CHAPTER 88

Crossing River Lu---The Mang King Is Bound The Second Time;
Recognizing A Pretended Surrender---Meng Huo Is Captured The Third Time.
 

The officers did not approve of the release of the King of the Mangs, and they came to the tent of Zhuge Liang and said, "Meng Huo is the most important personage of all the Mangs, and his capture is the key to restoring order in the south. Why then, O Minister, did you release him?"

"I can capture him just as easily as I can get something out of my pocket. What I want to do is to overcome and win his heart, so that peace may follow of itself."

They listened, but they had no great confidence in the success of the policy of conciliation.

In the meantime Meng Huo had reached the River Lu, and there he fell in with some of his defeated leaders, who were trying to get news of their King's fate.

They were surprised, but glad, to see him, and asked, "How were Your Highness able to get back?"

The King lied, saying, "They confined me in a tent, and I broke out in the night. I slew more than ten guards and ran. And then I met one of their sentries, killed him, and that is how I got this horse."

They never doubted his word, and very joyfully they hurried him over the river to a camping place. Then all the notables assembled from the various ravines, and the soldiers that had escaped death were mustered and got into shape as a fighting force.

The two leaders in the late campaign, Dongtu Na and Ahui Nan, were in one of the ravines, and Meng Huo sent to ask them to come. They were afraid, but they could not disobey, and they came with an escort.

When all had assembled, the King proclaimed as follows: "I know Zhuge Liang is too full of ruses for us to conquer him in a fight; we should only fall victims to other base devices. However, we must remember that his soldiers have marched far and the weather is sultry, which are factors in our favor. Beside, River Lu is our rampart. We will have boats and rafts on the south side, and we will build a mud wall. With such good defenses we can afford to wait and see what the enemy intends."

His speech met with approval, and his plan was carried out. The wall was supported by the hills and strengthened by fighting turrets, upon which were placed large bows and crossbows and arrows and stones. The defenses looked as if they were permanent. Moreover, each ravine sent supplies in plenty. And having made these preparations, Meng Huo felt comfortable and safe.

Zhuge Liang had advanced, and his leading division was now close to the river. Spies came back to report: "No boats or rafts can be found to cross, and the current is too strong to think of fording. Beside, we can see the formidable defenses on the farther bank, the mud wall and the turrets all fully manned."

The weather was burning hot, for it was the fifth mouth, and the soldiers could not tolerate their armor nor even their clothing.

When Zhuge Liang had inspected the river, he returned to his tent and assembled his officers, to whom he read this order: "The enemy is securely established on the south bank ready to repel our attack. Yet, having come so far, we cannot return empty. For the present you will all seek what shelter you can find in the forests, and rest and refresh your people."

Then he sent Lu Kai to a distance to select a cool stretch of thirty miles, and there he made four stockades. Within the stockades he built huts for the soldiers and sheds for the horses, so that they were sheltered from the intense heat. The four camps were stationed by Wang Ping, Zhang Ni, Zhang Yi, and Guan Suo.

However, Jiang Wan, observed these shelters and went to Zhuge Liang, saying, "These shelters of Lu Kai are very unsuitable. He has made the same mistake as that which led to the defeat of the First Ruler at the hands of Wu. He has not taken into account the surroundings of the stockades, and if the Mangs should come over and start a fire, there could be no rescue."

"Do not anticipate trouble," said the Commander-in-Chief, smiling. "I have provided against all such dangers."

Jiang Wan did not know what the chief meant to do, but he said no more. Then Ma Dai arrived from the Lands of Rivers, and he brought summer medicines and further supplies of grain. He saw Zhuge Liang, and then proceeded to distribute the supplies he had brought according to orders.

Then Zhuge Liang said, "What force have you brought?"

"Three thousand," was the reply.

"My people are weary and worn out; I want to use yours. You have no objections?"

"Of course not; they are equally government troops. They are ready even to die for you if you wish."

"This Meng Huo is established on the river, and we have no means of crossing. But I am anxious to intercept his supplies, so that his troops may mutiny."

"How can you do it?"

"Some fifty miles lower down River Lu there is a place called Shakou, where the current is slow; you could cross there on rafts. I wish you and your soldiers to cross and cut the road of supplies. After that you are to arrange with the two leaders---Dongtu Na and Ahui Nan---whose lives I spared, to be your allies on the inside, and we shall succeed."

