CHAPTER 8

Wang Yun Prepares The Chaining Scheme;
Dong Zhuo Rages At Phoenix Pavilion.
 

This is what Kuai Liang said, "Sun Jian is now gone and his sons are but youths. Seize this moment of weakness to break into Changsha, and it is yours in one beat of the drum. If you return the corpse and make peace, you give them time to grow powerful, and evil will ensue to Jingzhou."

"How can I leave Huang Zu in their hands?" said Liu Biao.

"Why not sacrifice this blundering warrior for a region?"

"But he is my dear friend and to abandon him is wrong."

So Huan Jie was allowed to return to his own side with the understanding that Sun Jian's dead body should be given in exchange. Sun Ce freed his prisoner, brought away his father's coffin, and the fighting ceased. Sun Jian was interred in the plains of Que. When the ceremonies were over, Sun Ce led his army home again.

In Changsha, the southern territory of the Great River ((Yangtze River)), Sun Ce set himself to the task of ruling well. Being humble and generous, he invited to his side humans of wisdom and valor and so bore himself that all the best and bravest of the country gathered about him.

Meanwhile, Dong Zhuo at Capital Changan, when he heard of the death of the turbulent Sun Jian, said, "An evil that pressed hard upon my heart has been removed!"

He asked what children Sun Jian had left, and when they told him the eldest was but seventeen, he dismissed all anxiety from his thoughts.

From this time forward his arrogance and domineering spirit waxed worse and worse. He styled himself "Imperial Rector," a name full of honor, and in all his behavior aped imperial state. He created his younger brother, Dong Min, Lord of Huazhou and made him Commander of the Left Army. A nephew, Dong Huang, was made Court Counselor and placed in command of the Palace Guard, and everyone of his clan, young or old, was ennobled. Eighty miles from the capital Dong Zhuo laid out a city called Meiwo, an exact replica of Changan, with its palaces, granaries, treasuries, and magazines, and employed a quarter of a million people to build it. Here he accumulated supplies sufficient for twenty years. He selected eight hundred of the most beautiful maidens and sent them to dwell in his new city. The stores of wealth in every form were incalculable. All his family and retainers found quarters in this new city.

Dong Zhuo visited his city at intervals of a month or so, and every visit was like an imperial progress, with booths by the roadside to refresh the officials and courtiers who attended him to the northwest Royal Gate and saw him start.

On one occasion Dong Zhuo spread a great feast for all those assembled to witness his departure; and while it was in progress, there arrived a large number of rebels from the north who had voluntarily surrendered. The tyrant had them brought before him as he sat at table and meted out to them wanton cruelties. The hands of this one were lopped off, the feet of that; one had his eyes gouged out; another lost his tongue. Some were boiled to death. Shrieks of agony arose to the very heavens, and the courtiers were faint with terror. But the author of the misery ate and drank, chatted and smiled as if nothing was going on.

Another day Dong Zhuo was presiding at a great gathering of officers who were seated in two long rows. After the wine had gone up and down several times, Lu Bu entered and whispered a few words in his master's ear.

Dong Zhuo smiled and said, "He was always so. Take Minister Zhang Wen outside."

The others all turned pale. In a little time a serving man brought the head of their fellow guest on a red dish and showed it to their host. They nearly died with fright.

"Do not fear," said Dong Zhuo smiling. "Minister Zhang Wen was in league with Yuan Shu to assassinate me. A letter he wrote fell by mistake into the hands of my son so I have had him put to death. You gentlemen, who have no reason, need have no fear."

The officials hastened to disperse. One of them, Minister of the Interior Wang Yun, who had witnessed all this, returned to his palace very pensive and much distressed. The same evening, a bright moonlight night, he took his staff and went strolling in his private garden. Standing near one of the creeper trellises, he gazed up at the sky and the tears rolled down his cheeks. Suddenly he heard a rustle in the Peony Pavilion and someone sighing deeply. Stealthily creeping near, he saw there one of the household singing girls named Diao Chan.

