Cao Cao told him and said, “Had it not been for this man here with me,
I should have been already hacked to pieces.”
Lu Boshe bowed low to Chen Gong, saying, “You are the salvation of the Cao family. But be at ease and rest, I will find you a bed in my humble cottage.”
Lu Boshe then rose and went into the inner chamber where he stayed a long time. When he came out, he said, “There is no good wine in the house. I am going over to the village to get some for you.”
And he hastily mounted his donkey and rode away. the two travelers sat a long time. Suddenly they heard at the back of the house the sound of sharpening a knife.
Cao Cao said to Chen Gong, “He is not my real uncle. I am beginning to doubt the meaning of his going off. Let us listen.”
So they silently stepped out into a straw hut at the back.
Presently someone said, “Bind before killing, eh？”
“As I thought,” said Cao Cao. “Now unless we strike first, we shall be taken！”
Suddenly Cao Cao and Chen Gong dashed in, sword in hand, and slew the whole household male and female, in all eight persons.
After this they searched the house. In the kitchen they found a pig bound ready to kill.
“You were too suspicious,” said Chen Gong, “and we have slain honest folks！”
Cao Cao and Chen Gong at once mounted and rode away. Soon they met their host Lu Boshe coming home, and over the saddle in front of him they saw two vessels of wine. In his hands he carried fruits and vegetables.
“Why are you going, Sirs？” Lu Boshe called to them.
the Magistrate ordered Cao Cao to the prison till the morrow when
he could send Cao Cao to the capital and claim the reward. He gave the soldiers wine and food as a reward.
About midnight the Magistrate sent a trusty servant to bring the prisoner into his private rooms for interrogation.
“they say the Prime Minister treated you well. Why did you try to harm him？” said Magistrate.
“How can swallows and sparrows understand the flight of the crane and the wild goose？ I am your prisoner and to be sent to the capital for a reward. Why so many questions？”
the Magistrate sent away the attendants and turning to the prisoner said, “Do not despise me. I am no mere hireling； only I have not yet found the lord to serve.”
Said Cao Cao, “My ancestors enjoyed the bounty of Han, and should I differ from a bird or a beast if I did not desire to repay them with gratitude？ I have bowed the knee to Dong Zhuo that thereby I might find an opportunity against him, and so remove this evil from the state. I have failed for this time. Such is the will of Heaven.”
“And where are you going？”
“Home to my county. thence I shall issue a summons calling all the bold people to come with forces to kill the tyrant. This is my desire.”
thereupon the Magistrate himself loosened the bonds of the prisoner, led him to the upper seat, and bowed, saying, “I am called Chen Gong. My aged mother and family are in the east county of Dongjun. I am deeply affected by your loyalty and uprightness, and I will abandon my office and follow you！”
Cao Cao was delighted with this turn of affairs. Chen Gong at once collected some money for the expenses of their journey and gave Cao Cao a different dress. Then each took a sword and rode away toward Qiao.
Three days later at eventide they reached Chenggao. Cao Cao pointed with his whip to a hamlet deep in the woods and said, “There lives my uncle, Lu Boshe, a sworn-brother of my father. Suppose we go and ask news of my family and seek shelter for the night？”
“Excellent！” said his companion Chen Gong, and they rode over, dismounted at the farm gate and entered.
Lu Boshe GREeted them and said to Cao Cao,
then they went out to look at the horse. Cao Cao was profuse
in his thanks and said he would like to try the horse. So Dong Zhuo bade the guards bring saddle and bridle. Cao Cao led the creature outside, leapt into the saddle, laid on his whip vigorously, and galloped away eastward.
Lu Bu said, “Just as I was coming up, it seemed to me as if that fellow was going to stab you, only a sudden panic seized him and he presented the weapon instead.”
“I suspected him too！” said Dong Zhuo.
Just then Li Ru came in and they told him.
“Cao Cao has no family here in the capital but lodges quite alone and not far away,” said Li Ru. “Send for him. If he comes forthwith, the sword was meant as a gift. But if he makes any excuses, he had bad intentions. And you can arrest him.”
they sent four prison warders to call Cao Cao.
they were absent a long time and then came back, saying, “Cao Cao had not returned to his lodging but rode in hot haste out of the eastern gate. To the gate commander’s questions he replied that he was on a special message for the Prime Minister. He went off at full speed.”
