Chapter Twenty-Two – Scutari, Turkey
Moria didn’t see Miss Nightingale again until the end of September.
Russia invaded Turkey. England and France countered the attack. Thus began the Crimean War. In time, Austria and Prussia joined the action.
The Battle of Alma was followed by the Siege of Sevastopol, which lasted almost a year.
Miss Nightingale decided she couldn’t stand by. She knew soldiers were dying, not only of war wounds, but of the horrible—preventable—diseases running rampant in the hospitals. She offered her services to the government but, because of the resistance to women in medicine, her friend, Sidney Herbert, the Secretary of War, suggested she go to the front on her own. She received permission to take a group of thirty-eight nurses to Turkey.
She was ready.
Moria informed Mother Bertrice October eighteenth would be her last day. “Young lady, I knew you’d be leaving us because Miss Nightingale informed me she was taking you with her to Turkey. We, of course, will miss you very much. You’ve made a tremendous difference here, and the staff admires you greatly,” she paused, “and we know Doctor Hensley thinks a great deal of you as well.” She winked.
“Mother Bertrice, Thank you for allowing me to work here these months, and for assigning me to Doctor Hensley. What I’ve learned from him is immeasurable.”
“You’re welcome, I’m sure. He’s an excellent doctor and teacher. We’re quite fortunate to have him here. Moria, dear, I’d love to hear from you as time allows.”
“Of course.” Moria hugged the older woman and left the room.
In Doctor Hensley’s examining area, she waited until there was a lull in the number of patients outside the room before telling him.
At the news, he angered. He nearly shouted, “No, you can’t go.”
The intensity of his words surprised her. “You’ve known all along my presence here was temporary. You knew I’d be leaving with Miss Nightingale when the time came.”
“Yes, I know, but …”
“This is difficult for me, as well. I’ve admired you from the start, and I value our friendship more than you know.”
“Will we see each other before you leave?”
“Other than here, I don’t think so. I’ve a great deal to do before we leave London.”
“I understand.” Doctor Hensley was inconsolable. She thought he might cry, and perhaps he did. He rushed from the room, leaving her to tend to the patients on her own for the rest of the night.
When he left Moria in the examining area, Doctor Hensley sought out Miss Nightingale at her home.
When she served him tea, he blurted out, “Take me with you.”
“Take me with you. I want to go as part of your group.”
“Doctor Hensley. I cannot take you as part of a group composed mostly of nuns. Mister and Misses Bracebridge are accompanying me, but you, sir, are a young, single man. It would be quite improper. Why do you want to go now? You’ve known about this for some time.”
“Moria told me today she’s leaving the hospital in a few days.”
“You knew she’d be leaving.”
“Yes, but when she told me, the reality of it hit me. I can’t bear the idea of separation from her. She’ll be in a war zone, for heaven’s sake.”
“And, she’ll be fine. We’ll be in a hospital in Scutari, far from the actual fighting.”
Looking into his teacup, he said, almost in a whisper, “I love her.”
Miss Nightingale’s face softened. “I know you do.” It was quite clear to everyone who knew them, except, perhaps, Moria. She paused as she considered what to do. After a moment, she said, “What I can try to do is clear the way for you to go on your own.”
Doctor Hensley looked up, hope in his eyes.
“Now, I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to do it, but I’ll try. There isn’t much time now to accomplish what often takes months. Plus, you’ll have to make your own travel arrangements and find a place to live while you’re there.”
“Oh, thank you, Miss Nightingale.”
“Heaven knows we can use your skill in Scutari.”
When her assignment at the hospital was complete, Moria went home to New Hampshire for a brief visit. She’d visited her family twice since leaving them in May, and had let them know about the work she was doing, and her friendship with Doctor Hensley.
This trip was much more difficult. This time, she’d be telling her parents she was leaving London in a few days for Turkey, and wasn’t sure when she’d be able to get home again.
Moria was excited about the trip, but she knew her parents were still concerned for her safety, even knowing she could time travel. She understood their worries. She’d be in a war zone and people tend to get hurt, or worse, in such places. Still, in terms of her career, she saw this as an opportunity she couldn’t dismiss. With the experience she’d gained at the hospital, and would gain at Scutari, the medical schools would have little choice but to take notice and give her a chance.
“This’ll be my last trip home for a while. We’ll be leaving for Turkey soon—thirty-eight nurses, including Miss Nightingale and me. I have no idea when I’ll get home again.”
