| Chapter 32 |
Jizhou Taken: Yuan Shang Strives;
Yuan Shang was puffed up with pride after his victory over Shi Huan and, without deigning to wait the arrival of his brothers, he marched out with thirty thousand troops to Liyang to meet the army of Cao Cao. Zhang Liao came out to challenge him, and Yuan Shang, accepting the challenge rode out with spear set. But he only lasted to the third bout when he had to give way. Zhang Liao smote with full force and Yuan Shang, quite broken, fled pell-mell to Jizhou. His defeat was a heavy shock to his father Yuan Shao, who had a severe fit of hemorrhage at the news and swooned.
Lady Liu, his wife, got him to bed as quickly as possible, but he did not rally; and she soon saw it was necessary to prepare for the end. So she sent for Shen Pei and Peng Ji that the succession might be settled. They came and stood by the sick man's bed, but by this time he could no longer speak. He only made motions with his hands.
When his wife put the formal question, "Is Yuan Shang to succeed?"
Yuan Shao nodded his head. Shen Pei at the bedside wrote out the dying man's testament. Presently Yuan Shao uttered a loud moan, a fresh fit of bleeding followed, and he passed away.
Shen Pei and some others set about the mourning ceremonies for the dead man. His wife, Lady Liu, put to death five of his favorite concubines, and such was the bitterness of her jealousy that, not content with this, she shaved off the hair and slashed the faces of their poor corpses lest their spirits should meet and rejoin her late husband in the land of shades beneath the Nine Golden Springs. Her son followed up this piece of cruelty by slaying all the relatives of the unhappy concubines lest they should avenge their deaths.
Shen Pei and Peng Ji declared Yuan Shang successor with the titles of Regent Marshal and Supreme Imperial Protector of the four regions of Jizhou, Qingzhou, Youzhou, and Bingzhou and sent in a report of the death of the late Imperial Protector.
At this time Yuan Tan, the eldest son, had already marched out his army to oppose Cao Cao. But hearing of his father's death, he called in Guo Tu and Xin Ping to consult as to his course of action.
"In your absence, my lord," said Guo Tu, "the two advisers of your younger brother will certainly set him up as lord, wherefore you must act quickly."
"Those two, Shen Pei and Peng Ji, have already laid their plans," said Xin Ping. "If you go, you will meet with some misfortune."
"Then what should I do?" asked Yuan Tan.
Guo Tu replied, "Go and camp near the city, and watch what is taking place while I enter and inquire."
Accordingly Guo Tu entered the city and sought an interview with the young Imperial Protector.
"Why did not my brother come?" asked Yuan Shang after the usual salutes.
Guo Tu said, "He cannot come as he is in the camp unwell."
"By the command of my late father, I take the lordship. Now I confer upon my brother the rank of General of the Flying Cavalry, and I wish him to go at once to attack Cao Cao, who is pressing on the borders. I will follow as soon as my army is in order."
"There is no one in our camp to give advice," said Guo Tu. "I wish to have the services of Shen Pei and Peng Ji."
"I also need the help of these two," said Yuan Shang. "And as I am always working at schemes, I do not see how I can do without them."
"Then let one of these two go," replied Guo Tu.
Yuan Shang could do no other than accede to this request, so he bade the two men cast lots who should go. Peng Ji drew the lot and was appointed, receiving a seal of office. Then he accompanied Guo Tu to the camp. But when he arrived and found Yuan Tan in perfect health, he grew suspicious and resigned.
Yuan Tan angrily refused to accept his resignation and was disposed to put him to death, but Guo Tu privately dissuaded him, saying, "Cao Cao is on the borders, and Peng Ji must be kept here to allay your brother's suspicions. After we have beaten Cao Cao, we can at once make an attempt on Jizhou."
