| Florence Nightingale|
|by Laura E. Richards|
|Inspiring story of Florence Nightingale from her earliest days as privileged daughter of an English squire to her role as Angel of the Crimea. Even as a young girl her nursing talents were evident as she doctored her dolls and ministered to sickly animals. With the training she received at hospitals on the Continent, she was ready when the call to the Crimea came. Facing unspeakable filth and disorganization, she and her staff of nurses cared for thousands of sick and wounded soldiers, earning their undying gratitude. Focuses on her preparation, her heroic and patriotic service during the Crimean war, and her life of service thereafter. Ages 11-14 |
ISS NIGHTINGALE arrived at Scutari on November 4th. You have
seen what she found; but there was
worse to come. Only twenty-four hours
after her arrival, the wounded from the battle of
Inkerman began to come in; soon every inch of
room in both the Barrack and the General hospital
was full, and men by hundreds were lying on the
muddy ground outside, unable to find room even on
the floor of the corridor. Neither Lady-in-Chief nor
nurses had had time to rest after their long voyage,
to make plans for systematic work, even to draw
breath after their first glimpse of the horrors around
them, when this great avalanche of suffering and
misery came down upon them. No woman in history
has had to face such a task as now flung itself
upon Florence Nightingale.
She met it as the great meet trial, quietly and
 calmly. Her cheek might pale at what she had to
see, but there was no flinching in those clear, gray-blue
eyes, no trembling of those firm lips. Ship after
ship discharged its ghastly freight at the ferry
below; train after train of wounded was dragged
up the hill, brought into the overflowing hospital,
laid down on pallet, on mattress, on bare floor, on
muddy ground, wherever space could be found.
"The men lay in double rows down the long
corridors, forming several miles of suffering humanity."
As the poor fellows were brought in, they looked
up, and saw a slender woman in a black dress, with
a pale, beautiful face surmounted by a close-fitting
white cap. Quietly, but with an authority that no
one ever thought of disputing, she gave her orders,
directing where the sufferers were to be taken, what
doctor was to be summoned, what nurses to attend
them. During these days she was known sometimes
to stand on her feet twenty hours at a time, seeing
that each man was put in the right place, where he
might receive the right kind of help. I ask you
to think of this for a moment. Twenty hours
nearly the whole of a day and night.
 Where a particularly severe operation was to be
performed, Miss Nightingale was present whenever
it was possible, giving to both surgeon and patient
the comfort and support of her wonderful calm
strength and sympathy. In this dreadful inrush of
the Inkerman wounded, the surgeons had first of
all to separate the more hopeful cases from those
that seemed desperate. The working force was so
insufficient, they must devote their energies to
saving those who could be saved; this is how it seemed
to them. Once Miss Nightingale saw five men lying
together in a corner, left just as they had come
from the vessel.
"Can nothing be done for them?" she asked the
surgeon in charge. He shook his head.
"Then will you give them to me?"
"Take them," replied the surgeon, "if you like;
but we think their case is hopeless."
Do you remember the little girl sitting by the
wounded dog? All night long Florence Nightingale
sat beside those five men, one of the faithful
nurses with her, feeding them with a spoon at short
intervals till consciousness returned, and a little
strength began to creep back into their poor torn
 bodies; then washing their wounds, making them
tidy and decent, and all the time cheering them with
kind and hopeful words. When morning came the
surgeons, amazed, pronounced the men in good
condition to be operated upon, and—we will hope,
though the story does not tell the end-saved.
Is it any wonder that one poor lad burst into
tears as he cried: "I can't help it, I can't indeed,
when I see them. Only think of Englishwomen
coming out here to nurse us! It seems so homelike
In those days one of the nurses wrote home to
"It does appear absolutely impossible to meet
the wants of those who are dying of dysentery and
exhaustion; out of four wards committed to my care,
eleven men have died in the night, simply from
exhaustion, which, humanly speaking, might have
been stopped, could I have laid my hand at once on
such nourishment as I knew they ought to have
"It is necessary to be as near the scene of war
as we are, to know the horrors which we have seen
and heard of. I know not which sight is most
heart-  rending—to witness fine strong men and youths
worn down by exhaustion and sinking under it, or
others coming in fearfully wounded.