Janelle reached for Richard’s hand as the color drained from her face. “Now, now, my dear. We’ve talked about this. Moria doesn’t see this the way we do. To her, this is a means to an end. We have to trust Miss Nightingale wouldn’t take this group into harm’s way.”
“I know, and I agree. In terms of her career, Moria must follow through, but we spent so many years fearing this …”
“Mother, I’ll be fine. As soon as it’s over and we can leave, I’ll come home. I promise.”
Janelle took a deep breath. Richard asked about Doctor Hensley.
“He’s fine. He’s upset about me leaving the hospital; although he knew from the day I started, this could be the result. I worked with him for almost five months, gaining invaluable experience. We saw each other socially as time allowed, but I made it clear to him from the beginning there can be no relationship, at least until I’ve established a practice, and maybe not even then. He was quite upset when I told him I was leaving.”
“I’m sure he was.” Richard chuckled.
Reading between the lines, are you? “He’ll be fine, Father. I’m sure he’ll forget about me in no time.
Moria said good-bye to her family, hugging each one in turn, then returned to London. In bed that night, her cavalier statement about Doctor Hensley forgetting about her in no time floated into her mind. She tossed and turned as she recalled the time they’d spent together outside the hospital in the past months and realized she wouldn’t soon forget about him. Would he forget about her? For some strange reason, she hoped he wouldn’t.
We left London on the afternoon tide on October 21st, thirty-eight nurses, including Moria Grayson and myself, for the Crimea, bound for the old Barrack Hospital at Scutari. The nurses were mostly nuns, and few had any training.
The Battle of Balaclava took place, on October 25th.
We arrived in Turkey on November 4th, the eve of the Battle of Inkerman.
My official title is, Superintendent of the Female Nursing Establishment of the English General Hospital in Turkey, or The Lady-in-Chief for short. I’d arranged to rent a house nearby, while the nurses took up residence in a dormitory at the hospital.
When we toured the building before taking up our duties, we found the conditions to be daunting. The building was old, dirty, and ill kept. As I knew from other establishments I’d visited over the years, the Barrack Hospital was doing more harm than good. Diseases, including typhus, dysentery, typhoid, tuberculosis, cholera, malaria, and other contagious maladies were rampant. The statistics regarding the care provided at Scutari were abysmal. Infections and contagions killed scores of the wounded soldiers, many of whom were still in their filthy uniforms, unwashed, cold, and hungry. In one of numerous cholera epidemics, over half of the patients there died.
From a ship’s captain, I heard that vessels used to transport the wounded from the front lines to the hospital were death ships. One ship lost over a third of its patients during one trip.
Those in charge gave me little assistance—in fact, they resisted my intervention actively, in spite of the good work the nurses were doing. They made me feel unwelcome, and said my work reflected on them and their ability to run the hospital. Still, even without their assistance, I worked to lower the death rates and saw remarkable success. My friends in England helped me with the task of developing the plans for the care of the wounded after the Battle of Inkerman.
I had to be everywhere at once, overseeing countless changes to the processes in the hospital. After reports of some unforgivable actions by the orderlies against the nurses, I had to restrict the ladies from being in the wards after eight o’clock in the evening. I alone roamed the wards at night, moving from bed to bed, carrying my lamp. The wounded I visited started to refer to me as ‘The Lady of the Lamp’.
The first order of business, of course, was for the nurses to scrub the wards from top to bottom. By the end of 1854, the hospital was in much better condition, but the death rate was still too high. Help, financial and other, from Britain made things easier. Soon, forty-six more nurses arrived to help.
The ship carrying Doctor Simon Hensley arrived. His first order of business was to find the house he’d rented. Through friends in London, he’d found an English merchant who maintained a home near the docks, but was only in Turkey at odd intervals. Leaving his belongings in his house, Doctor Hensley walked to the sprawling hospital, wondering if he’d ever find Moria in this large complex.
He reported to Doctor Duncan Menzies, the Chief Medical Officer, and received instructions to report to the second floor where most of the new arrivals triaged. Relieved, he was glad his duties here would be similar to those at the hospital in London. Now, if he could find Moria, he’d be happy.
On the second floor, he located the triage area. In the large area outside the examining rooms, dozens of men lay bleeding, or sat, eyes dulled with pain, waiting.
Finding an empty room, he emptied his valise onto the table, arranged his personal tools into trays, and covered them with towels. After putting on his apron, he was ready.
Outside his room, he selected his first patient.
Many hours later, Doctor Hensley and the other doctors had seen all of the wounded. On this day, most of the wounds were not serious so they’d worked their way through the patients without incident.