Ma Dai went off gladly enough, and marched his troops to Shakou, where they set about the crossing at once. And as the water was shallow, they did not trouble to make rafts, but just tucked up their clothes and waded in. But half-way across, the men began to fall over; and when they had been rescued and taken to the bank, many of them began to bleed from the nose and mouth and died. In great alarm, Ma Dai sent hasty messages to Zhuge Liang, who called in the native guides and asked what this meant.

They told him, "It happens so every year. In the hot season, poisonous miasma collects over the waters of the River Lu, especially during the heat of the day. Anyone who drinks the water will surely die. Travelers who wish to cross have to wait till night, because the cooler waters do not breathe out the poisonous vapors. Further, the crossing should be attempted on a full stomach."

Zhuge Liang bade the local guides point out the best crossing place. He sent some well-seasoned soldiers to Ma Dai to lash together poles into rafts at Shakou, and in the night the crossing was safely accomplished. Further, the guides then led the three thousand men of Shu over to where the grain road of the Mangs led through a narrow valley, called Jiashan Gorge, where, for part of the way, only single file was possible as the road was only wide enough for a soldier and a horse.

Ma Dai at once occupied this valley and stationed a force there. And a stockade was put up with tents inside. Presently a convoy of grain came along, and it was captured, more than a hundred wagons. The guards ran off to Meng Huo's great camp and told him.

Meng Huo, thinking all was safe during the hot season, was enjoying himself; wine and music were the order of the day, and military matters were far from his thoughts. In his cups he admitted Zhuge Liang was ruseful, but said his army had nothing to fear.

"If I attempt to oppose Zhuge Liang, I shall certainly fall a victim to some wile of his. However, my waiting policy is a safe one. With our defenses, and the river to back them, we can wait for the heat to overcome these men of Shu, who cannot stand the hot season. They will have to retreat, and then we can harass them. And we will capture this Zhuge Liang."

He lay back and laughed at the thought. However, one chief, more prudent than the others, stood forth and said, "Remember the shallows at Shakou; it would be very serious if the soldiers of Shu got across there secretly. It ought to be guarded."

"You belong to these areas. Do you not know that I want the enemy to try to get across there? Why, they will all perish in the water."

"But what if the natives tell them to cross only in the night?"

"Do not be so anxious," said Meng Huo. "Our own people will not help the enemy that far."

It was just then that intelligence came: "The troops of Shu, unknown in number, have crossed the river and, moreover, have seized the Jiashan Gorge. The flags show the words 'General Ma Dai Who Pacifies The North.'"

Meng Huo affected indifference.

"This sort of fellow is not worth talking about," said he.

He sent General Mangya Chang with three thousands troops to recapture the gorge and reopen the grain road.

When Ma Dai saw the Mang soldiers approaching, he placed two thousand troops in front of the hills and drew up the troops in formal array. Then Mangya Chang rode out to give battle. This was but a small engagement, as the general of the tribespeople fell at the first stroke of Ma Dai's sword. The Mangs ran away at once.

They returned to the King's camp and told him what had happened. Whereupon he called up all his generals and asked for another to go up against Ma Dai.

"I will go," cried Dongtu Na.

The King gave him three thousand troops. After he had gone, Meng Huo thought it would be wise to keep others from crossing the river. So he sent a force of three thousand under Ahui Nan to guard Shakou.

Dongtu Na duly arrived at the gorge and made a camp. Ma Dai came out to meet him. Among the soldiers in his cohort were some who recognized the leader of the Mangs and told Ma Dai certain things about how he had been captured and liberated.

So Ma Dai galloped toward him, shouting, "O you ingrate! How could you forget the debt to the Prime Minister? Have you known no shame?"

Dongtu Na was very greatly ashamed and turned red in the face, and turned his horse before striking a blow. Ma Dai followed and fell on, slaying many of the Mangs. Then both sides withdrew.

Dongtu Na went back and told the King that Ma Dai was too strong for him.

But Meng Huo was angry, and cried, "You are a traitor! I know Zhuge Liang was good to you, and that is why you would not fight."

Meng Huo ordered Dongtu Na out to execution. However, the notables and chiefs interceded, and the death penalty was remitted, but the unhappy leader was severely beaten, one hundred strokes with the heavy staff.

