Cao Cao Fights At Xiapi;
Lu Bu Perishes At The White Gate Tower.
Liu Bei saw the position was too desperate for him to reach his residence, and he must abandon all his family. So he hastened through the city and left by the west gate out at which he and his scanty following fled for very life.
When Lu Bu reached the residence, he was met by Mi Zhu who said, "The hero does not destroy a person's family. Your rival for the empire is Cao Cao, and my master, always mindful of the good turn you did him at the Archery Feast, would not be ungrateful. But he could not help going to Cao Cao, and I think you will pity him."
Lu Bu replied, "We two are old friends; how could I bear to harm his wives and children?"
Whereupon he sent the family to Xuzhou with Mi Zhu to take care of them. Next Lu Bu led his army into Huashang Mountains to Yanzhou, leaving Gao Shun and Zhang Liao to guard Xiaopei.
During these troubles Sun Qian had also fled out of the city; Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, each with a handful of soldiers, had got away to the hills. As Liu Bei with his few horsemen was making the best of their way from the scene of his defeat, he heard some one coming up behind him. When he got closer the person proved to be Sun Qian.
"Alas! I know not the fate of my brothers, whether they be alive or dead, and my wife and children are lost to me! What can I do?" said Liu Bei.
Sun Qian replied, "I see nothing better than getting away to Cao Cao, whence we may be able to plan our future moves."
Liu Bei had no better plan to propose, and the two men directed their way to Xuchang, choosing by-roads rather than highways. When their small supplies ran out, they entered a village to beg. But when the people of any place heard that Liu Bei of Yuzhou was the man who needed help, they vied with each other in offering all that was required.
One day they sought shelter at a house whence a youth came out and made a low obeisance. They asked his name and he gave it as Liu An, of a well known family of hunters. Hearing who the visitor was, the hunter wished to lay before him a dish of game, but though he sought for a long time, nothing could be found for the table. So Liu An came home, killed his wife and prepared a portion for his guest.
While eating Liu Bei asked, "What flesh is it?"
Liu An told him: "Wolf."
Liu Bei knew no better and ate his fill. Next day at daylight, just as Liu Bei was leaving, he went to the stables in the rear to get his horse and passing through the kitchen; he saw the dead body of a woman lying on the table. The flesh of one arm had been cut away. Quite startled he asked what this meant, and then he knew what he had eaten the night before. He was deeply sorry at this proof of his host's regard and the tears rained down as he mounted his steed at the gate.
"I wish I could go with you," said Liu An, "but as my mother still lives I cannot go so far from home."
Liu Bei thanked him and went his way. The party took the road by Liangcheng, and as they were going out they saw not far off a thick cloud of dust. When the troop came nearer, they found the troops were of Cao Cao's army, and with them they traveled to the main camp where they found Cao Cao himself. Cao Cao shed tears at the sad story of Liu Bei' distress, the loss of the city, his brothers and wives and children. When Liu Bei him of the hunter who had sacrificed his wife to feed them, Cao Cao sent the hunter a present of a hundred ounces of silver as a reward.
The march then was continued to Jibei, where Xiahou Yuan welcomed them. They heard that his brother Xiahou Dun was still ill from the wound he had received in the eye. Cao Cao went to the sick man's bedside to see him and had him removed to Xuchang for skilled treatment.
Presently scouts, sent out particularly for tidings of Lu Bu, returned, saying, "Lu Bu has allied himself with the bandits in the east, and they are attacking Yanzhou."
At this Cao Cao dispatched Cao Ren with three thousand soldiers to take Xiaopei, while he, in conjunction with Liu Bei, moved against Lu Bu.
They went east. As they reached the Mangdang Hills near Xiao Pass, they met the a band of thirty thousand Taishan Mountains brigands barring their road. The chieftains of the bandits were Sun Guan, Wu Dun, Yin Li, and Chang Xi who rode out with their spears set. However, Xu Chu plunged into the battle and easily beat them back and chased them right up to the pass.
The scouts told Lu Bu, who was then in Xuzhou, whither he had gone to start an expedition to save Xiaopei. He left the protection of Xuzhou to Chen Gui and set out with Chen Deng. As this latter was starting, Chen Gui said to him, "Remember the words of Cao Cao, that the business of the east is in our hands. Now is our moment, for Lu Bu is about to suffer defeat."
