When she was well advanced in life, and thought she had known everybody worth knowing and seen everything worth seeing in the world, she met the Maréchale. From the moment the Maréchale opened her lips, she was fascinated, first by the speaker, and then still more by the message. Next morning she came in her carriage to the Vilette. The Maréchale was scarcely well enough to receive her, but she would not take a “No.” When she entered the Maréchale’s room, she threw herself by the bedside and exclaimed, “Oh! Tell me, how did you get to know Him?”
This was the commencement of a seven years’ friendship, and during all that time she was never out of reach without writing the Maréchale every second day.
The Princess was raised as a member of the Orthodox Greek Church. Her mother had married her off at sixteen, and she had eleven children by the time she was twenty-eight. When she found that her husband had become unfaithful, she dismissed him with an emphatic “It is over!” and for more than a quarter of a century she had never seen him. The Maréchale listened with deep sympathy to the story of her life, and then said, “You must forgive him, if you would be forgiven”
“Yes, if you want Christ, forgive him. Never mind what he has done, you must forgive him.” But the Princess could not. A struggle went on in her mind for six weeks. She began to come to the meetings at the Rue Auber, but she had no peace. the Maréchale opened the question again.
“Come now, I want you to write and invite him to meet you at your hotel, to dine with him, and to forgive him.”
A terrible inner controversy ensued, and the Princess became ill over it. One can scarcely imagine what it all meant to her, and yet thousands have to go through the same.
Calling one day, the Maréchale found her in a cloud of cigarette smoke.
“Princess, how dare you smoke like this?”
“Well, I am surrounded by a thousand devils, blue, black and yellow. You have been neglecting me.”
A ceaseless conflict was raging in her breast, and ’ere they parted that day she wrote a letter and said she would send it.
The Maréchale called again, and found that the letter had not been sent. Then the crisis came.
“Princess, you are lost. If you do not forgive, your heavenly Father will not forgive you.”
“I cannot, I cannot.” She was in agony of soul.
“Princess,” said the Maréchale , “are you perfect? From the little I know of you I should think you have a very bad temper.” “It is true, it is true.”
“Your sins have not been his, but they are sins before God, and have caused suffering to others. If you want God to forgive your bad temper, you must forgive him.”
The Maréchale prayed, and bade her look to the Cross and see how Christ forgave. Then she told her again what to do.
“Darling Princess, you are to invite him to your apartments; you are to have a sweet little dinner for him and flowers on the table, and when he comes you are to kiss him.”
“But I cannot!”
“Yes, you will. Forgive him, and I know peace will come.”
“Very well, I will, I will!”
The Maréchale chanced to be leaving Paris for a time, and said, “You will send me a wire when you have done it.” The Princess invited her husband. He made a long night journey. She kissed him and forgave him. Next day the Maréchale received a wire which made her dance for joy. It ran: “All is done as you said, and the peace of Christ floods my soul.”
The Princess’ husband died after a few months, and her thankfulness for what she had done was profound.
The last years of her own life were beautiful. In a letter which she wrote to General Booth in regard to her friend’s health she said: “I owe a great deal to the Maréchale . She has given me a treasure greater than all the treasures of this world—she has given me a living Christ; she has put Him not near me, but in me, in my soul, and the gratitude I feel for that blessing is great.” An article from her pen on the Army’s work in Paris contains these words: “The Auber Hall is to me a holy place. I feel the presence of Christ there—Christ who has personally become a living Saviour to me since the Maréchale brought me to Him and committed me to His Divine arms.” Hundreds of letters from the Princess to the Maréchale prove that the heart which truly loves never grows old. In them, the Princess speaks of her love for the Maréchale because she persevered to reveal her old, rotten self to herself and brought in its place, an eternal love. Review how very straight and unlovely were the Maréchale’s dealings with the Princess—ever more daring for she addressed royalty—yet she found in the Princess a friend and a vessel for Christ whose witness was to reach the Emperor of Russia. One of her letters reads as follows:
“I will see the Emperor in these days, and I will seek the strength to speak to him. You see, speaking is not enough, one must in such a case pour out one’s soul and feel that a superior force guides one and speaks for one.” It turned out just as she had hoped. One night she was at the Palace St. Petersburg. After dinner the Czar Alexander III came and seated himself beside her. Soon they were in intimate conversation. She began telling him what her new-found friend in Paris had done for her. She talked wisely as he listened attentively.
“But Nancy, you have always been good, always right,” said the Czar. “No,” she answered; “till now I have never known Christ. She has made Him real to me, brought Him near to me, and He has become what He never was before—my personal Friend.” What a mercy of God to allow the full Gospel of Christ to come to the Romanov family in the very generation in which they would be cruelly killed. Czar Nicholas Romanov, Czar Alexander’s son and his family, were assassinated in 1917.