The chiefs were mostly on the side of the beaten general and against the King's policy.

They went to the tent of Dongtu Na and said, "Though we live in the Mang country, we have never had any thoughts of rebellion against the Imperial Government, nor has the Middle Empire ever encroached upon our land. We must own that Meng Huo's superior power forced us into this rising, and we could not help ourselves. Zhuge Liang is too clever for us, and no one can guess what he may do. Even Cao Cao and Sun Quan fear him; how much more must we? Moreover, we have received kindness at his hands and owe him our lives. We ought to show our gratitude. Now let us at all risks slay this Meng Huo and submit to Zhuge Liang so that our people may not suffer."

Dongtu Na said, "I do not know your inner sentiments."

At this, all those who had been prisoners and released cried with one voice, "We desire to go to Meng Huo."

Thereupon Dongtu Na took in his hand a sharp sword, placed himself at the head of more than a hundred malcontents, and rushed into the great camp. At that moment Meng Huo was, as usual, intoxicated and lay in his tent. The mutineers rushed in. They found two generals on guard.

"You also received kindness from Zhuge Liang and ought to repay it," cried Dongtu Na.

They replied, "You do not have to slay him; let us carry him a prisoner to the Prime Minister."

So they bound the King securely, took him down to the river, and crossed in a boat to the northern bank. There they halted while they sent a messenger to Zhuge Liang.

Now Zhuge Liang knew what had been happening, and he had issued orders for every camp to prepare their weapons. All being ready, he told the chiefs to bring up their prisoner, and bade the others return to their camps. Dongtu Na went first and told the matter to Zhuge Liang, who praised his zeal and gave him presents. Then he retired with the chiefs, and the executioners brought in Meng Huo.

"You said once before that if you were captured again, you would give in," said Zhuge Liang, smiling. "Now will you yield?"

"This capture is not your work," replied Meng Huo. "It is the work of these minions of mine who want to hurt me. I will not yield on this."

"If I free you again, what then?"

"I am only a Mang, I know, but I am not wholly ignorant of war. If you, O Minister, let me return to my ravines, I will muster another army and fight a decisive battle with you. If you capture me again, then I will incline my heart and own myself beaten and yield. I will not go back on my promise again."

"If you refuse to yield next time you are captured, I shall hardly pardon you."

At Zhuge Liang's orders the cords were loosed and refreshments were brought for the prisoner.

"Remember," said Zhuge Liang, "I have never failed yet. I have never failed to win a battle or to take a city I have assaulted. Why do you Mangs not yield?"

Meng Huo only nodded his head; he said nothing. After the wine, Zhuge Liang and Meng Huo rode round the camps together, and the King saw all the arrangements and the piles of stores and heaps of weapons.

And after the inspection Zhuge Liang said, "You are silly not to yield to me. You see my veteran soldiers, my able generals, my stores of all kinds and war gear; how can you hope to prevail against me? If you will yield, I will inform the Emperor, and you shall retain your kingship, and your sons and grandsons shall succeed as perpetual guardians of the Mang country. Do you not think it would be well?"

Meng Huo replied, "If I did yield, the people of my valleys would not be content. If you release me once more, I will see to it that my own people keep the peace and bring them round to unanimity of feeling, and then they will not oppose any more."

Zhuge Liang was glad, and they returned to the main camp to feast until dusk, when Meng Huo took his leave. Zhuge Liang ordered a craft and went to see him across River Lu.

But Meng Huo's first act on his return to his own camp was to send one of his people to Dongtu Na's and Ahui Nan's camps, and pretend to ask them to come to meet a messenger from Zhuge Liang. When the two generals came, Meng Huo ordered assassins who had been placed hidden to do away with the two leaders. Their corpses were thrown into a gully. Then he sent his friends to guard the most important strategic points, while he marched to fight a battle with Ma Dai. But when he got near the valley, he saw no signs of the enemy, and, on questioning an inhabitant, he heard that the Shu army, with all their stores, had recrossed the river and joined the main body in the northern bank.

Meng Huo then returned to his own ravine and discussed matters with his brother, Meng You, saying, "I know all the details of the enemy's force from what I saw in their camp."

