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MISS NIGHTINGALE UNDER FIRE
N May, 1855, Miss Nightingale decided
to go to the Crimea, to inspect the
hospitals there. In the six months spent at
Scutari, she had brought its hospitals
into excellent condition; now she felt that she must
see what was being done and what still needed to
be done elsewhere. Accordingly she set sail in the
ship Robert Lowe, accompanied by her faithful
friend Mr. Bracebridge, who, with his admirable
wife, had come out with her from England, and had
been her constant helper and adviser; M. Soyer, who
was going to see how kitchen matters were going
la-bas, and her devoted boy Thomas. Thomas had
been a drummer boy. He was twelve years old,
and devoted to his drum until he came under the
spell of the Lady-in-Chief. Then he transferred his
devotion to her, and became her aide-de-camp,
following her wherever she went, and ready at any
moment to give his life for her.
 It was fair spring weather now, and the fresh,
soft air and beautiful scenery must have been
specially delightful to the women who had spent six
months within the four bare walls of the hospital
surrounded by misery and death; but when she
found that there were some sick soldiers on board,
Miss Nightingale begged to be taken to them. She
went from one to another in her cheerful way, and
every man felt better at once. Presently she came
to a fever patient who was looking very discontented.
"This man will not take his medicine! " said the attendant.
"Why will you not take it?" asked
Miss Nightingale, with her winning smile.
"Because I took some once," said the man, "and
it made me sick, and I haven't liked physic ever
"But if I give it to you myself you will take it,
I wonder if anyone ever refused Miss Nightingale
"It will make me sick just the same, ma'am!"
murmured the poor soul piteously; but he took the
 medicine, and forgot to be sick as she sat beside him
and asked about the battle in which he had been
When they entered the harbor of Balaklava, they
found all the vessels crowded with people. Word
had got abroad that the Lady-in-Chief was expected,
and everybody was agog to see the wonderful
woman who had done such a great work in the
hospitals of Scutari. The vessel was no sooner
brought to anchor than all the doctors and officials
of Balaklava came on board, eager to pay their
respects and welcome her to their shore. For an hour
she received these various guests, but she could not
wait longer, and by the time Lord Raglan, the
Commander-in-Chief, reached the vessel on the same
errand, she had already begun her inspection of the
hospital on shore. She never had any time to waste,
and so she never lost any.
But the visit of a Commander-in-Chief must be
returned; so the next day Miss Nightingale set out
on horseback, with a party of friends, for the camp
of the besiegers. M. Soyer, who was of the party,
tells us that she "was attired simply in a genteel
amazone, or riding-habit, and had quite a martial
 air. She was mounted upon a very pretty mare,
of a golden color, which, by its gambols and
caracoling, seemed proud to carry its noble charge. The
weather was very fine. Our cavalcade produced an
extraordinary effect upon the motley crowd of all
nations assembled at Balaklava, who were astonished
at seeing a lady so well escorted."
The road was very bad, and crowded with people
of every nationality, riding horses, mules and asses,
driving oxen and cows and sheep. Now they passed
a cannon, stuck in the mud, its escort prancing and
yelling around it; now a wagon overturned, its
contents scattered on the road, its owner sitting on the
ground lamenting. Everywhere horses were
kicking and whinnying, men shouting and screaming.
It is no wonder that Miss Nightingale's pretty mare
"of a golden color" got excited too, and kicked
and pranced with the rest; but her rider had not
scampered over English downs and jumped English
fences for nothing, and the pretty creature soon
found that she, like everyone else, must obey the
The first hospital they came to was in the village
of Kadikoi. After inspecting it, and seeing what
 was needed, Miss Nightingale and her party rode
to the top of a hill near by; and here for the first
time she looked down on the actual face of war;
saw the white tents of the besiegers and in the
distance the grim walls of the beleaguered city; saw,
too, the puffs of white smoke from trench and
bastion, heard the roar of cannon and the crackle of
musketry. To the boy beside her no doubt it was
a splendid and inspiring sight; but Florence
Nightingale knew too well what it all meant, and turned
away with a heavy heart.
Lord Raglan, not having been warned of her
coming, was away; so, after visiting several small
regimental hospitals, Miss Nightingale went on to
the General Hospital before Sebastopol. Here she
found some hundreds of sick and wounded. Word
passed along the rows of cots that the "good lady
of Scutari" was coming to visit them, and
everywhere she was greeted with beaming smiles and
murmurs of greeting and welcome. But when she
came out again, and passed along toward the
cooking encampment, she was recognized by some
former patients of hers at the Barrack Hospital, and a
great shout of rejoicing went up; a shout so loud
 that the golden mare capered again, and again had
to learn who her mistress was.