Yuan Tan agreed and forthwith broke up his camp to march against the enemy. He reached Liyang and lost no time in offering battle. He chose for his champion Wang Zhao and, when Wang Zhao rode out, Cao Cao sent Xu Huang to meet him. These two had fought but a few bouts when Wang Zhao was slain. At once Cao Cao's army pressed forward, and Yuan Tan suffered a severe defeat. Yuan Tan drew off his army and retired into Liyang, whence he sent to his brother for reinforcements.
Yuan Shang and his adviser Shen Pei discussed the matter and only five thousand troops were sent. Cao Cao hearing of the dispatch of this meager force sent Li Dian and Yue Jing to waylay them, and the half legion was destroyed. When Yuan Tan heard of the inadequate force sent and their destruction, he was very wrath and roundly abused Peng Ji.
Peng Ji replied, "Let me write to my lord and pray him to come himself."
So Peng Ji wrote and the letter was sent. When it arrived, Yuan Shang again consulted Shen Pei.
The Counselor said, "Guo Tu, your elder brother's adviser, is very guileful. Formerly he left without discussion because Cao Cao was on the border. If Cao Cao be defeated, there will certainly be an attempt on you. The better plan is to withhold assistance and use Cao Cao's hand to destroy your rival."
Yuan Shang took his advice and no help was sent. When the messenger returned to Liyang without success, Yuan Tan was very angry and showed it by putting Peng Ji to death. He also began to talk of surrendering to Cao Cao. Soon spies brought news of this to Yuan Shang, and again Shen Pei was called in.
Yuan Shang said, "If Yuan Tan goes over to Cao Cao, they will both attack Jizhou, and we shall be in great danger."
Finally Shen Pei and General Su You were left to take care of the defense of the city, and Yuan Shang marched his army to the rescue of his brother.
"Who dares lead the van?" said Yuan Shang.
Two brothers named Lu Xiang and Lu Kuang volunteered, and thirty thousand troops were given them. They were the first to reach Liyang.
Yuan Tan was pleased that Yuan Shang had decided to play a brotherly part and come to his aid, so he at once abandoned all thought of going over to the enemy. He being in the city, Yuan Shang camped outside, making that an ox-horn formation of their strategic position.
Before long Yuan Xi, the second brother, and their cousin, Gao Gan, arrived with their legions and also camped outside the city.
Engagements took place daily, and Yuan Shang suffered many defeats. On the other hand Cao Cao was victorious and elated. In the second month of the eighth year of Rebuilt Tranquillity (AD 203), Cao Cao made separate attacks on all four armies and won the day against each. Then the Yuans abandoned Liyang, and Cao Cao pursued them to Jizhou, where Yuan Tan and Yuan Shang went into the city to defend it, while their brother and cousin camped about ten miles away making a show of great force.
When Cao Cao had made many attacks without success, Guo Jia proffered the following plan.
He said, "There is dissension among the Yuans because the elder has been superseded in the succession. The brothers are about equally strong and each has his party. If we oppose them, they unite to assist each other; but if we have patience, they will be weakened by family strife. Wherefore send first a force to reduce Liu Biao in Jingzhou, and let the fraternal quarrels develop. When they have fully developed, we can smite them and settle the matter."
Cao Cao approved of the plan. So leaving Jia Xu as Governor of Liyang and Cao Hong as guard at Guandu, the army went away toward Jingzhou.
The two brothers Yuan Tan and Yuan Shang congratulated each other on the withdrawal of their enemy, and their brother Yuan Xi and their cousin Gao Gan marched their armies back to their own districts.
Then the quarrels began. Yuan Tan said to his confidants Guo Tu and Xin Ping, "I, the eldest, have been prevented from succeeding my father, while the youngest son, born of a second wife, received the main heritage. My heart is bitter."
Said Guo Tu, "Camp your army outside, invite your brother and Shen Pei to a banquet, and assassinate them. The whole matter is easily settled."
And Yuan Tan agreed. It happened that Adviser Wang Xiu came just then from Qingzhou whom Yuan Tan took into his confidence.