“His conscience pricked him and so he fled. there is no doubt that he meant assassination！” said Li Ru.
“And I trusted him so well！” said Dong Zhuo in a rage.
“there must be a conspiracy afoot. When we catch him, we shall know all about it,” said Li Ru.
Letters and pictures of the fugitive Cao Cao were sent everywhere with orders to catch him. A large reward in money was offered and a patent of nobility, while those who sheltered him would be held to share his guilt.
Cao Cao traveled in hot haste toward Qiao, his home county. On the road at Zhongmou, he was recognized by the guards at the gate and made prisoner. They took him to the Magistrate. Cao Cao declared he was a merchant, named Huang Fu. The Magistrate scanned his face most closely and remained in deep thought.
“We certainly will,” they cried, “and wish you long life.”
That night the tables were spread in an inner room, and his friends gathered there. When the wine had made a few rounds, the host suddenly covered his face and began to weep.
the guests were aghast.
“Sir, on your birthday too, why do you weep？” said they.
“It is not my birthday,” replied Wang Yun. “But I wished to call you together, and I feared lest Dong Zhuo should suspect, so I made that the excuse. This man insults the Emperor and does as he wishes so that the imperial prerogatives are in imminent peril. I think of the days when our illustrious founder destroyed the Qin, annihilated Chu, and obtained the empire. Who could have foreseen this day when that Dong Zhuo has subjugated all to his will？ That is why I weep.”
then they all wept with him.
Seated among the guests, however, was Cao Cao, who did not join in the weeping but clapped his hands and laughed aloud.
“If all the officers of the government weep till dawn, and from dawn weep till dark, will that slay Dong Zhuo？” said Cao Cao.
Wang Yun turned on him angrily.
“Your forbears ate the bounty of the Hans. Do you feel no gratitude？ You can laugh？”
“I laughed at the absurdity of an assembly like this being unable to compass the death of one man. Foolish and incapable as I am, I will cut off his head and hang it at the gate as an offering to the people.”
Wang Yun left his seat and went over to Cao Cao.
“these later days,” Cao Cao continued,
“I have bowed my head to Dong Zhuo
with the sole desire of finding a
chance to destroy him. Now he begins
to trust me, and so I can approach him
A general named Wu Fu was disgusted at this ferocity and sought
a chance to slay Dong Zhuo. Wu Fu constantly wore a breastplate underneath his court dress and carried in conceal a sharp dagger. One day when Dong Zhuo came to court, Wu Fu met him on the steps and tried to stab him. But Dong Zhuo was a very powerful man and held Wu Fu off till Lu Bu came to his help. Lu Bu struck down the assailant.
“Who told you to rebel？” said Dong Zhuo.
Wu Fu glared at him and cried, “You are not my prince, I am not your minister： Where is the rebellion？ Your crimes fill the heavens, and every person would slay you. I am sorry I cannot tear you asunder with chariots to appease the wrath of the world！”
Dong Zhuo bade the guards take him out and hack him to pieces. Wu Fu only ceased railing as he ceased to live.
[hip, hip, hip] That loyal servant of the latter days of Han. His valor was high as the heavens, in all ages unequaled；In the court itself would he slay the rebel, GREat is his fame！
Throughout all time will people call him a hero. [yip, yip, yip]
thereafter Dong Zhuo always went well guarded.
At Bohai, Yuan Shao heard of Dong Zhuo’s misuse of power and sent a secret letter to Minister of the Interior Wang Yun：
“That rebel Dong Zhuo outrages Heaven and has deposed his ruler. Common people dare not speak of him： That is understandable. Yet you suffer his agGREssions as if you knew naught of them. How then are you a dutiful and loyal minister？ I have assembled an army and desire to sweep clean the royal habitation, but I dare not lightly begin the task. If you are willing, then find an opportunity to plot against this man. If you would use force, I am at your command.”
the letter arrived but Wang Yun could see no chance to plot against Dong Zhuo.
