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It was late at night before Porus with the three Gauls joined the rest of the band in their new encampment on the eastern slope of the hills.
"As soon as the moon rises, Beric, we must be up and moving. The Romans are in earnest. When they came through the forest they ascended for some little distance, and then the spearmen halted and the light armed troops scattered in parties of four searching the country like dogs after game. They were not very long before they discovered signs of us, whether footmarks or broken twigs I know not, but following them they soon came upon the entrance of the ravine. No doubt our marks were plain enough there, for the spearmen were brought down. What happened then I know not; no doubt they entered and found that we had gone. At any rate, in a short time they set out briskly up the mountain, the spearmen as before keeping together, and the light armed men scattering.
"All day they searched, and it was well that you crossed the crest. They halted for the night halfway between the forest and the summit, and I determined to learn something of their intentions. So after it was dark I laid aside my arms and crawled into the camp. The ground was broken and rough, and there was no great difficulty in getting close to their fires. I learned that the whole of the legion at Praeneste had been sent into the mountains, and that there were twenty parties of equal force; they were but a mile and a half apart, and considered that they could search every foot of the ground for thirty miles along, and would assuredly discover us if we were still in this part. More than that, troops from Corfinium and Marrubium had started to search the eastern slopes, and between them they made sure that they should catch you, now that they had found, by the heat of the earth where our fire had been, that we must have been there but an hour or so before their arrival."
"If that is the case we must make our way to the south at once," Beric said. "It is well indeed that we decided to retreat without fighting, for had we retired, closely pursued by their archers, their shouts would certainly have been heard by some of the other parties. It is fortunate we did not light a fire; had we done so it might have brought some of the troops from Marrubium, which cannot be far distant from here, upon us. The moon will not be up for three hours yet, and it is useless to try to make our way among these mountains until we have her light, therefore let all lie down to sleep; I will keep guard and will rouse you when it is time to move."
Beric sat listening intently for any sound that would tell of the approach of foemen. He had, however, but small fear that the Romans were moving at present. It would be even more difficult for them than for his men to make their way about in the darkness; besides, the day must have been an extremely fatiguing one for them. They had, doubtless, started long before dawn, had had to climb the mountains, and had been all day on their feet. They would scarcely recommence the search before morning. Easy on this score, his thoughts turned to Rome. That Aemilia had gained the shelter of the Catacombs he had no doubt, and he wondered how she fared there among the Christian fugitives. As to Norbanus he had but slight hopes of ever seeing him alive. Nero's vengeance always extended to the families of those who offended him, and Norbanus would certainly be held responsible for the flight of Aemilia. He thought it indeed probable that as soon as Aemilia left, Norbanus would have called his friends together, and, having opened his veins, would die as Piso had done discussing philosophy with them.
As soon as the moon was fairly up he aroused his companions and they started along the hillside. It was difficult work making their way on, now descending into a deep ravine, now climbing a rugged slope, now passing along a bare shoulder. There was no pause until day broke, when they descended into a gorge and lay down among some clumps of bushes, one man being sent half a mile down while two others were posted on each side of the ravine. They had good reason for hope, however, that they had got beyond the point to which the searching parties would extend on the eastern side of the hill. The day passed without alarms, although the sentries above more than once heard the sounds of distant trumpets. As soon as the sun set they continued their way, halting again until the moon rose, and then keeping south until daybreak.
They were sure now that they were far beyond the parties of Romans, but after a few hours' sleep they again pressed on, and at night lighted their fires and prepared for a longer stay. But the orders of Nero were so imperative that the troops, having thoroughly searched the mountains at the point where they had ascended them, united, and also moved south in a long line extending from the summit of the hills to the lower edge of the forest; and after two days' halt the fugitives again moved south, and continued their journey until they found themselves among the wild and lofty hills of Bruttium.
