The negotiation which had some time before commenced respecting Masinissa, was delayed from one cause after another; for the Numidian was desirous by all means of conferring with Scipio in person, and of touching his right hand in confirmation of their compact. This was the cause of Scipio's undertaking at this time a journey of such a length, and into so remote a quarter.
Masinissa, when at Gades, received information from Marcius of the approach of Scipio, and by pretending that his horses were injured by being pent up in the island, and that they not only caused a scarcity of every thing to the rest, but also felt it themselves; moreover that his cavalry were beginning to lose their energy for want of employment;
he prevailed upon Mago to allow him to cross over to the continent, to plunder the adjacent country of [p. 1210]
Having passed over, he sent forward three chiefs of the Numidians, to fix a time and place for the conference, desiring that two might be detained by Scipio as hostages. The third being sent back to conduct Masinissa to the place to which he was directed to bring him, they came to the conference with a few attendants.
The Numidian had long before been possessed with admiration of Scipio from the fame of his exploits; and his imagination had pictured to him the idea of a grand and magnificent person; but his veneration for him was still greater when he appeared before him.
For besides that his person, naturally majestic in the highest degree, was rendered still more so by his flowing hair, by his dress, which was not in a precise and ornamental style, but truly masculine and soldier-like, and also by his age, for he was then in full vigour of body, to which the bloom of youth,
renewed as it were after his late illness, had given additional fulness and sleekness.
The Numidian, who was in a manner thunderstruck by the mere effect of the meeting, thanked him for having sent home his brother's son. He affirmed, that from that time he had sought for this opportunity, which being at length presented to him, by favour of the immortal gods, he had not allowed to pass without seizing it.
That he desired to serve him and the Roman people in such a manner, as that no one foreigner should have aided the Roman interest with greater zeal than himself.
Although he had long since wished it, he had not been so able to effect it in Spain, a foreign and strange country; but that it would be easy for him to do so in that country in which he had been born and educated, under the hope of succeeding to his father's throne.
If, indeed, the Romans should send the same commander, Scipio, into Africa, he entertained a well-grounded hope that Carthage would continue to exist but a short time.
Scipio saw and heard him with the highest delight, both because he knew that he was the first man in all the cavalry of the enemy, and because the youth himself exhibited in his manner the strongest proof of a noble spirit. After mutual pledges of faith, he set out on his return to Tarraco.
Masinissa, having laid waste the adjacent lands, with the permission of the Romans, that he might not appear to have passed over into the continent to no purpose, returned to Gades.