And Meng Huo gave his brother certain instructions, which Meng You at once began to carry out. Meng You loaded a hundred men with gold and jewels and pearls and ivory and rhinoceros horn, crossed River Lu, and was on his way to the main camp of the Shu army, when he heard the sound of drums and a cohort under Ma Dai poured out to stop him. Meng You did not expect to meet an enemy, and was surprised. But Ma Dai only asked what he had come for. And when he had heard, Meng You was detained while a message was sent to Zhuge Liang.

The messenger arrived while a council was in progress, the matter under discussion being how to reduce the Mangs. When the messenger had announced that Meng You had come bearing gifts of gold and pearls and such things, Zhuge Liang turned to Ma Su, saying, "Know you why this man has come?"

"I dare not say plainly; but let me write it," said Ma Su.

"Write it, then."

So Ma Su wrote and handed the paper to his chief, who had no sooner read it than he clapped his hands with joy, crying, "What you say is exactly what I think. But you may know I have already made arrangements for the capture of Meng Huo."

Then Zhao Yun was called, and some orders were whispered into his ear. Next Wei Yan came, and he also went off with secret orders. Wang Ping, Ma Zhong, and Guan Suo also came, and left with particular instructions. All these things done, the bearer of gifts was called.

Meng You came and bowed low at the door of the tent, saying, "The brother of my house, Meng Huo, having received great kindness at your hands in sparing his life, feels bound to offer a paltry gift. He has presumed to collect a few pearls and some gold and other trifling jewels by way of something to give your soldiers. And hereafter he will send tribute to your Emperor."

"Where is your brother at this moment?" asked Zhuge Liang.

"Having been the recipient of your great bounty, he has gone to the Silver Pit Hills to collect some treasures. He will soon return."

"How many soldiers have you brought?"

"Only about a hundred; I should not dare to bring any large number. They are just porters."

They were brought in for Zhuge Liang's inspection. They had blue eyes and swarthy faces, auburn hair and brown beards. They wore earrings, their hair was fuzzy, and they went barefoot. They were tall and powerful.

Zhuge Liang made them sit down, and bade his generals press them to drink and treat them well and compliment them.

Meng Huo was anxious about the reception that would be given to his brother and the treatment of his gifts, so he sat in his tent expecting the messenger at any moment. Then two men came, and he questioned them eagerly.

They said, "The presents have been accepted, and even the porters have been invited to drink in the tent and have been regaled with beef and flesh in plenty. O King, your brother sends the news that all will be ready at the second watch for the attack. He will support you from within."

This was pleasing news, and Meng Huo prepared his thirty thousand troops ready to march out to the camp. They were divided into three divisions.

The King called up his chieftains and notables, and said, "Let each army carry the means of making fire, and as soon as they arrive let a light be shown as a signal. I am coming to the main camp to capture Zhuge Liang."

With these orders they marched, and they crossed River Lu at sunset. The King, with a hundred generals as escort, pressed on at once toward the main camp of Shu. They met with no opposition. They even found the main gate open, and Meng Huo and his party rode straight in. But the camp was a desert; not a soldier was visible.

Meng Huo rode right up to the large tent and pushed open the flap. It was brilliantly lighted with lamps, and lying about under their light were his brother and all his men, dead drunk. Zhuge Liang had ordered Ma Su and Lu Kai to entertain Meng You and his men with wine and dance performances. The wine they had been pressed to drink while the plays were going on had been heavily drugged, and they had fallen down almost as soon as they had swallowed it. One or two who had recovered a little could not speak: they only pointed to their mouths.

Meng Huo then saw that he had been the simple victim of another ruse. However, he picked up his brother and the others and started off to return to his main army.

But as he turned, torches began to flash out and drums to beat. The Mangs were frightened and took to their heels. But they were pursued, and the pursuing cohort was led by Wang Ping. The King bore away to the left to escape, but again a cohort appeared in front of him; Wei Yan was there. Meng Huo tried the other side; and was stopped by Zhao Yun. He was in a trap; and attacked on three sides and no fourth to escape by, what could he do? He abandoned everything, making one wild rush for the River Lu.