But their numbers had swollen as they went, for the other fugitive bands among the hills were also driven south by the advance of the Romans, and it was a miscellaneous body of gladiators, escaped slaves, and malefactors, in all over five hundred strong, that crossed the mountains into Bruttium. There was a general wish among them that Beric should take the command of the whole. This, however, he absolutely declined to do, upon the ground that it was impossible for so large a body of men to keep together, as there would be no means of feeding them. Scattered about they would find an ample supply of meat from the wild goats, boars and semi-wild swine, but together, they would soon scare away the game. From among the gladiators, however, he picked out sufficient men to raise his own force to a hundred strong, and separating from the rest he led them, guided by a charcoal burner, to one of the wildest and most inaccessible points in the promontory.
Here they were safe from pursuit. Bruttium, now called Calabria, is a chain of rugged hills, at that time thickly covered with wood, and although it was possible fairly to search the Apennines in the centre of Italy with six or seven thousand men, a large army would fail to find a band of fugitives in the recesses of the mountains of the south. On the evening of their arrival at the spot they determined to make their headquarters, Beric held a sort of council of war, the whole of the band, as was the custom both in Gaul and Britain, joining in the deliberations.
"So far," Beric began, "we have retreated without fighting; Rome cannot complain that we have been in insurrection against her, we have simply acted as fugitives; but as there is nowhere else whither we can retire, we must turn upon them if they again pursue us. We must then regard this as our abode for a long time, and make ourselves as comfortable as we can. Huts we can erect of the branches of trees, the skins of the goats we kill will provide us with bedding, and if needs be with clothing. Meat will not fail us, for should game become scarce we can buy goats and sheep from the shepherds who come up with their flocks and herds from the villages by the sea. But besides this we need many things for comfort. We must have utensils for cooking, and drinking cups, and shall need flour and wine; we must therefore open communications with one of the towns by the sea. This is the great difficulty, because of all things I fear treachery; for nigh a year we fought the Romans at home, and could have fought them for twenty more had we not been betrayed and surrounded.
"Of that there will always be a danger. I have gold, and shall always pay for what we require; but the other bands among these hills will not be so scrupulous, and as, indeed, they will be forced to take food, they will set the inhabitants against us, and the Romans will have no difficulty in finding guides among them. So long as we keep ourselves far apart from the rest we are comparatively safe; but none of the natives must know of our hiding place. Can anyone propose a good plan for obtaining supplies?"
There was silence for some time. These men were all good for fighting, but few of them had heads to plan. At last Porus said:
"We are, as our guide tells me, but two hours' journey from the hills whence we may look down upon the gulf dividing Bruttium from Sicily. The lower slopes of these hills are, he says, closely cultivated. There are many small villages some distance up on their sides, and solitary farms well nigh up to the crest. It seems to me that we should use one of these farmers as our agent. He must be a man with a wife and family, and these would be hostages. If we told him that if he did our bidding he would be well rewarded, while if unfaithful we would destroy his farmhouse and slay his wife and children, I think we might trust him. Two or three of us could go down with him to the town on the seashore, dressed as men working under him, and help bring up the goods he purchases. The quantity might excite suspicion did he always go to the same place for them, but he need not always do this. If we found it impossible to get enough by means of one man, we might carry out this plan with three or four of them. None of these men need know the direction of our camp; it would suffice that the wine and flour were brought to their houses. We could always send a strong party to fetch them thence as we require them."
"I do not think we can hit on any better plan, Porus;" and as there was a murmur of assent he continued: "I propose, my friends, that we appoint Porus the head of our victualling department, and leave the arrangements to him entirely."
This point was settled. The next morning Porus, taking three of the gladiators who most resembled the natives in appearance, started on his mission. He was completely successful. The farmers on the upper slopes of the hills lived in terror of the banditti among the mountains, and one was readily induced, by the offer of a reward for his service, and of freedom from all molestation, to undertake the business of getting up corn and wine. Henceforth supplies of these articles were obtained regularly. Huts were soon erected; the men were divided into hunting parties, and the life of the fugitives passed quietly, and for a time without incident.
