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Six minutes to six, said the great round clock over the information booth in Grand Central Station. The tall young Army lieutenant who had just come from the direction of the tracks lifted his sunburned face, and his eyes narrowed to note the exact time. His heart was pounding with a beat that shocked him because he could not control it. In six minutes, he would see the woman who had filled such a special place in his life for the past 13 months, the woman he had never seen, yet whose written words had been with him and sustained him unfailingly.
He placed himself as close as he could to the information booth, just beyond the ring of people besieging the clerks...
Blandford remembered one night in particular, the worst of the fighting,
when his plane had been caught in the midst of a pack of Zeros. He had
seen the grinning face of one of the enemy pilots.
he was going to hear her real voice. Four minutes to six. His face grew
His mind went back to that book - the book the Lord Himself must have put into his hands out of the hundreds of Army library books sent to the Florida training camp. Of Human Bondage, it was; and throughout the book were notes in a woman's writing. He had always hated that writing-in-habit, but these remarks were different. He had never believed that a woman could see into a man's heart so tenderly, so understandingly. Her name was on the bookplate: Hollis Meynell. He had got hold of a New York City telephone book and found her address. He had written, she had answered. Next day he had been shipped out, but they had gone on writing.
For 13 months, she had faithfully replied, and more than replied. When his letters did not arrive she wrote anyway, and now he believed he loved her, and she loved him.
she had refused all his pleas to send him her photograph. That seemed
rather bad, of course. But she had explained: "If your feeling
for me has any reality, any honest basis, what I look like won't
matter. Suppose I'm beautiful. I'd always be haunted by the feeling
that you had been taking a chance on just that, and that kind of love
would disgust me. Suppose I'm plain (and you must admit that this is
more likely). Then I'd always fear that you were going on writing to
me only because you were lonely and had no one else. No, don't ask for
my picture. When you come to New York, you shall see me and then you
shall make your decision. Remember, both of us are free to stop or to
go on after that - whichever we choose..."
Lieutenant Blandford's heart leaped higher than his plane had ever done.
started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was wearing
no rose, and as he moved, a small, provocative smile curved her lips.
Uncontrollably, he made one step closer to her. Then he saw Hollis Meynell.
She was standing almost directly behind the girl, a woman well past 40, her graying hair tucked under a worn hat. She was more than plump; her thick-ankled feet were thrust into low-heeled shoes. But she wore a red rose in the rumpled lapel of her brown coat.
The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away.
Blandford felt as though he were being split in two, so keen was his desire to follow the girl, yet so deep was his longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned and upheld his own; and there she stood. Her pale, plump face was gentle and sensible; he could see that now. Her gray eyes had a warm, kindly twinkle.
Blandford did not hesitate. His fingers gripped the small worn, blue
leather copy of Of Human Bondage, which was to identify him to her.
This would not be love, but it would be something precious, something
perhaps even rarer than love - a friendship for which he had been and
must ever be grateful.
"I'm Lieutenant John Blandford, and you - you are Miss Meynell. I'm so glad you could meet me. May...may I take you to dinner?"
The woman's face broadened in a tolerant smile. "I don't know what this is all about, son," she answered. "That young lady in the green suit - the one who just went by - begged me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said that if you asked me to go out with you, I should tell you that she's waiting for you in that big restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of a test. I've got two boys with Uncle Sam myself, so I didn't mind to oblige you."
By Sulamith Ish-Kishor