| 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 LADY WITH THE LAMP
Whene'er a noble deed is wrought;
Whene'er is spoken a noble thought,
Our hearts, in glad surprise,
To higher levels rise.
The tidal wave of deeper souls
Into our inmost being rolls,
And lifts us unawares
Out of all meaner cares.
Honor to those whose words or deeds
Thus help us in our daily needs,
And by their overflow
Raise us from what is low!
Thus thought I, as by night I read
Of the great army of the dead,
The trenches cold and damp,
The starved and frozen camp,—
The wounded from the battle-plain,
In dreary hospitals of pain,
The cheerless corridors,
The cold and stony floors.
Lo! in that house of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
pass through the glimmering gloom,
And flit from room to room.
And slow, as in a dream of bliss,
The speechless sufferer turns to kiss
Her shadow, as it falls
Upon the darkening walls.
As if a door in heaven should be
Opened and then closed suddenly,
The vision came and went,
The light shone and was spent.
On England's annals, through the long
Hereafter of her speech and song,
That light its rays shall cast
From portals of the past.
A Lady with a Lamp shall stand
In the great history of the land,
A noble type of good,
Nor even shall be wanting here
The palm, the lily, and the spear,
The symbols that of yore
Saint Filomena bore.
"Santa Filomena," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
ISS NIGHTINGALE'S headquarters
were in the "Sisters' Tower," as it came
to be called, one of the four corner towers
of the great building. Here was a
large, airy room, with doors opening off it on each
side. In the middle was a large table, covered with
stores of every kind, constantly in demand,
constantly replaced; and on the floor, and flowing into
all the corners, were—more stores! Bales of shirts,
piles of socks, slippers, dressing gowns, sheets,
flannels—everything you can think of that is useful and
comfortable in time of sickness. About these piles
the white-capped nurses came and went, like bees
about a hive; all was quietly busy, cheerful,
methodical. In a small room opening off the large one
the Lady-in-Chief held her councils with nurses,
doctors, generals or orderlies; giving to all the same
courteous attention, the same clear, calm, helpful
advice or directions. Here, too, for hours at a time,
she sat it her desk, writing; letters to Sidney
Herbert and his wife; letters to Lord Raglan, the
commander-in-chief, who, though at first averse to her
coming, became one of her firmest friends and
ad-  mirers; letters to sorrowing wives and mothers and
sisters in England. She received letters by the
thousand; she could not answer them all with her
own hand, but I am sure she answered as many as
was possible. One letter was forwarded to her by
the Herberts which gave a great pleasure not to
her only, but to everyone in all that place of
suffering. It was dated Windsor Castle, December 6, 1854.
"Would you tell Mrs. Herbert," wrote good
Queen Victoria, "that I beg she would let me see
frequently the accounts she receives from Miss
Nightingale or Mrs. Bracebridge, as I hear no details
of the wounded, though I see so many from officers,
etc., about the battlefield, and naturally the former
must interest me more than anyone.
"Let Mrs. Herbert also know that I wish Miss
Nightingale and the ladies would tell these poor,
noble wounded and sick men, that no one takes a
warmer interest or feels more for their sufferings or
admires their courage and heroism more than their
Queen. Day and night she thinks of her beloved
troops. So does the Prince.
"Beg Mrs. Herbert to communicate these my
 words to those ladies, as I know that our sympathy
is much valued by these noble fellows.—Victoria."
I think the tears may have come into those clear
eyes of Miss Nightingale, when she read these
words. She gave the letter to one of the chaplains,
and he went from ward to ward, reading it aloud
to the men, and ending each reading with "God
save the Queen!" The words were murmured or
whispered after him by the lips of sick and dying,
and through all the mournful place went a great
wave of tender love and loyalty toward the good
Queen in England, and toward their own queen,
their angel, who had shared her pleasure with
You will hardly believe that in England, while the
Queen was writing thus, some people were still sadly
troubled about Miss Nightingale's religious views,
and were writing to the papers, warning other
people against her; but so it was. One clergyman
actually warned his flock not to subscribe money for
the soldiers in the East "if it was to pass through
Popish hands." He thought the Lady-in-Chief was
a Catholic; others still maintained that she was a
Unitarian; others were sure she had gone out with
 the real purpose of converting the soldiers to High-Church views.
In reading about this kind of thing, it is
comforting to find one good Irish clergyman who,
being asked to what sect Miss Nightingale belonged,
replied: "She belongs to a sect which unfortunately
is a very rare one—the sect of the Good Samaritans."
