Romance of Three Kingdoms Chapter 55


Liu Bei Rouses The Spirit Of Lady Sun;
Zhuge Liang A Second Time Angers Zhou Yu.

The bridegroom turned pale. Bridal apartments lined with weapons of war and waiting maids armed!

But the housekeeper of the lady said, “Do not be frightened, O Honorable One! My lady has always had a taste for warlike things, and her maids have all been taught fencing as a pastime. That is all it is.”

“Not the sort of thing a wife should ever look at,” said Liu Bei. “It makes me feel cold, and you may have them removed for a time.”

The housekeeper went to her mistress and said, “The weapons in your chamber displease the handsome one. May we remove them?”

Lady Sun laughed, saying, “Afraid of a few weapons after half a life time spent in slaughter!”

But she ordered their removal and bade the maids take off their swords while they were at work.

That night Liu Bei and Lady Sun conversed under the moonlight, and the night passed happily enough.

Next day Liu Bei distributed gifts among the maids to secure their good will. He also sent Sun Qian to Jingzhou with news of the wedding, while he gave himself up to feasting and enjoyment. The Dowager loved him more every day.

The results of the plot to destroy Liu Bei were thus very different from the originators’ intention. Sun Quan sent to his general:

“My mother had insisted upon marrying her daughter to Liu Bei; and so by juggling with the fictitious, we had made it real. What is to be done?”

The news troubled Zhou Yu day and night, but eventually he thought but another scheme which he embodied in a letter sent to his master. Here is the outline of the missive:

“Contrary to expectation, the plot that I, Zhou Yu, contrived has turned the wrong way. However, since by juggling with deceit, we have ended in a solid truth. Our future plans must start from the actual present facts. To the boldness of the adventurer Liu Bei is added the aid of such great leaders as Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, and Zhao Yun, not to mention that he has a strategist like Zhuge Liang. He is not the man to remain long in a lowly position. Wherefore I can think of no better plan than to enervate him by surrounding him with softness and keeping him in the South Land, a prisoner of luxury. Therefore build for him a fine palace to blunt the edge of his determination and surround him with sensuous luxury. In this way the affection of his brothers will be alienated, and Zhuge Liang will be driven away. When this result has been attained, we can smite him and so end a great matter. If we be at all careless, I fear the recumbent dragon may fly to the skies; it is no beast to be kept in a pond. My lord, I pray you consider this thoroughly.”

The letter was shown to Zhang Zhao who said, “My idea is identical with his. Liu Bei began life in a humble position and for years has been a wanderer. He has never tasted the delights of wealth. Give him the means of luxury, a beautiful dwelling, fair women, gold and silken attire. As he enjoys them, the thoughts of Zhuge Liang and his brothers will fade away and they, on their side, will be filled with rancor. Thus can we lay our plans for recovering Jingzhou. I recommend action as Zhou Yu says and quickly.”

Sun Quan then set about redecorating the Eastern Palace and laying out the grounds. He filled the rooms with beautiful furniture for his sister and her husband. He also sent fair damsels and musicians by the score, and many and beautiful vessels in gold and silver, and silken stuffs. And his mother was delighted at his kindness to her son-in-law.

Indeed Liu Bei was soon so immersed in sensuous pleasure that he gave no thought to return. Zhao Yun and the company under him led an idle life in the front portion of the Eastern Palace, save that at times they went outside the city for archery and horse-racing. And thus passed the year.

Suddenly Zhao Yun remembered the orders he had received and the three bags with the plans in them. It was time to open the second one for the end of the year was nigh. His orders were only to open the third when danger was very near and there appeared no way out.

As already remarked, the year was drawing to a close, and Zhao Yun saw his lord daily becoming more and more the slave of pleasure. Liu Bei never appeared among his guards now. So the bag was opened and in pursuance of the wonderful scheme thereby discovered, Zhao Yun went to the hall of the palace and asked to see his master.

