Obviously, Bennet Edwards had everything going for him. He was a bachelor of thirty-five, tall, broad-shouldered, slim-hipped and strikingly good-looking. Moreover, he was solidly identified with Washington D.C. His newspaper column was syndicated everywhere. And he embraced even greater renown when he became the top Washington commentator on network television.

                        Through some unusual commixture of character and personality, Bennet Edwards seemed saturated with an incredible gift of believability. If he wrote it, or if he said it, it was "gospel".  Either that, or you could fight his legions of followers from Cape Cod to San Diego, or from Seattle to the Florida Keys.

                        According to Time Magazine, Edwards enjoyed a greater readership and television audience than any other newsman in history. Perhaps his long-time newspaper friend, Bob Considine, summed up whatever charismatic persuasion Edwards may have had when he wrote:

                        "This guy is unbelievably believable...."

                        Make no mistake. Bennet Edwards had reached the summit of his chosen world.  But for some strange reason, he never experienced any particular sensations of exhilaration because of his prominence. Nor did he nourish any special feelings of achievement, fulfillment or gratification. Nevertheless, his network knew very well what it had.  It punctuated its airtime with sporadic bursts of advertising, assuring and reassuring the public that Bennet Edwards would be on every Sunday night at Eight.


                        There wasn't a scintilla of pretense in the Edwards make-up and he felt like going off and hiding himself sometimes when the network over-did itself with its Madison Avenue spasms.   He heard himself called not only "The Voice of America", but its "Conscience" as well.  He hated it, and he wearied of run-ins with the executives who ran the show.

                        On television Bennet had an easy, unaffected delivery that never rose above conversational range, or leaped into angry diatribes.  He unearthed many a deserving scoundrel in moments of spade-calling, offered predictions which seemed magically accurate in after-evaluation, and he interspersed his airtime with spontaneous jets of humor.

                        Hard work was the all-consuming obsession of his life. He dug for facts with a fierce fury that almost seemed maniacal. And when he excavated the truth, he was like a man who had struck purest gold.

                        He had been born and raised in the Nation's Capital. The whole of his life, he often said, was right there in that great white city on the banks of the eternal Potomac.  He was part of the place and, he liked to think that a little bit of Washington had become part of him.

                        On the outside, at least, everything was nearly perfect for Bennet Edwards.  Most of the people he worked with liked him. He knew everyone of any prominence in Washington and many of them were his friends.  He was a gregarious spirit whose boundless energies often propelled him to the town's parties and social functions. He genuinely liked people.  And he especially liked girls of all ages.

                        Of the latter group, all of them of all ages seemed to like him. He had been romantically linked with many women, but he managed to avoid becoming too involved with any of them. He always found it discreet to sever potentially serious relationships as gracefully as possible.

                        Ostensibly, at least, he was a pleasant individual with an engaging personality.  And as such, he was much sought-after, not only by the many who wanted to use him, but by those who genuinely liked him.  Yet, none of them, men or women, really knew Bennet Edwards.  None, except for one individual named Walter Hyde. And Hyde knew all there was to know about him.

                        Walter Hyde was Ben's only real friend.  Through boyhood and young manhood they had been the very closest of pals. They were destined to become more inseparable than any two brothers ever have been.

                        Only Hyde knew the dark and bitter side of Ben's life that was totally unknown to all others.  None, except Hyde, even suspected Bennet Edwards was the victim of a very real and horrible grief that had grown into mental illness.  Only Hyde knew of Ben's torment and despair, his utter loneliness, even among crowds where he masqueraded as a zestful and carefree soul. Walter Hyde had become Washington's leading psychiatrist and he had seen many sick people, but Ben's case worried and upset him because he knew of the burnt-in truth that seared Ben's soul. It was the one completely implacable phase of Ben's private life he could never erase or cope with.

                        Alone at night in his Mayflower Hotel apartment, Bennet Edwards suffered increasingly recurrent spells of unspeakably dreadful brooding. Night after night they returned like some merciless and forever-haunting spirit.  A full panoramic chapter of his past unspooled in his mind, as vividly as if it were happening all over again.  So much so, that it was all happening right now, very much in the present.  He was cruelly torn between insane reason of his own making and reality.