The persons with whom Beric had deposited his money had all been chosen for him by Norbanus. He himself had been too long away from Italy to be acquainted with any outside the walls of Rome; but among his friends there were several who were able to recommend men of property and character to whom the money could be committed with the certainty that it would be forthcoming whenever demanded. At present Beric was amply supplied with funds, for the money that Norbanus had sent to him would last for at least a year; but, four months after reaching Bruttium, he thought it would be as well to warn those in whose charge his own stores had been placed, to hold it in readiness by them in case it should be suddenly asked for. Philo seemed to him the only person he could send on such a mission, and upon the more important one of going to Rome and communicating with Aemilia. He was certain of the fidelity of the lad, and, properly disguised, he was less likely to be recognized in Rome than Porus would be. Clothes such as would be worn by the son of a well to do cultivator were obtained for him, and he was directed to take the road along the coast to Rome, putting up at inns in the towns, and giving out that he was on his way to the capital to arrange for the purchase of a farm adjoining that of his father.
Letters were given him to the persons holding Beric's money; and one for the goldsmith in Rome, with whom a portion of the money he had given for the jewellery that Beric had received at the games was still deposited. This letter was not to be delivered until he had been to the catacombs and seen Aemilia; as, although Scopus had spoken very highly of the man, it was possible that he might, to gain favour with Nero, hand over Beric's messenger to him. Beric fully impressed upon Philo the risks he would run, and told him to make all his calls after nightfall, and to be prepared for instant flight if he mistrusted the manner of any of the men he visited.
"Do not be afraid, Beric," Philo said; "I will not be taken alive. I know that they would torture me to force me to lead them to your hiding place, and I would rather die a thousand times first. I was but a slave when I was allotted to you in the palace of Nero. You have been kind to me, and trusted me. You have allowed me to go with you, and have behaved to me as if I had been free and one of your own people. I have my dagger, and if I see that evil is intended me I will not wait until they lay hands on me, for then my blow might fail, but will make sure. But before I start give me full instructions what I am to say to the Lady Aemilia; for however fully you may write, she will be sure to want to know more, and, above all, instruct me what to do if she demands to join you, and commands me to bring her here. This, methinks, she is sure to do, and I must have your instructions in the matter."
"I shall tell her in my letter, Philo, that this is no place for her, and that I cannot possibly have her here, among rough men, where, at any moment, we may be called upon to make distant and toilsome journeys, and even to fight for our lives."
"That is all very well, my lord; but suppose she says to me it is only because Beric thinks that I cannot support fatigue and hardship that he does not send for me; but I am willing and ready to do so, and I charge you, therefore, to take me to him."
This was a point that Beric had many times thought over deeply. He, too, felt sure that Aemilia would choose to be with him; and accustomed as the Britons were for their wives to share their perils, and to journey with them when they went on warlike expeditions, it seemed to him that she had almost a right to be with him. Then, too, her life must be dreary in the extreme, shut up in caverns where the light of day never penetrated, in ignorance of his fate, and cut off from all kinsfolk and friends. The question so puzzled him that he finally took Porus into his confidence, having a high idea of his good sense.