But these grumblers were only a few, we must
think. The great body of English people was filled
with an enthusiasm of gratitude toward the "angel band"
and its leader. From the Queen in her
palace down to the humblest working women in her
cottage, all were at work making lint and bandages,
shirts and socks and havelocks for the soldiers. Nor
were they content with making things. Every
housekeeper ransacked her linen closet and camphor
chest, piled sheets and blankets and pillowcases
together, tied them up in bundles, addressed them to
Miss Nightingale, and sent them off.
When Sister Mary Aloysius first began to sort
the bales of goods on the wharf at Scutari, she
thought that "the English nobility must have
emptied their wardrobes and linen stores, to send
 out bandages for the wounded. There was the most
beautiful underclothing, and the finest cambric
sheets, with merely a scissors run here and there
through them, to insure their being used for no
other purpose, some from the Queen's palace, with
the royal monogram beautifully worked."
Yes, and the rats had a wonderful time with all
these fine and delicate things, before the Sisters
could get their hands on them!
These private gifts were not the only nor the
largest ones. The Times, which you will
remember had been the first to reveal the terrible conditions
in the Crimea, now set to work and organized a
fund for the relief of the wounded. A subscription
list was opened, and from every part of the
United Kingdom money flowed in like water. The
Times undertook to distribute the money, and
appointed a good and wise man, Mr. McDonald, to
go out to the East and see how it could best be
And now a strange thing came to pass; the sort
of thing that, in one way or another, was constantly
happening in connection with the Crimean War.
Mr. McDonald went to the highest authorities in
 the War Office and told of his purpose. They bowed
and smiled and said the Times and its subscribers
were very kind, but the fact was that such
ample provision had been made by the Government that
it was hardly likely the money would be needed.
Mr. McDonald opened his eyes wide; but he was
a wise man, as I have said; so he bowed and smiled
in return, and going to Sidney Herbert, told his
story to him.
"Go!" said Mr. Herbert; "Go out to the Crimea!" and he went.
When he reached the seat of war, it was the same
thing over again. The high officials were very
polite, very glad to see him, very pleased that the
people of England were so sympathetic and patriotic;
but the fact was that nothing was wanted; they
were amply supplied; in short, everything was "all right."
Many men, after this second rebuff, would have
given the matter up and gone home; but Mr.
McDonald was not of that kind. While he was
considering what step to take next, one man came
forward to help him; one man who was brave enough
to defy Red Tape, for the sake of his soldiers. This
 was the surgeon of the 39th regiment. I wish I
knew his name, so that you and I could remember
it. He came to Mr. McDonald and told him that
his regiment, which had been stationed at
Gibraltar, had been ordered to the Crimea and had now
reached the Bosporus. They were going on to
the Crimea, to pass the winter in bitter cold, amid
ice and snow; and they had no clothes save the
light linen suits which had been given them to wear
under the hot sun of Gibraltar.
Here was a chance for the Times fund!
Without more ado Mr. McDonald went into the bazaars
of Constantinople and bought flannels and
woolens, until every man in that regiment had a good
warm winter suit in which to face the Crimean
Did anyone else follow the example of the
surgeon of the 39th? Not one! Probably many
persons thought he had done a shocking thing, by
thus exposing the lack of provision in the army
for its soldiers' comfort. This was casting
reflection upon Red Tape! Better for the soldier to freeze
and die, than for a slur to be cast upon those in
authority, upon the rules of the service!
 So, though McDonald stood with hands held out,
as it were, offering help, no one came forward to
He went to Scutari, and here at first it was the
same thing. He offered his aid to the chief
medical authority over the hospitals; the reply was calm
and precise: "Nothing was wanted!" He went
still higher, to "another and more august quarter";
the answer was still more emphatic: there was
no possible occasion for help; soldiers and sailors
had everything they required; if he wished to
dispose of the Times fund, it might be a good thing
to build an English church at Pera!
"Yet, at that very time," says the historian of
the Crimea, "wants so dire as to include want of
hospital furniture and of shirts for the patients, and
of the commonest means for maintaining
cleanliness, were afflicting our stricken soldiery in the
Mr. McDonald did not build an English church;
instead, he went to the Barrack Hospital and asked
for the Lady-in-Chief.
 I should like to have seen Florence Nightingale's
face when she heard his story. No help needed?
The soldiers supplied with everything they needed?
Everything "all right"?
"Come with me!" she said.
She took him through the wards of the Barrack
Hospital, and showed him what had been done, and
what an immense deal was yet to do; how, though
many were comfortably clad, yet fresh hundreds
were arriving constantly, half naked, without a
shred of clean or decent clothing on their backs;
how far the demand was beyond the supply; how
fast her own stores were dwindling, and how many
of the private offerings were unsuitable for the needs
they were sent to fill; how many men were still,
after all her labors, lying on the floor because there
were not beds enough to go round.