                        It invariably happened when Ben dozed off to sleep at night.  He had dreams that were alternately blissful and viciously real and troubled.  He would awaken in a cold sweat and struggle out of bed.  He would glance at the clock on the night table and he would get up quickly, trying to quell the spasmodic shakes which tore at his body.  In an attempt to drive himself back to sane reason he would look out of the window and stare down at De Salles Street in the waning blackness.  It always seemed so still, so bleak and forbidding to him.  The lamppost across the street stood there like a forsaken sentinel in the early morning quiet.

                        When Ben Edward's torment became intolerable, he would go back to the night table and grab the telephone as if he sought to strangle it.  It made no difference if it was four o'clock in the morning.  He would put through an emergency call to Dr. Walter Hyde nevertheless.

                        "Walt - It's Ben!"

                        "I know, Ben -- I know. You've been dreaming about Cynthia again!"

                        With that, Hyde would end up driving all the way down from his home on Cathedral Avenue to the Mayflower.

                        This particular morning when Hyde arrived at his life-long friends apartment, he was almost as upset as was Ben. Usually meticulously neat, Hyde's pajama collar was conspicuous at the "V" of his top coat.  A couple of large buttons of the well-slept-in pajamas peered out like headlights.  He had hastily pulled on his trousers over his night slippers.  He was sockless and as dishelved as a man who had suddenly fled a fire in a panic.

                        "All right, what's it this time, Ben?" Hyde demanded as he burst through the door.  "You did dream of Cy again, didn't you?"

                        "Yeah, --- this was the worst! So vivid and real! I woke up in a cold, dripping sweat -- and I was shaking all over -- and even when I managed to get up out of the bed, she was still here -- sitting right here on the side of the bed!"

                        "Oh, for Christ's sake!" ranted Hyde. "Can't you get it through your skull that Cy is dead?  Gone forever!  Why don't you let the poor girl rest in peace?"

                        "But if we had lived together day in and day out -- if I could have kept her from working -- it could have been different," said Ben. "Maybe she would still be alive and happy with me!"

                        "You've got to stop that crap!  We've gone over it time and again.  Cynthia died of septecemia and endocarditus.  Only a qualified medical man could have called the shot on that one.  You told me yourself she never complained of any feelings of illness or weakness."

                        "Regardless, I might have been helpful had I been with her constantly," Ben interjected stubbornly.

                        "I'll be goddamned if I don't think I'm getting as nuts as you are," Hyde said.  "You and Cynthia were together a helluva long time... But the hell with all this!  Next time, why don't you call the hotel doctor.  I'm sicka this shit!"

                        "I'm very sorry Walt," cried Ben.  I called you because you know all about it -- and I don't want anyone else to know -- I know it's an imposition."

                        It was daylight.  The light across De Salles Street had been extinguished, and the first sounds of a busying morning were alive again.

                        "Close the drapes and get some shuteye," Hyde was saying, "I'll phone you later."

                        Ben grasped Hyde's hand. "Thanks awfully Walt. I mean it," he said.

                        Hyde smiled, closed the collar of his top-coat snugly at his neck and gave Ben's chin a playful hand-push as he left.


                         Bennet Edwards was well-equipped.  His yellow Cadillac convertible in the Mayflower garage had a phone and a teletype machine in it.  When he was a kid he always hoped that one day he would own a Rolls Royce, but now when he could buy them by the dozens, he thought a Rolls would be a bit too much for other people to take.  But he didn't want to go the other way either, like Howard Hughes who Ben had known many years before. Several times Hughes met Ben at odd hours on deserted side-streets. And how did Mr. Hughes always arrive?  Dirty old Chevrolets that were about to fall apart.

                        As a rule Hughes shunned the press, but he was interested in Ben's connections in Washington.  An eccentric portrayal by the media hadn't helped Hughes in the nation's capitol, and his political relations were becoming shaky, especially since the senate subcommittee's investigations of wartime aviation contracts.

