| 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 SQUIRE'S DAUGHTER
T soon became a recognized thing in
Florence's own home and in all the
neighborhood, that she was one of the
Sisters of Mercy. Nothing was too
small, no creature too humble to awaken her
sympathy and tenderness. When the stable cat had
kittens, Florence was the first to visit them, to fondle
the tiny creatures and soothe their mother's angry
fear. When she walked along the pleasant wood
roads of Lea Hurst, the squirrels expected nuts as
a matter of course, and could hardly wait for her
to give them. When anyone in the village or farm
fell ill, it was Florence who was looked for to cheer
and comfort. Mrs. Nightingale was a most kind
and charitable lady, and delighted in sending
delicacies to the sick. It was Florence's happy privilege
to carry them, and whether she walked or rode there
 was apt to be a basket on her arm or fastened to
If you think hard, you can see—at least I can—just
how it would be. Old Goody Brown's rheumatism,
let us say, was very bad one morning. You
children who read this know little about rheumatism.
Very likely you think it rather a funny word,
and that it is just a thing that old people have, and
that they make a good deal of fuss about. If
it were a toothache, now, you say, or colic—but
the truth is, no pain is in any way pleasant. If a
red-hot sword were run into your back you would
not like it? Well, sometimes rheumatism is like
So old Goody Brown was suffering, and very
cross, just as we might be; and nothing suited her,
poor old soul; her tea was too hot, and her porridge
too cold, and her pillow set askew, and-dear! dear!
dear! she wished she was dead, so she did. Martha,
her good patient daughter, was at her wits' ends.
"Send to the 'All'!" said poor old Goody.
"Send for Miss Florence! She'll do something for
me, I know."
So a barefoot boy would trudge up to the great
 house, and very soon a light, slight figure would
come quickly along the village street and enter the
cottage. A slender girl, quietly dressed, with
perfect neatness and taste; brown hair smoothly parted,
shining like satin; gray-blue eyes full of light and
thoughtfulness; regular features, an oval face,
cheeks faintly tinted with rose this was Florence
I cannot tell you just what she had in the little
basket on her arm, whether jelly or broth or chicken
or oranges; there was sure to be something good
beside the liniment and medicines to help the
aching back and limbs. But the basket held the least
of what she brought. At the very sound of her
voice the fretful lines melted away from the poor
old face. I cannot tell you—I wish I could—the
words she said, this little Sister of Mercy, yet I can
almost hear her speak, in that sweet, cordial voice
whose range held no harsh note; can see her
setting the pillow straight and smooth, making the
little tray dainty and pretty with the posy she had
brought, coaxing the old woman to eat, making her
laugh over some story of her pets and their droll
ways. Perhaps before leaving she would open the
 worn Bible or prayer book, and read a psalm; can
you not see her sitting by the bedside, her pretty
head bent over the book, her face full of
tenderness and reverence? I am sure that when she went
away there was peace and comfort in that cottage
room, and that heartfelt blessings followed
the "Angel Child" as she went on her homeward way.
"She had a way with her," they said; and that
meant more than volumes of praise.
The flowers that Florence used to carry were
from her own garden, I like to think. Both at
Lea Hurst and Embley, she and her sister had
each her own little garden and gardening tools.
Florence was a good gardener; indeed, I think she
was a good everything that she tried to be, just
because she tried. She dug, and sowed, and
watered, pruned and tied up and did all the things
a garden needs; and so her garden was full of
flowers all summer long, giving delight to her and
to every sick or lonely or sorrowful person for
As Florence and her sister grew older they
became more and more helpful to their parents in the
good works that they both loved to carry on. I
 have read a delightful account of the "feast day"
of the village school-children, as it used to be given
at Lea Hurst when Florence was a girl.
The children gathered together at the
schoolhouse, all in their best frocks and pinafores, and
walked in procession up the street and through the
fields to Lea Hurst. Each child carried a posy and
a stick wreathed with flowers, and at the head of
the procession marched a band of music, provided
by the good squire. In the field below the garden
tables were set, and here Mrs. Nightingale and her
daughters, aided by the servants, served tea and
buns and cakes, waiting on their little guests, and
seeing that every child got all he wanted—or at
least all that was good for him. Then when all
had eaten and drunk their fill, the band struck up,
and the boys and girls danced on the green to their
What did they dance? Polkas, perhaps, and the
redowa, a pretty round dance with a good deal of
stamping in it; and of course Sir Roger de Coverley,
which is very like our Virginia Reel. (If you do
not know about Sir Roger de Coverley himself,
ask papa to tell you or read you about him, for he
 is one of the pleasantest persons you will ever
Perhaps they sang, too; perhaps they sang the
pretty old Maypole Song. Do you know it?
Come lasses and lads, get leave of your dads,
And away to the Maypole hie,
For ev'ry fair has a sweetheart there,
And the fiddler's standing by.
For Willy shall dance with Jane,
And Johnny has got his Joan,
To trip it, trip it, trip it, trip it,
Trip it up and down.
"You're out!" says Dick, "not I," says Nick,
"'Twas the fiddler play'd it wrong."
"'Tis true," says Hugh, and so says Sue,
And so says ev'ry one;
The fiddler then began
To play the tune again,
And ev'ry girl did trip it, trip it,
Trip it to the men.