Doctor Hensley asked one of the other doctors where the kitchen was so he could boil his instruments. The man laughed at him and walked away. He asked a second and a third doctor, with similar results. The fourth doctor asked him why he wanted to boil his instruments. When he explained, the doctor told him he was crazy, but gave him directions to the kitchen.
With care, he lined his valise with clean towels, then took all of the instruments—his own and whatever he found in his examining room—and spent the next hour boiling all of them. Lining his valise with more clean towels, he returned to his examining room, and discovered he was alone in the area.
After putting his instruments into trays and covering them, he turned to leave. It was dark outside, and it was dark inside the cavernous building, except for a small point of light far down the ward, which he noted was moving.
Curious, he walked down the length of the room and discovered Miss Nightingale, moving from bed to bed, checking the condition of each patient, and speaking for a moment with those who were awake.
When she saw him, she smiled. Whispering, she welcomed him to Scutari. They spoke of his first day, then he asked if she knew where he might find Moria.
“Sleeping, no doubt, as you should be. She’ll be here in the morning. She and several other nurses are scrubbing and preparing an unused section of this floor to make room for new arrivals.” She pointed into the darkness over her shoulder.
“Then I bid you good night. I’ll find her in the morning.” As he started to move away, he added, “Somehow, I need to convince Doctor Menzies to allow her to work as my assistant.”
“The nurses assignments are my decision, Doctor Hensley.” She smiled. “Moria and the other nurses must finish the preparations soon, so she’ll stay with the others for now, but as soon as the area is ready for patients, she can work with you, if she so desires. It will give me a day or two to make sure Doctor Menzies understands you and Moria are a team. Once I’m certain Doctor Menzies will allow her to be your assistant, I’ll tell her you’re here.”
“Thank you so much. I bid you good night.”
On her way to the hospital director’s office three days later, near the end of the day, Moria walked by the admissions examining rooms. She noticed that all the doctors were gone for the day except one. Suddenly, she skidded to a stop, and backed up. There, in one of the examining rooms, gathering his instruments into his battered valise, was Doctor Hensley. He had his back to her, but she was sure it was him.
She couldn’t believe her eyes. What was he doing here? Quickly, she turned to leave, hoping he wouldn’t see her, but was mortified when he turned around before she could get out of his range of vision.
Their eyes met and held. The muscles in his hands couldn’t hold the instruments, which clattered to the floor. The paperwork she was supposed to be delivering to Doctor Menzies fluttered out of her hands.
“Moria,” he breathed, wetting his lips. “How are you, my dear?”
She ignored his question. Instead, she quickly entered his room, bent down, and started collecting the instruments. “You followed me here. Why?”
Rooted to the floor, he said, “I had to. I couldn’t bear being without you.”
“I know. It doesn’t matter. I’m here to help take care of the soldiers and need you to be my assistant. Can I assume you’re willing?”
“This isn’t wise.”
“But you’re here … now.”
“True, but I didn’t know you were, and you shouldn’t be. What about the patients at the hospital?”
“They’ll be fine. My brother and a friend of mine have agreed to take over my duties there until I return to London.”
“You still shouldn’t be here.”
Moria said nothing. Her heart was pounding in her ears, her breathing was rapid and shallow. She felt weak, like she might faint. Dropping the instruments she’d been gathering, she turned and ran. Doctor Hensley chased after her. Avoiding patient areas, she ran through the building and out into the setting sun. At the water’s edge, she leaned against a scraggly hornbeam tree, panting. After a few minutes, she straightened and turned.
He was standing there, ten feet away, unmoving, his face unreadable.
She looked around but there was no escape. She turned again and stood, looking out over the water.
“What?” she snapped.
“What’s wrong? Did I say something? Or do something?”
“No, it’s not you … yes, it is you … no, it’s me.” She stomped her foot on the stones. “I’m so confused.” A wisp of her hair blew into her face. She shoved it aside angrily.
Doctor Hensley chuckled.
Without warning, Moria spun around and started walking. As she was about to pass him, she hissed, “I cannot be your assistant. Go back to London and forget about me.” She ran back to the hospital, and Doctor Hensley again followed her, but she fled into the safety of the nurse’s dormitory. Falling face first onto her bed, she cried, frustrated and confused. Still crying, she fell asleep, exhausted.
Doctor Hensley stood outside the door for a long moment, hearing her crying, then walked away. He returned to his examining room, gathered his instruments, and made his way to the kitchen. As he watched the churning water, he became aware of a presence in the room. Without turning around, he called out, “Moria?”
“Nay, Doctor Hensley.”
