Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
LL the boys, and very likely some of the
girls, who have got as far as this second chapter,
will glance down the page,
and exclaim: "Dolls!" Then they will
add whatever is their favorite expression of scorn,
and perhaps make a motion to lay the book down.
Wait a moment, girls, and boys too! I advise
you to read on, and see what came in this case of
playing with dolls.
There were a good many thousands of boys in
England at that time, in the Twenties and Thirties,
who might have been badly off when the terrible
Fifties came, if Florence Nightingale had not
played with her dolls. Read on, and see for yourselves!
Florence Nightingale loved her dolls dearly, and
took the greatest possible care of them; and yet
 they were always delicate and given to sudden and
alarming illnesses. A doll never knew when she
might be told that she was very ill, and undressed
and put to bed, though she might but just have
got on her new frock. Then Mamma Florence
would wait upon her tenderly, smoothing her
pillow, bathing her forehead or rubbing her poor back,
and bringing her all kinds of good things in the
doll-house dishes. The doll might feel very much
better the next day, and think it was time to get up
and put on the new frock again; but she was very
apt to have a relapse and go back to bed and gruel
again, once at least, before she was allowed to recover entirely.
The truth is, Florence was born to be a nurse, and
a sick doll was dearer to her than a strong and
healthy one. So I fear her dolls would have been
invalids most of the time if it had not been for
Parthenope's little family, who often required their
Aunt Florence's care. These dolls were very
unlucky, or else their mamma was very careless; you
can call it whichever you like. They were always
tumbling down and breaking their heads, or
losing arms and legs, or burning themselves at the
 nursery fire, or suffering from doll's consumption,
that dreadful complaint otherwise known as loss
of sawdust. When these things happened, Aunt
Florence was called in as a matter of course;
and she set the fractures, and salved the burns, and
stopped the flow of sawdust, and proved herself
in every way a most skillful nursery surgeon and
So it was that unconsciously, and in play, Florence
began her training for her life work. She was
having lessons, of course; arithmetic, and all the other
proper things. She and Parthe had a governess,
and studied regularly, and had music and
drawing lessons besides; and her father taught her to
love English literature, and later opened to her the
great doors marked Latin and Greek. Her mother,
meantime, taught her all kinds of handiwork, and
before she was twelve years old she could hem
stitch, and seam and embroider. These things were
all good, and very good; without them she could
not have accomplished all she did; but in the years
that were to come all the other learning was going
to help that wonderful learning that began with
nursing the sick dolls.
 Soon she was to take another step in her
profession. The little fingers grown so skillful by
bandaging waxen and china arms and legs, were now to
save a living, loving creature from death.
To every English child this story is a nursery
tale. No doubt it is to many American children
also, yet it is one that no one can ever tire of
hearing, so I shall tell it again.
Much as Florence loved dolls, she loved animals
better, and in her country homes she was surrounded
by them. There was her dog, who hardly left her
side when she was out of doors; there was her
own pony on which she rode every day over dale
and down; her sister's pony, too, and old Peggy,
who was too old to work, and lived in a pleasant
green paddock with nothing to do but amuse
herself and crop grass all day long. Perhaps Peggy
found this tiresome, for whenever she saw
Florence at the gate she would toss her head and whinny
and come trotting up to the gate. "Good morning, Peggy!"
Florence would say. "Would you like an apple?"
"Hooonh!" Peggy would say. (Horses have
no spelling books, and there is no exact rule as to
 how a whinny should be spelled. You may try any
other way that looks to you more natural.)
"Then look for it!" Florence would reply. At
this Peggy would sniff and snuff, and hunt round
with her soft velvety nose till she found Florence's
pocket, then delicately take out the apple and crunch
it up, and whinny again, the second whinny
meaning at once "Thank you!" and "More, please!"
Horse language is a simple one compared to English, and has no grammar.
Well, one day Florence was riding her pony in
company with her friend the vicar. This good man
loved all living creatures, but there were few dearer
to him than Florence Nightingale. They had the
same tastes and feelings. Both loved to help and
comfort all who were "in trouble, sorrow, need,
sickness, or any other adversity." He had studied
medicine before he became a clergyman, and so was
able to tell her many things about the care of the
sick and injured. Here was another teacher. I
suppose everyone we know could teach us
something good, if we were ready to learn.