The maid in attendance went within and said, “Zhao Yun has some important matter on which to see the master.”

Liu Bei called him in and asked what the business was.

Zhao Yun assumed an attitude of great concern and said, “My lord, you are living happily secluded in these beautiful apartments. Do you never think of Jingzhou?”

“But what is the matter that you seem so disturbed?” asked Liu Bei.

“Today early Zhuge Liang sent a messenger to say that Cao Cao was trying to avenge his last defeat and was leading five hundred thousand troops to attack Jingzhou, which was in great danger. And he wished you to return.”

“I must speak to my wife,” said Liu Bei.

“If you consult her, she will be unwilling for you to return. It would be better to say nothing but to start this evening. Delay may do great damage.”

“Retire for a time. I must act discreetly,” said Liu Bei.

Zhao Yun urged the need to return several times more, but finally went away.

Liu Bei went into his wife’s rooms and began to weep silently.

Seeing his tears, Lady Sun said, “Why are you so sad, my husband?”

Liu Bei replied, “I have been driven hither and thither all my life. I was never able to do my duty to my parents, nor have I been able to sacrifice to my ancestors. I have been very unfilial. The new year is at hand, and its approach disquiets me greatly.”

“Do not try to deceive me,” said Lady Sun. “I heard and I know all. Just now Zhao Yun came to tell you Jingzhou was threatened and you wish to return home. That is why you put forward this excuse.”

Then Liu Bei fell on his knees and said, “Why should I dissemble, O Wife, since you know? I do not wish to go, but if Jingzhou be lost, I shall be an object of ridicule to everyone. I do desire to go, but I cannot leave you. Now you know why I am grieved.”

She replied, “I am your handmaid, and whithersoever you go, it is my duty to follow.”

“Yes; your heart is right, but the difficulty is your mother and the Marquis. They will be unwilling. If you would have pity on me and let me go for a time—–”

And again the tears gushed forth.

“Do not be so sad, my husband,” said Lady Sun. “I will implore my mother to let us go, and she will surely allow it.”

“Even supposing the Dowager permits, I am sure the Marquis will hinder.”

Lady Sun said nothing for a long time while she weighed the matter thoroughly.

Presently she spoke, “On New Year’s Day you and I will go to court and present our congratulations. Then we will give the excuse of a sacrifice on the river bank and go away without formal leave. Will that suit you?”

Liu Bei knelt at her feet and expressed his gratitude.

“I should be never so grateful,” said he. “Dead or alive I would remember your love. But this must be a perfect secret.”

This having been decided and the arrangements made.

Liu Bei gave Zhao Yun secret orders, saying, “Lead your company out of the city and be on the road on New Year’s morn. We are going away.”

Sun Quan held a grand court on the New Year’s Day of the fifteenth year of Rebuilt Tranquillity (AD 210).

Liu Bei and his bride went into the Dowager Marchioness’ presence, and Lady Sun said, “My husband has been thinking of his ancestors, who lie in the county of Zhuo, and grieves that he cannot do his duty by them. Today we wish to go to the river side and offer sacrifice toward the north. It is our duty to inform you.”

“A very filial proceeding,” said the Dowager. “I should not think of stopping you. Although you have never known your husband’s parents, yet you may go with him to sacrifice as it is proper for a wife to do.”

Both thanked the Dowager Marchioness and went out, rejoicing at having so far hoodwinked Sun Quan. Lady Sun got into her carriage taking only a little clothing with her, while Liu Bei followed with a small escort. They went out of the city of Nanxu and met Zhao Yun at the place arranged. Then with a guard in front and rear, they left the precincts of the city, traveling as quickly as they could.

That day, at the new year banquet, Sun Quan drank freely so that he had to be helped to his chamber, and the guests left. Before very long the escape of the fugitives became known, but it was then dark, and when they tried to tell Sun Quan, they could not rouse him. He slept heavily until the fifth watch.

