Wednesday, March 07, 2007


If this story is true, it's a tender love story with a delightful O'Henry twist:

John Blanchard stood up from the bench, straightened his Army uniform, and studied the crowd of people making their way through Grand Central Station. He looked for the girl whose heart he knew, but whose face he didn't, the girl with a rose on her lapel.

His interest in her had begun 13 months before in a Florida library. Taking a book off the shelf, he found himself intrigued, not with the words of the book, but with the notes penciled in the margin. The soft handwriting reflected a thoughtful soul and insightful mind. In the front of the book, he discovered the previous owner's name, Miss Hollis Maynell.

With time and effort he located her address. She lived in New York City. He wrote her a letter introducing himself and inviting her to correspond. The next day he shipped overseas for service in World War II.

During the next 13 months, the two grew to know each other through the mail. Each letter was a seed falling on a fertile heart. A romance was budding. Blanchard requested a photograph, but she refused. She felt if he really cared, it wouldn't matter what she looked like.

When the day finally came for him to return from Europe, they scheduled their first meeting--at 7 p.m. at Grand Central Station in New York City.

"You'll recognize me," she wrote, "by the red rose I'll be wearing on my lapel."

So at 7 p.m., he was in the station looking for a girl whose heart he loved, but whose face he'd never seen.

John himself tells the story from here:

A young woman was coming toward me, her figure long and slim. Her blonde hair lay back in curls from her delicate ears. Her eyes were as blue as flowers. Her lips and chin had a gentle firmness, and in her pale green suit she was like springtime come alive.

I started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was not wearing a rose. As I moved, a small provocative smile curved her lips. "Going my way, sir?" she said.

Almost uncontrollably, I made one step closer to her, and then I saw Hollis Maynell. She was standing almost directly behind the beautiful blonde girl. A woman well past 40, Hollis had graying hair tucked under a worn hat. A red rose was tucked in her lapel. She was more than plump, her thick-ankle feet thrust into low-heeled shoes.

The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away.

I felt as though I was split in two, so keen was my desire to follow the beautiful blonde, and yet so deep was my longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned me and upheld my own. And there she stood. Her pale, plump face was gentle and sensible, her gray eyes had a warm and kindly twinkle.

I did not hesitate. My fingers gripped the small worn blue leather book that had introduced me to Hollis and with which she would now identify me. This would not be love, but it would be something precious, something perhaps even better than love, a friendship for which I had been and must ever be grateful.

I squared my shoulders and saluted and held out the book to the woman, even though while I spoke I felt choked by the bitterness of my disappointment. "I'm Lieutenant John Blanchard," I said, "and you must be Miss Maynell. I am so glad you could meet me. May I take you to dinner?"

The woman's face broadened into a tolerant smile. "I don't know what this is about, son," she answered, "but the young lady in the green suit who just walked by begged me to wear this rose on my coat. And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should tell you that she is waiting for you in the restaurant across the street. She said it was some kind of test!"

It's not difficult to understand and admire Hollis's wisdom: the true nature of a heart is seen in its response to the unattractive.

"Tell me whom you love," Houssaye wrote, "and I will tell you who you are."


At 1:38 PM, Blogger Patricia W. said...

Now that's a love story!

At 1:45 PM, Blogger Ane Mulligan said...

That is so beautiful! I had to blot tears away as I read it. Where did you find that, Kristy?

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

I got it as an email forward a long time ago and saved it since it was so touching. I've even used a similar setup in a WIP (work in progress). Neat story, huh? I think it's told for the truth.

At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Sally Bradley said...

I've heard that story a number of times. It's so touching!

At 12:35 PM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

Thanks for your comment, Sally. Yes, it's touching.


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