As I said, Florence and the vicar were riding
along on the green downs; and here I must stop
 again a moment to tell you what the downs are,
for when I was a child I used to wonder. They
are great rounded hills, covered with close, thick
turf, like a velvet carpet. They spread in long
smooth green billows, miles and miles of them, the
slopes so gentle that it is delightful to drive or
ride on them; only you must be careful not to go
near the edge, where the green breaks off suddenly,
and a white chalk cliff goes down, down, hundreds
of feet, to the blue sea tossing and tumbling
below. These are the white cliffs of England that
you have so often read about.
Am I never going on with the story? Yes; have
patience! there is plenty of time.
There were many sheep on the downs, and there
was one special flock that Florence knew very well.
It belonged to old Roger, a shepherd, who had often
worked for her father. Roger and his good dog
Cap were both friends of Florence's, and she was
used to seeing them on the downs, the sheep in a
more or less orderly compact flock, Cap guarding
them and driving back any stragglers who went
nibbling off toward the cliff edge.
But to-day there seemed no order anywhere.
 The sheep were scattered in twos and threes,
straying hither and thither; and old Roger alone was
trying to collect them, and apparently having a hard
time of it.
The vicar saw his trouble, and rode up to him.
"What is the matter, Roger?" he asked kindly.
"Where is your dog?"
"The boys have been throwing stones at him,
sir," replied the old man. "They have broken his
leg, poor beast, and he will never be good for any
thing again. I shall have to take a bit of cord and
put an end to his misery."
"Oh!" cried Florence, who had ridden up with
the vicar. "Poor Cap! Are you sure his leg is
"Yes, Miss, it's broke sure enough. He hasn't
set foot to the ground since, and no one can't go
anigh him but me. Best put him out of his pain,
"No! no!" cried Florence. "Not till we have
tried to help him. Where is he?"
"He's in the cottage, Missy, but you can do
nothing for him, you'll find. Poor Cap's days is over.
Ah; he were a good dog. Do everything but speak,
 he could, and went as near to that as a dumb beast
could. I'll never get another like him."
While the old man lamented, Florence was
looking eagerly in the face of the clergyman. He met
her look with a smile and nod.
"We will go and see!" he said; and off they
rode, leaving Roger shaking his head and calling
to the sheep.
They soon reached the cottage. The door was
fastened, and when they tried to open it a furious
barking was heard within. A little boy came from
the next cottage, bringing the key, which Roger had
left there. They entered, and there lay Cap on the
brick floor, helpless and weak, but still barking as
hard as he could at what he supposed to be
intruders. When he saw Florence and the little boy
he stopped barking, and wagged his tail feebly; then
he crawled from under the table where he lay,
dragged himself to Florence's feet and looked up
pitifully in her face. She knelt down by him, and
soothed and petted and talked to him, while the good
clergyman examined the injured leg. It was
dreadfully swollen, and every touch was painful; but Cap
knew well enough that the hands that hurt were
 trying to help him, and though he moaned and
winced, he licked the hands and made no effort to
draw the leg away.
"Is it broken?" asked Florence anxiously.
"No," said the vicar. "No bones are broken.
There's no reason why Cap should not recover; all
he needs is care and nursing."
Florence quietly laid down her riding whip and
tucked up her sleeves. "What shall I do first?"
"Well," said the vicar, "I think a hot compress
is the thing." Florence looked puzzled; the dolls
had never had hot compresses. "What is it?" she
"Just a cloth wrung out in boiling water and laid
on, changing it as it cools. Very simple, you see,
Nurse Florence! The first thing is to light the fire."
That was soon done, with the aid of the boy,
who hovered about, interested, but ignorant of
surgery. On went the kettle, and soon it was boiling
merrily; but where were the cloths for the
compresses? Florence looked all about the room, but
could see nothing save Roger's clean smock frock
which hung against the door.
 "This will do!" she cried. "Mamma will give
The vicar nodded approval. Quickly she tore the
frock into strips of suitable width and length; bade
the boy fill a basin from the kettle, and then
kneeling down beside the wounded dog, Florence
Nightingale for the first time gave "first aid to the
As the heat drew out the inflammation and pain,
Cap looked up at the little helper, all his simple dog
heart shining in his eyes; the look sank into the
child's heart and deepened the tenderness already
there. Another step, and a great one, was taken
on the blessed road she was to travel.
Florence came again the next day to bandage
the leg; Cap got entirely well, and tended sheep for
many a year after that; and old Roger was very
grateful, and Mrs. Nightingale gave him a new
smock frock, and everyone was happy; and that is
the end of the story.