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to abdicate in favour of a younger kinsman, who might hope to escape the storm then imminent, and renew the struggle under more favourable auspices; but even whilst in the act of performing the ceremony of abdication he was interrupted by the tidings that the Mongol stormers were in the heart of
There was no longer any room for hope that the contest could be renewed. It was only left to the last of the Tartar Kins to die with such honour as human instincts truly divine to be praiseworthy. Ninkiassu had fought an up-hill battle, and he had lost it. He fell before an accumulation of dangers and difficulties that were well-nigh irresistible. Unfortunate in his life, and not showing in the face of peril the resolution and firmness that might have been expected from him, he encountered his fate at the last with fortitude. The enemy was at his gate, and a stronger and more daring monarch laid claim to his throne. His army was dispersed, his treasury bankrupt, his people discouraged and in despair. There was no longer any hope of better times, of the revival which sometimes comes when fortune is at its lowest ebb. Ninkiassu had but the choice of two courses, to grace the triumph of his conqueror with his presence and draw out his days in hopeless imprisonment, or to meet death without fear or misgiving. He chose the latter. When the flames of his palace lit up with a lurid flame the horizon, the enemy was already master of his last city. Ninkiassu killed himself with his own sword, and his example was followed by several of his generals and many of his soldiers.
In one sense, the Mongols were left little more than a barren triumph.
With Ninkiassu expired, in the year A.D. 1234, the dynasty of the Kins, who had given Northern China nine princes in the course of one hundred and eighteen years. Formidable as the Mongols were as soldiers, brilliant as was the military capacity of their chiefs, and valuable as the aid of the Sungs proved to be, it took them more than a whole generation to conquer the northern provinces of China, and to sweep out of existence an alien dynasty which never secured the sympathy of its subjects. By as much as we regard the Mongols as a
A TRIBUTE OF RESPECT.
formidable people and as a race of born conquerors, by not less should their victims the Kins be respected, because they fought better in defence of their rights than did either the great Mahomedan states of Western Asia, or the principalities of Eastern Europe, when assailed by the same foe.
THE SUNGS AND THE MONGOLS.
The Sungs had been induced to ally themselves with the Mongols by the desire to recover some of their lost possessions from the Kins. The intensity of their hatred for the dynasty which had established itself within their frontier blinded them to the dangers that might arise from the new race steadily encroaching southwards and carrying all before it in its career from the north. The Sungs knew nothing of the Mongols, whereas the Kins were their bitterest enemies. To compass the ruin of the race which had imposed tribute upon him and stripped him of his glory was the fondest wish in the heart of the Sung Emperor. The successes of the Mongols, and the reduction of the Kin garrisons, which became necessary in consequence of the defeats on the northern confines, afforded the ruler of Southern China the long-wished-for opportunity of shaking off a thraldom which had always been irksome and hateful to him. That he did not hesitate to avail himself of it is rather to his credit than otherwise ; but prudence should have impelled him to abstain from taking any direct step towards promoting the triumph of the Mongols.
When Genghis undertook the conquest of Hia, the Kin ruler despatched an embassy to the Sung capital to ask the Emperor Ningtsong to join with him in opposing the Mongol invasion. The Sungs refused to regard the interests of the two realms as identical, and declined to help their neighbour in distress. The warning of the Kin ambassador that the Kins were beset by the danger to-day, but that to-morrow it
TOKENS OF STORM.
would be the turn of the Sungs, fell upon deaf or indifferent ears; and at the tidings of each fresh victory of Mongol arms the native rulers rejoiced in their blindness. It has been seen that they were not content even with the part of gratified spectators. They desired to take a more active and, they hoped, a more advantageous share in the struggle. So it happened that while Ogotai and Tuli were winning conclusive battles on the Hoangho and the borders of Honan, Mongkong, the great Sung general, was hastening to give, by his skill and the large army placed under his command, a decisive turn to the struggle. And now the main object had been accomplished. The Kin dynasty had been destroyed, and of the formidable Niuche race there remained only the relics that had fled to remote Manchuria. Was there any reason to suppose that the Mongols, who throughout their career had been continually removing their neighbours' landmarks, would prove better neighbours to the Sungs than the Kins had been ? There could be no question that their military power was much greater, and that their ire was not only more formidable but also more easily aroused.
By the terms of the understanding which had been agreed on for the purposes of war between Mongkong and the Mongol commanders, it was arranged that the province of Honan should be restored to the Sungs when victory had been obtained over the Kins. The required result had now been attained ; it remained to be seen whether the accompanying stipulation would be carried out.
The very large part which the genius of Mongkong had played in the final overthrow of the Kins has already been referred to, and it would not appear unreasonable to conjecture that the confidence felt by one side in his abilities, and the apprehension on the other of their consequences, were among the most prominent causes of the precipitation of a struggle that was in itself inevitable.
Tokens of the coming storm were not long in revealing themselves. The Mongol troops, instead of evacuating the province, remained in possession of the principal positions ; and if they retreated in any single direction, it was done merely for the purpose of drawing their strength to a head. A proposition was then made to divide the spoil, and some steps were taken for the division of the province into two parts, one of which was to remain in the hands of the Mongols, and the other in those of the Sungs. As the durability of such an arrangement was palpably impossible, it was no longer open to the most obtuse to refuse to see that the Mongols included not one portion, but the whole of China within their sphere of conquest.
Both sides were eager for the contest, and the cause of strife was flagrant and well known to all. It mattered little under these circumstances which side, in the heat of the moment, struck the first blow.
The Chinese were inflated by their successes in the recent war, and inclined to underrate the superiority of their late allies. The supreme council was composed of men anxious to obtain fresh fields for their energy and also for their personal advantage; and under their advice Litsong resolved to attempt to seize by force the territory which had been the appendage of his ancestors, and to which he considered he was fully entitled by the solemn stipulations of treaty. The wish being thus formed, the large Sung army on the frontier supplied the ready means of carrying it into execution; and it so happened that the Chinese, having the larger number of troops on the scene, were successful in the earlier engagements. Thus often does Fortune, by an initial success, tempt nations to follow out a reckless enterprise and rush in blind confidence on their fate.
The Mongol commanders were at first singularly inactive, but when the first flush of Sung activity had passed away, and the full danger of the war began to be realized, the Chinese wished to conclude a peace even at the sacrifice of all their claims. The Mongol people had, however, been called into consultation on the subject of the war with the Sungs, and they had decided to prosecute it to the end. From a kuriltai at Karakoram the fiat had gone forth that the Sungs were to be dealt with in the same manner as the Kins had been. Litsong's passionate appeals for peace received but scant notice from his relentless and terrible opponents.
In A.D. 1235 three Mongol armies were raised for the