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




A Day in the Suburbs

The Carthaginians were excellent agriculturists, some of their written books on the subject being considered so greatly superior to anything else known that later, when Rome destroyed the African city, Mago, their author, was honored by having his works translated into Latin, and his name thus preserved to posterity. The extensive grain fields, highly cultivated gardens, orchards and plantations in the vicinity owed their productiveness to an excellent system of irrigation, through an extensive network of canals. To one side of the city, where the ground had originally been somewhat marshy, the course of the water had been directed to the canals and the ground thus reclaimed through drainage. Still further away immense flocks and herds testified to the material prosperity of the state. Attractive country homes were to be seen on every side. There was one suburb which was reserved almost entirely for the summer homes of rich merchants. This was called the Megara, and enjoyed the importance of having a fortified wall of its own.

It was to the Megara that Hanno resolved to go several weeks after his talk with Hodo. As he made his way over the pavements on the great squares, he tried to estimate how hot the day was likely to be by the warmth that already began to feel uncomfortable beneath his thinly sandaled feet. He did not hurry, but stopped to watch some workmen repairing a part of the drain laid carefully beneath the street slabs, for the rain that fell during the winter was utilized as far as possible by the Carthaginians. And then, instead of going directly to his destination, he remembered a new way he had recently learned of snaring pelicans, and determined to visit a lake where many of these birds as well as flamingos were to be found. To reach the spot he had to pass enormous cisterns surrounded by colonnades, and supplied by a vast terrace, above which rain water was collected.

The sun was already pouring hot beams down from a cloudless sky, when, having tired of the sport, he turned to pursue his way. He was glad when he had reached an olive grove, the silver gray foliage of the round heads of the trees, all very much alike, casting a welcome shade over the soil which had seemed all the more burning perhaps because of its reddish hue.

From this olive grove there was another short walk in the open, and then a welcome succession of orchards, until the walls of the Megara arose before him.

Feeling hot and tired, and seeing a mossy bed just inside of a thick hedge a short distance from the gate, he stretched himself full length on it.

He must have dozed for he was awakened by hearing voices on the other side. At first he did not listen, but after awhile bits of sentences began to claim his attention.

"We must have ten more," said a soft, masculine voice.

"They are hard to get," was the muttered response.

"But they must be got," reiterated the first voice, the soft tones strangely blended with unalterable decision.

Carthaginian Boys
PEEPING OUT FROM UNDER THE HEDGE, HE SAW TWO MEN.


Here the parties evidently moved a little further away, for only scattered words reached Hanno. The peculiarity of the voice and the enigmatic words aroused Hanno's curiosity. Peeping out from under the hedge, he saw two men, one of whom appeared to him to be a priest. There was something familiar in his face, and, after much thought, he decided that he had seen him in the temple of the god Moloch. The other looked as if he might be one of the lower order of temple servants. Hanno was about to crawl out from under his coverings when he saw that the men were returning. Fearful of the consequences of his being discovered he was forced to remain hidden. "For the present," the priest was saying, "no one must know of our method of procedure. You must amend your clumsiness. Your last bungling might have cost us dear."

"Nay, not so fast," the other retorted with a familiarity that startled Hanno. "It was the slave's fault for not repairing the break as soon as the chit had passed through and so prevented the others from following. Well, he won't forget another time. And I intend having her for the honor of the god yet!"

"Do," came insinuatingly from the soft-voiced priest. "The effect is enhanced by beauty. Adieu. I return to my mission of persuasion. Oh, the foolish people! But haste you and report to the high priest Melikart, that I am having at least partial success—three already have promised to sacrifice, and some more will yet listen to my teaching—not many. I should believe that I was forgetting my art did I not know that the peaceful times are conspiring against me. Fare-thee-well." The soft tones made the last words sound like a benediction. Turning, the priest strolled down the hot silent street. Hanno lay very still. Although he did not understand the real import of what he had heard, he realized that it was what no outsider was supposed to know. He wondered vaguely what it all meant, but had come no nearer to solving the mystery when a half-hour later he crawled out and proceeded on his way. He thought of some clever questions to ask the owner of the house to which he was bound, but when he reached his destination he was greeted by so merry a group of children that he forgot all about it, and did not recall it again for many a day.