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into the arms of Yen Yen. His arm rose, the sword fell and Hsiahou Tê dropped from his steed to rise no more.
This ambush, into which the dead captain had rushed, had been carefully prepared by Huang, who had sent Yen away before he marched himself and given him orders what to do. It was the brushwood that his men had spent the time in collecting that now sent forth the flames reaching up to the heavens and filling the valleys.
Yen Yen, after slaying Hsiahou Tê, came round the hill to aid in the attack, so that the defenders were taken both in front and rear. They could do nothing and presently left the battle-field and rushed toward Tingchun Mount to seek refuge with Hsiahou Yüan.
Meanwhile the victors took steps to hold the position they had won and sent the good news of victory to Ch'êngtu. And when the news arrived, Yüan-tê called together all his officers to rejoice.
Then said Fa Chêng, "Not long ago Chang Lu submitted to Ts'ao Ts'ao, and thereby he got possession of Hanchung quite easily. Instead of following up this by an advance on the west he left two captains to guard it and went north. That was a mistake. Now, my lord, do not make a mistake yourself, but take advantage of the present favourable position, with Chang Ho newly defeated and T‘ientang captured, to attack Hanchung and you wili have it at once. Once that is yours, you can train your army and amass supplies ready for a stroke against the arch-rebel himself. This God-given advantage will be confirmed to you and you should not miss it."
Both Yüan-tê and Kʻung-ming saw the wisdom of this scheme and prepared to act. Chao Yün and Chang Fei were to lead the van, while Yüan-tê with K‘ung-ming commanded the main army of ten legions. A day was chosen to set out, and orders were sent to everyone to keep careful guard.
It was a certain auspicious day in the seventh month of the twenty-third year that the army marched.
the army marched. Reaching Chiaming Pass, Huang Chung and Yen Yen were summoned and well rewarded for their services.
“People said you were old, General, but the army know you better than they, and you have rendered amazing service. Still, Tingchün Mountain is yet to be captured and Paochang is a great central store of supplies. If we could get Tingchün Mount we could be quite easy about the whole district of Yangp'ing. Think you that you are equal to taking Tingchün Mountain ?"
To this harangue of Liu Pei the veteran nobly answered that he was willing to try and was ready to start when they would.
Said K‘ung-ming hastily, “Do not be hasty. You are brave enough, General, but Hsiahou Yüan is a man of different stamp from Chang Ho. Hsiahou is a real strategist and tactician;
so much so that Ts'ao Ts'ao relies upon him as his defence against Hsiliang. He it was who was set to defend the capital when threatened by Ma Ch'ao. Now he is in Hanchung and Tsʻao Tsʻao puts his whole confidence in him and his skill as a leader. You have overcome Chang Ho, but it is not certain you will conquer this man. I think I must send down to Chingchou for Kuan Yü for this task.”
Huang hotly replied, “Old Lien Po was four score and yet he ate a measure of rice and ten catties of flesh, so that his vigour frightened the nobles and not one dared encroach upon the borders of Chao. I am not yet seventy. You call me old, 0 Commander; then I will not take any helper, but go out simply with my own three companies and we will lay Hsiahou Yüan's head at your feet.”
Kʻung-ming refused to allow him to go; Huang Chung insisted. At last K‘ung-ming consented, but said he would send an overseer.
They put upon his mettle the man who was to go,
Youth's vigour may be lesser worth than age's powers, we know. The next chapter will tell who the overseer was.
AT THE CAPTURE OF TUI HILL HUANG CHUNG
SCORES A SUCCESS; ON THE HAN WATERS CHAO YUN CONQUERS A HOST. "If you are really determined to undertake this expedition, I shall send Fa Chêng with you,” said K‘ung-ming to the veteran leader. “You will have to discuss everything with him. I shall also despatch supports and reinforcements."
The expedition set out. Then K‘ung-ming explained to Yüan-tê that he had purposely tried to spur on the old captain that he should really exert himself, else he feared he would not do much. After this, he ordered Chao Yün to march after the first army and help, if help was needed. So long as the old man was victorious, Chao Yün was to do nothing; if he was in difficulties then he was to be rescued. Three companies also were sent out among the hills to take position at strategical points and set up many banners and make a brave show in order to spread the impression of huge forces, and so frighten and perplex the enemy. In addition, he sent to Hsiapan to tell Ma Ch'ao what part to play in the campaign; Yen Yen was to hold Langchung in place of Chang Fei.
The refugees, Chang Ho and Hsiahou Shang, reached Hsiahou Yüan's camp and told their doleful tale of the loss of T‘ientang Mountain and the death of their colleague and the threatened attack. The news was sent to Ts'ao Hung, who bore it quickly to the capital.
Ts'ao Ts'ao lost no time in calling a council. Then the Historian Liu Hua said, "The loss of Hanchung would shake the whole country. You, O Prince, must not shrink from toil and hardship, but must yourself go to lead the army.
“This state of things comes of my not heeding your words before, gentle Sir," said Ts'ao Ts'ao, then repentant.
However, he hastily prepared and issued an edict to raise an army of forty legions which he would lead. The army was ready in the seventh month, the early autumn, and marched in three divisions. The leading division was under Hsiahou Tun, Ts'ao Ts'ao commanded the centre and Ts'ao Hsiu was the rear guard.
