Brutus poured two cups of water and invited Cassius to sit.
Cassius came straight to the point. ‘This is how you have wronged me,’ he said. ‘You have condemned and reprimanded Lucius Pella for taking bribes from the Sardinians, and my letters defending him, because I know the man, were contemptuously pushed aside.’
‘You were wrong to write in his defence.’
‘At times like this it’s not appropriate to pounce on every trivial offence,’ said Cassius.
‘I have to tell you, Cassius, that you yourself are criticised for having an itchy palm and selling positions to undeserving men.’
‘I an itching palm!’ Cassius sprang up and stood over Brutus. ‘You’re lucky that you’re Brutus saying this, or by the gods, that would be the last thing you ever said.’
‘The only reason you’re escaping censure for your corruption is that your name is Cassius,’ said Brutus.
‘Remember March, don’t forget the ides of March. Didn’t great Julius bleed for justice? What villain stabbed him other than for the sake of justice? What? Will one of us, who killed the world’s foremost man for his corruption, now contaminate our fingers with shabby bribes and sell our reputation for so much trash that can be grasped like this?’ Brutus closed his fist. ‘I would rather be a dog, baying at the moon, than be such a Roman.’
‘Brutus, don’t bait me. I won’t take it. You forget yourself, hedging me in like this. I am a soldier, I am, more experienced than you and more competent to make such judgments.
Brutus stood up and faced him. ‘Nonsense! You are not, Cassius.’
‘I say you are not!’
They had squared up to each other and their eyes were locked.
‘Don’t provoke me further,’ said Cassius. ‘I’ll forget myself. Don’t tempt me any further if you value your health.’
Brutus turned away. ‘Go away, you worthless creature,’ he said.
‘I don’t believe this,’ said Cassius.
Brutus sat down again. He sighed. ‘Listen to me. Do I have to humour your irrational anger? Do I have to be frightened when a madman stares?’
Cassius put his head in his hands. ‘Oh ye gods, ye gods! Must I take this?’
‘Just this? Yes, and more. Pull faces and clutch your head till your proud heart bursts. Go and show your slaves how furious you are and make them tremble. Do you think you can do that to me? Do I have to watch this? Must I cower in the face of your bad mood? By the gods, you can swallow your own bile till it kills you. From now on I’ll use you for my entertainment. Yes, laugh at you, when you’re irritable.’
‘Has it come to this?’ Cassius threw himself down on to his cushion.
Neither spoke for a minute then Brutus broke the silence. ‘You say you’re a better soldier. Show it then. Make good your boasting and I’ll be well pleased. As for myself I’ll be happy to learn from such a good soldier.’
‘You’re wronging me in every way. You’re wronging me, Brutus. I said a more experienced soldier, not a better. Did I say better?’
‘I don’t care what you said.’
‘When Caesar was alive he wouldn’t have dared upset me like this,’ said Cassius.
‘Hush, hush, you wouldn’t have dared tempt him.’
‘I wouldn’t have?’
‘Not dared tempt him?’
‘Not on your life.’
‘Don’t presume too much on our friendship,’ said Cassius. ‘I may do something I’ll regret.’
‘You’ve already done things that you should regret. There is no terror in your threats, Cassius. Because I’m so protected by my principles that they pass by me like a small breeze that I don’t even notice. I sent to you for some money, because I can’t raise money dishonestly, which you denied me. I’d rather sell my heart and drain my blood for drachmas than extort cash from hard-working peasants by crooked dealing. I sent to you for money to pay my troops and you denied me. Was that done like Cassius? Would I have treated Caius Cassius like that? When Marcus Brutus gets so greedy that he would deny money to his friends then the gods had better be ready with all their thunderbolts and strike him down.’
‘I didn’t deny you,’ said Cassius.’
‘I did not. The messenger who brought you my answer was an idiot. Brutus has broken my heart. A friend should tolerate his friend’s weaknesses, but Brutus makes mine greater than they are.’
‘I don’t until you force them on me.’
‘You don’t love me.’ Cassius was almost in tears.
‘I don’t like your faults.’
‘A friend’s eye would never see such faults.’
‘A flatterer wouldn’t, even though they might appear as huge as high Olympus.’
Cassius shook his head sadly. ‘Come Antony and young Octavius, come. Revenge yourselves on Cassius alone: because Cassius is tired of this world, hated by one he loves: defied by his brother: rebuked like a slave: all his faults observed, written down in a notebook, learnt off by heart, to throw at me. Oh I could weep my soul from my eyes.’ He drew his dagger out and offered it to Brutus. ‘Here is my dagger, and here’s my naked breast.’ He opened the front of his shirt. ‘In here there is a heart, richer than Pluto’s mine, richer than gold. If you are a Roman, take it. I who denied you gold will give you my heart. Strike, as you did at Caesar, because I know that when you hated him most, you loved him better than you ever loved Cassius.’