The next morning, when Sun Quan heard the story, he asked advice of his counselors.

Zhang Zhao said, “They have got away today, but trouble will surely come of it. Therefore, pursue after them without loss of time.”

So Chen Wu and Pan Zhang, with five hundred of veterans, were sent out with orders to use all speed both by day and by night and bring back the fugitives.

They left. Sun Quan’s anger burned hot against Liu Bei. In his wrath he seized his jade inkstone and dashed it to the ground where it shivered to pieces.

Said Cheng Pu, “My lord, your wrath is in vain, for I do not think your generals will catch the runaways.”

“Will they dare to disobey my order?” said Sun Quan.

“Our young lady had always delighted to look upon war and is very fierce and determined. All the officers fear her. Now she has gone with her husband of her own free will; and those sent in pursuit, if once they look upon her countenance, will not dare to lay hands on her.”

Sun Quan’s wrath burned the more fiercely at these words.

He drew the sword girded at his side and called up Jiang Qin and Zhou Tai, saying, “You two take this sword and bring back the heads of my sister and Liu Bei. And if you do not, I will put you to death.”

With this order they set out in pursuit, leading a whole thousand troops. Meanwhile Liu Bei and his wife were pressing forward with all speed. When night fell, they rested for a time by the roadside, but not for long. Just as they reached the confines of Chaisang, they turned and saw a great cloud of dust and the soldiers said that a force was coming in pursuit.

“What shall we do if they come up with us?” said Liu Bei excitedly to Zhao Yun.

“My lord, you go on in front and I will prevent pursuit.”

As they turned the foot of a hill, they saw a troop of soldiers blocking their road in front.

Two generals were there and they bellowed, “Liu Bei, dismount and yield yourself captive. We are here by order of Commander Zhou Yu, and you have kept us waiting long!”

Now the thought had come to Zhou Yu that Liu Bei would try to flee, and so he had sent Xu Sheng and Ding Feng, with three thousand troops, to intercept him at this critical spot. They had made a camp there and kept a lookout from the hilltops, for Zhou Yu had calculated that Liu Bei would certainly pass that way. So when Liu Bei and his cavalcade appeared, they all buckled on their arms and barred the way.

Greatly fearing, Liu Bei rode back to consult Zhao Yun, to whom he said, “In front a force barring the road; in rear pursuers. There is no escape. What can we do?”

“Do not be alarmed, my lord. The Directing Instructor gave me three plans enclosed in three silken bags. Two have been used and have answered admirably. There is yet the third, and my orders were to open the bag in such a strait as this. This is a day of great danger such as calls me to open the bag.”

Thereupon Zhao Yun opened the bag and handed it to Liu Bei.

As soon as Liu Bei had seen the contents, he hastened to Lady Sun’s carriage and began to weep, saying, “I have something private to say, and I must tell you.”

“What have you to tell me, my husband? Tell me the whole truth,” replied she.

“Your brother and Zhou Yu formerly made a plot for you to marry me, not for your sake, but to get me into their power and hold me so that they might recover Jingzhou. They were set on my murder, and you were the bait with which to hook me. Careless of consequences I came, for I knew that the spirit of a heroine dwelt in your bosom and you would pity me. Lately I heard that harm was intended me, and so I made danger to Jingzhou the excuse to escape. Happily for me you have remained true and come with me. But now the Marquis is pursuing us, and Zhou Yu’s soldiers are in front. Only you, my wife, can extricate us from this danger; and if you refuse, then slay me where I stand that I may thus show my gratitude for your kindness.”

Lady Sun grew angry and said, “Then does my brother forget that I am his sister? How will he ever look me in the face? I can extricate us from this danger.”

Thereupon she bade her people push the carriage to the front. She rolled up the curtains and herself called out, “Xu Sheng, Ding Feng, are you turned traitors then?”

The two generals slid out of their saddles, dropped their arms, and stood meekly in front of the carriage.