This maiden had been brought up in his palace, where she had been taught to sing and dance. At twenty-one, she was then just bursting into womanhood, a pretty and clever girl whom Wang Yun regarded more as a daughter than a dependant.

After listening for some time, Wang Yun suddenly called out, "What mischief are you up to there, you naughty girl?"

The maiden dropped on her knees in terror, saying, "Would thy unworthy handmaid dare to do anything wrong?"

"Then what are you sighing about out here in the darkness?"

"May thy handmaid speak from the bottom of her heart?"

"Tell me the whole truth; do not conceal anything."

And the girl said, "Thy handmaid has been the recipient of bountiful kindness. She has been taught to sing and dance and been treated so kindly that were she torn in pieces for her lord's sake, it would not repay a thousandth part. She has noticed lately that her lord's brows have been knit in distress and knows it is on account of the state troubles. But she has not dared to ask. This evening he seemed more sad than ever, and she was miserable on her lord's account. But she did not know she would be seen. Could she be of any use she would not shrink from a myriad deaths."

A sudden idea came to Wang Yun, and he stuck the ground with his staff. And he said, "Who would think that the fate of Han lay on your palm? Come with me!"

The girl followed him into the house. Then he dismissed all the waiting attendants, placed Diao Chan on a chair and bowed before her. She was frightened and threw herself on the ground, asking in terror what it all meant.

Said Wang Yun, "You can sympathize with the people of Han," and the fount of his tears opened afresh.

"My lord, as thy handmaid said just now, use her in any way; thy handmaid will never shrink," said the girl.

Wang Yun knelt, saying, "The people are on the brink of destruction, the prince and his officers are in jeopardy, and you, you are the only savior. That wretch Dong Zhuo wants to depose the Emperor and not a person among us can find means to stop him. Now he has a son, a bold warrior it is true, but both father and son have a weakness for beauty, and I am going to use what I may call the 'chaining' plan. I shall first propose you in marriage to Lu Bu and then, after you are betrothed, I shall present you to Dong Zhuo, and you will take every opportunity to force them asunder and turn sway their countenances from each other, cause the son to kill his adopted father and so put an end to the great evil. Thus you may restore the altars of the land that it may live again. All this lies within your power; will you do it?"

"Thy handmaid has promised not to recoil from death itself. You may use my poor self in any way, and I must do my best."

"But if this gets abroad then we are all lost!"

"Fear not;" said she, "if thy handmaid does not show gratitude, may she perish beneath a myriad swords!"

"Thank you, thank you!" said Wang Yun.

Then Wang Yun took from the family treasury many pearls and bade a cunning jeweler make therewith a fine golden headdress, which was sent as a present to Lu Bu. He was delighted and came to thank the donor. When Lu Bu arrived, he was met at the gate by Wang Yun himself and within found a table full of dainties for his delectation. He was conducted into the private apartments and placed in the seat of honor.

Lu Bu said, "I am but a simple officer in the palace of a minister; you are an exalted officer of state; why am I treated thus?"

"Because in the whole land there is no hero your equal. Poor Wang Yun bows not to an officer's rank; poor Wang Yun bows to his ability "

This gratified Lu Bu mightily, and his host continued to praise and flatter and ply him with wine and to talk of the virtues of the Prime Minister and his henchman.

Lu Bu laughed and drank huge goblets.

Presently most of the attendants were sent away, only a few kept to press the guest to drink. When the guest was very mellow, Wang Yun suddenly said, "Let the child come in!"

Soon appeared two attendants, dressed in white, leading between them the exquisite and fascinating Diao Chan.

"Who is this?" said Lu Bu startled into sobriety.

"This is my little girl, Diao Chan. You will not be annoyed at my familiarity, will you? But you have been so very friendly, I thought you would like to see her."

Wang Yun bade Diao Chan present a goblet of wine, and her eyes met those of the warrior.

Wang Yun feigning intoxication said, "My little child begs you, General, to take a cup or two. We all depend upon you, all our house."

Lu Bu begged Diao Chan to sit down. She pretended to wish to retire. Her master pressed her to remain, saying that she might do so since the guest was a dear friend. So she took a seat modestly near her master.