As he reached the river bank, he saw a bark on the river with Mang soldiers on board. Here was safety. He hailed the boat and jumped on board as soon as it touched the bank. No sooner had he embarked than suddenly he was seized and bound. The boat, which Ma Dai had provided and prepared, was part of the general plan, and the Mang soldiers therein were Ma Dai's soldiers disguised.

Many of Meng Huo's troops accepted the chance of surrender held out by Zhuge Liang, who soothed them and treated them well and did not injure one of them.

The remains of the conflagration were stamped out, and in a short time Ma Dai brought along his prisoner. At the same time Zhao Yun led in his brother, Meng You. Wei Yan, Ma Su, Wang Ping, and Guan Suo also brought their prisoners, chiefs or notables, to the camp of the Prime Minister.

Zhuge Liang looked at the King and laughed.

"That was but a shallow ruse of yours to send your brother with presents to pretend to submit to me; did you really think I should not see through it? But here you are once more in my power; now do you yield?"

"I am a prisoner owing to the gluttony of my brother and the power of your poisonous drugs. If I had only played his part myself and left him to support me with soldiers, I should have succeeded. I am the victim of fate and not of my own incapacity. No; I will not yield."

"Remember this is the third time; why not?" said Zhuge Liang.

Meng Huo dropped his head and made no answer.

"Ah, well; I will let you go once more," said Zhuge Liang.

"O Minister, if you will let me and my brother go, we will get together our family and clients and fight you once more. If I am caught that time, then I will confess myself beaten to the ground, and that shall be the end."

"Certainly I shall scarcely pardon you next time," said Zhuge Liang. "You would better be careful. Diligently tackle your Book of Strategy; look over your list of confidants. If you can apply a good plan at the proper moment, you will not have any need for late regrets."

Meng Huo and his brother and all the chiefs were released from their bonds. They thanked Zhuge Liang for his clemency and went away.

By the time the released prisoners had got back to the river, the army of Shu had crossed to the farther side and had captured the Mang defenses, the Shu flags fluttering in the breeze. As Meng Huo passed the camp, he saw Ma Dai sitting in state. Ma Dai pointed his sword at the King as he passed, and said, "Next time you are caught, you will not escape."

When Meng Huo came to his own camp, he found Zhao Yun in possession and all in order. Zhao Yun was seated beneath the large banner, with his sword drawn, and as the King passed, he also said, "Do not presume on the kindness of the Prime Minister because you have been generously treated."

Meng Huo grunted and passed on. Just as he was going over the frontier hills, he saw Wei Yan and a company drawn up on the slopes. Wei Yan shouted, "See to it; we have got into the inmost recesses of your country and have taken all your defensive positions. Yet you are fool enough to hold out. Next time you are caught, you will be quite destroyed. There will be no more pardons."

Meng Huo and his company ran away with their arms over their heads. Each one returned to his own ravine.

After the crossing of the river, the soldiers were feasted. Then Zhuge Liang addressed his officers: "I let Meng Huo see our camp the second time he was our prisoner, because I wanted to tempt him into raiding it. He is something of a soldier, and I dangled our supplies and resources before his eyes, knowing he would try to burn them and that he would send his brother to pretend to submit that thereby he could get into our camp and have a chance to betray us. I have captured and released him three times, trying to win him over. I do not wish to do him any harm. I now explain my policy that you may understand I am not wasting your efforts and you are still to work your best for the government."

They all bowed, and one said, "O Minister, you are indeed perfect in every one of the three gifts: wisdom, benevolence, and valor. Not even Lu Wang or Zhang Liang can equal you!"

Said Zhuge Liang, "How can I expect to equal our men of old? But my trust is in your strength, and together we shall succeed."

This speech of their leader's pleased them all mightily.

In the meantime Meng Huo, puffed up with pride at getting off three times, hastened home to his own ravine, whence he sent trusted friends with gifts to the Eight Nations and the Ninety-three Sees and all the Mang quarters and clans to borrow shields and swords and warriors and braves. He got together one hundred thousand soldiers. They all assembled on an appointed day, massing like clouds and sweeping in like mists gathering on the mountains, each and all obeying the commands of the King Meng Huo.

And the scouts knew it all, and they told Zhuge Liang, who said, "This is what I was waiting for, that the Mangs should have an opportunity of knowing our might."

Thereupon he seated himself in a small carriage and went out to watch.

The story of the campaign will be continued in the next chapter.

 

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