| Chapter 25 |
Besieged In Tushan Mountains, Guan Yu Makes Three Conditions;
The plan to seduce Guan Yu from allegiance to his brothers was now announced by Cheng Yu, "Since Guan Yu is far braver than ordinary warriors, he can only be overreached by superior cunning. Now send some of the captured soldiers who have lately been of Liu Bei's army into Xiapi, where they shall say they have come back. They shall thus be our allies on the inside. Then an attack and a feigned defeat will entice Guan Yu to a distance from the city. And his return road shall be cut."
Cao Cao accepted the scheme, and a few score of the troops who had lately been in Xuzhou were sent to the city. Guan Yu believed the story they told and trusted them. So they were suffered to remain.
After this part of the game had been played, Xiahou Dun led forward five thousand troops against the city. At first, Guan Yu would not accept the challenge. But provoked by men sent to hurl insults at him from the foot of the wall, his wrath got the better of him, and he moved out with three thousand troops. After the leaders had exchanged some ten bouts, Xiahou Dun made to run away. Guan Yu pursued. Xiahou Dun stopped and made a stand, then he fled again. Thus alternately fighting and retiring, he enticed Guan Yu seven miles from Xiapi. Then Guan Yu suddenly remembering the risk to the city drew off his army to return homeward.
Soon, at the sound of a signal bomb, from the left and right out moved two bodies of troops led by Xu Huang and Xu Chu who barred his way. Guan Yu hastened along a road that seemed to offer retreat, but from both sides his ambushing enemies shot their crossbows, and the arrows flew like locusts on the wing. No way past was found, and he turned back. Then both bodies joined in attacking him. He drove them off and got into the road to his own city, but soon Xiahou Dun came up again and attacked fiercely as before. Evening came and still Guan Yu was hemmed in, so he went up on a low hill of Tushan Mountains upon which he encamped for a rest.
Guan Yu was surrounded on all sides by enemies. By and by, looking toward his city, he saw the glow of fire. It meant that the traitors, who had come in to surrender, had opened the gate, and the enemy had gone in force. They had made the fires in order to perplex and distress Guan Yu, and indeed the sight saddened him.
In the night he made efforts to escape from the hill, but every attempt was checked by flights of arrows. At daybreak he prepared for one more effort, but before moving he saw a horseman riding up at full speed and presently discerned Zhang Liao.
When within speaking distance, Guan Yu said, "Are you come to fight me, Zhang Liao?"
"No," replied Zhang Liao. "I am come to see you because of our old friendship."
Wherefore Zhang Liao threw aside his sword, dismounted, and came forward saluting. And the two sat down.
"Then naturally you have come to talk me over," said Guan Yu.
"Not so!" said Zhang Liao. "Sometime ago you saved me. Can I help saving you?"
"Then you desire to help me."
"Not exactly that," replied Zhang Liao.
"Then what are you doing here if you have not come to help me?"
"Nothing is known of the fate of your elder brother, nor whether your younger brother is alive or dead. Last night your city fell into the hands of Cao Cao, but neither soldiers nor people were harmed, and a special guard was set over the family of Liu Bei lest they should be alarmed. I came to tell you how well they had been treated."
"This is certainly talking me over," said Guan Yu. "Though escape is impossible, yet I am not perturbed. I look upon death as going home. You had better depart quickly and let me go down and begin the struggle again."
"Surely you must know everybody will ridicule you when they hear of this," said Zhang Liao.
"I shall die for loyalty and righteousness. Who will laugh?" said Guan Yu.
"You would be guilty of three faults if you died."
"Tell me them," said Guan Yu.
