surrounded by a group of slaves, some of whom threw themselves at his feet as he came in.

"Your mother is preparing for a banquet tonight at which your father has urged her to be present," his grandmother explained as soon as he had regained his breath. "She has given orders, however, that you are to come to her at once. Do you think you still know the way?" Hanno nodded brightly, and made his way quickly through luxuriously furnished rooms, darkened with heavy curtains shutting out the dazzling light and excessive heat, to an upper story. Without stopping to knock, he burst into his mother's room and threw himself into her arms.

His mother, who had been seated before a toilet table of some rich dark wood resembling mahogany with a veneer of carved ivory, arose and returned his embrace with warmth, shaking her head, however, as she glanced sidewise into the silver-backed circular glass mirror that hung over the table, and saw that the thick masses of hair, that an attendant had just been fastening, had become loosened.

"You see what you have done!" she exclaimed laughing. "Never mind. It is no great matter. Lissa will fix it in a moment. Now run and have your bath that we may talk with you before we leave to-night. I won't ask a single question now. I am satisfied to see you looking well, even though you are as black as a Libyan." Kissing him again she dismissed him.

The attendant now came forward. She was a young woman attired in a striped robe reaching to her feet, over which was a tunic fastened around her waist with a belt. Heavy rings were in her ears, and glass bracelets on her arms. Her hair hung loose over her shoulders. She pushed a footstool under her mistress's feet, and then picked up the gold pins from where they had fallen on the heavy Assyrian carpet that covered the floor, and placed them on the table which contained various vessels, with perfumes, ointments, and washes for the skin. All of these vessels had been made in Carthage. They were of various sizes. Some were beautifully chased. One was of rock crystal with a funnel and cover of gold. Near them stood a bronze stand covered with rings and bracelets, and next to it a hand mirror of highly polished metal whose handle consisted of a finely carved naked figure standing on a frog. While her mistress closed her eyes, Mishath parted the heavy wavy hair very deftly at the forehead, and arranged it underneath two narrow encircling bands.

"Now," she said, when she had finished, "look at yourself, dear mistress. Will any one at the banquet be fairer?" Hanno's mother, shaking her head languidly at the maid, contemplated her own image in the mirror with apparent pleasure. Then, drawing a deep breath, she leaned back in her chair.

"Ah, how tiresome this dressing is," she exclaimed. "However, bring my new dresses that I may choose between them. Hold them better," she continued almost impatiently as Lissa extended them before her.

"I don't wonder you hesitate," said Lissa slowly. "In this," and she nodded to the robe in her right hand, "you will look like a Goddess of the Mist, a bringer of dreams," and she paused and shook the folds of the wonderfully soft, white and transparent Egyptian muslin, delicately embroidered with lotus blossoms.

"But in this," and she turned to the exquisite gown of Persian silk interwoven with linen and dyed in the renowned Tyrian purple, which, however, in this case was of a decided bluish cast. "In this—you will dispute with our greatest Goddess Tanith some of the glory of our sky. Will you—"

Without allowing Lissa to finish, Kada arose. "Give me that," she said, pointing to the silk. "To-day is a day of rejoicing, and my gayest attire is none too gay. And, here—I want none of these trinkets. Bring me my ebony box, and let me select those proper to wear."

When these had been brought she looked them over impatiently, finally selecting three necklaces, one of small pearls to be worn just under the chin, another of finely wrought gold, and the third, to hang lowest, of queer beads and amulets, among these later one representing the eye of the Egyptian god Osiris. Several rings and bracelets and a long pair of ear-rings of spiral gold, set with precious stones of exquisite workmanship, completed the adornments.

In the meantime, both Hanno and his uncle, refreshed by baths and clean linen, had made their way to a hanging balcony, sheltered by broad-leaved plants and overlooking an inner court filled with highly cultivated tropical vegetation. Here they found Hanno's grandmother, Akhot, awaiting them.

Akhot must have been over sixty. Her hair was snow white, but there was nothing else about her fine, though rather stern, face to indicate age. While light refreshments were placed on a three-legged table by a slave, she listened attentively to the story of the voyage. Her eyes flashed in a way that seemed out of harmony with her general appearance as she heard of the fate of the Roman ship that had tried to follow the Carthaginian boat.

"Have they not done us enough harm!" she exclaimed. "Will they have our trade too? Well, they will find it harder—Astoreth and all the gods be praised—to defeat our merchants, than they found it to defeat our hired soldiers."

As she spoke, a small but very active-appearing man entered. His face, covered partly by a carefully curled beard of reddish color, with a long, somewhat hooked nose, and small piercing eyes, was the personification of energy and shrewdness. His attire was simple, but not without a certain elegance. It consisted of an ornamented and patterned tunic, parted towards the two sides. A lappet, elaborately adorned, fell down in front, from a patterned girdle. He embraced his son and shook Himlicat warmly by the hand.

"I have been to a specially called meeting of the Shopetim," (rulers of Carthage) he said. "So I couldn't come to meet you, or I surely would have done so, great though the heat has been to-day. But look what Hodo, the goldsmith, is sending Hanno." As he spoke he held out a small brass box.

All crowded eagerly around as Hanno, who had taken it, lifted up the lid. Inside, on a little cushion of silk, lay a bracelet of plain, heavy gold, ending in two lion heads, beautifully carved, the beasts apparently snarling at one another.

"Hodo is a genius!" exclaimed the grandmother.

"A lordly way to welcome you home," said Hanno's father, tapping the boy on the back.

"But, come," he continued, turning to Himlicat, "you must get ready, tired though you must be, to go to the banquet with us to-night," and walking up to Himlicat he said something in a low but emphatic tone of which Hanno caught only the words, "Hannibal," "Spain," "Shopetim." Himlicat yawned. "I hate to do it," he said. "But, yes"—as Hanno's father was about to say something—"you needn't explain. I understand the importance. I will go." He raised his arm in the way that Carthaginian courtesy demanded, and left the room.

Hanno was drawn down into a chair beside his father and urged to repeat his story.