Ts'ao Ts'ao rode a white horse, beautifully caparisoned. His guards were clad in embroidered silk. They carried the huge red parasol woven of silk and gold threads. Beside him in two lines were the symbols of princely dignity, the golden
melons, silver axes, stirrups, clubs, spears and lances; bannerols embroidered with the sun and moon, dragon and phenix, were borne aloft. His escort of twenty-five thousand stout warriors led by bold officers, marched in five columns of five thousand each, under banners of the five colours, blue, yellow, red, white and black. The five companies made a brave show as they marched, each column under its own flag with men in armour and horses in caparisons all of one colour and all glittering in the sun.
As they debouched through Chang Pass, Ts'ao Ts'ao noticed in the distance a thick wood, very luxuriant, and asked those near him what it was called.
“This place is Lantʻien, the Indigo Fields,” they replied. "And in that wood is the estate of the late Ts'ai Yung. His daughter, Ts'ai Yen, and her present husband, Tung Chi, live there."
Now Ts'ao Ts'ao and Ts'ai Yung had been excellent friends at one time. His daughter had been first married to Wei Taochieh. Then she was abducted and taken away to the north, where she had borne two sons. She had
composed & ballad called, "Eighteen Stanzas for the Mongol Flageolet," which is well known. Ts'ao Ts'ao had been moved by pity for her sorrows and sent a messenger with a thousand tales to ransom her. The Prince of Tsohsien, overawed by Ts'ao Ts'ao's strength, had restored her to Ts'ai Yung.
Ordering his escort to march on, Ts'ao went up to the gate with only a few attendants, dismounted and enquired after the lady of the house. At this time Tung Chi was absent at his post and the lady was alone. As soon as she heard who her visitor was she hastened to welcome him and led him into the reception room. When he was seated and she had performed the proper salutations, she stood respectfully at his side. Glancing round the room, he saw a rubbing of a tablet hanging on the wall. So he got up to read it, and asked his hostess about it.
“It is a tablet of Ts'ao Ê, or the fair lady Ts'ao. In the time of the Emperor Ho (circ. 100 A.D.), in Shangyü there was a certain magician named Ts'ao Hsü, who could dance and sing like the very Spirit of Music. On the fifth of the fifth month he was out in a boat, and being intoxicated, fell overboard and was drowned. He had a daughter then fourteen years of age. She was greatly distressed and sought the body of her father for seven days and nights, weeping all the while. Then she threw herself into the waves, and five days later she floated to the surface with her father's body in her arms. The villagers buried them on the bank, and the magistrate reported the occurrence to the Emperor as a worthy instance of daughterly affection and remarkable piety. A later magistrate had the story inscribed by Hantan Shun
in memory of the event. At that time Hantan Shun was only thirteen, but the composition of the inscription was so perfect that neither jot nor tittle could be added, and yet he had written it currente calamo. The stone was set up beside the grave, and both inscription and story were the admiration of all the men of that day. My father went to see it. It was evening, but in the obscurity he felt out the inscription with his fingers. He got hold of a pencil and wrote eight large characters on the reverse of the stone and, later, some person recutting the stone engraved these eight words as well.
Ts'ao Ts'ao then read the eight words; they formed an enigma. Literally they read, "yellow silk, young wife, a daughter's child, pestle and mortar."
“Can you explain?” asked Ts'ao Ts'ao of his hostess.
“No; although it is a writing of my father's, thy handmaid cannot interpret it,” she replied.
Turning to the strategists of his staff, Ts'ao Ts'ao said, "Can any one of you explain it?"
All but one made no reply. The man who said he had fathomed the meaning was a Recorder named Yang Hsiu.
"Do not tell me yet; let me think it out,” said Ts'ao Ts'ao.
Soon after they took leave of the lady, went out of the farm and rode on. About three li from the farm the meaning suddenly dawned upon Ts'ao Ts'ao, and he laughingly turned to Yang Hsiu saying, "Now, you may try."
“This is the solution of the enigma,” said Yang. “Yellow silk” is silk threads of natural colour, and the character for "silk" placed beside that for "colour" forms a word meaning "finally, decidedly"; the "young wife" is a "little female," and the character for "female” with "little,” or “few,” placed beside it forms a word meaning "admirable, fine,"; the daughter's child” is “daughter” and “child,” which side by side make the word “good;" and a “pestle and mortar” suggest pounding together the five bitter herbs in a receptacle: the character for “receptacle” and “bitter” form a word meaning “to tell.” So the four words are “Decidedly fine and well told.”
Ts'ao Ts'ao was astonished at his cleverness, and said, "Just what I made it."
Those around greatly wondered at Yang's ingenuity and knowledge.
In less than a day they reached Nanchün, where Ts'ao Hung welcomed them. He told the tale of Chang Ho's misfortunes.
“To suffer defeat is no crime;" said Tsʻao Ts'ao, “that and victory are things that happen constantly in war.
"Liu Pei has sent Huang Chung to take Tingchün Mount,” said Ts'ao Hung. "Hsiahou Yüan, hearing you were coming, O Prince, has been defending the position and not going out to give battle."