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CHAPTER LXI.

RESCUE OF O-TOU BY CHAO YÜN;

Ts'Ao Ts'AO REPULSED BY A LETTER. In spite of the persuasion of Pang T‘ung and Fa Chêng, Liu Pei steadily refused to sanction the assassination of his host, even if thereby he was to gain possession of the land of Shu.

The next day there was another banquet, this time in the city, whereat host and guest unbosomed themselves freely to each other and became exceedingly friendly and affectionate. All were mellow with wine, and P'ang Tung, talking with Fa Chêng said, “Since our master will have nothing to do with our scheme we had better set Wei Yen's sword-play to work and take advantage of the confusion to kill Liu Chang."

Wei Yen came in shortly afterward, with his sword drawn, and said, "There being no other distraction at this banquet, may I show you a little fencing to amuse you?”

Thereupon P'ang T‘ung called up some of the armed men and ranged them along the lower part of the hall till Wei should fall on. At these preparations the officers of Liu Chang stared with questioning eyes toward the chief seats at the upper end, and one of them, Chang Jên, drew his sword, saying, “An opponent is needed to make fencing a succees, so he and I will display our skill at the same time."

So they began. Presently, at a glance from Wei Yen, Liu Fêng came up and took position at his side. At once three of the officers of Shu followed suit, saying, “And we three will come in too; it may add to your amusement and help to raise a laugh.”

But to Liu Pei matters began to take on a serious look. Drawing the two swords he wore, one on the right side and the other on the left, he stood out in the banquet hall and cried, “We brothers have perhaps honoured our meeting with a little too much wine; there is nothing to say against that, but this is no Hung-mên Gathering, where murder was done. Put up your swords or I will slay you!"

“Why wear swords at all at a meeting of two brothers?" cried Liu Chang, at the same time telling his servants to surround his officers and take away their weapons.

Disarmed, they sulkily withdrew, and then Liu Pei called all the captains to the upper end of the banquet hall, gave them wine and said, “You need have no doubts; we two

brothers, of the same bone and blood, have talked over the great design and we are one in purpose.".

The officers bowed and retired. Liu Chang took his guest by the hand, saying, “ Brother, I shall never forget your kindness."

They sat drinking till late, both feeling very happy. When at length Liu Pei reached his camp he blamed his strategist for having caused the confusion.

“Why did you endeavour to force me into committing a great wrong?" said Liu. “There must be no repetition of this."

P‘ang T'ung retired, sighing. When Liu Chang reached his own camp his captains waited on him and said, “Sir, you saw the real meaning of that occurrence at the banquet, we suppose. We think it prudent for you to retire at once into the city."

My brother is different from ordinary men,” replied Liu Chang

“ He may not incline toward murder himself, but those about him have but one desire that is to exploit this land of ours to their own advantage."

Do not try to sow dissension between us and make us quarrel," said their chief.

And he took no heed of their remonstrance. One day, when he and Liu Pei were enjoying together relaxation from cares of state, the news came that Chang Lu was about to invade Shu at the Chiaming Pass. Thereupon the Prefect begged Liu Pei to go and defend it. He consented and left immediately with his own especial band. At once Liu Chang's officers took advantage of the guest's departure to urge the Prefect to place his own trusty men in command at various strategic points, so as to guard against any attempts of the visitors to seize the land. At first Liu Chang was unwilling and refused, but as they prayed him most earnestly to do this he yielded and consented to take some steps to safeguard himself. sent Yang Huai, the commander at Paishui, and Kao P'ei to garrison Foushui Pass.

So Liu Chang returned to Ch'êngtu and his guest, Liu Pei, went away to the point where invasion threatened. Arrived there, he soon won the hearts of the people by the strict discipline he maintained over his men and by his gracious manner.

News of these doings in Shu duly reached Wu, and the Marquis summoned his counsellors as to his countermove. Then Ku Yung spoke, saying, “I have an infallible plan to propose.

Liu Pei and his army are now far away and separated from us by difficult country. Therefore he cannot return quickly, and my advice is to occupy the passes so that he cannot get through. Then send all your force against Chingchou and Hsiangyang and they will surely fall to you."

“The plan seems excellent,” said Sun Ch'üan.

