Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/123

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BATTLE OF THE METAURUS. 117


tle, though he had not judged it expedient to attack them in their lines. And now, on hearing that the Romans offered battle, he also drew up his men, and advanced toward them. No spy or deserter had informed him of Nero's arrival, nor had he received any direct information that he had more than his old enemies to deal with. But as he rode forward to reconnoiter the Roman line, he thought that their numbers seemed to have increased, and that the armor of some of them was unusually dull and stained. He noticed, also, that the horses of some of the cavalry appeared to be rough and out of condition, as if they had just come from a succession of forced marches. So also, though, owing to the precaution of Livius, the Roman camp showed no change of size, it had not escaped the quick ear of the Carthaginian general that the trumpet which gave the signal to the Roman legions sounded that morning once oftener than usual, as if directing the troops of some additional superior officer. Hasdrubal, from his Spanish campaigns, was well acquainted with all the sounds and signals of Roman war, and from all that he heard and saw, he felt convinced that both the Roman consuls were before him. In doubt and difficulty as to what might have taken place between the armies of the south, and probably hoping that Hannibal also was approaching, Hasdrubal determined to avoid an encounter with the combined Roman forces, and to endeavor to retreat upon Insubrian Gaul, where he would be in a friendly country, and could endeavor to re-open his communication with his brother. He therefore led his troops back into their camp; and as the Romans did not venture on an assault upon his intrenchments, and Hasdrubal did not choose to commence his retreat in their sight, the day passed away in inaction. At the first watch of the night, Hasdrubal led his men silently out of their camp, and moved northward toward the Metaurus, in the hope of placing that river between himself and the Romans before his retreat was discovered. His guides betrayed him; and having purposely led him away from the part of the river that was fordable, they made their escape in the dark, and left Hasdrubal and his army wandering in confusion along the steep bank, and seeking in vain for a spot where the stream could be safely crossed. At last they halted; and when day dawned on them, Hasdrubal found that great numbers of his men, in their fatigue and impatience, had lost all discipline and subordination, and that many of his