                        It was said that Hughes' money had often influenced some Washington official or Air Force general, and Ben knew that certainly some of his colleagues were prone to provide the public with "news" that might have otherwise gone unreported but for "gifts" from Howard.

                        Ben knew he could never allow himself to be bought. Nevertheless, Hughes was news, and so Ben was to meet with him often.

                        Once, Howard, shabbily dressed all the way down to his old blue tennis shoes, had taken Ben to a very fine restaurant with a very beautiful girl.  Howard walked behind Ben and the girl, who happened to be Cyd Charisse, a lovely dancer and movie actress, making it appear that Ben was her escort. Howard was given a big deal by the maitre d', nevertheless, in his tennis shoes, bummy clothes and all.  Moreover, he made Ben sit next to Cyd and Howard sat next to Ben on the outside.  Ben thought then, that any man in the world would be eager to be with a knockout like Cyd Charisse, much less sit next to her.  Certainly Ben was pleased to have her for company, but evidently not Howard, whose manners that night matched his clothes.


                         Ben had been hard at work in his office for a few hours when Dr. Hyde called.

                        "Ben" said Hyde. "I want you to meet me in my office at the Medical Center right away."

                        "What for?" asked Ben suspiciously

                        "Never mind," said Hyde. "Just get a cab and come on over."

                        Ben arrived in fifteen minutes and somewhat reluctantly walked into Hyde's front office.  He found the doctor sitting on one of the outer-room sofas and fingering through a collection of papers.

                        "Hello, Ben," he said without bothering to get up. "Sit down and lets talk."

                        He held up the papers and explained:                "These are the notes I took at the psychiatric seminar at the University of Stockholm.  I didn't have them with me when I attempted to talk to talk to you about them.  You absolutely refused to listen and brushed it off as a lot of nonsense. After last night, I want you to at least give me the courtesy of listening...This Cynthia thing has rapidly become a serious mental disease with you.  If you don't do something about it now, it can only get worse."

                        Ben remained silent and listened.

                        "You told me of a sexual experience you had," Hyde went on.  "You said you had closed your eyes and psyched yourself into believing that the girl in bed with you was Cynthia.  Remember telling me how you enjoyed it?  Well, in Stockholm, Robert Wallace, a London psychiatrist, delivered a paper on this very subject.  I'm going to give it to you along with the other papers.  Wallace called it a sexual identity delusion or fantasy. He said that if wives and husbands knew what their spouses were thinking about during the sex act, there would be millions more divorces every year.  The wives think of handsome movie actors, or the good looking guy next door.  And their husband's mind travels the same course.  They think of a sexy movie queen with big breasts, or some looker at the office...Tell me--- doesn't this tell you something, Ben?"

                        "I'm having trouble relating to all of this, Walter."

                        "That's just it!" exclaimed Hyde. "Your situation is different.  Your delusions are born of pain and grief and Cynthia is dead, Ben.  After all these years you've got to get over her.   You must respect her memory."            

                        Hyde gave Ben his collection of papers and warned:

                        "You won't like everything you read in here. Some of them hit pretty close to home.  For instance, a well known New York psychiatrist cites a case where a wife died and the husband remarried.  When he was having intercourse with his new wife, the man thought only of the one who had died.  The doctor cites the case as a preliminary form of necrophilia.  I don't say that's happened to you yet, but you are getting damned close to it."

                        "A necrophile is someone who gets pleasure out of touching a dead body, said Ben. "I'm not like that, I don't touch anyone!"

                        "You do in your mind!" exclaimed Hyde.  "About your... dream last night -- were you having sex with Cynthia?"


                        "Did you reach a climax again?"

                        "Yes, yes, -- but this time when we finished and I woke up -- she didn't disappear -- I sat up in bed, and she was still there, looking up at me, smiling at me.  I told myself she wasn't real but I reached out and I touched her.  She said my name, -- I couldn't stop shaking --I was shaking like hell and I was soaking wet!"

                        "Then what did you do, Ben?"

                        "I went to the other room and took a shower -- but I still couldn't make myself believe that Cynthia wasn't there. It was too real, too vivid.  I could feel the warmth of her breath -- and I could smell the wonderful fragrance of her."

