Providence and Fortune
Compared to some distances we had to walk, we found it was not far to the shack being used as a hospital, but we did not recognize it at first since it had been added onto and had a very different aspect from the first time we visited.
“Alphonso, would you have recognized this as the place we came to see Hiram?”
He shook his head. “In truth, I would not. It is considerably larger and has a more ominous look to it.”
“That I will warrant you. I believe its size and foreboding aspect are due to increased casualties causes by so much fighting. We make an impress on the places we frequent, and the influence of the blood, suffering and death have become a part of these structures.”
We stood there a while, trying to come to terms with what lay before us. Finally Alphonso said, “We didn’t come just to look. Let us see if our nurse is still here.”
We walked over to a table where a corporal sat as a table. “Papers?” he asked.
Alphonso produced our passes and the man before us examined them carefully, as if we were trying to sneak into the hospital. He gave them back. “These seem to be in order. What is your business here?”
He spoke with a tone that indicated that he did not know what we were about, but whatever it was, he did not like it, and the sooner we were gone, the better.
“We’re looking for a nurse whom we met before named Robbins. Is she still here?”
“I don’t know. I have little to do with what goes on here—” he jerked his thumb in the direction of the interior. “You’ll have to ask in there.” He turned to scrutinizing a list on the table.
“We thank you for your help,” Alphonso said, even though he had been no help at all. He made no reply, but continued to examine his list.
As we went in, I said, “Friendly and helpful sort, wasn’t he?”
“No,” Alphonso said. “But we can never judge what is going on in the interior by looking at the exterior. Now—who do we ask?”
The interior was a bedlam of shouts and cries, of pleas to God and incoherent screaming. “Let’s try to find a part in here that is not so frenzied.”
We went over to one side where relative calm reigned, though just barely. I addressed an orderly. “I am sorry to bother you, but we are looking for a nurse named Robbins.”
He had been bending over a patient, but he raised himself and said, “Are you a relative?”
“No. She took care of our friend. We met her a while back.”
“She’s out back.”
“May we go see her?”
“You can do anything you like with her. She contracted a disease from one of the soldiers and died of it, about a week ago. We buried her with the others in the back.”
Adolphus and I were shocked and said nothing for a while. Then we stirred ourselves. “Let’s go see her grave,” Adolphus said.
“Of course,” I replied.
We made our way our of the building to a nondescript area where fresh burials lay side by side with those that had been there for a while. Most of the bodies whose graves were identified would be exhumed and sent to their home towns, generally, although some were reinterred locally. We looked among the markers and finally found what we were looking for. Someone had crudely scratched on the board, “Amelia Robbins, 1845—1865. Requiescat in pace.”
We took off our hats and stood there for a moment, reflecting. “It’s not much of a marker,” Adolphus said, “but I’m touched by the Latin.”
“It does lessen the crudity of the marker.”
We stayed a few minutes longer and then put our hats back on and started the walk back to our emplacement. We said nothing the whole time.