"Father, I can look after the outside. But when Lu Bu returns beaten, you must arrange with Mi Zhu to keep him out of the city. I shall find a means of escape," said Chen Deng.
"His family is here, and he has many friends. How about them?"
"I also have a scheme to settle them."
Then Chen Deng went to see Lu Bu, to whom he said, "Xuzhou is surrounded, and this city will be fiercely attacked. We ought to provide for possible retreat, and I advise storing grain and money in Xiapi. We could retreat there if the day went adversely. Why not see about this in good time?"
"Your words are indeed wise. I will also send my wives and little ones thither," said Lu Bu.
The family left under escort of Wei Xu and Song Xian, and with them was sent much grain and treasures and coins.
And then the soldiers marched to the relief of the pass. About half way there Chen Deng said, "Let me go first to reconnoiter so that you, my lord, may advance with confidence."
Thus Chen Deng parted company with his chief and preceded him to the pass where he was received by Chen Gong.
Chen Deng said, "The General greatly wonders why you do not advance. He is going to inquire into it."
"The enemy is in great force, and we cannot be too careful," said Chen Gong. "We are holding the pass, and you should persuade our master to take steps to guard Xiaopei."
Chen Deng said, "Your words are true."
That evening he went up to the heights from which he could see Cao Cao's army, which was quite close to the pass. Then he wrote three notes, tied them to arrows, and shot them into Cao Cao's camp.
Next day he left and hastened back to Lu Bu and said, "Those bandits are about to give up the pass to the enemy, but I have left Chen Gong to hold it. You would better make an attack tonight and hold him."
"Had it not been for you, the pass would have been lost," said Lu Bu.
Then he sent Chen Deng back to arrange a fire signal with Chen Gong for simultaneous action. So Chen Deng returned to Chen Gong to whom he said, "Cao Cao's troops have found a secret way through the pass, and I fear Xuzhou is already lost. You ought to go back at once."
At this the pass was abandoned, and Chen Gong began to retreat. Then Chen Deng gave the prearranged signal.
Lu Bu saw the fire and advanced in the darkness to the relief of the pass. Presently he met Chen Gong's army; and as neither recognized the other in the darkness, a fierce battle ensued. Nor was the trick discovered till daylight came.
While these things were going on, Cao Cao had noted the signal and advanced as fast as possible. The bandits, who alone remained to hold the pass, were easily driven out and scattered in all directions.
When daylight came and the trick was discovered, Lu Bu and Chen Gong set off together for Xuzhou. But when they arrived and summoned the gate, instead of opening the doors, the guards on the wall saluted them with a thick flight of arrows. At the same time Mi Zhu appeared on the defense tower and shouted, "You stole our master's city, and now we are going to give it back to him. You will not enter here again."
"Where is Chen Gui?" cried Lu Bu, angrily.
"We have slain him!" was the reply.
"Where is Chen Deng?" said Lu Bu turning to Chen Gong.
"Do you still hold to your delusion, General, that you ask where this specious rogue is?"
Lu Bu bade them search through all the ranks, but Chen Deng was not to be found. Then they decided to go to Xiaopei. But ere they had got half way there, suddenly appeared the troops under the command of Gao Shun and Zhang Liao.
They said, "Chen Deng came to us saying you, General, was surrounded and wanted help, so we came at once."
"Another trick of that false rogue!" said Lu Bu. "Surely he shall die for this."
They went with all speed to Xiaopei, only to see as they drew near, the ensigns of the enemy displayed all along the walls, for the city had been taken by Cao Ren.
While Lu Bu stood at the foot of the rampart reviling the traitor, Chen Deng himself appeared on the wall and pointing to Lu Bu cried, "Did you think that I, a minister of the dynasty, would serve a rebel like you?"
Lu Bu in his wrath was about to make a desperate attack, but suddenly a great noise was heard and an army came up behind him. It was led by no other than Zhang Fei. Gao Shun went to engage him, but he had no chance of success. Lu Bu then joined in the fray. Then another army appeared, and the leader this time was Cao Cao himself, and his army rushed to the attack. Seeing that he had no hope of victory, Lu Bu went away toward the east, with Cao Cao in pursuit. Lu Bu's army marched till they were worn out.
Then appeared a new force under Guan Yu. Holding his sword ready to strike, Guan Yu called out, "Do not flee, O Lu Bu! Guan Yu is waiting for you."