"The whole of yesterday was spent, first in
sewing the men's mattresses together, and then in
washing them, and assisting the surgeons, when we could,
in dressing their ghastly wounds, and seeing the
poor fellows made as easy as their circumstances
would admit of, after their five days' confinement
on board ship, during which space their wounds
were not dressed. . . . We have not seen a drop of
milk, and the bread is extremely sour. The butter
is most filthy—it is Irish butter in a state of
decomposition; and the meat is more like moist leather
than food. Potatoes we are waiting for until they
arrive from France."
This was written six days after arrival. By the
tenth day, a miracle had been accomplished. Miss
Nightingale had established and fitted up a kitchen,
from which eight hundred men were fed daily with
delicacies and food suitable to their condition. Beef-tea,
chicken broth, jelly—a quiet wave of the wand,
and these things sprang up, as it were, out of the
 Hear how one of the men describes it himself.
On arriving at the hospital early in the morning,
he was given a bowl of gruel. "'Tommy, me boy,'
he said to himself, 'that's all you'll get into your
inside this blessed day, and think yourself lucky
you've got that.' But two hours later, if another
of them blessed angels didn't come entreating of
me to have just a little chicken broth! Well, I took
that, thinking maybe it was early dinner, and
before I had well done wondering what would happen
next, round the nurse came again with a bit o'
jelly, and all day long at intervals they kept on
bringing me what they called 'a little nourishment.'
In the evening, Miss Nightingale she came
and had a look at me, and says she, 'I hope you're
feeling better.' I could have said, 'Ma'am, I feels
as fit as a fightin' cock,' but I managed to git out
somethin' a bit more polite."
How was the miracle accomplished? Up to this
time, the method of giving out stores had been much
like the method (only there was really no method
about it!) of cooking and washing. There were
no regular hours; if you asked for a thing in the
morning, you might get it in the evening, when the
 barrack fires were out. And you could get
nothing at all until it had been inspected by this official,
approved by that, and finally given out by the other.
These were called "service rules"; they were
really folds and coils of the monster Red Tape, at
his work of binding and strangling. How was
the miracle accomplished? Simply enough. Miss
Nightingale, with the foresight of a born leader,
had anticipated all this, and was ready for it. The
materials for all the arrowroot, beef-tea, chicken
broth, wine jelly, of those first weeks, came out of
her own stores, brought out with her in the vessel,
the Victis, from England. She had no intention
of waiting a day or an hour for anyone; she had
not a day or an hour to waste.
It must have been a wonderful cargo, that of the
Victis; I can think of nothing but the astonishing
bag of the Mother in the "Swiss Family Robinson,"
or that still more marvelous one of the Fairy
Blackstick. Do you remember?
"And Giglio returned to his room, where the
first thing he saw was the fairy bag lying on the
table, which seemed to give a little hop as he came
in. 'I hope it has some breakfast in it,' says
Gig-  lio, 'for I have only a very little money left.' But
on opening the bag, what do you think was there?
A blacking-brush and a pot of Warren's jet, and on
the pot was written,
"Poor young men their boots must black;
Use me and cork me and put me back!"
So Giglio laughed and blacked his boots, and put
the brush and the bottle into the bag.
"When he had clone dressing himself, the bag
gave another hop, and he went to it and
1. A tablecloth and napkin.
2. A sugar basin full of the best loaf sugar.
4, 6, 8, 10. Two forks, two teaspoons, two knives, and a pair of sugar-tongs, and a butterknife, all marked G.
11, 12, 13. A teacup, saucer, and slop-basin.
14. A jug full of delicious cream.
15. A canister with black tea and green.
16. A large tea-urn and boiling water.
17. A saucepan, containing three eggs nicely done.
18. A quarter of a pound of best Epping butter.
19. A brown loaf.
"And if he hadn't enough now for a good breakfast,
I should like to know who ever had one?"
When I was your age, I never tired of reading
 about this breakfast; and then there was that other
wonderful day when the bag was "grown so long
that the Prince could not help remarking it. He
went to it, opened it, and what do you think he
found in it?
"A splendid long gold-handled, red-velvet-scabbarded
cut-and-thrust sword, and on the sheath was
embroidered 'ROSALBA FOREVER!'"
