Saturday, December 8, 2012

"The Love That Was Greater Than Death" by Ellen Lynn

The Love That Was Greater Than Death
Ellen Lynn

What does a soldier think about most when he's thousands of miles from home? Right—girls! And he's always trying to line up dates for his leaves. It's not too easy—there aren't enough girls to go 'round. But my buddy and I did quite well for ourselves. Yes, that we did!

Before he got to Korea, George Norton had always been a lonely guy. Strangely enough, it was in the Army that his life suddenly became filled and happy. He had had a lonely childhood and had run away from the orphanage where he was left as an infant. In all his wanderings he had never found lasting ties till he got into the army and wound up in Korea. He had to stay put there and soon the boys began to discover what a likeable chap he was. With his good looks and flashing smile he was making conquests with every female around and pretty soon he had a date list a mile long.

None of this new-found popularity made George conceited, and he and I became buddies. We went on lots of double-dates together, and I really enjoyed watching his boyish pleasure when the girls obviously fell for him. I didn't do so bad with the dames myself, and we had lots of fun in our friendly rivalry over them—until George met Alice.

To tell the truth, Alice was my date. We were a foursome and I had asked Alice to bring another nurse for my friend. Luckily the other nurse, Janet, was pretty and friendly, and as soon as I saw her, I felt that George and I would have a successful evening. But something happened between George and Alice—from the moment they met. They could hardly take their eyes away from each other. When they danced George's arms held her with amazing tenderness, and Alice's eyes were shining as they gazed steadily into George's. For a while I was annoyed. My pal, George, was he a wolf in sheep's clothing—trying to wolf away my date? I hadn't gotten around to thinking about Alice seriously yet—but suddenly I began to notice her. She really was a beauty. And come to think of it, sweeter than any girl I was dating at the time. I should give more time to her hereafter.

But like a bolt of lightning, the two of them had been struck by the same primal force and by the time we were ready to leave for camp they were holding hands like two kids in love. For the life of me I couldn't remain angry at George. He had had so little from people before he got into the Army. And though I began to develop a yen for Alice myself, I could almost feel happy for George that so lovely a girl had obviously fallen for him.

All four of us piled into a taxi, cramming into the back seat. Janet was cuddly and affectionate, and I put my arms around her, though my mind was really on Alice and George. They were talking softly, and at first I couldn't hear what they were saying. Then George's words came to me, "Alice—you won't believe that—I have fallen in love with you—so suddenly, so deeply..." And she answered, "I—do—believe—you, George. I—it's happened to me, too." And the two of them kissed as though they were entirely alone in the cab.

As we dropped them off, Alice asked, "When will I see you, George?"

He answered—"Just as soon, and as often, as I can, my darling."

When we were alone, I turned to George. "Well, you stole my girl from under my nose, buddy." And he answered, "I thought she was just another date to you. But, anyway, I couldn't help it. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I've fallen deeply in love..."

How could I be mad at a guy like that?

The next Sunday, the four of us went to the movies. Of course, George took Alice. I couldn't fight the thing that had hit them both so hard. I've seen "love-birds" before but never a pair quite like that. I heard Alice say to George: "What if you don't come next Saturday? You might be sent out—I thought of that all this week, wondering if I'd see you."

And George answered, "Even if I were to die, I'd be there Saturday. Nothing could keep me away, my darling."

"And I, too," Alice murmured, "I'd come back from Death to be with you."

A few days later all social activity came to an abrupt end. George and some other guys were sent several miles forward. They were patrolling pretty close to the enemy and the situation was dangerous. But George's mind was chiefly on the girl of his dreams and every time he could get the boys to listen, he'd talk about Alice. As another patrol unit came up to relieve them, they all lit a hurried cigarette together. "It won't be long now," George muttered, "and I'll be seeing my girl."

"Say," one of the newcomers asked, "isn't your girl Alice Wilson, over at the Central Hospital?"

"Yes," George answered eagerly, hoping for news. "Why? Have you seen her? Any message for me?"

The face of the G.I. turned white. "Haven't you boys heard about the Hospital?"

"Heard what?" George felt a foreboding. "Tell me—what is it?"

"The Reds bombed out the hospital. There were—many—casualties," came the reluctant answer.

"Alice? Is she all right?" George choked out the words.

"She—she's badly hurt. Sorry, bud. But you had to hear sometime." The poor guy hated to tell George.

George seemed to be in a daze at the news. He kept muttering—"But we have a date for Saturday—Alice and I."