One day while among the throng in attendance,
“Let me say farewell to my mother,” begged he, and he did so in these lines：
[hip, hip, hip]“the heaven and earth are changed, Alas！ the sun and the moon leave their courses, I, once the center of all eyes, am driven to the farthest confines, Oppressed by an arrogant minister my life nears its end, Everything fails me and vain are my falling tears.”[yip, yip, yip]
Lady Tang sang：
[hip, hip, hip]“Heaven is to be rent asunder, Earth to fall away, I, handmaid of an emperor, would grieve if I followed him not. We have come to the parting of ways, the quick and the dead walk not together；Alas！ I am left alone with the grief in my heart.”[yip, yip, yip]
When they had sung these lines, they fell weeping into each others’ arms.
“the Prime Minister is awaiting my report,” said Li Ru, “and you delay too long. Think you that there is any hope of succor？”
the Empress broke into another fit of railing, “The rebel forces us to death, mother and son, and Heaven has abandoned us. But you, the tool of his crime, will assuredly perish！”
thereupon Li Ru GREw more angry, laid hands on the Empress and threw her out of the window. Then he bade the soldiers strangle Lady Tang and forced the lad to swallow the wine of death.
Li Ru reported the achievement to his master who bade them bury the victims without the city. After this Dong Zhuo’s behavior was more atrocious than before. He spent his nights in the Palace, defiled the imperial concubines there, and even slept on the Dragon Couch.
Once he led his soldiers out of the city to Yangcheng when the villagers, men and women, were assembled from all sides for the annual spring festival. His troops surrounded the place and plundered it. They took away booty by the cart loads, and women prisoners and more than one thousand severed heads.
The procession returned to
Capital Luoyang and published a story
One minister put his discontent into words, crying,
“the false Dong Zhuo is the author of this insult,
which I will risk my life to wipe away！”
And with this he rushed at Dong Zhuo
threatening with his ivory baton of office.
It was Chair of the Secretariat Ding Guan.
Dong Zhuo had Ding Guan removed and summarily
put to death. Before his death, Ding Guan ceased
not to rail at the oppressor, nor was he frightened at death.
[hip, hip, hip] the rebel Dong Zhuo conceived
the foul design To thrust the King aside and wrong his line.
With folded arms the courtiers stood,
save one Ding Guan, who dared to cry
that wrong was done. [yip, yip, yip]
then the emperor designate, Prince of Chenliu,
went to the upper part of the hall to
receive congratulations. After this the former
Emperor——now Prince of Hongnong——,
his mother, and the Imperial Consort, Lady Tang,
were removed to the Palace of Forever Calm. The
entrance gates were locked against all comers.
It was pitiful！ there was the young emperor,
after reigning less than half a year,
deposed and another put in his place.
The new Emperor was Liu Xian, the second son
of the late Emperor Ling. He was nine years of age, five years younger than his deposed brother. The new reign-style was changed to Inauguration of Tranquillity, the first year （AD 190）。
Becoming the Prime Minister, Dong Zhuo was most powerful and arrogant. When he bowed before the Throne, he did not declare his name. In going to court he did not hasten. Booted and armed he entered the reception halls. He amassed a wealth exceeding any other’s.
His adviser, Li Ru, impressed upon Dong Zhuo constantly to employ people of reputation so that he should gain public esteem. So when they told him Cai Yong was a man of talent, Dong Zhuo summoned him. But Cai Yong would not go. Dong Zhuo sent a message to him that if he did not come, he and his whole clan should be exterminated. Then Cai Yong gave in and appeared. Dong Zhuo was very gracious to him and promoted him thrice in a month. Cai Yong became High Minister. Such was the generosity of the tyrant.
Meanwhile the deposed ruler,
his mother, and his consort were immured in the
Wu Qiong said, “Yuan Shao is fond of scheming,
but he fails in decision and so is not to be feared. But it would be well to give him rank and thus win popular favor.”
Dong Zhuo followed this advice, and within that day sent a messenger to offer Yuan Shao the governorship of Bohai.