“We are no traitors,” said they. “We have the Commander-in-Chief’s orders to camp here and await Liu Bei.”

“Zhou Yu is an interfering scoundrel,” cried she. “We of the land of the south have never harmed you, and Liu Bei, the Uncle of the Great Family, is my husband. I have already told my mother and my brother of our journey, and now I find you with an army at the foot of these hills preventing our passage. Is it that you would plunder us of our valuables?”

The two generals mumbled dissent. They would not dare such a thing.

“We pray you, O Lady, stay your anger. This is no plan of ours. We do but obey our General’s orders.”

“So you fear Zhou Yu and not me!” cried she scornfully. “Think you that if he slays you, I will not slay him?”

She broke into a torrent of abuse of Zhou Yu. Then she bade them push her carriage forward.

The two leaders thought within themselves, “We are but men of lowly rank. We dare not dispute with Lady Sun.”

Beside they saw Zhao Yun was bursting with wrath. So they ordered their troops to stand aside and leave the road clear.

The cavalcade had only gone a few miles when up came the pursuers. The two generals told the new-comers what had happened.

“You were wrong to let them pass,” said Chen Wu and Pan Zhang. “We have orders from the Marquis himself to arrest them.”

Thereupon all four went in pursuit.

When the noise of the approaching force reached the ears of Liu Bei, he said to his wife, “They are again pursuing us. What now?”

“Husband, go on in front. Zhao Yun and I will keep them off.”

So Liu Bei and a small company went on toward the river bank, while Zhao Yun reined up beside the lady’s carriage and set out his troops ready for battle. And when the four generals came up, they dismounted and stood with folded arms.

“What are you doing here, Generals?” asked Lady Sun.

“We have orders from our lord to request you and Liu Bei to return.”

Calmly but bitterly she said, “So this is the sort of fools you are! You would make dissension between brother and sister. But I am a wife on my way to my husband’s home. Nor am I leaving clandestinely, for I had my mother’s gracious permission. Now we, husband and wife, are going to Jingzhou. If even my brother were here himself, he would let us pass in all politeness. But you, because you have weapons in your hands, would slay us!”

She abused the four men to their faces so that they looked from one to another in shame. And each in his heart thought, “Say what one will, after all they two are brother and sister and the Dowager Marchioness is the controlling power. Sun Quan is most obedient and would never dare oppose his mother’s decision. When the reaction comes, then indeed we shall certainly be found in the wrong. We had better be kind.”

Another thing was that one of the two they sought, Liu Bei, was not there and Zhao Yun looked angry and dangerous. Finally, muttering to themselves, they gave way and with one accord retired and left the road open. Lady Sun passed through.

“We four will go to see the Commander-in-Chief and report,” said Xu Sheng.

But that did not please them all, and they stood irresolute. Presently they saw a column of troops sweeping down on them like a hurricane. These were Jiang Qin and Zhou Tai with their company.

“Have you fellows seen Liu Bei?” they cried as they rushed up.

“He has just passed along.”

“Why did you not arrest him?”

“Because of what Lady Sun said.”

“That is just as the Marquis feared, and so he gave us this sword and told us first to slay his sister and then Liu Bei. And if we disobey, he will put us to death.”

“What can be done? They are far away by now.”

Jiang Qin said, “After all they are but a few and on foot. They cannot travel very fast. Let Xu Sheng and Ding Feng go to Zhou Yu to tell him, and he can send fast boats to pursue them on the river while we follow up on the bank. We must get them either on water or land, and we must not listen to what they say.”

Whereupon two went back to report and four to the river bank. Meanwhile Liu Bei had got a long way from Chaisang and reached Loving Shore. He now felt calmer. He went along the bank of the river seeking a boat, but there was no craft on the broad bosom of the stream. He bowed his head in deep sorrow.

Zhao Yun bade him be of good courage, saying, “My lord, you have just escaped from the tiger’s jaws and had not far to go. Moreover, I suspect Zhuge Liang has something prepared for us.”