Lu Bu joined battle; he was flurried and scarcely knew what was happening. And soon Zhang Fei came up once more. By desperate efforts Lu Bu and his troops cut an arterial alley through the press and got free. After this they started for Xiapi as fast as they could travel, and Hou Cheng helped to keep the pursuers at bay and welcomed them into the city.
So the two brothers, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, were together again after their separation. Both shed tears of joy as they told each other what they had seen and suffered.
"I was on the Haizhou Road when I heard of you," said Guan Yu. "I lost no time in starting."
"And I had been camped in the Mangdang Hills for a long time. It is happiness to be together again."
So they talked. Then they marched off together to find their elder brother, and made their salutations with tears. In Liu Bei' heart, sadness and joy intermingled. Next they were presented to Cao Cao, and with him they went into the captured Xuzhou City.
Mi Zhu soon came with the welcome news of the safety of the family. And Chen Gui and Chen Deng came to present their salutations. A grand banquet was prepared for the officers at which Cao Cao presided as host, and Chen Gui and Liu Bei occupied the seats of honor to his right and left. At the close of the banquet, Cao Cao paid the two Chens the highest compliments on their success and rewarded them with the revenues of ten counties beside giving the son the title of General Who Quells the Waves.
Cao Cao was very pleased with his success and at once began to scheme for the taking of Xiapi, the sole place now left to Lu Bu, where he had taken refuge.
Cheng Yu said the course was inadvisable.
"If Lu Bu be pressed too hard, he may get clear by a desperate effort and throw himself into the arms of our especial enemy, Yuan Shu. These two as allies would be difficult to overcome. Rather send a capable man to guard the South of River Huai, one able to secure you against Lu Bu on one hand and to hold Yuan Shu on the other. Moreover the bandits are in Huashang Mountains and still our enemies. They must be watched."
Cao Cao replied, "I can keep the whole of Huashang Mountains, and I will request Liu Bei to take the south."
"Could I dare withstand your command?" said Liu Bei.
So forthwith Liu Bei, leaving Mi Zhu and Jian Yong at Xuzhou, went south, taking in his train Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, and Sun Qian. And Cao Cao led his army to Xiapi.
Lu Bu felt very secure in his refuge. He had good store of grain, and he had the protection of River Si, so he sat quiet, satisfied that he could maintain his defense. So he allowed Cao Cao's army to approach without molestation.
"You ought to attack Cao Cao's army as they come up, before they have time to make camps and defenses. They will only have a fatigued army to oppose to your fresh troops, and you will certainly defeat them."
So said Chen Gong, but Lu Bu replied, "I have suffered too many defeats lately to take any risk. Wait till they actually attack, and you will see them floating away on the waters."
So Lu Bu neglected the confidant's advice and waited till the enemy had settled into their camp. This done, the attackers advanced against the city. From the foot of the wall, Cao Cao called to Lu Bu to listen while he spoke. Lu Bu ascended to the wall where he stood.
Cao Cao addressed him, saying, "When I heard that your family and that of Yuan Shu were likely to be united by marriage, I sent an army against you. Yuan Shu was guilty of treason, while you had to your credit on the destruction of Dong Zhuo. For what reason have you sacrificed all your merits to throw in your lot with a rebel? It will be over late to regret when this city shall have fallen. But if you surrender and help me to support the ruling house, you shall not lose your rank."
Lu Bu replied, "If the Prime Minister will retire, we may be able to discuss the matter."
But Chen Gong, standing near his master, began to rail at Cao Cao for a rebel and shot an arrow that struck his plumed helmet.
"My oath, but I will slay you at least!" cried Cao Cao, pointing his finger at Chen Gong.
Then the attack on the walls began.
"They have come from far and cannot maintain this for long," said Chen Gong. "General, go out with your horse and foot and take up a position outside, leaving me to maintain the defense with the remainder of our troops. If he engages you, I will come out and strike at his rear ranks; if he attacks the city, you can come to our aid. In ten days their stores will fail, and we can beat them off. This will place them between the ox-horns."
"The advice seems good," said Lu Bu.
Lu Bu went back to his palace and prepared his weapons. As it was the depth of winter, he made his army take plenty of wadded clothing to keep them warm. Lady Yan, his wife, heard of it and came to ask whither he was going. He told her of Chen Gong's plan.
She said, "My lord, you are leaving an undamaged city, abandoning your wife and little ones, and going with a paltry force. Should any untoward event happen, will your handmaid and her lord ever meet again?"