"First of all, you and your elder brother pledged yourselves in the Peach Garden to die or to live together. Now your brother has been defeated, and you want to fight to the death. Therefore, if your brother appears again by and by and wants your help, he will seek it in vain. Is this anything else than betraying the Peach Garden Oath? Secondly, you are in charge of your brother's family and, if you fought and died, the two women would be left forlorn and without a protector. That would be a betrayal of trust. Thirdly, your military skill stands out conspicuous and will go down in history. If you do not aid your brother in his noble attempt to maintain the dynasty, then all your labors and sufferings will have been spent to win a worthless reputation as a valiant fool. Where is the sense in that? I feel it my duty to point out these three faults to you."
Guan Yu remained silent and thought for some time.
Then he said, "You have spoken of my three faults. What do you desire?"
"You are surrounded with the certainty of death if you do not yield. There is no advantage in a useless death. Wherefore your best course is to yield to Cao Cao till you hear news of Liu Bei and can rejoin him. Thus you will ensure the safety of the two ladies and also keep inviolate the Peach Garden compact. You will preserve a useful life. Brother, you must reflect on these things."
"Brother, you have spoken of three advantages; now I have three conditions. If the Prime Minister concede these, then will I doff my armor. If he refuses, then I prefer to be guilty of the three faults and die."
"Why should the Prime Minister not concede them? He is most liberal and large minded. I pray you let me hear your conditions."
"The first is that as I and the Imperial Uncle have sworn to support the Hans, I now submit to the Emperor and not to His Prime Minister Cao Cao. The second condition is that suitable provision be made for the two ladies under my care and that no one shall be allowed to approach them. The third is that I shall be allowed to set off to rejoin Uncle Liu Bei so soon as I shall hear where he is, whether it be far or near. I require all these to be satisfied. Failing a single one, I will not submit. Wherefore, Zhang Liao, I pray you hasten back and announce them."
Zhang Liao lost no time but rode back to Cao Cao. When he spoke of Guan Yu's intention to submit to the Hans but not to Cao Cao, the latter laughed, saying, "As I am a minister of Han, so am I Han. I grant that."
Zhang Liao then spoke of provision due to their rank and security from molestation for the ladies, to which Cao Cao replied, "I will give them twice the regular amount for an Uncle of the Emperor. As for securing them from molestation, that is simple. The ordinary domestic law is enough. Why should there be any doubt?"
Then said Zhang Liao, "Whenever he shall get news of the whereabouts of Liu Bei, he must go to him."
At this Cao Cao shook his head, saying, "Then I am merely to feed Guan Yu. What is the use of this? I cannot consent."
Zhang Liao replied, "You must know of Yu Rang's saying: The difference in behavior brought about by difference of treatment? Liu Bei treats Guan Yu just kindly and liberally. You can surely engage Guan Yu's heart and support by being kinder and more liberal."
"What you say is much to the point. I will grant the three conditions," said Cao Cao.
Whereupon Zhang Liao left to carry the news to Guan Yu, still on the summit of the Tushan Mountains.
Said Guan Yu, "Now I expect the army to withdraw so that I may enter the city to tell the two ladies what has been arranged. After that I submit at once."
Zhang Liao rode back once more with this request, and the order was given for the army to retire three miles.
"Do not do this," said Xun Yu. "I fear treachery."
"He will certainly not break faith," said Cao Cao. "He is too high principled."
The army retired, and Guan Yu with his force reentered the city of Xiapi, where he saw that the people were following their ordinary avocations in tranquillity. He came to the palace and went in to see the two ladies, who hastened to meet him.
He bowed to them below the steps and said, "I apologize for having caused you to feel alarmed."
"Where is the Uncle?" asked they.
"I know not whither he has gone."
"What do you intend to do, brother-in-law?"
"I went out of the city to try a last battle. I was surrounded on a hill top, and Zhang Liao has urged me to yield. I proposed three conditions, all of which were conceded, and the enemy drew off to allow me to return to the city. Unless I have your decision, sisters-in-law, I scarcely dare to take any final step."
They asked what were the conditions and were told.
