Author's note: Hi there! I am posting two short stories today, both the in the WW2 AU arc that I've posted a few short stories from before, in December, 2018. These stories might make a little more sense if you read those other ones, which are: Farewell, An Incident in France, and Upon a Snowy Midnight. It's not necessary, though. I just thought it was long overdue to write a little more in that arc. I might write more eventually; we'll just have to see where inspiration takes me! Enjoy, and as always I'd love it you would review!
I know I'm using the same author note above for both stories, but this one has a couple of extra notes. First, I know it's typical to use Franklin as Frank's full name in fanfiction, no doubt because the pseudonym for the author is Franklin W. Dixon. However, I don't believe Frank's full name is ever actually mentioned in a published book, but there are two blue-spine books where it's very strongly hinted that Frank's full name is Francis, so that is why I decided to have it be Francis here. There are also some footnotes at the end of this story.
Faith Without a Hope
July 4, 1944
It's strange to think that it's the Fourth of July back home and everyone is celebrating. I guess everyone around here is a little cheerier than usual, but it's still hard to be truly cheerful. I got your letter and I'm glad you're finding so many ways to help out at home. I know how I'd be feeling if I was there instead of here, and I'd be wanting to do everything I can. I actually heard from Joe last week. He says he hasn't seen nearly enough action, but from what I've heard about the War in the Pacific, I doubt that's true. It was good to hear from him, though. It's almost weird now to think that there was a time when I saw you and Joe and Mom and Dad and all our friends practically every day and just took for granted. Once I get home, I'm never going to again.
Most of all, I'm never going to take seeing you for granted again. Thinking about you is the only thing that gets me through some days. I can't wait to see you again…
Callie Shaw looked up from the letter with tears in her eyes. She had read it dozens of times before this and practically had it memorized. It was the last letter that she had gotten from her boyfriend, Frank Hardy. It had come after he had been reported killed in action back in July. She had kept it with her every moment since she had gotten it and every night, she kissed it where Frank had signed it with X's and O's.
Callie's eyes were so full of tears now that she knew she wouldn't be able to read the rest at all, where Frank had talked about all the things they would do when he got back and how much he loved her. So she folded the letter up and slipped it back into her purse. Then she tried to wipe her eyes, but instead she found herself sitting back on her bed again, that old tightness in her chest as she vigorously brushed a hand across her eyes.
It was especially hard today. It was pouring rain outside and Callie's parents were both dismal. No friends had dropped in to see her or called, and it was only two days until Thanksgiving. It would be the first major holiday since they had gotten the news that Frank had been killed.
There was no one else to turn to, so she let herself slip down onto the floor until she was on her knees and she clasped her hands together as she had often done as a little girl. Somehow, in more recent years, she had let up on the practice, forgetting to pray on her knees, but now it seemed like just the right thing to do.
God, she said silently—she certainly didn't want to hear the sound of her own voice just now, sounding all weak and hollow and alone—I don't know what to do. I don't…I guess I shouldn't have counted on life working out just the way I wanted it to. I couldn't have expected a war like this to mess everything up so badly, but there could have been any number of other things, I guess. I just…All I ever really wanted was for Frank to be happy and well. Everything I wanted for myself just doesn't seem like it matters so much. I guess that's what it means to love someone. But, God, what do you do you do when you lose someone? What do I do?
The silence was no greater when she had finished than before she had begun, but it echoed like a bell tolling for a funeral. Callie was so empty and cold and alone. Right now, when she so desperately needed something to do or even just to think about, there was nothing.
Or maybe not quite nothing. There was something, a verse that had been stuck her head earlier that day, and now it came back to her full-force. She had read it somewhere recently, she remembered, but she couldn't recall where. It ran:
"I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet,
And the sea rises higher."*
"That's cheery," she muttered wryly to herself, but her voice didn't sound so hollow as she had expected it to. "'The sky grows darker yet'. Well, I don't think that's possible for me right now. But where did I read that? It's going to bother me now."
It was a slender thing to cast her attention upon, but it was something. There's nothing to help a person not think about one thing than to try to figure out another. Callie tried to think back on all the books she had read recently, but none of them fit this verse. Little of it had been poetry, and what had been wasn't like that. It had to be somewhere else, but where else had she read anything?
She bit her lip and tried to remember, but nothing came to her. She let her shoulders sag a bit. There were two choices now: either forget the whole thing and go back to being miserable or try to solve the mystery. Callie might have smiled if she hadn't nearly forgotten how in the last few months. She knew just what Frank would do in this situation, and so that's what she would do.
With almost a feeling of relief at having something to do, Callie picked herself up and looked at her reflection in her dressing stand mirror. She grimaced as she thought how terrible she looked, all red-eyed and messy-haired. She couldn't go out like that, so she went to the bathroom and washed her face. Then she brushed her hair and put on some make-up and surveyed herself again. She gave a little nod of satisfaction. Even if she still, felt like crying, at least she didn't look like it anymore.
Then she put on her coat, hat, and shoes and grabbed her purse. She called to her parents where she was going as she headed out the door. Her plan was to go down to the library and recite the verse to the librarian. She might recognize it, and that might help Callie to remember where she read it.
The rain was slowing down, which was a relief, as Callie had forgotten to bring an umbrella. A wind was starting up now, and it was cold. It seemed to blow right through her coat and chill her to the very bones. Callie might have saved herself some of the wind if she had gone straight to the library, but she went around a longer way, because her usual route would have led her past the Hardy house, and she couldn't bear to see that gold star in their window. So, she went the longer way, in spite of the cold. It was a huge relief to reach the library, although the wind practically blew her through the door.