Lu Bu hesitated and for three days made no move. Then Chen Gong came to see him again and said, "The enemy are all round the city, and unless you go out soon you will be quite hemmed in."
"I am thinking it would be better to maintain a stubborn defense," said Lu Bu.
"Our enemies are short of food and have sent for supplies to Xuchang. These will soon arrive, and you should go out with some veterans and intercept the convoy. That loss would be a heavy blow."
Lu Bu agreed and went in to tell his wife the new plan.
She wept saying, "If you go, do you think Chen Gong and others equal to the defense of the city? Should anything go wrong, you would be very sorry. You abandoned me at Changan, and it was only through the fortunate kindness of Pang Shu that I was hidden from our enemies and rejoined you. Who would have thought you would leave me again? But go, go your way as far as you wish, and do not mind your wife."
And she wept bitterly. Lu Bu very sadly went to take leave of Diao Chan who said, "You are my lord and my life; you must not be careless and ride out alone."
"You need not fear; with my mighty trident halberd and Red-Hare, who dare come near me?"
He went out. But when he met Chen Gong, he said, "That story about supplies for Cao Cao is all false, one of his many ruses. I am not going to stir."
Chen Gong sighed; he felt all was lost.
"We shall die, and no person shall know our burial place," said he.
Thereupon Lu Bu remained in his own quarters with his ladies, drinking freely to dissipate his sorrows.
Two of his advisers, Xu Si and Wang Kai, went in and proposed, "Yuan Shu in the South of River Huai is very powerful. Why not write to him to renew the marriage alliance? Yuan Shu can hardly refuse to rescue the affianced bride of his son."
So Lu Bu wrote and bade these two take the letter.
Xu Si said, "You ought to send a strong escort with us to force a way through."
So Lu Bu told off one thousand troops and two of his generals, Zhang Liao and He Meng, to conduct his messenger beyond the pass. They started that same night at the second watch, Zhang Liao leading and He Meng bringing up the rear. They got out of the city, crept past Liu Bei' camp, and got beyond the danger zone. Then half the escort went on, and Zhang Liao led the remainder back toward the city. At the pass he found Guan Yu waiting. However, at that moment Gao Shun came to his help, and they all returned and reentered the gates.
The two messengers presently reached Shouchun, saw Yuan Shu, and presented the letter.
"How is this?" said Yuan Shu. "Formerly he slew my messenger and repudiated the marriage; now he sends to ask for it."
"It is all due to the vile plans of that monster Cao Cao. If pray you, Illustrious Sir, consider it carefully," replied Xu Si.
"But if your master was not hemmed in by his enemy and in imminent danger, he would never have thought of renewing this proposal of marriage."
The messengers said, "You may decide not to help him, but the teeth are cold when the lips are gone. It will not make for your happiness and comfort."
Said Yuan Shu, "Lu Bu is unreliable; tell him that I will send soldiers after the girl has arrived here."
This was final, and the two messengers took leave and headed back to Xiapi. When the party reached Liu Bei' camp, Xu Si decided, "We must wait the night falls, and Wang Kai and I will try to get through in the darkness; the escort of He Meng remaining behind to protect our rear."
They tried that very night, and the two messengers crept across without discovery. But the escort found them selves faced by Zhang Fei. He Meng tried to fight but was captured in the very first bout, and the five hundred troops of his half company were either killed or they fled.
The prisoner was taken to Liu Bei, who forwarded him to the main camp. There he told the story of the marriage and the scheme to save the city. Cao Cao was angry and ordered the execution of He Meng at the main gate.
Then Cao Cao sent orders to each camp to exercise the greatest diligence with threats of rigorous punishment of the officers of any corps that permitted any communication between the besieged and the outer world.
Every soldier felt mightily afraid. Liu Bei returned to camp and cautioned his brothers, saying, "We are in the most important place with regard to the South of River Huai, and you must be very careful not to allow any breach of this command."
Zhang Fei was inclined to grumble, saying, "We have just captured one of the enemy's leaders, and there is no word of praise or reward for us; nothing but new orders and threats. What do you make of that?"
"You are wrong to complain," said Liu Bei. "These are orders of the Commander-in-Chief, and what would happen were there no orders? Do not disobey them, Brother."
They promised obedience and withdrew. In the meantime Xu Si and Wang Kai had got back to Lu Bu and told him what Yuan Shu had said, that if the girl came the soldiers should go.