Wang Xiu opposed the murder plan, saying, "Brothers are as one's limbs. How can you possibly succeed if at a moment of conflict with an enemy you cut off one of your hands? If you abandon your brother and sever relationship, whom will you take in all the world as a relation? That fellow Guo Tu is a dangerous mischief-maker, who would sow dissension between brothers for a momentary advantage, and I beg you to shut your ears and not listen to his persuasions."
This was displeasing to Yuan Tan, and he angrily dismissed Wang Xiu, while he sent the treacherous invitation to his brother.
Yuan Shang and Shen Pei talked over the matter.
Shen Pei said, "I recognize one of Guo Tu's stratagems and if you go, my lord, you will be the victim of their plot. Rather strike at them at once."
Whereupon Yuan Shang rode out to battle. His brother Yuan Tan, seeing him come with fifty thousand troops, knew that his treachery had been discovered, so he also took the field. When the forces were near enough, Yuan Tan opened on Yuan Shang with a volley of abuse.
"You poisoned my father and usurped the succession. Now you come out to slay your elder brother?"
The battle went against Yuan Tan. Yuan Shang himself took part in the fight, risking the arrows and the stones. He urged on his troops and drove his brother off the field. Yuan Tan took refuge in Pingyuan. Yuan Shang drew off his army to his own city.
Yuan Tan and Guo Tu decided upon a new attack, and this time they chose General Cen Bi as Leader of the Van. Yuan Shang went to meet him. When both sides had been arrayed and the banners were flying and the drums beating, Cen Bi rode out to challenge and railed at his opponent. At first Yuan Shang was going to answer the challenge himself, but Lu Kuang had advanced. Lu Kuang and Cen Bi met but had fought only a few bouts when Cen Bi fell. Yuan Tan's soldiers were once more defeated and ran away to Pingyuan. Shen Pei urged his master to press for the advantage, and Yuan Tan was driven into the city, where he fortified himself and would not go out. So the city was besieged on three sides.
Yuan Tan asked his strategist what should be done next, and Guo Tu said, "The city is short of food, the enemy is flushed with victory, and we cannot stand against them. My idea is to send someone to offer surrender to Cao Cao and thus get him to attack Jizhou. Your brother will be forced to return thither, which will leave you free to join in the attack. We may capture Yuan Shang. Should Cao Cao begin to get the better of your brother's army, we will lend our force to help Yuan Shang against Cao Cao; and as Cao Cao's base of supply is distant, we shall drive him off. And we can seize on Jizhou and begin our great design."
"Supposing this scheme be attempted, who is the man for a messenger?"
"I have one Xin Pi, Xin Ping's younger brother. Xin Pi is the magistrate here in this very place. He is a fluent speaker and good scholar and suited to your purpose."
So Xin Pi was summoned and came readily enough. Letters were given him and an escort of three thousand soldiers took him beyond the border. He traveled as quickly as possible.
At that time Cao Cao's camp was at the Xiping Pass and he was attacking Liu Biao, who had sent Liu Bei out to offer the first resistance. No battle had yet taken place.
Soon after his arrival, Xin Pi was admitted to the Prime Minister's presence. After the ceremonies of greeting, Cao Cao asked the object of the visit. Xin Pi explained that Yuan Tan wanted assistance and presented his dispatches. Cao Cao read them and told the messenger to wait in his camp while he called his officers to a council.
The council met. Cheng Yu said, "Yuan Tan has been forced into making this offer because of the pressure of his brother's attack. Put no trust in him."
Lu Qian and Man Chong said, "You have led your armies here for a special purpose. How can you abandon that and go to assist Yuan Tan?"
