THE FIRST KINGS
THE Franks, who had not been able to prevent the
arrival of the Burgundians or Visigoths in Gaul, now
thought it high time to secure a larger slice of the
 for themselves, and therefore began to rob the Gauls
and Romans. The result was nearly twenty years of
warfare, during which the chiefs of the Salian Franks
(Western Franks) greatly extended their territory. But
all fighting among the different nations in Gaul came
to a stop when they heard that an immense army of the
terrible Huns was coming.
These barbarians were even worse than the Vandals; so
thorough was their destruction, that land which they
had conquered often lay waste for years. The Huns were
of the yellow or Mongolian race, and were as ugly as
they were fierce and cruel. They had small eyes, flat
noses, big ears, and bushy hair. They traveled on
horseback, and lived on mares' milk and on horse meat,
which they carried between steed and saddle, to make it
tender before devouring it raw. Their fierce king,
Attila, was known as the "Scourge of God," and boasted
that "Grass ceases to grow where the horse of Attila
The Gauls fled before him. Twenty of their towns lay in
ruins, and the Parisians were about to desert their
city also, when a young shepherd girl, Genevieve, spoke to them, saying: "Forsake not your homes, for God
has heard my prayers. Attila shall retreat." The
Parisians, knowing how holy Genevieve was, believing
her words, and remained quietly in their homes. To
their great relief, Atilla, instead of attacking Paris,
suddenly changed his plans and went on to Or'leans.
This city was saved from ruin by the bravery of its
bishop, who kept up the people's courage and made them
resist Attila, until the combined armies of the Romans,
Gauls, Franks, Visgoths, and Burgundians could meet the
 Atilla, hearing they were coming, forsook the siege of
Orleans, and went tot he plain of Châlons (shä-loN'), where was
fought one of the great battles of the world (451). One
hundred and sixty thousand men were slain there, and
such was their hatred that it was said their spirits
continued to fight in the air for the next three days!
When the battle was over, the Huns were so sorely
beaten that Attila was glad to retreat.
The chief of the Salian Franks at Châlons was
Meroveus, and the victory added greatly to his
renown. He is considered the founder of the
Merovingian line, or dynasty, of Frankish kings in
His son, Childeric, was so disliked that he had to
leave the country and spend eight hears in exile beyond
the Rhine. But he finally came back with a German wife,
who on her wedding night, it is said, foretold in an
allegory that the first Merovingians would be brave,
but that their successors would be cruel, revengeful,
mean, sly, and cowardly, each member of the royal
family sinking lower, until the last would be driven
away by the smallest among his subjects.
You will see
that this "prophecy"—which of course was made long
after, and not before, the events—came true as you go
on reading this story.
After ruling the Franks for some time, Childeric died
and was buried in state in northern Gaul. Nearly twelve
hundred years after, his tomb was opened, and besides
ashes and bits of bone, there was found within it a
ring bearing the portrait of a long haired man, a
stylus, a crystal globe, an ax0head, and some remains
of a red silk cloak, to which still clung many little
 in the shape of gold bees. These treasures are now
carefully preserved in a French museum, and when France
became an Empire, Napoleon adopted the golden bees of
the Merovingian king as one of the emblems of the new
dynasty which he founded.
When Childeric died, the Salian Franks raised Clovis, his fifteen-year-old son, on a shield, thus making him
their leader. They owned as yet only a very small part
of northern Gaul. Their rivals were Romans and Gauls in
the north of the country. Bretons (Celts) in the west,
Visigoths in the south, and Burgundians in the east.
Still Clovis was very ambitious, and though young, was
eager to win land and wealth.
He began by attacking and defeating the Romans at
Soissons, 486. Then his men scattered and roamed about
in search of spoil. As they were not Christians, they
plundered churches, and among other things they took a
golden vase from a church at Rheims
(rēmz or ra&774;Nss).
But St. Rémi (rāmee'), the
bishop of Rheims, happened to be a friend of Clovis,
and asked that the vase might be returned. When the
booty was collected at Soissons, ready to be divided
among the warriors, Clovis therefore asked that the
vase might be given to him over and above his share.
All the soldiers were willing save one, who angrily
broke the vase with his battle-ax, saying, "No; you
shall have no more than is yours by lot!"
A Frankish chief had no right to more than his share of
the booty, so Clovis dared not punish the man then and
there, but he was not of a forgiving nature. Noticing,
one day, that there was something wrong with this man's
arms, Clovis snatched them from him and flung them down
 on the ground. Then, when the man stooped to pick them
up, Clovis suddenly cleft his skull with his battle-ax,
crying, "Remember the vase of Soissons!"