Lady Gan said, "When Cao Cao's army came in, we took it to mean certain death. But it is scarcely credible that not a hair of our heads has been disturbed. Not a soldier has dared enter our doors. You have accepted the conditions, brother-in-law, and there is no need to ask our consent. Our only fear is that he will not let you go by and by to search for the Uncle."
"Sisters-in-law, you need not be anxious. I will see to that."
"You must decide everything and need not ask us."
Guan Yu withdrew and then, with a small escort, went to his interview with Cao Cao. Cao Cao came to the outermost gate to welcome him, and Guan Yu dismounted and made obeisance. Cao Cao returned his salute with the greatest cordiality.
"The leader of a defeated army is grateful for the graciousness that has preserved his life," said Guan Yu.
"I have so long admired your loyalty and high principles that this happy meeting gratifies the desire of my whole life," replied Cao Cao.
"As the Prime Minister has granted the three requests which my friend petitioned for on my behalf, there is now but little to discuss," said Guan Yu.
"As I have spoken, so be it. I could not break faith," replied Cao Cao.
"Whenever I hear where Uncle Liu Bei is, I must certainly go to him, even if through fire and water. It may be that there will be no time nor opportunity of saying farewell. I trust you will understand the reason."
"If Liu Bei should prove to be alive, you must certainly be allowed to go to him. But I fear that in the confusion he may have lost his life. You may set your mind at rest and let me make inquiries."
Guan Yu thanked him. Then a banquet was prepared in Guan Yu's honor. Next day the army started on its homeward march.
For the journey to the capital, a carriage was prepared for the two ladies, and Guan Yu was its guard. On the road they rested at a certain post station, and Cao Cao, anxious to compromise Guan Yu by beguiling him into forgetfulness of his duty, assigned Guan Yu to the same apartment as his sisters-in-law. Guan Yu stood the whole night before the door with a lighted candle in his hand. Not once did he yield to fatigue. Cao Cao's respect for him could not but increase.
At the capital the Prime Minister assigned a dignified residence to Guan Yu, which he immediately divided into two enclosures, the inner one for the two ladies and the other for himself. He placed a guard of eighteen of his veterans over the women's quarters.
Guan Yu was presented to Emperor Xian who conferred upon him the rank of General Who Serves the Hans. Guan Yu expressed his thanks to the Emperor. Next day Cao Cao made a great banquet, inviting all his advisers and officers, solely in honor of Guan Yu, who sat in the seat of honor. Beside this Guan Yu received presents of silks and gold and silver vessels, all of which Guan Yu sent into the ladies' quarters for their use and keeping. In fact from the day of arrival in the capital, Guan Yu was treated with marked respect and distinction, small banquets following each other in each three days, and large banquets held in each five days.
Cao Cao also presented him with ten most lovely serving girls. Guan Yu sent these also within to wait upon his two sisters-in-law.
Every third day Guan Yu went to the door of the women's quarters to inquire after their welfare, and then they asked if any news of the wanderer had come. This ceremony closed with the words: "Brother-in-law, you may retire when you wish."
Cao Cao heard of this extremely correct behavior and thought all the more of the man for it.
One day Cao Cao noticed that the robe Guan Yu was wearing was old and frayed. Taking his measurements, Cao Cao had a new one made of fine brocade and presented it to him. Guan Yu took it and put it on under the old robe, so that the latter covered it.
"Why so very thrifty?" laughed Cao Cao.
"It is not thrift," was his reply. "The old robe was a gift from my brother, and I wear it because it reminds me of him. I could not allow the new gift to eclipse his old one."
"How very high principled!" said Cao Cao, sighing.
One day when Guan Yu was at home, there came a messenger to say that the two women had thrown themselves on the ground and were weeping. They would not say why.
Guan Yu set his dress in order, went over, and knelt by the door, saying, "Why this grief, sisters-in-law?"
Lady Gan replied, "In the night I dreamed that the Uncle had fallen into a pit. I woke up and told Lady Mi, and we think he must be dead. So we weep."