All these things good Mr. McDonald saw, and
laid to heart; but he saw other things besides.
Perhaps some of you have visited a hospital.
You have seen the bright, fresh, pleasant rooms,
the rows of snowy cots, the bright faces of the
nurses, here and there flowers and pictures;
seeing two or three hundred patients, it has seemed
 to you as if you had seen all the sick people in the
world. Was it not so?
In the Barrack Hospital (and this, remember,
was but one of eight, and these eight the
English hospitals alone!) there were two or three
thousand patients; it was a City of Pain. Its streets
were long, narrow rooms or corridors, bare and
gloomy; no furniture save the endless rows of cots
and mattresses, "packed like sardines," as one
eye-witness says; its citizens, men in every stage of
sickness and suffering; some tossing in fever and
delirium; some moaning in pain that even a
soldier's strength could not bear silently; some ghastly
with terrible wounds; some sinking into their final
Following the light, slight figure of his guide
through these narrow streets of the City of Pain,
McDonald saw and noted that
"Wherever there is disease in its most
dangerous form, and the hand of the Spoiler distressingly
nigh, there is this incomparable woman sure to be
seen. Her benignant presence is an influence for
good comfort even among the struggles of
expiring nature. She is a 'ministering angel'
with-  out any exaggeration in these hospitals, and as the
slender form glides quietly along each corridor,
every poor fellow's face softens with gratitude at
the sight of her. When all the medical officers have
retired for the night, and silence and darkness have
settled down upon those miles of prostrate sick, she
may be observed alone, with lamp in her hand,
making her solitary rounds.
"The popular instinct was not mistaken which,
when she set out from England, hailed her as a
heroine; I trust she may not earn her title to a
higher though sadder appellation. No one who has
observed her fragile figure and delicate health can
avoid misgivings lest these should fail. . . . I
confidently assert that but for Miss Nightingale the
people of England would scarcely, with all their
solicitude, have been spared the additional pang of
knowing, which they must have done sooner or
later, that their soldiers, even in the hospitals, had
found scanty refuge and relief from the
unparalleled miseries with which this war has hitherto been attended."
Look with me for a moment into one of these
wards, these "miles of sick" through which the
 agent of the Times passed with his guide. It is
night. Outside, the world is wide and wonderful
with moon and stars. Beyond the dark-blue waters
of the Bosporus, the lights of Stamboul flash and
twinkle; nearer at hand, the moonlight falls on the
white city of the dead, and shows its dark cypresses
standing like silent guardians beside the marble
tombs; nearer yet, it falls full on the bare, gaunt
square of building that crowns the hill. The
windows are narrow, but still the moonbeams struggle
in, and cast a dim light along the corridor. The
vaulted roof is lost in blackness; black, too, are the
corners, and we cannot see where the orderly nods
in his chair, or where the night nurse sits beside
a dying patient. All is silent, save for a low moan
or murmur from one cot or another. See where
the moonbeam glimmers white on that cot under the
window! That is where the Highland soldier is
lying, he who came so near losing his arm the other
day. The surgeons said it must be amputated, but
the Lady-in-Chief begged for a little time. She
thought that with care and nursing the arm might
be saved; would they kindly delay the operation at
least for a few days? The surgeons consented, for
 by this time no one could or would refuse her
anything. The arm was saved; now the bones are
knitting nicely, and by and by he will be well and strong
again, with both arms to work and play and fight with.
But broken bones hurt even when they are
knitting nicely, and the Highland lad cannot sleep; he
lies tossing about on his narrow cot, gritting his
teeth now and then as the pain bites, but still a
happy and a thankful man. He stares about him
through the gloom, trying to see who is awake and
who asleep. But now he starts, for silently the
door opens, and a tiny ray of light, like a golden
finger, falls across his bed. A figure enters and
closes the door softly; the figure of a woman, tall
and slender, dressed in black, with white cap and
apron. In her hand she carries a small shaded lamp.
At sight of her the sick lad's eyes grow bright; he
raises his sound arm and straightens the blanket,
then waits in eager patience. Slowly the Lady with
the Lamp draws near, stopping beside each cot,
listening to the breathing and noting the color of the
sleepers, whispering a word of cheer and encouragement
to those who wake. Now she stands beside
 his bed, and her radiant smile is brighter, he thinks,
than lamplight or moonlight. A few words in the
low, musical voice, a pat to the bedclothes, a friendly
nod, and she passes on to the neat cot. As she
goes, her shadow, hardly more noiseless than her
footstep, falls across the sick man's pillow; he
turns and kisses it, and then falls happily asleep.
So she comes and passes, like a light; and so her
very shadow is blessed, and shall be blessed so long
as memory endures.
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