On the first day of the ninth month, the Emperor was invited to proceed to the Hall of Virtue where was a GREat assembly of officials.
there Dong Zhuo, sword in hand, faced the gathering and said, “The Emperor is a weakling unequal to the burden of ruling this land. Now listen ye to the document I have prepared！”
And Li Ru read as follows：
“the dutiful Emperor Ling too soon left his people. The emperor is the cynosure of all the people of this land. Upon the present Emperor Bian, Heaven has conferred but small gifts： In dignity and deportment he is deficient, and in mourning he is remiss. Only the most complete virtue can grace imperial dignity. Empress He has trained him improperly, and the whole state administration has fallen into confusion. Empress Dong died suddenly and no one knew why. The doctrine of the three bonds——Heaven, Earth, and Human——and the continuity of Heaven and Earth interdependence have both been injured.
“But Liu Xian, Prince of Chenliu, is sage and virtuous beside being of handsome exterior. He conforms to all the rules of propriety： His mourning is sincere, and his speech is always correct. Eulogies of him fill the empire. He is well fitted for the GREat duty of consolidating the rule of Han.
“Now therefore the Emperor is deposed and created Prince of Hongnong, and Empress He retires from the administration.
“I pray the Prince of Chenliu to accept the throne in conformity with the decrees of Heaven and Earth, the desires of people, and the fulfillment of the hopes of humankind.”
This having been read, Dong Zhuo bade the officials lead the Emperor down from the throne, remove his seal, and cause him to kneel facing the north, styling himself faithful servant of the Throne and requesting commands. Moreover Dong Zhuo bade Empress He strip
Dong Zhuo could not reply for Lu Bu,
eager for the fight, rode straight at him.
Dong Zhuo fled and Ding Yuan’s army came on.
The battle went in Ding Yuan’s favor,
and the beaten troops retired ten miles and made another camp.
Here Dong Zhuo called his officers to a council.
“This Lu Bu is a marvel,” said Dong Zhuo.
“If he were only on my side, I would defy the whole world！”
At this a man advanced saying, “Be content, O my lord！
I am a fellow villager of his and know him well：
He is valorous, but not crafty； he will let go principles,
when he sees advantages. With this little,
blarneying tongue of mine, I can persuade him to put up his hands and come over to your side.”
Dong Zhuo was delighted and gazed admiringly at the speaker.
It was Li Su, a general in the Imperial Tiger Army.
“What arguments will you use with him？” asked Dong Zhuo.
“You have a fine horse, Red Hare, one of the best ever bred.
I must have this steed, and gold and pearls to win his heart.
Then will I go and persuade him.
He will certainly abandon Ding Yuan’s service for yours.”
“What think you？” said Dong Zhuo to his adviser Li Ru.
“One cannot grudge a horse to win an empire,” was the reply.
So they gave Li Su what he demanded——a thousand ounces of gold,
ten strings of beautiful pearls, a jeweled belt,
and Red Hare——and these accompanied Li Su on his visit to his fellow villager.
Li Su reached the camp and said to the guard,
“Please tell General Lu Bu that a very old friend has come to visit him.”
He was admitted forthwith.
Dong Zhuo hastily dismounted and made
obeisance on the left of the road.
Then Prince Xian spoke graciously to him.
From first to last the Prince had carried himself most
perfectly so that Dong Zhuo in his heart admired his
behavior, and then arose the first desire to
set aside the Emperor in favor of the Prince of Chenliu.
they reached the Palace the same day,
and there was an affecting interview with Empress He.
But when they had restored order in the Palace,
the Imperial Hereditary Seal, the special seal of the Emperor, was missing.
Dong Zhuo camped without the walls,
but every day he was to be seen in the streets
with an escort of mailed soldiers so
that the common people were in a state of
constant trepidation. He also went in and out
of the Palace careless of all the rules of propriety.
Commander of the Rear Army Bao Xin spoke of
Dong Zhuo’s behavior to Yuan Shao, saying,
“This man harbors some evil design and should be removed.”
“Nothing can he done till the government is more settled,”
said Yuan Shao.
then Bao Xin saw Minister of the Interior
Wang Yun and asked what he thought.
“Let us talk it over,” was the reply.
Bao Xin said no more but he left the capital and retired to the Taishan Mountains.
Dong Zhuo induced the soldiers of the two brothers He Jin and
He Miao to join his command, and privately spoke to his adviser Li Ru about deposing the Emperor in favor of the Prince of Chenliu.
“the government is really without a head.