"Dreams are not to be credited," he replied. "You dreamed of him because you were thinking of him. Pray do not grieve."
Just then Guan Yu was invited to another banquet, so he took leave of the ladies and went. Seeing Guan Yu looked sad and tearful, his host asked the reason.
"My sisters-in-law have been weeping for my brother, and I cannot help being sad in sympathy."
Cao Cao smiled and tried to cheer up his guest. Cao Cao plied Guan Yu with wine so that Guan Yu became quite intoxicated and sat stroking his beard and saying, "What a useless thing am I! I could do no service for my country, and I have parted from my elder brother."
"How many hairs in your beard?" suddenly asked his host.
"Some hundreds, perhaps. In the autumn a few fall out, but in the winter it is fullest. Then I use a black silk bag to keep the hairs from being broken," replied Guan Yu.
Cao Cao had a bag made for him to protect his beard. Soon after when they were at court, the Emperor asked what was the bag he saw on Guan Yu's breast.
"My beard is rather long, Your Majesty," said Guan Yu. "So the Prime Minister gave me a bag to protect it."
The Emperor bade him take off the bag and show his beard in all its fullness and it fell in rippling waves below his breast.
"Really a most beautiful beard!" said the Emperor.
This is why people call him: "The Man with the Beautiful Beard."
Another time, after a banquet, Cao Cao was seeing his guest start from the gate of his palace when he noticed that his charger was very thin.
"Why is it so thin?" said Cao Cao.
"My worthless body is rather heavy and really too much for it. It is always out of condition."
Cao Cao at once told his attendants to bring out a certain steed, and before long it appeared. It was red, like glowing charcoal, and a handsome creature in every way.
"Do you recognize it?" asked Cao Cao.
"Why, it is no other than Red Hare!" cried Guan Yu.
"Yes; it is Red Hare," said Cao Cao.
And he presented the horse, all fully caparisoned, to his guest.
Guan Yu bowed many times and thanked him again and again, till Cao Cao began to feel displeased and said, "I have given you many things, lovely handmaids and gold and silks and never won a bow of gratitude from you before. This horse seems to please you better than all the rest. Why do you think so poorly of the damsels and so much of the steed?"
"I know the horse: It can travel five hundred miles a day, and I am very lucky to get him. Now as soon as I find out where my brother is, I can get to him in a single day," said Guan Yu.
Cao Cao grumbled to himself and began to repent of his gift.
Said Cao Cao to Zhang Liao, "I have treated Guan Yu pretty liberally, but he still cherishes the desire to leave me. Do you know if it is really so?"
"I will try to find out," was the reply.
So Zhang Liao took an early opportunity of seeing Guan Yu, and when the politeness of the visit were over, Zhang Liao said, "I recommended you to the Prime Minister, and you have not lost much by that."
"I am deeply affected by his kindness and bounty," said Guan Yu, "but, though my body is here, yet I am always thinking of my brother."
"Your words do not express present conditions quite correctly. One who lives in the world without discrimination and consideration of his relations with others is not the most admirable type of person. Even Liu Bei never treated you better than does the Prime Minister. Why then do you maintain this desire to get away?"
"I know only too well that he has been most kind, but I have also received great kindness from Uncle Liu Bei. Beside we have sworn to die together, and I cannot remain here. But before I go, I must try to render the Prime Minister some signal service to prove my gratitude."
"Supposing Liu Bei should have left the world, whither will you go?" said Zhang Liao.
"I will follow him to the below realms of Nine Golden Springs."
There could no longer be the least doubt as to Guan Yu's intentions, and Zhang Liao told Cao Cao just how matters stood. Cao Cao sighed.
"To serve one's chief with unswerving fidelity is a proof of the highest principle of all," said he.
Said Xun Yu, "He spoke of performing some act of service before leaving. If he gets no chance of such a thing, he will not be able to go."
Cao Cao agreed that this was so.
