Mary Brown

This is a story I heard a while ago that I thought was sweet. It happened about a hundred years ago and is centred in New York City.

I hope you haven’t heard it before. I am telling it from memory and it is not as nicely done as the original but I don’t have the original so this will have to do.¬† I did not create this story, but I will try to recreate it. If someone knows the source, please let me know so I can credit it here.It goes like this.

A young man, found much pleasure in reading. He was a thoughtful fellow and would become deeply involved in the stories he read. One book that he enjoyed very much came from a used book store. It had a few passages underlined and the odd little note, just a word or two here and there in the margin in pencil. He was struck by the significance of these markings and how whoever had made them seemed to catch the same thoughts he enjoyed in reading the book. The book also had a note in the front that said something like, “To Mary Brown”. This name and the thoughts in the book stuck in his mind and from time to time he would see whether he could find this person Mary Brown.

One day, he found her address and wrote her a letter about the book. He shared with her the things about the book he felt were important. She agreed and wrote him back. He wrote her again and told her, even though it was rather forward of him, he would like to meet her. He set a place and time for them to meet for a coffee or some such thing putting the day far enough off that she would be sure to receive the letter in time for them to meet even if it was delayed.

Mary Brown went to that restaurant at the appointed time, but the young man did not because in the meantime he was called up for military service and in short order was sent overseas.

While in Europe he wrote her regularily and she wrote him. They shared many of the thoughts each of them had of the books they had read and, though they had never met, they fell in love. A number of times during the correspondence, the young man asked Mary if she would send him a picture. She refused. She said that it should not matter what she looked like, that it should make no difference. He wondered about this and agreed. He felt so strongly  about her that it would not matter that she was unattractive.

After several years of service, it came time for the young man to return. He told her by mail what ship he would arrive on so that she could meet him at the dock. Since he had no idea at all what she looked like and had never even heard her voice, he asked her how he would know her. She said she would wear a red rose on the lapel of her black coat.

The day of the meeting came. He went down the ramp to the dock into a large crowd and for some time saw no one wearing a rose.

Suddenly, a young woman, a most attractive and lovely woman bumped into him as she walked by and as she did said, “Sailor, are you going my way?” and smiled and walked on not looking back. She was a woman who would turn any man’s head. For just a moment his attention was diverted by this beautiful woman, but only a moment because standing there in front of him was another woman wearing a worn black coat with a red rose in her lapel. This woman was older than he was. She was heavy set and a little stooped. She had the appearance of someone who had done a great deal of hard work in her life. Her hair showed gray and her eyes were dull. She did not smile.

As he took all of this in, he was tormented for a moment. This woman with the rose had no way of knowing who he was and the woman who walked by was just leaving the building. As she did, she looked back at him and smiled. She was so lovely.

The young man felt some sadness at that moment. After all that had been said in the letters, he felt he would find his friend to be lovely on sight. But he knew at a glance that the woman with the rose could not hold his heart.

In this moment he made his choice. He went to the woman with the rose and told her his name and smiled into her face. He asked her if she was Mary Brown. She looked at him and did not smile.

She said, “No”. He was confused and did not know what to say.

After a moment the woman said that she had been given the rose a few minutes earlier by a woman who had said she was to meet someone but had to leave. She had been told that if a man came to her and asked her if she was Mary Brown, she was to tell him that she would be waiting for him in an hour at a certain table in a nearby cafe. The young man thanked the lady with the rose and left to go to the cafe and wait.

There seated at the appointed table was the lovely young lady who had passed him on the dock. She was Mary Brown.Needless to say, they lived happily ever after.

Ain’t that grand?

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