I shifted uncomfortably in my dress as I made my way through the crowded room. It wasn't that I couldn't walk in a dress it was just that I found dresses to be constricting in more ways than one. I couldn't run, climb, or ride in a dress. But I promised my cousin that I would at least act like a lady today. The Shaw family had been friends of my family for a long time. And I must admit I was very excited to see Robert again. It had been very uneventful without him and Cabot here and I was excited to have my two best friends back. Eventually I found Robert who was at the moment talking to his parents, the governor, Fredrick Douglas, and a whole lot of other military men. I couldn't hear much but what I did hear made my eyes widen. Robert said something then took his leave. I knew Robert was stunned, frankly so was I. Robert had just been made a colonel of a whole black regiment. I don't think that had ever been done before. He was making his way through the crowd looking like a lost little boy.
"Good to have you back son." I watched as my poor distressed friend looked for a way out.
"Robert. Rob!" He turned around and his face relaxed into a smile when he saw me,
"Samantha." I smiled and closed the gap between us, hugging him.
"It's good to see you again Robert." He pulled back and blushed, just a little. Men and women alike stared at us. There were always rumors going around about the two of us, mainly from the women of course. It wasn't proper for a woman to hug a man if they were not courting. And Robert and I were not. But I couldn't care less. I was just happy that my best friend was home in one piece.
"It's good to see you too." I could tell he was still distressed so I offered going outside to get a breath of fresh air. "Yes that would be wonderful." He took my arm and led me outside. We walked down the steps and too the fence where he let go of my arm and gripped the railing so tightly that his knuckles turned white as snow.
"Rob." I said his name softly as I gently took hold of his arm. He was tense but slowly he began to relax. "Robert, what happened to you?" He looked at me and I could see the fear and confusion in his eyes. He opened his mouth but found himself at a loss for words.
"I-I don't… it was so…"
"It's alright; you don't have to tell me. Just know that, when you do want to talk I'll be there to listen. You gave me quite a fright, when I heard you had been injured I was terrified. Life would be utterly dull for me without you and Cabot." He gave me a small smile,
"I imagine the same could be said for me if I did not have the two of you life would be very dull indeed." He took hold of my hand and held onto it staring ahead of him. I could see that he had a million things running through his head at the moment and decided to say nothing and let him think. We stood there for quite some time, neither of us saying anything. My attention was brought to, however, when I heard the crunching of gravel I looked to my right past Robert to see Cabot. His clothes no longer straight and his hair a bit disheveled and clutching a Champaign glass in one hand and the bottle in the other.
"What's the matter Chester? Too much punch?" He leaned against the fence and laughed making Robert laugh as well. I couldn't help but smile at the two. Yes life would be very dull without these two. "I mean, I know how much you'd like to make colonel, but a colored regiment?" he laughed taking another drink from his glass. He looked at Rob, "you know how popular that would be? Handing out guns to a thousand coloreds?" He paused before shaking his head and noticing that Rob hasn't said anything and that he was looking at the ground, "Hey, Robert? What's wrong?" He but he hand with the bottle on his friends back making him look up at him. Robert opened his mouth and tried to from words for a moment but said nothing until he just said it,
"I'm gonna do it." Cabot looked somewhat stunned before pushing him a little,
"You're not serious." Rob shook his head vigorously,
"Yeah… I want you to come with me."
"Me?" Cabot's voice was small and Rob nodded again. "And you?" Rob nodded again. Cabot chuckled, "Can you picture me in charge of a regiment? Picture me in charge of anything." He chuckled and Robert looked at him seriously,
"I would be honored to have you." Cabot looked at him before smiling,
"Then you're an idiot." The two laughed and I chuckled quietly before Cabot looked at me, "And so are you for being around the both of us."
"Oh I know. Believe me I know. I have to be an idiot for being related to you and having Robert here as a best friend." He laughed and Robert pretended to be shocked,
"And you are full of it. Both of you." We laughed just as Thomas came running out the door.
