| 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 |
THE CLOSE OF THE WAR
HE sun soared over the gulf, where the
water, covered with ships at anchor, and
with sail- and row-boats in motion,
played merrily in its warm and luminous
rays. A light breeze, which scarcely shook the
leaves of the stunted oak bushes that grew beside
the signal station, filled the sails of the boats, and
made the waves ripple softly. On the other side of
the gulf Sebastopol was visible, unchanged, with its
unfinished church, its column, its quay, the
boulevard which cut the hill with a green band, the
elegant library building, its little lakes of azure blue,
with their forests of masts, its picturesque aqueducts,
and, above all that, clouds of a bluish tint, formed
by powder smoke, lighted up from time to time by
the red flame of the firing. It was the same proud
and beautiful Sebastopol, with its festal air,
surrounded on one side by the yellow smoke-crowned
hills, on the other by the sea, deep blue in color and
sparkling brilliantly in the sun. At the horizon,
where the smoke of a steamer traced a black line,
white, narrow clouds were rising, precursors of a
wind. Along the whole line of the fortifications,
along the heights, especially on the left side, spurted
out suddenly, torn by a visible flash, although it was
broad daylight, plumes of thick white smoke, which,
assuming various forms, extended, rose, and colored
the sky with sombre tints. These jets of smoke
came out on all sides—from the hills, from the
hostile batteries, from the city—and flew toward the
sky. The noise of the explosions shook the air with
a continuous roar. Toward noon these smoke puffs
became rarer and rarer, and the vibrations of the air
strata became less frequent.
"'Do you know that the second bastion is no
longer replying?' said the hussar officer on
horseback, 'it is entirely demolished. It is terrible!'
"'Yes, and the Malakoff replies twice out of three
times,' answered the one who was looking through
the field-glass. 'This silence is driving me mad!
They are firing straight on the Korniloff battery and
that is not replying.'
"'There is a movement in the trenches; they are
marching in close columns.'
"'Yes, I see it well,' said one of the sailors; 'they
 are advancing by columns. We must set the signal.'
"'But see, there—see! They are coming out of the trenches!'
They could see, in fact, with the naked eye black
spots going down from the hill into the ravine, and
proceeding from the French batteries toward our
bastions. In the foreground, in front of the former,
black spots could be seen very near our lines.
Suddenly, from different points of the bastion at the
same time, spurted out the white plumes of the
discharges, and, thanks to the ,vind, the noise of a
lively fusillade could be heard, like the patter of a
heavy rain against the windows. The black lines
advanced, wrapped in a curtain of smoke, and came
nearer. The fusillade increased in violence. The
smoke burst out at shorter and shorter intervals,
extended rapidly along the line in a single light,
lilac-colored cloud, unrolling and enlarging itself by
turns, furrowed here and there by flashes or rent by
black points. All the noises mingled together in the
tumult of one continued roar.
"'It is an assault,' said the officer, pale with
emotion, handing his glass to the sailor.
"Cossacks and officers on horseback went along
the road, preceding the commander-in-chief in his
 carriage, accompanied by his suite. Their faces
expressed the painful emotion of expectation.
"'It is impossible that it is taken!' said the officer on horseback.
"'God in heaven-the flag! Look now!' cried
the other, choked by emotion, turning away from
the glass. 'The French flag is in the Malakoff
It is thus that Tolstoi, the great Russian writer,
describes the fall of Sebastopol, as he saw it. At
the same moment that the French were taking the
Malakoff redoubt, the British were storming the
Redan, from which they had been so disastrously
repulsed three months before. The flags of the allied
armies floated over both forts, and in the night that
followed the Russians marched silently out of the
fallen city, leaving flames and desolation behind
The war was over. The good news sped to
England, and the great guns of the Tower of London
thundered out "Victory!"
"Victory!" answered every arsenal the country
over. "Victory!" rang the bells in every village
 steeple. "Victory!" cried man, woman, and child
throughout the length and breadth of the land. But
mingled with the shouts of rejoicing was a deeper
note, one of thankfulness that the cruel war was
done, and peace come at last.
In these happy days Miss Nightingale's name was
on all lips. What did not England owe to her, the
heroic woman who had offered her life, and had all
but lost it, for the soldiers of her country? What
should England do to show her gratitude? People
were on fire to do something, make some return
to Florence Nightingale for her devoted services.
From the Queen to the cottager, all were asking:
"What shall we do for her?"
It was decided to consult her friends, the Sidney
Herberts, as to the shape that a testimonial of the
country's love and gratitude should take in order
to be acceptable to Miss Nightingale. Mrs.
Herbert, being asked, replied: "There is but one
testimonial which would be accepted by Miss Night
ingale. The one wish of her heart has long been to
found a hospital in London and to work it on her
own system of unpaid nursing, and I have suggested
to all who have asked my advice in this matter
 to pay any sums that they may feel disposed to give,
or that they may be able to collect, into Messrs.