"She cannot come here," Porus agreed; "but I do not see why you should not bring her from that dismal place where you say she is, and establish her near at hand, either at one of the upper farmhouses, or in a town by the sea. Let me think it over. In an hour I will tell you what seems to me the best plan. My counsel is this," he said, after he had been absent for an hour from the hut, "I myself will go with the lad to fetch her. A Roman lady, even though a fugitive, should not be travelling about the country under the protection of a lad. I dare not go into Rome. I am known to too many of the gladiators, and, disguise myself as I might, I should be recognized before I had been there an hour. I will obtain a dress such as would suit a respectable merchant; I will go down to one of the ports below and take passage in a trading craft bound for Ostia. There I will take lodgings, and giving out that my daughter, who has been staying with friends for her education in Rome, is about to return to Messina with me, will purchase two or three female slaves. When she arrives with Philo, who can pass as her brother and my son, we will take ship and come down hither. I can then bring her up and place her in the house of one of the farmers; or can, if you like, take a house in the town, or lodge her there with people to whom one of the farmers might recommend her. But, at any rate, she could come up to one of the farm houses first, to see you, and then you could arrange matters between you. She would really run no danger. You say she went out but little in Rome, and it would be ill luck indeed were there anyone on this coast who met her there. If it were not for your preposterous height, your yellow hair and blue eyes, there would be no difficulty about the matter at all, for you would have but to cross the straits into Sicily, to buy a small property there, and to settle down quietly; but it is impossible with your appearance to pass as one of the Latin race."
"Besides," Beric said, "I could not desert my comrades. Whatever their lot may be, mine must be also. If we are ever to escape, we must escape together; but for the rest, I think your plan is a good one, Porus, and thank you heartily. When you get to Ostia you will learn all that is going on in Rome, what has befallen Norbanus, and other matters. If Norbanus is alive, Aemilia will certainly be in communication with him by means of the Christians, and will, of course, be guided by his advice."
The next day Porus and Philo set out together. Three weeks passed, and then one morning Philo entered the camp.
"All has gone well, my lord, the Lady Aemilia is at the house of the farmer Cornelius, with whom Porus arranged to receive her on the morning we left you. She has sent no letter, for there were no writing materials in the house, but she awaits your coming."
Beric hastened away at once, accompanied by the lad, who by the way gave an account of his journey.
"It was as I thought," he said. "When I came to the house you told me of, I knocked as you instructed me, gave the ring to the man within and begged him to take it to the Lady Aemilia. He at first pretended that he knew nothing of such a person; but at last, on my showing him the letter addressed to her, he said that some friends of his might know where she was, and that if I called again, two hours before midnight, he might have news of her. When I came back the Lady Aemilia was there. She asked many questions about your health before she opened your letter, the one that you first wrote to her. When she had read it she said, 'My lord bids me stay here, Philo, and I am, above all things, bound to obey him; but he says that he bids me remain, because the hardships would be too great for me. But I know that I could support any hardships; and kind as they are to me here, I would rather go through anything with my husband than remain here; the darkness and the silence are more trying than any hardships. So you see that my lord's orders were given under a misapprehension, and as I am sure he would not have given them had he known that I was not afraid of hardships, and desired above all things to be with him, I shall disobey them, and he, when I join him, must decide whether I have done wrong, and, if he thinks so, send me away from him."
"Then, my lord, seeing that it was so, I gave her your second letter, in which you said that if she wished to join you you had made arrangements for her doing so. Then she kissed the letter and cried over it, and said that she was ready to depart when I came to fetch her. Then she told me that Norbanus had opened his veins that night after she had left, and that the soldiers of Nero arrived just too late to trouble him; that all his property had been confiscated, and that she had no friends in the world but you.
"It took a week for Porus to obtain two suitable slaves--the one an elderly woman and the other a young servant.
"The goldsmith handed over your money to me at once, saying, 'I am glad to hear that Beric is alive. Tell him that he did badly in not slaying the tyrant when he had him at his mercy. Tell him, too, there are rumours of deep discontent among the legions in the provinces, and a general hope among the better class of Romans that they will ere long proclaim a new emperor and overthrow Nero. Tell him also to be on his guard. There is a talk of an expedition on a large scale, to root out those who are gathered in the mountains of Bruttium. It is said that it is to be commanded by Caius Muro, who but a week ago returned from Syria.'"
"Is it so?" Beric exclaimed. "I know him well, having lived in his house for years. I should be sorry indeed that we should meet as enemies. Heard you aught of his daughter?"
"Not from the goldsmith, but afterwards. She is married, I hear, to Pollio, who is of the family of Norbanus."