Then when feast and dance and song were all
over, it was time to re-form the procession and take
up the homeward march. The two sisters, Florence
and Parthe, had disappeared during the dancing;
but now, as the procession passed along the
ter-  race, there they were, standing behind a long
table; a table at sight of which the children's
eyes grew round and bright, for it was covered
from end to end with presents. Such delightful
presents! Books, and pretty boxes and baskets,
thimble-cases and needle-books and pin-cushions;
dolls, too, I am sure, for the little ones, and scrap-books,
and—but you can fill up the list for
yourself with everything you like best in the way of
pretty, simple, useful gifts. I am quite sure that
Florence would not have wished to give the
children foolish or elaborate gimcracks, and that Mr.
Nightingale would never have allowed it if she had;
and I think it probable that many of the gifts were
made by the two sisters and their kind and clever
All about Lea Hurst, in many and many a
pleasant cottage home, those little gifts are treasured
to-day like the relics of some blessed saint; which
indeed is just what they are. The saint is still
living, and some of the children of the school feasts
are living, too, and now in their age will show with
pride and joy the gifts they received long ago from
the hands of the beloved Miss Florence.
 As Florence grew up to womanhood she found
more and more work to do. There were mills and
factories in the neighborhood of Lea Hurst; and
in the hosiery mills, especially, hundreds of women
and girls were employed, many of whom lived on
the Nightingale estate.
She may have been seventeen or eighteen when
she started her Bible class for the young women
of the district, holding it in the tiny ancient chapel
at Lea Hurst which I described in the first
chapter. Gathering the girls around her, she would read
a chapter from the Bible, and then give them her
thoughts about it, and explain the difficult passages;
then they would all sing together, her sweet, clear
voice leading the hymns. Here is another memory
very precious to the old women who were once those
happy girls. They love to tell "how beautifully
Miss Florence used to talk."
Long years after, when Miss Nightingale, spent
with her noble labors, would come to Lea Hurst
for a time of rest and refreshment, the daughters
of these girls counted it a high privilege to gather
on the lawn under her window and sing to her as
she sat in the room above; and would go home
 proud and happy as queens if they had seen the
saintly face smiling from the window.
Shall I try to show you Florence Nightingale
at seventeen? Her face was little changed from that
of the girl we saw in the cottage, cheering old
Goody Brown. She still wore her hair brushed
smoothly "Madonna-wise" on either side her face;
often, now, she wore a rose at the side, tucked in
among the shining braids or coils. You would
think her frocks very queer if you saw them
today, but then they were extremely pretty; full
skirts (no crinoline! that was to come later) and
full sleeves, with broad flat collar of lace or
embroidery. When she went to church or to make visits
she wore a spencer, a kind of full plaited jacket
with a belt, something like a Norfolk jacket-only
different! and a Leghorn bonnet. You have seen
pictures of the Leghorn bonnets of the Thirties and
Forties; "coal-scuttles," some people called them,
and they were something the shape of a scuttle.
Some of them were enormous in size, and they
look queer enough now in the pictures, or—if your
grandmamma had a way of keeping things—in the
"dress-up" trunk or cupboard in the attic. But
 people who were young in those days tell me that
they were extremely becoming, and that a pretty
face never looked prettier that when it peeped out
from the depths of a huge straw "coal-scuttle."
When Florence rode on horseback, her habit was
so long that it nearly touched the ground (that is,
if she followed the fashion of the day, but I should
not wonder a bit if she and her mother were too
sensible!) and she wore a round, broad-brimmed
hat with long ostrich plumes. I remember a
picture of the Princess Royal (afterwards Empress
Frederick of Germany), in a costume like this,
which I thought one of the most beautiful things
I ever saw, so I shall imagine Florence, on an
afternoon ride with the squire, let us say, dressed in
this way; but when scampering about on her pony,
I trust, she wore a less cumbrous costume.
You will remember that the Nightingales spent
the winter at Embley Park, in Hampshire. Here,
too, Florence was busy in good and helpful work.
At Christmas time she found her best pleasure in
giving presents to young and old among the poor
people about her, in getting up entertainments for
the children, training them to sing, arranging
 treats for the old people in the poorhouse. On
Christmas Eve the village carol singers would come
and sing on the lawn; old English carols, that had
been sung by generation after generation. Poor
Anthony Babington over at Lea Hall may have listened
on Christmas Eve to the same sweet old songs.
As Joseph was a-walking,
He heard an angel sing,
"This night shall be the birthnight
Of Christ our heavenly King.
"His birth-bed shall be neither
In housen nor in hall,
Nor in the place of paradise,
But in the oxen's stall.
"He neither shall be rocked
In silver nor in gold,
But in the wooden manger
That lieth in the mold.
"He neither shall be washen
With white wine nor with red,
But with the fair spring water
That on you shall be shed.
"He neither shall be clothed
In purple nor in pall,
But in the fair white linen
That usen babies all."
As Joseph was a-walking,
Thus did the angel sing,
And Mary's son at midnight
Was born to be our King.
Then be you glad, good people,
At this time of the year;
And light you up your candles,
For His star it shineth clear.
Then who so glad as Florence to call the singers
in and bid them welcome and "Merry Christmas!"
and aid in distributing the mince pies and silver
coins which were always their due.
When Florence was fairly "grown up," other
things came into her life, the gay and merry things
that come to so many girls. Mr. Nightingale was
a man of wealth and position, and liked his wife
and daughters to have their share in the gayeties
of the county. So there were many parties, at
Embley and elsewhere, and Florence danced as
gayly, I doubt not, as the other girls. She went
to London, too, and she and her sister were
presented to Queen Victoria, and had their share of the
brilliant society of the time.
But much as she may have enjoyed all this for
 a time, still her heart was not in it, and she soon
tired, I fancy, of dancing and dressing and
visiting. Already her mind was turning to other things,
already her clear eyes were looking forward to
other ways of life, other methods of work.
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