But I am not writing the "Rose and the Ring"; I
wish I were!
So, as I said, all good and comforting things
came in those first days out of the Fairy Florence's
bag—I mean ship. She hired a house close by the
hospital, and set up a laundry, with every proper
and sanitary arrangement, and there, every week,
five hundred shirts were washed, besides other
garments. But now came a new difficulty. Many of
the soldiers had no clothes at all save the filthy and
ragged ones on their backs; what was to become
of them while their shirts were washed and mended?
The ship bag gave another hop (at least I should
think it would have, for pure joy of the good it
was doing), and out came ten thousand shirts;
and for the first time since they left the battle-field
 the sick and wounded men were clean and comfortable.
But the Lady-in-Chief knew that her fairy stores
were not of the kind that renew themselves; and
having once got matters into something like decent
order and comfort in the hospital, she turned quietly
and resolutely to do battle with the monster Red
The officials of Scutari did not know what to
make of the new state of things. As I have said,
many of them had shaken their heads and pulled
very long faces when they heard that a woman was
coming out who was to have full power and
authority over all things pertaining to the care of
the sick and wounded. They honestly thought, no
doubt, that the confusion would be doubled, the
distraction turned to downright madness. What could
a woman know about such matters? What experi
ence had she had of "service rules"? What would
become of them all?
They were soon to find out. The Lady-in-Chief
did not cry out, or wring her hands, or do any of
the things they had expected. Neither did she
bluster or rage, scold or reproach. She simply said
 that this or that must be done, and then saw
that it was done. Her tact and judgment were
as great as her power and wisdom; more I cannot
Suppose she wanted certain stores that were in
a warehouse on the wharf. The warehouse was
locked. She sent for the wharfinger. Would he
please open the warehouse and give her the stores?
He was very sorry, but he could not do so with
out an order from the board. She went to the chief
officer of the board. He was very sorry, but it
would be necessary to have a meeting of the entire
board. Who made up the board? Well, Mr.
So-and-so, and Dr. This, and Mr. That, and Colonel
'Tother. Where were they? Well, one of them
was not very well, and another was probably out
riding, and a third—
Would he please call them together at once?
Well, he was extremely busy just now, but
tomorrow or the day after, he would be delighted—
Would he be ready himself for a meeting, if Miss
Nightingale could get the other members of the
board together? Well—of course—he would be
delighted, but he could assure Miss Nightingale that
 everything would be all right, without her having
the trouble to—
The board met; pen, ink and paper were ready.
Would they kindly sign the order? Many thanks!
And the warehouse was opened, and the goods
on their way to the hospital, before the astonished
gentlemen had fairly drawn their breath.
"But what kind of way is this to do business?"
cried the slaves of Red Tape. "She doesn't give
us time! The moment a thing is wanted, she goes
and gets it!!! The rules of the service—"
But this was not true; for, as methodical as she
was wise and generous, Miss Nightingale was most
careful to consult the proper authorities, and,
whenever it was possible, to make them take the
necessary steps themselves. Once, and only once, did
she absolutely take the law into her own hands.
There came a moment when certain stores were
desperately needed for some sick and wounded men.
The stores were at hand, but they had not been
inspected, and Red Tape had decreed that nothing
should be given out until it had been inspected by
the board. (This was another board, probably;
 their name was Legion.) Miss Nightingale tried to
get the board together, but this time without
success. One was away, and another was ill, and a
third was—I don't know where. The clear
gray-blue eyes grew stern.
"I must have these things!" she said quietly.
"My men are dying for lack of them."
The under-official stammered and turned pale; he
did not wish to disobey her, but—it meant a
courtmartial for him if he disobeyed the rules of the
"You shall have no blame," said the Lady-in-Chief.
"I take the entire responsibility upon myself.
Open the door!"
The door was opened, and in a few moments the
sick men had the stimulants for lack of which they
were sinking into exhaustion.
When Miss Nightingale arrived at Scutari, the
death rate in the Barrack Hospital was sixty per
cent; within a few months it was reduced to one
per cent; and this, under heaven, was accomplished
by her and her devoted band of nurses. Do you
wonder that she was called "The Angel of the
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