In the field it was difficult to get detailed news and George found it hard to believe that Alice was seriously injured. "But she's got to meet me Saturday. We must see each other."

The next day he was sent out on a scouting mission. He was to find out whether our men could take the Bridge Road without running into Reds. George set out on his dangerous mission with a feeling of desperation, as though the faster he'd accomplish it, the sooner he'd be able to get back to Alice. He was hurrying through the thick trees along the side of the road, meeting not a soul. Only a scurrying animal or the birds overhead showed signs of life. Things looked pretty safe here on Bridge Road when he stopped short. Were those voices he heard? He dropped flat on the ground, then cautiously peered through the trees.

He saw a group of Red Koreans working over something at the wooden bridge. They were planting a mine! Carefully he crawled a little closer to make sure. Yes—that was it, a land mine! He must get back to warn his men. As he moved, a branch snapped off with a loud report. The voices of the men suddenly stopped. With guns cocked they started in his direction. There was a loud yell from one of them—he had spied George, who had darted behind a tree. Ping! the bullet whizzed through the air. A piercing pain ripped through George's chest and he toppled over like a spinning top, the blood gushing from a hole in his body.

When he dropped to the ground, semi-conscious, he heard the hurrying feet of the Red soldiers coming toward him. They poked him with their rifles. And George knew he was dying. He was too weak to attempt to stop the flow of blood from the hole in his chest and he lay a long while, feeling his life ebbing fast.

He did not know how much time had passed when he felt a coolness on his hot brow. Opening his eyes, he saw as through a mist, long, slender fingers touching his forehead.

"George, oh, George darling!" came a soft voice.

Suddenly the mist cleared from his eyes and he saw—Alice! She was bending over him, holding him in her arms. She was in her nurse's uniform and she took a large roll of bandage from her pocket. Tears rushed to George's eyes and he clung to his beloved, though his arms felt weak, lifeless. Alice placed her soft, sweet lips on his, uttering tender words of love as she proceeded to bind up his wound. Haltingly, he told her the episode of the Red soldiers planting a land mind on the bridge. "Darling, I must hurry back to warn the men," he explained to Alice. "They mustn't take the Bridge Road." She agreed. "Yes, dearest, you must go and warn them. Then come back. I'll be here."

With an amazing spurt of strength, inspired by the miraculous appearance of his beloved, George crawled the entire way back to the post. Excitedly he told his story. He had lost a lot of blood and his eyes were glassy and feverish.

"Don't—take—the—Bridge Road," he warned. "But I—I—must go back. At once." He sounded out of his head, but they humored him. "Why must you go back?" he was asked.

"I told you—Alice wants me. She told me to come back," he explained.

His story, of course, was fantastic. It was quite clear that George's mind was wandering. Alice was on the critical list in a hospital. Between his serious wound and his anxiety for his girl he was in a bad state of delirium. They had to struggle to get him onto a cot to treat his wound. He kept yelling that he must go back to Alice.

The blood had dried in a black crust, but there were no bandages on George's wound. "The branches—tore—off—my bandages," he kept saying. "She saved me—stopped the bleeding."

A sedative was injected into George's arm and finally his ravings stopped and he fell into a deep sleep. The men were about to leave on the mission for which George had done his scouting job, and it was decided not to take the Bridge Road—even if the report about the planting of the land mind was part of George's ravings. But I was to take a party of scouts to the bridge to check on the mine story. I looked in on George before setting out. There was some excitement.—George had disappeared!

I felt heavy-hearted about him. He had undoubtedly wandered off to "return" to Alice. Perhaps our party would run into him near the bridge if he ever reached the spot he had described to us.

We traveled fast and I kept a sharp lookout for a sign of George. In his condition I expected to find him somewhere along the road—perhaps his body. And then we did find his body. He had returned to the exact spot where the Reds had felled him—a pool of dried blood showed that plainly. In the dead fingers was clasped something white. We all exchanged glances. What—what—was he clinging to? I managed to free it from his clutch. It was a nurse's cap! There was a name-tape inside. It read: Alice Wilson!

It was incredible How could she have reached George when she was supposed to be dying at the hospital? Where was she now?

We completed our mission. The rest of George's story had been true: we found the land mine on the bridge and our demolition squad detonated it. Then we returned to our post with George's body. I lost no time in inquiring about Alice.

Alice was dead, too. She had died in the hospital at the time George had escaped from the infirmary at our post.

We buried the two sweethearts together. We never could discover how Alice's cap got to the spot where George was wounded. George's story was so unreal. But I felt that somehow George would never be lonely again.

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