John Blandford was in a library in New York just before the outbreak of the last world war. He was flicking through the pages of a book and in the margin he saw some notes in what looked like a woman’s handwriting. Sure enough, when he turned to the flyleaf there was a woman’s name and address: Hollis Meynell.
John was intrigued by what she’d written and so he wrote to the war in Europe. But they continued to correspond and after a few months he found that he was getting attracted to Hollis, so when he next wrote he said, “Please would you send me a photograph. I’d like to see what you look like.” “No, no,” she said. “If you really care for me, it shouldn’t matter what I look like.”
Well, he found that rather hard, but they kept writing. After six months or so it seemed that she had some affection for him and that gave him the courage to ask the question again, “Would you send me a photograph?” “No, no,” she said. “If you really care for me, it shouldn’t matter what I look like.”
After eleven months, John was due for his first furlough and he wrote to Hollis saying, “I’m coming home at Christmas. Will you meet me?” She said, “I will will – 6.00p.m. on the Christmas Eve at Grand Central Station, New York.” “How will I recognise you?” he asked. She wrote back, “I’ll wear a red rose in my right lapel. And how will I recognise you?” He said, “Well, I’ll be in my uniform, but I tell you what: I’ll hold the book you wrote the notes in high above my head.”
Well, imagine it. He is quite in love with this woman he has never seen. Let John Blandford take up the story:
Finally, the day came. I walk into Grand Central Station. There are hundreds of people milling around, I am searching for this woman who has captured my heart, and suddenly, out of the crowd steps a young woman. She has long fair hair and is dressed in green. It seemed as if springtime was bursting out of her. I was captivated – so captivated I omitted to notice that she was not wearing a rose. She smiled at me, she jiggled her lips, and as she walked by she looked back and said, “Going my way, soldier?”
I was about to follow her but suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the woman wearing the rose. She was older – much older – than I had thought she would be. She had a little knitted hat on to keep out the cold and a long brown overcoat that made its way down to sensible flat brown shoes. She wore little round glasses and carried a silver-tipped cane. I desperately wanted to go after the young woman in green but then I thought, “No, this lady has sustained me through the long months of the war. This won’t be romance, but it might be something deeper.” I did not hesitate. I walked up to the woman with the rose and said, “My name is John Blandford; you must be Hollis Meynell. Could I take you to dinner?”
The elderly lady half smiled, half scowled. “Young man,” she said, “I have no idea what all this is about, but the young woman in green who just went by begged me to wear this rose. And she said that if you were to invite me to dinner she’ll be waiting for you in the big restaurant across the road. Apparently, young man, it was some kind of test.”
As I think back on that story I realise that Hollis Meynell was bright – very bright. She knew that one day even her great looks would fade. She was looking for a man who could, at least at some level, love unconditionally. But this is not just Hollis’s quest; it is the great search of all our hearts as human beings. We know the world will love us if we are attractive and successful, but whether we are or not, is there anybody who will love us – anyway?
The perfect love story of John Blandford and Hollis Meynell was taken from – Let me tell you a story by Rob Parsons