                        "Ben, you once told me that you went to bed hoping that you'd dream of Cynthia.  Does that still hold true?"

                        "I guess it does."

                        "But Ben, goddamit you promised to turn your thoughts to other things -- your show, people you've got to meet and interview.  Think about anything but Cynthia.  You gave me your word you would!"

                        "I know I did...  But I couldn't do it."

                        "Then you simply take pleasure in thinking about Cynthia when you're in bed," said Hyde probing deeper, "And what you're actually hoping for is sexual gratification."

                        "Listen, Walt," said Ben, disapprovingly.  "You're talking cheap.  We had a wonderful relationship together, Cynthia and I..."

                        "YOU are the one who's out of line here!  You're talking completely in the past tense!  This is the present, and she doesn't belong to any part of it -- not the way you're thinking.  It's abnormal, Ben -- a sexual aberration!"

                        "Then each unto his own," said Ben.  It's my life to do with as I wish."


                        Ben briskly  walked straight down I Street to the Mayflower. Inside the elevator, he ascended to his floor, silently cursing himself for rejecting his good friend's help.  Psychiatry was a medical failure as far as he was concerned.  But he knew that Walt had been right.  If he were to retain his sanity, he would have to keep his promise and make an effort to think of anything else but Cynthia.

                        But that would be so hard for him to do amidst the painfully familiar surroundings of the Mayflower, where they had shared so many happy moments.  He could remember kissing her, there in that same elevator, and how she always wanted him to wait until they got upstairs.  It was as if the scent of her perfume still lingered in the air.  And as the elevator ascended, Ben's apprehension increased... He wondered how long it would be before she would come again.  And then suddenly, in an instant, she was standing right there, next to him.

                        "My God...", he was muttering. "You look lovely tonight..."

                        "What did you say, Mr. Edwards?"  asked the elevator operator, turning his head as they reached Ben's floor.

                        "Nothing, really...," said Ben.  He managed a somewhat startled smile at the operator and added:

                        "Good night, Dan."

                        "Good night,... Mr. Edwards."


                        The night was so quiet that it seemed to be early Sunday morning.  But actually it was only ten thirty.  Downstairs, Sydney's Mayflower orchestra could be heard throughout the long lobby.  But the hotel was so well insulated that the music could hardly be heard on the second floor, and Ben was on the eighth.

                        As usual when he was alone in his apartment, Ben started to think about Cynthia.  But he also remembered his promise to Walt, so he busied himself with other things.  He studied through a neat pile of notes and copy that his pretty secretary Elizabeth had put on his desk.  Some he would save for his show, and others for his radio broadcast.

                        He was appalled by how many words he was going to have to write for his actual twenty minutes on the air.  But he knew he would find something interesting to say, and if it was newsy and important, so much the better.

                        Finally, something caught his eye; a couple of brief lines about the passing of the last survivor of the Civil War. This, was something he could develop for his Sunday night broadcast.

                        He turned his attention to his library and began to search for additional facts, occasionally consulting the reference books and the huge leather bound dictionary on the wrought-iron stand that William Randolph Hearst had left to him.

                        It was well past midnight, when a sigh, soft, yet very distinct, startled Ben from his work.  He had been distracted earlier by a fleeting thought of her, and though he forced himself to concentrate even harder upon his writing, he seemed to  have felt something invisible pass lightly behind him.

                        Now, as he began to type his story, he could clearly discern the shadow of her slanting across his desk.  But he refused to acknowledge her presence.  Although it seemed very cruel to him, he continued working.  He didn't dare look up, and he finally succeeded in shutting her out completely.  She became the furthest thing from his mind.  For he was somewhere else, in a place where she couldn't reach him, -- on the bank of the Potomac River, amidst the campfires and tents of the Union Army,  as his fingers typed the words for Sunday evening's commentary...


                        This is sort of a personal little something I'd like to say following the death of Albert Woolson, last survivor of the Union Army.

