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project, and early in King Béla's reign, proposed again to send out four missionaries. Hungary was but thinly peopled; and Béla, anxious to induce any kindred tribes to come and settle in it, gladly promised to furnish the cost of the expedition.
The four monks set out by way of Constantinople, and crossed to the eastern shore of the Black Sea, where dwelt a strange people, calling themselves Christian, and having indeed priests and prayers of the Greek Church, but living under the rule of a prince with a hundred wives. After wandering for thirteen days in the Caucasus, they reached the land of the Alani, where each little district had its independent prince. For fear of the neighbouring Tatars, they remained here six months, and were supported by the labours of one of their number, who was skilful in making wooden utensils.
At sight of the wild people and endless forests, two of the little band lost all courage to proceed further, and turned back to Hungary. The other two, Bernard and Julian, attached themselves to a caravan of merchants, and set off to discover, if possible, the unknown route by which Almos had led his seven tribes four centuries and a half before.
They found the sudden appearance of the proud Magyar warriors had not been forgotten. It was commemorated in many a dark legend and oral tradition; but whence they had come, and whither they had gone, no one knew. The caravan travelled on through lands inhabited by wild strange people, through wide deserts, through pathless forests; and on emerging from these, they found themselves before large towns of whose existence they had never before heard or dreamt. The inhabitants, who were Mahometan, gave them alms, but refused to allow them to come within their walls. The caravan had reached its destination, and they must now wander on alone, and as it seemed friendless; but at the next town their reception was more friendly, and one Mahometan even received them into his house. Bernard, however, had suffered so much from the wanderings and privations of the long journey, that he sank down and died, leaving Julian in a strange land, among strange people, to prosecute the almost hopeless search alone. Still he never gave up the hope that it would ultimately be successful, and, entering the service of a Mahometan priest, he continued his lonely wandering through Great Bulgaria. One evening, worn and weary, he stopped to rest by a well, before the gate of a large town; and having for a time watched in silence the women who were gathered there, with their tall earthen pitchers on their heads, he presently ventured to address one of them whose countenance was the most friendly and pleasing.
To his joy and astonishment, she understood him, and answered in his own language, Hungarian as pure as his own. Her words fell upon the poor monk's ear, with a sound as soothing as that of water in the desert; and he hastened to inquire whence she had come.
'From far off,' answered the woman; 'beyond the white mountains
from which flows the great blue river, lies the great land of the Magyars, confined by no boundaries, and inhabited by a great and powerful nation.' The Dominican blessed the woman, gave thanks to God, and set out again on his way; but he no longer felt hunger, thirst, or weariness; his eyes were fixed upon the land to which he was daily drawing nearer, and the sweet sound of his mother tongue was always in his ear. On the twentieth day he reached Hungaria Magna, and there found the Magyars living just as they had done four hundred years before. They were pagans, but they worshipped one God, and were not idolaters. All their wealth consisted in their arms and horses; they possessed neither bread nor slaves, lived on the flesh of horses and wild animals, drank mare'smilk and blood, and made no attempt at cultivating the land. By the old traditions they knew that part of their nation had emigrated, and they listened well pleased to all that Julian could tell them of their relations. Many a time had the neighbouring Tatars tried to drive them from their dwellings, but, having always been repulsed, had at last made an alliance with them. At this very time an ambassador of the Tatar Khan was staying with the Magyar chief, and being able to speak the Magyar, Kuman, Russian, and German languages, informed them that 'five days' journey thence was the Tatar army, ready to march westward, for a powerful nation had lately arisen on the confines of Tatary, which threatened to be dangerous both to Tatar and Magyar. This people,' he said, 'was the broad-faced, small-eyed, blood-thirsty Mongol nation, which had determined to march westward, subduing all before it, till it reached the end of the world.'
The old chief assembled his warriors to hear what the monk had to say to them; and they listened with rapt attention while he told them of the new and powerful Hungary in Europe, of the glory of the Magyar nation, its renown, and its great kings. Their hearts throbbed when they heard him tell of the great battles, and they nodded their heads with satisfaction to think that their distant brethren had maintained the national reputation. When he announced the doctrines of the new Faith, a longing sigh rose from their hearts, as they thought 'how good it would be for the two nations to become one, to dwell in one land, and own one God and one king.'
