A test of True Love
Six minutes to six said the clock above the information desk in New York’s Grand Central Station. The tall young army lieutenant lifted his face, narrowed his eyes and noted the time.
His heart was beating so hard it seemed to shake him. In six minutes he would see the woman who had occupied much of his thoughts for the past 13 months, the woman he had never seen, yet whose written words had meant a great deal to him.
Lieutenant Blandford remembered one day in particular, during the worst of the fighting. When his plane had been surrounded by enemy plans. In one of his letters he had confessed to her that he often felt fear, and only a few days before this battle he had received her answer:
“Of course there will be times when you are afraid … all brave men feel the same way, especially in battle. The next time you have doubts about yourself, try to imagine you can hear my voice saying to you: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil …’ ”he had remembered, and it had given him new strength.
Watching for Her
Now he was going to hear her real voice. It was four minutes to six.
A girl passed near him, and Lieutenant Bland ford looked closely. She was wearing a flower, but it was the wrong kind. He was to recognize his friend by a little red rose which she had promised to wear. Besides, this girl was only about 18, and Hollis Meynell had told him she was 30. “What does that matter?” he had answered. “I’m 32.” He was really only 29.
How it Started
His mind went back to the book he had read in training camp – one of the many thousands of books donated to the army during the first months of World War II. Of human bondage was the title of the book, and throughout its pages there were notes in a woman’s handwriting. He had never believed that a woman could understand a man’s thought so well.
Her name was inside the cover of the book: Hollis Meynell. He had found her address in New York telephone book. He had written a letter and she had answered the next day his army group had started overseas, but he and Hollis Meynell had continued writing to each other.
For 13 months she had written to him regularly. Even when his letters didn’t arrive, she wrote anyway. Now he believed that she loved him.
But he had refused all his pleas for her photograph. She had explained: “If your feeling for me has any reality, my books won’t matter. Suppose I’m beautiful. I’d always have the idea that you were mainly influenced by a pretty face, and that kind of love would displease me. Suppose I’m plain (and you must admit this is more likely), then I’d always fear that you were only writing to me because you were lonely and had no other correspondent. No, don’t ask for my picture. When you come to New York, you shall see me and then you can decide what you think of me.”
One minute to six . . . he lighted another cigarette. And then lieutenant Blandford’s heart leaped.
A young woman was coming toward him, her figure was tall and slender; her light hair lay back from her ears in waves. Her eyes were as blue as flowers; her lips and chin had a gentle firmness. In her pale-green suit she was like springtime itself.
He started toward her, for getting to notice she did not have a rose. As he moved, she smiled slightly. “Going my way, soldier?” she murmured.
He took one step closer.
Then he saw the woman with the rose.
She was standing almost directly behind the girl – a woman well past 40, her graying hair pulled under a worn hat. She was rather heavy; she had thick legs and wore flat shoes. But there was no mistake about the rose on her rumpled coat.
The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away.
Blandford’s attention was suddenly divided between the two. He felt a strong urge to follow the girl, yet he also had a deep longing for the woman whose spirit had truly given him great courage and strength. And there she stood. He could see that her pale, plump face was gentle and kind; her eyes were warm and friendly.
Lieutenant Blandford did not hesitate. His fingers held the worn copy of Human Bondage, which was to show who he was. This would not be love, but it would be something precious. It would be a friendship for which he had been and would always be grateful.
He stood straight, saluted and held the book toward the woman; but as he spoke he thought how different she was from the girl he had expected.
“I’m Lieutenant John Blandford, and you – you are Miss Meynell. I’m so glad you could meet me. May – I take you to dinner?”
A smile appeared on the woman’s face. “I don’t know who you are, young man,” she answered. “That young lady in the green suit – she asked me to wear this rose on my coat. She said that if you asked me to go out with you I was to tell you she’s waiting for you in that restaurant across the street. She said it was a test of some kind.”
Lieutenant, an officer in the United States Army
Yea, truly; indeed. Yea and the words which follow it are from a holy book called the Bible.
Telephone book, a book listing people’s names, addresses and telephone numbers
Pleas, appeals; requests
Lonely, without friends; without companions
Slender, thin; not fat
Chin, the part of the face below the mouth
Rumpled, not smooth; not pressed
Plump, rounded; fat in a pleasing way
Hesitate, pause; show uncertainty, doubt or unwillingness