Callie went right up to the librarian's desk, where a smiling young woman whom she knew as Miss Toivo greeted her quietly.
"Hello, Miss Shaw. How are you today?" she asked.
"I'm well," Callie replied politely but untruthfully. "I have a sort of interesting puzzle that I was hoping you could help me with."
"I can try," Miss Toivo said. "What's your puzzle?"
"There's a verse that came into my head today," Callie explained. "I feel like I just read it recently, but I can't think where. I don't know what poem it's from, either, or who the poet is. I thought maybe you'd recognize it and be able to tell me the poem and poet, and then I might remember where I read it."
"Sounds like a challenge, but I'm willing to try," Miss Toivo replied.
Callie recited the verse for her, and the librarian knit her brow thoughtfully for a few moments.
"That does sound familiar, but I can't place it," Miss Toivo said. "It's funny, but I feel like I've read it somewhere recently, too. That would be an odd coincidence."
"Maybe not," Callie replied as an idea occurred to her. "Maybe we've both read it recently, because it was printed somewhere that a lot of people would have been reading about the same time, like the newspaper."
"That could be," Miss Toivo said. "We have all the recent editions of the paper here. Let's look through them and see if we can't find your verse."
She went into a back room and brought out a stack of newspapers, which she divided in half, giving one half to Callie and keeping one for herself. Then the two women began skimming through them. It wasn't as bad as looking for a paragraph in an article or even a specific article, because a verse would have been printed with different formatting and would have stuck out on the page more than prose would have. Nevertheless, they were both careful to skim each page thoroughly before going on to the next.
It was Callie who found the verse in an edition from almost two weeks ago. It was an article about the British war effort and how many British people had adopted that verse as a sort of motto, for even though that particular verse wasn't very cheery, the poem itself tended to lend some hope. It was taken from the book-length poem, The Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton, and it detailed the battle in which King Alfred drove back the Danes when they invaded England. Perhaps in some ways, that situation wasn't so different from the one the British and all the rest of the Allies were facing now.
"There's your answer," Miss Toivo said. "Can I help you with anything else?"
"Yes," Callie replied on a sudden whim. "I'd like to read the whole poem. Is there a copy of it in the library?"
"I'll see." Miss Toivo left for a few minutes, but she returned with a thicker book than she might have expected for a poem. "It wasn't too far away. Would you like to borrow it or will you just read it here?"
"I guess I'll borrow it," Callie decided. She wasn't sure she would be able to read it all in one sitting. However, before she left the library, she flipped through it to try to find the stanza that had gotten stuck in her head. It was near the beginning and she found it quickly. She read it through and then went on to the next stanza:
"Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?"**
Callie couldn't help feeling that she certainly felt as if she were caught in a night three times as dark as normal and that she had cause for neither joy nor faith as she slipped the book into her purse and stepped out of the library.
The wind was still bitter cold, but the rain had stopped completely now, and the sun was even dimly visible behind the clouds, though it gave no warmth. It was good to know it was there, though, Callie thought as she stepped down the stairs that led into the library.
She debated whether to go home the way she had come or to just go back the regular way. Maybe it was time she accepted what had happened and have faith that maybe things would be all right again eventually, even if she couldn't see how. And maybe the first step to doing that was to just walk past the Hardy house. With that decided, she set her chin and began forward again, even though her shivering wasn't only due to the cold.
By the time she had reached the street where the Hardys lived, the wind had died down to a gentle breeze. Callie glanced up at the house as she walked past. At least, she meant it to only be a glance. At that same moment, Mrs. Hardy came running out of the house, calling Callie's name, which was very unusual behavior for Frank's mild-mannered mother.
"Hello, Mrs. Hardy," Callie greeted her. She thought about asking whether anything was wrong, but she decided that couldn't be it, as Mrs. Hardy's eyes were practically dancing, although they glistened with some tears as well. They must have been tears of joy, though, for there was nothing sad in the woman's demeanor. Callie felt a sudden stab of hope in her heart, which she forced herself to battle down. It was cruel even to let herself hope something like that. "What is it?"
"I tried to call your house, but your mother said you weren't home. Look at this." Mrs. Hardy handed a sheet of paper to Callie.
Callie immediately recognized the paper as a telegram. It was from the United States Army and was very formal, delivering its news with little emotion. Yet, whatever emotion it lacked was made up for in its reader, though she had to read it three times before she could actually believe what it said: Private Francis Hardy had been found alive and rescued, although he was recovering from a wound, for which reason he would be sent home soon.
"He's…He's not…He's alive?" Callie stammered, still not entirely willing to let herself believe it. "He's alive and he's coming home?"
"Yes!" Laura replied. "I almost thought it was a mistake, but it can't be. That would be too cruel. They couldn't have made another mistake. I don't remember the last time I've felt so happy."
Callie laughed, something she hadn't done in months. Then she grabbed Mrs. Hardy in a hug. "I didn't think anything like this could happen. I didn't even dare to hope it would happen!"
The sun broke out through the clouds for a moment then and Callie felt all the chill of the wind and rain disappear from her. It had happened; in spite of all Callie's certainty of the worse, in spite of everything she thought she had known, Frank was alive and he was coming home.
*The Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton, Book 1, Lines 254-257
**The Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton, Book 1, Lines 258-261
The title of this story is, of course, taken from The Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton, Book 1, Line 261.