“I clean a German’s boots? Never! Never!”
The Maréchale quietly said: “The boots will be cleaned.”
“Never by me!”
“Well, not now, let them wait!”
The whole day passed, and the boots were not cleaned. The Maréchale knew what Franḉois suffered inwardly, and got him alone in the evening.
“Franḉois, Jesus died for the Germans,” she said.
His lips remained tightly pressed. He suffered, and she suffered with him. After a moment’s silence he burst into a torrent.
“We have endured too much! Think of the siege of Paris. That beast of a Bismarck! Oh! Our country has suffered. Clean a German’s boots? Never!”
He raved. The Maréchale was quiet and listened for a time. Then she said:
“All that may be true; but you are going to have a greater victory over the Germans than ever the Germans won over you. The triumph which they had over France was a flea-bite in comparison.”
She got his ear, and talked to him of the highest things. The victory which Jesus won on Calvary over Pilate and the Priests and Judas, this must be Franḉois’ victory.
“Go back to your trade unless you can win this victory. This makes a disciple of Franḉois, and nothing else. These boots are only a detail, but they have brought to light something in you that is hindering the great victory.”
And so they talked. She would not force him. Next morning she gave a lecture, at the end of which he came into her room and sat down. There was a moment’s silence, and then he collapsed, falling all of a heap and sobbing like a child.
“Maréchale,” he said, “I will clean the boots!”
Such training and conquest over self, makes a soldier of Christ ready for any conflict from the outside.