Lu Bu kept his gaze fixed upon the maid, while he swallowed cup after cup of wine.

"I should like to present her to you as a handmaid; would you accept?" said Wang Yun.

The guest started up.

"If that is so, you may rely upon my abject gratitude," said Lu Bu.

"We will choose a propitious day ere long and send her to the palace."

Lu Bu was overjoyed. He could not keep his eyes off Diao Chan, and loving glances flashed from her liquid eyes.

However the time came for the guest to leave, and Wang Yun said, "I would ask you to remain the night, but the Prime Minister might suspect something."

Lu Bu thanked him again and again and departed.

Some few days later when Wang Yun was at court and Lu Bu was absent, Wang Yun bowed low before Dong Zhuo and said, "I wish that you would deign to come to dine at my lowly cottage; could your noble thought bend that way?"

"Should you invite me, I would certainly hasten," was the reply.

Wang Yun thanked him. Then Wang Yun went home and prepared in the reception hall a feast in which figured every delicacy from land and sea. Beautiful embroideries surrounded the chief seat in the center, and elegant curtains were hung within and without. At noon next day, when the Prime Minister arrived, Wang Yun met him at the gate in full court costume. Wang Yun stood by while Dong Zhuo stepped out of his chariot, and Dong Zhuo and a host of one hundred armed guards crowded into the hall. Dong Zhuo took his seat at the top, his suite fell into two lines right and left; while Wang Yun stood humbly at the lower end. Dong Zhuo bade his people conduct Wang Yun to a place beside himself.

Said Wang Yun, "The great Prime Minister's abundant virtue is as the high mountains; neither the ancient sages---Yi Yin and Duke Zhou---could attain thereto."

Dong Zhuo smiled. They bore in the dishes and the wine, and the music began. Wang Yun plied his guest with assiduous flattery and studied deference. When it grew late and the wine had done its work, Dong Zhuo was invited to the inner chamber. So he sent away his guards and went.

Here the host raised a goblet and drank to his guest, saying, "From my youth up I have understood something of astrology and have been studying the aspect of the heavens. I read that the days of Han are numbered, and that the great Prime Minister's merits command the regard of all the world, as when King Shun succeeded King Yao, and King Yu continued the work of King Shun, all by the strength of their own merits, conforming to the mind of Heaven and the desire of people."

"How dare I expect this?" said Dong Zhuo.

"From the days of old, those who walk in the way have replaced those who deviate therefrom; those who lack virtue have fallen before those who possess it. Can one escape fate?"

"If indeed the decree of Heaven devolves on me; you shall be held the first in merit!" said Dong Zhuo.

Wang Yun bowed. Then lights were brought in and all the attendants were dismissed, save the serving maids to hand the wine. So the evening went on.

Presently Wang Yun said, "The music of these everyday musicians is too commonplace for your ear, but there happens to be in the house a little maid that might please you."

"Excellent!" said the guest.

Then a curtain was lowered. The shrill tones of reed instruments rang through the room, and presently some attendants led forward Diao Chan, who then danced on the outside of the curtain.

A poem praises her:

Another poem runs thus:

The dance ended. Dong Zhuo bade them lead the maiden in, and she came, bowing low as she approached him. He was much taken with her beauty and modest grace.

"Who is she?" said Dong Zhuo.

"A singing girl; her name is Diao Chan."

"Then can she sing?"

The master bade her sing, and she did so to the accompaniment of castanets. There is a measure describing her youthful beauty:

Dong Zhuo was delighted and praised her warmly. She was told to present a goblet of wine to the guest which he took from her hands and then asked her age.

She replied, "Thy unworthy handmaid is twenty-one."

"A perfect little fairy!" said Dong Zhuo.

Then Wang Yun rose and said, "If the Prime Minister would not mind, I should like to offer him this little maid."

"How could I be grateful enough for such a kindness!"

"She would be most fortunate if she could be your servant," said Wang Yun.

Dong Zhuo thanked his host warmly.