“Ah. Miss Nightingale. What brings you down to the kitchen?”
“You, sir.” Miss Nightingale peered into the large kettle and watched the boiling water for a moment.
“Indeed. First, I hadn’t had a chance to talk with Moria before she stumbled onto your presence here. I must apologize. For what it’s worth, Doctor Menzies approved Moria as your assistant. Second, I have a communique going to London tomorrow and wondered if you wanted me to put the wheels in motion for your return there.”
“Apology accepted, and I’m pleased we have Doctor Menzies approval. But, return to London? Why would I?”
“You came here to be near Moria, yet she seems to be, shall we say, less than interested in you being here. In fact, she seems quite distressed. Did you have a lover’s spat?”
Doctor Hensley was silent for several seconds as he carefully stirred the instruments. “Lover’s spat? Indeed not.”
Miss Nightingale raised an eyebrow. “So, what did I happen to witness at water’s edge a little while ago?”
Doctor Hensley drew a deep breath. “Ah. So, I’m forced to admit my reception here was not at all what I anticipated, but we didn’t have a lover’s spat.” Lowering his voice so he was speaking to himself, “It was more like rejection.”
“Excuse me?” Miss Nightingale had wandered a ways off, inspecting the cleanliness of the kitchen as they talked.
“I’m confused, ma’am. In London, Moria and I were friends. We worked together well at the hospital and saw each other from time to time for a ride or a social event. Here, her last words to me were, ‘I cannot be your assistant. Go back to London and forget about me.’ Only one other time was she so blunt with me.”
“And when was that?”
“The first time I asked her if she’d ride with me.”
“Hmm. I see.” Miss Nightingale paused, her expression pensive, then said, “Your arrival here, no doubt, took her quite by surprise, so why don’t we give her some time. She may be an old soul, but she’s still a young lady in a group of women who are all older than she is, some by quite a bit. In time, she may welcome the companionship of someone closer to her own age.”
Doctor Hensley sighed. “In answer to your question, Miss Nightingale, I have no intention of returning to London. I came here first and foremost to treat the sick and wounded. I’m not here to woo Moria, only to be near her.” His heart hardened. “She was quite clear her career comes first, as it should.”
Miss Nightingale’s eyebrows lifted a tad. “I see. Then I’ll leave you to your duties.”
“Good night, Miss Nightingale.” Doctor Hensley turned back to the kettle.
Moria awoke with a start and sat up, her heart pounding. Panting, she realized she’d been dreaming. Doctor Hensley was chasing her; she was running as fast as she could, but the distance between them was closing.
The memory of the events leading up to the confrontation at the water’s edge, her flight back to the building, followed by the disturbing dream, confused her to the point of distraction. When she saw him in his examining room earlier, she’d wanted to tell him she’d missed him. Yet, for some reason, being near him frightened her. She had to stay focused on her goal, but it was becoming increasingly more difficult. She wanted to tell him she ….
She slammed her fist into the mattress—she couldn’t even say it to herself.
She needed to talk to her mother but she couldn’t get away.
Lost in thought, she hadn’t heard Miss Nightingale come into the dormitory.
“Moria, I thought you might want to talk about Doctor Hensley for a moment. I visited him in the kitchen a few minutes ago. He’s quite confused by your reception.”
So, the problem isn’t going away any time soon. “Why is he here?”
“He told me he’s here to treat the sick and wounded. However, there are dozens of places around the world where his skills would be welcome, including staying at the hospital in London. I think he’s here because of you, and I suspect you know it as well.”
“I do. I’ve told him it will be many years, if ever, before a relationship with any man, including him, will be possible.”
“I gathered from his comments you’d put limits on your relationship some time ago, and I understand you feeling the need to do so, but he’s not ‘any man’. He’s a doctor and understands your career considerations.”
Moria rose, and walked past several empty beds to the window. Looking out into the darkness through the dirty glass, she reminded herself yet again the threat men were to her future. She had to keep men at arm’s length until her future was secure, and even then ….
Moria sensed Miss Nightingale’s close proximity. She heard her mentor’s soft admonition, “You need to get some sleep, dear.”
“Yes, of course.”
Miss Nightingale retreated, leaving Moria alone with her thoughts.
Because their duties kept them busy, Moria and Doctor Hensley didn’t see each other often. The first time she saw him approaching, crossing paths in the corridor, he nodded, acknowledging her. “Miss Grayson,” he said, without slowing. Moria, stunned, wondered about his demeanor, but didn’t have time to consider it.