Liu Bei went to Yuan Shao for refuge. Here Liu Bei was always sorrowful and, when asked the reason, said he did not know where his brothers were nor what had happened to his family since they fell into the hands of Cao Cao.
"Why should I not be sad when I have failed towards my country and my family?" said he.
"I have long wished to attack Xuchang," said Yuan Shao. "Now it is autumn and just the time for an expedition, so let us discuss plans for the destruction of Cao Cao."
Tian Feng at once opposed this.
"When Cao Cao attacked Xuzhou and Xuchang was undefended, you let the chance slip by. Now that Xuzhou has been captured, and their soldiers are flushed with victory, it would be madness to attempt it. It is necessary to await another chance."
"Let me think about it," said Yuan Shao.
He asked advice from Liu Bei whether to attack or to hold on.
Liu Bei replied, "Cao Cao is a rebel. I think you are failing in your duty if you do not attack him."
"Your words are good," said Yuan Shao.
He made up his mind to move. But again the adviser Tian Feng intervened.
Then Yuan Shao grew angry, saying, "You fellows who cultivate literature and despise war have made me miss a lot!"
Tian Feng bowed his head and said, "Neglect your servant's wise words, and you will fail in the field."
Yuan Shao was so angry that he wanted to put Tian Feng to death. However, Liu Bei begged him off and he was only imprisoned.
Seeing the fate of his colleague, another adviser, Ju Shou, assembled his clan and distributed among them all his possessions, saying, "I go with the army. If we succeed, then nothing can exceed our glory; but if we are defeated, the risk I run is great."
His friends wept as they said farewell.
General Yan Liang was appointed to the command of the advance guard, to go to attack Baima.
Then Ju Shou first protested, "His mind is too narrow for such a post. He is brave but unequal to such a trust."
"You are not the sort of man to measure my best generals," replied Yuan Shao.
The army marched to Liyang, and Governor Liu Yue of Dongjun sent an urgent call to Xuchang for aid. Cao Cao moved his armies hastily.
As soon as the news of battle got about, Guan Yu went to see the Prime Minister and said, "Illustrious Sir, the army is mobilized. I volunteer for the van leader."
"I scarcely dare put you to such inconvenience, but presently, if need arises, I will call upon you."
So Guan Yu retired, and one hundred fifty thousand soldiers marched out in three directions. On the road the letters from Liu Yue arrived praying for help, and Cao Cao marched the first fifty thousand troops to Baima and took up a position supported by the hills. In the wide plains in front of them, Yan Liang was encamped with one hundred thousand veterans.
Cao Cao was frightened at the force opposed to him and, returning to camp, spoke to Song Xian, who had once served under Lu Bu, saying, "You are one of Lu Bu's famous veteran generals. Can you give battle to this Yan Liang?"
Song Xian agreed to try. He armed himself, mounted, and rode to the front. Yan Liang was there on horseback, his sword lying crossways. Seeing an opponent approaching, he uttered a loud shout and galloped toward Song Xian. The two met, but after only three bouts, Song Xian fell under a mighty slash from Yan Liang's sword.
"What a terrible leader!" said Cao Cao.
"He has slain my comrade, I want to go and avenge him," then cried Wei Xu.
Cao Cao bade him go and he rode out, spear set, and in front of the army railed at Yan Liang.
Yan Liang replied not a word, but their two steeds came together; and at the first blow from Yan Liang's sword, Wei Xu's forehead was halved.
"Now, who again dares face him?" cried Cao Cao.
Xu Huang took up the challenge and he went out. The combat endured twenty bouts, and then Xu Huang fled back to his own side. The other generals were now greatly depressed at their failure. Cao Cao withdrew his army, feeling very sad at the loss of two generals in quick succession. Yan Liang also marched off his force.
Then Cheng Yu went to see his chief, saying, "I can produce a man the equal of Yan Liang."
"Who?" cried Cao Cao.
"No other than Guan Yu."