"But how can she be sent?" said Lu Bu.
Xu Si said, "That is the difficulty. He Meng' capture means that Cao Cao knows the whole plan of getting help from the South of River Huai. I do not see how any one but you yourself could hope to get through the close siege."
"Suppose we tried, today?" said Lu Bu.
"This is an ill-omened day; you must not try today. Tomorrow is a very lucky day, especially in the evening, for any military action."
Then Lu Bu ordered Zhang Liao and Gao Shun, "Get ready three thousand troops for the venture, and prepare a light carriage. I will lead the first seventy miles; thence you can escort the bride-elect the remainder of the way to her new home."
Next evening toward the second watch, Lu Bu wrapped up his daughter in soft wadded garments, bound her about with a mailed coat, and took her on his back. Then with his mighty trident halberd in hand, he mounted Red-Hare and rode at the head of the cavalcade out of the city gate. Zhang Liao and Gao Shun followed.
In this order they approached Liu Bei' camp. The drums at once beat the alarm, and Guan Yu and Zhang Fei barred the way.
"Stop!" they shouted.
Lu Bu had no desire to fight; all he wished was to get through, so he made for a side road. Liu Bei came in pursuit and the two parties engaged. Brave as he might be, Lu Bu was almost helpless now that he was hampered by a girl on his shoulders, whom he was desperately anxious to preserve from hurt. Beside other parties came up all shouting and attacking, and he had no alternative but to give up his project and return into the city of Xiapi. He reached his palace very sad at heart. The besiegers returned to camp well pleased that no one had got beyond their lines.
Lu Bu found consolation in the wine cup. The siege had gone on for two months, and still the city stood. Then they heard that Zhang Yang, Governor of Henei, had been inclined to come to the help of Lu Bu. But one of his subordinates, Yang Chou, had assassinated him and was bringing his head as an offering to Cao Cao, when he also had been slain by Kui Gu, one of the Governor's adherents. Kui Gu had then led the force to Quan.
In the camp of the besiegers, there now arose much murmuring. Cao Cao sent Shi Huan to intercept and kill Kui Gu.
Then he called a counsel, saying, "Though Zhang Yang, who meant to hurt us, is happily no more, yet we are threatened on the north by Yuan Shao, and on the east Liu Biao and Zhang Xiu are a menace. Here we meet with no success against the city of Xiapi. We are for leaving Lu Bu to his fate and returning home. What do you think?"
Among them Xun You fought against the idea, saying, "You must not act like this. Lu Bu has lost much, and his spirit is broken. The spirit of the leader expresses that of his army; and when the leader fails, his soldiers do not fight. Chen Gong is clever, but nothing is done. Lu Bu broken, Chen Gong without decision, it only needs a sharp attack, and we shall succeed."
"I have a plan to propose---" said Guo Jia, "a plan to overcome the city at once; it is better than two hundred thousand troops."
"I suppose you mean drowning the city by River Si and River Yi," said Xun Yu.
"That is it," said Guo Jia, smiling.
Cao Cao accepted the suggestion with joy and set his troops to cut the banks of River Yi and River Si, and moved his army to the high ground whence they watched the drowning out of Xiapi. Only the east gate remained clear of water.
The besieged soldiers hastened to their leader.
Lu Bu said, "Why should I fear? My good horse can go as well through the water as over the land."
And he again returned to the wine cup for consolation, drinking deeply with his wife and concubine.
The continual drinking bouts told at last, and Lu Bu began to look dissipated. Seeing himself in a mirror one day, he was startled at the change and said to himself, "I am injuring myself with wine; no more from this day forward."
He then issued an order that no one should drink wine under penalty of death.
Now one of his generals, Hou Cheng, lost fifteen horses, stolen by one of his subordinates, Hou Cao, who intended to resell them to Liu Bei. Hou Cheng found out where the horses were, went out after them, and recovered them after killing Hou Cao. And Hou Cheng's colleagues congratulated him on his success. To celebrate the occasion, Hou Cheng brewed a few barrels of wine to be drunk at the feast, But thinking his chief might find him in fault, Hou Cheng sent the bottles of wine to Lu Bu's palace with a petition explaining, "By your virtue of warlike renown, I have recovered my horses; and as my comrades come with their congratulations, I brew some bottles of wine, first to offer Your Lordship and second to ask your permission to have a little wine at the feast."