But just then a voice was heard from behind the screen crying, “ You may just put to death the man who proposed that scheme for trying to compass the death of my daughter."

Every one started with surprise. It was the Dowager's voice. Further, she looked very angry as she entered, saying, "What is to become of my only daughter, who is the wife of Liu Pei?"

She turned her wrathful eyes to Sun and said, “You were heir to your father and brother and obtained possession of all this district without the least effort. Yet you are dissatisfied, and would forget the claims of your own flesh and blood and sacrifice my daughter for the sake of adding a little to your lands."

"No, no!" murmured Sun, ashamed. “I would never think of going contrary to my mother's wishes and orders.”

He abruptly dismissed the assembly, and when they had gone the old lady, still nursing her wrath, retired to her own apartments.

Left alone beneath the portico, Sun Ch'üan sighed sadly. “This chance missed! When will those provinces be mine?” thought he.

While still deep in reverie, Chang came up, saying, “What grieves my lord ?"

"No great matter; only this last failure to gain my ends."

“The difficulty may be easily removed," said Chang. "Choose some trusty man and charge him with a secret letter to the Princess saying that her mother is dangerously ill. Give him a half company as escort and tell him to make his way privily into Chingchou and deliver the letter. Hearing her mother wants her she will rush home at once, and she might bring with her the only son of Yüan-tê. He will be glad enough to exchange Chingchou for his son. If he will not, you can still send the army."

"That sounds like a good plan,” said Sun. "Further, I have the man to carry it out successfully. He is that Chou Shan, who was a burglar when he was younger and a bold one.

He used to accompany my brother. He is the man to go."

"Keep it a secret, then,” said Chang, "and let him start quickly."

It was decided that Chou Shan should take with him about half a company of soldiers disguised as ordinary traders. He had five vessels and distributed his men among them, while weapons were hidden in the holds. A letter was forged to look like a veritable letter from the court of Wu.

Chou Shan set out along the river route for Chingchou and was not long on the way. He anchored his ships under the bank, landed and went into the city to the residence, where he bade the doorkeepers announce him. He was admitted

and led into the presence of the Lady Sun and presently gave her the secret letter. When she read that her mother was in danger of death she began to weep bitterly and questioned the messenger closely. Chou invented a long story that the Dowager was really fretting for a sight of her daughter and if she did not go quickly it would be too late. He added that she was to take little O-tou with her that her mother might see him once before she died.

The Lady Sun replied, “You know that the Imperial Uncle is far away on military service and I ought to inform the chief of the army before returning home."

"But what will you do if he says he must inform your husband and await his consent?” said Chou.

"If I went without asking permission—but I fear that is impossible.”

“My ships are all ready in the river and you have only to drive through the city," said Chou.

Naturally the news of her mother's illness greatly disturbed the young wife. In a short time her carriage was ready and she mounted, taking O-tou with her. She took an escort of thirty men, all armed, and was soon at the river side and had embarked before the palace people could report what she was doing. But just as the ships were starting, a voice was heard, shouting, "Do not start yet; let me bid my lady farewell.”

The voice was Chao Yün's; he had just returned from an inspection trip and they had at once told him of Lady Sun's sudden departure. As soon as he had recovered from his surprise he dashed down to the river bank like a whirlwind, with only half a dozen followers. He arrived only just in time; the boat was starting and Chou Shan stood in the prow, a long spear in his hand.

"Who are you that you dare hinder the movements of your mistress?" cried Chou.

Chou bade his men cast off and get under way, and also to prepare their weapons to fight. The ship moved off with a fair wind and a strong current beneath her keel.

But Chao Yün followed along the bank. “My lady may go or not as she pleases,” cried he, “but I have one word to say to her.”

Chou Shan turned a deaf ear and only urged his men to get greater speed on the ship. Chao Yün followed down the bank for some ten or more li. Then he saw a fishing boat made fast to the bank. He at once dismounted, cast off the rope, took his spear and leaped into the boat. Then he made the two men row him toward the vessel in which sat Lady Sun. As he approached, the men of Wu threatened him with their spears. Thereupon he threw his spear into the bottom of the boat, drew the glittering steel blade he wore, dashed aside the opposing spears and leaped upon the larger vessel. The men

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