« הקודםהמשך »
relationship, the words “brotherhood” or “brother" being barred. Without seeming to reflect, Ts'ao Chih rattled off this rhyme:
They were boiling beans on a beanstalk fire;
Came a plaintive voice from the pot,
Should you kill me with anger hot?” The allusion in these verses to the cruel treatment of one member of a family by another was not lost upon Ts'ao Pfei, and he dropped a few silent tears.
The mother of both men came out at this moment from her abiding place and said, “Should the elder brother thus oppress the younger ?”
The prince jumped from his seat, saying, "My mother, the laws of the state cannot be nullified.”
Ts'ao Chih was degraded to the rank of “Marquis of Anhsiang." He accepted the decision without a murmur and at once left his brother's court.
Ts'ao P'ei's accession was the signal for a set of new laws and new commands. His behaviour toward the Emperor was more intemperate than his father's had ever been.
The stories of his harshness reached Ch'êngtu and almost frightened Liu Pei, who summoned his counsellors to discuss what he should do.
Said he, "Since the death of Ts'ao Ts'ao and the accession of his son the position of the Emperor has changed for the worse. Sun Ch'üan acknowledges the lordship of Wei, and its influence is becoming too great. I am disposed to destroy Sun Ch'üan in revenge for the death of my brother. That done, I will proceed to the capital and its district and purge the whole land of rebellion. What think you ?”
Then Liao Hua stood out from the ranks of officers and threw himself upon the earth, saying with tears, "Liu Fêng and Mêng Ta were the true cause of the death of your brother and his adopted son; both these renegades deserve death."
Yüan-tê was of the same opinion and was going to send and arrest them forthwith, but here K‘ung-ming intervened and gave wiser advice.
"That is not the way; go slowly or you may stir up strife. Promote these two and separate them. After that you may arrest.”
The prince saw the prudence of this procedure and stayed his hand. He raised Liu Fêng to the Prefectship of Mienchu, and so separated the two delinquents.
Now P'êng Yang and Mêng Ta were old friends. Hearing what was afoot, the former hastened home and wrote warning his friend. The letter was confided to a trusty messenger to bear to Mêng Ta. The messenger was caught as he went out of the city and carried before Ma Ch'ao, who thus got wind of
the business. He then went to P'êng's house, where, nothing being suspected, he was received kindly and wine was brought in. The two drank for some time. When Ma Ch'ao thought his host sufficiently off his guard, he said, “The Prince of Hanchung used to look on you with great favour; why does he do so no longer ?”
The host began to rave against his master.
“The obstinate old leather-belly! But I will find some way to pay him out."
In order to see to what lengths he would go, Ma Ch'ao led him on, saying, “Truth to tell, I have long hated the man too."
"Then you join Mêng Ta and attck, while I will win over the Hsich'uan men. That will make it easy enough,” said P'êng Yang.
“What you propose is very feasible, but we will talk it over again tomorrow," said Ma Ch'ao, and took leave.
Taking with him the captured man and the letter he carried, he then proceeded to see the prince, to whom he related the whole story. Yüan-tê was very angry and at once had the intended traitor arrested and put in prison, where he was examined under torture to get at full details.
While P'êng Yang lay in prison, bitterly but vainly repentant, Yüan-tê consulted his adviser.
“That fellow P'êng meant to turn traitor: what shall I do with him?"
“The fellow is something of a scholar, but irresponsible," replied Kʻung-ming. “He is too dangerous to be left alive."
Thereupon orders were given that he should be put to death in gaol. The news that he had been made away with frightened his sympathiser and friend, Mêng Ta, and put him in a quandary. What had he better do? On the top of this, Liu Fêng's promotion and transfer to Mienchu arrived, and frightened him still more. So he sought advice from two friends, brothers, who lived in Shangyung.
"My friend Fa Chêng and I did much for the prince. But now Fa is dead and I am forgotten. More than that, he wishes to put me to death. What can I do?" said Mêng.
Shên Tan, one of the two, replied, “I think I can find a plan that will secure your safety."
"What is it?" asked Mêng Ta, feeling happier.
“Desertion. My brother I and I have long desired to go over to Wei You just write the prince a memorial resigning your service and betake yourself to the Prince of Wei, who will certainly employ you in some honourable way. Then we two will follow."
Mêng Ta saw that this was his best course, so he wrote a memorandum, which he gave to the messenger who had brought the recent despatches to take back with him. That night he left his post and went to Wei.
The messenger returned to Ch'êngtu, handed in Mêng Ta's memorial and told the story of his desertion. The king was angry. He tore open the letter and read:
“In the humble opinion of thy servant, O Prince, you have set out to accomplish a task comparable with that of I Yin and Lu Shang, and to walk in the meritorious footsteps of Huan Kung and Wên Kung. When the great design was rough-hewn you had the support of Wu and Ch'u, wherefore many men of ability incontinently joined you. Since I entered your service I have committed many faults; and if I recognise them, how much more do you see them! Now, O Prince, you are surrounded by famous men, while I, useless as a helper at home and inept as a leader abroad, should be shamed were I to take a place among them.
