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Meanwhile the soldiers were parched with thirst. They could not account for the delay of Chiang Wei's reinforcements and finally decided that Li Hsin should try to fight his way out and get help.

So the gates were opened, and Li rode out with a score or so of horsemen. These were opposed and had to fight every inch of the way, but eventually the leader won though severely wounded. All his men had fallen.

That night a strong north wind brought a heavy fall of snow, and the besieged were thus temporarily, relieved from the water famine. They melted the snow and prepared food.

Li Hsin, sorely wounded, made his way west along the hill paths. After two days he fell in with Chiang Wei. He dismounted, prostrated himself and told his story.

"The delay is not due to my slackness; the allies we depended upon have not come,” said Chiang.

Chiang sent an escort with the wounded officer to conduct him to Ch'êngtu, where his wounds could be treated. Turning to his colleague, Hsiahou Pa, he asked if he had any plan to propose.

Hsiahou replied, "If we wait for the coming of the Ch'iang it looks as if we shall be too late to relieve Ch'üshan. It is very probable that Yungchou has been left undefended, wherefore I propose that you go toward Niut'ou Hills and work round to the rear of Yungchou, which will cause the Wei armies to fall back to relieve Yungchou and so relieve our force."

“The plan appears excellent,” replied Chiang. And he set

out.

When Ch'ên Tai knew that Li Hsin had escaped, he said to his chief. “Now that this man has got out he will tell Chiang Wei of the danger, and he will conclude that our efforts are concentrated on the ramparts and will endeavour to attack our rear. Therefore I suggest, General, that you go to the Tao River and stop the supplies of our enemies, while I go to the Niut'ou Hills and smite them. They will retreat as soon as they know their supplies are threatened."

So Kuo Huai marched secretly to the T'ao River, while his colleague went to the hills.

When the Shu army led by Chiang Wei came near they heard a great shouting, and the scouts came in to report that the road was barred. Chiang Wei himself rode out to look.

"So you intended to attack Yungchou, did you ?" shouted Ch'ên T'ai. “But we know it and have been watching for you a long time."

Chiang Wei rode forth to attack. His opponent advanced with a flourish of his sword, and they engaged. Ch'ên T'ai soon ran away. Then the men of Shu came forward and fell on, driving the men of Wei back to the summit of the hills.

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But they halted there, and Chiang encamped at the foot of the hills, whence he challenged the enemy every day. But he could gain no victory.

Seeing no result after some days of this, Hsiahou said, “This is no place to remain in. We can get no victory and are tempting fate by remaining open to a surprise. I think we should retire till some better plan can be tried.”

Just then it was reported that the supplies road was in the hands of the enemy, and it was imperative to retreat. Hsiahou marched away first, and Chiang covered the retreat. Ch'ên Tai pursued in five divisions along five different roads, but Chiang got possession of the meeting point and held them all in check, finally forcing them back on the hills. But from this position such a heavy discharge of arrows and stones was maintained that the Wei armies were forced to abandon their position. Chiang went to the T'ao River, where the men of Wei attacked. Chiang went to and fro smiting where he could, but he was surrounded and only got out by a desperate effort and after suffering great loss.

Chiang hastened toward Yangp‘ing Pass, but fell in with another body of the enemy, at the head of which he saw a fierce, youthful leader, who at once rode out furiously to attack.

This leader had a round face, long ears and a square mouth with thick lips. Below his left eye was a large hairy mole. It was the elder son of Ssúma I. He was a General of Cavalry.

"Simpleton, how dare you stand in my way?" yelled Chiang, as he rode forward with his spear set.

Ssūma Shih met the attack, and three bouts were fought. Chiang Wei came off victor and so was free to continue his way. Presently he reached the pass and was welcomed within its sheltering walls. Ssúma attacked soon after his arrival, but those within the ramparts replied with the multiple crossbows which threw ten bolts at each discharge. For the men of Shu had made these engines of war after the design left by Chuko Liang.

Owing to superior weapons, Shu defeated Wei,

Wei will ne'er recover what was lost that day. What befell Ssúma Shih will be told in the next chapter.

CHAPTER CVIII.

TING FÊNG's SWORDSMEN WIN A VICTORY IN THE SNOW;

SUN HSUN EXECUTES A MURDEROUS PLAN AT A BANQUET. As has been said, Chiang Wei, in his retreat, fell in with a force under Ssúma Shih, barring his road. It came about thus. After the capture of Yungchou, Kuo Huai had sent a flying messenger to the capital and the king summoned Ssúma I for advice. It had then been decided to send reinforcements to Yungchou, and five legions had marched, led by the son of the Prime Minister. On the march Ssúma Shih had heard that the Shu army had been beaten back and had concluded they were weak. So he decided to meet them on the road and give battle. Near the Yangp'ing Pass, however, the roads had been lined with men armed with the multiple crossbows designed by Chuko Liang. Since his death large numbers of these weapons had been made, and the bolts from them, which went in flights of ten, were poisoned. Consequently the Wei losses were very heavy, and Shih himself barely escaped with life. However, eventually he returned to Loyang.

From the walls of Ch'üshan the Shu captain Chü An, watched anxiously for the expected help. As it came not, he ultimately surrendered. And Chiang Wei, with a greatly reduced army, marched back into Hanchung.