"I am afraid that if he is given an opportunity to perform that return service he spoke of, he will leave me."
"If Liu Bei is still alive, he is with Yuan Shao. If you get Guan Yu to defeat Yuan Shao's army, Yuan Shao will look askance at Liu Bei and put him to death. Liu Bei gone, where can Guan Yu go?"
This argument appealed to Cao Cao at once, and he sent to request Guan Yu to come.
Previous to obeying the call, Guan Yu went to say farewell to his sisters-in-law.
"You may get news of the Uncle on the journey," said they.
"Yes," said Guan Yu and left them.
Armed with his green-dragon saber, riding on the swift steed Red Hare, and having but a slender following, Guan Yu was not long in arriving at Baima. He saw Cao Cao, who told him what had happened. Yan Liang was too valiant for any to face.
"Let me look at him," said Guan Yu.
Then wine was served for his refreshment, and while they were drinking, it was reported that Yan Liang once again offered a challenge. So Cao Cao and his guest and staff went to the summit of a hill whence the enemy could be seen. Cao Cao and Guan Yu sat on the hill top, and the commanders stood about them. Cao Cao pointed out Yan Liang's troops arrayed on the plains below. The ensigns and banners waving fresh and bright amid the forest of spears and swords made a grand and imposing spectacle.
"See how formidable these soldiers of the North of Yellow River are," said Cao Cao.
"I regard them as so many clay fowls and mud dogs," said Guan Yu.
Cao Cao pointed out Yan Liang, saying, "There under that grand umbrella, in that embroidered robe and that silver breastplate and riding on horseback and gripping that huge sword is Yan Liang."
"His head looks as though it was stuck on a pole for sale," said Guan Yu, just glancing over the army at his feet.
"He is very terrible. You must not despise him," said Cao Cao.
Guan Yu rose, saying, "I am a poor thing, but I will go over and bring you his head if you like."
"Joking is not allowed in this army," interposed Zhang Liao. "Please be careful what you say, General."
Guan Yu quickly mounted, turned down his mighty weapon, and galloped down the hill, his phoenix eyes rounded, and his silkworm eyebrows fiercely bristling. He dashed straight into the enemy's array, and the northern soldiers opened like falling waves and dissolving storms. He made directly for the commander.
Now Yan Liang sitting there in state saw a horseman rushing toward him, and just as he began to ask who the rider of the red horse was, lo! the horseman was there. Taken utterly by surprise, the leader could make no defense. Guan Yu's arm rose and the mighty weapon fell. And with it fell Yan Liang.
Leaping from the saddle, Guan Yu cut off his victim's head and hung it to his horse's neck. Then he mounted and rode out, just as if there was no army there.
The northern troops, panic stricken, made no fight. Cao Cao's army attacked with full force and slew great numbers of them. They captured many horses and weapons and much military gear. Guan Yu rode quickly back up the hill and laid the proof of his prowess at the feet of the Prime Minister.
"You are more than human, General!" cried Cao Cao.
"What have I done to talk about?" said Guan Yu. "My brother, Zhang Fei, did the same thing in an army of a hundred legions, and did it as easily as picking something from his own pocket."
Cao Cao marveled at the statement and turning to those about him said, "If you meet this Zhang Fei, be careful."
And he bade them make a note on the overlap of their robes so that they should remember.
The beaten army returning northward met Yuan Shao on the road and told their story.
"A red-faced warrior with a long beard, wielding a huge, long-handled sword, broke into the army, cut off the general's head and bore it off," said they.
"Who was this?" asked Yuan Shao.
Ju Shou said, "It must have been Liu Bei's brother, Guan Yu. It could be nobody else."
Yuan Shao was very angry and, pointing to Liu Bei, he said, "Your brother has slain my beloved leader. You are in the plot too. Why should I save you alive?"
He bade the lictors take Liu Bei away and behead him.
Liu Bei's actual fate will be told in the next chapter.
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