"It is well known that when Fan Li saw certain eventualities he went sailing on the lakes, and Chiu Fan acknowledged his faults and stayed by the river. Inasmuch as one cannot take means of safeguarding one's self at the critical and dangerous moment, I desireas is my duty-to go away as I came, untainted. Moreover, I am stupid and without use or merit, merely born in these days as the sport of circumstances. In the days of old, Shên Shêng, though perfectly filial, incurred the suspicions of his father and died; Tzŭ-hsü (Wu Yüan), though perfectly loyal, was put to death. Mêng T‘ien, though he extended the borders, suffered the extreme penalty; and Yüeh I, though he destroyed the might of Ch‘i, was the victim of calumny. Whenever I have read of these men I have been moved to tears, and now I am in like case and the more mortified. Lately Chingchou was overwhelmed and many officers of rank failed in their duty, not one in a hundred behaving as he should. Only I remained in Fangling and Shangyung and sought service abroad. Now I desire you, O Prince, graciously to understand, to sympathise with thy servant and to condone the step he is about to take. Really I am but a mean man, incapable of great deeds. I know what I am doing, and I dare to say it is no fault. They say that dissolution of bonds should not occasion recrimination and the dismissed servant should take leave without heartburnings. I have taken your orders many times, and now, O Prince, you must act yourself. I write this with extreme trepidation.”
But the reading gave rise to great anger in the breast of the prince.
“The stupid fellow !” said he. “He turns traitor and dares to insult me by sending a letter of farewell."
He was just giving orders to send a force to seize the deserter, when Kʻung-ming interposed, saying, “You had better send Liu Fêng to capture him and let the two tigers worry each other to weakness. Whether Liu Fêng succeeds or fails, he will have to come to the capital, and you can kill him. Thus will you cut off two evils."
Yüan-tê took his advice. Orders were sent to Mienchu, and Liu Fêng obediently led out his men.
Now Mêng Ta arrived when Ts'ao P'ei was holding a great council. When the attendants told him that Mêng Ta of Shu had come, Ts'ao P'ei summoned him to enter and said to him, "Is not this an insincere surrender?”
Mêng Ta replied, "I was in fear of death for not having relieved Kuan Yü. That is my only reason for coming."
However, Ts'ao P'ei did not trust him. When they reported that Liu Fêng was coming to arrest him, with a large army, and had
attacked Hsiangyang and was challenging Mêng Ta to battle, Ts'ao P'ei said, "You seem to be true. Go then to Hsiangyang and take Liu Fêng. If you bring me his head I shall no longer doubt.”
Mêng Ta replied, “I will convince him by argument; no soldiers will be needed. I will bring him to surrender too."
So Mêng Ta was given rank and honours and sent to guard Hsiangyang. Now there were two generals there already, Hsiahou Shang and Hsü Huang engaged in reducing the surrounding district. Mêng Ta arrived, met his two colleagues and was told that Liu Fêng was fifty li from the city. Whereupon he wrote him a letter urging him to surrender. But Liu Fêng was in no mood to surrender; instead he tore up the letter and put the messenger to death.
“The renegade has already made me offend against my duty to my uncle, and now would sever me from my father so that I shall be reproached as disloyal and unfilial,” said Liu Fêng.
Mêng Ta went out with his army to give battle. Liu Fêng rode to the front, pointed with his sword at his opponent and railed against him.
“Death is very near you," replied Mêng Ta, "yet you continue blindly in the way of foolishness and will not understand."
Liu Fêng rode out flourishing his sword. He engaged Mêng Ta, who ran away before the conflict had well begun. Liu Fêng pursued hotly to a long distance. Then he fell into an ambush and found himself attacked on two sides. Also Mêng Ta returned to the attack. Liu Féng was forced to fly. He made straight for Shangyung, pursued all the way. When he reached the city and hailed the gate he was met by a volley of arrows.
"I have surrendered to Wei," cried Shên Tan from the city tower.
It was impossible to attack the city, as the army of Wei was close behind, and having no resting place he set off for Fangling. He arrived there to find the banners of Wei set out along the walls. Then he saw Shen I wave a signal from the
tower, and at once there appeared from the shelter of the wall a body of men led by Hsü Huang.
Then Liu Fêng made for home. But he was pursued, and only a handful of his men remained to him when he regained Chêngtu.
Seeking an interview with his adopted father, he found but scant sympathy, for in reponse to his petition, made prostrate and weeping, Yüan-tê said, "Shameful son! How are you come to see me at all?”
"My uncle's mishap was not due to my refusal of help, but because Mêng Ta thwarted me."
“You eat as a man, you dress as a man; but you have no more the instincts of a man than an image of clay or wood. What mean you by saying another wretch thwarted you?”
Yüan-tê bade his executioners expel him and put him to death. But he felt some compunction later when he heard of the treatment meted out to the messenger who had brought Mêng Ta's letter inviting him to become a traitor. And he gave way to grief for the death of his brother until he fell ill. So no military movements were made.
It may be stated here that after he had succeeded to the princedom, Ts'ao P'ei raised all his officers to high rank and had an army prepared of thirty legions, and maneuvred them over the southern districts and made great feasts. And the aged villagers lined the roads offering gifts of wine, just as when the Founder of the Hans returned home to Pei.
When it was announced that the faithful warrior Hsiahou Tun was near death, Ts‘ao Pei hastened back to Yeh, but arrived too late to see him. He put on mourning for the great leader and instituted magnificent funeral ceremonies.
In the late summer of this same year it was reported that a phenix had been seen to bow at Shihihsien and a ch’i-ling had appeared at Lintzŭ, while a yellow dragon was observed in Yeh. Whereupon certain high officers discussed these appearances, and putting them all together concluded that they presaged that Wei was about to supplant Han and the altar of abdication should be set up. Presently a deputation of two score officers went into the palace and proposed to the Emperor Hsien that he should abdicate and yield to the Prince of Wei.
It is time to set up the throne of Wei,
And steal the land from the Hans.