Cato Calls Upon Carthage To Make Peace With The Samnites:
The next day Cato packed up his household and transported it back to his city house in Rome. He left the hostages in place at his country estate under full military guard which he could command from a distance and took his niece, Lavinia, and Gaius Antonius with him.
Lavinia seemed to brighten up when she got away from Tanit. Gaius could tell. She looked forward to playing hostess to her uncle in Rome and forgetting all about the hostages. She brought him a hot cup of mulsum sweetened with honey. He immediately retired to his cozy study in Cato’s house and started to reconstruct his own maps from memory. He lay down Tanit’s maps, the one her friend drew as a replacement, face down on the desk beside him to use as a contrast/comparison guide.
Lavinia was hanging over his shoulder quietly watching him draw. She even took a seat beside him. When he paused she said, “Those drawings really do look different, don’t they?” She sipped her own honeyed mulsum.
So even Lavinia noticed it!
He nodded. “That is what I thought too. Why do you think I am going to all the trouble of drawing these maps again from memory? Cato won’t have a guide to what is actually there otherwise. He might miss some important detail.”
She nodded, following his train of thought. “Do you think one of the Carthaginians stole the map and then drew a fake map to replace it?” She stated the doubt that had been tormenting him all along since he had discovered the differences in the drawings.
“It is hard to say. They seemed to be quite willing to help us. The differences could be innocent enough, just a matter of emphasis and memory. Maybe some of the sailors do still dress the way they did fifty years ago for all we know. I only know what I happened to see myself. Then again there could be a mass conspiracy to prevent us from seeing something. I just cannot tell.”
“It is better to be prudent,” she agreed.
It was his private secret with Lavinia. Cato did not know about it. Gaius had not wanted to inform him. Who knew what Cato might not do if he found out? And Cato was on the war path anyway.
The next day Gaius accompanied Cato to the Senate House. He sat beside his father who was proud that his son had a role in the current proceedings.
Cato looked around at his audience one by one taking them in and forcing them to look into his eyes as he began to speak. He made it seem as if he were addressing each one of them individually.
“Carthage must make peace with its neighbors, the Samnites,” he began. “It must take instant measures before war breaks out. He must not permit that. For what if war breaks out and Carthage wins starting with the Samnites?” he started pacing around the Senate Chamber as he was wont to do when he was orating.
The Senators began to nod gravely as if appreciating the gravity of the problem facing them today.
“Carthage will once again be a power in the Mediterranean, Our Sea, the Roman Sea, and competition to us. This is the situation that occurred before the last war when they were defeated by Scipio Africanus.”
He stopped before Scipio Aemilianus, the adopted heir of Scipio Africanus. “This is what led to the elephants and the nightmare of invasion, the nightmare that Rome was to be invaded by Hannibal.”
Cato awoke the nightmares and the fears of the whole city state. All eyes were riveted on him.
“Before this nightmare can again become reality, we must send an emissary to Carthage, or rather a team, perhaps an armed contingent, to insist on peace negotiations. Our contingent must guide and direct them and report back to us.”
Everyone nodded again.
“We should set up a time schedule. Every few months Carthage must meet a new deadline for progress, or we should take something away from them. For one thing, they have finally finished their reparations. Maybe we should threaten to start them again.”
The chamber started to cheer. They rose to their feet clapping. A group of the senators approached Cato and lifted him up on their shoulders. They paraded around the chamber with this man of the hour. The acclamations were so loud that when they burst out of the Senate House into the Forum, citizens were gathered in a crowd listening and cheering, too.
Gaius felt certain that Cato could handle the Carthaginians and the Samnites if any man could. But when he thought of his missing maps, he remembered that the devil was in the details.
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