Coutts' Bank, where a subscription list for the
purpose is about to be opened, to be called
the 'Nightingale Hospital Fund,' the sum subscribed to be
presented to her on her return home, which will
enable her to carry out her object regarding the
reform of the nursing system in England."
Here was something definite indeed. A committee
was instantly formed-a wonderful committee,
with "three dukes, nine other noblemen, the Lord
Mayor, two judges, five right honorables, foremost
naval and military officers, physicians, lawyers,
London aldermen, dignitaries of the Church, dignitaries
of nonconformist churches, twenty members of
Parliament, and several eminent men of letters";
and the subscription was opened. How the money came
pouring in! You would think no one had ever spent
money before. The rich gave their thousands, the
poor their pennies. There were fairs and concerts
and entertainments of every description, to swell the
Nightingale fund; but the offering that must have
 touched Miss Nightingale's heart most deeply was
that of the soldiers and sailors of England. "The
officers and men of nearly every regiment and many
of the vessels contributed a day's pay."
That meant more to her, I warrant, than any rich man's
Before a year had passed, the fund amounted to
over forty thousand pounds; and there is no
knowing how much higher it might have gone had not
Miss Nightingale herself come home and stopped it.
That was enough, she said; if they wanted to give
more money, they might give it to the sufferers
from the floods in France.
But she did not come home at once; no indeed!
The war might be over, but her work was not, and
she would never leave it while anything remained
undone. The war was over, but the hospitals,
especially those of the Crimea itself, were still filled
with sick and wounded soldiers, and until the formal
peace was signed an "army of occupation" must
still remain in the Crimea. Miss Nightingale knew
well that idleness is the worst possible thing for
 soldiers (as for everyone); and while she cared for
the sick and wounded, she took as much pains to
provide employment and amusement for the rest.
As soon as she had fully regained her strength, she
returned to the Crimea as she had promised to do,
set up two new camp hospitals, and established a
staff of nurses, taking the charge of the whole
nursing department upon herself. These new hospitals
were on the heights above Balaklava, not far from
where she had passed the days of her own desperate
illness. She established herself in a but close by the
hospitals and the Sanatorium, and here she spent a
second winter of hard work and exposure. It was
bitter cold up there on the mountainside. The but
was not weather-proof, and they sometimes found
their beds covered with snow in the morning; but
they did not mind trifles like this.
"The sisters are all quite well and cheerful,"
writes Miss Nightingale; "thank God for it! They
have made their but look quite tidy, and put up with
the cold and inconveniences with the utmost
self-abnegation. Everything, even the ink, freezes in
our but every night."
In all weathers she rode or drove over the rough
 and perilous roads, often at great risk of life and
limb. Her carriage being upset one day, and she
and her attendant nurse injured, a friend had a
carriage made on purpose for her, to be at once
secure and comfortable.
It was "composed of wood battens framed on the
outside and basketwork. In the interior it is lined
with a sort of waterproof canvas. It has a fixed
head on the hind part and a canopy running the full
length, with curtains at the side to inclose the
interior. The front driving seat removes, and thus
the whole forms a sort of small tilted wagon with
a welted frame, suspended on the back part on which
to recline, and well padded round the sides. It is
fitted with patent breaks to the hind wheels so as
to let it go gently down the steep hills of the Turkish roads."
This curious carriage is still preserved at Lea
Hurst. Miss Nightingale left it behind her when
she returned to England, and it was about to be
sold, with other abandoned articles, when our good
friend M. Soyer heard of it; he instantly bought it,
sent it to England, and afterwards had the
pleas-  ure of restoring it to its owner. She must have
been amused, I think, but no doubt she was pleased,
too, at the kindly thought.
But this comfortable carriage only increased her
labors, in one way, for with it she went about more
than ever. No weather was too severe, no
snowstorm too furious, to keep her indoors; the men
needed her and she must go to them. "She was
known to stand for hours at the top of a bleak
rocky mountain near the hospitals, giving her
instructions while the snow was falling heavily. Then
in the bleak dark night she would return down the
perilous mountain road with no escort save the
It was not only for the invalids that Miss
Nightingale toiled through this second winter; much of
her time was given to the convalescents and those
who were on active duty. She established libraries,
and little "reading huts," where the men could
come and find the English magazines and papers,
and a stock of cheerful, entertaining books, carefully
chosen by the dear lady who knew so well what
they liked. She got up lectures, too, and classes for
 those who wished to study this or that branch of
learning; and she helped to establish a cafe at
Inkerman, where the men could get hot coffee and
chocolate and the like in the bitter winter weather.