                        Of course, I never knew Woolson, but I knew many veterans like him, and his passing evokes nostalgic recollections of a vibrantly vivid and exciting boyhood memory of Washington D.C.

                        I saw the last parade of the Grand Army of the Republic as 70,000 Union veterans marched down history laden Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House. Those who couldn't march rode in open cars or buses. Many who did march died of exertion and the strain of that long, warm day.

                        The date was May 23, 1920. It had to be, because it was the 55th anniversary of the Grand Review of 1865. An enfeebled Woodrow Wilson was spending his ailing days in the White House.

                        I was spellbound as I saw the many shredded, ragged, stained and faded battle flags fluttering on parade for  the last time.

                        The old veterans seemed reborn again and most of them were robust and vigorous as they marched proudly down this same great avenue they had trod 55 years before.

                        I remember them coming back to the scene of their final triumph as if straight out of a dream. Most of them wore the same blue uniforms they wore when they were mustered out. The once deep blue had deteriorated into a dirty green. But their brass buttons were polished and gleaming as if new.

                        Every hotel was sold out. Officials of the G.A.R. enlisted the aid of Boy Scouts to guide the incoming veterans to numerous listed boarding houses. Washingtonians opened their homes to the old boys in blue.

                        When housing facilities were no longer available, hundreds of tents were pitched in the city's many parks. And if you were a kid, as I, and other kids of the neighborhood, you lived the Civil war and almost felt you were a part of it -- that every thing was happening now! Not 55 years before.

                        My crowd stole off in the dusk of the evening and stayed out long after curfew, just to be near the huddled groups of old heroes as they gathered around campfires in the cool of the night. It seemed the tented city had reincarnated everything. The extravagant imagination of adolescence made us believe we were bivouacked with the Army of the Potomac, with the Confederates lurking behind breastworks only a short distance away.

                        These mellow warriors were good to the youngsters. They showed us their sabers and old muskets and bayonets that many of them had preserved through the years. Each had a chapter of history all his own, and the telling created a chain reaction as memories worked their ways around the circle.

                        Everything seemed as if it had happened only yesterday to these old gentlemen, and no doubt it was only yesterday to them. They boiled bitter black coffee over the open fire and drank it out of tin cups.

                        As they wandered from tent to tent they asked: "What regiment?", and you'd hear proud replies of "Massachusetts", Minnesota", "Illinois", "Ohio", or maybe "Michigan" or "Indiana" or "Pennsylvania".

                        They talked of the Grand Review of '65, and how 400,000 men marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, then a broad dirt street, in a parade that required two days and nights.

                        They recalled the dashing figure of 23-year-old General George Armstrong Custer who was the hit of the show in '65, and of how his long, reddish blond hair fell all the way down to his shoulders, and of how he wore a brilliant red coat with the buckskin breeches of a scout. Custer, a great horseman, dashed up and down the line of march astride a spirited steed, they said, and cut quite a figure with the ladies.

                        Every great general was in that grand Review except Phil Sheridan who had been sent on emergency duty at the Rio

Grande. They easily called off the names of all from Grant to Meade, Slocum, Hooker, Sherman, Howard, McClellan, Pope, Schurz, McDowell, Logan, Halleck, Burnside and even 80 year old Winfield Scott veteran of the War of 1812.

                        I remember the old boys taking sightseeing buses across still-standing Long Bridge, the vital Civil War link between Washington and Virginia, just to visit their old battlegrounds on the yonder side of the Potomac; Bull Run, Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Aquia Creek and all the rest.

                        It is saddening, sobering and jolting to the sensibilities to think back and remember I saw 70,000 Union veterans gay, happy, proud and parading; and now there are none.  Gone, vanished as if they never existed.


                        When Ben awakened the next morning he was somewhat refreshed.  He shaved and got into the shower, when he suddenly realized that he hadn't been with Cynthia --- even in his dreams.  Walter Hyde's advice had worked!  The night before he had thought of everything, except her.  He didn't see her, and now in the light of morning he was saddened.

                        Oh, Walter Hyde had a great name in Washington as a leading psychiatrist, but deep down inside Ben knew he had made a promise to him he could never, ever keep.