‘Sheathe your dagger,’ said Brutus. ‘You can be angry whenever you want to be: it will go unchecked. Do whatever you like: I’ll take every dishonour as no more than a bad mood. Oh Cassius, you’re like a lamb that shows its anger like a flint to light a fire. When roused up it gives a quick spark then gets cold again.’
‘Has Cassius lived his whole life just to be an amusement to his Brutus when unhappiness and a bad temper trouble him?’ said Cassius.
‘When I said that I was bad tempered too,’ said Brutus.
‘Are you admitting that?’ said Cassius. ‘Give me your hand.’
They stood up and embraced each other. ‘And my heart, too,’ said Brutus.
‘Oh Brutus,’ sighed Cassius.
‘What’s the matter?’
‘Haven’t you got enough love to tolerate me when that rash moodiness that I inherited from my mother makes me forget myself?’
‘Of course, Cassius, and from now on, when you get like that with your Brutus, he’ll take it that it’s your mother raving, and just let you get on with it.’
There was some shouting outside the tent. A camp follower, a poet, come along to record the great events, was trying to get past the officers who were guarding the entrance. ‘Let me go in to see the generals,’ he insisted. ‘There is some grudge between them: it’s not right that they should be alone.’
‘You’re not going in,’ said Lucilius.
The Poet raised his fists. ‘Nothing but death will stop me,’ he said.
Cassius appeared at the entrance. ‘Hello?’ he said. ‘What’s the matter?’
‘For shame, you generals,’ the poet said, following Cassius into the tent, ‘what do you think you’re doing? Make up and be friends, as two such men should be, because I’m much older than ye.’
Cassius laughed. ‘What terrible rhymes this philosopher comes out with!’
‘Get out, sirrah,’ said Brutus. ‘You cheeky fellow, get out!’
‘Put up with him, Brutus,’ said Cassius. ‘That’s just the way he is.
‘I’ll put up with his foolery when he chooses the right time to show it,’ said Brutus. ‘What’s the war got to do with silly rhymesters like this? Get out, you wretched creature!’ Brutus’ face was full of fury.
‘Get out,’ said Cassius. ‘Go!’
The poet scuttled away to the laughter of all the officers.
‘Lucilius and Titanius, tell the commanders to put the men to bed for the night,’ said Brutus. ‘Then come come straight back, and bring Messala with you. Lucius, a bowl of wine.’
‘I didn’t think you could be so angry,’ said Cassius.
‘Oh Cassius, I’m burdened by many griefs.’
To Cassius’ surprise Brutus was weeping. He put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. ‘Your stoic religion isn’t serving you well,’ he said, ‘if you get so upset by such small things.’
‘No man can bear sorrow better than I,’ said Brutus. ‘Portia is dead.’
‘How did I escape killing when I crossed you like that? Oh Insupportable and moving loss! Of what sickness?’
‘Unable to endure my absence, and grief that young Octavius and Mark Antony have made themselves so powerful – because that news came with the news of her death – she became distracted. When her servants were gone she swallowed fire.’
‘And died of that?’
‘Oh you immortal Gods.’ Cassius embraced Brutus.
‘Don’t mention it again,’ said Brutus as the boy arrived with wine and candles. ‘Give me a bowl of wine.’ When they both had wine Brutus raised his bowl. ‘In this I bury all animosity, Caius.’
‘My heart is thirsty for that noble toast,’ said Cassius. ‘Fill, Lucius, till the wine overflows the rim. I cannot drink too much of Brutus’ love.’
‘Come in Titinius,’ said Brutus.
Lucilius, Titinius and Messala joined them as the boy went out.
‘Wecome, good Messala,’ said Brutus. ‘Now let’s gather round this candle and consider what we need.’
Cassius’ thoughts were far away. ‘Portia, have you really gone?’ he said softly.
‘No more, I beg of you,’ said Brutus. ‘Messala, I have letters here that tell me that young Octavius and Mark Antony are bearing down on us with a mighty force, moving towards Philippi.’
‘I’ve got letters confirming that,’ said Messala
‘And what further information?’ said Brutus.
‘That with charges of outlawry Octavius, Antony and Lepidus have put a hundred senators to death.’
‘Our letters don’t entirely agree,’ said Brutus. ‘Mine speak of seventy senators that died by their sentences of death, Cicero being one.’
‘Cicero one of them?’ said Cassius.
‘Cicero is dead,’ said Messsala. ‘And by that order of death sentence.’
‘Well to our work,’ said Brutus. What do you think about marching to Philippi immediately?’
‘I don’t think it’s a good idea,’ said Cassius.
‘It’s this. It’s better that the enemy looks for us. In that way he’ll waste his resources, make his soldiers tired, and do himself harm while we are resting, ready and fresh.’
Brutus nodded. ‘That’s a good reason but it has to give way to a better plan. The people between Philippi and here are hostile to us, because they’ve denied us their contribution. The enemy, marching through them, will make up fuller numbers and arrive refreshed, with new additions, and with a high morale. We can cut him off from that advantage, if we face him there, these people behind us.’