There really seems no end to the good and kind and
lovely things she did. I must not forget one thing,
which may seem small to some of you, but which
was truly great in the amount of good that came
from it. Ever since she first came out to Scutari,
she had used all her influence to persuade the sol
diers to write home regularly to their families. The
sick lads in the hospital learned that if they would
write a letter—just two or three lines, to tell mother
or sister that they were alive and doing well—and
would send it to the Lady-in-Chief, she would put
a stamp on it and speed it on its way. So now, in
all the little libraries and reading huts, there were
pens, ink and paper, envelopes and stamps; and
when Miss Nightingale looked in at one of these
cheerful little gathering places, we may be sure that
she asked Jim or Joe whether he had written to his
mother this week, and bade him be sure not to
forget it. Does this seem to you a small thing?
Wait till you go away from home, and see what
 the letters that come from home mean to you; then
multiply that by ten, and you will know partly, but
not entirely, what your letters mean to those at home.
It has always seemed to me that this was a very
bright star in Miss Nightingale's crown of glory.
The soldier's wife and child, mother and sister,
were always in her thoughts. Not only did she
persuade the men to write home, but she used all
her great influence to induce them to send home
their pay to their families. At Scutari she had a
money-order office of her own, and four afternoons
in each month she devoted to receiving money from
the soldiers who brought it to her, and forwarding
it to England. It is estimated that about a
thousand pounds was sent each month, in small sums of
twenty or thirty shillings. "This money," says
Miss Nightingale, "was literally so much rescued
from the canteen and drunkenness."
After the fall of Sebastopol the British
Government followed her example, and set up money-order
offices in several places, with excellent results.
Sometimes it was Miss Nightingale herself who
wrote home to the soldier's family; sad, sweet
letters, telling how the husband or father had done his
 duty gallantly, and had died as a brave man should;
giving his last messages, and inclosing the
mementos he had left for them. To many a humble home
these letters brought comfort and support in the
hour of trial, and were treasured—are no doubt
treasured to this day—like the relics of a blessed saint.
The Treaty of Peace was signed at Paris on
March 30, 1856, and now all hearts in the Crimea
turned toward home. One by one the hospitals were
closed, as their inmates recovered strength; one by
one the troopships were filled with soldiers—ragged,
gaunt, hollow-eyed, yet gay and light-hearted
as schoolboys—and started on the homeward
voyage; yet still the Lady-in-Chief lingered. Not
while one sick man remained would Florence
Nightingale leave her post. Indeed, at the last moment
she found a task that none but herself might have
taken up. The troopships were gone; but here, on
the camping ground before Sebastopol, were fifty
or sixty poor women, left behind when their
husbands' regiments had sailed, helpless and—I was
going to say friendless, but nothing could be more
untrue; for they gathered in their distress round the
 hut of the Lady-in-Chief, imploring her aid; and she
soon had them on board a British ship, speeding
home after the rest.
And now the end had come, and there was only
one more thing to do, one more order to give; the
result of that last order is seen to-day by all who
visit that far-away land of the Crimea. On the
mountain heights above Balaklava, on a peak not
far from the Sanatorium where she labored and
suffered, towers a great cross of white marble,
shining like snow against the deep blue sky. This is the
"Nightingale Cross," her own tribute to the brave
men and the devoted nurses who died in the war.
At the foot of the cross are these words
"Lord have mercy upon us."
To every Englishman—nay, to everyone of any
race who loves noble thoughts and noble deeds—this
monument will always be a sacred and a venerable one.
In the spring of this year, Lord Ellesmere, speaking before Parliament, said:
"My Lords, the agony of that time has become
a matter of history. The vegetation of two
suc-  cessive springs has obscured the vestiges of Balaklava
and of Inkerman. Strong voices now answer
to the roll call, and sturdy forms now cluster round
the colors. The ranks are full, the hospitals are
empty. The angel of mercy still lingers to the last
on the scene of her labors; but her mission is all
but accomplished. Those long arcades of Scutari,
in which dying men sat up to catch the sound of her
footstep or the flutter of her dress, and fell back
on the pillow content to have seen her shadow as it
passed, are now comparatively deserted. She may
be thinking how to escape, as best she may, on
her return, the demonstration of a nation's appreciation
of the deeds and motives of Florence Nightingale."
This was precisely what the Lady-in-Chief was
thinking. She meant to return to England as quietly
as she left it; and she succeeded. The British
Government begged her to accept a man-of-war as
her own for the time being; she was much obliged,
but would rather not. She went over to Scutari,
saw the final closing of the hospitals there, and took
a silent farewell of that place of many memories;
then stepped quietly on board a French vessel, and
 sailed for France. A few days later—so the story
goes—a lady quietly dressed in black, and closely
veiled, entered the back door of Lea Hurst. The
old butler saw the intruder, and hastened forward
to stop her way—and it was "Miss Florence!"
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