Now they approached the walls of Sebastopol;
and Miss Nightingale, who did not know what fear
was, insisted upon having a nearer view of the city.
They came to a point from which it could be
conveniently seen; but here a sentry met them, and
with a face of alarm begged them to dismount.
"Sharp firing going on here," he said, and he pointed
to the fragments of shell lying about; "you'll
be sure to attract attention, and they'll fire at
Miss Nightingale laughed at his fears, but
consented to take shelter behind a stone redoubt, from
which, with the aid of a telescope, she had a good
view of the city.
But this was not enough. She must go into
the trenches themselves. The sentry was horrified.
"Madam," said he, " if anything happens I call
upon these gentlemen to witness that I did not fail
to warn you of the danger."
"My good young man," replied Miss
Nightingale, "more dead and wounded have passed
through my hands than I hope you will ever see in
 the battlefield during the whole of your military
career; believe me, I have no fear of death."
They went on, and soon reached the Three-Mortar
Battery, situated among the trenches and very
near the walls. And here M. Soyer had a great
idea, which he carried out to his immense satisfaction.
You shall hear about it in his own words
"Before leaving the battery, I begged Miss
Nightingale as a favor to give me her hand, which
she did. I then requested her to ascend the stone
rampart next the wooden gun carriage, and lastly
to sit upon the centre mortar, to which requests she
very gracefully and kindly acceded. 'Gentlemen,'
I cried, 'behold this amiable lady sitting fearlessly
upon that terrible instrument of war! Behold the
heroic daughter of England-the soldier's friend!'
All present shouted 'Bravo! hurrah! hurrah! Long
live the daughter of England!'"
When Lord Raglan heard of this, he said that
the "instrument of war" on which she sat ought
to be called "the Nightingale mortar."
The 39th regiment was stationed close by; and
seeing a lady—a strange enough sight in that place
—seated on a mortar, gazing calmly about her, as
 if all her life had been spent in the trenches, the
soldiers looked closer, and all at once recognized
the beloved Lady-in-Chief, the Angel of the Crimea.
They set up a shout that went ringing over the fields
and trenches, and startled the Russians behind the
walls of Sebastopol; and Miss Nightingale, startled
too, but greatly touched and moved, came down
from her mortar and mounted her horse to ride back
It was a rough and fatiguing ride, and the next
day she felt very tired; but she was used to being
tired, and never thought much of it; so she set out
to visit the General Hospital again. After spending
several hours there, she went on to the Sanatorium,
a collection of huts high up on a mountainside,
nearly eight hundred feet above the sea. The sun
was intensely hot, the ride a hard one; yet she not
only reached it this day, but went up again the day
after, to install three much-needed nurses there; this
done, she went on with her work in the hospitals of
Balaklava. But, alas! this time she had gone
beyond even her strength. She was stricken down
suddenly, in the midst of her work, with the worst
form of Crimean fever.
 The doctors ordered that she should be taken to
the Sanatorium. Amid general grief and consternation
she was laid on a stretcher, and the soldiers for
whom she had so often risked her life bore her sadly
through the streets of Balaklava and up the
mountainside. A nurse went with her, a friend held a
white umbrella between her and the pitiless sun,
and poor little Thomas, "Miss Nightingale's man"
as he had proudly called himself, followed the
stretcher, crying bitterly. Indeed, it seemed as if
everyone were crying. The rough soldiers—only
she never found them rough—wept like children.
It was a sad little procession that wound its way up
the height, to the but that had been set apart for the
beloved sufferer. It was a neat, airy cabin, set on
the banks of a clear stream. All about were spring
buds and blossoms, and green, whispering trees; it
was just such a place as she would have chosen for
one of her own patients; and here, for several days,
she lay between life and death.
The news spread everywhere; Florence Nightingale
was ill—was dying! All Balaklava knew it;
soon the tidings came to Scutari, to her own
hospital, and the sick men turned their faces to the wall
 and wept, and longed to give their own lives for
hers, if only that might be. The news came to
England, and men looked and spoke—ay, and felt—as
if some great national calamity threatened. But
soon the messages changed their tone. The disease
was checked; she was better; she was actually
recovering, and would soon be well. Then all the
Crimea rejoiced, and at Scutari they felt that spring
had come indeed.