Then the orders were given to prepare a closed carriage and convey Diao Chan to the Prime Minister's palace.

Soon after Dong Zhuo took his leave, and Wang Yun accompanied him the whole way.

After he had taken leave, Wang Yun mounted to ride homeward. Half way he met two lines of guards with red lamps who were escorting Lu Bu who was on horseback and armed with his trident halberd.

Seeing Wang Yun, Lu Bu at once reined in, stopped, seized him by the sleeve, and said angrily, "You promised Diao Chan to me and now you have given her to the Prime Minister: what foolery is this?"

Wang Yun checked him, saying, "This is no place to talk; I pray you come to my house."

So they went together, and Wang Yun led Lu Bu into a private room.

After the usual exchange of polite greetings, Wang Yun said, "Why do you find fault with me, General?"

"Somebody told me that you had sent Diao Chan to the Prime Minister's palace in a covered carriage: what does it mean?"

"Of course you do not understand. Yesterday when I was at court, the Prime Minister told me he had something to talk to me about in my own house. So naturally I prepared for his coming, and while we were at dinner he said, 'I have heard something of a girl named Diao Chan whom you have promised to my son Lu Bu. I thought it was mere rumor so I wanted to ask if it was true. Beside I should like to see her.' I could not say no, so she came in and made her bow to the lord of lords. Then he said that it was a lucky day and he would take her away with him and betroth her to you. Just think, Sir: when the Prime Minister had come himself, could I stop him?"

"You were not so very wrong;" said Lu Bu, "but for a time I had misunderstood you. I owe you an apology."

"The girl has a small trousseau, which I will send as soon as she has gone over to your dwelling."

Lu Bu thanked him and went away. Next day he went into the Palace to find out the truth, but could hear nothing. Then he made his way into the private quarters and questioned the maids. Presently one told him that the Prime Minister had brought home a new bedfellow the night before and was not up yet. Lu Bu was very angry. Next he crept round behind his master's sleeping apartment.

By this time Diao Chan had risen and was dressing her hair at the window. Looking out she saw a long shadow fall across the little lake. She recognized the headdress, and peeping around she saw it was indeed no other than Lu Bu. Thereupon she contracted her eyebrows, simulating the deepest grief, and with her dainty handkerchief she wiped her eyes again and again. Lu Bu stood watching her a long time.

Soon after he went in to give morning greeting. Dong Zhuo was sitting in the reception room. Seeing his henchman, Dong Zhuo asked if there was anything new.

"Nothing," was the reply.

Lu Bu waited while Dong Zhuo took his morning meal. As he stood beside his master, he glanced over at the curtain and saw a woman there behind the screen showing a half face from time to time and throwing amorous glances at him. He felt it was his beloved and his thoughts flew to her. Presently Dong Zhuo noticed his expression and began to feel suspicious.

"If there is nothing, you may go," said Dong Zhuo.

Lu Bu sulkily withdrew.

Dong Zhuo now thought of nothing but his new mistress and for more than a month neglected all affairs, devoting himself entirely to pleasure. Once he was a little indisposed, and Diao Chan was constantly at his side, never even undressing to show her solicitude. She gratified his every whim. Dong Zhuo grew more and more fond of her.

One day Lu Bu went to inquire after his father's health. Dong Zhuo was asleep, and Diao Chan was sitting at the head of his couch. Leaning forward she gazed at the visitor, with one hand pointed to her heart, the other at Dong Zhuo asleep, and her tears fell. Lu Bu felt heartbroken. Dong Zhuo drowsily opened his eyes; and seeing his son's gaze fixed on something behind him, he turned over and saw who it was. He angrily rebuked his son, saying, "Dare you make love to my beauty?"

He told the servants to turn Lu Bu out, shouting, "Never let him enter here again!"

Lu Bu went off home very wrath. Meeting Li Ru, he told Li Ru the cause of his anger. The adviser hastened to see his master and said, "Sir, you aspire to be ruler of the empire, why then for a small fault do you blame the General? If he turns against you, it is all over."

"Then what can I do?" said Dong Zhuo.