"I am indeed glad to hear it, Philo. He also was a great friend of mine, and as he knew Muro in Britain, would doubtless have sought him out in Syria, where he, too, held an office. 'Tis strange indeed that he should have married Berenice, whom I last saw as a girl, now fully four years back. And all went well on the voyage?"
"Well indeed, my lord. I took the Lady Aemilia down to Ostia in a carriage with closed curtains. She stayed two days in the place Porus had hired, and none suspected on the voyage that she was other than his daughter."
"And how is she looking, Philo?"
"At first, my lord, she was looking strangely white, and I feared that her health had suffered; but she said that it was dwelling in the darkness that had so whitened her, and indeed the sun during the voyage has brought the colour back to her cheeks, and she is now looking as she used to do when I carried letters to the house from Nero's palace."
Once arrived at the brow of the hill, looking down upon the Straits of Messina, Beric's impatience could be no longer restrained, and he descended the slope with leaps and bounds that left Philo far behind. Porus was at the door of the farm; Beric grasped his hand.
"She is in there," he said, pointing to a door, and a moment later Aemilia fell into his arms.
In half an hour the door opened.
"Come in, Porus and Philo," Beric called. "I must first thank you, both in my own name and that of my betrothed, for the great service you have rendered us, and the care and kindness with which you have watched over her. We have settled nothing yet about the future, except that tomorrow I shall complete the betrothal, and she will become my wife. It should be done today, but my faithful Boduoc must be here as a witness. It would be a disappointment indeed to him were he not to be present at my marriage. For the present, at any rate, my wife will remain here.
"She would fain go up into the mountains, but that cannot be. Not only is our life too rough for her, but her presence there would greatly add to my anxieties. Here she will be safe, and you, Philo, will remain with her. I am convinced that I can trust Cornelius. You have told me, Porus, that you are assured of his honesty, and as I can pay him well, and he can have no idea that the Romans would be glad to pay a far higher sum for my capture, he has no temptation to be unfaithful to us; besides, his face is a frank and open one. I shall charge him that, while Aemilia remains here, none of his men are to accompany him when he goes down to the port, for, without meaning harm, they might talk to people there of what is going on, and the matter might come to the ears of the authorities."
"I think," Porus said, "it would be well, Beric, that I and the three men who go down with me to bring up goods should take up our residence here. There is an out house which is unused, and which we can occupy. In this way we can keep an eye upon the two men on the farm, and one can be always on the watch to see that no party of armed men is coming up from the port. I believe in the good faith of the farmer, but it is always better to take precautions."
"Far better, Porus. The plan you suggest is an excellent one. We must try and make this chamber a little more fitting for Aemilia's abode."
"That will soon be done," Porus said. "Knowing what your wishes would be in such a matter, I purchased at Ostia sufficient stuff to cover these bare walls, with rugs and such furniture as was requisite. These I brought up in a cart as far as the road extends, and I will now go down with Philo and the two men and bring them up here and help the slaves get the room in order."
Before sunset Beric returned alone to the camp, and the next morning came back to the farm with Boduoc.
"There is one thing I must tell you, Beric," Aemilia said when he went in alone to see her, "I have become a Christian."
"I thought it was likely you would do so, Aemilia," he said; "living among these people, and knowing how Ennia had embraced their religion, it could hardly be otherwise. You shall tell me about it afterwards. I know but little of its tenets, but I know how those who held them faced death, and there must be much indeed in a religion which teaches men so to die."
"You told me that you would not object, Beric, or I would have abstained from attending their assemblies. Still, it was right I should tell you before I became your wife."