"Gentlemen, not one of you is giving good advice," interposed Xun You. "This is how I regard it. Since there is universal trouble, in the midst of which Liu Biao remains quietly content with his position between the River Zhang and the River Han, it is evident that he has no ambition to enlarge his borders. The Yuans hold four regions and have many legions of soldiers. Harmony between the two brothers means success for the family, and none can foresee what will happen in the empire. Now take advantage of this fraternal conflict and let them fight till they are weakened and have to yield to our Prime Minister. Then Yuan Shang can be removed, and when the times are suitable, Yuan Tan can be destroyed in his turn. Thus peace will ensue. This present combination of circumstances is to be taken advantage of to full measure."
Cao Cao realized the truth of this and treated Xin Pi well.
At a banquet Cao Cao said, "But is this surrender of Yuan Tan real or false? Do you really think that Yuan Shang's army is sure to overcome him?"
Xin Pi replied, "Illustrious Sir, do not inquire into the degree of sincerity; rather regard the situation. The Yuans have been suffering military losses for years and are powerless without, while their strategists are put to death within. The brothers seize every chance to speak evil of each other, and their country is divided. Add to this famine, supplemented by calamities and general exhaustion, and everybody, wise as well as simple, can see that the catastrophe is near and the time ordained of Heaven for the destruction of the Yuans is at hand. Now you have a force attacking the capital of Jizhou---Yejun---and if Yuan Shang will not return to give aid, the place of refuge is lost. If he helps, then Yuan Tan will follow up and smite him, making use of your power to destroy the remnant of his brother's army, just as the autumn gale sweeps away the fallen leaves. Now Liu Biao's Jingzhou is rich, the government peaceful, the people submissive, and it cannot be shaken. Moreover, there is no greater threat to it than the North of Yellow River. If that be reduced, then the task is complete. I pray you, Sir, think of it."
"I am sorry that I did not meet you earlier," said Cao Cao, much gratified with this speech.
Forthwith orders were given to return and attack Jizhou. Liu Bei, fearing this retirement was only a ruse, allowed it to proceed without interference and himself returned to Jingzhou.
When Yuan Shang heard that Cao Cao had crossed the Yellow River, he hastily led his army back to Yejun, ordering Lu Xiang and Lu Kuang to guard the rear.
Yuan Tan started from Pingyuan with a force in pursuit. He had proceeded only a dozen miles when he heard a bomb and two bodies of troops came out in front of him and checked his progress. Their leaders were Lu Xiang and Lu Kuang.
Yuan Tan reined in and addressed them, saying, "While my father lived, I never treated you badly. Why do you support my brother and try to injure me?"
The two generals had no reply to make, but they dismounted and bowed before him yielding submission.
Yuan Tan said, "Do not surrender to me but to the Prime Minister."
And he led them back to camp, where he waited the arrival of Cao Cao and then presented the pair. Cao Cao received them well. He promised his daughter to Yuan Tan to wife, and he appointed the two brothers as advisers.
When Yuan Tan asked Cao Cao to attack Jizhou, the reply was: "Supplies are short and difficult to transport. I must turn the waters of River Ji into the White River whereby to convey my grain and afterwards I can advance."
Ordering Yuan Tan to remain in Pingyuan, Cao Cao retired into camp at Liyang. The two brothers Lu Xiang and Lu Kuang, who were renegades from Yuan Shang, were now raised to noble rank and followed the army as supernumeraries.
Guo Tu noted this advancement and said to Yuan Tan, "He has promised you a daughter to wife. I fear that bodes no good. Now he has given titles of nobility to the two Lus and taken them with him. This is a bait for the northern people, and at the same time he intends evil toward us. You, my lord, should have two generals' seals engraved and send them secretly to the brothers so that you may have friends at court ready for the day when Cao Cao shall have broken your brother's power, and we can begin to work against him."
The seals were engraved and sent.
As soon as the Lu brothers received them, they informed Cao Cao, who smiled, saying, "He wants your support so he sends you seals as officers. I will consider it as soon as Yuan Shang has been dealt with. In the meantime you may accept the seals till I shall decide what to do."