The old chief beckoned Julian to him.
'Go back to your country,' said he to him, 'tell your brethren that evil times are at hand, for us and for them. It may be the approaching summer will sweep us from the earth. The danger, whatever it be, will find us prepared; may it be so also with them. We are the first who shall have to confront it; if it overpowers us, it will be your turn. You have heard the words of the Tatar ambassador; do not forget them, for they are true. If in a few years time, no deadly misfortune has overwhelmed our brethren, then return hither, you and as many of your fellow countrymen as you will, to seek us; but if the storm reaches your country, do not come hither, for it will not reach you till it has
passed over our dead bodies.' Julian obeyed the old man's words; much as he was tempted to linger, he feared to do so, lest the Mongolians should suddenly appear, and then, maybe, the news of his discovery would never reach home. He started off therefore in June, crossed the Volga, and, reaching Hungary in six months time, entreated the people to prepare for the approaching storm. But they only mocked him; no one but the King believed his words till two years later, when the Mongolians were on the frontiers, and no one was prepared to resist them. The old chief had prophesied truly. The Mongolians had not been able to attack 'Lesser Hungary' save across the dead body of the 'Greater.' 'What became of our relations? They died, were dispersed, there is not one left; we are alone.'*
The Mongolians, usually but inaccurately† called Tatars, had dwelt, from time immemorial, in the wide chiefly desert district between China and Siberia. Their early history is involved in obscurity; but towards the end of the twelfth century, Temudschin, a son of one of the Khans, made himself by degrees master of chief part of Mongolia, and of many of the Tatar tribes, took the title of Dschingis or Chief Khan, subdued part of the Chinese empire, took Pekin, attacked the Petschenegen and Kumans dwelling near the Caspian and Black Sea, and after an unparalleled career of conquest, died A. D. 1227. One of his sons, Uetegai, or Oktai, succeeded him in the Great Khanship, while the three others received large inheritances under their brother. After subduing the whole of north China, Oktai sent his nephew Batu westwards, with an army of five hundred thousand men. This vast multitude marched in swarms across the Caucasus, while the people fled before them. Here and there some brave-spirited nation, such as the Circassian or Kuman, stood up to oppose them, but, after a short battle, it was overwhelmed in the storm, and the vast mass still moved swiftly and steadily on towards Hungary; and Hungary was indeed ill-prepared to meet it.
"The land was sick; so much the more bitter was the necessary medicine. The Hungarian nation has died many times, but it has never remained in the grave. God has always raised it up, renewed it, and glorified it. As then we read one of the darkest pages of Hungarian history, let us draw from it at least this consolation-that a people which has survived sword and pestilence, must be destined for ever to maintain its place among the nations of the earth.'‡
Already the frontiers were in a blaze. The squabbling noble sheathed his sword, shut himself up in his castle, and raised the draw-bridge; the Ishmaelite left half his taxes ungathered, tied his treasure up in a bundle, and fled to the fortified towns; penitential litanies resounded from the cloisters; the peasant left his plough, and inquired anxiously what was the meaning of the blood-red glare in the sky, so long after the sun had
*The above is taken chiefly from Jókai Mór.
Suddenly appeared a King's-messenger, carrying a bloody sword through the land, and proclaiming wherever he went, Ruin! ruin! the Tatars are coming. Russia is beaten to the ground, Circassia blotted out; the Kumans are driven from their home, Poland has fallen, and now it is our turn! Asia is steeped in blood, heaps of skulls mark the site of her noble cities; it is our turn! To arms! to arms!'
The cry of terror sounded throughout the land, and was listened to as long as it lasted; but when it had died away in the distance, the peasant shrugged his shoulders and said, 'The country is not mine, I plough for all alike.'
'It is not mine,' said the merchant, I can go away and take my treasure with me.'
