THE THREE LITTLE PRINCES
 AFTER the death of Clovis, northern France was divided
among his four sons.
One of these died, leaving behind him three little
boys, who lived with their grandmother Clotilde. The
little princes loved their grandmother, and were as
happy as three little boys could be.
One day a messenger came to Queen Clotilde from two of
her sons, Clotair and Hildebert, saying, "Send thou
the children to us that we may place them upon their
Clotilde was pleased to do as her sons wished, for she
thought she was too old to guard the children well. So,
after making a little feast for the princes, she sent
them away, never dreaming that any harm could befall
them when they were in their uncle's care.
But no sooner had the children reached their uncles
than the servants and tutors who had come with them
were sent away, while they were shut up in a gloomy
room all by themselves.
Then Clotair and Hildebert sent a messenger to
Clotilde, bearing in his hands a pair of shears or
scissors and a naked sword.
"Most glorious queen," said the messenger when he was
shown into her presence, "thy sons and masters desire
to know thy will touching these children. Wilt thou
that they live with shorn hair or that they be put to
death?" You remember that to cut off a prince's long
locks was to
 take from him the sign of his royal
birth, when as a rule he entered the Church and became
Clotilde was so angry and dismayed at this strange
message, that scarce knowing what she said, she cried,
"If my grandsons are not placed upon their father's
throne I would rather see them dead," and the poor
queen wrung her hands and wept bitterly.
But the messenger hastened away, and although he knew
that Clotilde had not really meant what she said, he
told his master that the queen was pleased that the
children should be put to death.
Clotair and Hildebert, the two cruel uncles, then sent
for the little princes. The eldest, who was only ten
years old, began to cry bitterly when he saw that his
uncle Clotair held a hunting knife in his hand, but his
voice was speedily silenced.
Then the second little prince, who was only seven years
old, clung to his uncle Hildebert, begging that he
might not be slain as his brother had been. For a
moment it seemed as though Hildebert would try to save
his little nephew.
But Clotair cried, "Thrust the child from thee, or thou
diest in his stead." And Hildebert was afraid, and
tried no more to shield his little nephew. Then he too
was speedily put to death.
Amid the crowd of cruel men who looked on at Clotair's
cruel deeds, one was struck with pity for the little
prince who was left. He suddenly caught the child up in
his arms and fled with him into the country.
When he was a few years older the prince was taken to
church, where his locks were shorn, and in after-days
he became a saint. When he became a saint he was named
St. Cloud. To-day, close to Paris, on the banks of the
Seine, there is a town called St. Cloud, after this
little prince who became a saint.
Queen Clotilde wept bitterly when she heard of the
 death of her two grandsons, and never did she forgive
herself for the hasty words she had spoken.
But Clotair and Hildebert divided their nephews'
kingdom, and paid no heed to their mother's tears.
Clovis, you remember, ruled as a king over the Franks,
but Clotair was ruled by his warriors, for, many years
after the death of the little princes, he refused to
lead his people to battle, wishing rather to make peace
with the Saxons, a German tribe which had come from the
mouth of the Elbe, and was harrying the land.
But the Franks would have nothing to do with so
cowardly a king, for such, in truth, they deemed him.
They set a guard upon Clotair, tore his tent into
pieces, and hurled scorn upon his fears. Then they
carried him to the head of his army, saying that if he
would not march upon the enemy they would kill him. So
Clotair was forced to give battle. But the Saxons
fought as men fight for home and country, slaying their
foes in great numbers, until even the fierce Franks
were themselves glad to sue for peace.
In 558 A.D. Hildebert died, and Clotair then ruled over
all the Franks. From this time until his death in 561
he was engaged in wars with different tribes. At last
he was stricken with fever, and as he tossed upon his
couch he cried, "O how great must be the King of
Heaven, if He can thus kill so mighty a king as I."
After Clotair's death the kingdom of the Franks was
again divided into four parts. The kings who ruled
during the next fifty years committed so many cruel
deeds and did so little for their country, that there
is nothing to tell you about them in this story. But
during these years two queens lived, whose wicked lives
have made their names well known in history.
Brunhilda and Fredegonda had each married a grandchild
of King Clovis. From the first they hated and were
jealous of one another,
 When by chance Brunhilda fell into Fredegonda's
power the jealous queen sent her rival Brunhilda to
prison, from which, however, she was rescued by a man
who loved her. In vain did Fredegonda try again to
capture her prisoner." Brunhilda had escaped beyond the
reach of the angry queen.
In 584 A.D. it is said that Fredegonda murdered her
husband. Many other crimes she certainly committed, but
at length in 597 A.D. she died, leaving her son,
Clotair II., to rule over part of the Frankish kingdom.
Brunhilda lived still for many years, and during these
later years she grew more and more powerful. She also
did much good, building churches, and giving alms to
the poor. There were many of these who mourned for her
after her death.
When she was eighty years of age, Brunhilda fell into
the hands of Fredegonda's son, Clotair II., who was now
king of all the Franks. Clotair was Brunhilda's enemy
for the old queen had been hated by his mother, and had
also, when she was powerful, wrested many provinces
from his kingdom. In 618 A.D. he ordered Brunhilda,
whose age alone might have aroused his compassion, to
be tied to the tail of a wild horse. In this cruel way
the poor old queen was trampled to death.
In 628 A.D. Clotair II. died, and Dagobert, his son, at
once seized the throne. The times were rough, yet the
new king ruled so wisely that he was loved and obeyed
by his people.
As he journeyed through his kingdom, he would stop at
the towns and villages, that the people might come to
tell him their troubles. And because the king was just,
and punished the rich if they disobeyed his laws as
well as the poor, the nobles did not dare to oppress
their vassals so much as they had been used to do.
The king encouraged his people, too, to build churches
and to adorn them with the work of skilful goldsmiths.
 Because of his justice and his kindness the fame
of Dagobert spread all over the land. While he lived
his people called him "Great King Dagobert" and for
many years after his death his name was remembered with