Porus and his companion had spent the morning in gathering flowers. These the slaves had made into wreaths and had decorated the room, which was completely changed in appearance since Beric left it on the afternoon before. The roughly built walls were hidden by rich hangings. The floor was covered with matting, on which were placed thick rugs woven in the East. Two or three carved couches were placed against the walls, and as many small tables on tripod legs stood beside them. The farmer and his wife were called in, and in their presence and that of his three followers Beric performed the simple ceremony of a Roman marriage, consisting only of taking Aemilia's hand in his and declaring that, in conformity with the conditions of the pact before made and signed, and with the full consent and authorization of her father, he took her to be his wife.
Beric remained three days down at the cottage, and then rejoined his band. A few days later a messenger came in from one of the bands at the other side of the promontory of Bruttium, saying they had obtained news that preparations were being made at Sybaris for the landing of a very large body of troops, and that it was said to be the intention of the Romans to make a great expedition through the mountains and entirely exterminate the outlaws.
"They would have left us alone," Beric said bitterly, "if it had not been that you made yourselves scourges to the country, pillaging and ravaging the villages among the hills and slaying innocent people."
"We were obliged to live," the man said. "Rome has driven us into the mountains, and we must feed at the expense of Rome."
Beric was silent. He felt that had he himself not had means his own bands would have also taken to pillage. The men who took to the hills regarded themselves as at war with Rome. Rome sent her soldiers against them, and slew every man captured. She hunted them like wild beasts, and as wild beasts they had to live at her expense. Beric was not in advance of the spirit of his time. It was the custom in war to burn, destroy, and slay.
That as Rome warred with them they should war with Rome seemed natural to every fugitive in the hills, and they regarded their leader's action in purchasing what he could have taken by force simply as an act of policy. Their own people had been slain by the Romans, they themselves doomed to risk their lives for the amusement of the Roman mob. If recaptured they would, like the followers of Spartacus, be doubtless put to death by crucifixion. That, under these circumstances, they should be in the slightest degree influenced by any feeling of pity or humanity towards Romans would, if suggested to them, have appeared supremely ridiculous.
Beric felt, then, that for him to say any further word of blame would only have the effect of causing him to be regarded with suspicion and dislike, and would lessen his own influence among the mountain bands.
He therefore said, "That you should take what is necessary is not blamable, against it I have nothing to say; but it was to the interest of all of us that nothing more should be taken. Rome would not have been stirred to send an army against us merely by the complaints of peasants that some of their goats and sheep had been driven off or their granaries emptied; but when it comes to burning villages and slaughtering their inhabitants, and carrying fire and sword down to the seashore, Rome was roused. She felt her majesty insulted, and now we are going to have a veritable army invade the mountains. It is no longer viewed as an affair of brigands, but as an insurrection. However, there is no more to be said, the mischief is done, and we have now only to do our best to repel the invasion. Tell your leaders that tomorrow morning I will set out and join them, and will with them examine the country, mark the lines by which the enemy are likely to advance, decide where obstacles had best be erected, and where the first stand should be made. It may be weeks yet before they come. Roman armies are not moved as quickly as a tribe of mountaineers."
The following day Beric, taking with him the greater portion of his band, marched across the hills under the guidance of the charcoal burner, who had now enrolled himself regularly in its ranks, and had taken the oath of obedience. Their course lay to the northeast, as it was in the Bay of Tarentum that rumour reported that the Romans would land. As, after two days' marching, they neared the spot fixed upon for the rendezvous, they came upon other bands journeying in the same direction; and when these united on a shoulder of the hill commanding a view of the great bay, some eight hundred men were assembled. Fires had been already lighted, and a number of sheep killed and roasted. The leaders withdrew from the rest as soon as they had finished their meal, and seating themselves at a point whence they could see the plains stretching away from the foot of the hills to the gulf, began their consultation.
"I wonder why they are coming round here?" one of the chiefs said; "they might have landed at Rhegium in the straits, and thence marched straight up into the hills. From where your camp is, Beric, you should know what is going on there, for the town stands almost below you. Is nought said there about military preparations?"
