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The Wooing Of Clotilde
by [?]

A beautiful, wise, and well-learned maiden was Clotilde, princess of Burgundy, the noblest and most charming of the daughters of the Franks. Such was the story that the voice of fame whispered into the ear of Clovis, the first of the long line of Frankish kings. Beautiful she was, but unfortunate. Grief had marked her for its own. Her father had been murdered. Her two brothers had shared his fate. Her mother had been thrown into the Rhone, with a stone around her neck, and drowned. Her sister Chrona had taken religious vows. She remained alone, the last of her family, not knowing at what moment she might share their fate, dwelling almost in exile at Geneva, where her days were spent in works of charity and piety.

It was to her uncle, Gondebaud, king of the Burgundians, that she owed these misfortunes. Ambition was their cause. The fierce barbarian, in whom desire for a throne outweighed all brotherly feeling, had murdered his brother and seized the throne, leaving of the line of Chilperic only these two helpless girls, one a nun, the other seemingly a devotee.

To the ears of Clovis, the king of the Franks, came, as we have said, the story of the beauty and misfortunes of this Burgundian maiden, a scion like himself of the royal line of Germany, but an heir to sorrow and exposed to peril. Clovis was young, unmarried, and ardent of heart. He craved the love of this famed maiden, if she should be as beautiful as report said, but wisely wished to satisfy himself in this regard before making a formal demand for her hand. He could not himself see her. Royal etiquette forbade that. Nor did he care to rouse Gondebaud’s suspicions by sending an envoy. He therefore adopted more secret measures, and sent a Roman, named Aurelian, bidding him to seek Geneva in the guise of a beggar, and to use all his wit to gain sight of and speech with the fair Clotilde.

Clothed in rags, and bearing his wallet on his back, like a wandering mendicant, Aurelian set out on his mission, travelling on foot to Geneva. Clovis had entrusted him with his ring, as proof of his mission, in case he should deem the maiden worthy to be the bride of his king. Geneva was duly reached, and the seeming pilgrim, learning where the princess dwelt, and her habits of Christian charity towards strangers, sought her dwelling and begged for alms and shelter. Clotilde received him with all kindness, bade him welcome, and, in pursuance of the custom of the times, washed his feet.

Aurelian, who had quickly made up his mind as to the beauty, grace, and wit of the royal maiden, and her fitness to become a king’s bride, bent towards her as she was thus humbly employed, and in a low voice said,–

“Lady, I have great matters to announce to thee, if thou wilt deign to grant me secret speech.”

Clotilde looked up quickly, and saw deep meaning in his face. “Surely,” she thought, “this is no common beggar.”

“Say on,” she remarked, in the same cautious tone.

“Clovis, king of the Franks, has sent me to thee,” said Aurelian. “If it be the will of God, he would fain raise thee to his high rank by marriage, and that thou mayst be satisfied that I am a true messenger, he sendeth thee this, his ring.”

Clotilde joyfully took the ring, her heart beating high with hope and desire for revenge. Dismissing her attendants, she warmly thanked the messenger for his caution, and declared that nothing could give her greater joy than to be bride to Clovis, the great and valorous king who was bringing all the land of Gaul under his rule.

“Take in payment for thy pains these hundred sous in gold and this ring of mine,” she said. “Return promptly to thy lord. If he would have my hand in marriage, let him send messengers without delay to demand me of my uncle Gondebaud; and bid him direct his messengers, as soon as they obtain permission, to take me away in haste. If they delay, I fear all will fail. Aridius, my uncle’s counsellor, is on his way back from Constantinople. If he should arrive, and gain my uncle’s ear, before I am gone, all will come to naught. Haste, then, and advise Clovis that there be no delay.”