‘Listen to me, good brother,’ said Cassius.
‘With your permission,’ said Brutus, ‘don’t forget that we have got the most out of our friends: our legions are brim-full, we are ready. The enemy increases every day. We, at our height, can only decline. There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to success. Missing that tide, all the voyage of men’s life is confined to shallows and failure. We’re now floating on that full tide and we must take the current when it’s right, or lose our project.’
‘If that’s what you want then, proceed,’ said Cassius. ‘We’ll go too, and meet them at Philippi.’
‘It’s late, and we need to sleep,’ said Brutus. ‘There’s nothing more to be said.’
‘No, nothing,’ said Cassius. ‘We’ll rise early tomorrow and go.’
‘Lucius! ‘Get my nightgown,’ said Brutus. ‘Farewell, good Messala. Good night Titinius. Noble, noble Cassius, good night, and sleep well.’
Cassius took his hand. ‘Oh my dear brother! This was a bad beginning to the night. There must never be such a division between us again. Don’t let it happen, Brutus.’
Lucius came in with Brutus’ nightgown.
‘Everything is fine,’ said Brutus.
‘Good night my lord,’ said Cassius.
‘Good night, good brother.’
Titinius and Messala wished him goodnight. ‘Farewell everyone,’ said Brutus.
He was left alone. ‘Give me the gown,’ he told Lucius. ‘Where’s your lute?’
‘It’s here, in the tent.’
‘What? You’re sleepy. Poor fellow, I don’t blame you. You’re over worked. Tell Claudius and some other of my guards to come and sleep on cushions in my tent.’
Lucius went and called them.
‘Did you want us, my lord?’ said Varro.
‘Please sleep in my tent tonight,’ said Brutus. ‘It may be I’ll wake you up later to take some business to my brother Cassius.’
‘If it’s alright with you we’ll stay up for your convenience.’
‘I don’t want that. Lie down, good sirs. I may change my mind. Look, Lucius, here’s the book I’ve been looking everywhere for. I put it in the pocket of my gown.’
‘I was sure your lordship hadn’t given it to me,’ said Lucius.
‘Bear with me. good boy, I’m very forgetful. Can you keep your eyes open for a while and play your lute a bit?’
‘It’s my duty, sir.’
‘I shouldn’t stretch your duty. I know youths need a lot of sleep.’
‘I’ve already slept, my lord.’
‘Good, and you’ll get more sleep. I won’t keep you long.’ Brutus smiled at him. ‘If I live I’ll be good to you.’
Lucius began strumming softly and started to sing. Brutus lay back on a cushion and closed his eyes. It was a soothing song. It came to an end and Brutus opened his eyes. Lucius had fallen asleep over his lute. He wouldn’t wake him: if he moved he would break the lute. He got up and gently removed the lute and bid the boy a gentle good night. Hmmmm, the book: now where was he? Hadn’t he folded the corner of the page where he had last been reading? Ah, there it was. He started to read.
The candle seemed to grow dimmer and there was a movement of the tent’s entrance flap. There was someone there. Ha? Who was it? It must be a weakness in his eyes that was shaping a horrible apparition. ‘Are you any thing?’ he said aloud. He shivered. ‘Are you some god, some angel or some devil, that’s making my blood run cold and my hair stand up? Tell me what you are?’
‘Your evil spirit,’ the apparition said in a thin ghostly voice.
Brutus rubbed his eyes. It was still there, and Brutus could see now, that it had taken the shape of Caesar, all pale and rigid. ‘Why have you come?’ he said.
‘To tell you that you will see me at Philippi.’
‘Well. I’ll see you again?’
‘Yes, at Philippi.’
‘Well then I’ll see you at Philippi.’
The ghost faded and disappeared.
‘Just when I’ve overcome my fear you vanish,’ said Brutus. ‘Evil spirit, I want to talk to you more. Boy, Lucius! Varro! Claudius! All of you, wake up. Claudius!’
Lucius thought he was still playing the lute. ‘The strings are out of tune,’ he said, still half asleep.
‘Lucius. Wake up!’
Lucius was wide awake now. ‘My lord,’ he said.
‘Did you dream that you cried out, Lucius?’
‘My lord, I didn’t know that I cried out.’
‘Yes you did. Did you see anything?’
‘Nothing, my lord.’
‘Go back to sleep, Lucius. Claudius! You, wake up!’
The guards got up.
‘Why did you cry out, sirs, in your sleep?’ said Brutus.
‘Did we my lord?’ said Claudius.
‘Yes, did you see anything?’
‘No, my lord, I didn’t see anything,’ said Varro.
‘Nor I, my lord,’ said Claudius.
‘Go and give my compliments to my brother Cassius,’ said Brutus. ‘Tell him to get his troops up early. And we will follow.’