One of the officers, named Statilius, then proposed to make the attempt to find his way out of the snare in which they had become involved. He would go, he said, as cautiously as possible, avoiding all parties of the enemy, and being favored by the darkness of the night, he hoped to find some way of retreat. If he succeeded, he would display a torch on a distant elevation which he designated, so that the party in the glen, on seeing the light, might be assured of his safety. He would then return and guide them all through the danger, by the way which he should have discovered.
This plan was approved, and Statilius accordingly departed. In due time the light was seen burning at the place which had been pointed out, and indicating that Statilius had accomplished his undertaking. Brutus and his party were greatly cheered by the new hope which this result awakened. They began to watch and listen for their messenger’s return. They watched and waited long, but he did not come. On the way back he was intercepted and slain.
When at length all hope that he would return was finally abandoned, some of the party, in the course of the despairing consultations which the unhappy fugitives held with one another, said that they must not remain any longer where they were, but must make their escape from that spot at all hazards. “Yes,” said Brutus, “we must indeed make our escape from our present situation, but we must do it with our hands, and not with our feet.” He meant by this that the only means now left to them to evade their enemies was self-destruction. When his friends understood that this was his meaning, and that he was resolved to put this design into execution in his own case, they were overwhelmed with sorrow. Brutus took them, one by one, by the hand and bade them farewell. He thanked them for their fidelity in adhering to his cause to the last, and said that it was a source of great comfort and satisfaction to him that all his friends had proved so faithful and true. “I do not complain of my hard fate,” he added, “so far as I myself am concerned. I mourn only for my unhappy country. As to myself, I think that my condition even now is better than that of my enemies; for though I die, posterity will do me justice, and I shall enjoy forever the honor which virtue and integrity deserve; while they, though they live, live only to reap the bitter fruits of injustice and of tyranny.