The Carthaginians were already standing before their camp in battle-array. This circumstance delayed the battle: Hasdrubal, who had advanced before the line with a few horsemen, remarked some old shields among the enemy, which he had not seen before, and some horses leaner than the rest; their numbers also appeared greater than usual.
Suspecting, therefore, what was really the case, he hastily sounded a retreat, and sent a party to the river from which they got their water, where some of them might be intercepted, and notice taken whether there were perchance any there whose com- [p. 1155]
plexions were more than ordinarily sun-burnt, as from a recent march.
At the same time he ordered a party to ride round the camp at a distance, and note whether the rampart was extended in any part, and also observe whether the signal sounded once or twice. Having received a report of all these particulars, the fact of the camp's not being enlarged led him into error.
There were now two camps, as there were before the other consul arrived, one belonging to Marcus Livius, the other to Lucius Porcius, and to neither of them had any addition been made to give more room for the tents.
But the veteran general, who was accustomed to a Roman enemy, was much struck by their reporting that the signal sounded once in the praetor's camp, and twice in the consul's; there must therefore be two consuls, and felt the most painful anxiety as to the manner in which the other had got away from Hannibal.
Least of all could he suspect, what was really the case, that he had got away from Hannibal by deceiving him to such an extent, as that he knew not where the general was, and where the army whose camp stood opposite to his own.
Surely, he concluded, deterred by a defeat of no ordinary kind, he has not dared to pursue him; and he began to entertain the most serious fears that he had himself come too late with assistance, now that affairs were desperate, and lest the same good fortune attended the Roman arms in Italy which they had experienced in Spain.
Sometimes he imagined that his letter could not have reached him, and that, it having been intercepted, the consul had hastened to overpower him. Thus anxious and perplexed, having put out the fires, he issued a signal at the first watch to collect the baggage in silence, and gave orders to march. In the hurry and confusion occasioned by a march by night, their guides were not watched with sufficient care and attention.
One of them stopped in a lace of concealment which he had beforehand fixed upon in hi mind, the other swam across the river Metaurus, at a ford with which he was acquainted. The troops, thus deserted by their guides, at first wandered up and down through the fields; and some of them, overpowered with sleep, and fatigued with watching, stretched themselves on the ground here and there, leaving their standards thinly attended.
Hasdrubal gave orders to march along the bank of the river until the light should discover the road; but, pursuing a circuitous and un- [p. 1156]
certain course along the turnings and windings of that tortuous river, with the intention of crossing it as soon as the first light should discover a place convenient for the purpose, he made but little progress;
but wasting the day in a fruitless attempt to discover a ford, for the further he went from the sea the higher he found the banks which kept the river in its course, he gave the enemy time to overtake him.