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gazing around him a troop of horse came along with Sun Ch'üan at their head. He wore a glittering helmet and was clad in silver armour. Seeing his chief enemy he showed no sign of haste or dismay, but reined in his steed on a rise and, pointing with his whip at Ts'ao, said, "Behold the all-powerful Minister who holds the capital in the hollow of his hand. He has reached the acme of wealth and good fortune and yet he is not content, but must needs come to encroach upon our southern country.”
Ts'ao replied, "You are disobedient, and the command of the Emperor is to exterminate you."
"What words !” cried Sun with a laugh. "Are you not ashamed ? Every one knows that you control every act of the Emperor and you tyrannise over the nobles. I am no rebel against the dynasty, but I do desire to capture you and reform the government.”
Ts'ao grew angry at this speech and bade his captains go over and take Sun prisoner. But before they could obey, two troops of soldiers marched out to the sound of beating drums, and arrows and crossbow bolts began to fall like raindrops around Ts'ao Ts'ao. He turned to retire, and the archers and bowmen followed him. However, presently appeared Hsü Chu, with the Tiger Guard, who rescued Ts'ao and took him back to his camp. The men of Wu had scored a victory and they marched back to Juhsü.
Alone in his camp, Ts'ao thought, "This Sun Ch'üan certainly is no ordinary man, and by the presage of the sun in my dream he will become an emperor.”
He began to think it would be well to retire from the expedition, only that he feared the men of Wu would exult over him. So the two armies remained facing each other a whole month, fighting occasional skirmishes and battles in which victory fell sometimes to the one and sometimes to the other.
And so it went on till the new year and the spring rains filled the watercourses to overflowing and the soldiers were wading in deep mud. Their sufferings were extreme and Ts'ao became sad at heart. At the council board his officers were divided, some being for retirement and others anxious to hold on till the warm weather. Their chief could not make up his mind.
Then there came a messenger from Wu bearing a letter, which read: “You and I, O Minister, are both servants of Han, but you are careless for the tranquillity of the people and think only of battle, thereby causing great suffering. Is this conduct worthy of a kindly man?
"But spring with its heavy rains is at hand and you would be wise to retire while you can. If not, you may expect a repetition of the misfortune at Red Wall. It would be well to consider this."
And on the back of the letter was a note in two lines running thus: “No tranquillity for me while you live.”
Ts'ao read the letter and laughed. "Chung-mou, you cannot beguile me!” said he.
He rewarded the messenger and issued orders to retreat. The Prefect of Luchiang was left to guard Huanch'êng; the army marched for the capital.
Sun Ch'üan returned to Moling. At a meeting of his advisers he said, "Ts'ao Ts'ao has marched north, Liu Pei is at Chiaming: why should I not lead the army that has just repulsed the northern men to take Chingchou ?”
Thereupon Chang Chao offered another plan saying, "Do not move a man; I know how to keep Liu Pei from returning to Chingchou.”
Mêng-tê’s army march away,
Chung-mou's thoughts then southward stray. The scheme proposed by Chang will be unfolded in the next chapter.
TAKING OF FOU PASS; YANG AND KAO SLAIN;
SIEGE OF LO CITY; HUANG AND WEI RIVALS. Chang Chao proceeded to unfold his device. "If you undertake any expedition farther west Ts'ao Ts'ao will undoubtedly return to the attack. Rather write two letters, one to Liu Chang saying that Liu Pei has leagued himself with you against the west, which will raise suspicions in the mind of Liu Chang and cause him to attack his guest, and another persuading Chang Lu to march upon Chingchou, which will embarrass Liu Pei. Between these two conflicting matters Chingchou will be neglected and we can march against it."
Sun Ch'üan approved, wrote the two letters and sent them by two messengers.
In the meantime, Liu Pei had been winning the hearts of the peoples about Chiaming Pass, where his army lay. When he received the news of his wife's flight and of Ts'ao's threatened attack, he called in P‘ang Tʻung and laid the matter before him. “The victor, whichever it is, will
assuredly possess himself of our city of Chingchou," said Liu Pei at the close.
"You need not trouble about that city," said P'ang. “I do not think Wu will try to take it so long as Kóung-ming is there. But, my lord, write to Liu Chang telling him you wish to return on account of this threatening danger. It will be a plausible excuse. You may say that on account of Ts'ao's attack, Sun has sent to you for help and that as his country and yours are neighbours and dependent upon each other for safety you cannot refuse. Further, you will assure him that there is no danger of any invasion by Chang Lu. However, we have too few men for our purpose and insufficient grain, so you must also urge your relative to send you three or four legions of veterans and a plentiful supply of food. He will not refuse, and with more men and provisions we can do as we please.
