THE ULTIMATE TEST


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 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
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 like.

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 lapel."  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 Hollis Maynell.
 
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 disappointment. "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 tell you that she is waiting for you in
the big restaurant across the street. 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.



















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