But his master was despondent. His thoughts were back to the pleasures he had enjoyed but a few hours since in the house of his wife, and the tears rolled down his cheeks. A poem has been written on this episode:

[hip, hip, hip]
By the bank of the deep flowing Great River
Once was a wedding,
And the ruling houses of two states yet to be
Were allied by marriage.
See the beautiful maiden stepping slowly
To the golden bridal chamber!
Yet was the marriage but a ruse.
Its author vainly imagined that a hero,
Sinking in amorous toils,
Would forget his high intent.
[yip, yip, yip]

Liu Bei bade Zhao Yun go along the bank to seek some boats. Then the soldiers told him there was a huge cloud of dust on the road. Ascending one of the hills, he looked back whence they had come and saw the whole earth as it were covered with an advancing host.

He sighed and said, “We have fled before them now for days, worn out our soldiers and jaded our horses, and all to die in a strange place.”

He watched the enemy coming nearer and nearer. Then as things began to look most desperate, he saw a line of some twenty boats all in the act of setting their sails.

“By good luck here are some ships,” said Zhao Yun. “Let us get on board, row to the further bank, and see what can be done.”

Liu Bei and his bride hastened down the bank and went into a ship. The soldiers were embarked. Then they saw in the hold of the ship someone in Taoist dress.

That person came up with a smile, saying, “My lord, again you see Zhuge Liang. He has waited a long time.”

All the soldiers on board were from Jingzhou, and Liu Bei rejoiced at the sudden happy turn of affairs.

Before long the four pursuing leaders reached the bank.

Zhuge Liang pointed to them and laughed, saying, “I foresaw this a long time ago. You may return and tell Zhou Yu not to use the ‘Fair Damsel Trick’ again.”

Those on the bank sent a flight of arrows at the ships, but they were already too far away. The four generals on the bank looked very foolish.

As the boats were sailing along, a great noise was heard on the river behind them, and there appeared a huge fleet of war ships, sailing under the flag of Zhou Yu. He also was there in command of the fleet, and he was supported by Huang Gai and Han Dang. They seemed like a drove of horses and came along swift as a falling star. They gained on the fugitives rapidly.

Zhuge Liang ordered the boats to row over to the north bank, and the party landed. They had started off away from the shore before Zhou Yu could land. Zhou Yu’s marines, except the leaders, were all afoot, but they kept up the pursuit, following as quickly as they could. Zhou Yu led the pursuit, closely followed by Huang Gai, Han Dang, Xu Sheng, and Ding Feng.

When Zhou Yu’s force reached the borders of Huangzhou, Liu Bei and his party were not far away, and so they pressed the pursuit. But there were only horses for a few leaders in front, and suddenly the rolling of drums struck Zhou Yu’s ears, and from out a gully dashed a troop of swordsmen led by Guan Yu. Zhou Yu was too surprised and unprepared to do anything but flee.

Zhou Yu fled for his life and Guan Yu pursued. At different points Liu Bei’s generals, Huang Zhong and Wei Yan, came out and attacked, so that the troops of the South Land suffered a great defeat, and Zhou Yu barely escaped. As he came to the river and was going down into his ship, the soldiers of Liu Bei on the bank jeered at him on account of the miscarriage of his scheme, shouting, “General Zhou Yu has given Uncle Liu Bei a wife and has lost his soldiers!”

Zhou Yu was so annoyed that he would have gone up the bank to fight again, but his generals restrained him.

He uttered, “My schemes are a failure and a defeat, and how can I face my master again?”

All at once he cried aloud and fell back in a swoon. His wound had reopened. The generals came to his help, but it was long before he recovered consciousness.

[hip, hip, hip]
Twice had he played his trick
And twice had he lost the game;
His heart was full of resentment,
He was overwhelmed with shame.
[yip, yip, yip]

The fate of Zhou Yu will appear in the next chapter.

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