"Rob, is it true? There's to be a colored regiment?" Cabot smiled and looked at Rob,
"So it seems." Rob looked at him before looking back at Thomas,
"Then I am your first volunteer. "Cabot and Thomas laughed and shook hands before he shook Roberts. "Sam can you believe it! I'm going to be in the army!" I laughed,
"Well done Thomas. Now if only they would allow women into the army I would not feel so left out."
"War I no place for you darling and you know it." I smacked Cabot in the arm.
"Women are not permitted to fight no matter how badly you want to." I sighed knowing Robert was right but I would never admit it.
"Then why is Cabot fighting?" Thomas and Robert laughed,
"Hey, I take offense to that!"
"Good." I smiled and so did he.
"Well I guess we better go back inside. I'm sure your admirers are waiting for you." Robert paled slightly. He could face the horrors of war, he could fight against men that were just like him; but what he could not do was face a bunch of women who were practically throwing themselves at him.
"You had better not leave me with those women." I grinned deviously at him,
"And why should I stay with you?" Cabot and Thomas were laughing at his expense,
"Please Sam, please don't leave me alone with them. You are the only one that can keep them away." I sighed,
"Fine, I guess I will stay with you and keep the enemy at bay." He let out a sigh,
"Thank you." He held out his arm and I took hold of it as the four of us headed back in. Robert was right I did manage to keep the obsessive women away with one glance from me they looked away finding far more interest in the carpet or the celling. Cabot went off to find another bottle as Thomas went off to talk to some people. Leaving me with the boring task of being introduced to every single man in a uniform with Robert. I smiled and said hello and doing the lady thing by not asking too many questions, rolling my eyes, or scoffing. All of which I wanted to do. I wanted to ask what was happening out on the battle field. How many men we had lost? Who was in control of what. All of which were very inappropriate to ask. An elderly man approached us and by the looks of his uniform I would say he was a general.
"Captain! Or should I say Colonel now!" He laughed and shook hands with Robert,
"General Heming. General this is Miss Samantha Forbes." I curtsied a bit,
"How do you do." He kissed my hand,
"It is a pleasure to finally meet the cousin of the, now major, Cabot Forbes."
"Thank you General."
"It appears you are very popular amongst the Shaw household." He gave Robert a pointed look who blushed ever so under the older man's gaze,
"Yes, well , I did spend most of my childhood with Robert and Cabot. "
"Indeed, my dear if I may, I have something I would like to discuss with you in private if I may." I glanced at Robert who nodded his head a bit,
"Of course sir." Robert hesitantly let go of my arm and the General held his hand out which I took,
"Don't worry Robert I won't steal her away from you for long." He sputtered a bit but never formed a complete sentence as three women surrounded him. I couldn't hold back the chuckle that left my lips. The general laughed as well,
"It would appear that Colonel Shaw has to fend for himself now."
"Yes it appears so. Though I must admit I am rather amused by his current situation." He nodded as he led me to another room. It was smaller and its occupants were all dressed in military outfits, save for Mrs. Shaw. The door was shut behind me and I turned my attention to the seven or so people in front of me. I recognized only three people besides Mrs. Shaw, the governor, Mr. Shaw, and Fredrick Douglas.
"Now I'm sure you're wondering why I brought you here." I nodded, "You see a woman with your talents could be very useful to the army."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You are a smart women Miss Forbes. Quick on your feet, you know how to get things done well and in a timely manner, and you are resourceful."
"All of these things are something we look for in army personal." I eyed them suspiciously,
"What exactly are you asking of me."
"What they are asking, my dear, is if you would accompany the 54th and serve as a sort of aid in the camp." My eyes widened at Mr. Shaw's words.
"You would be Colonel Shaw's aid as well as nurse when need be."
"I see." Mrs. Shaw strode forward and took my hands in her own,
"You would be the only woman in camp and would have to live like the men; however I have the utmost confidence in your ability to cope." She winked at me and I smiled at her,
"Thank you mam." She stood beside me and held my hand as the General looked at me,
"So, what is your answer?" I paused and glanced around the room before letting my eyes land on the general again,
"My answer is yes."