Lu Bu took it very angrily, saying, "When I have forbidden all wine, you brew some and begin to give feasts; you are simply defying me!"
Whereupon he ordered the officer to instant execution. However, Song Xian, Wei Xu, and other officers came in and interceded, and after a time Lu Bu softened.
"You ought to lose your head for this disobedience; but for the sake of your colleagues, the punishment shall be reduced to a hundred strokes."
They tried to beg him off this, but only succeeded in reducing the number of blows to one half.
When the sentence had been carried out and Hou Cheng was permitted to return home, his colleagues came sadly to console him.
"Had it not been for you I should have been put to death," said Hou Cheng.
Song Xian replied, "All Lu Bu cares for is his family; there is no pity for any one else. We are no more than the weeds by the roadside."
Wei Xu said, "The city is besieged; the water is drowning us out. There will not be much more of this, for we may die any day."
"He is a beast, with neither a sense of humanity nor of right. Let us leave him," said Song Xian.
"He is not worth fighting for. The best we could do would be to seize him and hand him over to Cao Cao," said Wei Xu.
"I was punished because I got my horses back again, yet all he trusts in is his own Red-Hare. If you two will betray the gate and seize Lu Bu, I will steal the horse and go out to Cao Cao's camp."
They settled how to carry out the plot, and that very night Hou Cheng sneaked into the stables and got Red-Hare away. He hastened to the east gate which was opened to let him through. The guard made a pretense of pursuing him but only a pretense.
Hou Cheng reached the besiegers' camp, presented the horse and told Cao Cao what had been arranged. They would show a white flag and open the gates to his army. Hearing this Cao Cao had a few notifications written out, which were attached to arrows and shot over the walls. This is one of them:
"Regent Marshal Cao Cao has received a command from the Emperor to destroy Lu Bu. Those who interfere with the operations of his grand army, whatever their rank, shall be put to death in the gate on the day that the city shall be captured. Should any one capture Lu Bu or bring his head he shall be well rewarded. Let all take note of this."
Next day at daylight a tremendous hubbub was heard without the city and Lu Bu, halberd in hand, hasted to the wall to see what it meant. As he went from gate to gate inspecting the defenses and guards, he censured Wei Xu for letting Hou Cheng escape and get away with his horse. Lu Bu threatened to punish Wei Xu. But just then the besiegers began a fierce attack as the white flag had just appeared, and Lu Bu had to turn all his energies to defense. The assault lasted till noon, when the attacking force drew off for a time.
Lu Bu was taking a rest in the tower and fell asleep in his chair. Song Xian sent away Lu Bu's attendants; and when they had gone, he stole Lu Bu's weapon, the trident halberd in which he trusted. Then Song Xian and Wei Xu fell upon Lu Bu together and before he was well awake had bound him with cords, trussing him so that he could not move. Lu Bu shouted for his guards, but they were driven off by the two traitor generals and could not come near. Then a white flag was shown, and the besiegers again approached the city. The traitors shouted out, "Lu Bu has been captured alive!"
But Xiahou Yuan could hardly believe it till they threw down the famous halberd. The gates were flung open, and the enemy entered the city. Gao Shun and Zhang Liao, who were at the opposite gate, were surrounded and cut off by the water and helpless. They were captured. Chen Gong made a dash to the south gate but was also taken by Xu Huang. Presently Cao Cao entered and at once gave orders to turn the streams back into their usual courses. He put out proclamations soothing the people.
Cao Cao and Liu Bei, with Guan Yu and Zhang Fei behind, seated themselves side by side in the White Gate Tower. The captives, to the number of a thousand, were brought before them. Lu Bu looked a pitiable object. Although a very tall man, he was tied up in a veritable ball.
"The bonds are very tight," cried he, "I beseech you to loosen them!"
"Bindings a tiger must binding tight, of course," replied Cao Cao.
Seeing Hou Cheng, Song Xian, and Wei Xu standing there looking pleased at their success, Lu Bu said, "I treated you all well enough; how could you turn against me?"
Said Song Xian, "You listened to the words of your women, but rejected the advice of your generals. Was not that mean?"
Lu Bu was silent. Then Gao Shun was brought forward.
"What have you to say?" asked Cao Cao.
Gao Shun sulkily held his tongue and was ordered out to execution.
Next Chen Gong was led in.
