Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 133.djvu/74

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atic, the Indian Ocean, and stretched south towards the upper waters of the Nile; it was now advancing on the Baltic, and would soon, they trusted, possess fleets on the north seas and the Indian Ocean alike, while the Archipelago and the Red Sea would have counted only as inland lakes in his dominion. "He hoped to reign over the Christian world." The present preparations were directed against Poland, which had always been the chief barrier to the subjugation of the north by the Turks. With the exception of a small subsidy from the pope, she was left to bear the brunt of the attack alone.

The preparations of the Porte were enormous: Tartars were arriving in hordes, Moldavia was full of battalions of strange men from the heart of Asia, the immense siege trains from Candia, consisting of between three and four hundred pieces of cannon, a number hitherto unheard of, were being carried up the Danube, and a numerous fleet was collecting in the Black Sea; seven hundred camels had arrived in Thrace with corn from Egypt; soldiers from Attica and the Peloponnesus, from east and west, filled a vast camp near Adrianople where Mahomet and his vizier held perpetual reviews. But their destination was still uncertain.

The Hungarians had long been making ineffectual attempts to defend their hereditary privileges against the tyranny of the emperor, who ruled over them by an elective right along. At length they rose in rebellion, headed by the chief nobles of the country. The revolt was put down with much cruelty, but the insurgents sought the assistance of the Porte, master already of two-thirds of the country, and were ready to join in any attack upon Austria if its arms were turned in that direction.

The Polish king refused to believe in any danger, and opposed Sobieski's exertions to collect the scattered troops. Thwarted at home and abroad by the jealousy of the emperor and of Louis XIV., he could only get together six or eight thousand men, young, ill-armed, undisciplined, and without provisions. There were soldiers enough in the country to trouble its peace, but not enough to make war with safety. After a short and brilliant campaign against the Cossacks, Tartars, and wild hordes under the khan, the allies and what might be called the advanced guard of the Turk, finding that no money and no help were to be had for the impending invasion, Sobieski fell dangerously ill with anxiety and fatigue, and the army, which for many years had received from him their only pay and rations, and had been led on to constant victory, indignant now at his treatment by the king, disbanded, and declared they would only serve under a chief of their own choice.

For a whole year the anarchy and confusion of Poland went on increasing, but when news arrived that the sultan had started on his march towards Poland, the soldiers returned to their quarters and swore to follow their old leader to death. The Turks by forced marches advanced on Kaminiek, a fortress situated on the frontier of Moldavia and the Ukraine. It was almost the only strong place possessed by the Poles, and Sobieski had in vain tried to persuade the Diet to keep up its defences. After a siege of less than a month the Turks carried a place concerning which it was said that "God alone could have built it, and He only could take it."

Even then the only help which the Polish king thought fit to give in the struggle was to accuse his protector, the "great hetman," of being "an impostor and a traitor." Sobieski, however, not heeding the insult, threw himself with his scanty forces on the weak points of the Turkish lines, pursued the Tartars who had invaded the kingdom and were carrying off immense booty, overtook them in the Carpathian defiles, and almost exterminated them, liberating nearly thirty thousand captives who were being carried off into slavery. He turned next on the advanced guard of the sultan's army, which had advanced on the Vistula with forty thousand men. Mahomet had arranged a camp for himself at Boudchaz among the mountains, where, accompanied by his seraglio, he amused himself with hunting. Sobieski, by a coup de main, crossed the river, rushed on the camp "intoxicated with