"Nothing whatever," Beric replied; "nor do I think it likely that they will attack from that point, for if they advanced thence, we should simply retire through the mountains to the north just as we retired south when they before attacked us. It is clear what their object is: they will sail up that river and will disembark at Cosenza; the hills narrow there, and it is but a short distance across them to the Western Sea. Ascending them they will at once cut us off from any retreat north. They will have their magazines close at hand. A thousand men stationed in a chain across the mountains will suffice to bar our way, while the rest will move south, penning us up as they go, until they drive us down to the very edge of the promontory, where, joined perhaps by a force coming up from Rhegium, they will have us altogether in their grip."
An expression of dismay spread round the circle. They had thought that the Romans would but march straight through the mountains, in which case it would be easy to evade them, but they saw at once that by the erection of a chain of permanent posts across the hill from Cosenza they would be completely hemmed in, and must sooner or later be hunted down.
"Then you think that our only chance is to move to the mountains north of Cosenza before they land, Beric?"
"I do not say that," Beric replied. "To begin with, we are not going to remain passive and allow ourselves to be driven like a flock of sheep into the hurdles. Did they bring against us only heavy armed troops we could laugh at them, for we can march two miles to their one, and move easily among the rocks where they could find no footing. It is only their light armed soldiers we have to fear, but even these must move at the same rate as the hoplites, for if they ventured far away from the protection of the spearmen we should make short work of them. We have over a thousand fighting men in these mountains, and each one of us in close conflict is a match for at least three of their light armed men. In the plains, of course, we should suffer greatly from their missiles before we came to a close conflict; but among these woods and precipices we could fall on them suddenly, and be in their midst before they have time to lay arrow to bow. Therefore, you see, the Romans can move but slowly among the hills, and we will soon teach them that they dare not scatter, and even twelve thousand men do not go for much among these mountains, extending some seventy miles from Cosenza to Rhegium, and from ten to twenty miles across.
"How about food?" one of the others asked.
"In that respect we shall be far better off than they would. We shall really have no difficulty about food. It would need twenty legions to form a cordon along the slopes of these hills on both sides, and we can, while opposing the Romans, always detach parties to make forays down into the plain and drive off sheep, goats, and cattle. Besides, among the lower forests there are herds of swine pasturing, which will be available for our use. The question of food will be of no trouble to us, but on the other hand, it will be a vast trouble to the Romans. Every foot that they advance from their magazines at Cosenza their difficulties will increase. They must make roads as they go, and their convoys will always be exposed to our attacks. Very large bodies of men must otherwise be employed in escorting them. They may form depots at the foot of the hills as they advance, but even then their difficulties will be prodigious.
"I should propose to fight them as we fought them in the swamps of my native land--to harass them night and day, to wear them out with false alarms, to oppose them in the defiles, to hurl down the rocks on them from precipices, to cut off their convoys, and fall upon their camps at night, until they lose all confidence in themselves, and dare only move hither and thither in a solid body. Not until they have destroyed the whole of the forests between Cosenza and Rhegium, and made roads everywhere across the mountains, ought they be able to overcome us. It will be time enough to think of retiring then. By descending the western slopes a long night march would take us north of Cosenza, and we could then take to the hills again; or we could descend upon the coast near Rhegium at night, seize a fishing village, embark in its boats and cross the strait, and before morning be among the mountains of Sicily, which are so vast and far stretching that operations which, though possible, are difficult here, could not probably be carried on against us."
Beric's words were received with enthusiastic approval. Before all had felt dispirited, and though ready to fight to the last, had deemed that the resistance could be but short and their fate certain. Now they saw before them a veritable war, in which they could hope to defend themselves successfully, and if beaten here escape to renew it elsewhere, and which promised them an abundant opportunity for encountering the Romans. This was what they most longed for. Not one there but hated Rome with a bitter hatred, as the author of unnumbered woes to their tribes, their families and themselves. Death had no terrors whatever to these men, so that they could die fighting with Romans. Rising to their feet they returned with exulting shouts to their comrades.
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