"I hope you have been well since we last saw each other, Chen Gong?" said Cao Cao.
"Your ways were crooked, and so I left you," said Chen Gong.
"You say I was crooked; and what of your serving Lu Bu?"
"Though he was a fool, he did not resemble you in deceit and wickedness."
"You say you are able enough and clever, but what about your position today?"
Turning toward Lu Bu, Chen Gong said, "This man would not follow my advice. Had he done so, he would not now be a captive."
"What think you ought to be done about this day's work?" said Cao Cao.
"There is death for me today, and that is the end!" said Chen Gong undauntedly.
"Very well for you; but what of your mother and wife and children?"
"It is said that one who rules with due regard to filial piety does not harm a person's family; one who would show benevolence does not cut off the sacrifices at a person's tomb. My mother and wife and children are in your hands. But since I am your prisoner, I pray you slay me quickly and not to try to harrow my feelings."
Cao Cao's heart still leaned toward mercy, but Chen Gong turned and walked away, repulsing the attendants who would stop him. Cao Cao rose from his place and walked with Chen Gong, the tears falling from his eyes. Chen Gong never looked at him.
Turning to his guards Cao Cao said, "Let his mother and family be taken to Xuchang and looked after immediately. Any postponement will be punished!"
The condemned man heard him but uttered no word. He stretched out his neck for the blow. Tears sprang to the eyes of all present. His remains were honorably coffined and buried in Xuchang.
A poem pitying Chen Gong's fate says:
Neither hope of life nor fear of death moved him.
While Cao Cao sadly escorted Chen Gong on the way to death, Lu Bu appealed to Liu Bei, "Noble Sir, you sit there an honored guest while poor I lie bound at your feet. Will you not utter one word to alleviate my lot?"
How brave was he, a hero indeed!
But his lord heeded not his words,
Wherefore in vain possessed he great talents.
Nevertheless, in that he stood by his master.
To parting with wife and mother,
He merits our pity and profound respect.
Who would resemble Chen Gong
That day he died at the White Gate Tower?
Liu Bei nodded. As Cao Cao returned to his place, Lu Bu called out, "Your only trouble, Illustrious Sir, is myself, and I am on your side now. You take the lead, I will help you, and together the world is at our feet."
"What do you think?" said Cao Cao turning to Liu Bei.
"You are willing to forget the episodes of Ding Yuan and Dong Zhuo?"
"Truly the lout is not to be trusted!" said Lu Bu, looking at Liu Bei.
"Strangle and expose!" said Cao Cao.
As he was led away, Lu Bu turned once more to Liu Bei, "You long-eared lout, you forget now the service I rendered you that day at my camp gate, when my arrow hit the mark!"
Just then some one shouted, "Lu Bu, O fool! Death is but death, and why are you scared at it?"
Every one turned to look; the guards were hustling Zhang Liao to the place of judgment. Cao Cao ordered Lu Bu's execution.
A poet has written upon the death of Lu Bu:
The flood spreads wide, the city drowns,
And another poem says:
Its lord is captive. Nought avails
His courser's speed or halberd's thrust.
The tiger erstwhile fierce, now whines
For mercy. Cao Cao had meted him
Full well, a falcon flown at will
And hungry kept. Poor fool! He let
Chen Gong's advice be overborne
By harem tattle; vainly now
He rails against the Long-Ears' faith.
Round is the hungry tiger, eater of men, for whom is no pity,
It was recorded earlier that the executioners were hustling Zhang Liao forward. Pointing to him from above, Cao Cao said, "He has a familiar face."
Since the blood of his victims is fresh and not yet dry.
Liu Bei spoke no word in favor of Lu Bu,
To whom even a father's life was not sacred.
"You were not likely to forget me; you saw me before in Puyang," said Zhang Liao.
"O, so you remember me, eh?"
"Yes; more is the pity."
"Pity for what?"
"That the fire that day was not fierce enough to burn you up, rebel that you are."
Cao Cao began to get angry.
"How dare you insult me?" cried he and lifted his sword to kill the bold speaker.
The undaunted Zhang Liao never changed color, but stretched out his neck for the blow. Then a man behind Cao Cao caught his arm, and in front of him another dropped on his knees, saying, "O Prime Minister, I pray thee stay thy hand!"
Lu Bu whining was not spared,
Who was it that saved Zhang Liao? The next chapter will show.
Railing Zhang Liao far better fared.