Thenceforward Cao Cao planned Yuan Tan's doom.
Shen Pei and his master also discussed the current situation. Yuan Shang said, "Cao Cao is getting grain into the White River, which means an attack on Jizhou. What is to be done?"
Shen Pei replied, "Send letters to Yin Kai, Commander of Wuan, bidding him camp at Maocheng to secure the road to Shangdang, and direct Ju Gu, son of Ju Shou, to maintain Handan as a distant auxiliary. Then you may advance on Pingyuan and attack Cao Cao."
The plan seemed good. Yuan Shang left Shen Pei and Chen Lin in charge of Yejun, appointed two Commanders Ma Yan and Zhang Zi as Van Leaders, and set out hastily for Pingyuan.
When Yuan Tan heard of the approach of his brother's army, he sent urgent messages to Cao Cao, who said to himself, "I am going to get Jizhou this time."
Just at this time it happened that Xun You came down from the capital. When he heard that Yuan Shang was attacking his brother Yuan Tan, he sought Cao Cao and said, "You, Sir, sit here on guard. Are you waiting till Heaven's thunder shall strike the two Yuans?"
"I have thought it all out," said Cao Cao.
Then he ordered Cao Hong to go and fight against Yejun, while he led another army against Yin Kai in Maocheng. Yin Kai could make no adequate defense and was killed by Xu Chu. His soldiers ran away and presently joined Cao Cao's army. Next Cao Cao led the army to Handan, and Ju Gu came out to fight him. Zhang Liao advanced to fight with Ju Gu, and after the third encounter Ju Gu was defeated and fled. Zhang Liao went after him, and when their two horses were not far apart, Zhang Liao took his bow and shot. The fleeing warrior fell as the bowstring twanged. Cao Cao completed the rout, and Ju Gu's force was broken up.
Now Cao Cao led his armies to an attack on Yejun. Cao Hong had arrived before, and a regular siege began. The army encompassed the city and began by throwing up great mounds. They also tunneled subterranean ways.
Within the city Shen Pei turned his whole care to the defense and issued the severest commands. The Commander of the East Gate, Feng Li, got intoxicated and failed to keep his watch for which he was severely punished. Feng Li resented this, sneaked out of the city, went over to the besiegers, and told them how the place could be attacked.
"The earth within the Pearly Gate is solid enough to be tunneled, and entrance can be effected there," said the traitor.
So Feng Li was sent with three hundred men to carry out his plan under cover of darkness.
After Feng Li had deserted to the enemy, Shen Pei went every night to the wall to inspect the soldiers on duty. The night of the sapping he went there as usual and saw that there were no lights outside the city and all was perfectly quiet.
So he said to himself, "Feng Li is certain to try to come into the city by an underground road."
Whereupon he ordered his troops to bring up stones and pile them on the cover of the tunnel opening. The opening was stopped up and the attacking party perished in the tunnel they had excavated.
Cao Cao having failed in this attempt abandoned the scheme of underground attack. He drew off the army to a place above the River Huan to await till Yuan Shang should return to relieve the city.
Yuan Shang heard of the defeat of Yin Kai and Ju Gu, and the siege of his own city, and bethought himself of relieving it.
One of his commanders, Ma Yan, said, "The high road will surely be ambushed. We must find some other way. We can take a by-road from the West Hills and get through by River Fu, whence we can fall upon Cao Cao's camp."
The plan was acceptable and Yuan Shang started off with the main body, Ma Yan and Zhang Zi being rear guard.
Cao Cao's spies soon found out this move, and when they reported it, he said, "If Yuan Shang comes by the high road, I shall have to keep out of the way; but if by the West Hills' by-road, I can settle him in one battle. And I think he will show a blaze as a signal to the besieged that they may make a sortie. I shall prepare to attack both."
