John Blanchard stood up from the bench, straightened his Army uniform,
and studied the crowd of people making their way through Grand Central
He looked for the girl whose heart he knew, but whose face he didn't, the
girl with the rose.
His interest in her had begun thirteen 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 now lived in New York City. He wrote her a letter introducing
himself and inviting her to correspond. The next day he was shipped
overseas for service in World War II.
During the next year and one month 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 that if he really cared, it wouldn't matter what she looked
When the day finally came for him to return from Europe, they scheduled
their first meeting - 7:00 PM at the Grand Central Station in New York
"You'll recognize me," she wrote, "by the red rose I'll be wearing on my
So at 7:00 he was in the station looking for a girl whose heart he loved,
but whose face he'd never seen.
I'll let Mr. Blanchard tell you what happened:
"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 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, sailor' she murmured."
"Almost uncontrollably I made one step closer to her, and then I saw
"She was standing almost directly behind the girl. A woman well past
40, she had graying hair tucked under a worn hat. She was more than
plump, her thick-ankled 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 her, 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 copy of the book that was to identify
me to her.
"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
"I'm Lieutenant John Blanchard, 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 went by, she begged me to wear this rose
on my coat. And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should go
and tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the
"She said it was some kind of test!"
It's not difficult to understand and admire Miss Maynell'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
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