While she still lay desperately ill, a visitor climbed
the rugged height to the Sanatorium, and knocked
at the door of the little lonely hut. I think you must
hear about this visit from Mrs. Roberts, the nurse
who told M. Soyer about it
"It was about five o'clock in the afternoon when
he came. Miss Nightingale was dozing, after a
very restless night. We had a storm that day, and
it was very wet. I was in my room sewing when
two men on horseback, wrapped in large guttapercha
cloaks and dripping wet, knocked at the door. I
went out, and one inquired in which but Miss Nightingale resided.
"He spoke so loud that I said: 'Hist! hist! don't
make such a horrible noise as that, my man,' at the
 same time making a sign with both hands for
him to be quiet. He then repeated his question,
but not in so loud a tone. I told him this was the
"'All right,' said he, jumping from his horse;
and he was walking straight in when I pushed him
back, asking what he meant and whom he wanted.
"'Miss Nightingale,' said he.
"'And pray who are you?'
"'Oh, only a soldier,' was the reply, 'but I must
see her—I have come a long way—my name is
Raglan—she knows me very well.'
"Miss Nightingale overhearing him, called me
in, saying: 'Oh! Mrs. Roberts, it is Lord Raglan.
Pray tell him I have a very bad fever, and it will
be dangerous for him to come near me.'
"'I have no fear of fever or anything else,' said
"And before I had time to turn round, in came
his lordship. He took up a stool, sat down at the
foot of the bed, and kindly asked Miss Nightingale
how she was, expressing his sorrow at her illness,
and praising her for the good she had done for the
troops. He wished her a speedy recovery, and
 hoped she might be able to continue her charitable
and invaluable exertions, so highly appreciated by
everyone, as well as by himself. He then bade Miss
Nightingale goodbye, and went away. . . ."
After twelve days Miss Nightingale was
pronounced convalescent. The doctors now earnestly
begged her to return to England, telling her that
her health absolutely required a long rest, with
entire freedom from care. But she shook her head
resolutely. Her work was not yet over; she would
not desert her post. Weak as she was, she insisted
on being taken back to Scutari; she would come
back by and by, she said, and finish the work in the
Crimea itself. Sick or well, there was no resisting
the Lady-in-Chief. The stretcher was brought again,
and eight soldiers carried her down the
mountainside and so down to the port of Balaklava. The
Jura lay at the wharf; a tackle was rigged, and the
stretcher hoisted on board, the patient lying
motionless but undaunted the while; but this vessel
proved unsuitable, and she had to be moved twice
before she was finally established on a private yacht,
the New London.
Before she sailed, Lord Raglan came to see her
 again. It was the last time they ever met, for a
few weeks after the brave commander died, worn
out by the struggles and privations of the war, and
—some thought—broken-hearted by the disastrous
repulse of the British troops at the Redan.
Rather more than a month after she had left for
the Crimea, Miss Nightingale saw once more the
towers and minarets of Constantinople flashing
across the Black-Sea water, and, on the other side
of the narrow Bosporus, the gaunt white walls
which had come to seem almost homelike to her.
She was glad to get back to her Scutari and her
people. She knew she should get well here, and so
The welcome she received was most touching.
All the great people, commanders and high
authorities, met her at the pier, and offered her their
houses, their carriages, everything they had, to help
her back to strength; but far dearer to her than this
were the glances of weary eyes that brightened at
her coming, the waving of feeble hands, the cheers
of feeble voices, from the invalid soldiers who, like
herself, were creeping back from death to life, and
who felt, very likely, that their chance of full
re-  covery was a far better one now that their angel
had come back to dwell among them.
As strength returned, Miss Nightingale loved to
walk in the great burying ground of which I have
told you; to rest under the cypress trees, and watch
the little birds, and pick wild flowers in that lovely,
lonely place. There are strange stories about the
birds of Scutari, by the way; the Turks believe
that they are the souls of sinners, forced to flit and
hover forever, without rest; but it is not likely that
thoughts of this kind troubled Miss Nightingale, as
she watched the pretty creatures taking their bath,
or pecking at the crumbs she scattered.
Birds and flowers, green trees and soft, sweet
air—all these things ministered to her, and helped her
on the upward road to health and strength; and
before long she was able to take up again the work
which she loved, and which was waiting for her hand.