So Cao Cao made his preparations. Now Yuan Shang went out by River Fu east toward Yangping, and near this he camped. Thence to Yejun was five miles. River Fu ran beside the camp. He ordered his soldiers to collect firewood and grass ready for the blaze he intended to make at night as his signal. He also sent Li Mu, a civil officer, disguised as an officer of Cao Cao's army, to inform Shen Pei of his intentions.
Li Mu reached the city wall safely and called out to the guards to open. Shen Pei recognized his voice and let him in. Thus Shen Pei knew of the arrangements for his relief, and it was agreed that a blaze should be raised within the city so that the sortie could be simultaneous with Yuan Shang's attack. Orders were given to collect inflammables.
Then said Li Mu, "As your food supply is short, it would be well for the old people, the feeble soldiers and the women to surrender. This will come upon them as a surprise, and we will send the soldiers out behind them."
Shen Pei promised to do all this, and next day they hoisted on the wall a white flag with the words The populace of Jizhou surrender! on it.
"Ho ho! This means no food," said Cao Cao. "They are sending away the non-combatants to escape feeding them. And the soldiers will follow behind them."
Cao Cao bade Zhang Liao and Xu Huang laid an ambush of three thousand troops on both sides while he went near the wall in full state. Presently the gates were opened and out came the people supporting their aged folks and leading their little ones by the hand. Each carried a white flag. As soon as the people had passed the gate, the soldiers followed with a rush.
Then Cao Cao showed a red flag, and the ambushing soldiers led by Zhang Liao and Xu Huang fell upon the sortie. The troops tried to return and Cao Cao's force made a direct attack. The chase continued to the drawbridge, but there Cao Cao's force met with a tremendous shower of arrows and crossbow bolts which checked the advance. Cao Cao's helmet was struck and the crest carried away. His leaders came to pull him back, and the army retired.
As soon as Cao Cao had changed his dress and mounted a fresh horse, he set out at the head of the army to attack Yuan Shang's camp.
Yuan Shang led the defense. The attack came simultaneously from many directions. The defenders were quite disorganized and presently defeated. Yuan Shang led his troops back by the West Hills and made a camp under their shelter. Thence he sent messengers to urge Ma Yan and Zhang Zi to bring up the supports. He did not know that Cao Cao had sent Lu Xiang and Lu Kuang to persuade these two into surrender and that they had already passed under Cao Cao's banner, and he had conferred upon them the title of lordship.
Just before going to attack the West Hills, Cao Cao sent Lu Xiang, Lu Kuang, Ma Yan, and Zhang Zi to seize the source of Yuan Shang's supplies.
Yuan Shang had realized he could not hold the hills, so he went by night to Lankou. Before he could get camped, he saw flaring lights springing up all around him and soon an attack began. He was taken aback and had to oppose the enemy with his men half armed, his steeds unsaddled. His army suffered, and he had to retreat another fifteen miles. By that time his force was too enfeebled to show any resistance, and as no other course was possible, he sent the Imperial Protector of Yuzhou, Yin Ku, to Cao Cao's camp and ask that he might surrender.
Cao Cao feigned to consent, but that night he sent Zhang Liao and Xu Huang to raid Yuan Shang's camp. Then it became flight, abandoning everything, seals, emblems of office, and even personal clothing. Yuan Shang made for the Zhongshan Mountains.
Then Cao Cao came to attack Jizhou City, and to help out this Xun You suggested drowning the city by turning the course of the River Zhang. Cao Cao adopted the suggestion and at once sent a small number of men to dig a channel to lead the water to the city. All told, it was seventeen miles.
Shen Pei saw the diggers from the city wall and noticed that they made only a shallow channel.
He chuckled, saying to himself, "What is the use of such a channel to drown out the city from a deep river?"
So he made no preparations to keep out the water.
But as soon as night came on, Cao Cao increased his army of diggers tenfold and by daylight the channel was deepened to twenty spans and the water was flowing in a great stream into the city where it already stood some spans deep. So this misfortune was added to the lack of food.