It took a second chance meeting with the same ‘Miss Grayson’ to cause her to wonder why he’d been so formal, so cool. Maybe he’s realized we can’t have a relationship right now. Satisfied with her explanation to herself, she went about her duties.
That night, Moria had trouble getting to sleep. The next night was the same—and the next. Sleep had never been a problem before, but now, it was elusive. After several nights of tossing and turning, spending long, futile hours in bed with no real rest, she decided to break the rules. In the middle of the night, she started roaming the wards. She never approached a patient, only observing them from the aisle. She wasn’t sure what she’d do if she saw one in trouble, but she couldn’t lie there in bed, staring at nothing in the darkness above her.
During the second night of her clandestine ventures, she came to the end of the ward and saw an empty bed there. Then, it hit her. She knew what she’d do. She’d thought of this the night she learned she could time travel, but had dismissed the idea. Now, here it was: the solution to her sleeplessness that might save a life or two in the process. In a matter of minutes, she’d quietly prepared the area for a patient.
Seconds later, she was in the woods at the edge of the battlefield. In her mind, she went over again the criteria necessary for her choice of the soldier she would save this night. The wounds couldn’t be serious enough to require immediate assistance at the hospital … it had to be something she, alone, could handle. And, he had to be unconscious so he wouldn’t see her. He had to be small in stature so she could handle him alone, and he had to be near the edge of the battlefield so she wouldn’t be seen, at least not until she could procure dark clothing for herself. Her uniform seemed to glow in the never-ending darkness.
Nearby, she heard a slight groan. Gathering her skirts up around her waist, she crouched low to the ground, and followed the sound. A young man lay in the dirt. He was bleeding from a leg wound and from a cut over his left eye. That was the extent of his injuries. Touching him lightly, she transported them both to the ward, to the bed she’d prepared.
She hastened to remove his clothing and put a nightshirt on him. In the dim light, she cleaned and bandaged the cut near his eye. As with most head wounds, it had bled copiously, which required washing his head and his left shoulder, but wasn’t serious. She examined the leg wound, and saw there was an entrance and exit wound. A bayonet might have caused it, or perhaps a shot at close range, and the bullet went clean through. She cleaned and bandaged the wounds.
She spent a few minutes filling out the patient’s chart with the medical information. She didn’t have his name, but it wasn’t unusual when a patient arrived unconscious. The first nurse or doctor to see him after he awoke would fill in the missing information.
After checking to make sure the bandages were secure and the patient was comfortable and resting, she hung the chart on the foot of the bed. She picked up the uniform she’d cut off him, plus other refuse for disposal, and then made her way to the nurse’s dormitory where she fell asleep in a matter of minutes.
This became a nightly task for Moria. As soon as the other nurses were asleep, she rose and left the room. She’d then locate an empty bed, and prepare it for a new patient. Next, she’d select a soldier and bring him to the hospital, tend to him, and then seek her bed.
Moria wondered if her nocturnal missions were causing a stir. She noticed there was some consternation among the nurses but, since they couldn’t know if a doctor had moved a patient from elsewhere in the building, or if there was some other logical explanation, and patients were patients. They took care of her rescued soldiers with little more than the occasional comment. The only person she had to worry about was Miss Nightingale—who could be roaming the wards at any hour of the day or night. During the first week, she saw Miss Nightingale only once in the cavernous rooms, from afar. Moria made sure she was long gone before Miss Nightingale could catch her with the new patient.
Weeks turned into months. Moria was sleeping better, Doctor Hensley all but forgotten. Every night, she stole out of the dormitory and brought in a new patient, placing him wherever there was an available bed. She knew her saving one patient per night was akin to fighting the tide, but to each of her nocturnal patients, her work was of great value and this somehow helped her cope. She also knew she couldn’t claim any of the glory, even if she were so inclined, because of the time traveling and because she was supposed to be within the confines of the dormitory room for the night. Still, she went to the battlefield and brought back a new patient each night.
Moria observed a legend beginning to grow among the nurses, based on nothing but the obvious addition of a new patient each night. The patient was real but, otherwise, everything about the legend was speculation, each tidbit of ‘information’ more unbelievable than the one before. The ‘Angel of Scutari’ was born.
Miss Nightingale heard about the mysterious patients and investigated, confiding in Moria, whom she clearly didn’t suspect to be the culprit, she’d be visiting the dormitory at odd times in the night, searching for an empty bed. Forewarned, Moria made sure the bed looked occupied in the darkness while she was gone.
Winter turned to spring, and the new patients became an accepted occurrence.