"Recall him tomorrow; treat him well; overwhelm him with gifts and fair words; and all will be well."

So Dong Zhuo did so. He sent for Lu Bu and was very gracious and said, "I was irritable and hasty yesterday owing to my illness and I wronged you, I know. Forget it."

He gave Lu Bu three hundred ounces of gold and twenty rolls of brocade. And so the quarrel was made up. But though Lu Bu's body was with his adopted father Dong Zhuo, his heart was with his promised bride Diao Chan.

Dong Zhuo having quite recovered went to court again, and Lu Bu followed him as usual. Seeing Dong Zhuo deep in conversation with the Emperor, Lu Bu, armed as he was, went out of the Palace and rode off to his chief's residence. He tied up his steed at the entrance and, halberd in hand, went to the private apartment to seek his love. He found Diao Chan, and she told him to go out into the garden where she would join him soon. He went, taking his halberd with him, and he leaned against the rail of the Phoenix Pavilion to wait for Diao Chan.

After a long time she appeared, swaying gracefully as she made her way under the drooping willows and parting the flowers as she passed. She was exquisite, a perfect little fairy from the Palace of the Moon.

Tears were in her eyes as she came up and said, "Though I am not the Minister's real daughter, yet he treated me as his own child. The desire of my life was fulfilled when he plighted me to you. But oh! to think of the wickedness of the Prime Minister, stealing my poor self as he did. I suffered so much. I longed to die, only that I had not told you the real truth. So I lived on, bearing my shame as best as I could but feeling it mean still to live. Now that I have seen you, I can end it all. My poor sullied body is no longer fit to serve a hero. I can die before your eyes and so prove how true I am!"

Thus speaking she seized the curving rail and started into the lily pond. Lu Bu caught her in his strong arms and wept as he held her close.

"I knew it; I always knew your heart," he sobbed. "Only we never had a chance to speak."

She threw her arms about Lu Bu.

"If I cannot be your wife in this life, I will in the ages to come," she whispered.

"If I do not marry you in this life, I am no hero," said he.

"Every day is a year long. O pity me! Rescue me! My lord!"

"I have only stolen away for a brief moment, and I am afraid that old rebel will suspect something, so I must not stay too long," said Lu Bu.

Diao Chan clung to his robe, saying, "If you fear the old thief so much, I shall never see another sunrise."

Lu Bu stopped.

"Give me a little time to think," said he.

And he picked up his halberd to go.

"In the deep seclusion of the harem, I heard the stories of your prowess; you were the one man who excelled all others. Little did I think that you of all heroes would rest content under the dominion of another."

And tears rained again!

A wave of shame flooded his face. Leaning his halberd against the railing, he turned and clasped the girl to his breast, soothing her with fond words. The lovers held each other close, swaying to and fro with emotion. How could they bring themselves to say farewell?

In the meantime Dong Zhuo missed his henchman, and doubt filled his heart. Hastily taking leave of the Emperor, he mounted his chariot and returned to his palace. There at the gate stood Lu Bu's well known steed Red-Hare, riderless. Dong Zhuo questioned the doorkeepers, and they told him the General was within. He sent away his attendants and went alone to the private apartments. Lu Bu was not there. He called Diao Chan, but there was no reply. He asked where she was, and the waiting maids told him she was in the garden among the flowers.

So Dong Zhuo went into the garden, and there he saw the lovers in the pavilion in most tender talk. Lu Bu's trident halberd was leaning on the railing beside him.

A howl of rage escaped Dong Zhuo and startled the lovers. Lu Bu turned, saw who it was, and ran away. Dong Zhuo caught up the halberd and ran in pursuit. But Lu Bu was fleet of foot while his master was very stout. Seeing no hope of catching the runaway, Dong Zhuo hurled the halberd. Lu Bu fended it off and it fell to the ground. Dong Zhuo picked it up and ran on. But by this time Lu Bu was far ahead. Just as Dong Zhuo was running out at the garden gate, he dashed full tilt against another man running in, and down he went.

We shall presently see who the other runner was.

 

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