Xin Pi now displayed the captured seal and garments of Yuan Shang hung out on spears, to the great shame of their late owner, and called upon the people of the city to surrender. This angered Shen Pei, who avenged the insult by putting to death on the city wall the whole of the Xin family who were within the city. There were eighty of them, and their severed heads were cast down from the walls. Xin Pi wept exceedingly.
Shen Pei's nephew Shen Rong, one of the gate wardens, was a dear friend of Xin Pi, and the murder of Xin Pi's family greatly distressed him. He wrote a secret letter offering to betray the city and tied it to an arrow, which he shot out among the besiegers. The soldiers found it, gave it to Xin Pi who took it to his chief.
Cao Cao issued an order: "The family of the Yuans should be spared when the city should be taken and that no one who surrendered should be put to death."
The next day the soldiers entered by the west gate, opened for them by Shen Rong. Xin Pi was the first to prance in on horseback and the army followed.
When Shen Pei, who was on the southeast of the city, saw the enemy within the gates, he placed himself at the head of some horsemen and dashed toward them. He was met and captured by Xu Huang who bound him and led him outside the city.
On the road they met Xin Pi, who ground his teeth with rage at the murderer of his relatives and then struck the prisoner over the head with his whip, crying, "Murder! Blood drinker! You will meet your death!"
Shen Pei retorted, "Traitor! Seller of the city! I am very sorry I was not to have slain you before."
When the captive was taken into Cao Cao's presence, Cao Cao said, "Do you know who opened the gate to let me in?"
"No; I know not."
"It was your nephew Shen Rong who gave up the gate," said Cao Cao.
"He was always unprincipled, and it has come to this!" said Shen Pei.
"The other day when I approached the city, why did you shoot so hard at me?"
"I am sorry we shot too little."
"As a faithful adherent of the Yuans, you could do no otherwise. Now will you come over to me?"
"Never; I will never surrender."
Xin Pi threw himself on the ground with lamentations, saying, "Eighty of my people murdered by this ruffian. I pray you slay him, O Prime Minister!"
"Alive, I have served the Yuans;" said Shen Pei, "dead, I will be their ghost! I am no flattering time-server as you are. Kill me!"
Cao Cao gave the order. They led him away to put him to death.
On the execution ground he said to the executioners, "My lord is in the north, I pray you not to make me face the south."
So Shen Pei knelt facing the north and extended his neck for the fatal stroke.
Thus died Shen Pei and from respect for his character Cao Cao ordered that he be buried honorably on the north of the city.
The Prime Minister then entered the city of Yejun. As he was starting, he saw the executioners hurrying forward a prisoner who proved to be Chen Lin.
"You wrote that manifesto for Yuan Shao. If you had only directed your diatribe against me, it would not have mattered. But why did you shame my forefathers?" said Cao Cao.
"When the arrow is on the string, it must fly," replied Chen Lin.
Those about Cao Cao urged him to put Chen Lin to death, but he was spared on account of his genius and given a civil post.
Now Cao Cao's eldest son was named Cao Pi. At the taking of the cities he was eighteen years of age. When he was born a dark purplish halo hung over the house for a whole day. One who understood the meaning of such manifestations had secretly told Cao Cao that the halo belonged to the imperial class and portended honors which could not be put into words.
At eight the lad could compose very skillfully, and he was well read in ancient history. Now he was an adept at all military arts and very fond of fencing. He had gone with his father on the expedition to Jizhou. When Yejun had fallen, he led his escort in the direction of the Yuan family dwelling, and when he reached it, he strode in, sword in hand. When some commander would have stayed him, saying that by order of the Prime Minister no one was to enter the house, Cao Pi bade them begone. The guards fell back and he made his way into the private rooms, where he saw two women weeping in each other's arms. He went forward to slay them.
The fate of the two women will be told in the next chapter.
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