In the third year of Chia-P'ing, in the eighth month, Ssúma I fell ill. His sickness increased rapidly, and, feeling that his end was near, he called his two sons to his bedside to hear his last words.

"I have served Wei many years and reached the highest rank possible among ministers. People have suspected me of ulterior aims, but I have always felt afraid to take the final step. After my death the government will be in your hands, and you must be doubly careful."

He passed away even as he said these last words. The sons informed the king, who conferred high honours upon the dead and advanced his sons, the elder to the rank of General with the leadership of the Presidents, and the younger to the rank of General of Cavalry.

It is here necessary to return and survey events in Wu. Sun Ch'üan had named his son Têng as his heir. His mother was the Lady Hsü. But Têng died, and the second son was chosen his successor. His mother was the Lady Wang. A quarrel arose between the new Heir Apparent and Princess Chin, who maligned him and intrigued against him, so that he was set aside. He died of mortification. Then the third son was named; his mother's name was P'an.

At this time Lu Hsün and Chuko Chin were both dead, and the business of the government, great and small, was in the hands of Chuko Ch‘üo.

In the first year of T'ai-Ho, on the first of the eighth month, a great gale passed over Wu. The waves rose to a great height, and the water stood eight feet deep over the low-lying lands. The pines and cypresses, which grew at the cemetery of the kings of Wu, were uprooted and carried to the gates of Chienyehch'êng, where they stuck, roots upward, in the road.

Sun Ch'uan was frightened and fell ill. In the early days of the next year his illness became serious, whereupon he called in Chuko Ch'üo and Lü Tai to hear the declaration of his last wishes. Soon after he died, at the age of seventy-one. He had ruled in Wu for twenty-four years.

A hero, grey-eyed and red-bearded,

He called forth devotion from all.
He lorded the east without challenge

Till death's one imperative call. Chuko immediately placed his late lord's son Liang on the throne, and the opening of the new reign was marked by the adoption of the style Ta-Hsing. A general amnesty was proclaimed. The late ruler received the posthumous style of "Great Emperor" and was buried in Chiangling.

When these things were reported in the Wei capital, Ssúma Shih's first thought was to attack the east. But his plans were opposed by Fu Ku, saying, “Remember what a strong defence to Wu is the Great River. The country has been many times attacked, but never conquered. Rather let us all hold what we have till the time be expedient to possess the whole empire."

Shih replied, "The way of Heaven changes thrice in a century, and no emperor is permanent. I wish to attack Wu."

Ssúma Chao, his brother, was in favour of attack, saying "The occasion is most opportune. Sun Ch'uan is newly dead and the present ruler is a child.”

An expedition was decided upon. There was a certain general named Wang Ch‘ung, whose title was “Conqueror of the South," and it was settled that he should command. He led away ten legions with orders to attack Tunghsing. Another leader, Wuch'iu Chien, was given ten legions to go against Wuch'ang. They marched in three divisions. Ssúma Chao went in chief command.

The armies drew near to the Wu frontiers in the tenth month and camped. Chao called together the various commanders to decide upon plans. He said, "This Tunghsing

district is most important to Wu. They have built a great rampart, with walls right and left to defend Ch'aohu from an attack in the rear. You gentlemen will have to exercise extreme care.”

Then he bade Wang Ch‘ung and Wuch'iu Chien each to take a legion and place themselves right and left, but not to advance till Tunghsing had been captured. When that city had fallen, these two were to go forward at the same time. Hu Tsun was to lead the van.

The first step was to construct a floating bridge to storm the rampart. The two walls should then be captured.

News of the danger soon came to Wu, and Chuko Ch'üo called a council to take measures.

Then said Ting Fêng, whose title was “Pacificator of the North, “Tunghsing is of the utmost importance as its loss would endanger Wuch'ang.”.

"I agree with you,” said Chuko. “You say just what I think. You should lead three thousand marines up the river in thirty ships while I follow on land."

Three other legions were sent out along different roads to help where needed. The signal for the general advance was to be three bombs.

Hu Tsun, of Wei, crossed on the floating bridge, took and camped on the rampart. He then sent Huan Chia and Han Tsung to assault the flanking forts, which were held by Ch'uan I and Liu Lüeh. These forts had high walls and strong, and made a good resistance, but the garrison dared not venture out to attack so strong a force as was attacking them.

Hu Tsun made a camp at Hsüchou. It was then the depth of winter and intensely cold. Heavy snow fell. Thinking that no warlike operations were possible in such weather, Hu and his officers made a great feast.

In the midst of the feasting came one to report that thirty ships had come up river. The general went out to look and saw them come into the bank. He made out a hundred men on each. As they were so few, he returned to the feast and told his officers that there was nothing to be alarmed at. Giving orders to keep a careful watch, they all returned to enjoy themselves.

Ting Fêng's ships were all drawn up in line. Then he said to his officers, "To-day there is indeed a grand opportunity for a brave man to distinguish himself. We shall need the utmost freedom of movement, so throw off your armour, leave your helmets, cast aside your long spears and reject your heavy halberds. Short swords are the weapons for to-day."

From the shore the men of Wei watched them with amusement, taking no trouble to prepare against an attack. But suddenly bombs exploded, and simultaneously with the roar

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