'It is not mine,' said the noble. 'It is the King's; let him defend it.' And no one moved.
Then followed more warnings.
Chiefs without people, kings without kingdoms, came flying into the country; forty thousand families, the remains of the once powerful Kuman nation, sought an asylum in Hungary, with bleeding wounds and blood-stained garments, showing that they had not given up their country without a struggle. The Kuman Prince, Kuthen, appeared at the court of his neighbour, King Béla, which was filled with fugitive chiefs, each of whom had seen his people fall, and could draw terrible pictures of the battles in which his kingdom had perished, and of those by whom it had been destroyed. But no one could say so much about them as Kuthen, whose sword was still black with their blood; and the Magyars listened attentively while he described the enemy and his mode of warfare.
But the arrival of the Kumans only added to King Béla's difficulties. They were still in a state of semi-barbarism, the Magyars distrusted them, and when a district was assigned them between the Danube and the Tisza, endless were the quarrels and misunderstandings between them and the people of the land. In order to have them better under control, it was determined to disperse them through the different counties, much to their own dissatisfaction.
Meanwhile, the Palatine with a small force of patriotic men went north to defend the mountain passes; but the greater part of the nation still either refused to believe that the Tatars were coming, or affected to believe that if they were, it was only to pursue the Kumans. Some even hoped the King might be humbled by a defeat. But all doubt as to the reality of the Tatars' intentions was soon dispelled by the arrival of messengers from Batu, summoning the King to acknowledge him as his lord, if he would save his kingdom from destruction.
Béla instantly summoned the Diet to meet at Buda, and sent ambassadors to the Princes of Western Europe, calling upon them to help him in his extremity.
It was a cold drizzling day in spring when the Diet met; everybody was out of humour. There were but two or three Magnates to be seen,
and they kept their eyes fixed on the ground. The nobles were scattered about on the hills; here and there a few had dismounted, and were gathered in groups, listening to some eloquent demagogue. The standards of the counties were left on the hills, wet through, and hanging dismally in heavy folds, while the standard-bearer lay beneath them on the ground, wrapped up in his large rough cloak.
The King was some little time in making his appearance, as before addressing the general assembly, he wished to give audience to the ambassadors, whom he had sent to solicit assistance. Cold and comfortless answers were all they had to bring him. There was no help forthcoming. Deep despondency was depicted on the faces of all present; and the King with his uncovered head resting on his hands, for the moment seemed to despair, as he said, 'We are then left to ourselves.' He rose, and was about to leave the tent, when one of those present observed that he was uncovered, and the Archbishop Mátyus placed the crown on his head.
'It will not be mine long,' said the King bitterly; but when he came out before the people, all trace of weakness had vanished from his brow, and every look and movement was dignified and kingly. A few eljens were heard as he made his appearance, but they were not hearty; and as he mounted the tribune, not a single sunbeam nor a human face smiled upon him.
'Few of those summoned are here,' said the King, looking round, and taking in at a glance who of the Magnates were present; and those who are here have come without their troops. Yet we have but a few days in which to make preparations.'
They dared not come,' said a voice from the crowd; and a spectrelike figure rose up to answer the King. You have burnt their seats, and they have nowhere to sit if they came. As for ourselves, under King András we used to bring our whole retinue, but since you have taken away our estates, we have been obliged to leave our sons at home to plough and sow.'
The King looked indignantly at the group of nobles from whom the voice proceeded. It was from them he had taken the crown-lands; and now, to show their contempt, they appeared at the Diet in old uniforms, with rusty swords; but he said quietly, 'I know you, I have seen you in every civil war, but never before the enemy. It is as I expected, those who have the largest possessions in the country are least willing to defend her. But there are still the people;' and turning from the nobles, he continued, 'I still trust you, the lower nobility, and freemen, the poorest in the land except myself. You share with me the glory of the fatherland; I call upon you to defend it.'
At any other time such a speech would have evoked a storm of eljens, but now there was only the same murmur as before, while an old man came forward and stood before the King, saying, as he stroked back his grey hair, My Lord King, you have said that the dog-headed, infidel,