Liu Pei agreed to this and sent a messenger to Ch'êngtu. When his messenger reached the Pass, Yang Huai and Kao Po, who commanded the garrison, already knew of the design, and the former of the two captains went with him to the city. After reading the letter the Prefect asked Yang why he had come.
“Only because of that letter," he replied. “This Liu Pei, from the day he first entered the province, has been trying to win over the hearts of your people by a display of kindness and
virtue. He certainly intends no good, and I think you should refuse both the men and the supplies he asks. To help him is like adding fuel to a fire."
“We are affectionate brothers and I must help him," said the Prefect."
"Liu Pei is nothing but a vagabond swashbuckler," some one cried, “and if you keep him here in Shu you are loosing a tiger in your household. If you give him the men and supplies he asks you are adding wings to your tiger."
Turning whence the voice proceeded they recognised the speaker as one Liu Pa, a native of Ch'êngyang. His words threw the Prefect into a state of doubt and hesitation. Huang Ch'uan also dissuaded him most earnestly, and finally Liu Chang actually decided to send only four companies of wornout men and a paltry supply of grain. At the same time fresh orders enjoining a diligent watchfulness were sent to the guardians of the Pass.
When Yüan-tê read the letter that accompanied the Prefect's miserable contribution to his strength he was furious and cried, “I have been spending myself in your defence and this is my reward! You are mean and greedy enough to stint my supplies. How can you expect generous service ?"
He tore the letter to fragments and execrated the writer thereof. The bearer of the letter fled back to the capital.
Then said P'ang Tung, “You have hitherto laid too much stress on humanity and righteousness. However, that is all over now and all affection between you two is at an end, now that you have torn up that letter."
“Yes. And since that is so, what next?” asked Yüan-tê. “I have three schemes ready in my mind. You may choose which pleases you."
"What are your three schemes ?”
"The first, and best, is to send an army forthwith and seize Ch'êngtu. The second is to capture and put to death the two captains of the Pass. They are the two most famous fighting men in this land. If you give out that you are returning to Chingchou they will assuredly come to say farewell. Seize and put them to death, and the Pass and Fouch'êng are both yours. Ch'êngtu will follow soon. The third plan is to drop this rôle you have been playing, go back to Chingchou and make a regular invasion. But if you ponder these schemes too long you will get into such straits that nothing can save you.”
Yüan-tê replied, “Of your three schemes, O Commander, I find the first too summary and the last too slow. I choose the second scheme, which is neither."
So a letter was written to Liu Chang saying that Ts'ao Ts'ao was sending an army against Chingchou, the captains there were unequal to the defence and Liu Pei had to go to help.
As the matter was pressing there could be no personal leavetaking.
"I knew that the real desire of Liu Pei was to return to Chingchou,” said Chang Sung, when he heard of the letter.
Chang Sung then also composed a letter to Liu Pei. While he was looking about for a trusty person to take it, his brother Su, who was the Prefect of a country district, came to see him. He hid the letter in his sleeve while he talked with his brother. Brother Su noticed his anxious inquietude, which he could not explain. Wine was brought in and, as the two brothers chatted over it, the letter dropped to the floor unnoticed by Chang Sung. One of brother Su's men saw it, picked it up and gave it to his master, who opened and read it.
This is about how it ran :-"What I said to you lately was not mere meaningless talk. Why, then, postpone action? The ancients valued the man who took by force and held by conciliation. If you act at once the whole matter is in your hand. Why abandon all and return to Chingchou? Surely I do not hear aright! When you get this, attack without a moment's delay and remember that I am your ally on the inside. Above all, no delay!”
“This plot of my brother's will end in the destruction of the whole family,” said Chang Su. “I must get in the first word.'
So at once he went in and laid the whole matter before the Prefect.
“I have always treated your brother so well!” said Liu Chang, very angry.
He issued orders to arrest Chang Sung and behead him and all his household in the market place.
Chang was quick of comprehension, such as he have been but few,
Little thought he that a letter would betray
For himself there opened out a gory way. Having thus learned of a real conspiracy to deprive him of his heritage, Liu Chang assembled his officers and asked their advice. Huang Ch'uan spoke out saying, “Prompt action is needed. Send to every strategic point telling them to increase the garrisons and keep careful guard and, above all, prevent the entrance of any person from Chingchou.”
Such orders were sent to all points of vantage where were garrisons.
In the meantime, carrying out P'ang Tung's scheme, Liu Pei had marched down to Fouch'êng, where he halted and sent in a messenger to invite the two captains to come forth and say farewell. But they did not respond at once to this invitation.
"What is the real meaning of this retirement ?" said one to the other.